Most folks know me or Lost Penguin as a leather goods maker, however, there was a time several years ago that I thought I was going to become the next great American engraver…. As you all know, that didn’t happen. After couple of years dabbling in engraving, along with making buckles and some jewelry, I choose to pack those tools up and focus on my leather business.
So, why am I telling you this? Well, when I took an interest in the engraving I was informed about a local engraver whom I sought out to chat with about tools and equipment. That engraver just happened to be a knife maker too. After spending some time with him talking shop and what all he did, I started chasing and following the work of many knife makers and engravers all over the world.
One great knife maker in Wichita Falls?! What are the odds? Well come to find out, after following so many great makers, I found David Broadwell, another incredible and prominent Knife maker also here in Wichita Falls.
I have been following David’s work for some time now, and this guy is coming out with some incredible works! Not only is his style unique and distinctive to his particular style, he has also worked and collaborated with some big names in the game.
So, lets hear what David has to say about his art!
(Tags, Links, and interview notes will be at the bottom of the page.)
March 18, 2019
Jesse: Can you introduce yourself. Where are you based out of, and tell us what your craft is?
Maker: I'm David Broadwell. I’m a custom knifemaker and custom penmaker from Wichita Falls, Texas
Jesse: How long have you been making knives and pens_____?
David: I made my first knife in 1981, and my first fountain pen in 2001.
Jesse: What got you interested in this craft?
David: As a little boy I was fascinated with swords and knights. I would put on my dad’s blue plaid bathrobe, strap on my cardboard shield with my family coat of arms, and take up Dad’s Masonic dress sword. I was then ready to kill the dragon, or the mimosa tree in the front yard. Now instead of slaying the dragon, I’m the guy who makes the arms for the dragon slayer.
In the 60s when in the 5th grade I acquired a couple of Sheaffer cartridge school pens. With them I wrote all my school work, and drew a lot of airplanes and ships.
My interest in the things I make go way back. Now as an adult I make them as functional art.
Jesse: How did you get your start?
David: I was working as a machinist and had a broken file on my bench. I had had an itch to make a knife for some time, so I took that file and made my first knife from it. From that time I was hooked, and knew I had to do this for a living.
As for pens, my (ex) wife wanted some kit pens made to sell on her gift website. I told her I could do that so that she didn’t have to have someone else make them. Within about a week I had gone from the idea of making kit pens, to making kit pens with the metals I use on my knives, to forgetting about the kits and making all the components myself.
Jesse: Are you a fulltime, part-time, or hobbyist maker?
David: I am full time, and have been since 1989.
Jesse: Is there anyone you can think of that has been a mentor, inspiration, or has been a big influence on your work?
David: In the 38 years I’ve been a knifemaker, I’ve been influenced by a number of people. In the early 80s I worked with Bob Hajovski, “Bob-Sky knives”, who really got me started. I learned a lot of techniques from Fred Carter, arguably the world’s finest knifemaker, that I still use today. In the early 90s I wanted to carve and sculpt. The artisan Lewis Comfort Tiffany and his Art Nouveau work was very influential. Within my knife world, probably the most influential knifemaker was Larry Fuegan, who also did much in the Art Nouveau style and showed me that there were people who appreciated it.
As a penmaker I was helped much by Howard Levy, owner of Bexley Pens. I learned a lot about the engineering of pens, and that they don’t have to be “chunky and clunky”. At that time, though, there were only a couple of other people actually making pens, and for the most part they were reproducing older pens, not making unique and original items. So I was sort of left on my own to come up with my own ideas, and I didn’t start out with simple things.
Jesse: If you could go back to when you first started, what piece of advice would you give yourself?
David: “You want to do what for a living?” LOL In reality, I’d do everything all over again. Many people, family included, tried to discourage me from doing it for a living. It would make a great hobby, I was told, or it didn’t have prestige. I did it anyway, and I’m happy that I did.
Jesse: Continuing on the thread of advice, what would you tell someone who is wanting to take the leap into becoming a maker, or is just starting out?
David: Things have changed in 4 decades. As a penmaker there is a lot more competition now. And while there was a lot of competition then as a knifemaker, there’s an incredible amount now. If you’ve going to do either of these things, or some other thing, you need to figure out what you can do that others don’t, and be original. Don’t just make copies of somebody’s hunting knife or some vintage pen. I would also tell people that I make a wonderful living. I’ve been able to raise my kids myself, go to eat lunch with them in elementary school and help with field trips, I can adjust my schedule to meet needs, I get to travel on my business’ ticket, and I don’t always have to answer to the company bigwigs. The only thing that’s not so great is I don’t make a lot of money. I’d also point out that money is only a commodity, not the end but one of the means to an end. I get far more satisfaction doing what I do that I ever did or would have gotten from working in a shop or office or hospital just to make more money.
Jesse: Can you think of an aspect of your craft/business that you have/do struggle with?
David: The aforementioned money has always been a struggle, but my needs and my family’s needs have always been met, so it’s really just a struggle in my own mind.
Jesse: Besides what you make, do you have any other interests? (sports, gaming, gardening, or making other things)
David: I’ve ridden a Harley-Davidson Sportster for the last 13 years, and along with buying some aftermarket parts for it, I’ve made some myself. I’ve done a little fly fishing. For several years I did some competitive pistol shooting. I’ve made a few pieces of jewelry, mostly for my wife, and I made our wedding rings from paladium/sterling silver mokume gane. I’m pretty involved with our son’s Trail Life USA troop.
Jesse: What are your thoughts on the Maker Movement that has been happening over the past few years or so? With increased numbers of people wanting to make things, it seems like a bit of a renaissance happening, with people becoming interested in what many see as dying crafts.
David: We live in a computerized automated age, so there’s a strong interest in things actually made by people. This leads a lot of corporations to promote their products as being handmade. One Mexican food chain advertises it’s product as handmade, as if there’s another way to make enchiladas! One pen company advertised their pens as being handmade, even though they had the latest in computer controlled automatic machines. People like handmade things, and some are willing to pay for it. Other people who work in a field that is mostly automated want to make things with their hands. The handmade knife industry is fairly strong. Handmade pens in my time since 2001 has gone from just a couple of us to a much larger number of people making truly handmade pens (not from kits), and several of us have formed a guild to help support its members. I believe the handmade trend will continue to grow.
Jesse: (Borrowing from another blog) Is there any new cultural/trending thing that you are interested in at the moment, not necessarily associated with your craft? Like a recently discovered book, movie, music, blog, podcast, restaurant, etc.?
David: Nothing I can think of.
Jesse: Finally, I want to thank you for taking the time to answer some of these questions and share with us what you do. If you have anything else you’d like to share, suggestions for future interview questions, or individuals that you recommend for this Interview Series, please let me know.
David: You’re welcome.
There are so many artisans that you could interview. Several pen makers that I know of. Thousands of knifemakers! Engravers like Ray Cover. Leather workers (you probably know more than I do). I’m married to a piano teacher, Nita Broadwell.
I want to thank David again for sharing with me and I cant wait to what all he come up with in the future! Like all these great makers I have run across, its given me the itch for a fine blade and exquisite writing utensil.
Be sure to check out David's Instagram and give him a follow. Also, be sure to check out his website for a ton of high quality images of his past work as well as some cool work in progress threads!
David’s website is loaded with high quality images of past work and additional information concerning his work.
David can be reached through Email: david@broadwellstudios