American Heritage Knives is a small, one craftsman shop. Stuart Hotchkiss has a life time wealth of experience working with wood, metals and, plastics. The culmination of this experience shows in the quality and design of his knives. He is also a knife collector so he is well versed in the subject of knives.
Blade Metals: The metal used in a knife blade is, without question, the single most important feature of a knife. The environment the knife will be in and what it will be used for determine the right choice. It is not a pry bar or a screw driver and should never be used for a task other than cutting! Rule of thumb is the harder the metal the more brittle it is. The Scandinavians had the best idea with their laminated blades: sandwich hard metal between softer metal to get strength and a hard cutting edge. Regardless, there are various blade metals that perform exceptionally well without lamination. This is an extensive subject and can be very confusing without a general knowledge. There is something called “The Rockwell scale of Hardness.” The scale presents numbers such as 57-58 or 59-60 that indicate the tested hardness of a blade metal. How hard a metal is indicates how well it will hold a cutting edge and, also, how easy it will be to sharpen (particularly by hand). Typically, the harder the metal the better it holds an edge however the tradeoffs are: The metal is more prone to edge chipping and breakage also it is more difficult to sharpen. A blade that will be used only for skinning animals is not apt to be damaged so a hard metal might be a good choice to reduce sharpenings. D2 stainless is a good choice. A knife used as an everyday carry will see many requirements so it needs to be tough and easy to sharpen. As an everyday service knife, Mr. Hotchkiss prefers 440C stainless. 1095 high carbon steel is also a good everyday service knife however; it is not stainless steel and requires more attention to avoid rust. 1095 allows a very good cutting edge. This was the most common choice going back 40 – 50 years ago before stainless options came available. In general, blades marked “high carbon” whether they are stainless steel or plain steel, will be good performers with respect to creating and keeping an edge.
Damascus steel has become more popular in recent years for its look. It is formed by bonding may layers of super thin steel together which creates swirl patterns in the finished blade. The drawbacks with Damascus are it rusts easily and it is often difficult to get Rockwell hardness from its maker. Mr. Hotchkiss has a source where this is not an issue.
Handles: There is no limit here! Handles can be made from so many different materials, antler, bone, wood, brass, copper, stainless, titanium to just touch on it. But, there again, the environment the knife will be in and how I t will be used will determine the best options. With Mr. Hotchkiss’ metals experience he has been able to create exceptional and unusual handles from brass and copper that no one else offers. Wood handles require a very durable finish if they are to stay looking good. We start with two coats of low viscosity high penetration urethane. To complete the finish and give it ultra violet light protection, one or two coats of a marine urethane are used.
American Heritage: Hunting, fishing and shooting to name a few, have been an American Heritage from the Country’s beginning. We are all blessed to have this option and it should always be guarded, nurtured and, defended. With this not only goes passing down the skills to the next generation but passing down the cherished tools. It may be a gun; it may be a bow or a knife. They all carry the memory of those who enjoyed the tool before. But, the tool must be built and cared for such that it can serve the next generation. SH knives are built to deliver the years of enjoyable service.
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Handle Finish, Sheaths, serial #’s
Made in America: Unfortunately, there are very few blade manufacturers in America. You might ask why Mr. Hotchkiss does not make the blade. Quite simply, it is an art in itself. Done properly, a lot goes into making a blade and it requires expensive equipment. Whenever possible, US made blades are used. Blades made in Germany, England and, the Scandinavian Countries are dependably high quality although recently blades claimed to be German stainless are something less than the high quality Germany has always had due credit for. Spain has a reputation well-earned for excellence in knife making.
Sheaths: Every quality knife deserves a leather sheath! We use nine ounce vegetable tanned leather only. It is tough and will last forever if it is given simple care. The leather comes to us die cut and sometimes needs simple size adjustment before assembly. With that done, stitch holes are drilled and rivets are installed in high stress areas and where a sharp blade might cut the stitching. Once that is done, the sheath gets soaked in hot water for several minutes, a process called “wetting out”. With the leather wet, the knife is inserted in the sheath and the sheath is formed around the knife. After three or four days of drying, the sheath is then soaked with Neats Foot oil. About once a year the leather should get a heavy dose of oil again. A well-oiled sheath will not be damaged by its enemies sweat, urine and sun. Our knives and sheaths if cared for properly will not be damaged by being in rain and sun for days on end.
Recording and identification: With the knife completed it is stamped with the maker identification letters on the handle and a serial number is etched into the base of the blade. We maintain a data base of all knives produced with complete information of each piece and the date of manufacture.