I have a long story to tell, but I'm not there yet.
So for now, this is all you're getting.
People ask me how I got into making knives. It’s not as simple as saying I was at a friend’s house and was asked if I wanted to make a knife…. One of my friends, Laura Zerra, helped me decide on the design, shape, and handle. She showed me how to hold the raw steel against the grinder. Then, continued to cheer me on for HOURS while I grinded, screwed up, asked for help, screwed up again, and finally had a blade that resembled a knife.
Imagine having 3 people watch you make your first knife. Not just any 3, but professional bladesmiths and someone who literally wrote the book on making knives. Sure, I consider myself pretty smart and a quick study. I had read Laura’s book AND I had it open. I was a pro….so I thought. By the time I had grinded and pulled my first blade from the forge, all three of my “sensei’s” had nearly finished theirs. That’s when I realized I had spent more than 6 hours on a grinder and it was 3 in the morning. All of a sudden it hit me; I hadn’t thought of a single thing other than creating something and being happy for hours. I’m not sure this is the right time to go into the struggles I’ve had since I retired and why this meant so much to me.
A week later I was making knives and grinding away in my shop with crude tools, big bulky grinders and a homebuilt forge I learned from Laura’s book. I thought I was a professional knife maker. Looking back now, I feel sorry for the first few people I made knives for. I’ve been tempted to remake the knives I sold them. The quality and craftmanship of my knives have gotten 1000 times better in such a short time. As my biggest critic, I can even see the difference. Over the last few months, I have been going nonstop learning from mistakes, experimenting, and bleeding in my shop. But I can honestly say that if not for the lifelines to the friends and the late night texts or off hour conversations and advice, there is no way I would have gotten to this point. In fact, as I was writing this, I was texting with Kaila Cumings about steel thickness and received a message that read, “Don’t mind me, my eyes are getting heavy.” It’s after midnight my time…..Sorry Kaila
I started selling my knives almost immediately. Even when I wasn’t planning on selling the knife, I would still come up with a design I liked or saw and wanted to make for myself. And because I was buying supplies and handle material almost a knife at a time, I would find myself not being able to make the same knife twice. That turned into “Custom Knives by Joe Maynard”. What a joke, so I thought. I started making knives from scrap cedar and hard woods I had left over from my house. I was picking up all the sheds I could find to use as handles. I started using old dull files because they have carbon and are stronger than regular steel. I accidently got my blowtorch too close to my very first Damascus blade I tried to make. It turned a few shades of blue and yellow. So I kept it that way instead of etching the steel to bring out the pattern like you’re supposed to. There has not been a single day since that first night that didn’t either have a fresh cut or 5 on my hands, or a blister from grabbing hot metal. I never hid this from people on my social media pages and even had requests to leave some blood on the knife when I shipped them. I’m sure there are knife makers out there who look at all this as one screw up after another, but I found that it didn’t matter how or why my knives were turning out like they did. People were actually wanting to buy them as long as making them. In fact, I just sold every single one of my “first knives” to a good friend who invited me to build that first knife.
I thought I could organize orders and field questions about what I was doing by starting a new Facebook page for my knives and have my friend Ben put my knives on his Survival school website. I was just a little too late. So I started using an Instagram page. That just made it worse. Now, between Facebook, FB Messenger, Instagram, IG mail, Texts, Emails, and people asking me in person to make them a knife I had started finding myself wasting a ton of time trying to remember who wanted what, if they paid, and what address I was shipping to. The only thing I never lost track of was what knives I was making. For some reason I had no problem going through a list of 5-8 knives in my head and how I wanted them to look. The decision to start Primitive Grind came from this. I wanted to have one place where I could direct people to go in order to make a request or give me an idea to try. If this works, I will spend less time searching and more time working on the next knife. I’m sure there’s way more to this part but its now 2:15am and I don’t want to lose my train of thought.
My favorite knife order or request is someone who just says “Do what you do ”I have had every type of order from surprise me (we're calling this Joe's Choice), to exact blade length and handle material/color and blade finish. Everyone’s reason for wanting one seems to be different. Everyone’s taste and interests are different. So I enjoy doing my research on someone to figure out what they’d like or would want incorporated into their knife/sheath or knife display. I have an ideas book with notes on different knives I’ve made. “Not a hunter, enjoys fishing and woodworking, owns a boat, building a tiki bar, hates Damascus steel….” Stuff like that. Its what I use to decide on everything from blade type to the style of mosaic pin to use in the handle.
If all else fails and you have an idea or specific request for a knife... please just contact me. I enjoy that aspect of what I'm doing. I can work with you to make it happen.