The best thing in the Longrifle Culture is the people. I must admit I got into history and living history through enjoyment of the material culture of the 18 and 19th Centuries. Later I found that folks could replicate the items in a artistic way; I fell in love with the new-old “stuff.” Then I got to know the people who created the items. Again, it is the people who make the black powder arts special.
Anyway, two of the folks I have gotten to know a bit are Nate McKenzie (gun builder and horner) and Joe Scott (bladesmith and Journeyman horner) and caught up with them at Dixon’s Gunmakers Fair in Kempton, Pennsylvania. Both have helped fuel my enjoyment of the good stuff.
Mr. Scott is a Journeyman with the Honourable Comapny of Horners and I admired an 18th Century, bone handled belt knife on his table at our Fort Roberdeau meeting earlier this year. I got busy and did not buy it. I kicked myself for months until Dixon’s. He still had the knife and I bought it. I am still working on my kit and this knife fit the bill exactly.
Now about my new pistol. I really like cobbled together Colonial American guns. Our resourceful ancestors did not waste a thing and many of their working firearms were made-up of disparate pieces. I have known Nate McKenzie for a few years and I have threatened to have him make such a flint pistol. I wanted a pistol with a strap guard, brass barrel on a maple stock. The Dale Johnson flintlock (by Jim Chambers) sparks like crazy and I must say Nate’s trigger breaks better than my Ruger single action. The knife and pistol will soon be belted together.
If you see Nate McKenzie or Joe Scott at a show, stop and say hello to them. Both are first class artisans and very nice people.
My friend Mark Thomas is well known as The Craftsman to the Past and he exists in a rare category as one of the finest artisans in the country. Whenever Mark is impressed, I listen. He and I spoke about Jerry Eitnier. And we agreed that an article about the man is appropriate to showcase his skills as a builder and blacksmith as well as recognize his undeterred spirit! Please enjoy this article by Mark Thomas…Thanks, Rick Sheets
Jerry Eitnier, Maker of Iron Mounted Southern Rifles
I would like to introduce my friend Jerry Eitnier to the world. Jerry has given me an opportunity to understand a little better the passion that one can bring to his craft. My meeting of Jerry at our Annual CLA show in Lexington, Kentucky is always a joy. He is a man that that has humbled me in a number of ways. He was going through some personal health issues but was at the show with the biggest grin I’d ever seen on the face of a fellow craftsman. The shear fact that he was there was the main reason for his broad smile. He has always apologized for not being a better craftsman. The quality of ones work isn’t the test of the person, it’s the passion that person brings to their craft.
Jerry is a charter member of the Contemporary Longrifle Association and a member of the NMLRA since 1973. He was inspired to build longrifles around 1987.
An observant person can see, his work is influenced by the Woodbury School fostered by Hershel House. Jerry’s focus is to build a safe shooting gun, and as he says, “the more you use them, the better they look.” He likes to forge the iron for the hardware on his iron mounted rifles but he is also capable of making other items in his blacksmith shop. Most of his blacksmith work is for his own projects but once in a while he will offer some things for sale or take in an occasional order. He may have a knife or two, an axe or maybe just trigger guards and butt plates.
I’ve included a couple pictures of some of the work that Jerry has made. The next time you pass by his table, take a look, give a smile and meet the man with his dry sense of humor and willingness to laugh. I look forward to the times I get to see Jerry if only for a moment; it is a moment well spent.
Mark Thomas 7/29/10
Charles Wallingford is a knifemaker or better yet a bladesmith. He works in the style that would be found on a frontiersman of the 18th or 19th Century. Charles and I have had a couple of conversations about his knife making…
How long have you been involved in black powder?
Charles: I was first introduced to muzzle loading rifles in 1968. I shot with the Kentucky Longrifles club in Morehead, Kentucky. My job required a move to Northern Kentucky in 1971. That is when I first met Jack Rouse. Jack taught me the rifle building sequence that I use to this day. Since those early days of my life, I have built several rifles that are still shot regularly. I also built a rifle that hangs in the ward room of the Ohio Class Submarine, USS Kentucky. That was a thrill to take it to Groton, Connecticut and hand it to the Captain of the boat.
How did you go from building flintlock rifles to building knives?
Charles: In the early eighties I became interested in the knives that Joe Keesler built. At first I would remove the steel until I got the blade shape I wanted. And then I attempted to forge some blades. It wasn’t until I paid a visit to Hershel House’s place that I finally got on the right track. I have been fortunate to have watched Hershel on numerous occasions do his magic with the hammer.
I am blown away by the look and heft of your knives. What are your design criteria?
Charles: I try to build knives that could have been used in the 18th and 19th century. I don’t make exact copies of any particular knife but rather a knife that is usable and comfortable to the hand with the old, well-kept look. I use carbon steel, primarily 1084 and spring steel from old hayrakes, and only natural materials for handles. I make my own hand stitched sheaths for each knife unless I have someone do a quilled sheath for a special order.
You supposedly retired in 1999; are you busy? (If you know Charles, you will recognize this bit of sarcasm!)
Charles: I do attend several events each year. Friendship, Ft Frederick, MD, the CLA show and most recently the 18th Century Artisan Show in Lewisburg, PA. I still build a rifle on occasion but my knife business is my primary focus since my retirement in 1999.
I am a member of the American Bladesmith Society, NRA, NMLRA , and past President of Kentucky’s Corps of Longriflemen.
What separates a bladesmith from a typical knife maker is not only the result, but the process. Note in the picture above Charles is beating a blade out of a hayrake! Charles’ cartouche is a CW in an oval.
Thanks for reading,
Click on a picture to see a larger version.