Lonestar Knifemaker Judging Procedure

Jason Fry, TKG President

This document is intended to assist members in presenting and judging knives presented by persons applying for Lonestar Knifemaker status.  Our initial goal is to set a moderate bar, not an exceptionally high one.  Many knives with some errors will receive a passing judgment.  We want to screen out knives with many or serious errors that detract from the overall quality.

The Membership Procedure gives the following instructions.

Lone Star Knifemakers will submit three knives for inspection.  Knives must be hand made, meaning at a minimum that the maker personally ground and polished the blade and installed the handle.  Lone Star Knifemaker membership is available to Texas residents only.  Criteria for inspection are as follows:

  • The knives presented must have no major technical errors, such as significant gaps in fit, grossly uneven plunges, edges that are off center, or finished blades that are warped.
  • Blade finish should be uniform, may be either machine or hand finished, and must have minimal underlying coarser grit grind marks, both on the bevels and the spine.
  • As a minimum standard, each knife presented must shave hair.
  • Voting Members of the Knifemakers’ Guild and Master and Journeyman members of the American Bladesmith Society will be admitted as Lone Star Knifemakers without submitting knives to a TKG board member.

Each person applying for Lone Star Knifemaker certification will present three knives for inspection to a group of Board Members. This is best accomplished at a TKG event or a knife show, but may also be completed by mailing the knives.  Pictures of knives will not be judged. The three inspections need not occur at the same time and place.

Persons who apply for Lone Star Knifemaker but do not pass inspection will be accepted as General Members.  The dues difference will not be refunded, and the maker must wait at least 6 months prior to re-inspection.  Lone Star Knifemaker membership is available to Texas residents only.  Persons who wish to appeal a failing inspection may appeal to the board of directors.  The board or its designee will review the three knives, unmodified from previous inspections.  The decision of the board or designee will be final.

Knives should not pass if they are not hand made as defined above.  Knives should not pass if any one of them does not shave hair on at least part of the blade.

The link to the inspection form is below.   You will need three copies, one for each inspection.

TKG Knife Inspection Form

Examples of serious errors that may result in a failure are presented in the pictures below.

On the first knife, I’d fail it for two reasons.  First, the finish shows substantial underlying coarse grit grind marks.  Second, the bevel grind is not flat and is uneven along the blade.  The glue line between the guard and handle is passable.

On the next knife, I’d fail it because both the finish and grind are uneven.

On the next one, the grind into the plunge is too far off to pass.  Other things to point out, the pin placement is off (why two at the back and not one at the front?  Spacing?), and the cutting performance would be better if the bevel was taken higher toward the spine.

On this one, I’d fail it because of the uneven finish.  The maker took the time to hand sand the finish, but left obvious grind marks near the plunge.  This one is borderline close, even though the errors are obvious.  If there was one knife like this in the group but the other ones were better, I would consider passing.  If all three had the same error, I’d fail the set.

Here’s a good picture showing a grossly uneven plunge.  Nobody has perfect plunges all the time.  It takes practice and attention to detail.  I’d not likely fail a person for one plunge this bad if the others were better, but if they were all this bad, I’d fail them.  Challenge everyone to work on more even plunges.

There is a tiny bump in the right hand plunge in the next picture.  Do not be that picky.  This plunge is quite a bit better than what we’ll require.

I tried in vain to find good bolster fit pictures that illustrate the whole concept.  Bolsters need to be even when viewed from the spine, to the same kind of “pretty good” standard like the other fit issues.  A little bit is OK, a lot isn’t.  I did find a few pictures of a failing bolstered knife, and I’ll explain those below.

The gap between the bolster and blade is too big in this picture.  Other visible issues include using pin material that doesn’t match the bolster material, and a poorly sharpened edge that is too thick behind the sharpening bevel.  (The maker’s mark has been electronically altered.)

Symmetry is an important part of fit and finish.  Here are a couple pictures of asymmetry that’s more than bad enough to fail a knife.  Note the difference in shape between the right and left sides of the bolster area. Note also the different thicknesses and degrees of shaping on the butt end of the handle.  Same poor bolster fit as the previous picture.  The plunge here is marginal.  By itself, a plunge like that wouldn’t fail a knife.  In combination with other errors, a plunge like that would be grounds for failure.

This next picture shows an uneven bolster fitup that is well within the acceptable range.  The top (left) side is a bit further back than the right side.  This knife should pass.  Note the tight joint between bolster and blade, and the tight fit between handle material and bolster.

Design is subjective, but I’d suggest that the following knives show that the maker hasn’t yet met the standards simply based on form vs. function.  These designs are rudimentary, and I’d not expect the fit and finish to meet the standards.  Incidentally, these were my first five knives.