Chief Teaches Troops to Take a Stab at the Art of Knife-making


running up that hill
Jan 3, 2007
in Wonderland, with my Alice Archive/2009/April/090420-01.html

BAGHDAD (Courtesy of CJSOFT-AP Public Affairs, April 20, 2009) – As the smell of burnt metal clouds the stale air and bright-red ambers bounce across the floor, a Soldier with Special Operations Task Force – Central mentors other troops about the untold art of knife-making.

In his spare time, Chief Warrant Officer Russell Faulkner, the honorary blacksmith of his Special Forces unit, teaches a weekly class on the creation of knives to enthusiastic students.

"It's very rewarding for me personally to watch someone do something they never thought they would ever be doing," said Faulkner. "Some people have never even touched a hammer – literally."

One student, Pfc. Kevin Haskins of Oxford, Ohio, said it feels good to be able to find something to do in his spare time while deployed.

The light-wheel vehicle mechanic added the class is both productive and entertaining at the same time.

Faulkner's blacksmith class focuses on basic knife structure, strength, shape and purpose.

The native of St. Louis said that the purpose of the knife – whether it's hunting, fishing, skinning, self-defense, decoration or art – determines what type of metal should be used and how much will be needed for the project.

According to Faulkner, he hopes his students walk away from his class with a family heirloom.

"From the Civil War to World War I to the Korean War to Vietnam," Faulkner said. "Knives that were [hand] made are worth more to family members than any amount of money." However, he further explained that quality theater-made knives have been known to be worth a lot, if not in sentiment, in monetary value.

Haskins said he doesn't plan on selling anything he makes in country – he's either keeping them or giving them away as presents. The former art student is currently on his third project which he intends to give to his girlfriend back home.

As long as Faulkner could remember he has always experimented in the craft of "making something out of nothing." But, he didn't start to sharpen his raw talent until he met his previous battalion commander and his friend Charlie Ochs, a master bladesmith, who taught him how to make knives correctly.

"Because he shared it with me, I want to share it with them," Faulkner said pointing at his students who were busy working on their knives. He explained his passion for the lost art is driven mostly by being able to pass it on to others.

And the chief warrant officer, who plans on becoming a shop teacher when he retires, added that the experience so far has been good instructing practice.

"You learn more from teaching it then you do from doing it," he said.

He explained that the experience has helped him get a grasp on the numerous teaching styles that fit best with the many different personalities and skill levels.

The students in his class come to him with a wide range of ability and experiences.

According to Haskins, Faulkner has all the qualities to make a great teacher.

"He has been very patient and understanding," Haskins said. "He understands where students should start [and] how to teach all the basics. He's truly good at what he does."

Lightheartedly, Haskins said he would love to do this all the time when he gets back home as long as he could find all the equipment at a price he could afford.

However, until then he will have to continue to create theater-made knives for his friends and family with Faulkner's assistance.

Over his last two deployments, Faulkner has helped craft over 200 knives and has taught more than 30 students.

Despite what parents have been telling their children for decades, the 20-year-veteran and his fellow Soldiers continue to play with fire and have fun with sharp objects in hopes of "making something out of nothing."


Chief Warrant Officer Russell Faulkner of St. Louis heats a piece of stainless steel in Baghdad. Faulkner plans on turning the piece of metal into a quality theater-made knife. (Photo courtesy of CJSOTF-AP Public Affairs)


Service Detachment Commander 1st Lt. John Eimers saws apart a piece of metal in Baghdad, April 13. Eimers of Chicago is one the Special Operations Task Force – Central Soldiers who is crafting knives with the help of Chief Warrant Officer Russell Faulkner of St. Louis. (Photo courtesy of CJSOTF-AP Public Affairs)
A great story and something that looks like it would be fun to learn. Wish I could find something like that in Minnesota:)