Shop Talk - August 2007

The big news around the Hibben shop lately has been the the new knife that I designed for the "John Rambo" movie due to be released early next year. As many of you know, I have had a long and rewarding relationship with Sylvester Stallone. He has been a collector of my knives for over twenty years. In 1987 Stallone called upon me to make a knife for the Rambo III movie. After discussing several designs, we settled on the now famous Rambo III knife that went on to be a very popular knife worldwide and continues to be to this day. 

When Stallone decided to make the 4th "Rambo" movie, I was honored when he again called on me to make a new knife. I actually started working on the design back in October of 2006. In the movie script, John Rambo forges a knife using very limited resources so they wanted something big and menacing but somewhat crude looking. The studio rejected some of first prototypes because they were too "finished" looking.  They sent me a few pages of the script describing the forging scenes so I could get a feel for what they wanted. I went back to the drawing board thinking about what Rambo could make using materials that he might be able to scrounge quickly. Assuming that he would have access to a basic forge, I imagined that he might find a junked car or truck and use a piece of the leaf springs from the vehicle for the steel. This is an old tradition among knifemakers as automobile spring steel makes a very good knife and was popular for that use for decades before superior steels became commercially available. I also imagined that the character would not have time or resources to make a fine finished handle for the knife but would likely do a wrapped handle using cord and/or tape for better grip.

The end result was a large, heavy blade somewhat resembling a thick-bladed machete. The design puts the bulk of the weight forward of the handle providing a lot of momentum and power when used with a full swing. The blade is flat ground and designed for chopping and delivering powerful blows rather than finesse cutting. The finish is crude with hammer marks from hand forging assuming that the pressing need and function would take precedence over appearance in the movie scenario. There is a wrist thong attached to the end of the handle to help maintain grip on the heavy knife during powerful swings. I showed the knife to the public for the first time at the Knifemakers Guild Show and it generated quite a bit of interest. 

Having made knives for over thirty movies and TV shows, I know that scripts are frequently rewritten and the film edited and sometimes re-edited before the audience finally gets to see the finished product. We will all just have to wait and see what scenes make it to the big screen and what scenes might end up on the cutting room floor. In any event, it is always a thrill to see my work in the hands of one of our movie heroes.  

Besides the Rambo knife, we have been very busy in, and out, of the shop. We had another very successful Knifemakers Guild show in Orlando Florida in July. As president of the Knifemakers Guild, it was especially rewarding to see the great turnout of both knifemakers and collectors. There are some very talented new knifemakers coming into the guild and it is great to see the profession continuing to grow and advance.  

We held another week-long knifemaking class in my shop in August. As always, I get a great deal of satisfaction seeing new knifemakers get excited about the craft and seeing the excitement in their eyes as they make their first knives. One of the students from this class is already setting up his own workshop to continue making knives. We have classes scheduled for September and October of this year and a few spots are still available so if you are interested please register soon. You can find more information about the classes at .  

I am pleased to report that United Cutlery has come back strong under new ownership and will continue, and expand, the line of production knives based on my designs. We have met with the new owners and managers in Thomasville Georgia and we are very excited about future of United Cutlery. Look for some new designs as well as some of our old favorites to be available soon. They have already finished the revised Third Edition of "The Complete Knife Throwing Guide by Gil Hibben" and it will be available for purchase soon. We also plan to continue my annual series of limited edition designer knives and I think the 2008 model will be a real treat for our collectors. 

I also just got back from the 11th annual "Bones Fest" in Newburg Wisconsin. This is a gathering of people who enjoy playing the "rhythm bones", an ancient form of folk music made by rhythmically beating two "bones" together. We had a blast playing the bones and sharing a common love of music. For more information about playing the rhythm bones, please visit the Rhythm Bones Society website at . 

We continue to stay busy and when not traveling, I usually spend every day working in the shop making knives for custom orders and for knife shows. I continue to develop new designs and experiment with new combinations of materials. I really enjoy the creative process that combines form with function in a knife. Even after 50 years of making knives I still love to spend my days grinding blades and creating one-of-a-kind handmade knives. Keep checking our website for new offerings and of course you can always contact me about making a special one-of-a-kind custom design just for you.


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