The idea of learning from an accomplished knife maker like Bill Burke has long been a dream of mine. There was no doubt in my mind it would be humbling experience but I also believe that education is a life long investment. If you learn something today, it will likely serve you well for the rest of your life. It took a while to decide who I'd like to study with and how long I should devote to such an experience - in hind sight, it's the act of doing it that is more important as I delayed (read, saved) for a couple of years, considering the decision. I only wish I had decided to do this earlier.
As I have responsibilities to run Heartwood Forge and continue making custom knives, the thought of taking off a week of work to learn was daunting, until I had the reassuring thought that this educational experience will positively affect my work for the rest of my life... and my customers will likely be the largest beneficiaries of such an endeavor. That made the decision very easy. If you read my previous post about making damascus & san mai, you'll understand that I've confirmed a thirst of knowledge and exploration this year that will likely continue to snowball. And Bill Burke's shop outside of Boise, ID is where a lot of momentum was gained.
The week was 5 full days of working. Making knives, making pattern welded/damascus steel with coaching on technique and sit down, class-room-type instruction on theory, approach and practice. Bill is super talented and knowledgable and opened my eyes to the possibilities of pattern welded steel. He and his son create some of the most mind boggling patterns ever. My only experience with making damascus and san mai was about a month prior in my own shop and I feel that because of that, I was able to get more out of my time in Idaho. While my focus was on san mai and heat treating, we spent a considerable amount of time on pattern welded steel and touched on some basics of forging and grinding as well. It will be exciting to see this play itself out in my shop over the next few years.
While there, we experienced some pretty heavy winter weather and Bill & Patti Burke invited me to sleep in their basement to avoid making the snowy mountainous drive every morning and evening. I rushed back to Boise and checked out of my AirBnB, got my things and scurried back up the hill to Bill's shop for the rest of the week. They were selfless and fed me and took care of me like the refugee I felt like - a native southerner, stuck in wettest winter Boise has had in 20 years. Easily distracted by great weather and technology, it was really amazing to disconnect for a week, hole up in a snow surrounded compound and study what I love the most with one of my all time favorite knife makers. Turns out he's an outstanding person as well!
Be sure to check out Bill Burke's work!