Herman Kraft - Damascus knife making

Master: Herman Kraft, Timber Lake
Apprentice: Jack Bickel, Firesteel
Art Form: Damascus knife making

Herman Kraft is a retired farmer from Timber Lake in north-central South Dakota, where he has taken his practical knowledge of metalsmithing to a new height in the making of Damascus knives.  About 20 years ago, with the help of magazines, books, and a knife maker in Iowa, Herman taught himself the complex process of forge-welding layers of steel and nickel into Damascus blades. His neighbor Jack Bickel, from Firesteel, admired Herman’s work and often searched out old automobile springs for Herman, which he says have the best steel for knives. Through the apprenticeship program Jack was able to learn the forging, shaping, and finishing of the knives himself by working with Herman in his shop. Jack now hopes to find an old trip hammer and a grinder for sharpening blades, to be added to the forge at his ranch, so he can continue making knives on his own.

Herman Kraft supervises Jack Bickel as he pounds a hot steel knife billet on a trip hammer in Herman’s shop.

Bickel & Kraft

Two Damascus steel knives made by Herman Kraft.

Kraft knives