Jim Gill has been called "a modern day Scagel" -- and that is a high compliment when you understand Scagel's story. William "Bill" Scagel literally created the base pattern for nearly every modern tactical, hunting, and skinning knife, as well as nearly all of today's functional cutlery knives. He's called the "Father of modern cutlery." See the gallery below, and here's a brief bio:
William Wales Scagel (1875-1963), of Fruitport, Michigan, was the foremost knife maker of the 20th century. He is known as "The Father of the 20th Century Cutlery." Scagel was unique since he made knives with handmade tools and antique forging instruments and without the use of electricity from his workshop. He lived on the second story of this barn-like structure he called "Dogwood Nub."
His life was completely frontier, as he hated electricity.
During the polio epidemic of 1939, many physicians would bring Scagel measurements of afflicted children. With this information Scagel made ornate and perfectly functional braces, and he never rendered a charge for this service. These are worth hundreds of thousands today, whereas he would ask $15 to $25 for a custom knife.
He led a solitary lifestyle for most of his nearly 90 years of life. No photographs of him are known to exist, and only one painting (see it below). Beyond his avoidance of the utility company, he had a fear of doctors. He allegedly performed surgery on himself to set his broken wrist and even extracted his own teeth and made his own dentures. Everything he needed, he made, and believed one should be self sufficient. He thought that health came from avoidance of complex modern systems including electricity and complicated foods, and was healthy into his late 80's, working every day long hours in his shop, with only hand equipment.
Many of the knives he made were sold through Abercrombie & Fitch in New York. The Smithsonian Institution purchased numerous Scagel knives, machetes, and other chopping instruments to equip numerous scientific expeditions and explorations during the first half of the 20th century. Today, almost every hunting or fishing knife made in the world can be traced back to a pattern created by Scagel. An amusing story is that the Smithsonian considered Scagels utilitarian, and used them on expeditions to get other items of value, whereas a single Scagel knife in good condition today can auction for more than $40,000, and one of the few guns he decorated recently auctioned for $80,000!
Jim Gill (see here) has been called a "modern day Scagel," as his designs and execution are very similar, down to even similar handle materials like the bowling ball material Bill was known to use with his Elk, vulcanized fiber, felt and wood spacers. (Bill's barn workshop was down the street from a bowling alley, and his friends there would bring him bakelite materials). Add 440C, and Gill's unmatched quality and precision, for a true collector's item, and one that you don't have to shell out $50,000 to own!
NOTE: A Michigan company now has rights to the Scagel name. One example of their work (a knock off one of 200 replicas with his name on it) is shown below. It is a classic Scagel design, featuring his unique fixed blade combined with a smaller folder in the handle. Other distinctive Scagel trademarks include the extensive use of Elk, extensions of a wood "branch" at the pommel, and very heavy, yet well balanced blades. Notice the arrowhead badge on the "modern" Scagel fixed/folder (limited to a run of 200), which matches the arrowhead on the only gun Scagel ever made, on top.
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