Dressed like a frontier woodsman, local artisan Robert Rossdeutscher
will be part of an international group displaying their wares in Arlington Heights this weekend.
will be among the 120 exhibitors from United States, Japan, South Africa and Europe at the First Annual Chicago Custom Knife Show Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Sheraton Chicago Northwest.
An Arlington Heights resident, Rossdeutscher
has been making custom art knives since the early 1990s.
took up the craft after he
ran into a master blacksmith who specializes in knives.
met the man while participating in a historical re-enactment of frontier woodsmen of the late 1700s.
taught me blacksmithing as an art," Rossdeutscher
grew up in Palatine
in an isolated subdivision near Deer Grove Forest Preserve where he
buddies spent much of their play time.
"I grew up in the woods, which is unusual for this area," he
"I always had an interest in knives and metal work."
Rossdeutscher got his first taste of metal work while he was a student at Palatine High School and worked a part-time job at a local boarding stable.
A blacksmith shod horses in the back of the barn.
"I used to go over there and watch him," Rossdeutscher
put me to work.
learned to make corrective shoes for horses.
The experience taught him "hammer skills," which is the ability to shape a piece of hot metal.
"I learned on a coal forge with a bellows," Rossdeutscher
"You hammer it to shape and have it become what you want," Rossdeutscher
"Forging is one of the shortest and also most fun processes.
"Once it cools you grind off everything that is not a knife," he
is also perfecting a patterned welded steel design style called Damascus.
uses a variety of finishes on the knife blades.
usually leaves a few hammer marks as a signature.
"Many times I like to leave a few just to prove it is handmade," he
"I like the look of something that is handmade and well-used."
knives to collectors, as well as hunters.
Museums have bought his
pieces for use in living history displays.
"Everything I make is made to be used," he
Forging knives is a part-time vocation for Rossdeutscher
works full-time in maintenance and security for Sunrise Lake in Bartlett run by the Northwest Suburban Special Education Organization
as an outdoor education center.
"I'm gaining my reputation and working at it part-time now," Rossdeutscher
"When I retire, I've got a full-time retirement job to move into."
is fulfilling the third of three promises he
made to the master blacksmith who mentored him 12 years ago.
agreed to three conditions: that he
follow the master's safety rules, pay for his
own material and "sometime in my life I teach someone else."
apprentice lives in Minnesota and forges hardware for log cabins.
is looking forward to participating in this weekend's show not only to display his
own work but for the chance to see other examples.
"I'm still learning," he
"That's one of the humbling things about the show that is coming up is the talent.
You have other people looking at your work in the same way.
It's humbling and gratifying."
A member of the American Bladesman Society, Rossdeutscher is a journeyman smith, which required him to produce a knife that survives rigorous tests of sharpness and strength.
The tests include slicing a rope in one swipe, chopping wood and shaving hair.
"You will not get a factory knife to do this," Rossdeutscher