The American Bladesmith Society (ABS) is an organization founded by William F. Moran, a knife maker. The main function of the organization was the promotion of techniques for forging blades made from steel. The idea of the organization was conceptualized in 1972 when Moran was the chairman of Knifemakers’ Guild. In the year that followed during an annual show, the organization introduced Damascus Steel blades.
The organization was incorporated in 1976 and eventually in 1985 the organization received its non-profit status. Instead of making their knives through a method known as stock removal, knife makers at ABS usually forge their blades.
Taking on mediocrity in knife building
While Moran was serving at the knife makers’ Guild the number of people practicing blade-smiths was significantly low and continually decreasing. On the other hand, stock removal knife makers were gradually increasing. To avert this, during a show in 1973 Moran launched eight pattern wielded blades which he named Damascus Steel.
In addition, the attendees received a booklet explaining how steel is forged. Consequently, in a couple of months, a number of knife makers began manufacturing Damascus blades. Some of these knife makers include: Don Hastings, Big Bagwell, Sid Birt, and Micheal Connor.
The first “hammer in” by ABS was held in 1985 in partnership with the University of Wyoming at Dubois, Wyoming. In the year that followed the event was held in collaboration with Texarkana College in Washington, Arkansas. At Texarkana College, there was a model of a blacksmith shop similar to that of James Black. It is said that during 1830 and 1831 winter, James Bowie, an American frontiersman made a purchase of a knife from James Black.
Up to today, the hammer-in referred to as Piney Woods Hammer-In still takes place twice in a year.
Criteria for evaluating the standards for Journeyman and MasterSmith was established by ABS in 1988. Moran stepped down as the chairman of the organization in 1991. However, a unanimous decision was made by the members to have Moran serve as the president of the organization for life.
The school for BladeSmiths
In partnership with Arkansas State Parks and the Pioneer Washington Foundation, the ABS along with Texarkana College established a school for Bladesmithing.
The location of the campus was also strategic in that it was close to the location historians believed Black had created the knife purchased by Bowie. Between 1988 and 2001 Moran continued teaching in the school imparting the basic skills of making a knife to the making of Damascus Steel.
The school was later renamed William F. Moran School of BladeSmithing in 2001 when Moran retired from teaching.
Currently, courses on Bladesmithing are offered in various learning institutions such as Texarkana College in Arkansas, New England School of Metalwork in Maine and Haywood Community College in North Carolina.
In addition, ABS has its own Hall of Fame and a Museum launched in 1995 in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Indeed, bladesmithing is indeed an art and less about scientific knowledge. As a result, the methods used by one blacksmith may significantly differ from another. Consequently, two pieces created by one blacksmith cannot be exactly the same.