It’s not uncommon for young adults to find their passion in their teen years. What is uncommon, is when they find that passion at a theme park.
“We went down to Silver Dollar City so many times as a kid and there’s a gun and knife shop down there. Back then, Ray Johnson was the mastersmith who ran it. I watched one of his demonstrations and really found it fascinating,” David Amour remembers. “I was 15, so I wanted to know everything about anything. I followed him into the shop and kept asking questions until literally he took the Gun Digest Book of Knifemaking off the shelf, which was for sale, threw it at me and told me to get out of the shop.”
From there, Armour’s uncommon journey from curious teenager to accomplished bladesmith has continued, with a career in childcare sprinkled in.
“It’s funny because, the knife making people look at me and go, ‘You work with children?’ and the childcare people look at me and go, ‘You make knives?’ said Armour, who worked at his parents, Kenny and Virginia Armour’s childcare center, ABC First Steps in Raymond, before operating his own business in he and wife Kimee’s home in Thayer until recently. “The weird thing is there are several knife makers who are stay-at-home dads. In the knife making side, it’s really not that big of a deal. In the childcare industry, that’s where I get some looks.”
Those looks fade away when you see Armour’s work. The hand-forged knives are built to be used, but look just as home in a display case.
“I consider myself a tool maker with an artistic flair. I like knowing that my knives are being used, but I also recognize that some people just buy things because they think it’s cool and want to keep it in a case and in pristine condition,” Armour said. “Once it’s out of my hands, I don’t care how they enjoy it. It’s my job to make sure they’ve got something they’ll be happy with no matter what.”
For years, knife making was more of a hobby than a potential source of revenue for Armour, who built a forge and shop at his parent’s farm in rural Raymond. But in the last ten years or so, he has taken his passion to a new level, adding equipment and dedicating himself to the science of bladesmithing.
“I really started thinking, if I’m going to do this, I really need to start paying more attention to the metallurgy side of it, the fit and finish side of it, the form side of it and how does a knife function instead of just looking cool,” he explained. “Ever since then it’s been trying to make each knife a little better and a little different.”
Armour mainly makes fixed, medium-sized working blades, like hunting and utility knives. If there is a knife that he’s known for, it’s a hunter’s Bowie, a five-inch blade with a Bowie profile, but more closer in size to a hunting knife.
He is also developing a line of stock patterns for people who want to get into custom knives, but don’t want to purchase a knife in the three to four hundred dollar range, which isn’t a reach when talking about custom knives.
That doesn’t mean he doesn’t stray out outside of the box some. Armour has experimented with different handle materials (“This hempwood I’m testing out now, I’ve never seen it on a knife before”) and techniques, in a continued effort to improve on his craft.
“I describe my knife making style as sufficiently evil and deliberately casual,” Armour said with a laugh. “I take the quality of it very seriously. How well does it cut? How well does it hold an edge? How does it stand up to impact? That stuff I take seriously. But I’m also likely to put a knife with a pink pinecone handle on the table as well.”
That attitude and the quality of his work has resulted in his knives being sold literally all over the world. Armour knows that customers from Australia, England, Japan and China have purchased from him in the past, while other blades take a different route to their foreign destinations.
“A while back, someone said they found one of my knives in a second hand store in Switzerland,” Armour said. “I remember I sold that particular blade two years before at a show in Las Vegas, so how it made it from there to Europe, I don’t know.”
With the internet and TV shows like Forged In Fire, custom knife making has become more popular than when Armour first caught the bug in Branson. He says that customers are much more knowledgeable than even 10 to 15 years ago, which is a double-edged sword, so to speak.
“The downside of that information is that sometimes it isn’t that great. I spend a lot of time not only explaining, what I’m doing, but why I’m doing it to clients, whereas before it was ‘You make it. Great.’”
Armour said that helping clients expand their knowledge base is one of the fun parts of knife making. Besides the in-person communication, he is also active on knife making forums and Instagram (@ArmourCutlery), where he is able to talk about different materials and methods, as well as showcase his latest projects.
“There is a lot of guiding a client to make sure that he or she gets what they want and it’s still within the realm of what I can produce to the best of my ability,” Armour explained.
And while the best of his ability is pretty impressive, the search to get better is one of the things that draws Armour into bladesmithing.
“One of the great things about knife making is that there is always something different you can go with,” Armour said. “If you get confident with carbon steel, there is always Damascus or other pattern welded steel. If you get comfortable working with natural materials, there is always a synthetic you can try. It’s more about the journey than getting there.”
Armour’s journey may have been uncommon, but it’s definitely been one worth taking.
To see more of Armour’s work, go to www.armourcutlery.com or on Instagram @ArmourCutlery.