BRITISH AND PROUD OF IT!
CLICK ON THE LINKS BELOW TO VIEW ARCHIVE PHOTOS OF VARIOUS KNIVES I MADE TO DATE
A few snaps of me for the record...
My first attempts at knife making back in November 2005
Happy as one can be that my good friend Bruce Parry - who has several of my knives plus a new one he was collecting - on his visit me late December 2015 .
Out in the bush in Oz.
Fishing in at Kyama in Oz
Pest control in the Cheviots.
Wondering how I could miss so many Clays!
A nice day Fly Fishing with something for the pot.
'Four Bowls' Club Champion three years running.
Northumberland Open Gala Team Championship Trophy.
All dressed up on a formal game shoot
My favourite Bike of all time - amongst the many
different bikes I had - the Goldwing Aspencade.
Caravanning - home from home sort of thing,
but too much work for my liking.
Nothing grand or posh, but it's one of my
long held wishes finally fulfilled.
Took a few months
to build and rather clueless about electrics,
but built it I did.
Click on image for project build photos...
First fishing trip to Loch Etive, near Oban.
A most beautiful place and hardly anyone about.
Another fishing trip to Loch Etive.
this time with my nephew in tow.
Base camp all set up at the Caravan Club site a stone
throw away from the sea near Oban.
A bit cheeky I know, but I hope this will make you smile
as well as make you notice the serious stuff below...
If you know of a Veteran who might be suffering from depression, raised anxiety, over alertness or feeling on edge, panicky, easily upset or angry, suffering from a lack of or disturbed sleep, frequent nightmares, flashbacks to military events, irritability and aggressive behaviour, lack of concentration, being easily startled, awkward/odd behaviour or recklessness, anti-social, breaks down emotionally easily at the least upset, abusing drugs/alcohol, indifferent, detached and cold towards family and people in general, avoids crowded places, overly security conscious, finds little or no pleasure in doing things he/she used to enjoy etc., there's a chance that he/she may need professional help.
While the NHS provides many a good professional service, the GP, who's normally the first point of contact, is often not clued up when it comes to dealing with veterans with mental health issues. Therefore, by all means, one should discuss the symptoms with one's own GP, but in addition one ought to self refer to Combat Stress helpline on
0800 138 1619
(24 hrs service)
Combat Stress, will be only too glad to help in any way they can... All the staff at Combat Stress are specialists in dealing with veterans suffering with mental health issues related to their former service in the Armed Forces. With the help of Combat Stress one would be able to access other relevant services, often locally, which one is not normally aware of. Complacency is a thief of time - act and you'll reap the benefits that are there for the asking...
As much as I care about the wellbeing of fellow veterans, I'm not in a position or qualified to help directly. The best I can do is to provide the details as above, which is similar to how I was able to obtain the professional help that gave me hope and an improved quality of life.
Combat Stress supports any veteran from any conflict, unlike some charitable organisations who only support recent veterans of conflicts from Iraq onwards. How stupid and callous is that?!
COURAGE AND FEAR GO HAND IN HAND...
I, like any old army pal of mine, are embarrassed about the all too frequent misuse of the word 'Hero', which seems to be commonly applicable nowadays to anyone who has served in the armed forces. Whether a soldier has seen active service or not, he or she will never think of themselves as heroes, no matter what they've gone through physically and/or mentally. What we all feel however, is great pride in having served and done our duty. That in itself is quite a fulfilling reward in itself. Above all, we did it for each other, best mates forever.
An act of real heroism requires courage and in all probability may take any form as shown below.
1. Personal courage is one's conscious effort to bear stoically, when experiencing adversity, discomfort, pain, agony and personal tragic loss.
2. Physical courage is one's ability to overcome fear when one is facing danger, threat of severe injury or death at a personal level be it out of duty or voluntarily in order to protect others.
3. Moral courage is to remain steadfast against injustice at any level, unfairness, intimidation, oppression, corruption, abuse of power and threats there from that could result in being ostracised, loss of employment or worse.
It's fair to say that almost everybody experiences fear at some time or other to some degree. The greater the fear, the greater the courage needed to hold that fear in check and go on resolutely to do what you feel is the right thing to do at the time. We are naturally inclined to preserve ourselves and to consciously act otherwise takes some doing no matter the situation. Most people who perform acts of heroism are self effacing and when asked why they acted in the way they did considering that they were putting their life at risk of being injured and even killed, the most common answer is usually; "I just did it without thinking, it was the right thing to do I suppose..."
As an ex-serviceman who took an oath to serve Queen and Country, I did my best to do my duty and on my Discharge book it was noted that I did do my duty and did so in an exemplary manner. I must admit though, that when it comes down to the nitty gritty on active service, it was my mates who I cared and looked out for and likewise, they cared and looked out for me - not merely out of duty, but on account of a special bond that servicemen form amongst themselves, so deeply embedded that such a bond stays with them for the rest of their lives. I served with a good number of real heroes and yet none ever claimed to be deserving of such an accolade. After all, we were just doing our duty to safeguard the innocent and British way of life...
This is just a glimpse of what we had to contend with. I know it's almost impossible for anyone who hasn't been through that sort of living nightmare to understand what it's really like; day in day out, your life is on the line and innocent civilians are dying and suffering. But try to imagine what it would be like having to do seven tours of duty, all during the worst of the so called 'Troubles' and getting caught and hurt in a bomb incident, set on fire a couple of times, stoned regularly and shot at and mortared occasionally and living in shit holes unfit for anybody, but us dutiful Squaddies.
One does his duty as that's a soldier's lot, but over time one realises that something isn't quite right, as if we were expendable pieces on a political chessboard played by egomaniacs who cared for nobody but themselves! The internment political debacle shames me to this day - that was one bad mistake and we paid for it in many a violent instalment! My only consolation is that I went from a regular foot soldier to being a para-medic and did my share of helping to save lives and treat casualties. The Abercorn Restaurant bomb incident and its gory aftermath are still very vivid in my nightmares. From all that shit one thing sustained me for I served alongside some great guys who I remember with great affection because that special bond formed over years of looking out for one another just doesn't fade away.
What was it all about anyway? According to the Political fuckwits it was just a bit of policing trouble and never anything like a war. So how many soldiers and civilians need to die and suffer for that sort of thing to be called a war?! If it wasn't a war, why were we awarded campaign medals then? Could the compromise that was arrived at eventually have been arrived at much sooner at a much lesser cost in human lives and suffering? Of course it could have, but politicians in their gilded self serving world are, as always, far removed from the real world of the common citizen. This continues to be the case and it's unlikely to get any better. I just hope that the good people of Northern Ireland, whatever their affiliations, will continue to live in the relative peace that is and always will be their right. There's no glory in war; there's only death, destruction and suffering...
If I were able, would I go to war again? Of course I would as long as the Politicians who messed up and voted for war lead the way in person and not hide away at Westminster spouting rhetoric and laughable bullshit in their attempts to heighten their status beyond their already huge ego!
That said, while I can hold and use a weapon of sorts, I would not hesitate to do my part in defence of this great Country of ours, especially when it comes to preserving the ever diminishing British way of life. In a way I'm glad I'm old and don't have many years to go before I leave this world. Why? I just don't want to be around once the British way of life is eroded so much as to make it an historical era of days gone by...
Welcome and thank you for taking the time to visit my Website.
Hi, I'm Paul, but also known as 'Frenchy', a nickname that originated way back from when I was in the army. Yes, I've done my bit for Queen and Country and am very proud to have served, for I'm as patriotically British as one can be.
After much travel and adventures during my 18 years in the army, I left in 1984 and settled in Northumberland near where my very best friend Dave lived, who also left the army at the same time as me. I had a bit of a tough time settling back in civvy street and for a few years I tended to venture off on extended 'Walkabouts' and chased road transport related job opportunities in the UK and abroad. Then, in late 2004, I returned to Northumberland and planted my weary carcass close to where my best friend, Davey, lived. Considering my army and Transport management working background, this knife making hobby of mine is quite a contrast by comparison. But life is never a smooth path and as things change, one has to adapt accordingly, be through an enforced change in personal circumstance or one's free will.
My interest in knives goes way back to my early mischievous childhood days. I lost track of how many knives I've bought since, owning one knife was never enough. Nowadays my collection is made up of my own made custom knives together with a number of very nice vintage and high tech modern knives, as well as a few hefty Bowies and and swords! I suppose if I had more space, I would have got more, but I really ought to be scaling down and have of late, become more amendable to parting with the odd knife, as long as I feel it's going to an appreciative and enthusiastic end user. Eventually, I'll have to bring myself to let go of almost all of my collection, but for now, while I can still maintain them, I'll continue to enjoy them for a while longer.
I never planned to be making knives, it just happened. There I was, going along quite happily with my life when, in mid 2004 my health took a bit of a bashing and my life turned into a nightmare. Then my best friend Dave died in November 2005 and other shit happened to sink me further into a quagmire of despair and uncertainty. I just didn't know what was happening to me and started to think that I was losing the plot and going mad! To compound matters, my back and neck injuries sustained during my army service started making life very uncomfortable and limiting. As a consequence, I was very unhappy and went through periods of feeling that life was not worth living. But, I got through the first few years through having found a way of coping by distraction; tucked away in my shed having a go at knife making, which kept me sufficiently safe until early 2007. By now, however, having recently divorced, I was not coping at all well. I applied myself more intensely to keeping myself busy, indoors and outdoors, with my initial knife making efforts helping the most as it helped me focus more on what I can do rather than on what I can't do. As luck would have it, while on the phone to an old army pal, the conversation turned to. "So how are you really?" Well, it turned out that he too fell ill and described to me what he was experiencing; which very much mirrored my own experiences. Then he told me how another pal of ours put him on to 'Combat Stress', a charity that supports service veterans with mental health issues. The long and short of it was that 'Combat Stress' took me in and after a couple of weeks residential assessments and psychiatric evaluation, I was diagnosed with complex PTSD. Rather than feeling worse for it, I was relieved to know that I wasn't going mad as such, and with understanding came a fair measure of acceptance with each subsequent weekly stays at Hollybush House, near Ayr, one of three Combat Stress centres in the UK. Combat related PTSD affects veterans in varying ways and it can even take years to manifest itself - in my case 20 years! No two cases are ever exactly alike, the main symptoms are common enough from parson to person, which makes it possible for affected veterans to relate and empathise with each another. In some case, further psychiatric/psychological trauma related treatment/therapy is also necessary, as happened in my case. At the time of writing - April 2017 - I've been attending the Newcastle Trauma Centre on a weekly basis for a year and a half, with no end in sight at present.
Combat related PTSD is akin to Pandora's box in a way, as it's made up of a collection of symptoms, affecting sufferers in various ways. At some time or other one is affected by all of the symptoms, but not necessarily all together at the same time. From situations where other sufferers spoke openly about their symptoms during collective therapy, I realised that combat PTSD, complex or otherwise, is very personal and variable in how it impacts on one's life. It took 20 years after I left the army that it surfaced in my case. I manage well enough, but as symptoms and their effect are unpredictable, life is even more up and down, which makes planning ahead a hit and miss affair! I'm often forced to take time out and be kind to myself, which doesn't come easy. With having led such an adventurous and active life before I fell ill, the limitations that have now crept in can be very exasperating at times. A loss is a loss and it's never easy to come to terms with. One simply has to do one's best to accept and endure as stoically as one can manage and soldier on regardless. Why am I baring my soul like this? Well, it's only fair for folk who want to deal with me to know that I can be 'unreliable' at times with regard to time frames as I may need to take some time off from doing physical work. More importantly, there's a chance that a service veteran, or someone who knows of a veteran, might read this and act to seek help as I did. Veterans like me are termed as the 'Walking Wounded', as for most of the time we appear normal, outwardly at least. Sadly, PTSD impacts not only on the veteran, but also on his/her nearest and dearest. Many veterans are denial and it is they who tend to end up in trouble in some way or other. Notwithstanding my own personal circumstances, I'm still very proud indeed to have served. Freedom and safety don't come free, someone has to defend both, lest we are to live shackled and fearful and at the mercy of Tyranny!
This very same website - which I cobbled together from books I got from the local library - and all the knives you see on here, are the direct result of my attempt over the years to get on with my life by actually keeping myself mentally stimulated and physically engaged. I can't claim that all is hunky dory, but I've become more accepting of my situation and go about things as best I can, enough to say that there's some purpose to my life. One thing I don't seem to have lost is my quirky sense of humour and generous disposition in thought and deed towards like minded folk. That said, I'm now rather reserved, wary, cynical and vigilant. I'm rather selective and judgemental than ever with regard to who I associate with as I find some people just drain me. I'm increasingly very intolerant of selfish, bullshitting, ignorant and egocentric greedy types who trample on people's feelings and take advantage of good honest folk at every available opportunity. I'm resolute that if someone betrays your trust the once, giving them a second chance is futile as they have it in them to let you down again if and when it suits them! Some folk are just naturally bad, so avoid them!
From the outset, finding myself in a somewhat unusual situation, I've always considered myself and still do, as a hobbyist first and foremost. I never planned to be making knives for other folk; this website was meant for me to share my hobby. But one thing led to another and here I am, making a few knives for folk. Not many people can say that they have a main hobby which is self financing and also helps with my own knife making and collecting activities. With not having to make knives for a living, it's easy for me to plod along at my own pace. If someone wants me to make them a knife, great, but if I go through a quiet period, that's OK too, as I can get on with making my own knives, for my pleasure. I don't have any pretensions of being a naturally gifted craftsmen or concern myself as to whether I'm as good or better than other knife makers. All that I concern myself with is the good folk I deal with, ensuring that their experience with me is a memorable one for all the right reasons, which by itself is very rewarding. As in everything else in life, if you like and enjoy what you do, are dedicated enough and persevere regardless of setbacks, the chance of producing something worthy of admiration and valued by your peers, pays off in eventually. Let's be honest now, who doesn't like genuine praise and a pat on the back for doing well? I'm rather short in self-esteem, sense of worth and confidence, so to do well enough worthy of acknowledgment helps in uplifting me. Besides which, I've had the pleasure of dealings with some very good and kind people and learned much along the way of being of service.
I've always been resourceful and able to fix things, even if they didn't need fixing! What has always stood me in good stead is that I don't spend much time wondering whether I can do something or not; I approach things with visualising what I want to achieve and then get on with it as no matter the end result, I'll always get something out of it. It's only by doing that I get to know whether I can overcome a real or imaginary obstacle. One way or another, I usually get near to where I planned to be, which is ultimately very satisfying and fulfilling. Whenever I go through periods when my mood or pain, or both, getting anything done is very difficult and must therefore take a break from just about everything. Once i recover sufficiently, getting back to immersing myself into knife making is a tonic in itself! Being self taught with regard to building this Website and all the aspects of making knives, I made many mistakes along the way, often going about things the wrong long winded costly way. Ideally I would have liked to learn from the experience of others, but I didn't have the confidence to bother anybody or ask questions as I was in awe of other knife makers. In a therapeutic sort of way, abstinently so, I really needed to do things my idiosyncratic way and solve my own problems come what may. In any event, however frustrating things can be at times, learning from one's own mishaps makes for a more meaningful and long lasting lesson.
Although a bit late in life, I'm now enjoying the opportunity to exercise the latent creativity within me and relish the ongoing varied hands-on learning by progression and discovering new and exciting things along the way. With the passing of time, increased knowledge of the materials I work with and lots of hands on practice, I've been able to improve on my initial efforts and am also much better organised. I'm always looking to be innovative and progressive with materials and the way I go about doing things. There are days and even weeks when I'm preoccupied with other aspects of my life and I dare not mess about with fast spinning grinders, buffers and sharp knives. I've suffered many a cut, including three deep cuts that needed trips to our A&E for stitching! Scrapes and bruises are the norm but that's to be expected. When things go well, I always feel better. I don't have a fancy workshop with all the latest hi-tech tools, but i manage well enough. I do a lot by hand, especially at the finishing stages as that allows me to get close to and actually feel my work. I don't rush through my processes as I like make sure that all is well before I go on to the next stage. Even when I finish a knife, I hold on to it for a little while and look at it often just in case I missed something. Those who have seen my 'set up' find it hard to believe that I can function at the level I do from my couple of little sheds - one for metal work and one for leather work - that are far from being anything like proper workshops. But it's still my little domain and sanctuary, where I can shut the world out and lose myself, for however long I can manage.
While I work to the best of my ability to achieve the highest standard of quality, I don't delude myself with thoughts of having achieved perfection! Only nature seems to be blessed with wondrous objects of perfection and even then, it's all down to personal interpretation, values and preferences. I build every knife as if it were for myself, to keep and cherish. It naturally follows therefore, that if the end result isn't good enough for me, then it won't do for anyone else. I don't exactly know why I go about things the way I do, pride, OCD, fear of failure and god knows what else. Primarily though, I keep in mind that doing right by all who trust in me is is always well rewarded in appreciation, satisfaction and fulfilment. I suppose my feedback is testimony enough - Feedback page. I can't say that I'm not pleased with myself when I receive such favourable comments, because it confirms that I've achieved my aim. However, one can only be subjective with regard to craftwork as it's next to impossible to compare like for like with anybody else's work, never mind that personal preferences play a big part in such matters. I admire a few makers myself and my own knife collection proves how eclectic my preferences are. As a knife collector, I admire the work of several custom knife makers and two of my favourites are Alan Wood http://www.alanwoodknives.com/ and Rob Bayley http://www.bayleyknife.com Although quite different from one another, these two are amazing craftsmen and the quality of their work is amazing as. My main concerns are about originality; clever, aesthetically pleasing and functional designs, quality of workmanship and operational integrity. I have only one principle that serves me as a benchmark and that is whether what I produce meets or surpasses the end user's expectations. That's what I always aim for and a positive result pleases me no end! Perhaps on account of my situation being what it is, dealing with folk at a personal level might not come as natural now as it used to be before. I admit that I'm not the most social of people out in the open, but I do better on a one-to-one basis. Although retiring and reserved, my natural desire is to please and do my best to make the whole experience of someone dealing with me as easy and positive as can be. I strive to make sure that anyone who deals with me will feel that I've done right by them and can happily say that "Paul is a good guy, he really cares..." As a principled man this matters a lot to me. Next to making my stuff, the opportunity of sharing them with like-minded fellow enthusiasts who appreciate such handiwork, gives me considerable satisfaction and pleasure. I get a heck of a buzz with a good measure of relief when someone who sees and/or handles a knife off mine says "Wow - that's fantastic, I love it!"
I had planned to do much when I retired, thinking that I would otherwise be bored with so much time on my hands. As things turned out however, what with falling ill and losing my best friend Dave, a lot has remained unfulfilled. Yes, I've many a happy memory to make me smile, but also some not so nice ones, which either haunt me or I tend to dwell on a bit too often. Things could be worse, much worse, so all in all, I cannot but be very grateful for having lived such a full and adventurous life. No matter my current health situation, I can still manage to do things that give me pleasure, none more so than making folk happy with my knife making activities. At the time of writing this last paragraph - April 2017 - I'm not as unhappy as I used to be about what I might be missing out on. There's still much that I can fill my life with as and when opportunities crop up. Good things might well be awaiting me. In the meantime, I shall plod on with my knife making hobby, and be contented with my lot, everything else will be a bonus...
It gives me great satisfaction and pleasure for the opportunity to share with you this wonderful hobby of mine through this website, which I hope you find as pleasurable an experience as I have intended it to be. I wish you good health, happiness and inner peace to your heart's content.
No matter your circumstances, don't compare your life to others as you really have no idea what their journey through life has been all about. And, if there is something you like to do, get on with it and do it while you can. For should you procrastinate, you might never get the chance and end up missing out...
Above are part of a collection of Bushcraft type knives I made for myself, which underpin my original intentions that led to my knife making activities. This photo was taken July 2012 during a 'British Blades Forum' wilderness Camping get together at Chesterfield.
Since the above event I made up this Damasteel knife set for myself - the first of its kind for me.
It has taken me years to get around to working with Damasteel, but now at last I've actually managed it and I'm well pleased with the end result. I've to thank Mick Wardell for his professional heat and cryogenic treatment of the blades.
Below: The same set of knives as featured in the April 2013 issue of G Q Magazine alongside knives from highly notable professional knife makers!
Damasteel is one of the most desirable and expensive steel I ever worked with. I was therefore somewhat taken aback when I saw that a price tag of £150 was shown out of context!
For those in the know, it'll be quite obvious that it's a simple copy editing error. The reality is that you can't even buy the raw steel for that much, never mind a fully made up knife set like mine. With Damasteel, £150 will get you a piece of raw steel about 20 centimetres long! Add to that the cost of machining it into a knife blade blank, then send it off for specialist heat treating and cryogenic process. After which spend a lot of time grinding/sanding to get the blade ready for use. The end cost is some £200 + for a ready to use small Bushcraft sized Damasteel blade blank...
Anyway, the fact that I ended up showcasing some of my work in the company of some great knife makers more than made up for the mistake. More importantly, the associated fee went to the 'Fishing For Heroes' charity; so I'm happy.
The copy should have read: 'Prices from £150 for a standard build custom knife'. As a rule I do not offer knives based on Damasteel and other high end steels on a regular basis. When I do manage to make some Damasteel and RWL-34 knife blanks I would list them on here: Limited Specials .
"In an unjust and corrupt state, any righteous act of decency is inherently dangerous..."
Fishing for Heroes Charity event at Thrunton fishery in Northumberland - Sept.2014.
No better way to end 2015 then with my pal Bruce Parry who paid me a what was supposed to be a quick visit and collect his latest Talisman knife from me; one of a special twelve Talisman knives commission. We were having such a great time, he decided to stay on and travel early the following morning. It was gone half past one when we realised we where hungry, so we drove down to the coast to Seaton Sluice and got ourselves the best fish and chips in the whole of the UK! I was sad and elated at the same time when he departed the following morning, but he's a busy man and thus I'm very appreciative of his extended visiting.
Bruce is canny, a good man through and through. You only need to see his TV programs to know that he really cares about the environment and the diversity of people he comes into contact with. With Bruce having also served, it was only natural that we got on well from the outset. The man is a joy to be with, has great sense of humour and as down to earth and affable as you would wish. With having several of my knives, I've always felt that Bruce takes along a part of me on his adventures, which is always a nice thought to hang on to. I'm always looking ahead to his next project, but I've since learned from him that it can take ages and great expense to get a project team together, get to and back from wherever and actual get the filming sorted and ready for showing. No matter to me really as I'm happy to see his repeats and each time I do, I learn something new... Bruce is the real thing...
This is me with Jan Engberg during my trip to Sweden in July 2010. At this point Jan had just got back from the Ludvika knife show where he won a 3rd Prize with one of his creations as well as several Diplomas for other quality work. I had the privilege of spending a very nice time with Jan where I managed to see his fantastic range of knives for which he has been awarded many prizes and Diplomas over the years. I also had a chance to see his (ultra tidy) workshop facilities and discussed just about every aspect of how he goes about his work. His style of knives are of the Scandinavian hidden tang types, which allows him to make some exceptional creations.
Jan makes about 20 knives a year, but what he makes are absolute gems. When I asked him why he does it, he said, "The winters are very long here..."
Jan is also a good Fisherman, living as he does, just a few hundred meters from a very good Salmon river.
While I stayed in the north past Uppsala , Sweden in general, is fantastically beautiful place, exceptionally clean with very nice friendly people.
Jan, thank you for your generosity and hospitality...
I dedicate this website in its entirety in memory of my very best friend of all time, Dave (Geordie) Lisle, with whom I shared so many a memorable experience during our army service and afterwards in civvy street.
We had planned to share much more in our late years were it not for his early and sudden demise on 15th July 2005, at the age of 54. The greatest loss in my life and to his family.
Our friendship was unconditional and Davey was a true and steadfast very best friend of all time, the likes of who comes along only the once in a lifetime.
I'm not sure whether he went up or down, nether of us are religious, but we did agree that if there's an afterlife he would let me know about it. Seeing that he hasn't, then I can only assume that there's nothing after death; so I better make the best of the little time I've got left, as our elders often remind us, time waits for no man...
Dave and me - Best of friends together...
Sometime around 1992 or therabouts - Halcyon days still...