Steve Sarmiento - The Artist

It all started when I was in second grade and my teacher Mr. Este had us reading for quiet time when he pulled out the largest book I had ever seen. The binding was in a natural dark brown leather with an antique metal clasp. It was a good two inches thick from front to back. Someone asked him what it was because of course the curiosity of a child is boundless. "It's called The Hobbit." he replied but of course that's not enough for a room full of children that don't want to actually read themselves. "What's it about?" one of them said. Mr. Este showed how great of a teacher he was at that moment when he decided to read a bit of the book to us.

I was seven years old and became fascinated with the fantasy world of Middle Earth. More so than that, I became fascinated with the weapons and armor. From that point on, anything that had to do with knights and medieval mythology caught my attention.

At the age of 19, I purchased my first knife. Mind you, I had a few small pocket knives and even a Buck 110 at one point. Walking through Wal-Mart in the sporting goods I noticed a knife in the case that looked interesting. It was $70 and more than I had at that time so I had to wait. Two months later I went back with cash in hand and purchased the Buck Nighthawk.

It was beautiful... it was manly... it was sharp!

As soon as I got home I couldn't get the wrapping off fast enough. The box finally opened and the knife was sheathed in a plastic bag. It seemed to take forever to get it out, but once that handle touched my hand I knew I was doomed. The addiction had started but I had no idea where it would lead. The grip had a rubbery feel with small round textured bumps and an acid grey finish on the blade. I was so excited it slipped for just and instant and the edge caught my thumb lacing it open about an inch long. That is the moment my respect came with the beauty and danger of what an edged tool can be.

To this day I keep that knife in my hiking pack and razor sharp. When the first book of The Lord of the Rings series came to the theaters United Cutlery was awarded with the contract to mass produce replicas of the movie weaponry. I knew I had to get something ... anything. I did some research and found what I wanted. Glamdring, Gandolf's sword was it. I ordered it and was hooked.

From that point on I started researching how swords and weapons were made from years past all the way through present methods. My fascination found it's way to the methods of the Japanese 2000 years ago in their sacred art in creating folded steel called tamahagane. Their dedication to their art was inspiring enough to want to take up the craft on my own. But where would I start?

Research and education can only get you so far. By no means should it be overlooked, but as a Hands On learner I needed to get my feet wet, so to speak. An Arkansas wet stone had taught me the fine art of honing an edge. I practiced and practiced.

One day when picking up my two spawns from daycare I just happened to meet a man, short in stature but enormous in presence. He lived across the street and said that he used to work for Buck Knives but now does "a little bit on his own". I had no idea at the time that he is the sole authorized customizing craftsman for the Buck Collector's Club. His name is Leroy Remer. He's been in the industry for over 45 years now and offered to show me a few things.

He told me that when I mastered the skill of modifying knives and putting handles on, then he'd teach me how to grind but NOT before. I purchased a few blade blanks off a website and took them over to his shop one Saturday morning. We worked for 4 hours laughing and telling stories and I learned the necessary steps in putting a handle onto a knife. This knife wasn't just any knife though. This first knife had a purpose. It was to be the gift for my father's 60th birthday so it had to be something special.

This knife has a moose horn handle with a stainless blade and pins with custom filework on the spine and a leather sheath that I made myself.

I WAS HOOKED yet again and more than ever!

From there I started obtaining various tools and machines, blade blanks and handle materials. I needed stock. I needed PRACTICE. I found any knife I could to practice on, including my parent's kitchen knives to practice my skill in putting an edge on. There were many a Saturday that hours were lost in just talking and learning from Leroy. My poor wife probably thought I was having an affair with my knives. Even my evenings were consumed with online research reading forums and blogs. I'd spend hours on end watching videos and milling through the thousands of junk videos from lesser quality craftsman, to find that rare gem that would provide quality information. To this day it's one of my more favorite past-times.

It's been a long hard road and there have been many mishaps but I'm proud to say that I've progressed into grinding my own blades out of bars of steel and making custom knives from my own designs. Perhaps one day soon I'll be able to do some forging and hammer out pieces from steel.

I've found that passion in my life to create something unique. There are a great number of people that have given their support in this endeavor and I owe them more than I could ever repay. My parents for sure for pushing me to always do my best, my mentor and friend Leroy for taking me under his wing and providing his priceless knowledge, the rest of my family for tolerating me constantly showing them all the new things I'm working on, and most of all my beautiful wife for putting up with this crazy addiction and constant support she provides even though I know that what I do can scare her at times.

*The photos of the Buck knife and Gandolf are not my images and are taken off the internet.