Keeslar and Sornberger Join Cutlery Hall Of Fame®

Keeslar and Sornberger Join Cutlery Hall Of Fame®
Joe Keeslar (left) and Jim Sornberger (right) are the 2020 inductees to the Cutlery Hall Of Fame.

2020 Cutlery Hall Of Fame Inductees

This year’s two new inductees to the BLADE Magazine Cutlery Hall Of Fame® have a decidedly military connection: ABS master smith Joe Keeslar and knifemaker Jim Sornberger.

Both military veterans—Keeslar in the U.S. Marine Corps and Sornberger in the U.S. Army—were selected in a vote of the sitting members of the Cutlery Hall Of Fame after an extensive nomination and final ballot process.

The two new members are scheduled to be inducted at BLADE Show 2020, Aug. 7-9, at the Cobb Galleria Centre in Atlanta.

In order to qualify for the Cutlery Hall Of Fame, the inductee must have…

  1. demonstrated extraordinary service to the knife industry;
  2. displayed honesty, character and integrity;
  3. advanced the industry by the creativity and originality of their works or contributions;
  4. as ambassadors or outstanding contributors furthered the positive impact of the knife industry on the world at large; and
  5. in summary, demonstrated a worthiness to be a member of such a prestigious group.

The number of votes each new inductee elicited from the sitting Hall-Of-Fame voters would seem to indicate they qualify on all fronts.

Joe Keeslar

Joe Keeslar knives
Joe Keeslar

A resident of Almo, Kentucky, Joe has had an extensive, storied career in the American Bladesmith Society, earning his ABS master smith stamp in 1989. Known for his forged fixed blades, many in the brut de forge style, he also is noted for his beautiful handles with silver wire inlay and matching leather sheaths, the latter often adorned with conchos and other rich embellishments.

Joe joined the ABS board of directors in 1991, served as ABS president from 2003-07, and completed his second term as president in 2015. He has had a dramatic influence on bladesmithing in Europe, where he was chiefly responsible for the first modern hammer-in held in France. He is also a frequent demonstrator at the Thiers Knife Show, one of Europe’s largest knife shows, in Thiers, the knifemaking capital of France. He is the only American knifemaker to receive an honorary membership in the Confrerie du Couteau de Thiers, a French knifemaking organization.

Joe Keeslar knives
Joe Keeslar (inset) is known for his gorgeous brut de forge fixed blades in silver wire inlay and sheaths to match. (SharpByCoop knife image)

As one nominator wrote, Joe is “the most effective maker in the USA to extend forged-blade activity in Europe,” and is the most active in spreading the ABS’s “high level of information.” He has taught knifemaking at the William F. Moran School Of Bladesmithing and at Haywood College, at hammer-ins in Alabama, Arkansas, North Carolina and Ohio, and at the first four renditions of BLADE University at the BLADE Show. He is author of the books Handles and Guards and Forging and Finishing the Brut de Forge Knife. He also is primarily responsible for the rapidly expanding ABS youth program, which holds an annual hammer-in at Smoky Mountain Knife Works.

According to another nominator, Joe “embodies the calm and consistent leadership, knifemaking skills, education and friendship that is so valuable to the entire world of knives.” According to another, “Joe has done more for the ABS than any person besides the late, great W.F. ‘Bill’ Moran.” Lastly, Keeslar was awarded the first annual Aldo and Edda Lorenzi Award at the 2015 BLADE Show for his many contributions as a mentor to bladesmiths worldwide.

Jim Sornberger

Jim Sornberger knives
Jim Sornberger

Calling Volcano, California, home, Jim is a veteran stock removal knifemaker known for his award-winning fixed blades and folders, among the former especially his ornate California-style dress bowies in exotic handle materials such as lapis lazuli and gold quartz.

According to a nominator, when Jim started building knives in 1970, there were only a handful of makers in northern California. As more people became interested in knives and Jim’s “knife family” grew, they experienced difficulty buying knifemaking supplies because no one on the West Coast sold them.

As a result, along with Bill Holt, Jim started H&S Supply in 1981. Cutlery Hall-Of-Famer Bob Loveless and Jim made sure H&S had the right-size steel for knifemaking, and when 154CM stainless steel became “unclean,” they helped bring in ATS-34 stainless so many West Coast makers would have it available. Jim and Bill helped support many of the makers who could barely make ends meet by selling them the steel on credit. In fact, Jim still has a bar of 154CM that Loveless gave him many years ago.

Sornberger award winning knife
Jim Sornberger specializes in 19th-century-style dress bowies such as this San Francisco knife that won Best In Show at the 2019 ICCE. (SharpByCoop knife image)

Circa 1980, along with a few others, Jim sponsored and organized the Bay Area Knife Collectors Association (BAKCA) Show, which went on to become the most successful club show on the West Coast. Jim would generously give up his table space to help makers get started, including his good friend and outstanding knifemaker in his own right, Stan Fujisaka.

In later years, Jim helped bring interest to the California-style dress bowie in gold work and engraving. He shared most everything he learned with other makers, helping many to learn the craft. He writes articles for KNIFE Magazine and has written for BLADE®, and also helped write BAKCA’s by-laws. For a number of years he served on The Knifemakers’ Guild board of directors, including as vice president.

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