An Unorthodox Way To Start Collecting Knives
Knives come in all types and sizes. The knives in Brittany Gambee’s collection, for instance, are miniatures, all of which, with the exception of one, are made by ABS journeyman smith Dale Huckabee. And the genesis for them all started with a hug—or the lack thereof.
“Give Me A Hug For A Knife”
It started almost two decades ago when Brittany was 6. She and her mom, Dianna, were visiting their first Batson’s Bladesmithing Symposium, a three-day celebration of bladesmithing seminars and knives at the Tannehill Ironworks and park in McCalla, Alabama. Then a fledgling bladesmith, Huckabee was displaying his knives at his second or third Batson event, when up walked Brittany.
“This little girl about 2 or 3 feet high came up and said she’d give me a hug for a knife,” Dale recalled. Huckabee was feeling pretty chipper back then because he had just won a scholarship to the Bill Moran School of Bladesmithing.
“I had this miniature knife and sheath and reached over and hung it around her neck and said, ‘Where’s my hug?’—and she ran,” he grinned.
Dianna remembers the incident almost like it was yesterday.
“Dale told me when he gave the knife to her that it was sharp and to be careful, but he wanted her to have it,” she said, adding that Brittany wore the knife and neck sheath for many years. “Well, in our silliness we didn’t get his name, we just took the knife and sheath and figured ‘no big deal.’”
The DH Mystery
Fast-forward 10 years to when Brittany was 16. “The dog chewed the edge of the sheath and Brittany was very upset and wanted to replace it,” Dianna remembered. “Well, the knife had a ‘DH’ on it, but we didn’t know who DH was.”
Enter “Uncle Bill.”
“We’d been coming to Batson’s every year and there was this wonderful man who used to come here, ‘Uncle Bill’ Richardson—he’s passed away now—and he told us, ‘You bring the knife to the symposium and have Brittany wear it and somebody will recognize you.’”
Richardson—who Dale said didn’t make knives but was “a heck of a blacksmith”—was at least half right. Dale recognized Dianna but he didn’t recognize Brittany because at 16 she was 10 years older than the young lady he originally had met.
“This lady and this girl walk up and the lady said you don’t recognize her [Brittany], do you?’” Dale recalled. “I said no but I recognize the knife.”
Collecting Miniature Knives
The Gambees have been coming to Batson’s Symposium—including this year’s rendition April 7-9—ever since and each year Brittany, now 25, buys a Huckabee miniature knife. This year’s addition: a miniature chef’s knife. The only piece in her collection that Dale did not make is one miniature damascus tomahawk by ABS master smith Ken Durham.
“Ken made the hawk for me because Dale always makes knives,” Brittany noted. “He saw Dale’s knives and said he could make a small hawk for me, and then Dale saw Ken’s hawk and said he could make a small one of those and made one for me, too.”
A Lasting Friendship
The lasting relationship between Dale and the Gambees is something all concerned seem to relish.
“It’s been a good journey. She’s grown up with me now,” Huckabee reflected. “When I get to the BLADE Show I see her over there some and she’s like family. I try to make something different for her every year. Last year I made the miniature damascus tomahawk, but I have to keep my head working to try to make something new and different each year. I don’t know what it will be next year. I’ll have to try and come up with something new.”
Oh, and in case you’re wondering, Dale replaced the sheath for Brittany’s knife, too.