Tony Bose, the man perhaps most responsible for the rebirth of the slip joint/pocketknife genre in today’s knives, BLADE Magazine Cutlery Hall Of Fame® member, loving husband and father, and friends to scores in the knife industry, passed away Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020.
A Shock to the Knife Community
Reactions poured in from the knife community.
“Heartbreaking news!” knifemaker Bill Ruple noted on his Facebook page. “Tony was my hero in the knife community!! He broke ground for all of us in the slip joint community!!”
Added knifemaker Bobby Branton, “Through his knowledge and willingness to share with others, [Tony] has played a huge part in keeping the custom slip joint movement alive. His contributions and work with Case knives have made his designs affordable to collectors around the world.”
Chimed in knifemaker Luke Swenson, “We lost a fine knifemaker and a better person and friend.”
A Love Of Traditional Pocketknives
Things didn’t come easy for Bose from the get go. Born in 1946, he lost his right eye at 6.
“Most of his life has been affected one way or another by that loss, but perhaps it was the defining moment in steering his career in the direction of self-employment and self-discovery,” Cutlery Hall-Of-Fame member Ken Onion said in his speech inducting Tony into the Cutlery Hall Of Fame in 2019. Tony’s father also was disabled, so Tony sought work to help his family make ends meet. His disability made finding employment difficult, especially at a time when employers were reluctant to hire the disabled.
One of the things that helped Bose persevere was his affection for slip joints.
“He’s had a deep love for traditional pocketknives for as long as he can remember. He always had one, mostly something worn out or someone gave him,” Onion observed.
In high school Bose made money sharpening knives until he saved up enough to buy a brand new Case knife. Eventually he started making fixed blades in his spare time.
“His focus was to acquire the necessary equipment to build folding knives, and that he did,” Onion continued.
In 1989, Bose became a full-time maker.
“His goal was to make traditional folding knives and improve upon them using the best materials he could find, and to perfect the craft,” Onion said.
Bose was self-taught and, due to the difficulty he encountered in finding information on making knives, he vowed to share his knowledge with other makers to keep the interest alive.
Gradually, Tony began to establish himself, making slip joints and selling them at local knife shows. He began winning honors for his knives at various events, including Best Folder awards at the 1994 East Coast Custom Knife Show and, in 1995, at the world’s largest and most important knife event: the BLADE Show in Atlanta.
Bose’s Career Takes Off
The turning point in Bose’s career came in 1999 when, at the request of Mark Zalesky, now editor of Knife Magazine, Ed Jessup of Case called to see if Bose would be interested in working with Case. Tony agreed and the Case/Bose collaborations went on to transform an industry.
Tony and Case did not limit their working agreement to knife collaborations only. Tony became a crowd favorite at Case consumer events and swap meets nationwide, conducting knifemaking seminars, meet and greets, and otherwise serving as an ambassador for all things Case.
It was a relationship beneficial to both parties and the entire industry in more ways than one. In the case of Case, not only did it swell company coffers, it also improved Case knives—no small feat for one of the world’s leading names in cutlery.
In the process of combining on some of the world’s best slip-joint collaborations, Tony and Case refocused attention on slip joints in general. Add the impeccable custom slip joints that Tony continued to make, and custom knife aficionados bought more of them. That influence included other custom makers as well, and more of them switched from making other knife genres to building slip joints.
A Legacy of Teaching and Inspiration
Almost as legendary as his knives is Tony’s legacy of teaching anyone who wanted to know how to make knives.
“Tony takes the time to be sure students understand what he’s trying to teach,” Onion said in 2019. “He’s improved the level of quality in a big way at Case and has taught them to do the impossible. He consistently strives for perfection. He’s very inspirational and has been a muse to the company. He’s respected and loved by everyone.”
One of the most accomplished of all of Tony’s students is his son, Reese. The younger Bose has become so adept at making slip joints that he is considered among the world’s best.
Concluded Cutlery Hall-Of-Famer Dan Delavan, “Tony Bose is another maker who made what he liked, slip joints, when there was not much demand, and then the market took off. His work is still the best and the most sought after.”
For more on Tony Bose, visit boseknives.com.