by b.R. Hughes
Dedicated in honor of the “Father of Modern” damascus—William F. Moran—the Moran Bladesmith and Artisan Academy is now a reality.
William F. “Bill” Moran, Jr., the first American bladesmith to successfully forge damascus steel blades and a founder of the American Bladesmith Society (ABS), was honored on October 16 in Middletown, Maryland, with the dedication of the Moran Bladesmith and Artisan Academy. Under the auspices of the Moran Museum & Foundation, the Academy is an impressive structure that stands less than 100 yards from Moran’s now idle knife shop.
The weather was virtually ideal as a large crowd assembled in front of the building. Director Nancy Hendrickson, mistress of ceremonies, welcomed the audience and introduced Robert Wilson, president of the Moran Foundation, who opened the proceedings with a prayer and gave an overview of the activities leading up to the dedication.
Mrs. Hendrickson next introduced the speakers for the afternoon: John Miller, burgess of Middletown; Jerry Donald, district commissioner; Jay Hendrickson, founder of the Moran Foundation and past ABS president; Joe Keeslar, past ABS president; Johnny Perry, past vice president and director of the Moran Foundation; and yours truly, a founder of the ABS and author of Master of the Forge, a Moran biography.
Following the oral presentations, a ribbon cutting done with a Moran knife was conducted by Jay Hendrickson, Robert Wilson and Gordon Conner, Foundation vice-president.
Mrs. Hendrickson closed the ceremony and the group enjoyed a round of refreshments that featured a cake cutting. The assemblage then toured the new building, which contains an office, classroom, museum and gift shop, and a large room where forging, grinding and related skills will be taught.
The Moran shop, which is in excellent condition, will be a museum and a working smithy. A knife show was held October 15 in the space between the Moran Academy and the Moran shop, followed by an auction conducted by Robert Wilson.
FATHER of MODERN DAMASCUS
Moran unveiled his eight damascus knives a half century ago at the 1973 Knifemakers’ Guild Show in Kansas City, Missouri. The knives were the hit of the show and rekindled interest in bladesmithing, which was a dying art form in America at the time. There were only about a dozen practicing smiths back then, including such notables as Bo Randall, Rudy Ruana and, of course, Moran.
Under Moran’s leadership, the ABS was formed in 1976, with Moran elected president, Don Hastings, treasurer, Bill Bagwell, secretary, and yours truly, director. Moran, Bagwell and Hastings were the first three American smiths to successfully forge damascus knife blades.
As the meeting broke up, Moran turned to me and said, “If we play our cards right, Bill, one of these days we could have 25 members.” Today, of course, the ABS membership is many times that number and has gone global.
The Moran Academy stands as mute testimony to the fact that Bill played his cards very well indeed. Almost single-handedly, he preserved the art of bladesmithing not only in America, but around the world.
Author’s note: Jay Hendrickson, Hughes, Keeslar, Moran, Randall and Ruana all are members of the BLADE Magazine Cutlery Hall of Fame® and the ABS Hall Of Fame as well.
More Knife Collecting And Custom Knives
- Flipping In: The Rise Of The Custom Flipping Folder
- The Beauty Of Custom Pocketknives
- How to Collect Knives: 7 Knife Collecting Tips
- Danes to Dragons: Custom Tomahawks
Knife Guide Issue features the newest knives and sharpeners, plus knife and axe reviews, knife sheaths, kit knives and a Knife Industry Directory.
Get your FREE digital PDF instant download of the annual Knife Guide. No, really! We will email it to you right now when you subscribe to the BLADE email newsletter.