Ralph Turnbull Will Be Featured at the 2011 Knifemakers' Guild Show Sept. 15-18

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The artistry of custom knifemaker Ralph Turnbull will be on display Sept. 15-18 at the 2011 Knifemakers' Guild Show, scheduled to take place at the Seelbach Hilton Hotel in Louisville, KY. To learn more about Turnbull and his handiwork, visit http://www.TurnbullKnives.com.

Ralph Turnbull’s well-organized, yet modest-sized, workshop in West Central Florida is filled with the tools of the custom knife trade, yet there is one ingredient found in few other places; one might just call it magic.

That’s because the beautifully handcrafted and intricately detailed knives that Turnbull produces offer a near perfect mix of artistry and functionality, examples of which can be found at http://www.TurnbullKnives.com.

Samples of his work will also be featured Sept. 15-18 at the 2011 Knifemakers' Guild Show, scheduled to take place at the Seelbach Hilton Hotel in Louisville, KY.

“My creations range from art knives to folders and everything in between,” he said.

Though some collectors might prefer to showcase a Turnbull custom knife in a well-lit showcase, the knives are, at heart, fully and practically utility devices. The intricate designs have a flowing, organic, quality to them, while their enchanting mix of colors evoke the stained glass windows of the great cathedral of Europe. Little wonder, then, that words like “spectacular” are often used to describe his work.

Turnbull began making knives more than a half-century ago at the tender young age of 12. Though as an adult he invested his multiple talents as an employee for the Chrysler Corporation, his artistic and mechanical skills eventually led him in 1978 to become a member of the Knifemakers Guild, an organization dedicated to promoting custom knives and the talented craftsmen who create them.

He has been making high quality knives since 1973 and worked a full-time knifemaker since 1980.

The Illinois native has won his share of awards, including Best Custom Folder at the Greatest Knife Show on Earth in 1992; Best Fixed Blade Art Knife at the San Jose Custom Knife Show a year later; Best Functional Knife at the Blade Show in 1995; and, Best of Show – Custom Folder, Wolverine Knife Collector Club, in 1996.

Then, in 1999, he was recognized with Ken Warner's "Wooden Sword Award," an honor bestowed upon the most elite among custom knife-makers. But all those awards and recognition pale compared to what happened in Japan.

In 1997 Turnbull was first American ever to be invited to participate in a knife show in Seki City, Japan, an area known world-wide for its high-quality cutlery as well as the fame of its hundreds of years old distinctive sword forging techniques.

During his visit, the mayor of Seki City bought a knife from Turnbull, and it is on permanent display in the City Hall. The featured knife has a blade of Daryl Meiers Calico Rose pattern and liners of mokume gane, which were inlaid with black-lip pearl.

The year following his pilgrimage to Japan, Turnbull and his wife moved to the Sunshine State.

Turnbull said knifemaking allows him freedom to do things "my way" and answer to no one except his customer, many of whom learned about Turnbull’s craftsmanship through word of mouth.

Though he had created a wide variety of one-of-kind custom knives — and even invented an innovative mass-produced product for Spyderco Knife Co. known as the “T-Mag,” which stands for Turnbull Magnetic — many in the industry point to his delightfully whimsical yet fully practical “Butterflies,” known individually as balisong, a folding pocket knife, the blade of which is concealed within grooves of its two handles.

As one expert observer noted: “After decades of making them, Mr. Turnbull understands the balisong design. His Balisongs close tightly and yet open easily. His latch works perfectly either open or closed.”

Ironically, the most expensive project Turnbull ever crafted was a one-of-kind custom pool cue. He sold it for $11,500 to a company that later valued it at six figures.

ABOUT: The Knifemakers' Guild is composed of 300 knifemaker members from the United States and several foreign countries. The purpose of the Guild is to promote custom knives and knifemakers and to encourage ethical and professional business conduct.

For details about Turnbull’s custom knife creations, visit http://www.TurnbullKnives.com. For more about the 2011 Knifemakers’ Guild Show, visit http://www.KnifemakersGuild.com/show.shtml.


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R. A. Turnbull