Story and photos by BRUCE COLLIER
David Fleming’s day job as a farrier (he’s been doing it for 28 years) allows him enough time for a secondary pursuit – knife making. It began as a hobby, something he learned by reading books, watching You Tube videos, and working with experienced knife makers like Jerry Partridge and John White. Fleming’s skills and craftsmanship have grown and refined, and once he decides to retire from shoeing horses, it may become his primary trade.
Fleming lives north of DeFuniak Springs, off the beaten path on a spacious country lot. His workshop sits a short distance behind his house. The building is filled with an orderly clutter of machines, raw materials, tools and both finished and in-progress knives. A second building contains more material, including a large alligator hide purchased from a hunter, which furnishes material for handles and sheaths.
Fleming says he makes his knives “my way,” having developed his own touches; he still has the very first knife he made. He supplies working knives to hunters and farmers, has crafted some beautiful carving knives for a ranch out West, and sells artfully embellished knives to collectors for display – though all Fleming’s knives are fully functional. At present he works alone (his friend Peck Cawthon helped with some sanding) and sometimes keeps late hours to catch up with back orders.
Fleming recently completed work on a special project – a knife to be auctioned off as part of the Cancer Freeze 2019 fundraiser, held every year at Lake Jackson in Florala, Ala. The handle of this knife is made from the horn of a Sambar stag (a species of deer native to India, southern China and southeast Asia). The inlay comes from a buffalo bone Fleming purchased from its finder in South Dakota. The bone, not fossilized, is 10,000 years old. Fleming’s workshop is filled with stacks and bundles of natural materials, many of them found items, to be used for making handles – horns and antlers, stone, and bones – one from what must have been a hefty ’gator.
The blade, five layers of forged and welded steel called “Alabama Damascus,” was sourced from Jacksonville, Ala., then crafted and honed to its final shape by the process of “stock removal.”
Fleming says the process took about a week, with heating, tempering, and setting all taking up time in addition to the hands-on work.
The finished knife rests in a sheath of saddle leather and alligator hide from “Swamp People” Troy and Jacob Landry.
Follow the interview, Fleming delivered the knife to Cancer Freeze. On Feb. 2, the knife was auctioned and sold for $3,400. All the proceeds from the sale went to Cancer Freeze.
David Fleming Knives can currently be found on Facebook, where there are photos of knives of all sizes and purposes, sheaths, and materials used in knife making. Fleming’s telephone number is (850) 305-6148.