RAYMOND RICHARD -- BLADESMITH

Raymond Richard, 2007I live in the country, about five miles southeast of Gresham, Oregon, or 16 miles east of downtown Portland. I own a five-acre farm with views of Mt. Saint Helens to the north and Mt. Hood to the east. My farm is mostly pastureland, surrounded by towering evergreen trees. From my living room window (or from my shop windows) I can watch the red-tailed hawks land in the trees on the edges of my property, and occasionally swoop down to grab a field mouse. It is a very picturesque setting for my home and my knifesmith shop.

I am a fourth generation knife maker, of French Acadian extraction. The early immigrant Richards were farmers in Quebec while the French still held that colony. After the British conquered the French in Quebec, the Richard families were among those who refused to denounce France and swear loyalty to Great Britain. They were abruptly deported by ships to different parts of what is now the United States.

Some of the Richard families, enduring terrific hardships, managed to make their way back to Quebec, where they reunited at the gates of Quebec City. They resettled in St. Denis, where my great grandfather, Stephen Richard, was born.

As a young man my great grandfather set out to make his fortune in Southbridge, Massachusetts. He walked and worked his way there. After working for a time in a knife shop, he started his own cutlery business, in 1865, called The Stephen Richard Company, on Brickyard Road. His cousins in St. Denis owned and operated a large knife shop there, so perhaps he got early training with them?

Great grandfather, Stephen RichardEach knife sold by The Stephen Richard Company was stamped with one of seven different trademark stamps. Perhaps the different stamps were for different grades of knives, or perhaps they were just successive attempts to improve the trademark? The most striking stamp is a crowing rooster (shown further down the page).

The Stephen Richard knife factory burned down twice, and each time my great grandfather rebuilt it at great personal loss.

At an early age, his second son, Joseph Richard (my grandfather), founded his own knife factory, a small shop on Eastford Road. He stamped his knives with his own name: JA Richard. I still own one of the original JA Richard factory stamps.

Grandfather died of some illness quite early in his life, well before great grandfather died. My Dad was forced to assume responsibility for the knife business at age 13. He was ill equipped to manage it at such a young age, and the business suffered financially. It was finally bought out by a wire manufacturing company in 1928.

Grandfather, Joseph A. RichardThere are seven pages in New England Cutlery by Phil Pankiewicz, about my family's knife businesses (pp. 146-152). He has graciously given me permission to reproduce these pages on this website. They can be viewed < HERE > if you want to read more.

I got interested in making knives when I was 14, (in 1962). My Dad gave me a little guidance then but my interest was pretty short lived due to lack of proper tools and other interests that came with being a teenager. It was 32 years later that the urge to make knives resurfaced (in 1994).

After graduating from high school in 1965 I spent a couple years going to a community college, but my grades kept slipping and I got a notice from Uncle Sam for a pre-induction physical, and I was later drafted into the Army in 1967. My final year in the Army was spent in Vietnam with B Co 1st Bn 22nd Inf 4th Inf Div, in an 81 mm mortar platoon, in the Central Highlands, not far from the Cambodia border, 1969-1970.

There is a great website that is devoted to the 1st Battalion 22nd Infantry; and they have recorded a few photos about my service. You can see it < HERE > if you are interested.

Near Christmas time, 2008, I made contact with one of my best Army buddies, Gilbert "Gil" Brown, and arranged to go visit him in Michigan. We had a great "reunion." It was like we dropped 40 years and just took up where we left off. It was one of the real highlights of the year for me. < HERE > is Gil's webpage that helped me find him. If you want to see a couple of photos of Gil and me at our reunion, click < HERE >

I was a carpenter by trade so most of my knife making in the early years was done when my regular job was slow, which was almost every winter. I started out wanting to forge but could find little information on it, so at first I mainly did stock removal with a little time spent at the forge. Over a period of about 3 years the hand forging started to come to me, and the stock removal eventually stopped. The more I do the forging, the more I find that it is a never ending learning process.

After a heart attack and bypass surgery in 2000 the carpentry jobs were few and far between for me, so in November of 2002 I decided to become a full time bladesmith. As it turns out, this was the best decision of my life. I feel like it is more of an addiction than a job. I immensely enjoy what I am doing. I feel like my four generations of knifemaking ancestry has somehow subconsciously influenced the path I have taken.

The Stephen Richard CompanyCrowing Rooster Trademark


















Every knife maker gravitates to a specific style. Within that style can be a huge amount of variety, but once you know a knife maker's works intimately, you can recognize their style in most any knife they make. As my skills matured, so did my distinctive style. I enjoy the vintage look of my knives. Most of my knives have antiqued wrought iron fittings, which helps with the vintage aura.

My web designer told me my knives have gained International recognition and appeal. I had no idea anyone outside America knew about me. But, sure enough, my work appears on knife forums in China, Thailand, Great British and Germany. A bit closer to home, but still out of country, is the Saskatchewan Knifemakers Guild. In 2006 they invited me to their Spring Symposium to demonstrate my knife forging techniques. I have since become friends with a couple of the members of this group.

Bladesmith Shop FireTrue to family form, I lost my first knife shop to fire in 2005. I was overwhelmed with help by the knifemaking community. Even though the shop and barn were insured, it only covered so much. There was one knife auction done by fellow knifemakers and another through Vintage Knives. Proceeds from both auctions helped me greatly to get back on my feet, but also let me know I needed to carry on making knives. My new shop and barn was finished in the late fall of 2006. I spend many happy hours in it each day. I pray that I won't have a second fire like my great grandfather did. One fire is more than enough.

So where do I want to go from here? So long as my strength holds out, I want to continue hand forging. Eventually I know the old body is going to give out and getting the forging press rebuilt will have to be done.

As for my work, I know that God has given me a special talent, and a love for bladesmithing. Making beautiful, functional knives and 'hawks is an absolute passion for me. And I love making new friends with each knife I sell. I'm 62 years old, with no plans to retire. So long as my strength remains, I'll follow my passion.



WHAT OTHERS SAY ABOUT ME AND MY WORK


"I've liked Ray's knives for a while -- but I was surprised at how helpful and down to earth he is. His work got my attention: the antique metals, the wrought iron accessories, and those beautiful hamon lines in particular. I've dealt with a few makers over the years. While most are helpful and inclined to communicate, you can tell Ray likes what he does and would be a great teacher. I especially like that his "bells and whistles" are his insistence on the utility of his work, his signature look, and how flush and precise everything goes together. Throw in his friendly outgoing demeanor and I find myself impressed with both the man and his art. I'm an artist myself and it's good to meet someone who's willing to do more than just produce."

-- Kevin B. Robinson, 2011


"A few years ago I found myself looking for a particular knife, a Nessmuk. I had been reading the writings of George Washington Sears, who wrote for 'Forest and Stream' under the pen name of Nessmuk, and became interested in the fixed blade knife that he carried. With a description of that knife I decided to uncover what I could. Although I found a few reviews and makers I couldn't find many examples of the knife as described in Sears' writings. At that time a lot of Nessmuks on the market were full tang stock removal knives, I was interested in a hidden tang forged knife. While searching the web I came across 'BladeGallery.' As I searched their inventory I came across a maker by the name of Raymond Richard.

I was immediately impressed with Ray's unique style. Not only was his work instantly recognizable his attention to fit and finish was remarkable. His designs flow in a manner that has escaped many custom makers throughout the years. After viewing his current offerings, as well as his past works (which did contain a few traditionally styled Nessmuks) I decided to give Ray a call.

I liked Ray from the very beginning, a warm and inviting man. If he were busy I would have never known it. He spoke with me at length about the knife I wanted no detail was left un-discussed. At the end of our conversation I was comfortable that the knife I received was going to be the knife I wanted.

When my Nessmuk arrived I was more than pleased. So pleased in fact that I ordered a double bit styled Nessmuk axe finished in the same manner as to match my knife. Most recently Ray has built me a beautiful Woodcraft patterned knife with perfect lines. We spoke of use, blade lengths, widths, handle design and material. In the end I received a knife just as worthy of its place in a collection as in the field.

Ray pours his heart and soul into his work. He has proved to me as well as many other customers that his skills are many, his artistry is limitless, and his love of knives is un-paralleled."

-- James Chappell, 2007


"I have been a knife collector for over 30 years. During that time I have had both good and bad experiences dealing with knife makers. My experience with Ray Richard has been one of the better ones. Ray is man who is completely honest and has great integrity. His Work is special to me because every piece he crafts is unique. No two are ever exactly alike. The other thing I respect Ray for is his use of recyclable materials in crafting his knives and Hawks. They run the gamut of old anchor chain, band saw blades recovered from lumber mills, to steel recovered from junked automobiles. I will continue to patronize Ray because his work is so very special."

-- L. L. Peters,  Arizona,  January 15, 2008


"Ray puts great artistry AND devotion to meticulous detail into his work. He is very versatile, prefers forging to stock removal (although he does both extremely well) and creates a beautiful knife! One specialty of Ray's shop is hand-forged tomahawks. He makes several configurations of 'hawks, including ones with axe head and hammer head, double axe heads, and the more traditional axe head with spike. The balance and feel of these tomahawks are magnificent.

Ray is a carpenter by trade, and had a quad bypass about two years ago. He is now hammering away on metal like a much younger man. I was amazed at his upper body strength. He makes those hammers look like they are a lot lighter than they are. It's like magic what he can do with a hammer and a piece of hot steel."

-- Doug McGowan


"Ray just knocks me out also as an honest fella. He sez Grace at his house over the soup. One of the things he did that impressed me most was -- without being pretentious or holier-than-thou about it -- to ask a Blessing over our dealings together. It was just straight from the heart, and it touched me deeply."

-- Doug McGowan


"Raymond Richard, a highly skilled Northwest bladesmith, collaborated with me on this Bowie-style knife. Ray forged the blade and guard; I did the overall design, handle, and sheath work. Ray signed the blade, and I signed the handle and the sheath. $1400."

-- Eric O.Bergland


"Raymond Richard's hand-forged knives have an ageless sense of grace rarely found in the knives today."

-- Daniel O Malley


"Raymond Richard of Off-Beat Forge specializes in hand forged custom tomahawks and knives. His work harks back to designs of earlier eras, but transcends lesser period pieces through the unique elegance of design and flow. His mastery of the art form transcends the vagaries of temporal styles."

-- Marvin O. Fretwell, 2007


"Antiqued wrought iron fittings have become a de facto trademark of Ray's work; which definitely accentuate the aura of antiquity that emanates from his knives."

-- Marvin O. Fretwell, 2008


"When he leaves something rustic, it's because he thinks that's the way it ought to be. He can get fancy with filework, or just knock your sox off with an etch or a burnished finish on a big Bowie."

-- Vintage Knives


"Ray is dramatically under-exposed for the kind of work he is doing. It's like magic what he can do with a hammer and a piece of hot steel."

-- Doug McGowan


"This blade was inspired by a thread on Don Fogg's forum. The piece that led to the discussion was a modern piece by Raymond Richard (truly one of my favorite smiths)."

-- Josh Powell 12-31-2007


In 2008 Ray won the 2008 BLADEhandmade™ Award for Best Fighter (at Blade Show West in Portland, Oregon). This award is featured in the February, 2009 issue of Blade Magazine, as pictured below: ↓

February 2009 Blade Magazine, page 27.
Article courtesy of Blade Magazine.

This award entitled Ray to have a "Maker's Profile" article written and published in Blade Magazine. It took awhile for the article to be written, but it is published now.

Click this link to read the "Maker's Profile" article from Blade Magazine about Raymond Richard. The article is by Wayne Goddard, Field Editor of Blade Magazine, and is featured in the October, 2010 issue.


Note: Be sure to visit Blade Magazine's forum at http://forum.blademag.com/





AWARD WINNING KNIVES AND 'HAWKS


Click on any thumbnail to view a larger image and more information



Knife: Axis Stag
Knife: San Francisco Fighter
Knife: Sambar Hunter

Axis Stag
OKCA-2004

San Francisco Fighter
BAKCA-2004

Sambar Hunter
OKCA-2006


Tomahawk: Mini Hawk
Knife: Zebrawood Fighter
Knife: Sambar Bowie

Mini Hawk
OKCA-2006

Zebrawood Fighter
OKCA-2007

Sambar Bowie
OKCA-2007


Knife: Happiness
Knife: Crown Jewel
Knife: The Prophet

Happiness
Blade West-2007

Crown Jewel
OKCA-2008

The Prophet
OKCA-2008


Knife: Ebony And Bronze Fighter
Knife: Jumbo
Knife: Elk Hunter

Ebony And Bronze Fighter
Blade West-2008

Jumbo
Blade West-2008

Elk Hunter
NWKC-2008


Knife: Funky Chicken
Knife: Sambar Gentleman
Knife: Pacific Northwest Bowie

Funky Chicken
NWKC-2008

Sambar Gentleman
OKCA-2009

Pacific Northwest Bowie
Blade West-2009


Knife: Ivory Handled Bowie
Knife: Classic Hunter
Knife: Forge Finished Dagger

Ivory Handled Bowie
OKCA-2010

Classic Hunter
OKCA-2010

Forge Finished Dagger
OKCA-2010


Hawk: Spontoon Tomahawk
Knife: Blank
Knife: Seductive Persuasion: Best Fighter & Best of Show

Spontoon Tomahawk
OKCA-2011

Ivory Handled Hunter
NWKC-2012

Seductive Persuasion
NWKC-2012


Hawk: Spike Tomahawk
Knife: Blank
Kilroy

Spike Tomahawk
NWKC-2013

Riesen-Messer Bowie
OKCA-2014

Kilroy
NWKC-2014


Knife: Reintarnation
Knife: Blank
Knife: Blank

Reintarnation
NWKC-2015