Monday, June 12, 2017

Harvey McBurnette, The Tradition of New Mexico

Harvey McBurnette, Dick Dorough and W. T. Fuller all worked together at Goodyear Tire and Rubber in Gadsden, Alabama. W. T. lost one of his hands in a treadmill accident and was retired from work.

They were all friends and machinists, W.T. needed a front locking knife so he could open and close it with one hand. The three makers worked together and developed a front locking folder.

W. T. started making knives for friends and then went on to shows in New York and other large venues, as did Harvey and Dick. W.T. once said that he sold Al Mar one of his front locks and it was not long after that that same design showed up in Al Mars knives, W.T. held no ill will, he was proud to have had it copied and used.

Harvey had to move to New Mexico for health and continued making knives there. Harvey went on to greater fame than either W.T. or Dick, but they all made locking folders as their style. W.T. once said that Harvey could make a better living making guitars, than knives. Harvey was a craftsman of craftsman. 

One day W.T was grinding elephant ivory and it covered the upstairs in sheet rock type dust. His wife ran him out of the basement and the shop was built in his backyard the next year. He had a porch on it with two rocking chairs and they shared many times together.

The last one of Harvey's that was auctioned went for around $2,200.00 dollars. A woman who dated Harvey's son in Gadsden at the time they lived here owned it. Her boyfriend, Harvey's son, gave her a bunch of Harvey's knives that she has had locked up in a safe for 30 years or so. She had no idea of what they were worth. 

His fit and finish is second to none. The engraving is outstanding. If you want a knife to compare today s makers too, you would not do badly by getting one. W.T. was known as One Hander, Dick signed his in a Cursive Dick Dorough and Harvey had his stamped or engraved. The elephant ivory W.T. was grinding was from an elephant he shot, he was a big game hunter and went to Africa many times; he had tusks under his bed in bedroom. He kept them hidden because of some new laws the Government had passed. 

Each state differs from its neighbor in certain ways, but if there is one, which particularly stands out, then it is certainly New Mexico. The contrasts are starling, whether in the landscape, climate or inhabitants, and the various cultures blend together in the most perfect harmony. In fact, it is more Mexico then North America through the architecture, clothes, and decorations. If one exercises the profession of knife maker there then one is sure to stand out from the rest through one s style and way of working.

Although Harvey McBurnette produces many fine straight knives, it is his folding models that have particularly appreciated. The quality of materials, the precision of the mechanisms, and the robustness of the blades all contributed to his huge renown, but it is the shapes and decoration of Mexican inspiration that engender such admiration. Usually, a knife maker limits himself to just making his knife. If he decides to embellish it with engravings or scrimshaw, there tasks are then handed to the specialists in the material. McBurnette however does it all himself: grinding, inlays, engravings, scrimshaw, etc. An all-round artist, admired by the whole profession, collectors assiduously seek after his knives.

Even when he receives an order for a basic hunting knife, it will always be embellished with the most beautiful grinded finish. If a knife is a McBurnette then it certainly is a beautiful knife that will always be unique, standing out from the others.

Harvey McBurnette and W.T. Fuller are up in heaven, but not forgotten, by me anyway. 

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