Please Sign In

Please enter a valid username and password
  • Log in with Facebook
» Not a member? Take a moment to register
» Forgot Username or Password

Why Register?
Signing up could earn you gear (click here to learn how)! It also keeps offensive content off our site.

The Blades of Maine Knifesmith Lamont Coombs

Recent Comments

Categories

Recent Posts

Archives

Syndicate

Google Reader or Homepage
Add to My Yahoo!
Add to My AOL

The Gun Nuts
in your Inbox

Enter your email address to get our new post everyday.

June 26, 2013

The Blades of Maine Knifesmith Lamont Coombs

By David E. Petzal

So I needed a knife reground, and I asked Chris Kravitt, the sheathmaking swami of Waltham, Maine, who might do such a job. “Lamont Coombs,” said Mr. Kravitt, “he’s as good as any knifemaker in the United States.” So I went to see Lamont Coombs, who lives in the town of Bucksport, and damned if he isn’t just that.

Coombs, who is 43, got his start as a machinist, turned to knifemaking as a hobby in 1988, and began as a full-time smith a decade later. He has been busy. In the quarter-century since he made his first knife, more than 3,000 have emerged from his shop.

Working as a machinist gave him not only the skills that come with that job, but a philosophy as well. “Figure out the simplest way to do it,” he says. “Look for the fewest steps. If you work in a machine shop you learn to do good work, but you also learn not to waste time or money on a job.” Because of this, Coombs’ prices are quite reasonable. His least expensive knives are around $100; the fancy ones—and they are really fancy—are $6,500 plus.

There are two more tenets to Coombs’ knifemaking philosophy: First, “If it comes out of this shop, it’s going to be pretty.” Even his simplest knives are immaculately fitted and finished. He favors a hand-rubbed satin finish and a blindingly perfect mirror finish, often used in combination.
 
Unlike many knifemakers who settle on a particular style or look, Coombs will make anything, and I’m not using that term casually. He had just completed twin replicas (one for using, the other for collecting) of the knife Crocodile Dundee carried. He makes neck knives and tactical knives and hunting knives and pipe tomahawks that can actually be used for smoking (tobacco, he points out, not killer weed).

Coombs will use just about any handle material, and for steels, he relies chiefly on 154CM, 01, and 1095. He’s stopped using ATS-34, as it’s too expensive, but will work in Damascus if you like that. He will special-order steel. One customer wanted a knife of S-30V, which he did not know how to heat treat (He has his own electric furnace.) so he looked up how to do it, got the S-30V, and made the knife. “It’s horrible stuff to work with,” Coombs said, “I had to hand-rub the blade for two days to get a decent finish on it.”

Coombs makes his own sheaths and hand-stitches them. Having tried this myself, I can’t see how you can get the stitches so small and so even as his are. Most of his sheaths are on the fancy side; they are notably heavy, and he even lines them with calfskin if you want, which I can’t recall seeing before.

The waiting period for a Coombs knife is 4 to 8 months for the plainer work and up to 2 years for art knives.

About the only thing he won’t make is folders. “I got burned out on folders, so now I make one a year. I don’t even put a serial number on it, just the date it was made.”

Did he regrind my knife? Yes he did, and his grinding was much better than the original maker’s. I watched Coombs’ hands. He was not slow, careful and deliberate. He was quick and deft. Zing, zing, zing, change belts in a couple of seconds, zing, zing, zing. And done. You get this kind of speed and precision after doing something thousands of times over more than two decades.

If you’re in the market for a knife, the best way to get in touch is via e-mail: theknifemaker@hotmail.com. Coombs can send you a sketch beforehand, or just get your ideas and go for it. “Sometimes,” he says, "the best knives happen when you go into the shop with a piece of steel and see what happens.”

And whatever happens in that particular shop, it will be pretty.

Above are a couple of representative Coombs hunting knives. Upper knife: 5 ½-inch D2 blade, hollow ground, combination finish, black micarta bolsters, ivory micarta scales, mosaic pin, 9 oz. tooled leather sheath, $300. Lower knife: 4 ¾-inch 154CM blade, flat ground, satin finish, 416 stainless guard and pins, stabilized redwood burl handle scales, tooled leather sheath, $325.

Comments (15)

Top Rated
All Comments
from RJ Arena wrote 42 weeks 3 days ago

Those are knives to lust for.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from SMC1986 wrote 42 weeks 3 days ago

I just emailed him. I see a custom knife in my future.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Tim Platt wrote 42 weeks 3 days ago

Doesn't he have a website? I have lusted after a Damascus blade hunting knife for a long time and that redwood burl handle looks superfine... wonder how much something like that would run me?
These knives actually are very reasonably priced compared to what Dave usually shows us, and his opinion is golden in Ralph's world. I have spent $100 on knives that were crap, I bet his $100 knife is infinitely better.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ontario Honker ... wrote 42 weeks 3 days ago

I don't need another knife. Wish I did. Maybe I'll order one for my new grandson? Hmmm. I had stuff I picked up for my son waiting for him to grow up. He never got the chance. Maybe I'll hold off for a while. But thanks for giving me something to consider. I agree, the prices aren't cheap but they aren't ridiculous either. I would have thought the redwood model to have been much more expensive.

Dave, they make a notched-edge wheeled gizmo that marks the spacing for punching the holes. Then it's a fairly simple matter to do a nice looking job of sewing leather together with an awl. Helps to be working with good tools under a magnifier.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from chuckles wrote 42 weeks 3 days ago

OHH what does need have to do with knives like that? Just go for it.
I had absolutely no need for that .257 Roberts but man did I want it.
And man am I happy I got it.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from davidpetzal wrote 42 weeks 3 days ago

To Ontario Honker: I had one of those wheels, and the awl, and the waxed linen thread, and I was as careful as I could be, but to save my soul I could not do stitching like that. Some people are skilled with their hands and some aren't. I aren't.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Tim Platt wrote 42 weeks 3 days ago

If I were him I would charge $375 for the sheath alone...

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Safado wrote 42 weeks 3 days ago

Those are great prices for custom knives. Wish he had a website because I sure would like to see other examples of his work. I love the blade on the top knife and the scales on the bottom one. Things of beauty...and useful too!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from John Buck 41 wrote 42 weeks 3 days ago

I wish I knew you were in town. Lamont lives just 6 or 7 miles away from me. We could've gotten together for a cold adult beverage. There is nothing like mid-June in Maine.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Bernie wrote 42 weeks 3 days ago

Damned handmade knives--I am addicted to them, can hardly walk anymore let alone hunt but I still buy them. I love that bottom knife although would not choose the flat-ground blade. Just bought a handmade pocketknife and liked it so much I ordered another. I am hopeless...

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ontario Honker ... wrote 42 weeks 3 days ago

Chuckles: My late wife and I were always okay financially but had to maintain a sharp eye on the budget. We were happy with buying mostly only what we needed. Now I'm suddenly a millionaire but somehow I still have no urge to get splurgey. More importantly, I have a daughter who now has a son. She only has me left to look on as an example and she will be setting an example herself soon. I don't want her to see me buying a lot of neat expensive stuff I really don't need. It would only encourage her to do the same. And she's not likely to be a millionaire (God forbid she would come by it the same way I did). I am pleased she is learning to live within her means. Would like to keep it that way.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from chuckles wrote 42 weeks 2 days ago

OHH I hear you and kudos to you for instilling those values.
But it is also OK to treat yourself now and again, especially if it something that will last like fine rifles and knives.
Excess in moderation, as they say.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from RJ Arena wrote 42 weeks 2 days ago

How much do we throw away on an electronic device that is obsolete the moment you get it home? I have a good knife that I have had for 30 + years that I made my own sheath for. I found a nice piece of leather, traced the shape with a carpenters pencil, cut it out with my knife I was making the sheath for, and punched the leather with the "leather punch" on my Swiss army knife. I used bees wax on the thread and stained the leather with a mixture of old camp coffee and a little bourbon.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ontario Honker ... wrote 42 weeks 2 days ago

RJ, something crafted by yourself is worth much more than any fancy thing you might buy from someone else. What a keepsake to hand down! For my daughter's last birthday (21st) I gave her my first gun, a fine 16 gauge Model 12 and my dad's old well-worn canvas duck hunting coat (which never fit me - I'm a head taller than he was). She was thrilled to receive both. Appreciated it much more than the new I-phone even though she's not hunting ... yet. The apple didn't fall that far after all.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from RJ Arena wrote 42 weeks 1 day ago

@Ontario Honker,
I agree with passing things on, especially if they are special not because others declare them valuable, but because the have memories. I have a friend from N.H. who wheres his fathers hunting vest, 40's era, and his father-in-laws hat, at first they look a little worn and dumpy, but if you take a closer look you can see extreme quality in manufacture and and years of history.
He would not trade them for the world.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from davidpetzal wrote 42 weeks 3 days ago

To Ontario Honker: I had one of those wheels, and the awl, and the waxed linen thread, and I was as careful as I could be, but to save my soul I could not do stitching like that. Some people are skilled with their hands and some aren't. I aren't.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ontario Honker ... wrote 42 weeks 3 days ago

Chuckles: My late wife and I were always okay financially but had to maintain a sharp eye on the budget. We were happy with buying mostly only what we needed. Now I'm suddenly a millionaire but somehow I still have no urge to get splurgey. More importantly, I have a daughter who now has a son. She only has me left to look on as an example and she will be setting an example herself soon. I don't want her to see me buying a lot of neat expensive stuff I really don't need. It would only encourage her to do the same. And she's not likely to be a millionaire (God forbid she would come by it the same way I did). I am pleased she is learning to live within her means. Would like to keep it that way.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from chuckles wrote 42 weeks 2 days ago

OHH I hear you and kudos to you for instilling those values.
But it is also OK to treat yourself now and again, especially if it something that will last like fine rifles and knives.
Excess in moderation, as they say.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from RJ Arena wrote 42 weeks 2 days ago

How much do we throw away on an electronic device that is obsolete the moment you get it home? I have a good knife that I have had for 30 + years that I made my own sheath for. I found a nice piece of leather, traced the shape with a carpenters pencil, cut it out with my knife I was making the sheath for, and punched the leather with the "leather punch" on my Swiss army knife. I used bees wax on the thread and stained the leather with a mixture of old camp coffee and a little bourbon.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from RJ Arena wrote 42 weeks 3 days ago

Those are knives to lust for.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from SMC1986 wrote 42 weeks 3 days ago

I just emailed him. I see a custom knife in my future.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Tim Platt wrote 42 weeks 3 days ago

Doesn't he have a website? I have lusted after a Damascus blade hunting knife for a long time and that redwood burl handle looks superfine... wonder how much something like that would run me?
These knives actually are very reasonably priced compared to what Dave usually shows us, and his opinion is golden in Ralph's world. I have spent $100 on knives that were crap, I bet his $100 knife is infinitely better.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ontario Honker ... wrote 42 weeks 3 days ago

I don't need another knife. Wish I did. Maybe I'll order one for my new grandson? Hmmm. I had stuff I picked up for my son waiting for him to grow up. He never got the chance. Maybe I'll hold off for a while. But thanks for giving me something to consider. I agree, the prices aren't cheap but they aren't ridiculous either. I would have thought the redwood model to have been much more expensive.

Dave, they make a notched-edge wheeled gizmo that marks the spacing for punching the holes. Then it's a fairly simple matter to do a nice looking job of sewing leather together with an awl. Helps to be working with good tools under a magnifier.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from chuckles wrote 42 weeks 3 days ago

OHH what does need have to do with knives like that? Just go for it.
I had absolutely no need for that .257 Roberts but man did I want it.
And man am I happy I got it.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Tim Platt wrote 42 weeks 3 days ago

If I were him I would charge $375 for the sheath alone...

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from John Buck 41 wrote 42 weeks 3 days ago

I wish I knew you were in town. Lamont lives just 6 or 7 miles away from me. We could've gotten together for a cold adult beverage. There is nothing like mid-June in Maine.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Bernie wrote 42 weeks 3 days ago

Damned handmade knives--I am addicted to them, can hardly walk anymore let alone hunt but I still buy them. I love that bottom knife although would not choose the flat-ground blade. Just bought a handmade pocketknife and liked it so much I ordered another. I am hopeless...

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Safado wrote 42 weeks 3 days ago

Those are great prices for custom knives. Wish he had a website because I sure would like to see other examples of his work. I love the blade on the top knife and the scales on the bottom one. Things of beauty...and useful too!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ontario Honker ... wrote 42 weeks 2 days ago

RJ, something crafted by yourself is worth much more than any fancy thing you might buy from someone else. What a keepsake to hand down! For my daughter's last birthday (21st) I gave her my first gun, a fine 16 gauge Model 12 and my dad's old well-worn canvas duck hunting coat (which never fit me - I'm a head taller than he was). She was thrilled to receive both. Appreciated it much more than the new I-phone even though she's not hunting ... yet. The apple didn't fall that far after all.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from RJ Arena wrote 42 weeks 1 day ago

@Ontario Honker,
I agree with passing things on, especially if they are special not because others declare them valuable, but because the have memories. I have a friend from N.H. who wheres his fathers hunting vest, 40's era, and his father-in-laws hat, at first they look a little worn and dumpy, but if you take a closer look you can see extreme quality in manufacture and and years of history.
He would not trade them for the world.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

bmxbiz-fs