Chaser Knives: Superior Craft and Art
From time to time it is my pleasure to introduce you to people who are both superior craftsmen and artists...
From time to time it is my pleasure to introduce you to people who are both superior craftsmen and artists as well, such as D’Arcy Echols and Ryan Breeding. Now, let me present Mike Malosh, who makes knives in the style of William Scagel, and does his own designs to boot. Mr. Malosh’s creations are called Chaser knives, and he does a number of things that set him apart.
But first a word about William Scagel, who was an eccentric, semi-reclusive Michigander who could do anything with metal, and who, for a very long time (he died in 1963) turned out a limited number of highly distinctive knives of all kinds (mostly hunters) and hatchets. Bo Randall got interested in making knives when he saw someone scraping paint off a boat with a Scagel, and Scagel was a great help to him in the early part of his career. Today, a Scagel is worth a great deal of money.
Scagel’s trademark was his handles, which were half leather, half stag, and made colorful by the copious use of fiber and metal spacers. He pinned his handles to the tang, and ground his blades with what is known as a rolled, or apple seed, or Moran (another great smith who used it) edge. A rolled edge is convex rather than concave in cross section. It’s very strong, has excellent cutting geometry, can be gotten ungodly sharp, but is very difficult to grind, as it requires the smith to work with a slack belt and roll the blade into it. Very few people use it nowadays.
Enter Mike Malosh, who started as a collector, then learned how to make knives, and began selling them in 2006. He originally forged O1, a tool steel that all knifesmiths love, but has now switched to another classic called W-2 which, he claims, gives him superior results. He hardens his edges to Rc 58-60, which is pretty hard. His hilts are made either of silicon bronze or stainless steel, and he crafts his handles from leather washers, sambar stag, and all sorts of other stuff. Like Scagel, he pins his handles, but it would not surprise me terribly if he uses epoxy as well.
Chaser knives cut like the Wrath to Come. I’ve tried out two on manila rope, and can tell that that the only other knives that are in their league for sharpness, edge-holding, and ease of re-sharpening, are DiamondBlade knives. The scabbards are made by a craftsman named Jack Mosher, of whom I had not heard, but whose work is as good as you can find. He does gorgeous, and very strong, things with leather.
Of the two knives shown here, the big fellow is a camp knife, a concept popularized by Bill Moran. It’s too big to be a hunting knife, but is great for butchering, and can do anything else that a knife can do, plus most of what a hatchet can do. It’s done in the Scagel pattern. The other one is a drop-point hunter with a compass in its butt, made in Malosh’s style.
Prices, for what you get, are very reasonable. The drop-point is around $270, and the camp knife is $200 more. You can order from chaserhandmadeknives.com, or from Arizona Custom Knives, which gets them in occasionally. However, they go quickly, and if you dilly-dally or shilly-shally you will regret it.
And a postscript: On October 5th, Ted Dowell passed away at the age of 83. Ted was a founding member of the Knifemakers’ Guild in 1970. He was a combination of mechanical genius, perfectionist, and gifted artist. I had the privilege of knowing him and owning several of his knives. He was a dedicated elk hunter and a good guy. If you happen upon a knife with his TMD stamp, you are looking at the best that can be done with a piece of steel.