Making The Revelator

The Revelator: Hand-forged 1095 steel, full tang. Desert Ironwood handle, moasic brass pin. Design: Terry Taylor. Bladesmith: James Wahls, Indy Hammered Knives.

It started a while ago, this knife thing, long before I ever saw Forged In Fire on the History Channel. Beginning with my father as a butcher and my grandfather as a farmer, knives were never weapons in our lives, they were tools. And so a fixation was born from a thread of DNA, I suppose. Then one day, after collecting more knives than I would ever need, studying their shapes, blades and ergonomics, I designed one. Drawing many pencil sketches, measuring lengths and thickness, cutting out shapes in cardboard and holding them, getting a feel for the multiple grips I wanted, and thinking of the blade uses. While searching around the internet for someone to make one of my designs, I found a bladesmith in Indianapolis named James Wahls of Indy Hammered Knives.

James had taken his turn in corporate America. After years of suffering at the steel wheel of commerce, he turned to what he loved: the steel of making knives, beautiful knives with exotic handles, hammered with his love for detail and care. He does it the old fashioned way, forging metal with fire to create art that people use every day. It takes time to do something right. But it is not the toil of meeting after meeting in an office. It is an act of love.

I sent James a drawing of the knife and the process went into motion. It was not just a knife that he honed from 1095 steel, however. It was a relationship that I treasure. James has a story that goes beyond knives:

That story of revelation and mercy is part of what he pours into the knives he crafts one by one, day after day in his shop. Bladesmithing is a dirty, hot, wondrous undertaking. And it led to both a knife and a friendship, even though I have never met the man in person. He puts his hard-earned faith into that metal and wood, hammering out and polishing a vision that takes on a life of its own day after day.

James calls himself a blacksmith. Most people think that skill, that art died in the 1800’s. My great grandfather was a blacksmith — plows, wagon wheels and farm implements. One of his old horseshoes hung over the door of my grandparent’s shotgun shack in Alabama when I was a child. So this bending and molding of steel has come full circle for me. Finding James brought it back.

I call the knife he made for me The Revelator. The name comes from what James went through in his life to get to this point and for what I have discovered in my own life under different circumstances. You see, I too have a story.

In 2009, on a Friday night while working too hard late into the evening, I had a heart attack. My family found me on the floor. I was pretty much DOA at the hospital when they got me back to breathing. But not before I had a revelation of my own. In the midst of the fog of dying, what I can only describe as an angel pulled me away from easing out of this world at 50 years old. Many people do not believe the story of what I saw and felt. They give a lot of rational reasons for what transpired in that netherworld between this place and what is next. But they were not there.

The story does not end with my recovery. In 2011, my daughter was nearly killed in a car accident – the call no parent wants to get. Cut from the wreckage, broken and dying, she lay in the ICU of a major trauma unit bleeding out inside, dozens of broken bones and ripped organs pulling her towards a place I had already been. That first night, with her fighting to hang on, the same angel appeared above her bed, the familiar, sinuous, alabaster arms holding her as if wrenching a person from falling off a cliff. This time I was under no fog of morphine to explain away my dubious vision. Like me, my daughter made it through that night and years of infections and a dozen surgeries, not only surviving when we were told she would not, but walking away from a wheelchair when doctors said she would never do it.

Now we are here. Fighters. Survivors. Receivers of mercy. Blessed.

The Revelator is only a knife. A simple tool birthed in my mind, sketched on a piece of paper and crafted by James’s hands and returned to me like an offering. This piece of steel and ironwood is a symbol of redemption for the people involved in its story. In that, perhaps it is not just a knife after all. Perhaps it never was.