While this column is designed to acquaint readers with the latest and best blade steels, innovative forging and heat-treating processes and related subject matter, there are instances when a particular knife/steel maker merits comment herein. Larry Harley is most certainly such a person.
I am sure if you’d ask him, he would describe himself as a “plain old country boy.” To the extent that he is referring to his cultural roots, that would be true. However, Larry Harley is anything but “plain.” His work with Damascus steel has been described by many as “far beyond exceptional.”
When asked about his background in knife making, Larry volunteered, “My grandfather and father both made knives and I watched them turn some horrible looking pieces of steel into useable working knives. Following in their footsteps, I made my first knife when I was nine years old and haven’t stopped since.
A full-time knife maker since 1980, Larry enjoys making fine knives. His true passion, however, is working with steel. “I just like pounding on steel and seeing the results. His Damascus bar stock has been selected as the steel of choice by several production cutlery firms (United, Paragon, Asheville Steel, to name a few), as well as individual knife makers.
Knife maker Eddie White (www.shadowknives.com) said of Larry Harley’s work, “While the designs in the steel are impressive, the real draw for me is that there are no true flaws in Harley Damascus. If heat-treated and etched properly, there’s no limit to Larry’s steel.”
Rob Anderson of Asheville Steel (owner of the old Paragon Cutlery firm) told me that Larry Harley’s Damascus is “simply awesome.” Anderson stated that Asheville Steel could have selected Damascus from any number of sources, but chose Larry’s work because of the range and depth of his amazing patterns.
Rob Anderson went on to say, “When we restarted Paragon, I sought out some of the best makers (Blackie Collins, Tommy Lee, etc.) to assist with various projects. When we contacted Larry Harley, he was commissioned to make a few billets of Damascus. When we received the steel, it was subsequently turned over to Eddie White for his use in a limited run of Damascus fighting knives. When Eddie finished the first knife, he took a photo and sent it to me. I was astonished. We immediately asked Larry to make more for use in future projects.”