The University of Arkansas Hope-Texarkana James Black School of Bladesmithing & Historic Trades was recently contacted by Rose Hodges of Canadian, Oklahoma, about possibly allowing her husband, Steve Hodges, to tour the bladesmithing school. Steve took up bladesmithing as a hobby about two years ago after purchasing a knifemaking kit at a shop in Colorado while on vacation. Steve said he messed up the handle that came with the knife kit, but he had some wood laying around the house that he used to make his own handle. “After that, I was hooked on knifemaking and have made about 300 pocketknives since then,” he said.
Steve, who is seventy-one, recently overcame colon cancer. However, he was also newly diagnosed with terminal liver cancer. “Since Steve discovered knifemaking so late in life and with news of the liver cancer diagnosis, I just wanted him to have a chance to see a real bladesmithing school,” Rose said. “I found this school while searching for knife-making supplies online for Steve. After contacting Mrs. Teresa, she was more than willing to help me make this dream come true for him. Once we arrived at the school, we got more than we imagined. Not only did we get to tour the school, but they invited three of the bladesmithing instructors to show us knives they had made and show us how to make a knife from start to finish.”
James Black School bladesmithing instructors Jerry Fisk, J.R. Cook, and Ricardo Vilar were all impressed with Steve’s enthusiasm to continue learning. They stated that it was a blessing to show him some new techniques in knifemaking. “We all sincerely hope he gets the opportunity to use these techniques and continue making knives,” they said.
The couple said the effort that everyone at the school put forth to set this visit up was overwhelming. “I am amazed at the skill of these bladesmiths and thankful for what they did to make this visit so good for me,” Steve said. “I never dreamed they would take the time to show me so much of their craft in one day. My wife and I enjoyed the wonderful conversations we had with all of them and the extraordinary kindness they all showed us. It meant the world to me.”