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Alaskan Native Handcrafted Knives

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Charlie Pardue
P.O. Box 1311
Haines Alaska 99827

In a small work shack in Haines, utility and beauty collide in the form of handmade knives by Beauford Moses "Charlie'' Pardue, such as this baleen handled 4-inch drop point. ``I'm taking Native art and putting it into an entirely new medium using traditional and 20th century materials,'' Pardue said. `` I haven't made a knife that I'm unable to use in a skiff or out in the brush. If it's nonfunctional, I won't make it.'' The shaving-sharp hunting and skinning knives are hand-ground from ATS-34 stock, a Japanese high-carbon stainless steel. Handle materials include several exotic woods; fossil and fresh ivory, oosic, whalebone and baleen, some of which are legal only to Alaska Natives for artwork. Pardue, 36, is Gwitch'in Athabascan born in Fairbanks. He may possibly be the only Alaskan Native whom is a professional knifemaker, he said."I have searched for three years and not found another professional..especially a full-time one." ``Yea, there's guys out there that make ulus out of old saw blades. I was trained to make knives. Nobody else in the world can honestly mark their knives as made by an Alaska Native, at least not to my knowledge.'' And that's unfortunate, he said. ``I really encourage Natives to learn knifemaking, it's an area that is wide open.'' Because some materials can only be used by Alaska Natives, the knives are unique and highly sought after by collectors. Pardue has had an appreciation for knifemaking since childhood, but didn't have the opportunity to learn the craft until master knifemaker David L. McIntosh moved to Haines a few years ago.David McIntosh is a voting member of the "Knifemakers' Guild" with over 30 years experience at making knives. ``I asked him to show me how to make a sheath for a knife that I have, but he said he'd show me how to make a knife for the sheath first, and then show me how to make the sheath.'' Pardue apprenticed for about a year, then built three of his own knives, which he displayed at a knife show in Anchorage. Other professional bladesmiths at the show were impressed with his work. ``They refused to believe those were my first pieces.'' Pardue, a former heli-logger, decided to get out from under copters and into knifemaking permanently. ``I was a chaser and a knot-bumper,'' he said. ``It was good money but it was dangerous and stressful so I got out of the industry.'' Pardue makes up to four knives per week, most of which are priced in the $150 to $350 range, although some can be much more expensive, depending on handle material, finish work and sheaths. Pardue sells his custom knives to tourists and locals through his wife June's gallery, ``Aatcha's Shop'' located in Haines in SouthEast Alaska. He also advertises his knives in Alaska Magazine, which prompts some 200 responses a month, 10 percent of which lead to orders, he said. Nearly three-quarters of his knives go Outside. The remainder stay in Alaska, and most of those are sold to Natives up north, who covet good knives. ``My `5 inch semi-skinner' is real popular with the moose and caribou hunters up there.''

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