Brother Jim McBeth
Meet another great Masonic artisan Jim McBeth, owner of McBeth Knives where
you can buy a unique, one-of-a-kind, custom-made, fixed-blade knife with the
Square & Compasses Masonic Emblem actually embedded in the handle. McBeth,
a Past Master of Plano Lodge #768, Grand Lodge of Texas, moved from the
greater Dallas area in 2008 to the Hill Country, near San Antonio, and then
decided in 2012 to formally retire a second time from Real Estate (the first
time was after 30 years with Texas Instruments in Dallas). His son-in-law and
granddaughter are frequenters of gun and knife shows and on one occasion
McBeth went along. After looking over all the knife exhibits his son-in-law
asked him if he thought he could make knives as good as those he had seen at
the show and he became convinced that he could.
McBeth did not want to build his own forge and stand over a hot furnace all
day, so he scoured the nation for a supplier of knife blanks – essentially the
naked blade. He insisted on top quality high grade steel. If he was going to
produce a knife to sell, the first thing to avoid was those people that used
junk steel. Obtaining top quality knife blanks is McBeth’s first step in the
knife making process.
Most of the custom knives McBeth produces are fixed blade hunting and
sportsman knives with full tang handles as opposed to hidden tangs. As a
layman in this business of knife making I would describe the tang as the steel
extension at the beginning of the blade to which the handle is attached. A
handle for a knife with a hidden tang would be made from a block of wood (or
stag horn or other piece of bone) of which the middle has been hollowed out
and into when the tang slides. A full tang is one where two separate pieces
of wood (known as ‘scales’) are attached to each side of the tang. They are
attached by metal pins and McBeth makes his own mosaic pins. He describes the
“Handles are secured to the knife with “pins”, so to further accentuate the
knife I decided to create my own “pins” with “Mosaic” patterns to use when
possible in my knives. The material I use for these pins include rods of
Brass, Copper, Stainless Steel and Aluminum. I arrange the various sizes of
these rods in patterns to create a ‘mosaic’ for each particular knife.”
McBeth also uses two different kinds of knife blanks – stainless steel and
Damascus steel. I think we all know what stainless steel is all about but
Damascus steel is another story. Damascus steel is layered steel forming a
pattern. Again McBeth fills us in:
“Damascus patterns include Ladder, Raindrop, Twist, Herringbone just to name a
few. The “blanks” that I use are made from multiple bars of 1095 Carbon steel
and multiple bars of high Nickel 15N20 steel creating between 175 and 250
layers in whatever pattern the “maker” decided.”
The next step in the knife making process is the handle which starts with the
scales. The handle is the finished product. The scales are small pieces of
wood from which the handle is fashioned. McBeth chooses to make his handles
from scales of exotic woods because of the beauty and patterning in their
grain. Some of these “Exotics” imported from various countries around the
world, include Cocobolo Rosewood, Zebrawood, Canarywood, Red Heart, Bocote,
Leopardwood, Bubinga, Wenge, Amboyna, Rosewood Burl, just to name a few. Two
examples are pictured below.
Once the scales have been fitted to the handle with the chosen knife pins,
McBeth must then fashion and shape them to the knife’s handle design. Then he
must go through the long sanding process starting with 80 grit sandpaper and
going up to 400 grit; and then finishing off with micro-mesh sanding using
1500 grit through 12,000 grit. Finally, the knife handle is ready for staining
followed by sealing, polishing and waxing.
The Masonic emblem of choice is then embedded in the handle and the blade is
oiled and in the case of Damascus steel, waxed.
This was the end of the process of making a custom knife until a few months
ago. McBeth started getting a demand for a sheath for his knives. After much
searching and some trial and error he found a husband-wife team in Mississippi
that hand make sheaths for knives. So most of his knives today are shipped
with a companion sheath.
The Scottish Rite
Recently McBeth has added a Masonic concho to his sheaths consisting of the
Square & Compasses Masonic symbol. A concho is an ornamental metal (or other
compound) disk often of Spanish or Native American Indian origin. McBeth found
a supplier with a great looking “Texas” Masonic concho that adds to the
Masonic flavor of the now fully dressed Masonic custom McBeth knife.
And that describes a premium product with a process that is truly outstanding.
Everything about a McBeth knife exudes high end quality. McBeth never settles
for second best in all the processes that go into the finished product. He is
not trying to make a $79.95 knife for Wal-Mart. When you buy a McBeth knife
you may be equally happy in just displaying it as well as actually using it.
McBeth believes that at the moment, no other knife-maker is providing Masons
with a custom fixed-blade knife emblazoned with the Masonic symbol of the
Square & Compasses.
It is easy to see why McBeth is so successful at whatever he turns his mind
to. He has an inquisitive mind, a charming personality, a dogged determination
and great pride and enthusiasm in what he sets out to accomplish. If McBeth
doesn’t make millions, it won’t bother him. What he will take the most
satisfaction from is on never cutting corners and always acting upon the level
and parting upon the square.
VISIT MCBETH’S WEBSITE AT -
Another Damascus style