When you've been making knives as long as 90 year old Glenn Marshall has-80 years and counting- It's a sure thing that you've learned a thing or two about the craft.
Glenn was born in a small town in the Southern Illinois in 1918. "When I was 10 years old, my dad apprenticed me to Henry Tritken, a blacksmith who was an expert in steel and who taught me almost all I know about knives," Glenn says. Marshall made it through high school then went to work for the American Bridge Co. Where he learned bridge work, riveting, welding, and "Learned how to climb like a monkey."
"I worked iron around the country with American Bridge and Chicago blasting, where I learned demolition. Then I enlisted in the Navy as a demolition man," he recalled. "I saw action during W.W. II in the Mediterranean, Africa, Sicily, Anzio, Corsica, and Southern France. After Europe came Eniwetok and Okinawa. Only seven of our original outfit of 318 survived, and I am the only one still living." After the war, Marshall settled in Harlington, Texas, where he blacksmithed and built winch and tool trucks and armored cars. Through it all, Glenn had been making knives. He made his initial one in 1930 and first sold a knife at the ripe old age of 14. The steel he preferred then was from the springs of model T Ford Trucks. "They forged well and the color tempering was highly satisfactory," he recalls. While in the Navy, he made special combat knives for several of the Marines with whom he was serving.
In his early years of knife making, Glenn never thought about marking his blades. Then, about 1950, when "making knives started bringing in enough income to be taken seriously," he had a stamp made with "G Marshall" and put in on some of his blades. In 1968, he brought an electro-etch machine and had stencils made using his present logo--his first initial and surname above an anvil with "Mason Texas" blow it.
In his early years of knifemaking, from 1930-1940, when he was a helper and just learning, Glenn has no idea how may knives he has made. From 1940 to 1950, he figures he made 150. From 1950 to 1960 he says he made about 500. Things picked up in the 1960's and he had made another 800 by 1970, and another 800 from 1970 to 1980. During the 1980's he made 1,000 and about 1,500 from 1990 to the present. Let's just say he's been "right busy." "The past few years I kept a good record of sales, but really never paid much attention to numbers, concentrating on quality. And I still do," he stresses.
"From 1934 to 1975 I made cable Damascus of wrought steel, construction type, solid core cable used in coal mines for elevator cable in the mine shafts," he says. "The cable gave excellent patterns, but I have done no forging since 1980 and use stock removal exclusively.
"My favorite steel is D-2, tempered to a harness of 60 rc. It holds a fine edge and has enough chromium to help keep rust under control. My second choice is 44oc. I used it for folder springs and blades for fillet knives or other knives I know will be used around salt water, or for people I know who don't clean a knife after using it."
"I am most noted for combat and hunting knives, especially my model K.Y.O. Ranch guide knife," he maintains. "It was designed by a group on guides at the Y.O. making those knives take up most of my working time now."
"He also makes a heavy-duty line of folding hunters. "My folding hunters give the outdoorsman a large enough tool to work well, with the extra margin of safety on the belt when carrying the knife on the hunt," he observes, "where a fall with fixed blade might result in a serious accident."
He is also making an 80 year old commerative knife of his K5-2B hootie knife. It will have 416 stainless bolsters that will be engraved. The blade will be 440C and tempered to a RC 59. Various handles will be supplied based on the request of customers. It will be marked "G Marshall Knives Commerative 2008" on the blade and come in a mesquite display box. He will make 80 for 80 years of knife making.
Glenn does all the work on his knives including the heat treating. "Heat treating is the life and soul of the blade," he says, "You can control the quality of a blade with the heat treating." His years of experience and his personal demand for quality have given Marshall's knives a look all their own. The fit and finish is immaculate-one observer commented that he thought the knife was made from one piece of steel. The bolster and butt were so will fitted to the tang that the line where they joined was almost impossible to see and its no secret that D2 is rather difficult to mirror polish but the finish on Marshall knives is immaculate.
Glenn seems to like engraving on the knife's bolsters and butt. He farms out the work to Don Henderson. "Knife making can be learned only by working at it. I recommend those who wish to make knives should associate with other knife-makers to gather information about the craft, study books, visit other shops to see other maker's set-ups, and would refuse to share information," has commented, "those who won't probably don't have anything to share anyway."
Glenn lives in Mason where he has a small home and shop surrounded by beautiful trees and pasture land. He has a few daughters who have all grown and moved away. "Our home gives them the pleasure of visiting the Texas Hill Country," He relates. Even though Marshall is now 90, he is looking ahead "I am starting 2008 with the high hopes for a better season of work for the knife industry." We in the industry need to unite in a solid front against the uneducated few who want to take knives from those who use them for constructive purposes," he stresses, "Without knives, man's most important tool-our civilization would not exist."
1) K-1B Y.O. Ranch Guided Knife
Marshall's most popular knife is the model K-1B Y.O. Ranch guided knife. It features a 3-inch blade hollow ground from D-2 with a rockwell hardness of 60 RC. The blade spine is fileworked and the bolsters are 416 stainless. The handle is black linenmicarta.
2) Model K5-2B "Hootie"
This is Glenn's presentation-grade hunting knife that he says sells well at actions, some of the money he donates to local charities and clubs. The 3 5/8 inch blade is triple-temperes D-2. The knife comes in a wooden display box and a tooled leather pouch sheath.
3) 70 Year Commerative Knife
Glenn's commerative knife commerates 70 years of knife making. The 5-inch blade is 440C with bolsters from tooled silver and the handle is amazonian rosewood. The knife comes with a wooden display box.
4) The Model 2-1B
The model 2-1B folding hunter feature Marshall's trade mark hollow grind on a 2 1/2 inch blade of D-2 and rests on one of the maker's painter's hats. The handle is axis deer antler-the 416 stainless bolsters are engraved and the blade's spine is file worked.