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The seeds of the American Bladesmith Society were
sown in the summer of 1976 following the annual meeting of the Knifemakers’
Guild, held that year in Dallas, when W. F “Bill” Moran met with fellow
bladesmiths Bill Bagwell and Don Hastings and outdoor writer B. R. Hughes.
Moran was concerned over the declining number of
bladesmiths in America; there were less than a dozen practicing bladesmiths in
the U. S. at the time. The four men agreed that there was a need for an
organization with the sole purpose of preserving and promoting the art of
bladesmithing through a program of education. During the next several months,
the quartet worked on this idea through telephone calls and letters, and they
met again December 4, 1976, in Shreveport, Louisiana to sign the bylaws of the
ABS. Moran was elected president, a post he held for 15 years.
In 1980, the bylaws were amended to include the
awarding of Master Bladesmith and Journeyman Smith ratings, and the first master
stamps were presented at the 1981 New York Show to Bagwell, Jimmy Fikes, Don
Fogg, Hastings, Moran and James Schmidt.
Bagwell, Fikes, and Fogg later resigned from the ABS, but Fogg rejoined the
organization in 1997 and earned his MS for a second time.
In 1983, the Society held its first bladesmithing
seminar, called a “Hammer-In” at DuBois, WY, sponsored by the University of
Wyoming, but the University discontinued their program after the second
hammer-in. In 1984, Texarkana College held its first hammer-in at Old
Washington, Arkansas, and this event is still ongoing; it is now held twice
annually. Other ABS seminars are
held in Auburn, Maine; Clyde, North Carolina; Topeka, Kansas; and Troy, Ohio.
Moran felt that more formalized training would be
beneficial to the students, and in 1986, Texarkana College, working in
cooperation with the Pioneer Washington Foundation, agreed to sponsor a
bladesmithing school in Washington, Arkansas, the first of its kind in America.
Later, Washington became Old Washington State Park, and the state now owns the
school, which is still operated by Texarkana College.
Following his resignation as president of the ABS in 1991, the name of
the facility in Washington was changed to the William F. Moran School of
Other ABS schools have since opened including those
operated by Haywood College, Clyde, North Carolina; New England School of
Metalwork, Auburn, Maine; Southern Forge and Anvil, Troy, Ohio, and also those
in Belgium and South Africa.
In 1991, Moran stepped down as President, and has
been followed by Jay Hendrickson, Joe Cordova, Dr. James Batson, Joe Keeslar,
Greg Neely, Batson, Keeslar, and Harvey Dean, the current chairman.
In addition to Dean, other members of the current Board of Directors are
Steve Dunn, vice-president; Bill Wiggins, Treasurer; B. R. Hughes, Secretary;
and Dr. James Batson, Robert Calvert, Kevin Cashen, Jeff Harris, Greg Neely,
Jim Phillips, James Rodebaugh, Mark Zalesky, and Robert Wilson, directors.
Harvey Dean, President
Steve Dunn, Vice-President
Bill Wiggins, Treasurer
B. R. Hughes, Secretary
*Dr. James Batson, Director
Robert Calvert, Director
Kevin Cashen, Director
Jeff Harris, Director
*Greg Neely, Director
Jim Phillips, Director
James Rodebaugh, Director
Mark Zalesky, Director
Robert Wilson, Director
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