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History of the American Bladesmith Society

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 Bladesmithing.

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.

            Currently, the ABS has over 1800 members, with master bladesmiths from every continent except Antarctica. The sole purpose of the Society is today, just as it was in 1976, the preservation and promotion of the forged blade through a program of education.

Current ABS Board of 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

*Past Presidents

Past Presidents

William F. Moran (1976 - 1991)
Jay Hendrickson (1991 - 1995)
Joe Cordova (1995 - 1999)
Joe Keeslar (2003 - 2007)
Greg Neely (2007 - 2011)
Dr. James Batson (2011 - 2013)

Joe Keeslar (2013 - 2015)


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