Hello I am Steve Schwarzer Master Bladesmith. Some have asked how I began my journey to here. I was always a curious child interested in all things nature. There was no classification for a child like me. These days I would have half the alphabet in back of my name. If something interested me I was all in 1001 percent. I was introduced to hot iron in the 7th grade. They had shop metal and wood working classes in those ancient times. I had to make a cold chisel as a project. It required forging filing and sanding. Then putting what I call the soul of the thing into it by proper heat treating. That is the part that puts the heart in the work.
Without heat treat it is just a tool shaped object. That same system is required in all of my past and future knives. That time quickly faded into distant memory only like a small smoldering ember in a long cold fireplace. Little did I know that ember would be fanned back to life like a roaring furnace later in life? My dad was a master mechanic he built airplanes after the war. He actually built several in our back yard for other people. I was as a result exposed to metal work from a young age. My dad mechanical ability did not transfer to me but the metal working did. I took my first Martial art lesson in 1962 as a result of being bullied. I did not develop a real driving interest in the martial arts until my dad moved us to southern California where I encountered a very real need to defend myself. My closest friends were all Samoan and very skilled in several systems and boxing. Most of my friends were children of navy guys stationed in Pt Hueneme. I have remained friends with those still living over 50 years. Friends for life. I learned much from those exceptional friends.
My dad moved the family back to Texas where I escaped public school. I was not an academic wonder much to the despair of my parents who tried very hard to deal with my all or nothing way of dealing with life. I decided to follow in my dad’s footsteps after working in a small aluminum foundry. I went to work in the aircraft industry. I was assigned to work in a forging and sheet metal prefab shop. I was able to work on some very interesting projects. I helped make parts for the Saturn booster rockets and parts for the first 747 vertical stabilizer. During this time I learned to run huge air hammers and presses. That would come into play later in life. I spent a good bit of time running on the edge of life. I figured it was a time to make a radical turn. I moved to Fla in 1970 where did a few odd jobs clearing power lines, repairing radio towers and working in a bridge building shop. Managed to get married and settle down a wife and at that time two kids will do that for you.
I acquired a job in 1972 working out of the Boilermakers Local in Jacksonville Fla. This opened a new world of metal work for me. The fire was starting to burn a bit brighter. The union represented Boilermakers Iron ship builders and Blacksmiths. There were no blacksmiths left in the local. I purchased a book by Alex Bealer on blacksmithing. There was a page and a half in that book on forging knives. That small bit of knowledge changed my life forever. I immediately rushed out and bought an anvil and a forge. My first knives were made by cutting crosscut saw blades hot with a cold chisel. I was selling those knives for the outrageous sum of $15 TO $ 20 each. I can laugh at it now. I had made a few knife shaped objects in the 60s when I worked in aircraft.
I call them knife shaped objects because I had no clue about heat treating properly. I went along blissfully thinking I was the only guy on the planet making knives. The steel I was using was very good for fillet knives so my friend all pronounced me good so I assumed I was LOL. I heard about a guy on a job I was working on who also made knives. His name is Bobby Tison he took time to show me how to make folders and properly finish a knife for that I will be eternally grateful. We are still friends. I have met uncountable people over the years and a few that altered my course of history all through the love of knives. One of the most notable is Sensei Mike Foster. I trained at every opportunity with any one with skill. I met my dear friend and teacher Mr. Foster in approximately 1976 when he was in my home town working the doors for the assemble building at Cape Canaveral.
Some of my friends set me up. It is long story for another time. I was challenged to take a pencil out of his pocket needless to say that did not work out for me. After he broke a wooden baseball bat I was sitting on with his shin he had a new student. I trained off and on with him until the Nineties when he invited me to visit in Dayton beach. I received my Dan Grade and was put under the instruction of William {Tiger} Moore to earn it. That association has blessed me with many of my best friends. Yoshukai love knives. I had earned Dan Grades in Kempo karate, Studied Katori Shinto Ru kendo for a couple of years, old school Japanese jujitsu and several of the Philippines knife systems. Like most things I don’t do anything a little bit. As Sensei Foster often said what I lacked in skill I made up for with enthusiasm. If you do anything long enough you can develop skill.
MY claim to fame in martial arts is I have had my ass kicked by some of the best martial artists on the planet. In that Process I learned much from all of them. I have applied the martial philosophy to most of my life. Total focus on what you want to learn. That is no easy task for a person born without any ability to focus. You might ask what does this have to do with knives. Knives are a sharp extension of the hand. It was man’s first tool designed to cut. Knife cultures are the most resilient in the world. They are an everyday tool for most of the world. Big cities don’t understand the need for knives in everyday life because that work is all done for them. No one butchers at home much in this age. My goal was to get as skilled as possible in the use of knives both for work and martial skills so I could understand my customer s needs. Ok I wandered off a bit. The scourge of my existence lack of focus unless It’s scary or fun lol
In the early 1970s I am back working in my back yard building knives and have been introduced to knife books by Mr. Tison. I began to try to forge weld but as usual was not having much luck. I am a visual learner so I figured if I could see someone do it I could do. I heard about a cowboy in Williston Fla. That was having success in forge welding. I made arrangement to visit Al Pendray was pretty busy so his dad Mr. John was assigned to watch over me. He was like a magician he could tell what I was doing wrong by the sound of the hammer and the reflection of the fire on the time wall. After a half day I had accomplished what I had come to do. The rest is part of my history. I think this was later 1976. I immediately started looking beyond the simple random and ladder pattern being done at that time in America. I started doing composite blades. Mixing random and twits patterns and some Turkish. One of the biggest influences on my work at the time was Daryl Meier He had a team of researchers at Carbondale Illinois working on many complex patterns. He was a great advisor and one of the few people doing advanced pattern welding at that time.
My research took my path to Liege Belgium where they had been making gun barrels since 1350 and mosaic barrels for a couple of hundred years. I acquired a book with the pictures of the pattern development. To the best of my memory I made the first of my mosaic blades in late1979 or early 1980. I those days I wasn’t worried about documenting my work. I was too busy exploring. I was invited to join the ABS around that time. My Master Smiths Rating was signed by Bill Moran in 1981 I was officially inducted in 1983.  I am currently the oldest continually serving Active ABS Master Bladesmith. I have received every major award from the ABS including the Scagle Award I personally feel is the rarest. I made the first Master Smiths Knife donated to auction for the benefit of the ABS. The board at the time knew I would do my best work to set the standard for all that followed. I organized the first big hammer in the south with the Aid of Dr VanArnum in 1982. It was attended by most of the top Bladesmiths of the Day. I am a founding member of FABA the Fla artists and blacksmiths Accusation. It is an organization I still support.
I started teaching and demonstrating about that time. I sent a good bit of time working with Alfred Pendray on the early wootz research.  I still have one of the first wootz cakes I made in my shop using a coal fire in Palatka Fla. I was quite an honor to work on this ancient material with very dedicated researchers. All the early blades are marked PJS Pendray JOB and Schwarzer. Bob Job started the ball rolling by giving me and Al Pendray mystery steel going I bet you cannot forge weld that. He never stopped us from succeeding. I made my first Million layer blade in 1980 trying to get some of his mystery metal to weld at fold 15 it started to hold hands at fold 22 it was stuck. Turns out the steel he gave me was full of tungsten which is very red short a tough to forge much less hammer weld. Pendray I was constantly developing new techniques to make material stick. One of those techniques was finding ways to keep the oxygen off the material to be welded. The solution was initially flux borax or commercial fluxes that I found to be dirty leaving ugly little spots in my patterns.

With some research I found out about hot isothermal pressing a very expensive process. The process involved making a sealed canister then putting that under very high pressure and heat. I could not afford the machine or to pay to have it done. So I embarked on a low tech solution. I built canisters around my solid parts hooked up a tube with a vacuum pump and gave it a try. The cans would split and the vacuum pump would pull oxygen over the material defeating the purpose of the can. Solution I added inert gas under pressure to keep the oxygen out. Vola success. I was quite full of myself I could not wait to tell my guru Daryl Meier about my discovery. He listened patiently then burst my bubble. H said I just add a few drops of hydrocarbon it eats all the oxygen and I don’t have to deal with the gas and pump hoses etcetera. That method is the industry standard today 30 plus years later.
Finding solutions to forge welding problems or techniques is where I have spent my adult life. I love my craft because it challenges me every time I go in my studio. I life we meet many interesting people. Many with ideas that provide the nucleus of a project that grows far beyond the original thought. One of those people is Gary Runyon. He was the powder metal guru for a carbide specialty company. I met him at Jim Batons first hammer in at Jims House. He was trying to get NI powder to stick to cable using borax. I suggested putting a pipe around it filling it with powder and welding the ends shut. To my knowledge that was the first powder metal canister made. I visited Gary after and toured his facility. The uses for powder metal in industry were legion. I immediately saw a solution to several patterning problems. I first Signature billet I made used this material to solve a serious fitting problem. I was trying to fit .010 nickel sheet into my actual signature cut into a two inch square block of tool steel by a friend of mine using a Wire EDM. WE were looking at after a failed attempt with the sheet. He said to bad we can’t pour that in I big light went off. I replied yes we can. I used powder to solve the problem. Using this method and sharing with a few friends opened a whole no world of canister Damascus. One solution applied properly can open many doors of exploration.
By 1980 was neck deep in complex Damascus patterns and starting mosaic research. It was like drinking out of a fire hose. This is basically pre internet a cell phone weighed 15 lbs. High speed communication was a fax machine. Research required opening a reading books and scientific papers expressing the opinions of the writer’s thoughts. Their hypothesis was not all correct. I had to prove everything in the fire of the forge. I showed up at the New York knife show with a hand full of my opinion very complex ugly blades lol. I remember Jim Schmidt commenting on those knives at Ashokan > His words were if your knives catch up with you steel you will be force to be reckoned with. His words proved true. The hunger to explore this medium has consumed my adult life. I would not have it any other way. I have included several pictures in this bio to give the reader a since of time line. I worked hard all through the 1980s and 1990s developing my patterning technique.
My passion was developing Mosaics. I built geometric patterns and real images using a Varity of techniques. To this day in 2020 I am exploring paths to new methods. I think incorporating powder metal into Damascus production with the introduction to the material by Gary Runyon is probably the greatest achievement I have added to the modern Damascus knife community. One of the many lessons I have learned is sharing with those that appreciate the knowledge and add to it double your life in the business. I have taught blade smithing and forge welding technique for many years. Most of those students have gone forward to achieve great success in their own right. A few of those went around my skill sets like I was parked. I take great pride in the success of these exceptional people. They are ranked among the top knife makers on the planet. I try to fill my life with exceptional people. In the most part I have seceded.
These exceptional individuals push me to keep expanding my knowledge of this craft. That is one of the great beauties of teaching. Each new student is on a path of discovery, most are more than willing to share that new technique or method with me expanding my knowledge base almost daily. After almost 50 years of this craft I still get excited about new projects and techniques. The only limit is in this art is your imagination and determination to make something magical happen. I am busy teaching these days passing along what I have learned to those willing to listen. My body of work speaks for its self. I am almost 73 years young and still exploring. Setting on past achievements is not in my mental makeup. I have several ideas I want to explore in depth. I hope you enjoy this site and share it with your friends. I am in the shop mixing ideas.