From hobby to full-time business: Dry Creek Forge Knives
Mary Beth Sallee
When Ross Gammons began making knives nearly 10 years ago, he wasn’t quite sure where it would lead.
“It began as a hobby,” he said. “…I started with blacksmithing and made a knife. Then my interest completely shifted in that direction.”
At the time, Ross had been employed at T. Marzetti on the weekends for about four years.
“After many people showed interest in buying them (my knives), I decided to make and sell them on the side,” Ross said.
But in 2018, he made the transition to full-time knife making.
“I got comfortable enough in my ability to match my income,” Ross said. “Then I took the plunge.”
From a hobby to a full-time business, Dry Creek Forge Knives was born.
In the early years, Ross created knives by forging. Knife forging is the process of heating and hammering out a knife from a single piece of steel. However, Ross said that he has since progressed and hashed out ways to make his business more viable.
“I’ve transitioned more so to stock removal,” Ross said. “Stock removal is the process of cutting out the knives and removing the material until the desired characteristics are achieved. After a few years of forging knives and no power hammer, I made the decision to go in that direction for the sake of my arm.”
According to Ross, there are many steels available from which to make knives.
“The older Carbon steels such as 1095 and 5160 have been used in knives for over 100 years,” Ross explained. “They offer high toughness and ease of sharpening, but they rust. In modern times, steels with higher alloy contents have emerged. Adding elements like Chromium and Vanadium will give the steels better edge holding and also stainless properties.”
“Modern steels such as CPM s35vn or 3v are superior in performance to those old carbon steels, but they also have their own trade offs,” Ross continued. “Each steel has an application it will shine in, and my knives are made with specific tasks in mind. Lc200n is probably the coolest steel that I’ve ever used on a knife. It was designed by NASA for use in space, and it’s almost incapable of rusting. Its original name bestowed by NASA was Cronidur 30.”
Once the steel is chosen, the process of making a knife spans over the course of a few days.
“Grinding and heat treating can be done in one day,” Ross said. “But the heat treat process takes about five hours to complete. Then there’s another day’s time for the finish grinding and handle epoxy to cure for eight hours. By day three, the knife handle is ready to be shaped and finished. So, in about three days time I can usually have a knife finished.”
Ross said that although he has very few local knife orders, most of his business comes from customers from all over the U.S. as well as other parts of the world. He has also been asked to make a few unique orders.
“I had a guy ask me to make a large two handed tanto chopper,” Ross said. “It was 27 inches overall and could be used like an axe.”
Ross’s favorite part of his business is using his skills to create tools.
“A piece of art is just observed and admired, but a knife is a tool that can be beautiful and useful,” Ross said. “It brings me great joy to see someone enjoy one of the knives that I’ve made. I hope that it is something that they cherish for a lifetime and possibly pass down to their kids.”
Overall, Ross said that he believes his skill level has increased over time. He never settles and is always trying to improve the process, fit, and finish with every knife.
“I would like to think that my increase in sales is a reflection of the quality of work I put out,” Ross said. “It has taken a long time to build my customer base, but I’ve made more lifelong friends in this business than anything I’ve ever done. Some of those guys are also some of my best friends.”
As for what continues to help him find success in his business, Ross said passion and hard work are key.
“You have to be passionate about what you do to be successful in this business,” Ross said. “People are investing in you when they buy your work. You have to be able to stand behind it to prosper. That means doing your best work. When people are confident that they are getting the best knife you can provide, they will be willing to pay more for it. Always strive to do better.”
For those interested in Ross Gammon’s work, check out the Dry Creek Forge Knives website at www.drycreekforge.com or the Facebook group Dry Creek Forge Woodsmen. Ross can also be contacted via Facebook messenger.