Loyd Thomsen creates one-of-a-kind custom knives | TheFencePost.com

Loyd Thomsen creates one-of-a-kind custom knives

Gayle Smith
Gering, Neb.

After retiring from the telephone company, Loyd Thomsen of Oelrichs, S.D., needed to find something to occupy his extra time. “Where I live, it is 31 miles to Chadron. I worked for Northwestern Bell for 31 years and ran a ranch. When I retired in 1996, after working 18 hours a day, I found myself with a lot of extra time,” he explained. “One day, I walked past an old pile of junk on my place and picked up an old piece of steel. I decided to try and make something out of it.”

Taking the piece of metal to his shop, Thomsen started making a knife using a sickle grinder. “I was pleased with how it looked when I finished it,” he said. “Someone saw it and liked it, and wanted to buy it from me. I sold it to them, and made some more.”

Those first knives Thomsen made were the modest start of what has now become a thriving custom knife-making business he calls Horsehead Creek Knives.

Thomsen, who is a self-taught bladesmith, decided any income he made from the knives would be used for some new knife-making equipment. “Since then, I have been able to purchase some super good knife-making grinders, and a milling machine. They are things I needed when I started out, and didn’t have,” he said.

Thomsen also built an insulated 13-by-20 heated workshop inside his Morton building, so he could continue his work during the cold winter months.

The more knives Thomsen made, the more interested he became in creating Damascus knives. Damascus is layered steel that is built using three to four different types of steel and forging them together to form a steel shaft.

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What Thomsen likes about the Damascus knives are the natural patterns and designs that appear in the blade. However, the process is time consuming. “The time it takes from starting with raw steel to forge the blade and build the knife is at least 40 hours per knife,” he explained. “But with the Damascus knives, the patterns are absolutely unlimited with what you can do.”

“Probably 99.9 percent of the knives I make now are Damascus steel,” he said. “I can build useable knives of composite steel, 1095 high carbon, 1084 high carbon, or stainless steel.”

A simple hunting knife starts at $350. Thomsen said he has made whitetail knives that have sold for $1,100. “I have knives in all 50 states and eight foreign countries,” he explained. “Basically, a lot of my business has come from word-of-mouth. If someone lives way off and pays that much for a knife, they are going to show it off. Usually, what happens, is a customer shows the knife to his neighbor and then the neighbor calls and orders one.”

Thomsen has many collectors throughout the country who purchase the knives he has created. “I have one collector in Virginia who owns 35 or 36 of my knives now,” he explained. “I have collectors in other states who also own several. Many of them have asked me to send a picture of the knife before I advertise it for sale on my website.”

When Thomsen first started making knives, the response was very overwhelming. “I was supposed to be retired,” he explained. “The last thing I wanted to do was mass produce knives. For awhile, I made a lot of knives. In the past 14 years, I have made over 1,000 knives.”

After he made his first 100 knives, Thomsen said one of his customers encouraged him to start placing a serial number on them, which he did on the side of the guard.

These days, Thomsen has become more particular about the knives he makes. “I have slowed down to the point where I just make custom orders now. If someone wants me to make a knife for something in particular, I will do my best to make it for them,” he said. “I only make about 20 knives a year now.”

One of his more recent creations is a knife he made and donated for an auction held by the Hot Springs Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation. The knife featured five whitetail deer all in a row forged up the length of the blade.

Thomsen explained a different process was used in forming this type of pattern in the blade. Many times, he works on his forging process at night, because it is easier for him to see the colors in the steel. “I can see the contrast easier then,” he explained. Forming the whitetail deer heads was an easy task for Thomsen, who has sketched since he was a child.

The knife was well received at the auction. “It brought $1,100,” he said. “The guy that purchased it has bought eight or nine of my knives.”

Once Thomsen finishes the blade, he designs the handle, which is built out of about anything imaginable. “I made a knife for the Elk Foundation eight or nine years ago, and built the handle out of a stag deer horn,” he said. Once he polished off the horn, he used a tool to carve the heads of three wolves looking at something in the distance into the butt of the handle. “Typically, my knives usually bring $500 to $900 at these auctions. But, all it takes is two people who want the same knife and there is a bidding war. The guy who purchased it paid $1,500,” he said.

Thomsen said the highest price knife he has ever built sold for $2,500. It was a large bowie knife that was once featured in a coffee table book. “My daughter is a graphic artist, and she came out and took a picture of it. The knife had the most beautiful patterns in the steel. I ended up selling that knife to a friend of mine who had admired it for a long time, and knew what it was,” he said.

Although Thomsen likes working with Damascus, he still builds all types of knives. “I have had all kinds of special orders,” he explained. “I even built a carving set for meat with a two tine fork and a long slicing knife. I built a box for it out of Bloodwood, and lined it with velvet.”

Thomsen also started making pipe hawks and tomahawks, after receiving a request from a very good customer. “I had previously made a large Damascus buffalo hunter knife, complete with a curly buffalo hide sheath, for this customer. After receiving the buffalo knife, he then asked me if I ever thought of making a tomahawk or a pipe hawk. My first thought was no, but I decided to give it a try.”

“Both pieces are forged from wrought iron (wagon wheel tire) and 15N20 and 1095 HC,” he explained. “The handles are made of Hickory and rawhide wrapped and detailed down to include the adornments that was very much part of the early American Indian and the Frontier way of life.”

No matter what type of knife a customer purchases, Thomsen said care of the knife is important. Thomsen said when working with Damascus steel, there are four different types of steel in one blade, and each of those types of steel sharpen at a different level. “It will sharpen beautifully when finished,” he said. “They will also cut and cut, forever. There are such fine indentions in the steel that when you look at the blade under a microscope, it looks serrated. It will hold an edge much better than steel or carbon knives.”

Thomsen recommends customers who purchase one of his knives care for it like they would their hunting rifle. “The knives need to be oiled regularly and kept clean,” he said. “They can use three in one oil or even sewing machine oil. Anything can be used that will leave a film on the blade,” he said.

For more information about Thomsen’s knives, please see his website at HorseHeadCreekKnives.com. He can be reached at (605) 535-6162.

After retiring from the telephone company, Loyd Thomsen of Oelrichs, S.D., needed to find something to occupy his extra time. “Where I live, it is 31 miles to Chadron. I worked for Northwestern Bell for 31 years and ran a ranch. When I retired in 1996, after working 18 hours a day, I found myself with a lot of extra time,” he explained. “One day, I walked past an old pile of junk on my place and picked up an old piece of steel. I decided to try and make something out of it.”

Taking the piece of metal to his shop, Thomsen started making a knife using a sickle grinder. “I was pleased with how it looked when I finished it,” he said. “Someone saw it and liked it, and wanted to buy it from me. I sold it to them, and made some more.”

Those first knives Thomsen made were the modest start of what has now become a thriving custom knife-making business he calls Horsehead Creek Knives.

Thomsen, who is a self-taught bladesmith, decided any income he made from the knives would be used for some new knife-making equipment. “Since then, I have been able to purchase some super good knife-making grinders, and a milling machine. They are things I needed when I started out, and didn’t have,” he said.

Thomsen also built an insulated 13-by-20 heated workshop inside his Morton building, so he could continue his work during the cold winter months.

The more knives Thomsen made, the more interested he became in creating Damascus knives. Damascus is layered steel that is built using three to four different types of steel and forging them together to form a steel shaft.

What Thomsen likes about the Damascus knives are the natural patterns and designs that appear in the blade. However, the process is time consuming. “The time it takes from starting with raw steel to forge the blade and build the knife is at least 40 hours per knife,” he explained. “But with the Damascus knives, the patterns are absolutely unlimited with what you can do.”

“Probably 99.9 percent of the knives I make now are Damascus steel,” he said. “I can build useable knives of composite steel, 1095 high carbon, 1084 high carbon, or stainless steel.”

A simple hunting knife starts at $350. Thomsen said he has made whitetail knives that have sold for $1,100. “I have knives in all 50 states and eight foreign countries,” he explained. “Basically, a lot of my business has come from word-of-mouth. If someone lives way off and pays that much for a knife, they are going to show it off. Usually, what happens, is a customer shows the knife to his neighbor and then the neighbor calls and orders one.”

Thomsen has many collectors throughout the country who purchase the knives he has created. “I have one collector in Virginia who owns 35 or 36 of my knives now,” he explained. “I have collectors in other states who also own several. Many of them have asked me to send a picture of the knife before I advertise it for sale on my website.”

When Thomsen first started making knives, the response was very overwhelming. “I was supposed to be retired,” he explained. “The last thing I wanted to do was mass produce knives. For awhile, I made a lot of knives. In the past 14 years, I have made over 1,000 knives.”

After he made his first 100 knives, Thomsen said one of his customers encouraged him to start placing a serial number on them, which he did on the side of the guard.

These days, Thomsen has become more particular about the knives he makes. “I have slowed down to the point where I just make custom orders now. If someone wants me to make a knife for something in particular, I will do my best to make it for them,” he said. “I only make about 20 knives a year now.”

One of his more recent creations is a knife he made and donated for an auction held by the Hot Springs Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation. The knife featured five whitetail deer all in a row forged up the length of the blade.

Thomsen explained a different process was used in forming this type of pattern in the blade. Many times, he works on his forging process at night, because it is easier for him to see the colors in the steel. “I can see the contrast easier then,” he explained. Forming the whitetail deer heads was an easy task for Thomsen, who has sketched since he was a child.

The knife was well received at the auction. “It brought $1,100,” he said. “The guy that purchased it has bought eight or nine of my knives.”

Once Thomsen finishes the blade, he designs the handle, which is built out of about anything imaginable. “I made a knife for the Elk Foundation eight or nine years ago, and built the handle out of a stag deer horn,” he said. Once he polished off the horn, he used a tool to carve the heads of three wolves looking at something in the distance into the butt of the handle. “Typically, my knives usually bring $500 to $900 at these auctions. But, all it takes is two people who want the same knife and there is a bidding war. The guy who purchased it paid $1,500,” he said.

Thomsen said the highest price knife he has ever built sold for $2,500. It was a large bowie knife that was once featured in a coffee table book. “My daughter is a graphic artist, and she came out and took a picture of it. The knife had the most beautiful patterns in the steel. I ended up selling that knife to a friend of mine who had admired it for a long time, and knew what it was,” he said.

Although Thomsen likes working with Damascus, he still builds all types of knives. “I have had all kinds of special orders,” he explained. “I even built a carving set for meat with a two tine fork and a long slicing knife. I built a box for it out of Bloodwood, and lined it with velvet.”

Thomsen also started making pipe hawks and tomahawks, after receiving a request from a very good customer. “I had previously made a large Damascus buffalo hunter knife, complete with a curly buffalo hide sheath, for this customer. After receiving the buffalo knife, he then asked me if I ever thought of making a tomahawk or a pipe hawk. My first thought was no, but I decided to give it a try.”

“Both pieces are forged from wrought iron (wagon wheel tire) and 15N20 and 1095 HC,” he explained. “The handles are made of Hickory and rawhide wrapped and detailed down to include the adornments that was very much part of the early American Indian and the Frontier way of life.”

No matter what type of knife a customer purchases, Thomsen said care of the knife is important. Thomsen said when working with Damascus steel, there are four different types of steel in one blade, and each of those types of steel sharpen at a different level. “It will sharpen beautifully when finished,” he said. “They will also cut and cut, forever. There are such fine indentions in the steel that when you look at the blade under a microscope, it looks serrated. It will hold an edge much better than steel or carbon knives.”

Thomsen recommends customers who purchase one of his knives care for it like they would their hunting rifle. “The knives need to be oiled regularly and kept clean,” he said. “They can use three in one oil or even sewing machine oil. Anything can be used that will leave a film on the blade,” he said.

For more information about Thomsen’s knives, please see his website at HorseHeadCreekKnives.com. He can be reached at (605) 535-6162.

After retiring from the telephone company, Loyd Thomsen of Oelrichs, S.D., needed to find something to occupy his extra time. “Where I live, it is 31 miles to Chadron. I worked for Northwestern Bell for 31 years and ran a ranch. When I retired in 1996, after working 18 hours a day, I found myself with a lot of extra time,” he explained. “One day, I walked past an old pile of junk on my place and picked up an old piece of steel. I decided to try and make something out of it.”

Taking the piece of metal to his shop, Thomsen started making a knife using a sickle grinder. “I was pleased with how it looked when I finished it,” he said. “Someone saw it and liked it, and wanted to buy it from me. I sold it to them, and made some more.”

Those first knives Thomsen made were the modest start of what has now become a thriving custom knife-making business he calls Horsehead Creek Knives.

Thomsen, who is a self-taught bladesmith, decided any income he made from the knives would be used for some new knife-making equipment. “Since then, I have been able to purchase some super good knife-making grinders, and a milling machine. They are things I needed when I started out, and didn’t have,” he said.

Thomsen also built an insulated 13-by-20 heated workshop inside his Morton building, so he could continue his work during the cold winter months.

The more knives Thomsen made, the more interested he became in creating Damascus knives. Damascus is layered steel that is built using three to four different types of steel and forging them together to form a steel shaft.

What Thomsen likes about the Damascus knives are the natural patterns and designs that appear in the blade. However, the process is time consuming. “The time it takes from starting with raw steel to forge the blade and build the knife is at least 40 hours per knife,” he explained. “But with the Damascus knives, the patterns are absolutely unlimited with what you can do.”

“Probably 99.9 percent of the knives I make now are Damascus steel,” he said. “I can build useable knives of composite steel, 1095 high carbon, 1084 high carbon, or stainless steel.”

A simple hunting knife starts at $350. Thomsen said he has made whitetail knives that have sold for $1,100. “I have knives in all 50 states and eight foreign countries,” he explained. “Basically, a lot of my business has come from word-of-mouth. If someone lives way off and pays that much for a knife, they are going to show it off. Usually, what happens, is a customer shows the knife to his neighbor and then the neighbor calls and orders one.”

Thomsen has many collectors throughout the country who purchase the knives he has created. “I have one collector in Virginia who owns 35 or 36 of my knives now,” he explained. “I have collectors in other states who also own several. Many of them have asked me to send a picture of the knife before I advertise it for sale on my website.”

When Thomsen first started making knives, the response was very overwhelming. “I was supposed to be retired,” he explained. “The last thing I wanted to do was mass produce knives. For awhile, I made a lot of knives. In the past 14 years, I have made over 1,000 knives.”

After he made his first 100 knives, Thomsen said one of his customers encouraged him to start placing a serial number on them, which he did on the side of the guard.

These days, Thomsen has become more particular about the knives he makes. “I have slowed down to the point where I just make custom orders now. If someone wants me to make a knife for something in particular, I will do my best to make it for them,” he said. “I only make about 20 knives a year now.”

One of his more recent creations is a knife he made and donated for an auction held by the Hot Springs Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation. The knife featured five whitetail deer all in a row forged up the length of the blade.

Thomsen explained a different process was used in forming this type of pattern in the blade. Many times, he works on his forging process at night, because it is easier for him to see the colors in the steel. “I can see the contrast easier then,” he explained. Forming the whitetail deer heads was an easy task for Thomsen, who has sketched since he was a child.

The knife was well received at the auction. “It brought $1,100,” he said. “The guy that purchased it has bought eight or nine of my knives.”

Once Thomsen finishes the blade, he designs the handle, which is built out of about anything imaginable. “I made a knife for the Elk Foundation eight or nine years ago, and built the handle out of a stag deer horn,” he said. Once he polished off the horn, he used a tool to carve the heads of three wolves looking at something in the distance into the butt of the handle. “Typically, my knives usually bring $500 to $900 at these auctions. But, all it takes is two people who want the same knife and there is a bidding war. The guy who purchased it paid $1,500,” he said.

Thomsen said the highest price knife he has ever built sold for $2,500. It was a large bowie knife that was once featured in a coffee table book. “My daughter is a graphic artist, and she came out and took a picture of it. The knife had the most beautiful patterns in the steel. I ended up selling that knife to a friend of mine who had admired it for a long time, and knew what it was,” he said.

Although Thomsen likes working with Damascus, he still builds all types of knives. “I have had all kinds of special orders,” he explained. “I even built a carving set for meat with a two tine fork and a long slicing knife. I built a box for it out of Bloodwood, and lined it with velvet.”

Thomsen also started making pipe hawks and tomahawks, after receiving a request from a very good customer. “I had previously made a large Damascus buffalo hunter knife, complete with a curly buffalo hide sheath, for this customer. After receiving the buffalo knife, he then asked me if I ever thought of making a tomahawk or a pipe hawk. My first thought was no, but I decided to give it a try.”

“Both pieces are forged from wrought iron (wagon wheel tire) and 15N20 and 1095 HC,” he explained. “The handles are made of Hickory and rawhide wrapped and detailed down to include the adornments that was very much part of the early American Indian and the Frontier way of life.”

No matter what type of knife a customer purchases, Thomsen said care of the knife is important. Thomsen said when working with Damascus steel, there are four different types of steel in one blade, and each of those types of steel sharpen at a different level. “It will sharpen beautifully when finished,” he said. “They will also cut and cut, forever. There are such fine indentions in the steel that when you look at the blade under a microscope, it looks serrated. It will hold an edge much better than steel or carbon knives.”

Thomsen recommends customers who purchase one of his knives care for it like they would their hunting rifle. “The knives need to be oiled regularly and kept clean,” he said. “They can use three in one oil or even sewing machine oil. Anything can be used that will leave a film on the blade,” he said.

For more information about Thomsen’s knives, please see his website at HorseHeadCreekKnives.com. He can be reached at (605) 535-6162.