By Darren Lum
After 32 years the annual Haliburton County Studio Tour has undergone a host of new changes including a new logo a sponsorship program and rebranding as it is now known as The Studio Tour – Haliburton Highlands. The tour which is from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the weekends of Oct. 5 to 6 and Oct. 12 to 13 showcases an array of art at artists’ studios located throughout the Highlands.
Another change this year is the addition of several new artists who are based outside the Highlands but will be guests at local studios.
Among them is bladesmith Paul Savage of Ayr who will be a guest artist at Tom Green’s Glass Eagle Studios located at the corner of County Road 21 and Blairhampton Road in Minden.
Savage can still remember being in awe of his father’s handmade knives which were made by his cousin brought home from Saskatchewan.
He made his very first knife when he was 20 and “it was pretty ugly. But I really got into it here about 25 years ago-ish or somewhere in there. The fellow I work for – we hunt/fish together – he was going to make a knife and I thought ‘Hey I’ll make one too and he made one and here I am here 25 years later still making them” he said.
Making knives is a passion for Savage and is rooted in his interest in hunting and craftsmanship.
He appreciates being part of an effort to promote and showcase the hand crafted knife.
“There’s something about a handmade knife that just speaks to you” he said. “It’s a different feel in the hand and is not one of 10000 coming off the line.”
This is part of why he is a member of the American Bladesmith Society which promotes the hand forged knife.
“It was a lost art up until about 1984 when Bill Moran started the school and American Bladesmith Society and the membership has grown and it’s on quite a few continents” he said.
Savage who possesses a background as a machinist and industrial knife maker adds he does all his own heat treating and everything you see is his work.
“I don’t hire anything out or buy finished parts or what have you” he said.
Before the studio tour Savage showcased his knives at knife shows throughout North America where there could be more than a thousand other knife makers in the same room showing their work.
“It’s a pretty tough act. I had never thought of this being an art show thing and I thought ‘Yeah that’ll be a good venue’” he said. “They’re not your typical Buck knives.”
He loves making knives with a Damascus blade which are all unique and have distinctive patterns of lines due to the process.
An example of bladesmith Paul Savage's work a fixed-blade knife made with Damascus steel. Held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. over the first two weekends of October The Studio Tour-Haliburton Highlands features a diverse range of art created by artists who will be available at local studios throughout the Highlands. /Submitted by Paul Savage and photo by Caleb Royer
“I like to work with steel and forge welding it together. That gives me more joy than the finishing of the knife. Finishing a knife that can get to be a job but forging Damascus and patterning … that’s a lot of work” he said. “It’s not a job.”
He said his inspiration comes to him while he works on his forge and starts with the type of knife he wants to make setting him up with parameters.
“I’ll get a blade forged out. You can tweak them. A little straighter. A little more re-curve to them and then ‘OK what’s going to look good on this knife?’ I kind of work through it that way. I don’t say ‘It’s got to have that material on it.’ Because when you get there that piece of material may not work with the knife. It’s kind of a process for me” he said. “Basically once I get … on the forge that’s where the juices start flowing basically. As far as design stuff it just comes to me as I go.”
His collection of work includes labours of love whether it’s an upscale D-Guard bowie with a Damascus blade a left hand dagger from the Renaissance period with ornate detailing bowie knives with “upscale” details such as a mammoth ivory on the handle blued guards and lots of fittings or hunting fishing and even kitchen knives.
He believes joining the tour will help with the refresh of the tour ushering in a new chapter.
“It could generate some fresh interest. You’ve got all the old guard if you will which have brought it along for the last  years. To bring a bit of a difference in as a guest and you’ve got to bring your A game or you won’t be invited back” he said. “It’s a bit of challenge for sure. Looking forward to the process.”
Last year since he learned of the opportunity to join the tour he has been working hard to have a collection of work to bring. One of the studio tour members asked him to apply last year. Savage subsequently sent up a package of his knives for review by the studio tour’s jurying committee.
You don’t have to love knives to appreciate his creations.
“Knives are one of the oldest tools known to man originally fashioned from bone or stone. From the time you wake up and butter your toast to cutting open that package from Amazon to cutting your steak at supper time people are knife users whether they think about it or not and it starts at quite an early age. Just try and get into that shrink wrapped package at Christmas without a knife and see just what kind of knife person you are” he wrote in an email. “And after you use your knife are you happy with the performance of it or the fit and feel in your hand? Knives come in a variety of materials from shiny stainless to rough forged carbon steel finishes to hand forged Damascus consisting of hundreds of layers of steel that are manipulated and patterned. Knives make great gifts for the home chef or those hunters and fishermen you might know. And they also make a dramatic art display whether on their own or a themed display.”
This might be his first showing at an art exhibition but it’s not his first time in the Highlands.
“As a boy 50 years ago our family spent several summer holidays on Twelve Mile Lake at a family friend’s cottage. I also learned to deer hunt and shot my first deer in deer camp there. In 1985 my parents retired to Ingoldsby and now our time is spent with friends at their home on Kennisis lake. I’m looking forward to seeing some familiar faces over the course of the two weekends that I am sharing Tom Green’s studio at Glass Eagle Studio” he wrote in an email.