A Timeless Tool
Knives have been used as weapons and tools for hunting, cooking, carpentry, and protecting one’s self and family, since prehistoric times. The earliest knives, which we know of, were made of sharp rocks and flint; the first metal knives were made from copper and were double edged daggers. According to most historians the single edged knife was made during the Bronze Age 4000 years ago. Today, in our modern world, we still use knives for the same things our ancestors did; however, our choice of material, design, style, and the way we use knives are countless.
Robert Boice of Hideout Knives, a custom knife maker and a member of the American Bladesmith Society, grew up around knives. He used them for working, cutting things, hunting, providing a living, preparing a meal, and even opening stubborn mail-order packages. His maternal grandfather was a knife maker; it seems only natural that over time, Robert would become one too.
Having been raised in South Central Oklahoma and living over 20 years in Wyoming; Robert was first introduced to Heber Valley by a woman he was dating. Robert shared, “[there was] something about the energy of the valley” that inspired a love at first sight for Heber. He told his date, “I’ll live here one day.”
She thought he was crazy, but since his day job allowed him to work from anywhere, Robert made the move, alone. The girlfriend didn’t quite work out, but Robert has been calling Heber Valley home for about 15 years now.
Not “Just A Knife”
Knives have been a ‘rite of passage’ and a mainstay across cultures for countless men and women over the centuries. These tools often became a cherished piece of craftsmanship; some have been handed down from generation to generation. Robert shared, “I carried a knife for ten years that a friend of mine gave me, and I was messing around one day and I lost it, and my heart just sank. Number one, because it was from one of my best friends. And then it’s a tool that you carry every day.”
He continued with, “You use it for a million things that you don’t even realize, until it’s not in your pocket. You’re reaching for your knife and it’s gone. A knife – it’s one of the basic things that you need for survival, whether it’s for protection or meal preparation. No matter what, since the beginning of time, men have had to have knives. They’ve had to have some sort of sharp instrument for survival.”
From Knife Enthusiast To Bladesmith
What is it that creates a desire to transition from enthusiast to Artisan? For Robert, it was one word: Inspiration.
“I had an employee that worked for me, and one day while working, he pulled a small bowie knife out from his backpack and [started] cutting something with it. It had an interesting colored handle on it and when he was done using it I asked to see it. He told me, ‘My dad made that for me,’ and I thought Oh, a custom knife! And I started really looking at it.” Robert continued by sharing, “I often say, ‘It sparked something in me’ but in reality, I thought, Oh my gosh. I can’t believe how bad this looks. I want to go home, and I want to see if I can make a better knife than that.”
The employee’s knife continued to be a treasured heirloom to its owner, in addition to acting as an inspirational motivator to Robert. Robert was determined to test his skill creating a unique product. He explained, “I made one, and it’s addictive. I wanted to make another.” That led to Robert reinvesting his profits into bigger and better equipment to take his new-found hobby to the next level.
A Truly Custom Knife
Now, Robert has a recognized business working out of his shop to make truly, one-of-a-kind knives for those seeking a custom tool. These knives are built for FORM, FIT, and FUNCTION – specific to the owner.
“I have to take [many things] into consideration if it’s a true, custom knife for an individual. Are they older? Do they have arthritis? [If so, then] I need to make the handle a little bit bigger because of gripping concerns. I’ve made knives for older gentlemen and they want something where they’re not closing their fist as tight.” He continues, “I’ve had a female friend that’s worked with me… designing knives [specifically for women]…women think different from men as far as what they want, and their hands are smaller.” Robert also asks each person, “How do you want to carry it [the knife]? Is it going to be in a backpack or on your person, and if so, is it going to be sideways?” Once all the logistics are figured out it’s time to pick out the design and color.
A Complete Custom Package
Not only does Robert make incredible works of art that are durable, working, knives but he presents them in a complete package. He takes pride in creating custom, quality, secure, leather cases to go with each knife and appreciates that the knife he created will be kept in a case specifically designed for this purpose. The cases range from $175 to $600 depending on the cost of materials. Some cases are made with such exotic origins as Giraffe bone and fossilized Mammoth bone harvested in Russia, paired with repurposed, hardened, steel from the now-closed, Thompson’s Saw Mill in Francis.
Every knife comes with a Lifetime Guarantee, oiling, and sharpening. Because of the way Robert expresses a connection to his own knives, he has made it easy for owners to own, take pride in, and enjoy their knives for as long as they have them — definitely knives worth becoming a treasured family heirloom.
The Benefit Knife
Robert’s passion for building knives helped one family in particular with medical bills and treatment. Jaren Sharp, a local team roping competitor, father, and childhood cancer survivor, developed cancer, again, as an adult. Locals created a fundraiser to raise money for him through the selling of raffle tickets and a silent auction.
Robert shared, “They wanted me to buy some raffle tickets and I said, ‘Yeah, I’ll buy some.’ Well, I was working in my knife shop, and I got to thinking, You know, I’ll buy $200 worth of raffle tickets and it’s a done deal, but what if I made a knife, donated it, and they raffled it off? I think we could raise more money. Instead of $200 dollars, my efforts could go further.”
And so he made a spectacular knife engraved with team ropers on the blade, in honor of Jaren. A Team Roping Benefit was organized and crowds were invited to help. Robert shared that the knife garnered so much attention that “it ended up raising $7,010, so it was pretty cool and the people who ended up winning the knife actually ended up giving it back to me.” The gentleman who won the knife has since asked Robert if they could make a replica together so they will both have a special keepsake knife.
Aiming For World Class Standards
When asked what was next Robert expressed, “My Ultimate goal is to become a Master Bladesmith. There’s [sic] only about 1,300 in the whole world.” Robert seems to be well on his way to meeting his goals. He is dedicated and focused with no interest in owning a TV or other distractions. Bladesmithing is his passion and his entertainment. Robert finds joy in crafting old world goods in his shop and sharing them with others. The business allows him to continue to do what he loves and level up every year. As he works with his own mentor learning to make Era Correct Knives from the early West, Robert continues to elevate his craft with hatchets and folding knives as goals on the horizon.
Like a true artisan, he loves the sacred process of selecting materials, and shaping them into something unique and special, and passing it along to someone to own and cherish without taking any honors to himself. He’s as humble as he is talented.
“I don’t care if people know about me, but if they purchase a knife and are proud to give it and receive it, and own it, that’s what I care about.”