Goshen News, Goshen, IN

March 2, 2014

WHO YOU SHOULD KNOW: Terry Miller is a metal craftsman

Metal craftsman turns old files into beautiful knives

By SHERRY VAN ARSDALL sherry.vanarsdall@goshennews.com
Goshen News

---- — HOWE — Terry Miller has been a blacksmith for 30 years.

In the beginning, he was an ornamental blacksmith bending big pieces of steel for railings, sculptures and furniture.

“The heavy steel was getting too much for me as I got older,” Miller said, laughing. Now his focus has changed to turning old steel files into decorative custom knives and kitchen utensils for customers. He was taught by a gentleman in North Carolina the old-fashioned art of blade-smithing.

His work is done using hand tools along with a small forge, an anvil and an oval antique copper canning tub with a lid in his workshop.

“I do it the way it has been done for hundreds of years. People know my work because I do quality work,” Miller said. “It’s an opportunity to give people hunting knives and kitchen utensils made with high carbon steel.”

Some of the old steel files used for his knives come from the Amish when they go to farm auctions and flea markets with old equipment and antiques because they do a lot of butchering with pork and beef and like certain types of knives for butchering, Miller added.

He has a variety of customers and some have been film and play directors asking him to make knives and other weaponry for movies set in periods running from the 12th-to-19th-centuries.

“I do the research on how they were made and how they were used,” he said, “and then I make them.”

There are a lot of female collectors of knives and firearms, and several order knives for combat pieces for self-defense, he added.

Miller says he engraves firearms as well as his custom knives.

“I engrave some of my knives with animals, like bears and deer or any kind of scene that I can engrave,” he said. “It personalizes the piece for someone.”

He has orders from gun collectors who purchase old firearms with faded engravings.

“I increase the value of old guns by re-engraving them,” he said. “As long as I follow the pattern already on the firearm, I can sometimes triple the value. I do a lot of engraving for sheriff departments.”

The blacksmith picked up a tiny chisel that fit in the palm of his hand for use on small guns and weapons. He’ll sit on a stool in front of a microscope for fine detail work. For rifles and shotguns with longer barrels, he’ll use a hammer and chisel to do engravings. It saves time and stress on his arms and neck, Miller added.

In the first room of his workshop, he has a display of Bowie knives with a variety of decorative handles and guards.

“The shape of the guard tells what country it is from,” he said, and picked up a sheath hanging by a knife. “The sheaths are custom-made to fit the knife. I have an Amish gentleman who does customized leather work for me.”

What question do most people ask him the most — how long does it take to make a knife?

“No less than 10 hours and as much as 60 hours for a piece,” he said.

Why does he spend so much time doing the work by hand?

“It’s quality work and I didn’t want to lose the art of hand-forging. I have no one to pass the art on to so I want as many people to enjoy my work as they can,” Miller said, smiling.

Just the Facts Name: Terry L. Miller Sr. Age: 52 Current town: Howe Married: Debra Miller Hobbies and interests: "My wife and I participate in SASS, a cowboy action society. We do cowboy action shooting and compete for shooting times. Safety is the number one goal and we learn the proper handling of guns. We dress up in cowboy and cowgirl costumes. We go by aliases, so my wife is Buckshot Lily and I am Indiana Carver."