In case you haven’t heard, Walter “Blackie” Collins passed away in a motorcycle crash yesterday. We thought that we would take a minute to celebrate his career, since he has been one of the most influential knifemakers for decades.
As the legend goes, Blackie Collins knew that he wanted to make knives early. His second grade teacher at a small grammar school in South Carolina once asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up. “I want to make guns and knives,” he answered. The teacher didn’t like that much. “She got a very stern look and said, ‘By the time you’re grown, there won’t be any more guns and knives,’ ” reflected Collins.
Luckily, this early detractor didn’t faze Blackie and he started tinkering with knives right away. His dream to become a knifemaker was fully realized in 1965 when he sold his first custom knife. Blackie then started his first shop in Atlanta, Ga in 1969, but has since moved it to North, South Carolina. (No, really I’m not making that up.)
He worked with Smith and Wesson during the 1970’s where he perfected many of his knife design techniques.
In 1970, Blackie was one of the founding members of the Knifemakers Guild.
He started Blade Magazine in 1973 (he has since sold it).
He has published several book about knives including: “How Knives are Made,” “Knife Throwing: Sport-Survival-Defense,” “How to Scrimshaw and Carve Ivory,” and “Personal Defense.”
In the 1980’s Blackie did some design work for Gerber Knives. He and Peter Gerber saw the practicality of using all synthetic handle materials, instead of bone or wood, which was being used exclusively at the time. The knife that resulted was the L.S.T. (Light Strong Touch) and was the first knife with a molded Zytel handle. It has been popular for over 20 years, and is still in the Gerber catalog today.
During this time, Blackie Collins also saw the advantage of using a Cordura sheath for knives rather than leather which was also used exclusively. He started a nylon sheath making company which he sold to Fiskars (parent company of Gerber Knives).
He has patented several knife mechanisms. Included in this list is the Bolt Action Locking mechanism which has been used on several knives (including the Gerber Parabellum) and was recently honored by Spyderco in their “Sage” series.
In 1996 Blackie Collins was inducted into the Cutlery Hall of Fame.
In 1996 he also partnered with Bill Meyer to create the knife company Meyerco. They were immediately pioneers in the knife world since they were the first company to release an assisted opening knife. Today Meyerco is credited with inventing the spring assisted knife.
In 1997 Blackie Collins and Meyerco won the “Most Innovative American Knife of the Year” Award for the Strut’N’Cut.
Blackie Collins actually holds over 60 patents on knife mechanisms and many design patents on cutlery products. He was a knifemaking legend, and will be sorely missed.
Some of our favorite Blackie Collins designs: