Saturday, February 27, 2016

Chuck Stapel, R.I.P.

I note the passing of legendary knifemaker and my good friend Chuck Stapel after a long illness. Chuck was the "knifemaker for Hollywood;" you saw his blades in "Quigley Down Under," "Django Unchained,"and dozens of television shows and commercials.

The thing I loved about Chuck was at some point in his spectacular career, he made the decision that he would only make the kind of knifes he wanted to make, as opposed to the ones he could sell by the truckload. It was an honorable decision, a man's decision.

Over the years Chuck and I talked about building a very special knife for me. There were lots of sketches exchanged, but nothing clicked. Then one day over dinner we came up with a novel idea, based on a cut-down dagger I saw in a European museum. I would write a "history" of a family heirloom knife, and Chuck would build that knife. No secret my people were Scots, Highlanders, and they got a free ride to the New World as indentured slaves. So I sketched out an outline about a Scottish dirk, banned, but smuggled to the New World. Over the decades, as the McBane, soon to be Bane, clan moved west with the Cherokee, the long dirk, almost a short sword, was shortened and the blade reconfigured to a more useful shape for a frontiersman — with the clan makings carefully preserved. A rough guard was added at one point, hilt changed with pieces of ivory, walnut, stones picked up along the way and rebuilt repeatedly over the years….etc. We'd commission a deerhide sheath beaded and fringed in the Cherokee style.

Chuck and I had a great time playing with this…it was exactly the sort of thing Chuck loved, kind of like the movies, a history that wasn't really reality.

Of course that knife never got built. I bought a Cold Steel Scottish Dirk, which we agreed would be a great base for the project, but you know how it goes. Chuck and I talked about it last year when I was out in Hollywood for GUN STORIES. He was busy with a bunch of exotic knives for a television series, I was up to my neck in GUN STORIES. We'd definitely get to the dirk next year.

Valhalla always has use for a master bladesmith. I'm sure if I listen very closely tonight, I can hear the steady rhythm of a hammer on steel.

Go with God, brother.


Joe in Memphis said...

Nice tribute. Sending condolences.

_DonWorsham_ said...

You write that McBane book , who knows might become a TV mini-series one day.

Anonymous said...

RIP, Mr. Stapel! I will always cherish the heirloom won from DRTV!


Anonymous said...

That was a great story! :-)

Joe Buford said...

He was a great guy! I needed an old looking knife for a movie project and had an old 14" knife I had been using in the yard as a machete:) Nicely rusted and no handle. He cleaned it up and put a nice, old looking stag handle on it and it was perfect! RIP fellow Barrister and brother!

Veteran said...

I met Chuck when he visited my small garage knife making shop when he and his wife were visiting relatives in Simi Valley, CA. Chuck showed up with half a dozen knives on his person and it seemed like he would never stop pulling knives from around his neck, hip pocket or elsewhere! He was very generous with much needed advice about tools and polishing technique! It was the highlight of this knife makers amateur vocation! Chuck was truly "one of the great gentlemen" of our time! You are sorely missed my friend!