From a small shop in his Citrus Park home, Bill King continues to hone his craft.
From lockbacks and straight-handle knives to pocket knives and switchblades, King has created more than 1,400 different knives in more than 37 years of working in the ancient art.
His proudest moment was being commissioned to make a hunting knife for Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, whom he greatly admired. He personally presented the knife to Schwarzkopf and became a friend.
He also made a set of three knives that were sold to an attorney in Atlanta, who in turn sold the knives to knife collector – and actor – Nicholas Cage. Cage later contacted Bill to compliment him on the craftsmanship and sharpness of the knives.
“I’ve always carried knives,” he said. “Ever since I was a boy. I’ve always thought that no man should ever leave home in the morning without a sharp, functional knife in his pocket, and I still believe that. When I meet a man for the first time, one of the first things I ask him is if he is carrying a pocket knife, and if he is, to let me see it.”
King says his mentor was Frank Centofanti, who in turn had learned the trade from another grinder, Melvin Pardue. King was privileged to know both men and began to practice the trade himself in 1976.
He is a member of the National Knife Maker’s Guild, the Florida Knife Maker’s Association and the Hillsborough Gator Club, an assembly of knife-makers not to be confused with University of Florida alumni.
He – along with other knife-makers – primarily sells his knives at gun and knife shows, fairs and craft shows. For King, the majority of his knives cost from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars each, with every one painstakingly handcrafted, from forging the blade from raw steel, to the springs, the frame and the handle.
“Everything is handmade,” King says.
He has two small rooms in the shop beside his home; a grinding room where he fashions and grinds each blade, and an assembly room where he puts together the complete knife. His array of tools and machinery include a drill press, a small welding machine, a 50-year-old metal cutting saw and numerous lathes, grinding wheels and hand tools.
For more information about King Custom Knives, call (813) 961-3455.