A full color collectors book on the history of Harry Morseth,
Steve Morseth and the famed Morseth knives, loaded with detailed
information, quality photos, and the anecdotes that could only be
obtained from those who built the legend. An outstanding book,
A few quotes from purchasers...
"This is a must read for all knife enthusiasts and not just for fans of the Morseth knives but also for those who have a general interest in the early, high quality cutlery of the 20th century in the America and their founders."
"WOW!" It is an impressive and comprehensive reference which is beautifully done. Thanks for your great work."
"The book is outstanding, there is some serious eye candy in there for sure and excellent history. The photo of the young Gordon with Harry is something that only a family member could have put there hands on."
"I received the Book and started in on it, I can say without a doubt that this is the finest quality production, the best illustrated and most collectible knife book I have owned (or do own). You (and the publisher) should be very proud!"
Reviewed by Mac Overton
This is a super-quality book – slick paper, hard-cover, slip-cased. But beyond that, it contains a wealth of information about Harry Morseth, one of the true pioneers in the field of hand-made knives.
The profusely illustrated volume starts with Harry Morseth’s family in Norway and his emigration to the U.S. when he was 17, his entry through Canada, and eventual employment at a lumber company in Everett, Washington. There he worked in the repair shop, and soon learned how to use the lathes, milling machines, drills and planers there to make knives from old planer blades made of A-2 steel. Around 1920, he set up a small knife-making shop in the back yard of the home to where the family had moved.
I am fascinated by Morseth knives because one of the earliest hand-made knife catalogs I ever received was from Harry Morseth. A vengeful ex-wife burned it rather than return it to me when she got the divorce she wanted. A copy of it is in this book.
The first Morseth hunting knives were apparently patterned after the Marble’s Ideal. I inherited one of those from my grandfather who raised me, and it is easily as good or better than most knives made today. The pictures on pages 25 and 26 clearly show the similarity in blade shape between a Morseth knife and the Ideal.
The book documents the transition from using A-2 planer blades to using laminated steel Brusletto blades Harry brought back from a trip home to Norway in 1938. It also documents what materials were used for handles and guards, such as how brass was used for guards and fittings on most knives Harry made during World War II, when nickel silver was hard to find. Whale bone and walrus tusks, obtained on a trip to Alaska, became handle material for some early knives. Harry also made some of the machinery for his shop. Beall writes “Saying Harry was creative is somewhat like saying Einstein was smart, it is a major understatement.”
The book further says that Harry’s Brusletto laminated blades were forged before 1948. In 1948, that firm began using a 60-ton press for cutting blades from strips of laminated steel. The laminated blades consisted of a 1/16-inch thick layer of high-carbon steel, sandwiched between layers of soft, ductile iron.
Collectors will be interested to note that from 1946 to 1951, Morseth blades measured just under five inches long. Around 1953, he added a modified Bowie with a six-inch blade to the line. Also, he offered less-costly “utility” knives made of thinner stock than his regular line.
The book contains 15 chapters (including two addendums) and an incredible 227 photos, most in color. The main chapters include: (1.) Introduction, (2.) Birth of a Business, (3.) A Blade of the Best Traditions, (4.) Harry’s Knife-making in a Nutshell, (5.) The Patented Sheath, (6.) Harry’s Business in its Peak Years, (7.) A Different World, (8.) Steve’s Turn at the Helm, (9.) The Road to Morseth Divides, (10.) Morseth Goes to Arkansas, (11.) Arkansas’ Morseth Knives, (12.) Steve’s Last Years, and (13.) Steve Takes the Reins.
Some of the last chapters document the problems that faced the company as it was handed down to Steve Morseth, Harry’s grandson. While his knives may have been better designed and fitted than those from Harry, he tried to sell them at old-time prices, and, as knife entrepreneur A.G. Russell once wrote, “the result was knife-making disaster.”
The superlative knife maker, Bob Dozier, was hired by A.G. Russell to make Morseth Knives after A.G. bought the company. In addition to his own knives, Dozier made Morseths. (Morseths continued to use Brusletto laminated blades, while Dozier’s own utilized blades of D2, a steel of which he is an acknowledged master.) Dozier had a lot of input into the writing of this book, and wrote part of the introduction.
Finally, there are also the two Addendums, “Kit Knives Lose Their Edge” and “Morseth Knives by Time and Maker”. In particular, the second will be invaluable to collectors and users alike. It gives guidelines on identifying when and where a particular Morseth was made, and whether it was made by Harry, Steve, Bob Dozier or others.
I am not easily impressed, but found The Keen Edge of Perfection fascinating. In addition to all of the useul information for collectors, the book is filled with countless Morseth family anecdotes. And... evil ex... I now have copies of the catalogs you destroyed. I guess living well really is the best revenge.
The Keen Edge of Perfection: A History of the Morseth Knife
by James R. Beall with Gordon Morseth Sr.
Hardcover, 208 pp., complete with slipcase.
OUT OF PRINT -- Visit our Out of Print page to see if we have any used copies available.