David Taber Brings Fresh Materials to Traditional Slipjoints

Custom traditional maker David Taber of DRT Knives is experimenting with materials and builds on his slipjoints. Winona, Minnesota-based Taber’s recent pieces have showcased unique designs and uncommon materials, which may evolve into more experimentation down the line.

One of Taber’s recent projects has been the TC Tribute [see image above]. Named after Todd Cuso, a prominent member of the knife community, the TC Tribute was drawn up by Cuso’s close friend Long Nguyen and handmade by Taber. The knife is comprised of dramatic lines not usually associated with traditional knives. Measuring 3 5/8-inch closed, the TC Tribute’s blade is an acutely pointed wharncliffe whose claw-like shape is highlighted by a meticulous swedge. Its two-stage handle drops in thickness 2/3 of the way down, tapering down and also creating a natural place for pinch-opening the knife (which otherwise opens with a nail mark). “It’s a slipjoint with a tactical layer to it, unlike most slipjoints,” Taber tells us.

To fit with the modern stylings, Taber has made the TC Tribute model primarily out of modern synthetics. The latest version sports ivory Micarta covers and a bolster made from Fordite, a hard material made from hardened scraps of automobile paint. In the case of Taber’s particular samples of Fordite, the paint comes from Corvettes. The result is a multi-hued look that changes depending on how you cut it. “Every color a Corvette’s ever been painted in is these chunks,” Taber says. Carbon fiber, unique Micartas, and even Carboquartz show up on Taber’s knives as cover and bolster materials.

Despite his penchant for modern material twists, Taber started learning his craft from one of the giants of traditional slipjoint making: Tony Bose. Taber, an orthodontist by trade, and Bose started out as friends; but as Taber developed a knack for making knives in addition to collecting them, Bose offered advice, techniques, and knife patterns. The lessons weren’t formal, and Taber took lessons from other makers as well, but remembers two key pieces of advice from Bose. “He said never do something if you’re in a hurry, and don’t try to be all things to all people.”

Taber talked to us about his plans for the future. He has made a few more modern, locking knives for customers over the years, and is considering exploring the idea of screw-construction slipjoint knives in the future. Not because he thinks traditionals are losing their appeal; in fact, Taber says the division between modern and traditional may be less of a wall than it initially appears. “For a lot of collectors starting out today, the tactical scene is more current, more attractive. But at some point they’ll say ‘Where did this all start?’ And they look at traditional slipjoints.”

Knife featured in image: David Taber TC Tribute