Thursday, March 4, 2010

Dancing Man Knives and Ulus

Over the next month, I hope to write a few stories about the creation of some of the inventory we select (or make) for the Chicken Gold Camp. Since our inception ten years ago, we have tried to offer primarily Alaska and Yukon made product. In the last few years, we have leaned more towards one-of-a-kind art than mass-produced items. A few years ago, we starting selling "Dancing Man Knives and Ulus" made by Maynard Linder. Maynard collects all of his steel, mostly in the form of old saw blades, and caribou antler sheds on the Seward Peninsula during the summer months and fashions authentic ulus and knives over the remainder of the year.

Today, I visited Maynard and Brian, one of his carvers. Brian is now doing scrimshaw for which I will be doing a separate story in the next few days. Maynard's shop is housed in a small "shack" in the hills above Kachemak Bay. Beautiful vista outdoors and indoors an assortment of saws, grinders, buffers and other tools of the trade all literaaly buried in bone, antler, saw blades, antler and bone dust, various piles of partially finished product and more dust!

Maynard and Brian explained and demonstrated the some of the steps taken to produce knives and ulus. The blades are cut from old saw blades (cross-saws and other antique, high carbon steel blades) in the shape needed for the desired style of ulu or knife, which there are a large variety offered. The handles are cut and shaped from caribou, moose or deer antler, oosik, ivory, musk ox horn or rib bones from extinct Stellar Sea Cows. They are sliced to accept the end of the steel blade. The steel is set in epoxy and rivited through the handle and blade. The blade is sharpened and the handle polished. Some of the handles are then scrimshawed.

We are honored to offer Maynard's Dancing Man products. We feel that the knives and ulus are a truly unique representation of Alaska's rich and diverse cultural past. Here is Maynard holding a rib from the extinct Stellar's Sea Cow...


  1. Hey, I don't hear/see mention of Rowan making knives. She works making knives and ulus for Maynard, has for a long time, do I sense a gender thing here???!!

    1. Brian and maynard were the only ones there; no one mentioned Rowan...sorry.

  2. This is what true craftsmanship is all about and I never held an ulus in my hand :) Even by looking at the knives one can say that its from Alaska because people around the world knows the rich culture of Alaska.

  3. I own two of Maynard's knives, and they are my true workhorses! They stay razor sharp forever and far outperform my other handmade knives.

  4. I own several of Maynard's knives and ulus and they are terrific.

  5. My father just bought me one of these knives while in Alaska for a caribou hunt. Not only is it a beautiful knife but also functional, one of the smoothest cutting knives I've ever used.

  6. Wow, cool post. I’d like to write like this too – taking time and real hard work to make a great article… but I put things off too much and never seem to get started. Thanks though. salsa dancing

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