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Why join the ABS?


Johnathan Sibley
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My wife just asked me what on the face of it I took as a silly question. Upon trying to formulate a response I was stumped.

 

 

It got me to thinking. What are the benefits of membership? What does your $60 a year get you? Nowhere on the ABS site are there listed the benefits and privileges of being a member other than :

-access to the ABS Forum

-ability to show at ABS shows

-ability to testing for the title of Journeyman Smith (after 3 years of membership)

-then the ability to test for Master Smith.

If you don't pay your $60 do you loose your standing as a Journeyman or Master smith?

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To get the stamp, you need to be an ABS member. To keep the stamp, you have to keep up your dues. Whether having the stamp is important to you, I cannot answer.

 

Geoff

"The worst day smithing is better than the best day working for someone else."

 

I said that.

 

If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.

- - -G. K. Chesterton

 

So, just for the record: the fact that it does work still should not be taken as definitive proof that you are not crazy.

 

Grant Sarver

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I am of the same mind, I used to be a member of the RMS (Rocky Mountain Smiths) and left because the only benefit was the monthly article they sent out, which usually wasn't much. as well as access to classes and workshops that you still had to pay for. Which were usually 2-3 hours outside of denver.

 

I feel like I have learned way more from the smiths on here than i did from the smiths in ABS or RMS. I get the idea of being able to say that a major organization recognizes you as a journeyman or master.

"Behold, I have created the smith who blows the fire of coals and produces a weapon for its purpose. I have also created the ravager to destroy;"-Isaiah 54:16

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To get the stamp, you need to be an ABS member. To keep the stamp, you have to keep up your dues. Whether having the stamp is important to you, I cannot answer.

 

Geoff

 

What Geoff said.

 

It's all about the stamp. The ABS has some relatively arbitrary rules associated with aesthetics and performance. Many of them are big departures from historical forms, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Getting the stamp (either JS or MS) means you've proven that you have the mastery of the craft to conform to their rules.

 

It's not a bad idea for someone who wants to sell knives. The MS stamp is a good marketing tool.

 

I personally don't care for the organization because it feels too much like a religion to me. YMMV.

 

Cheers,

 

Dave

-----------------------------------------------

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly." -- Theodore Roosevelt

http://stephensforge.com

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Being north of the border and only a handful of Masters n the entire country it's extremely difficult to have the performance test done.....that said it is possible as there is another handful of journeyman in Canada that have successfully completed the test, but given certain geography it's not always ideal without expense and travel.....I do and have done my own performance test many times now over the past few years, chop, cut rope, shave, bend , No it doesn't get you a stamp but I'm more interested at this point in how well the knives are made and perform.......but a good question Johnathan

Edited by BCROB

"Never Quit On Improving"

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I'm not a big fan of the ABS but let's be fair, they are only asking you to make a knife to their standards for their testing and judging. After that you can make a knife anyway that you want to make it; two inches wide, 14 inches long with no ricasso or guard if you want. Just read their rules, they're not saying that their way is right and all others are wrong. They're just stating what their standards are.

 

I do have to admit that I was a bit turned off by the attitude of some of the Master Smiths who were present at a class on ABS judging when I went to a hammer-in in Ohio. The class was given by a senior Master Smith from the ABS and he was informative but he also stated that he felt that it was nearly impossible to pass the judging unless you took a knifesmithing class at the Bill Moran School or worked under the supervision of a Master Smith. Now, granted, doing one or the other of those is probably a highly recommended thing to do but I think that their standards should have been clear enough for an applicant to follow. I understand that the ABS has clarified their standards since that hammer-in. I did ask another Master Smith how long was the maximum length for a knife submitted for judging and was told that it was probably around 10". Well with all the time, money, and energy that an applicant has to spend in preparing his or her knives for judgment I think that they deserve a little better guidance than a probably. There was also a Master Smith who stated that if an applicant showed up to his shop to do the performance test with a clear piece of 2X4 then he'd find a 2X4 in his shop that had some knots in it and require the applicant to chop through knots even though there is no requirement in the standard for it.

 

Needless to say I left the hammer-in rather turned off by the ABS and decided that for someone who was probably never going to break even on this knife smithing hobby going for an ABS stamp or being a member was more than I wanted to do.

 

Doug

HELP...I'm a twenty year old trapped in the body of an old man!!!

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The ABS is a trade organization, much like other trade organizations. I belong to several trade organizations and have maintained membership in many others for periods of time. Blacksmith and knife making as well as building trades, building codes, rescue work, art leagues, and others too numerous to mention here.

Yes, you get access to shows that otherwise you would not. That translates into access to markets that you otherwise do not have. You also have access to hammer-ins and other events and learning experiences that you don't have access to as a non-member. That's not saying that the ABS is the only source for these types of events, it's just there are ABS member only events and information/learning avenues.

Yes, there are some rules about what can and cannot be presented for the JS and MS stamp tests. Every organization has these sorts of criteria for what ever certifications they award. This is not unusual. That's not the same as saying that as a ABS smith you are not allowed to make whatever you please, It's just that submissions for JS and MS have to meet the specified criteria.

I guess membership value is directly proportionate to what you want to achieve. For some, the recognition of the stamp represents a certain achievement in terms of recognition of quality. It does not necessarily translate into higher value for your knives or higher sales rates, but it does open up markets and introduce you to potential clientele that you would otherwise not have access to.

As Dave pointed out the ABS emphasizes a certain esthetic and form. If that form is appealing to you, there are plenty of great smiths in the ABS willing to share their knowledge and expertise to help you get there. If that style and form is not what appeals to you, and you have no desire to work hard at perfecting that form, then ABS membership might not seem worthwhile. There may be other knife making organizations devoted to the forms and esthetics you want to pursue.

 

I can tell you this: I have found that membership value is directly proportionate to the effort you put in to it, in any organization. Put a lot of effort into the organization's mission and vision, get a lot back. Do the minimum required, get the minimum back.

 

For me right now, I have to choose. Do I want the ABS JS stamp or the firey beard? The ABS stamp would be far easier to get, but the firey beard would probably be a lot more fun. The ABS stamp will open doors to certain buyers and markets, the firey beard will expand my creative abilities and broaden my skill set. This is a really tough decision...........not kidding.

“So I'm lightin' out for the territory, ahead of the scared and the weak and the mean spirited, because Aunt Sally is fixin’ to adopt me and civilize me, and I can't stand it. I've been there before.”

The only bad experience is the one from which you learn nothing.  

 

Josh

http://www.dosgatosdesignsllc.com/#!

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdJMFMqnbLYqv965xd64vYg

J.States Bladesmith | Facebook

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Being north of the border and only a handful of Masters n the entire country it's extremely difficult to have the performance test done.....that said it is possible as there is another handful of journeyman in Canada that have successfully completed the test, but given certain geography it's not always ideal without expense and travel.....I do and have done my own performance test many times now over the past few years, chop, cut rope, shave, bend , No it doesn't get you a stamp but I'm more interested at this point in how well the knives are made and perform.......but a good question Johnathan

You do not have to complete the performance test separately from presenting your knives for the JS jury test. You can arrange to take the performance test in Atlanta at the annual Blade Show in June and in the same weekend present your 5 knives for judging. So if you are confident that you can make a knife to pass the test, you can take the test in Atlanta when you go to present for the jury test. You will have to pass the performance test the day prior to the judging/jury test. You might be able to arrange the same thing at the ICCE show in Kansas City in September.

“So I'm lightin' out for the territory, ahead of the scared and the weak and the mean spirited, because Aunt Sally is fixin’ to adopt me and civilize me, and I can't stand it. I've been there before.”

The only bad experience is the one from which you learn nothing.  

 

Josh

http://www.dosgatosdesignsllc.com/#!

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdJMFMqnbLYqv965xd64vYg

J.States Bladesmith | Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/dos.gatos.71

https://www.etsy.com/shop/JStatesBladesmith

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Joshua, are you certain about the shows and hammer-ins that are not open to non-members? I was not an ABS member at the hammer-in that I attended. It was as much as a recruitement event as an instructional weekend. As far as I know the only advantage membership gives you is the right to test.

 

Doug

HELP...I'm a twenty year old trapped in the body of an old man!!!

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No I am not certain. I have been an ABS member for something like 6 years and have only attended a single ABS event. I do think there are other events open to members only, but I may be mistaken. Hopefully other ABS smiths on this forum much more involved in the ABS than I will weigh in here.

“So I'm lightin' out for the territory, ahead of the scared and the weak and the mean spirited, because Aunt Sally is fixin’ to adopt me and civilize me, and I can't stand it. I've been there before.”

The only bad experience is the one from which you learn nothing.  

 

Josh

http://www.dosgatosdesignsllc.com/#!

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdJMFMqnbLYqv965xd64vYg

J.States Bladesmith | Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/dos.gatos.71

https://www.etsy.com/shop/JStatesBladesmith

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I am a JS holder. For me, it has been a good thing to aim at known standard and achieve that. Yes, I know, the standard is a moving target to some extent, but it's there and it's a thing. When asked (like now, I guess) I say that there are plenty of great makers that have nothing to do with the ABS, you don't need us to validate you. OTOH, some of the best makers in the world are ABS stamp holders and I enjoy being part of that and the effort it took me to get here.

 

That said, it's not for everyone. Having the stamp won't make you a better maker (though you got to be a pretty good one to get the stamp). It won't necessarily improve your sales.

 

Right now I'm working on my Master (OK, to be truthful, right now I'm going to have surgery on one, and probably both, shoulders, so right now, rehab is my full time job). I'm going to wait until the presentation pieces are 95% done before I do the performance test again. The performance knife doesn't scare me (anymore. much, nope, not hardly), so I will do that last, this time. That is the way I would suggest anyone who asks do it. Make a couple, test them, then do the 5. Once you have the 5 done, do the performance test (which starts a 3 year clock) then start agonizing over the pieces you are going to present. That is what I should have done for my JS.

 

In the end, it's the effort that is valuable, the stamp is gravy.

 

Geoff

"The worst day smithing is better than the best day working for someone else."

 

I said that.

 

If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.

- - -G. K. Chesterton

 

So, just for the record: the fact that it does work still should not be taken as definitive proof that you are not crazy.

 

Grant Sarver

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The only event that I KNOW of that is ABS only (well, and KMGA) is the ICCE show in KC. The ABS sponsored some hammer-ins out here in the West, and I think they were open to anyone with the entry money.

 

Geoff

"The worst day smithing is better than the best day working for someone else."

 

I said that.

 

If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.

- - -G. K. Chesterton

 

So, just for the record: the fact that it does work still should not be taken as definitive proof that you are not crazy.

 

Grant Sarver

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Thanks for the clarification Geoff.

I do agree: Having the stamp doesn't make you a better smith, but getting the stamp will.

JMO

 

Maybe JD Smith will chime in?

“So I'm lightin' out for the territory, ahead of the scared and the weak and the mean spirited, because Aunt Sally is fixin’ to adopt me and civilize me, and I can't stand it. I've been there before.”

The only bad experience is the one from which you learn nothing.  

 

Josh

http://www.dosgatosdesignsllc.com/#!

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdJMFMqnbLYqv965xd64vYg

J.States Bladesmith | Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/dos.gatos.71

https://www.etsy.com/shop/JStatesBladesmith

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In today's world of the internet and freely shared information, it's hard to qualify the benefits of paid membership to an organization.

First we should remember "internet and freely shared information" is a recent state. Before it, for many areas of interest, the only source of information was these organizations. For those that simply want the free information and nothing more, the organizations offer little. However, one should also remember, the information on the internet is wrong as often as it is right. When you go to a ABS Master smith, and while you may not agree with his point of view, it's based on skill and experience.

The advantages to being a member of ABS is little if you do nothing with it. However, if you're in the pursuit of excellence, ABS is a very good path to follow.

How much you interact and how involved you become will effect how much benefit you perceive. If you attend the hammer-ins and by enjoy the benefits of attendance, is that not reason enough to join? If an organization volunteers time and money to organize and host something you find value, why would you not want to return the support?

Edited by Gerald Boggs
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I spent the first 18 years or so of my career fighting tooth and nail against joining the ABS. then three years ago I realized I was doing my self a disservice.

my reasons at first had to do with expanding my knife making sales, by getting my stamps as well as increasing my ability to teach and eventily being able to teach at the ABS schools.

I had met several MS over prevous few years that gave me hope of solving a lot of the issues I have/had with the ABS folks like Kevin Cashen, who are working to dispel the BS and fighting to make the ABS what it has the potential to be .

Once I did join and I got involved. I found it to be very different than what i pictured it as. I met other MS and JS smiths that are working to bring about the same changes. I think Nick Rossi JS said it best "come for the knives , stay for the people."

I have met many skilled and knowledgeable smiths and like to think I have made a lot of friends in the ABS, that allow for me would be enough to keep paying my dues. The hammer in in Maine is now one of my regular events.

On the subject of the testing now that I am going through the process of testing for my JS my attitude about the test has changed. I will say it sucks, it is hard, and expensive and full of ambiguity. It is also making me a far better knifemaker. I have learned far more than i expected and improved my skill set in several areas. It has forced a mastery and control of my process that i had thought i had but did not until now. If i pass at blade that will be awesome, (and believe me when I say I am going to try my hardest ) if not I will have still gained from the experience.

MP

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I may be in the minority but I believe that if you are joining the ABS solely to obtain a MS stamp then you're joining for the wrong reason. I have been a member for many years without ever testing and have no plans of ever testing for either JS or MS as that's not why I joined. I joined because their purpose and mission is solely to educate and promote the forged blade.

 

Yes, through the ABS I have expanded my bladesmithing skills. And I appreciate the exchange of knowledge & techniques that I have gotten from associating with it's members but I continue to support the organization mainly "to keep the hand forged blade a continuing craft and viable occupation". I went as far as to donate one of my better knives last year to the organization with the agreement that the total sales price would go toward a youth scholarship to their bladesmithing school. Is there another organization that would do this? I can't think of any.

 

Earlier it was stated that any organization is only what you put into it. I COULDN'T AGREE MORE!

 

And yes, you will see me at The ICCE Show in Kansas City this fall where I will be proudly wearing one of my ABS shirts.

 

Gary

Edited by Gary Mulkey

Gary

 

ABS,CKCA,ABKA,KGA

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If you think that membership "......is all about the stamp", you've missed the point entirely.

A low level evening on the town or a steak dinner for two can easily cost you 60 bucks. A full tank of gas is 50 bucks.

Organizations don't run for free.

My circle of incredibly close dear friends went from minuscule to enormous in a matter of a few years. The people and friendships I now share are my benefits.

It seems too many people want something FROM the groups they're members of for their dues.

I find out on a daily basis what I can contribute TO the organization and its members. What I get personally from my participation in the ABS and the other members far, far outweighs any cost on my part - which is next to nothing.

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The cross section of people in the ABS is no more different than the cross section of people on the street.

There are gems and there are dick heads.

You'll find some of each in the ABS.

It should be no surprise.

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At the risk of sounding cliche, I noticed Gary Mulkey's reply after I posted mine.

They are very similar in nature and from people who give rather than look to receive.

 

My biggest fun since joining is to teach and instruct at hammer-ins.

That's what being a member is to me, and why I find the ABS so valuable.

Edited by Karl B. Andersen
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What Karl said is spot on.

I don't know if I will pursue my JS stamp or not. I have never been able to attend a single ABS sponsored event other than the ICCE show last year.

I still upped my membership for the next 5 years. Why? Because I like a bunch of the people, and I want to support the ABS mission of promoting the forged blade. I also get in some pretty good discussions on the ABS forum. :huh: I've had some pretty good one on one discussions with several ABS MS.

I see work by ABS smiths like Karl, Lin Rhea, Tim Hancock, J D Smith, Dee Hedges, (the list goes on and on) and I think there might be something to this.

 

You get back in exponential proportion to what you give. For me, the dues are squat compared to the benefits of knowing these people.

 

Karl: $50 to fill the tank? You must have a small truck!

“So I'm lightin' out for the territory, ahead of the scared and the weak and the mean spirited, because Aunt Sally is fixin’ to adopt me and civilize me, and I can't stand it. I've been there before.”

The only bad experience is the one from which you learn nothing.  

 

Josh

http://www.dosgatosdesignsllc.com/#!

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdJMFMqnbLYqv965xd64vYg

J.States Bladesmith | Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/dos.gatos.71

https://www.etsy.com/shop/JStatesBladesmith

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