Harry & Charlie Mathews
What started as a hobby for local twins Harry and Charlie Mathews, has turned into a very specialized business. They have become master craftsmen of custom knives created for clients and for competition. The Mathews started their custom knife business, Twin Blades, in 2002, a few years after retiring from Statesboro Telephone Company.
Their Dad’s uncle, James L. Mathews, along with three other Statesboro businessmen, including Mayor James A. Brannen, who served as president, founded Statesboro Telephone Company in 1901. The twins and their brother Joe began working at the company early, “Our dad went to work there after World War II and attending Georgia Tech. We worked there all through high school and did everything,” Harry said.
When the company was sold, Harry was serving as president, Charlie as Vice President over billing and revenue accounting, and Joe as Vice President over the commercial offices.
At a young age, the twins enjoyed outdoor activities like hunting, and enjoyed collecting and trading knives. Charlie bought his first custom knife while in high school.
After graduating from Georgia Southern with degrees in Biology, Charlie attended Gunsmithing School in Colorado, while Harry went to Georgia Tech and the University of Kansas to study management accounting. They each married after college, Harry to Alice, and Charlie to Susan.
Their love of knives continued as they hunted during their spare time while working for Statesboro Telephone. The twins have hunted in Alaska, Texas, and Wyoming, and always carried knives as part of their gear. That’s how they became so keenly aware of the function of knives and how they handle. They are especially drawn to the way knives are made, the balance, the cut of the blade, the finish of the metals, and the meticulous asymmetrical details.
The brothers built a shop for crafting their knives on the west side of Statesboro next to the woods, fields and a hunting cabin. A dog keeps them company and sounds the alarm if anyone approaches as they go about crafting in the rustic setting.
The walls of the shop are lined with strips of sanding belts hanging from hooks like giant bundles of rubber bands. The work benches are covered in hand tools, some designed to carve, some to rasp, some to sharpen, some inherited from their grandfather who owned Smith’s Jewelers in downtown Statesboro for many years.
The shop also contains equipment and machines needed to create the knife blades out of the tempered strips of medal: grinders, sanders, and a kiln.
The knives they work on begin as long strips of metal that must be cut and tempered to strengthen the steel. Most knife base designs are done freehand or by a hand drawn template. Each one is custom made from bar strip of metal to finished product. After the metal is cut it is heated to 1950° and soaked for 30 minutes, then reheated to 725°. This method insures that the knife won’t break with multiple uses and won’t need re-sharpening.
Many of the custom designs are interpretations of knives from the 19th century. Blades are finished as flat grinds or hollow grinds depending on the use of the knife. The knife is sanded on the belt, then hand polished in a horizontal direction creating a satin finish that doesn’t show scratches as much or reflect in the field as much as a mirror finish would.
The handles are crafted from a myriad of materials including elk horns, pre 1900 elephant and mammoth ivory, composite materials, and deer antlers. Metal etchings are also incorporated into the designs and are done by Jim Small.
The twins are members of the Knifemakers’ Guild, an organization dedicated to “the promotion of custom knives and knifemakers, to assisting the knifemaker technically, to encouraging ethical and professional business conduct, and to sponsor an annual business meeting and knife show.”
Harry and Charlie attend the yearly knife shows and competitions and have won awards for their creations. They enjoy participating in the Knife Guide and have been asked to teach classes. There are no secrets the two won’t disclose about knife-making. They prefer to share their knowledge to promote the industry.
Most hand work that takes a great amount of time and patience is now done by machinery, but Harry and Charlie enjoy working with their hands and crafting to perfection the designs they create.
They also create the matching sheaths for the knives. The sheaths are made from top grade leather or pig skin oiled and coated with bees wax to weatherproof. They are hand stitched with a punch and individually fitted to each knife. Most sheaths have a design incorporated that is shared with the knife inside. You know you are looking at a Twin Blades knife by the crossed blades that make up the logo and the dogwood blossom designs on each brad.
The twins have built a stellar reputation in knife maker’s circles for being craftsmen and artist of the highest caliber. Their knives are constructed with a patience and precision that is hard to match. There is also high demand for Twin Blades products. The knives are heirloom quality and if well cared for can be passed down for generations.
“It’s a hobby that we treat like a business,” said Harry. "If we didn’t sell another knife, we would continue to make them. It’s something we just love doing.”
For more information visit www.twinxblades.com