A Cut Above

Glide knife maker Jim Corrado has earned widespread acclaim for his skillful handling of beautiful, sharp objects.

Story by Geoff Shipley Photos by Tom Boyd

Acclaimed knife maker Jim Corrado grew up surrounded by sharp objects.

His family’s store in downtown Chicago — Corrado Cutlery — offered the ultimate education in, as he says, “anything that goes cut.”

Serving customers and preparing shipments eventually led a young Corrado to inspecting and repairing an array of knives, nippers and scissors. When a supply issue arose with a stock of throwing knives, he evolved his skills by finishing the knives at home.

“It was horrible work,” says Corrado with a quick laugh. “These big buffing wheels polishing these huge knives. It was neat because I was at least making things, but I wanted something more challenging.”

After graduating high school in Oak Park, Ill., and joining The Knifemakers’ Guild, Corrado, now 64, purchased eight acres west of Cavitt Creek outside of Glide and moved to Oregon in 1980. He’s been making things there ever since, including hand-forged scissors and the intricately detailed pocket-sized folding knives that offer the challenge he craves.

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Unlike most custom knife makers who tend to specialize, Corrado embraces both old-world and modern techniques. That’s why he’s equally adept at forging and folding 512 layers of steel into Damascus-style blades or adding computer-controlled stepper motors and drivers so a basic lathe can run the precision software he wrote himself.

“I use the computer as well as I use the file,” says Corrado, hinting at the range of tools available to the modern knife maker.

That dedication to realizing his vision has brought Corrado plenty of praise for his knife making, including editor’s choice awards (Knives ’83 catalog), commissions for multiple commemorative batches (Arizona and Oregon knife collectors associations) and seeing his creations in the hands of famous collectors (Chris Stein of rock band Blondie).

Over the past 15 years, Corrado’s knife making has taken a backseat to family life with wife Noriko and their son Takemi (daughter Carley, from a previous marriage, lives in Ashland). There’s also been the needed improvements to their forested hillside property. Relying on a single structure for both living and working proved too difficult.

“I didn’t have enough room for both the family and making knives,” he explains.

Along with constructing a studio and other outbuildings, Corrado has been exploring new modes of artistic expression, from woodworking and gardening to geopolitical research and crafting and flying radio-controlled model aircraft. He welcomes the variety.

“It’s been an opportunity to venture out into some other aspects of life I’d been avoiding,” says Corrado.

But knives are never far from his mind. With a woodworking shop recently completed and the all-important metalworking building under construction, Corrado considers his future knife creations with open optimism. Maybe he’ll revisit his award-winning “Wing” design, or perhaps he’ll craft another batch of limited-edition pocket folders for a collectors club.

“When this building’s done, I’ll be done with property changes and back to work,” says Corrado as he points to the chest-high concrete block walls of the metalworking shop. “There won’t be anything stopping me then.”