Daniel Winkler Bio
Daniel Winkler, Master Bladesmith
Daniel Winkler became fascinated with the history of Early America as a child. It was that fascination that prompted him to become a historical enactor and, subsequently, a world-renowned maker of utilitarian art. Daniel made his first knife in 1975 as part of an effort to authentically outfit himself with the equipment of an 18th Century woodsman. Upon completing that knife, he knew he had found his career.
Winkler sold his first knife in 1984. Initially, his knife making was a creative outlet that helped defray the expenses of primitive treks and attending rendezvous. As demand for his work increased among enactors, he also began to offer his work through art and craft fairs. He attended his first knife show in 1987- the BLADE Show in Knoxville, Tennessee. During this period, he also worked as a research and development technician in the giftware industry, under the direction of Karen Shook. Shook began making Winkler’s sheaths in 1985. The combination of Karen’s unique leather work and Daniel’s historically influenced designs was so well received and demand so high, both quit their jobs in March 1988 to pursue full-time careers in the custom knife industry.
Daniel Winkler was an anomaly in his early years as a custom knifemaker. Black blades that looked like they had been oxidizing for hundreds of years were confused as Winkler’s inability to do satin or mirror finishes. It soon became obvious that Daniel’s style was his passion for history rather than any lack of skill. That style was quickly embraced and sought after by collectors from around the world, and led to Winkler being commissioned to create knives and axes for principal actors in the motion picture Last of the Mohicans. He was accredited as a Master Bladesmith in the American Bladesmith Society in 1993, meaning that he had evolved to the forging of high-performance pattern welded steel. Over the years Daniel won numerous awards for his work. and was a featured artist via multiple print and video outlets.
Winkler has always considered edged tools to be utilitarian art. His attitude was and remains that form without function renders a knife or axe useless. Daniel began competing in American Bladesmith Society Cutting Competitions in 2004. He placed at numerous qualifying events, making him eligible to compete at the 2005 American Bladesmith Society International Cutting Competition where he placed third. He continued to compete, winning several events, through ICCT (International Cutting Competition Trail) and Blade Sports International. Winkler says that he learned more about blade geometry and heat treating during his years of competing than he did in his previous 20+ year making knives.
From the beginning and throughout his career Daniel has drawn inspiration from the knives and axes of the American Frontier- a time when the equipment a person carried meant sustenance and survival. His goal has always been to create tools of unfailing performance, while maintaining a recognizable style. When demand for his work exceeded his ability to hand forge specialized equipment for Tier 1 Special Operations Force Team in 2006, Daniel adapted his 31 years of knifemaking experience into a stock removal line of products called Winkler Knives II. The “II” was intended to infer “also” and to separate the new product line from DWinkler hand forged goods.
Daniel Winkler and Karen Shook no longer accept commissions for their one-of-a-kind wares, although they occasionally practice their craft and offer the results through auctions or lotteries. They have dropped the “II” from Winkler Knives, as the Company is no longer an “also” but, instead, the core of their endeavors. To Daniel Winkler, there is no greater fulfillment as a knifemaker than to make goods on which people can literally stake their lives.
- Daniel seldom entered competitions. Numerous awards were bestowed (*) based on his contributions to the custom knife industry, or selection from among all exhibitors (**) by the presenter.
- Beretta Outstanding Achievement Award 1991(*)
- Damascus USA Award 1993(**)
- Best Utility Hunter- Blade Show 1998
- Best Utility Hunter of the Year- Blade Magazine 1998
- Frieberg Comradery Award 2006(*)
- Most Innovative Design- Blade Show 2009
- The Last of the Mohicans
- Zero Dark Thirty
- Suicide Squad