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Bernie Kuntz: Saga of the Warenski knife

Pictured is a Buster Warenski-style drop point hunter made by Peter Del Raso of Melbourne, Australia. It features a satin-finished blade of CPM 154 steel, German silver bolsters and pins, a full tapered tang and handles made from stabilized giraffe bone. It comes with a hand-tooled, stitched leather sheath. The knife is now part of Bernie’s collection. Special to The Sun

This tale of the Warenski-style drop point hunter goes back to winter 1982, when I wrote a letter to legendary Utah knifemaker Buster Warenski, and asked about him making a drop point hunter for me.

He mailed a signed sketch that he had done on onion paper of the knife he suggested, and said the price would be $550. Gulp! In those days you could buy just about anyone's work for $100 to $200. An exception might be Bob Loveless, the famous knife designer who was charging $300 to $350 for a hunter in those days.

I was sick in bed with strep throat when Warenski phoned and asked if he should proceed with making the knife. As politely as I could, I declined his offer.

A year later I moved to Alaska and threw away all the brochures I had collected from knifemakers, along with the sketch that Warenski had sent to me. Today, I bet that sketch along with a color brochure of George Herron's knives would be worth enough to buy a nice knife. I discarded them both. Today, most knifemakers have a website and they correspond by e-mail. There was no such thing in 1982.

We moved from Alaska to Montana in 1986 but it wasn't until the early 1990s that Laurie and I both had suitable jobs in the same town. By the time, Warenski was making "art" knives, museum pieces that sold for thousands of dollars. He once made a replica of the King Tut dagger that he called "The Gem of the Orient", complete with 153 emeralds, nine diamonds and 28 ounces of gold. It is owned by a collector from Japan and recently was appraised at $2.1 million! Warenski died in 2005 at the age of 63.

Then, last year I blundered upon a picture in one of my KNIVES annuals of a Warenski-style hunter. It was made by Peter Del Raso of Melbourne, Australia. I e-mailed Del Raso, found him to be a personable fellow, 57 years old, of Italian descent, who has been making knives for more than 25 years.

We conversed for several months while Peter worked on the knife. Initially, I was going to go with sambar stag handles but Peter e-mailed pictures to me and suggested stabilized giraffe bone instead. We agreed on a CPM 154 blade, German nickel silver bolsters and pins. The knife cost $900 and it arrived in the mail shortly after Christmas. It is one of the finest, most exquisite knives in my collection with the curves, flow and style of a real Buster Warenski knife.

When I forwarded pictures of the knife to my friend Dave in Helena, he replied, "I think that may be the most beautiful knife I have ever laid eyes on!"

It took 36 years but I finally have a Warenski-style hunter in my knife collection.

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