Billy was a very talented man. Not only with his knives, but he was an ingenious tool and die maker, innovative experimenter, artist, poet and had a broad general knowledge and a quirky sense of humour.
Billy was of Austrian decent. Most people took his accent to be German and therefore often did not quite get his humour. Take for example the guild show where Billy entered a “survival” knife into a competition where you could eat the handle, if you got really hungry – the handle slabs were made of biltong (beef jerky)!
My first lesson from Billy was one I did not quite know how to accept. I was a 12 year old beginner, showing Billy some really “novice” knives at a show. He not only remembered my name, from the previous year’s show, but he mildly scolded me for carrying the knives just casually thrown in a bag, all knocking against each other. He said “that is no way to treat quality hand-made knives.” Was that a compliment and a reprimand in one sentence?
Billy was one of the very early guild members, exhibiting knives in the early 1980’s, soon after the guild was formed. He always had knives that were very creative and different, leaning towards sometimes flamboyant. You never knew what to expect when Billy unpacked knives at a show. One of his most memorable pieces, to me, was his “Extra, Super Duper Hero Sword.” I think it was called something else. This sword stood taller than Billy himself – although this was not difficult as Billy was not a tall man.
Billy was my mentor in my early years and I owe so much of my knifemaking career to him. Even some of my style of knifemaking can be traced back to his origins.
He will always be fondly remembered by those who knew him and appreciated by those who own his knives.