Who is @iraqvet1980? Can you tell us a little about yourself?
@iraqvet1980 is my Instagram
username, based off of the facts that I am an Iraq war veteran (I served two tours, 2004-2005 & 2007-2008, respectively, as an infantryman in the US Army) and my birth year was 1980. My name is JD Montgomery, owner of “JDM Knives,” (based on my initials) and I currently reside in Hot Springs, Arkansas. I’m happily married to my best friend, a beautiful woman that supports me in this creative hobby. My wife and I enjoy backpacking, hiking, and camping together as much as possible. Being outdoors in secluded, scenic places is like therapy for me.
I sort of stumbled into the hobby of knife making after my last tour in Iraq in 2008
What type of knives interest you? What type of knives do you own?
I’m interested in all types of knives, be they modern custom fixed blades, folders or antique blades that can only be found in museums. They all fascinate me as knives (or the knife-like, sharp stone flakes created by percussion flaking) were the first edged tools that we humans learned to create and use. They’ve been with us since the appearance of Homo sapiens and it doesn’t appear that our addiction is on the decline. If I had to narrow it down to a couple categories, I would say mid-tech folders would be the first and unique, custom fixed blades would be the second.
My knife collection is quite small, around 20, in fact, as my budget is quite limited when it comes to purchasing more knives. My most expensive knife is a Boker/Burnley kwaiken flipper in VG-10 steel with titanium scales and that gives you an idea of the budget I limit myself to. One of my favorite fixed blades that I own is a sub-hilt fighter sold by Smith & Wesson that is based on a Loveless design. It’s a cheap knife but as of now it is the closest I can get to owning a Loveless knife. That being said, the design is fabulous and the knife is a pleasure to use. I also own and use some of the knives that I have made.
How long have you been making knives? How long have you been collecting/using knives?
I sort of stumbled into the hobby of knife making after my last tour in Iraq in 2008. I was having great difficulty reintegrating into civilian life after I was discharged (honorably) from the military. Things I had experienced overseas were haunting me (and many still do). My grandfather, who was my father figure growing up, had died in 2004 while I was fighting in Iraq. Since I was restless & unable to sleep, I found myself spending most of my nights in his shop. My grandfather had been an automobile mechanic by trade, as well as a skilled machinist and carpenter on the side. His shop was full of tools and I tinkered around for many hours on various projects. None of those early experiments left me with a feeling of fulfillment.
Around this time I found a book in a local flea market entitled ‘How To Make Knives’ by Richard W. Barney and Robert W. Loveless. I think I payed $2 or $3 for it and I was intrigued after only reading a few pages. I immediately decided to try my hand at forging knives in the manner of Bill Moran, so I tracked down an antique coal-burning forge, a hand-crank ‘Tiger’ brand blower, some anthracite coal, an anvil and some tongs. I then set about teaching myself how to forge knives in my grandfather’s shop. I made many mistakes during those early days but I also learned from them. Recently I’ve been forced to shift my knife-making into stock-removal only due to a move & the shop space I have available. I think I was probably 9 or 10 years old when I started using knives. My grandfather gave me a hand-me-down Barlow knife and showed me how to whittle. I also remember what he said when he gifted this knife to me: “A man always carries a pocket knife. Always.” I don’t think I’ve been without one since.
Do you work off of a list or do you make knives you like and then offer those for sale? What kind of wait time can a potential customer expect from you?
I have worked off a list in the past yet I much prefer to work on designs that I like and then offer those for sale. I feel that if I am passionate about a certain design that passion will be shown in my work. Potential customers usually don’t have to wait more than a month for a knife if I’m not covered up with orders. Sometimes I am much busier than other times so that would obviously influence my turn-around time.
Do you have any specific knife makers that you look up to or who inspire you? You seem to be inspired by traditional Japanese style knives where does that inspiration come from?
There are many makers that I greatly admire. A short list would be Robert Loveless, Bill Moran, Wally Hayes, Jerry Fisk and Ernest Emerson. I could list many others as well. I am inspired by traditional Japanese blades and I have to credit this to Wally Hayes, MS, from Ontario, Canada. During my first few years of knife making I purchased two VHS tapes produced by Wally Hayes entitled “Home Workshop Knifemaking: Making Utility and Defensive Knives on a Budget.” I followed his instructions on making my first Japanese-style knife and I have been hooked ever since. Japanese-style knives have an elegance in design that seduces the eye while not reducing their utility or deadliness.
I made many mistakes during those early days but I also learned from them
Where do you see your knife making hobby going in the next year? Do you see yourself creating art or functional tools?
I’m not sure what the next year holds for me. I’m going to continue honing my skills and improving my work. There’s always room for improvement and I want to learn as much as I can about knife-making and blade smithing. As far as to whether I see myself creating art or functional tools I would have to say “Both” in response. There are several reasons I make knives. The first being I enjoy creating things that other people enjoy to look at and use. Another is that each knife I finish is a small piece of me that may survive and be treasured by someone long after I am gone. The last reason is that I love knives and very much enjoy making them.
Where can other knife addicts find your work?
Currently the easiest way to find my work is to follow my Instagram account, @iraqvet1980, and see if there’s a certain piece I post that interests you.
There’s always room for improvement and I want to learn as much as I can
Is there anything else you would care to share with us?
I want to stress again how honored I am to be asked to do this interview and I hope my answers have shone some light on the pieces I make and why I create them. Thank you.