Last month I took the hour drive to the beautiful small town of Vernonia, Oregon, to interview one of America's best bladesmiths, Murray Carter, for a profile in The Oregonian.
Murray is moving his Carter Cutlery operation to Hillsboro, just outside of Portland, and he's one of those treasures that when you learn about him, you just can't believe you didn't know he was in your community. Murray is bursting with energy and has had a very unique life as the first (and possibly only) Westerner to become an official member of a traditional bladesmithing family of Japan.
Murray's story is definitely too big for one mid-length article, so I hope do something more with him down the line for another mainstream outlet (he's been covered extensively by the knife press). Plus, every time I do a story about him, I'll get to quote the original Conan The Barbarian, which thrills me to no end. In the mean time, here's an outtake from our interview which covers what it was like for him to spend about half his life up to this point in another country and why he decided to come the US.
I was in Japan for 18 years, and I see a lot of guys who couldn't leave after they've been there for so long. They're in a cultural limbo. They're not Japanese, so they're not in their own country, and they're away from their own country, and it's like they belong to neither. It's a dangerous place to be because the longer you're stuck in that situation, the more difficult it is to remove yourself from it. Life just becomes too easy, too simple. There are no great consequences for anything you do short of getting in trouble with the law. I didn't want to get stuck in that rut. So I thought, now's the time move or get off the pot. Plus, they were never going to give me any kind of cultural recognition because I wasn't Japanese, and yet i was getting great recognition over here in North America.
I first learned about Murray because a friend of mine became a fan of his YouTube channel, where he offers sharpening tips and does zany stuff like chop down trees with machetes. It all came full circle when my friend pointed out that Murray gave me a shout out in his video blog (at about 10:30). How nice!