Published December 21, 2012, 08:07 AM

Ted Dowell’s fine craftsmanship

I learned recently that knifemaker Ted Dowell of Bend, Ore. died at age 83 in October. Most readers probably never have heard of him, but he was a founding member of the Knifemakers’ Guild in 1970, and I have owned one of his fine knives since the late 1970s. Dave Petzal, shooting editor of Field & Stream magazine called him “a dedicated elk hunter and good guy. If you happen upon a knife with his TMD stamp, you are looking at the best that can be done with a piece of steel.”

By: Bernie Kuntz, The Jamestown Sun

I learned recently that knifemaker Ted Dowell of Bend, Ore. died at age 83 in October.

Most readers probably never have heard of him, but he was a founding member of the Knifemakers’ Guild in 1970, and I have owned one of his fine knives since the late 1970s. Dave Petzal, shooting editor of Field & Stream magazine called him “a dedicated elk hunter and good guy. If you happen upon a knife with his TMD stamp, you are looking at the best that can be done with a piece of steel.”

I cannot disagree with that. My Dowell knife is a drop point hunter, 154CM steel with a satin blade finish, cocobolo handle slabs and German silver bolsters. It is a fine piece of work, and after dressing a few Sitka blacktails, three barren ground caribou bulls, and skinning three Alaskan brown bears with the knife, I began calling it my “Alaska knife.” And therein lies a story:

In September 2001 I flew to Anchorage, Alaska, linked up with my old friend Greg Bos and two of his friends, then flew to Dillingham and boarded a Dehaviland Beaver float plane. We were deposited at the end of Kulik Lake in the Tikchik Lakes country, a scenic but insect-infested corner of Alaska that is crawling with grizzly bears. Each of us had a moose permit in his pocket, and that was the purpose of our hunt.

We saw bears every day. On the first day of hunting, Greg and I labored up through alders to a rocky point and spotted seven different bears from that one spot! One of my partners later was sitting on a log, reading a paperback novel while he “watched” a meadow, hoping for a bull moose to appear. He heard something move, looked up, and to his horror saw a big Alaskan brown bear within spitting distance of him! He did exactly the wrong thing — he leaped to his feet, shouted at the bear, and mercifully, the bear ran away.

After about a week of hunting, I was able to shoot a 55-inch bull moose with my .338 with 250-grain Nosler partition handloads. Greg and I butchered the moose, our other two partners joined us, and we packed it to our raft a mile away. (My knees still hurt thinking of that packing chore.)

Unbeknownst to us, the tragedy of 9/11 had occurred, and we were several days late in getting picked up by the float plan. When we got back to Dillingham, everything was chaos. The clerk at the counter ordered me to remove my Dowell knife from my belt, which I did, and I watched her put it into my checked bag and zip up the bag. When I got to the Anchorage airport a couple hours later, the bag was partially unzipped and my knife was gone! I was mortified!

Once back in Montana I called Ted Dowell, convinced him to write a statement of value ($350) for the knife, and sent that along with a claim to Alaska Airlines. What follows puzzles me to this day.

About two weeks later I got a check in the mail from Alaska Airlines, and on the very same day had a phone call from Greg. He said, “I’ve got your knife!” It was turned in to the “lost-and-found” at the Anchorage airport. I still don’t know if someone stole it, then felt guilty and turned in the knife, or if someone was caught with the stolen knife.

I returned the uncashed check to Alaska Airlines with a complimentary letter, sent a thank-you note to Ted Dowell. And I still have the knife!

Bernie Kuntz, a Jamestown native, has been an Outdoors columnist at the Sun since 1974

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