How Frank Bridwell Quit Real Estate to Follow an Outdoorsman’s Dream

Submitted by Vail Duggan

[dropcap size=small]W[/dropcap]ithin the fibers of any handmade item, love, passion and a true appreciation of one’s craft are buried.  I recently met Frank Bridwell of Woody’s Handmade Knives in a dimly lit booth at Awendaw Green. Dressed in overalls and humbly sitting among his knives as if they were lifetime companions, there were no traces of his former successful real-estate developer career left. Frank “Woody” Bridwell had come full circle and returned to his roots and I was in awe of the man and knives before me.

Still not clear as to whether I was drawn to the handcrafted shiny objects lined up on the table or the energy of the craftsman, my friends and I bought four pieces that evening. Woody’s Knives are modern day relics of colonial times, made in the USA.  They offer hunting, kitchen, recreational, tactical and custom knives for the everyday man, active outdoorsman, or the avid collector. While Woody vows to produce “A great knife for a day’s pay”, salary is relative, the fixed blade knives are lifetime treasures and well worth the $75-$300 he asks for a custom piece with sheath.

Woody’s handmade knifes can be found in some of the finest cutlery collections in the world, however  the majority are used on a daily basis by both men and women, allowing these unique Lowcountry pieces to be revered as worthy companions in the field, kitchen or tool shed.  Each piece is handmade from high carbon tool steel and Curly Maple, Live Oak, Black Walnut, Cocobolo and other native hardwoods.

So in a mass produced, fast paced, high tech, and high cost world, these fine authentic knives celebrate the simplicity and elegance of handmade quality made craftsmanship. Woody’s Handmade… quality wood handled knives for work, play or generations to come!

[dropcap size=small]A[/dropcap] former Greenville based real-estate developer, craftsman Frank Bridwell is a now full time custom knife maker residing in the small fishing town of McClellanville. His father, Woodrow “Woody”  Bridwell, was a farmer, textile worker, and avid hunter and fisherman who taught his son how to use edged tools at a very early age. Frank Bridwell would later come to realize his career destiny, but at a young age he remembers fondly that a good axe, pocket knife, butcher or sporting knife were always sharp and ready to go.

“Every knife I owned during those years, even the one I carried to school every day, was razor sharp. The “Woody” brand is an acknowledgment of my dad’s influence in instilling a love for fine cutting tools in me. My customers now call me “Woody” and I like it!”

While Bridwell grew up with an appreciation for cutlery, it wasn’t until the mid-eighties when he began collecting and trading knives that he realized his passion for custom, handmade knives. He became acquainted with Marv Palmer from Hemlock, Michigan who was a prolific maker of primitive colonial trade knives. Palmer was known for producing the best knife for the money a trait to this day still resonates strongly with Bridwell.

Muzzleloaders, housewives, farmers and sportsmen all around the country favored Palmer’s colonial knife designs and Woody sold thousands of his mentor’s pieces until 1998 when Marv retired. Although the senior master knife maker was not practicing his craft, he spent the next few years teaching his protégée the trade.

A successful real estate developer and broker at the time, Frank set up his own knife making studio with Palmer’s help and guidance. A childhood hobby was soon transitioning into a passionate career. Following his heart, Frank Bidwell retired from real-estate in 2008 to become “Woody” the full time blade artist.

“While one could say cutlery is in my DNA, I am inspired to produce a balanced, functional, beautiful, comfortable knife that is easy to maintain and affordable. Like my protestors before me, I look to create a knife that undoubtedly worth a day’s pay and will last a lifetime.”

A custom one of a kind, fixed steel blade, handmade knife, with a full grain leather sheath can run under a couple hundred dollars, with smaller “Woody” knives starting under $100.  A small price to pay for functional yet authentic item that can last a lifetime with hard use, or be passed down to the next generation as a family treasure.