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Rhea honored for legacy of knife making

BY Jeff Williams

ON 06-21-2023


June 21, 2023

Jeff Williams

Editor, Arkansas Wildlife Magazine

The Historic Arkansas Museum in downtown Little Rock held a gala June 17 to celebrate the reopening of the HAM Knife Gallery and to honor Linden “Lin” Rhea, an American Bladesmithing Society mastersmith.

The Arkansas Arts Council recently named Rhea the 2023 Arkansas living treasure for “his work and dedication to the craft of bladesmithing.” The AAC names one living treasure each year for skill in traditional crafts or folk art. Several of Rhea’s creations are part of the museum’s gallery.

“I’ve gone back and looked at other videos the museum has produced of the other living treasures and I know one or two of them personally and I’ve known them for quite some time,” Rhea said in a press release. “But to be associated with that group is quite an honor.”

This Damascus knife was handcrafted by Rhea using different metals to create an intricate pattern.

Rhea, who has been bladesmithing for two decades, studied at the Bill Moran School of Bladesmithing at Old Washington State Park in Hempstead County. He has researched Bowie knives made in the 1830s by Arkansas blacksmith James Black at Washington. The refurbished gallery at HAM tells the complex story of the Bowie knife, as well as the history behind the art of bladesmithing. Some of the knives on display are part of the museum’s permanent collection; others are on loan from bladesmiths and collectors from across the country. They were created with gemstones, Damascus steel and precious metals, and some display intricate designs. The gallery also is home of the American Bladesmith Society Hall of Fame.

HAM is open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday and 1-5 p.m. Sunday at 200 E. Third St. in Little Rock. Admission to galleries is free.




Rhea with hot steel
Master bladesmith Lin Rhea has been bladesmithing and sharing his passion for metalwork for two decades.

Knife blade
This Damascus knife was handcrafted by Rhea using different metals to create an intricate pattern.

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