If you traveled Route 66 in the early 60’s when that two-lane blacktop highway was still the main route across the country, you probably remember the Yellowhorse Trading Post on the Navajo Reservation near Lupton, Arizona. Not too much of old 66 survives today, and many of the tourist attractions — which included rattlesnake farms, dinosaur parks and dancing chickens who seemed to have no clue about how to dance — faded into the dust along with the old road. Yellowhorse Trading Post survived and prospered, now within easy reach of Interstate 40 and home of the Yellowhorse clan, the well known knifemakers who collaborated with W.R. Case and Sons to create the limited edition run of Case Yellowhorse Knives.
The fourth generation of Yellowhorse artisans started out riding ponies and talking to the tourists when they were just kids, and I may have met some of the boys back then although I’m not actually sure. My family took the classic Route 66 vacation one summer and what I remember most about it was being really glad to get home again. Two weeks in a station-wagon with the rest of your family can be rough, and the trip is mostly a blur of camping parks, mountains, deserts and endless strange attractions. Somewhere in there I recall a kid on a pony at an Indian tourist trap.
Today when I came across Ron Yellowhorse’s knives at Case I was really excited to see knives that are traditional in more than one way. Case knives will always be some of my favorites, and it’s hard to improve on the old Case designs like the Trapper and the Whittler. Building them in the Indian pattern could have gone completely wrong, but Ron Yellowhorse’s exceptional skills as a fourth generation Navajo jeweler and knifemaker resulted in limited edition knives of real quality. The Case Yellowhorse knives show the best of Case functional design combined with skillfully-created and meaningful traditional patterns from Native America.
The Case Yellowhorse Damascus Knives, for example, represent two of the most popular Case knife styles — stockman and mini-trapper. Case’s usual knives are great and come in familiar and simple builds using handle materials of exotic hardwood or high-tech composites — always durable and not that exciting. Most of Case’s knives now feature high carbon stainless steel blades, with a permanent rust-resistant shine. You won’t mistake a Case Yellowhorse Damascus Knife for any of those. Starting with the layered swirls of high carbon Damascus steel blades, Ron Yellowhorse added textured nickel-silver bolsters and complex inlays using white and blue turquoise, purple suglite, black jet, and real ivory cut from the fossilized teeth of mammoths.
Many of the Case Yellowhorse knives are one-of-a-kind collector’s pieces, but some were also produced in larger limited runs. Case produced 200 of the Case XX Yellowhorse Grizzly pocket knife. Handcrafted by David Yellowhorse, this 4 5/8 inch pocket folder deploys two high carbon stainless steel blades in clip point and spey point styles. The knife features scrollwork on the nickel-silver bolsters and a grizzly-bear etching on the antiqued bone handle slab.
The Case XX Yellowhorse Hammered Steel Grizzly Pocket Knife comes from an even smaller run of 25 knives. Also made by David Yellowhorse, this knife features custom forged blades of hammered steel which still show the marks of hand workmanship.
To see more of these beautiful collaborative knives visit these links: