As of the beginning of January, I am an Apprentice in the ABS. Starting now will allow me to test for the Journeyman Smith stamp in 3 years. This gives me plenty of time to hone my forging skills, and to work on my fit and finish. From what I’ve seen of others’ work, I could likely pass both the performance test and the judging of five of my knives right now, but having three years to practice even more will give me the opportunity to really wow people when the time comes. I should have signed up sooner, but it’s only been in the last year or so that I felt like my skills had reached a level that passing was a possibility. Also, as a chronic and serial hobbyist, it took me nearly 5 years to convince myself that knifemaking was a craft I’d likely stick with for the long term.
For those who aren’t aware, the American Bladesmith Society exists to promote and preserve the art of the forged blade. It is primarily an educational organization, but also conducts some activities that promote the profitability of its members. This isn’t really counter to the educational imperative, because the pursuit of perfection and knowledge with respect to the art of the forged blade requires a certain amount of cash flow. Anyway, I recommend that folks making knives join the ABS as soon as they’re sure they’ll stick with the craft.