Knifemaker TerryLee Renner, originally from Mandan, North Dakota, moved to and grew up in various Colorado towns and cities. Most of his schooling took place in Golden and Aurora, and always included technical and hands-on material working, both metals and otherwise. He had demonstrated an early aptitude for artistic and unique creations which stood out from his contemporaries; first as an airbrush artist engaged in custom motorcycle show paint and illustrations in his high school years and early twenties, winning shows such as the Rat’s Hole Show on the Daytona Beach boardwalk. At the same time, a high school friend introduced him to a local bicycle shop, where he would learn the trade which would become a 30- year career. Many of the metal-working and design skills he now has were refined in the bicycle field, designing and building tools and fixtures for the production of high-end racing bike wheels and related components. Many of those designs are still in use in the bike industry.
During Terry’s bicycle career, he developed a side-interest in cutting tools, learning to put and maintain a sharp edge on the metalworking tools in his trade. This led to the fabrication of his first crude knives, and a search for more sophisticated methods and examples of how proper knives were being produced. His first knife was a Buck folding knife copy built with a body grinder out of a file, some brass hinge flat stock, and a hardwood table leg. Crude but effective, the knife lasted for many years, and, when the lock finally failed, was used by his friends to shuck oysters.
Through the bike industry years, Terry continued to make the occasional new knife design, using whatever hard steels friends would present to him; sometimes from other industry tools such as wood planers and orange-peeling machinery. These were ground to shape, and left in whatever hardened state was present in the original steel application. In the late’80’s, he moved back to his grandparents’ town of Estes Park, Colorado, where he happened to meet a few of the founding members of the Knifemakers Guild who lived there. Thanks to Mr.s’ Doyle Nolen , Howard Robbins, and T.J Yancy, Terry was shown what exactly constitutes a “Proper” knife. “They were mostly kind with their suggestions,” says Terry, :though it was clear I didn’t know a thing about doing a knife right.” Doyle Nolen taught Terry the basics of heat-treating, and let him use his shop facilities. Terry had begun doing deep-relief wildlife carvings for some other local makers, and Doyle traded supplies and abrasives for some carving work.
Fast-forward several years had Terry moving back to Bradenton, Florida, where he re-established his bicycle clientele, while ‘secretly’ working on the design for his signature TR locking system for folding knives. Many prototypes later, the lock was perfected, and a patent application submitted. This lock is the basis for most all of his folder designs, and is strong, tight, quick, and completely unique. Terry also perfected his ‘levitated’ art knife/ display stand concept knives, which use a pair of rare-earth magnets to stand the knife vertically with no visible means of support. Again, absolutely unique. Most of the levitated knives are also completely carved with highly detailed and realistically rendered wildlife figures.
Terry is currently working on new designs for current customers and for future collaborations with CRKT, among others. Some designs hit the market in 2009. Also due out are new knife designs exclusively for the Sarasota Knife Club. Terry won the award for “Best New Knife Maker” at the 2006 Blade Show in Atlanta, and had that winning knife displayed in the February issue of Blade Magazine. People wishing to contact Terry can visit his website at www.trblades.com .