written by Mackenzie Wilson | photography by Charlotte Dupont
A case of beer and a craftsman willing to share his skills changed Matthew Carter’s life. In 2015, Carter, 29, learned how to make knives from a fourth-generation logger in Montana named Ben Quilling. “Ben’s an interesting guy,” Carter said. “He built his house with his own hands.” The day after meeting Quilling, Carter showed up at his shop ready to learn. “Twelve hours later and a case of beer each, we had made my first knife,” He said. Quilling lit a fire under Carter. “He inspired me to push for what I’ve always wanted, which was to build my own home, my own base,” he said.
Originally from the Midwest, Carter traveled to Bend on a whim to visit a friend and ended up staying. He finished up his bachelor’s degree in social science at Oregon State University-Cascades. Carter remembers going to lectures all day and grinding metal at night. He admits his knives were amateur at first, but that didn’t stop friends and family from wanting to buy them. Carter Knife Co. was born.
Needing a proper workshop, Carter considered buying a trailer to build out, but at around $4,000 the numbers didn’t pencil. Instead, he bought a school bus from the Ashland School District in October 2016. “I don’t own land, and it’s kind of a way for me to put my money back into myself and own it,” Carter said.
The 30-foot bus cost him $3,000 and now doubles as his home. “It works, it’s not glamorous,” Carter said. “But you know what? I own it, and it’s great.” He handshapes his knives in the back half of the bus and lives in the front half with his dog, Roo. Now he drives the bus to knife shows and people can see where he works. “People really like knowing who made what they’re buying and where and how it was made,” Carter said. “I get to look them in the eyes and be like, ‘I’m the guy.”
Learn more about Carter Knife Co.
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