Burt Flanagan

Burt Flanagan

Paragon is launching an exciting new Vertical Kiln and we thought this to be a good opportunity to introduce Burt Flanagan, an accomplished knifemaker and Paragon’s Product Line Manager.

Burt lives in Whitewright, Texas, but offices in Mesquite, Texas, the home of Paragon Industries.

Burt had been making knives in his younger day, but started seriously in 2014. Three months after his Mother passed, a 2”x72” grinder found its way to his door step.  Initially, he denied the package was for him, but his father - who himself has been a knifemaker since the late 1970’s - said it was a gift from him and his mother - a portion of her life insurance settlement they had set aside for Burt.  Up until this time, Burt had not been grinding blades, but his Dad said “it’s time to put on your big boy pants and grind your own blades”.

Burt started out on his front porch, with a small 1”x30” grinder. He worked hard, saved a little money, and built himself a small, 10’x20’ shop in the back yard of his old home in Tom Bean, Texas. That original shop is about five miles from where he lives now in Whitewright, Texas.

Since that time, Burt has been making knives in a much larger space. His Dad, a retired professional firefighter, built a shop on his property and most weekends, Burt travels about three hours to the country to make knives. Burt says, “I can clear my mind of everything going on because I get 100% absorbed in making a knife.

“When customers are paying top dollar for a knife,” Burt says, “it needs to be at the highest level.” Burt always sets his standards high. He strives to make every knife better than the last one, even if it is a minor change that only he can see. His wife of 35 years, Wendy, has a very sharp eye and will pick up the smallest imperfections.  Burt says, “there is no greater satisfaction to me than creating an exceptional knife; those are the ones that are hard to part with”.  To keep the quality high, Burt makes only 4-5 knives for each Show he attends. It doesn’t take long for them to sell out. Burt’s knives can range in price from $700 for a straight blade to several thousand for a slipjoint knife, depending on materials.

Through years of practice, he has become an expert in slipjoint knives. Burt is now challenging himself to perfecting integral liners, with the bolster and liner in one piece, and multi-blade slipjoints. He likes natural materials such as bone, stag, and mammoth tusk for handle material.

Burt’s personality, honesty, and love for knifemaking has led him to develop lasting friendships with knifemakers. For example, 13 years ago he went to a Hammer-In at Johnny Stouts and met Bill Ruple, member of the Knifemaker’s Hall of Fame, and one of the best slipjoint knife makers in the United States. After talking for a bit, Bill invited Burt to join him to learn how to make a Slipjoint. When he heard about it, Burt’s Dad insisted he was going too.  The three are now lifetime friends.  Burt was also good friends with the late hall of famer, Tony Bose. ”Tony and I talked weekly,” Burt said, “what a great guy…so willing to share trade.”

Burt is also a member of the ‘Slipjoint Cartel’, a group of knifemakers who have been together for at least 12 years. While they are good at providing each other knifemaking support, Burt says, “there’s more often a little friendly abuse between members, for example – ‘that bolster is so big you’ll need a forklift to get it to the exhibit hall’. But in all seriousness, the main goal of the Cartel is to pass on the slipjoint knowledge to other knifemakers and keep the tradition alive”.

In his fulltime job, Burt is as the Knife Product Line Manager at Paragon Industries, a company that has been in business since 1948 building high quality Ovens and Kilns for industry.  Prior to that, Burt had worked in the specialty lumber business for over 30 years. At a Knife Show in Fort Worth, Burt spoke with Todd Lokash, President of Paragon Industries, about the craft and showed off a few of his knives. Todd gave him the new KM9 Pro Oven to try out and get his feedback. The KM9 Pro is a small oven that is perfect for slipjoints and other folder knives. When he got it home, Burt plugged it in and turned it on. The Oven went to 1000 degrees within 6 minutes. “It was like lightening in a box”, Burt said. After using it and being impressed with the performance of the Paragon KM Pro, Burt was hooked and he agreed to promote it to his Cartel friends, as well as other knifemakers he knew.   

At another Knife Show in 2019, Todd invited Burt to the Paragon booth. Using his easygoing personality and knowledge of the craft, Burt sold 5-6 kilns. It was then Todd realized he needed Burt on his team. After some negotiations, Burt was hired. Now, he says “I am the luckiest guy in the world… I get to deal with knifemakers full time.  We ship knifemaking ovens worldwide! I’m exposed to more makers than I ever dreamed possible, as well as industry leaders.” 

Burt’s wife Wendy, his daughters Tamara and Tiffany, and his 4 grandchildren are his biggest supporters.  His late Mom was also very supportive. In the past, Burt and Wendy have also professionally judged and field trialed pointing dogs.

Burt’s words of wisdom:  “If I could give any maker advice, it would be what Bill Ruple told me: ‘Strive to make each knife better than your last’. That’s what I still strive to do every day.”

Contact: BFlanagan@paragonweb.com

See Burt's knives at: https://knifemakersguild.com/burtflanagan




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  • Johnny Stout - July 01, 2024

    Great article Burt, I’m glad to call you my friend.

  • Bob Williams - July 01, 2024

    Hey Burt your knives sure are pretty but you ain’t got no better looking through the years.

  • Burt L Flanagan - July 01, 2024

    I want to say thank you so much for this I am humbled

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