Mike Mann made his first knife in 1965 high school shop class in Illinois, where he grew up fishing and hunting with his brothers on the family farm. He continued to make knives as a hobby because he used them as a tool on the farm and “couldn’t find a good knife in a store anymore.”
He met Debbie in the late ‘70s, they married in 1983 on their remote mountainside property in Northern Idaho, and built a log home with help from family and friends. His passion for making knives as a hobby gradually developed into their full-time business, Idaho Knife Works. The mountain logo is Mike’s initials, MM, and they live in the remote mountains of North Idaho.
In 1986, they met some folks at a black powder shoot and started going to small ‘mountain man rendezvous’ (re-enactments of the fur trade era). Mike took about a dozen knives to a big national rendezvous and came home excited because he traded some knives and sold some knives. That was it! More equipment was purchased and eventually a larger shop was built, which was a challenge on independent solar power panels and generators!
Then in 1989, they participated in a large outdoor sports and rec show, featuring a line of hunt, fish and camp knives displayed in a 10×10 booth decorated with hides and furs. They even dressed up in buckskinner regalia! What FUN! Next was gun shows, followed by juried arts & crafts shows, knife shows, and of course more rendezvous, where Mike and Debbie were known as Padre and Coyote Woman!
In 2000, they got involved with cowboy action shoots, which is a HOOT! And that’s where the line of knives expanded to include cowboy-era bowies.
Idaho Knife Works’ big break came when ‘The Cliff Knife’ was born from a collaboration effort with Cliff Jacobson, canoe guide and author. The collaboration prompted an article called “Mountain Man Masterpiece,” which appeared in 1997 Tactical Knives Magazine. Idaho Knife Works has also been featured in Backwoodsman, Blade, Knives Illustrated, Guns of the Old West, and Muzzle Blast Magazines, among other publications. Mike has also won ‘Best Primitive Knife’ awards at Professional Knifemaker Shows in Denver.
After years of laughing around a campfire at rendezvous, telling stories (some of them true) and talking about such things as ‘the Internet’ and ‘web pages’, Mike and Debbie met a guy who set up a web page for Idaho Knife Works in 1999. They did not have Internet up on the mountain, so Coyote Deb would go to the library for email. Then the development of satellite Internet access made it possible for her to communicate with customers around the world from the cabin!
All Idaho Knife Works blades are high carbon steel that is flat ground, heat treated and tempered to hold a good working edge and sharpen easy for use. Large blades are hand-forged and smaller blades are stock removal. Various natural materials are available for full tang handles. Mike custom builds a sturdy, tight-fit leather sheath for each knife.
Mike’s years of experience as an outdoorsman, and his appreciation for our historical past, guide his artistic expression in the functional knives he builds. The evolution of Idaho Knife Works has been amazing and they’ve had the pleasure of meeting the most awesome people, some of whom they’ve come to know personally through the years as folks have ordered and re-ordered quality custom knives from Idaho Knife Works by Mike & Debbie Mann – The Mountain Manns.