Knife maker recognized for Royal gift

Hands blackened by carbon, George Roberts hefts a flat, steel bar and explains how he plans to cut a knife out of this raw piece of surgical stainless steel.

Hands blackened by carbon, George Roberts hefts a flat, steel bar and explains how he plans to cut a knife out of this raw piece of surgical stainless steel.

After spelling out the finer points of metallurgy, he puts the bar back up on the wall among dozens of blades and half-finished knives.

For more than three decades, Roberts, the owner of Bandit Blades, has been handcrafting custom knives. For the last decade he has been working out of a shop in the MacRae subdivision.

His skill and craftsmanship are renowned throughout the North.

Recently they even garnered him some royal recognition.

When Prince William and his wife, Kate Middleton, visited Canada last summer, the Canadian Rangers presented the prince with a knife designed and built by Roberts.

It was the first knife of many that Roberts made especially for the Rangers.

This month the Rangers presented Roberts with a Royal certificate to commemorate the gift. That certificate, along with a picture of the prince holding the knife, is prominently displayed on the shop wall.

Roberts wasn’t able to meet the Royals during their northern visit, but he’s confident that if they ever come back, he’ll get an invitation.

“If he ever uses that knife, I’m sure he’ll want to know who made it,” he said.

While Roberts considers his knives to be works of art, he doesn’t want them to sit around gathering dust on someone’s mantle.

“I like every knife I make to be used,” said Roberts.

He’s confident the knives he is making for the Rangers will get a lot of use.

The Canadian Rangers are a lightly-equipped, self-sufficient, reserve unit of the Canadian Forces, which operates in the North.

Individual members of the Rangers, who are often avid outdoors people, had been coming to Roberts for hunting knives for some time.


Four years ago, the Rangers asked him to create a survival knife for them exclusively.

The knife that Roberts designed is tailored for their use.

“It’s made for extreme use in extreme conditions,” he said.

It can slice through everything from moose hide to sheet metal.

The knife can only be bought by a member of the Canadian Rangers, but even they still have to buy them for themselves.

Other than a World War II era No. 4 Lee Enfield rifle, a box of ammunition and a red hoodie, the Rangers are expected to outfit themselves.

At $350 a pop, the knives don’t come cheap, but they are still a good deal, considering the quality of materials and the amount of labour that goes into one of them, said Roberts.

“I’m not making a lot of money off this,” he said.

Creating a knife takes Roberts about 20 hours.

When he first started making knives three decades ago, he didn’t have a shop or any specialized equipment so making a knife took a lot longer.

Roberts would spend 100 hours or more sitting in front of the TV or at the kitchen table, grinding out a blade from solid steel bar, using only sandpaper and elbow grease.

“Back then time wasn’t an issue,” he said.

It was a craft born out of necessity for Roberts.

At the time, he was running a fishing lodge in Wawa, Ont., and just couldn’t find a good fishing knife.

The ones that were being imported from China were terrible, said Roberts.

“That old stainless steel just doesn’t cut it,” he said.

Without any formal training, Roberts learned to do, by doing.

Over the years he’s honed his skills. He even learned to work with leather so he could make his own sheaths.

After the factory where he worked shut down, he devoted more and more time to his craft.

In the late 1980s, he and his wife decided to move west. They bought a truck, put a bed in the back and headed out.

Part of the reason for the trip was to search out new markets for his knives.

At the time, the Yukon wasn’t even on their radar, said Roberts.

When they got to Vancouver, everyone told them the North was the place to find people that would truly appreciate his work.

They spent that summer living in a cabin in Dawson City and then decided to stay.

Over the years, Roberts’ knives have become extremely popular with all manner of outdoor enthusiasts. Through word of mouth, that popularity continues to grow.

“I’m busier now than I’ve been for five years,” he said.

While the knives he produces are functional, Roberts considers every one a work of art.

“I’m the guy that turned hunting knives into art,” he said.

Works of art don’t come cheap, but once you buy one you’ll never have to buy another, he said.

“These knives I’m making today are going to be around for generations,” said Roberts. “As long as you don’t lose it, you’ll have it forever.”

Contact Josh Kerr at

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Children’s performer Claire Ness poses for a photo for the upcoming annual Pivot Festival. “Claire Ness Morning” will be a kid-friendly performance streamed on the morning of Jan. 30. (Photo courtesy Erik Pinkerton Photography)
Pivot Festival provides ‘delight and light’ to a pandemic January

The festival runs Jan. 20 to 30 with virtual and physically distant events

The Boulevard of Hope was launched by the Yukon T1D Support Network and will be lit up throughout January. It is aimed at raising awareness about Yukoners living with Type 1 diabetes. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Boulevard of Hope sheds light on Type 1 diabetes

Organizers hope to make it an annual event

City of Whitehorse city council meeting in Whitehorse on Oct. 5, 2020. An updated council procedures bylaw was proposed at Whitehorse city council’s Jan. 18 meeting that would see a few changes to council meetings and how council handles certain matters like civil emergencies. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Whitehorse procedures bylaw comes forward

New measures proposed for how council could deal with emergencies

A Yukon survey querying transportation between communities has already seen hundreds of participants and is the latest review highlighting the territory’s gap in accessibility. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Multiple reports, survey decry lack of transportation between Yukon communities

A Community Travel survey is the latest in a slew of initiatives pointing to poor accessibility

Mobile vaccine team Team Balto practises vaccine clinic set-up and teardown at Vanier Catholic Secondary School. Mobile vaccine teams are heading out this week to the communities in order to begin Moderna vaccinations. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Mobile vaccine teams begin community vaccinations

“It’s an all-of-government approach”

A file photo of grizzly bear along the highway outside Dawson City. Yukon conservation officers euthanized a grizzly bear Jan. 15 that was originally sighted near Braeburn. (Alistair Maitland/Yukon News file)
Male grizzly euthanized near Braeburn

Yukon conservation officers have euthanized a grizzly bear that was originally sighted… Continue reading

Mayor Dan Curtis listens to a councillor on the phone during a city council meeting in Whitehorse on April 14, 2020. Curtis announced Jan. 14 that he intends to seek nomination to be the Yukon Liberal candidate for Whitehorse Centre in the 2021 territorial election. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Whitehorse mayor seeking nomination for territorial election

Whitehorse mayor Dan Curtis is preparing for a run in the upcoming… Continue reading

Gerard Redinger was charged under the <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> with failing to self-isolate and failing to transit through the Yukon in under 24 hours. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Man ticketed $1,150 at Wolf Creek campground for failing to self-isolate

Gerard Redinger signed a 24-hour transit declaration, ticketed 13 days later

Yukon Energy, Solvest Inc. and Chu Níikwän Development Corporation are calling on the city for a meeting to look at possibilities for separate tax rates or incentives for renewable energy projects. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Tax changes sought for Whitehorse energy projects

Delegates call for separate property tax category for renewable energy projects

Yukon University has added seven members to its board of governors in recent months. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
New members named to Yukon U’s board of governors

Required number of board members now up to 17

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Your Northern regulatory adventure awaits!

“Your Northern adventure awaits!” blared the headline on a recent YESAB assessment… Continue reading

Yukoner Shirley Chua-Tan is taking on the role of vice-chair of the social inclusion working group with the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences’ oversight panel and working groups for the autism assessment. (Submitted)
Canadian Academy of Health Sciences names Yukoner to panel

Shirley Chua-Tan is well-known for a number of roles she plays in… Continue reading

Most Read