By Will Elliott
When Jean and I booked a trip to a New York Yankees game at Cleveland in late August, we could not have guessed the outcome of not only the game but the exceptional side trips.
Joe and Lois Gerace at the Travel and Cruise Center in Batavia put together a Yankees trip near the end of the summer each year with an impressive array of outings before and after the game.
This year we headed to an Indians game on Aug. 25, the middle of a three-game series in which the Yankees won the first and third game and got clipped in the second game, which we watched that evening.
Nonetheless, the Gerace outing included great stops at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, and nice restaurants along the way.
But it was a “Backroads Tour of the Amish Country” that made this trip something special for us as outdoors folk. One of the stops was a tour of and dinner at the Warther Museum in Dover, Ohio.
Not familiar with this name, I was surprised to learn that Earnest “Mooney” Warther was a renowned wood carver who began at the start of the twentieth century as a knife maker to support his carving pursuits.
He got and kept through his lifetime the nickname “Mooney” from an Amish pronunciation for a herdsman. Warther, as a small boy, walked cattle along railways to supplement the family’s income.
As the story goes, he once sat on a bench with a hobo who had a knife and a stick of wood about the size of a carpenter’s pencil. The hobo took nine cuts in that wood stick and handed the boy a working pair of pliers. Warther did not know the hobo and never saw him again.
But after this encounter he became intrigued with wood carving and developed his skills at both steel handling at a local mill and wood carving. He eventually began a knife making business in 1902 and went on to carve detailed, working models of famous railroad cars, including the funeral train of Abraham Lincoln.
During our baseball-trip visit to the museum, Steven Cunningham, 27, made a presentation at which he took out a sharp knife and a stick of wood and made those same nine cuts (without dropping a splinter or chip) to produce a working wooden pliers.
Cunningham, married to Warther’s great granddaughter, is carrying on the traditions of the company’s hand-made knife production.
After the tour and dinner, we went into the cutlery store. Jean bought a paring knife and I (of course) went for the 5-inch filleting knife. Both are the sharpest knives we now have in the house.
Cunningham explained that these knives are not only made of the finest steel riveted to hand-polished wood, the process ends with a sharpening (at exactly 22.5 degrees) designed for either right- or left-handed use. It works.
He went on to note that for years Warther Cutlery used a top grade of 440C carbon steel.
“We now use a newer ‘powered’ steel (S35VN), which is more consistent in durability and edge holding,” he said.
Back in 1907, Warther decided to finish his knives with a swirling design similar to jeweled checkering on gun bolts and magazines. Warther called it “spotting” to cover up any imperfections in the steel’s finish and hide water and hand prints on the blade’s sides. It does.
For anglers, Cunningham said plans are in place for a new 7-inch filleting knife with a finger notch in the handle; that model may be available next summer. Long-range plans are for re-introducing custom hunting knives Warther’s son produced years ago.
Each Warther knife comes with a free lifetime hand sharpening (right or left hand) and an edge that lasts longer than any knife we have had in the drawer or sheath. The company produces about 30,000 knives each year and sets up tour visits throughout the year. Even if you don’t fish, hunt or prepare foods, this is an intriguing trip.
For details on Warther Cutlery, go to warthercutlery.com.
By Will Elliott