finds no dullness in making these blades
(November 2001) La Grange, Ky Knifemaker Gil Hibben
of La Grange, Ky., works in a studio built by Rambo. Well,
not literally but financially speaking, that is
exactly what happened.
The 66-year-old Wyoming native had the good
fortune to cross paths with Rambo himself, Sylvester Stallone.
It was at a knife show in the late 1980s. According to
Hibben, it wasnt long after that initial meeting
that Stallone asked Hibben to design the dagger he would
use in the movie Rambo III.
From then on, his knives have been seen on Star
Trek: Generations, Under Siege and the X-Files
and now are under the ownership of figures as prestigious
and wealthy as the Sultan of Brunai and Elvis Presley.
His knives are also a part of the Presidential Archives
in the White House.
Hibben first became involved in the art of knife making
at age 12. He was no stranger to craftsmanship. As a child,
he made toys.
I have always enjoyed making things, he said.
Its the fun of creativity.
It wasnt until almost 10 years later when he enlisted
in the U.S. Navy that he sold his first knife. As the
1960s dawned and the Vietnam conflict accelerated, Hibben
found himself selling to more soldiers. He was featured
in Guns & Ammo magazine for his Bowie
Even though he was finding success in knifemaking, he
was dabbling in other forms of craftsmanship as well.
But that didnt last long.
I actually started making classical guitars and
knives at the same time, but everybody used knives, so
I havent made any classical guitars since.
During the first part of Hibbens career, the only
reason he created knives was for their use. But at the
beginning of the 1980s, he found another purpose. He pioneered
the knife as a decoration, a collectors item, a
treasured antique. Such knives became known as fantasy
Hibben was living in Louisville when he created his first
fantasy knife in 1983. He had moved there in 1978 on a
corporate contract to make a limited edition series of
knives. His first fantasy knife took on the likeness of
a dragonfly with wings as the guard, the stinger as the
blade and an ivory handle. It sold for $3,500.
Hibben has two creations that he considers his most valuable.
One is a knife in the likeness of a cobra called Naja;
the other in the likeness of a lion called Leo Pantera.
He keeps them both in his possession, but there is one
other Naja in the world the one owned by the Sultan
Hibben came to La Grange a decade ago and built his current
home and studio.
I moved here trying to hide. It didnt work.
Hibben found himself accumulating a massive international
When I started, there were only six knifemakers
I knew of, he said. Now theres over