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Sam Penrod, Deseret News
Knife maker Steve Johnson works in his shop in Manti on Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013.

MANTI — For Steve Johnson, knife making began when he was a Boy Scout Explorer more than 45 years ago. The project turned into a passion that he’s enjoyed ever since.

Johnson makes just 60 knives a year, and his knives are in such demand that there is a two- to three-year waiting list to get one.

A small amount of knives are made available through his website www.srjknives.com, and some are sold at trade shows he attends throughout the year.

He was recently getting ready for a trade show in New Jersey, where customers were part of a drawing for the right to purchase one of them. Most sell for between $2,000 and $5,000.

Johnson is considered one of the best knife makers in the world. The knives feature well-defined grind lines, precise fit and highly polished blades of, for the most part, 154-CM/ATS-34 type steel. Holding an S.R. Johnson knife, one can feel the quality and sharpness.

“I love the handwork, I love the detail work, I love striving for perfection, even though it is unattainable,” Johnson said with a chuckle.

But his knives will likely never be used to cut anything. They are considered pieces of art and sold to collectors around the world.

“Art is in the eye of the beholder, and some people would say that is a beautiful piece of art and others would say, 'What would you do with that? You can’t slice bread. It is not good for anything,'” he said.

Most of the knives he sells are put on display, but one of his high-end clients used one of the knives while doing some gardening work.

“I had a customer in Detroit who would dig dandelions with my knife,” Johnson said laughing. “In fact, he sent one back that was broken in half because he was prying on a rock or something.”

His attention to detail and love of making knives have made for a long lasting career.

“I’m lucky to be able to do something I don’t dread,” he said. “A lot of knife makers say, ‘I have never worked a day in my life.'

"I go out there and have fun.”

E-mail: [email protected]