Old School Cool

Like most custom knifemakers, Imel’s career started small as a part-time job and grew into a full-time one. It was a natural progression going all the way back to his childhood in New Castle, Indiana, where he’s lived all his life. “I’ve always liked to build things,” Imel recalls. “I remember ‘tearing down motors’ with my father when I was only five years old.”

Billy nearly cut his knifemaking career short at age 14 while making a homemade rocket. “I was stuffing fuel into the rocket casing when it exploded, seriously mangling my right hand and nearly severing my index finger. I am grateful for my mother’s insistence the doctor reattach my index finger. It may be stiff and bent, but I still have full use of my right hand.” In the years since, besides making knives, Billy has built a two-story log cabin, custom automobile, miniature steam engines and handmade flintlocks for muzzleloading rifles; and all the time he was a tool and die maker for 40 years, to boot.