When most people get tired of the stress that comes from living in a big city, they usually just whine and complain. Not many move their entire family to a desolate seven-acre area in the middle of a wooded state park. Edgar Chattin did just that.
When Chattin became weary of the city life, he moved his family to the rural area of Wakulla, just south of Tallahassee.
“I got fed up with the consequences of the city,” Chattin said. “A country boy, you can’t take him out of the woods.”
Chattin was a guest speaker for USF’s library celebration of Native American month on Wednesday inside the Grace Allen Room of the Library.
He told of his move from the city to the country and his move from poverty to starting and owning a successful worldwide knife-making business.
Chattin grew up carrying knives in Palm River, now known as Clairmel City.
“My daddy let us tote knives; a knife to a country boy is not a weapon,” Chattin said.
When Chattin was a child, Clairmel was a rural area that was close in proximity to the city of Tampa but very different in culture. People would hunt and grow their own food in Palm River.Andrew Huse, a USF senior archivist, interviewed Chattin for the Library.
“As a kid, he hunted quail, and when the kids would come (home from school) with him, they would talk for days and sometimes years about how his family lived,” Huse said.
Added Chattin, “We ate turtles and possums and quails. When I was 14 years old, my mama hardly didn’t see me because I was always in the woods.”
Chattin said that he and his brothers would make their own knives. He always has been and always will be a hunter.
“We did not have any money, so we would build our own knifes,” Chattin said.
Chattin and his brothers would make not only knives, but also bows, arrows and tomahawks.
Other kids he grew up with would make bows and arrows out of tree branches, but he made them out of steel he found lying around.
As Chattin aged, his life slowly began to assimilate into a city life, working from nine to five as an industrial mechanic.
After his wife passed, he said he could not live his life in the congested city.
He saved for four years, sold everything except his pick-up truck and bought seven acres of land in rural Wakulla.
Chattin said that he would own an archery shop in the town he moved to or would make knives for a living.
When he moved, he said he became very ill and lost all of his money.
“The hospital took some – no all – of my money,” he said.
He used his last $14 to drive to a shop north of Tallahassee to sell knives and tomahawks made from his wife’s vacuum bottom. That was the beginning of his now global business.
He makes knives from old parts normally thrown away. He is best known for making knives from old railroad spikes.
During Chattin’s lecture, he mentioned that he has fashioned knives from the spikes of the oldest railroad in Florida, the St. Marks railroad.
He said that while the historic railroad was being pulled up and replaced by a bike trail, he went to the contractor and bought two trucks that were full of old railroad parts for $150. He joked that he still only has about 30 or 40 thousand spikes left.
It usually takes three days for Chattin to make a knife.
“Celebrities own a lot of my knives,” Chattin said, mentioning that former Sen. Trent Lott owns one.
Chattin has been making knives for more than 19 years and has sold knives in every state and more than a dozen countries around the world. Chattin said that he recently took down his company Web site because the demand for his knives was overwhelming.
“I am retiring now, it seems there is always a lot of work,” Chattin said.