Lady Liberty’s Steel™ II – Fires of Perseverance™
Knife Rights’ Extraordinary Custom Dagger
Supporting NRA Women’s Leadership Forum
Crafted by Audra Draper, the World’s First Woman Master Smith
Knife Rights has donated Lady Liberty’s Steel™ II – Fires of Perseverance™ a stunning one-of-a-kind 16.75-inch Mosaic Damascus dagger by by the world’s first woman ABS Master Smith, Audra Draper, to be auctioned off at the National Rifle Association’s 10th Annual Women’s Leadership Forum Luncheon and Auction during the 2016 NRA Annual Meeting.
|Lady Liberty’s Steel™ II – Fires of Perseverance™ will be a featured auction item at the NRA’s 10th Annual Women’s Leadership Forum Luncheon and Auction to be held at the NRA Annual Meeting in Louisville, Kentucky, on Friday, May 20, 2016. Proceeds from the sale of Lady Liberty’s Steel™ II will support NRA programs. Click here for tickets to NRA Women’s Leadership Forum Luncheon and Auction|
|Master Smith Audra Draper Hammer Forging the Blade
for Lady Liberty’s Steel™ II – Fires of Perseverance™
Knife Rights Chairman and Founder Doug Ritter said, “Knife Rights and the NRA have a close relationship, both organizations fighting to defend our Second Amendment Rights. Knife Rights has for the past five years donated an extraordinary custom knife to support NRA-ILA, raising almost $100,000 for NRA. When my wife Sue got involved in the NRA Women’s Leadership Forum, we expanded our contribution to support the WLF’s efforts to engage more women in our fight for freedom.”
“We are indebted to Master Smith Audra Draper for her time, talents and creativity that took our inspiration for Lady Liberty’s Steel™ and turned it into an extraordinary dagger that will raise money to support the NRA Women’s Leadership Forum for the second year in a row.” Last year’s dagger brought in $19,500.
Lady Liberty’s Steel™ II – Fires of Perseverance™ was conceived and sponsored by Knife Rights expressly for the NRA’s Women’s Leadership Forum Auction.
Audra Draper was the first women to ever achieve the rating of Master Smith from the American Bladesmith Society. (Read more about Audra below)
Lady Liberty’s Steel™ – Fires of Perseverance™ did not come easily into being. Just as with the fight for our Second Amendment, perseverance was key to winning the battle with the steel.
As Audra recalls, “She was stubborn from the start. “She,” meaning the image of the dagger that I was going to make that I saw in my head, caused me to cuss, scream, dance, bleed and burn! She was deeply twisted (more on that later). Then I tossed her on the bench and began all over again! This second time I attacked the task with an attitude that I was going to ‘persevere’ to get her done!”
Forging a Damascus blade is part metallurgical science, part art and a wee bit of luck. Lady Liberty’s Steel™ – Fires of Perseverance™ is a testament to that. Audra explains, “she was difficult and fought me from the start. The first billet bit me during the very first forging! I am still getting asked, ‘what bit you?’ because the burn pattern looks like I was bit! But, that’s part of being a bladesmith sometimes. After burning myself the first night of forging, I continued on to the second day of forging and burned up a shirt and even some of my hair!”
“After all the pain, literally, I finished grinding the blade and hand sanded her to a finish and then when I went to quench her in heat treating, the blade warped! She was twisted! Nineteen days of work and it was all gone in one quench! I was angry! I was frustrated! I was so very disappointed and discouraged!”
“Mike, my best friend, my partner in bladesmithing, (Ed: Audra’s husband) stepped up and said, ‘you got this!’ He gave me the strength to persevere and make the next blade everything that I had envisioned the first to be.”
“We figured out what went wrong and we figured out the solution, which boiled down to ‘more steel.’ Mike offered to assist in a day-long forging session that birthed her again on January 19. He forged one billet of 31 layers while I forged another billet of 31 layers. At the end of the day I joined the two billets together.” 2400 degrees, pressure of over 30 tons and 22 years of experience, blood, sweat and tears, allowed Audra to skillfully forge the individual layers of steel into a single piece of Damascus, uniting them forever into a inseparable bond of beauty, integrity, strength and function, combining patterns and making one very intricately patterned large billet.
“This gave me enough steel to forge a bigger blade and still have plenty to make the guard and pommel from the same piece of Damascus so it would all be of one, as I had envisioned it. The accordion cuts that helped create the final Damascus pattern left me with 20 small Damascus nuggets that will make 20 ‘pendants of perseverance.'”
Lady Liberty’s Steel™ – Fires of Perseverance™began to take shape, the guard and pommel took Audra many days of sanding and using countless small files of varying shapes and sizes, slowly sanding the scratches away leaving the leaves that grace the pommel and handle.
When it was done, a bath of ferric chloride revealed the pattern that was hidden within the Damascus steel, “much like a harsh Wyoming winter hides the beauty beneath the snow, anxiously awaiting the warmth of the sun to reveal the gift of spring,” explains Audra.
A Damascus dagger is among the most difficult of blades to make due to the symmetry required. All in, after the abortive first start it took a month of effort for Audra to forge and grind the 11.25-inch double-edged blade into its distinctive and historic shape symbolizing courage and daring, and then carefully carve the Damascus guard and pommel and the rare African Blackwood handle. Audra’s trademark leaves of the guard and pommel symbolize the celebration and promise of new life. The carved Damascus leaves surround and embrace the blade and handle as we all protect and embrace our freedoms. The span of the guard is 4 inches and the overall length is 16.75 inches.
Finally, she was done. Audra etched Lady Liberty’s Steel™ – Fires of Perseverance™ with her distinctive maker’s mark at the base of the blade.
Freedom’s Steel™ V is presented in a custom-built walnut display case by Michael Zieba of Zieba New York located in Brooklyn, New York. It features glass on four sides and the top and a composite concrete and brass base.
Mike Draper, Audra’s husband, took extensive Work in Progress (WIP) photos of Audra crafting this exquisite work of art, from beginning to completion. The purchaser of Lady Liberty’s Steel™ – Fires of Perseverance™ will receive a USB Drive with WIP photos, plus the Eric Eggly studio photographs of the finished knife. A sampling of these fascinating WIP photos can be viewed by clicking here or on the montage below.
Studio Photography of Lady Liberty’s Steel™ – Freedom’s Flame™ courtesy of Eric Eggly. Work in Progress photos by Mike Draper.
Audra Draper was the first women to ever achieve the rating of Master Smith from the American Bladesmith Society.
Born in Blythe, California, in 1969, Audra’s family moved to Wyoming in 1971. Audra says, “I got here as soon as I could.” Audra spent her teenage years logging with her father, living the summer months on a mountain top. Audra’s childhood developed in her a passion for Wyoming’s spectacular mountains and the outdoors. She enjoys hunting, camping and hiking.
Audra married young and was divorced with three children by the age of 21. She says, “by the grace of God I met a great man who was also divorced and raising three children himself.” In 1994 Audra and Mike Draper were married and began their crazy journey raising all six of their children. The Drapers now have 14 grandchildren including the latest, Addyson, who arrived in March delivered by Grandma Audra!
Audra’s passage to knifemaking began in 1992 when Audra hired on as a ranch hand working for Ed Fowler, a renowned Master Bladesmith. However, it wasn’t until she had been working for Fowler for months that she realized that he made knives.
Her interest was piqued, but when she asked him to teach her how to make knives, he responded, “girls can’t make knives!” In hindsight, she notes, “Ed did have a degree in psychology, I think he was baiting me.” In any case, she persisted, proving she had one of the critical qualities needed to becoming a bladesmith — tenacity.
Later in 1992 Audra applied for, and was awarded a Wyoming Workforce sponsored grant for “Women in a Non-Traditional Role” that paid Audra to study knifemaking with Fowler, enabling her to focus more of her time at perfecting her craft (below left).
After serving her apprenticeship, in 1996 she attained the Journeyman Smith rating from the American Bladesmith Society. She rented a shop in town and she began forging Damascus knives in earnest, the next step in her growth as a bladesmith. A year later they bought land outside of Riverton and began building a shop, followed by a house. You can see where her priorities lay.
In 2000 Audra passed the demanding Master Smith test, breaking the all-male barrier that had existed since ABS’ founding. There are today only 111 Master Smiths in the ABS, and only four women, including Audra, among them.
Meanwhile, in a reversal of traditional roles, Mike developed an interest in making knives, joining Audra in the shop. In 2003 he earned his Journeyman Smith rating from the ABS.
In 2009, with all six children raised, and the last few heading to college, Audra decided to go back to school. Searching for a rewarding opportunity that would offer her medical insurance and fulfill a need to continue caring for others, she entered Nursing School at Central Wyoming College, graduating in 2013.
Now a Registered Nurse, Audra works with the disabled at a state facility. She continues to make knives in the evenings and on her days off. The Drapers enjoy teaching and offer bladesmithing classes a couple times a year at their shop in Riverton, Wyoming. Most of the students are women, but men are allowed.
Audra first became an NRA member at about the same time she achieved her Master Smith rating and enjoys the lifestyle that comes with living in rural Wyoming, where you can walk through town with a pistol on your hip and a knife in your pocket and the only question you will get is, “whatcha packin?”
Find out more about Audra and Mike Draper and their knifemaking at: www.draperknives.info
Display Case: Zieba New York
Brooklyn, New York
Michael Zieba is an accomplished knifemaker proud to be making his knives in Brooklyn, New York. Michael is also an expert metalsmith and master woodworker with a long tradition and experience in high end metal work and furniture whose creations, from artwork to functional, can be found in prestigious addresses throughout New York, New Jersey and elsewhere.
Michael’s handcrafted kitchen cutlery is found in the hands of some of the nation’s best chefs. From high carbon stainless steel to exotic Damascus and even more exotic materials, fitted with handles of the most striking materials, his kitchen cutlery is a beautiful as it is balanced and functional.
From tactical folders to gentlemen’s pocket knives, his folding knives get the job done with a touch of class and creativity.
Each piece Michal crafts is made from the materials procured from U.S. owned and operated companies and then handcrafted in Brooklyn wholly by Michael himself.
View an excellent video about Michael and his knives at: https://youtu.be/DlOpIsQsEJI
Photography: Erig Eggly
Eric Eggly Photography
Point Seven Studios
A hugely successful professional photographer with a diverse international client list, Eric Eggly is also one of the world’s premier knife photographers.
Creating a view of hyper-reality without the hype. Revealing milli-moments of wonder captured between dimensions. Exposing the what-if within the why-not. Eric Eggly is 20-plus years into a career he loves. Love clearly, magically, joyously, exquisitely, painfully, humorously and artfully always shows. Eric is provocative without the heavy hand of provocation. Eric is dramatic without the drama. Eric is a master photographer without the need to prove it.
Choices of perspective, the use of light vs. shadow and unexpected manipulations of environments are just a few of the elements that distinguish Eric’s work beyond the horde.
Directing with respect, positivity and passion is a given for Eric. What takes Eric’s direction to another level is an inherent sense of style and an ability to coax the best (or if needed, the worst) out of a subject or situation. Organizations and companies, like Ansell, Audi, VW, La-Z-Boy and the Detroit Red Wings, plus sponsors F.J. Westcott, Profoto and X-rite, recognize Eric’s extraordinary talents.
Sponsor: Knife Rights, Inc.
Doug Ritter, Founder and Chairman
Sue Ritter, Development Director
Knife Rights is America’s grassroots knife owners organization, forging a Sharper Future™ for all knife owners. Knife Rights is dedicated to providing knife owners an effective voice to influence public policy. In the past six years, Knife Rights has passed pro-knife legislation repealing knife bans in 15 states, stopped anti-knife legislation in 7 states and helped defeat ivory and mammoth ivory bans in 18 states. Knife Rights is also the lead plaintiff in a federal civil rights lawsuit against New York City and the New York District Attorney over their persecution of knife owners. Knife Rights is the Second Front in Defense of the Second Amendment™.
Recipient: National Rifle Association Women’s Leadership Forum
With more women picking up firearms than ever before, and with so much at stake in our country, there is no more vital time than now to stand up and take an active role in preserving our cherished freedoms. The NRA Women’s Leadership Forum is the only philanthropic society of its kind and the fastest-growing community in the NRA. Not only do we care deeply about the future and want to make a lasting difference; we also have a tremendous amount of fun doing it.