Charles Sauer, the man behind the design, has years of experience creating one-of-a-kind, luxury cigar cutters. But, it took time honing his skills and talents to create the detailed, beautiful designs he’s known for today.
In the Month of the full Moon, falling leaves, and slippery grass… about 30 years ago:
Charles Sauer was participating in a Mountain Man Rendezvous Re-Enactment, and there was an old blacksmith pounding on steel, from an old coal forge. He was fascinated! He found an old knife at a re-sale shop, tore the handle off of it, and put a deer antler on the tang and used sinew to attach the handle. A handful of years later, Charles saw the movie Last of the Dogmen starring Tom Berenger. Tom and the Native American fought over the knife that Tom highly prized throughout the whole movie. At the end of the movie, Tom gave the knife to his nemesis, who now had become his friend. Charles was drawn not only to the knife but how many times the knife came up in scenes. During the time he was attending Mountain Man Rendezvous, he started hunting and fishing again after being away at college and then proudly serving in the U.S. Army.
Charles’ hunting bag and a prized hunting knife, two cherished treasures that his Grandfather had given him, had disappeared. The knife was made in Germany by “Old World Craftsman”. Charles went to the store to buy a new one, only to find that craftsmanship was dead and knives were now being made by machine and total junk.
Instead of griping about it, he decided to do something about it. Charles went to many libraries looking for books on how to make knives. The only two books on the shelves were one for Machinists for tool making and one for fixing farm implements. There were no computers or cell phones back then. So unlike today, he learned the hard way, by trial and error. Charles started making knives out of antique ice saws, from the Ice’a House days. He learned that most of the saws were forged Krupp Steel made in Germany. Krupp was a European steel dynasty back then but unfortunately, the plant was destroyed in WWII and never recovered.
In the early days Charles’ shop consisted of his great grandmother’s leaf kitchen table, a hack saw, some old wore out files from the hock shop, and a lot of sandpaper. It took him two days to hack out a 2″x10″ piece of steel from that old Ice Saw. That was some tough steel. He used his Great Grandmothers leaf table as his vice and held the table together with his feet and legs. That enabled him to hand file out the hand-draw out a pattern. Charles was a pretty determined fella back then, but to think about it now… he still is!
Charles was hooked when he completed that first hunting knife. What started out as a thing of necessity, became a new hobby. He kept making more and more knives and just couldn’t stop. His new hobby had turned into a disease. Neighbors started hearing about what Charles was doing and started spreading the word about “that determined young man” who decided to make his own knives, knives he could trust in the field.
Everything kept pushing Charles toward the knives. After moving to Montana Charles heard there was a “knife show”, so he called to check it out. He didn’t know there were knifemakers out there, just the factory made junk. Charles called and asked if it was guns and antiques and stuff… and they said no, strictly knives. He arrived with fifty Icesaw knives with 80 plus years of brown Patina, on them. After looking around at all the incredible work (knives by other makers), he was embarrassed. Charles felt his work was so crude back then. Charles was pulled aside and nicely told that in the art world, patina was good. However, in the knife world that’s called RUST! To this day Charles is still remembered as the guy that brought all those rusty knives to the first Montana Knifemakers Association show. It was there though that he met Dick and Rob Patton, who both became his mentors. It wasn’t until four years later, that Charles discovered that Dick Patton had made the knife for Tom Berringer, in the very movie that inspired his start. Rob got a propane forge and so Charles did as well. Then Rob had a 20 ton hydraulic/electric press made by Jeff Carlisle, so Charles had one made too. Rob and Charles both started making Damascus Steel. He went one direction developing his style and Charles remained traditional with the more classic patterns. Charles’ knife hero was Dan Winkler. He made Mountain Man style knives that looked over 150 years old, but they were brand new. Charles emulated Dan’s techniques, but put his own twist on making knives look old, but with his own style.
By now Charles was attending many gun shows, State fairs, and Holiday events. He worked his way into the then prestigious Blade Show East that was held in Atlanta, Georgia each year. After many years the show grew to include knifemakers from around the world. Looking around the room while that show was going on, Charles had an epiphany. There were over 800 knife makers in one room… but only a handful of genuine buyers, and collectors. Charles realized he should branch out to find high-end venues where he would be the only Bladesmith attending.
The day Charles was supposed to attend the SCI Chapter mini-show in Bozeman, Montana, he woke up that Friday morning, totally blind in his left eye. No warning… no nothing and he attended the show, anyway!
Charles had contracted Melanoma in his left and dominant eye, and also was left handed. In an effort to keep his eye, he received radiation therapy. Charles then contracted Glaucoma a couple of months later and ultimately lost the eye a year later, due to the return of cancer. During this time period, Charles had to re-learn everything in complete darkness due to the pain attacks brought on by any light source. Charles utilized his many years of Karate training and years of muscle memory making knives, and convinced himself to just make it happen, and told himself, “Just do it!” Charles showed up at the blade show a year later and everybody said: “Damn Charles, you shoulda lost that eye a long time ago”. Charles skill set had skyrocketed. It had been one hell of a year. Charles had to relearn his craft, learn to walk again, sneak up to his beverage of choice, and overcome severe depth perception issues. However, it truly was a blessing, in so many ways. Charles was dyslexic all his life, and couldn’t even draw a stick man. His Damascus took on a whole new look and he actually developed a true 3-D Damascus, which people confused as ladder Damascus. The whole left brain, right brain thing, changed Charles. He was truly blessed and “Endeavored to Persevere”! This is a favorite line Charles uses from Lone Watie(Chief Dan George) in the movie “Outlaw Josey Whales“.
It hit Charles again while working one day, that he needed to find venues where he would be the only bladesmith attending and soon discovered the Safari Club International Show. Charles submitted his work which was juried back then, and a booth holder canceled, so he got into the most spectacular spectacle of a show, geared for the Safari hunters who hunt and fish all over the World, in exotic places. The show was as big as a football stadium and lasted for four days. There was no way to see everything. Charles further developed his patterns with feedback from his clients. Many years later, Charles clients transitioned over to Edwardian clay pigeon shoots in the Eastern part of the U.S. and was invited to the Vintagers World Cup Championships, Game Conservancy, and the Millbrook shoots. Clients wiped out all of his inventory and literally fought over him. Writer-Director, John Milius invited Charles and 5 others to dinner (The Magic Six) and was very impressed that Charles didn’t ask him to get a knife in one of his movies. Charles figured if he wanted one, he would ask. Very prestigious gun companies from the U.S. and abroad started trading Charles brand new guns “in the box” for one of his knives. Like Safari Club, there were many celebrities, movie stars, foreign dignitaries, etc. who attended the shoots. Charles even sold a knife to our current Presidents Son, Donald Jr., which is quite a story. Charles dropped Jrs. check on the table and said, “I guess your check is alright because it didn’t bounce”. His buddies that were with Donald Jr., busted out laughing when Charles was asked if he knew who Trump Jr. was. Charles said, “Sure, Donald Trump’s boy… I know his Dads got money, but I don’t know about Jr.!” Everyone got a big kick out of this ol’ country boy.
Word got out and Charles was honored to make knives for movie and TV stars like Director John Milius, Gary Busey, and Harrison Ford, among many others. He also was commissioned by Sauer Guns in Germany, and Mr. Purdey and Purdey Firearms in England, along with military contracts, McMillan Sniper Rifles, and many gun makers that coveted Charles’ 3-D Damascus steel.
Charles had many faithful and wonderful clients that started sending him boxes cigars that they smoked, as a thank you for attending their Vintager shoots. Charles decided he better go to the store and get a cigar cutter. Here we go again… factory junk! Charles was approaching the 7,000 mark on how many custom knives he had handmade and decided to semi-retire from the knives. Instead of griping about how terrible the cutters were, Charles looked on a search engine for custom cigar cutters, and there was absolutely nothing! Charles had found a market that was completely untouched by the Custom World of Craftmanship, and he had another Epiphany! He studied thousands of cigar cutters and match safes from the 1800s through the early 1920s. Charles identified issues with the cutters, and things that had never been done before. During his research, Charles stumbled onto an 1800’s German made, tiny scissor cigar cutter, of sorts. He blew up the pattern and made it with his own handmade 3-D Damascus. Now, Charles had another new disease! He developed new concepts and skills that he had spent many years refining making knives and re-directed those skills towards creating one of a kind cigar cutters. Charles used his handmade Damascus and threw all of his attention towards making cigar cutters of world-class, investment and heirloom quality works of art. Charles’ work is first and foremost functional, a tool that is made to last for generations. He makes the cutter blades out of a Space Age Stainless Steel. After heat treating and cryogenically freezing, the Rockwell is 61, which will cut bolts, in half! “That’ll cut a few Cigars, I reckon”, Charles stated.
Charles just married his one and only true love, from 40 years ago. They met at Texas Tech Band Camp in high school. The preachers’ pitch during the wedding ceremony was that Charles “truly wandered in the wilderness” for 40 years before they reconnected. He married Jana on December 31, 2018 – on New Year’s Eve. So Charles stated, that he should be able to remember his wedding anniversary!
Paramount Cutters, “The Sovereign of Cigar Cutters”, is now making one of a kind creations utilizing his Damascus, Mosaic Damascus, Art Carved Wax and 3D jewelry AutoCAD in conjunction with wax printing to create a culmination of parts which are theme based. Charles does many styles and time periods (Elizabethan, Victorian, Edwardian, etc), and also offers first class engraving and precious stones that are custom cut in Austria. Charles can literally create any idea you come up with from yachting themes, Military, Floral, Animals, Dead Man’s hand, Flaming Dice, Pava, etc. Whatever the Client can imagine, he can bring to life. The possibilities are truly infinite. Much of his work is never seen by the public eye, and are in private collections all over the World. Charles adamantly says he is not an “Artist” and refuses to be called one. He says it’s just hours and hours of blood, sweat, and tears! Charles’ work is an extension of what he’s about and what he Creates specifically for the Client. Charles takes great pride and joy in making other people happy through his work.