Pete Ceprano can’t finish what he started.

“I made my first knife in 2000. I have not been able to stop ever since,” said the Wales knife-maker. “It’s an absolute disease.”

Ceprano made his first knife after taking an adult education class in machine tool technology at Lewiston High School. 

“My wife has dreaded that day ever since, because it has kept costing me money.”

Ceprano was showing his knives at a gun show in Lewiston when the work of another knife-maker caught Ceprano’s eye. 

Mike Marsh is a veteran blade smith known for the intricate designs he engraves on a blade with a chisel and mallet. 

“Our relationship just grew from that point on,” Ceprano said. 

The two combined their talents to form Road’s End Outfitters, a home-based machine shop at the end of a dirt road in Wales. 

“Between the two of us, we do everything in-house, from scratch to finish,” said Ceprano, who is more commonly known as “Big Pete.”

A knife is made from three things, according to Marsh. Steel for the blade, handle material and leather for the sheath. 

Handle material can range from the tooth of a woolly mammoth to the tusk of a hippopotamus. Marsh and Ceprano have made grips from mother of pearl, deer antlers and camel bones. Ceprano is saving a fossilized walrus penile bone for the handle of a special-occasion knife. 

Ceprano said about 90 percent of the knives he makes are used in the field. The rest are held by collectors.

“I have knives all over the world,” Ceprano said.

One customer’s tradition has left Ceprano’s knives in Germany, Scotland, Africa and the Arctic Circle. The customer is a big-game hunter and leaves a BPK (Big Pete Knife) with his guide as a tip following a successful hunt. 

Big Pete’s knives are in Iraq and Afghanistan as well. The donated knives are used by a few American soldiers and get passed on to new recruits. 

“It’s my way to do a little bit,” Ceprano said. 

Both Marsh and Ceprano say money is not what drives their knife-making. 

“Making knives is my passion,” Ceprano said. “I have to make knives or my wife ain’t gonna be happy.” 

“I just have to do it,” said Marsh. “It’s just pure pleasure.”

Marsh and Ceprano are both disabled. “Making knives keeps us busy, keeps us from going crazy and we have fun doing it,” Ceprano said. 

Marsh has spent 100 hours on some of his knives, but has about 30 hours invested in most. 

“If we had to charge by the hour, you would have to mortgage your house,” Marsh said. 

Ceprano likes to make his blades with a hammer and an anvil, a process referred to as hand-forged. “I enjoy the older ways of doing things,” he said. “Technology is OK, but I kind’ve like things that don’t go beep.”

Both Big Pete and Marsh use American-made materials when they can. 

“That’s who we are,” Marsh said. “We are just simple, down-home guys, keeping the tradition alive.” 

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