Sheila Dwyer: sharp knives and sharper wit
Recently we had the opportunity to sit down and interview Sheila Dwyer of Strider Knives - yes Sheila, not Duane, and you're going to want to read about it.
Mick Strider and Duane Dwyer formed the justifiably well-known knife company back in the 1990s, and to this day deliver exceptionally robust, hard use knives. Although the primary demographic of Strider Knives remains military and law enforcement, their knives are equally sought after by collectors and those who appreciate quality and aesthetics. We have been fans of Strider Knives and their products for many years. Several of our minions own Strider blades, most have deployed or hit the street with one. It is no exaggeration to say we love Strider and Dwyer's work.
Fast forward now to the Atlanta Blade Show, 2014. Usually we stop and say hello to our craftsman friends, then walk the aisles looking for new products to write about. The show is always full of old time master blade smiths and promising new greenhorns. We like to spend our time interviewing both.
One such encounter was at the Strider booth, undoubtedly the most memorable of the show, with the lovely Sheila Dwyer. Now, the casual passerby might dismissively assume Mr. Dwyer had simply brought his beautiful wife along to keep him company and help answer questions - and why not? It's an understatement to say Sheila is smoking hot. She is a poised and gorgeous woman with added bonus of a great personality. With her long blonde hair, enviably fit body (martial arts keep her in shape) and an engaging smile…you might worry her husband will stick a blade in your throat if you smile back!
The truth is the Dwyers are two of the most honestly happy people we have ever met. We were intrigued to hear their story, and to learn just how such a stunning woman ended up making such striking blades.
No matter what the uniformed Blade Show attendee might have thought at first glance, Sheila is no vacuous "booth babe". She is a wicked smart artisan who is passionate (and deadly earnest) about her craft.
Sheila lived most of her life in California and has an accomplished career in Hollywood’s entertainment industry. She had roles on Baywatch, Married With Children and many other TV shows and movies throughout the late 80s and all through the 90s. We asked if she modeled at all, but she laughed and said it was one thing she was "too short for". She told us that while she'd never had any illusions that he would be up on the podium accepting an Academy Award for best actress, she did enjoy her roles and chance to play them. An extremely intelligent and articulate woman, she was successful and happy with how her entertainment career progressed. It’s a tough field to break into, let alone stay in, and there were many pitfalls and minefields to avoid.
Eventually, after navigating those hurdles, she ultimately moved into her current role custom knife maker - a seemingly improbable casting, but one that clearly suits her. The transition from stiletto heels to razor sharp knives was easier than it would be for most women trying to do the same. She had fallen in love with Duane Dwyer (insert chick flick music here), and often hung around the shop watching the Strider crew do what they do best. She actually started out making small blades from the cast off scraps of metal left over from what the others were making, but soon progressed from just "playing around and having fun" to apprenticing, then slowly into a skilled craftsman. Steady hands and an artistic flair help her blades develop significantly from her first efforts back in 2009
Let's face it. Going from 'You want to make knives? That’s cute', to being a highly sought after custom knife maker after only a few years of study is no small feat, particularly for a woman.
Her own worst critic, it took a long time for Sheila to produce a knife that she was content to sell. She realized that she only had one chance to make a big splash in the knife world, and there would be no quarter given because of who it was that taught her. With only one shot at making a good impression, Sheila knocked it out of the park! Raving reviews from fans of both her folders and fixed blades have made it clear she's earned her place at the table with her male counterparts.
When you examine Sheila's fixed blade fighters and classic “Strider Style” folders, you will immediately notice her attention to detail and careful choice of materials. She crafts some knives that venture into the sophisticated and artistic side and others that stay firmly planted in the no-thrills utilitarian base. Regardless of the aesthetics and style, they are all razor sharp and up to the challenge of life-or-death reliability. It was really amazing to see her knives in person and hear her explain the method and process behind each unique design. Perhaps some people would be hesitant to buy a knife made by a woman, as if the fairer sex is somehow incapable of understanding what a “real man’s” blade should be. Having seen many terrible knives made by men, (some of which enjoyed celebration and accolades), we call bullshit. Sheila is a first class craftsman and class act all around. Her knives speak for themselves, and are a great addition to the Strider family. Currently she has some very interesting designs in the works, and we are anxiously looking forward to her future work. If you are looking for a rugged, dependable, precision made knife, look no further then the Dwyers. They are a team that complements each other perfectly and share a common vision for their individual knives: quality above all else.
Mad Duo, Breach-Bang & CLEAR!