Forging His Own Path Through the Fire
By Abbey Remkus
Metal, while strong and unwavering, becomes malleable when heat and force are applied. Under fire, it is shaped and changed, often made stronger. The same can be said for Watkinsville resident and owner of Cattle Dog Forge, Daniel Moye.
Moye’s story is one of determination and triumph in the face of near-fatal tragedy. The former orthopaedic surgeon was struck head-on by an 18-wheeler in 2008, changing his life forever.
Before his accident, he specialized in putting people back together after major car wrecks and falls. The heavy irony is not lost on Moye that the very practice he honed over his lifetime to help others would eventually be used to save his own life.
The photos of that tragic day are difficult to see. The collision pinned him inside the vehicle, and first responders to the scene were unsure if he could be removed from the wreckage with his legs intact.
“I don’t remember anything about the crash, only leaving the house that day headed to compete in a bike race, only to wake up in the hospital three weeks later,” he said.
Moye would spend nearly two years in and out of hospitals, unable to walk for a year, and not knowing if he would lose his ability to walk and even lose his legs. Thankfully, with the help of his medical colleagues, his legs were saved. But the overall damage to his body was too extensive to allow him to perform surgery and practice medicine.
It was a difficult time for the good doctor. He realized he needed to find something new, but it wasn’t easy with his new physical limitations.
“I was very depressed. I worked a lot of hours and I enjoyed working,” Moye said. “I couldn’t race bicycles anymore; I tried trout fishing, but I couldn’t walk to the streams.”
Moye always had an interest in blade making, but he had never pursued it. Thanks to the coaxing of a friend, Moye decided to devote his time to the craft. Moye met his neighbor John Costa, owner of Costa Cleaners in Watkinsville, who was trained in blacksmithing and blade making. Moye attended a class Costa put on for members at his church, making a knife out of a horseshoe. From there, for Moye, the rest is history.
“I made two knives that night,” he recalled. Costa and Moye became friends, and Costa shared his knowledge and helped Moye hone his craft and eventually build his own forge in his backyard.
Why blade making?
Moye said he was familiar with hunting knives and had always had an interest in them, but it’s the practice of making the knives that he loves despite the nerve damage in his hands. In the words of Moye’s father, who was a woodworker, “It keeps my hands busy and my mind still,” Moye said.
“I do it because I enjoy it. It gives me something to do. I like using my hands. I don’t think about being uncomfortable, I think about what I’m doing, and it’s relaxing to me. My wife thinks I’m stressed out,” Moye added, laughing.
In 2011, Moye said, he started Cattle Dog Forge after he had made knives as gifts for everyone in his family, eventually making knives with nowhere for them to go.
“I figured they were good quality, so I tried selling them,” Moye said. “I have sold to customers in New Zealand, Ireland, Alaska, Canada, all over the U.S. I’m just trying to basically break even.”
“All I want to do is get better and better at making knives, and maybe sell a few along the way,” Moye said. “I also do a little repair work for people.”
Moye largely makes custom orders but specializes in fixed-blade field knives, kitchen knives, oyster knives and letter openers. Moye takes his time, making one at a time traditionally, by hand, with a hammer and an anvil.
“My main thing is that I make the majority of each knife by hand, about 90-95 percent by hand. I’m not trying to make 20 knives a week. It takes me five to seven days to make a knife. It makes me feel good; I like the idea that I made it by hand. If there’s an apocalypse I may have a job still,” Moye said, laughing.
Moye is a member of the Georgia Custom Knifemaker’s Guild and even partners with Watkinsville resident and friend, Bud Siniard, owner of Upland Custom Leather, who supplies handmade leather sheaths that accompany each of his knife orders.
His only complaint, which may seem comical, is that his knives have been called “too pretty.” And while there is beauty in the process and the final product, the knives are also strong and practical.
“I just make something that is pretty for me. When I make a knife I shape the blade, then I look for the handle, then I make the handle fit the knife. My biggest complaint is that people say they’re too pretty to use. I try to make them attractive, but it’s not going to hurt the knife to use it.”
Moye said he does dearly miss his days of practicing medicine, often dreaming about favorite procedures he had performed in the past. But like the very blades he makes today, Moye “too” has been put through the fire and has emerged changed. It’s a different kind of practice that brings a similar feeling of motivation and positivity into his life, and his work reflects nothing less.