Paul McEntire


 Paul McEntire: Hone & True

In some ways, life seems scripted. All of the independent factors making the larger story of your life—where you’re born and when, the things that come naturally and the things you are required to learn—begin to form the path leading to “when I grow up...” Often without even realizing it, expectations form and the next thing you know, you’re choosing a college major based more on the unknown than the known.

I was never considered “creative” growing up. Even though I discovered a love for photography when I was given a Brownie camera at the age of 13, I was taught making photographs was a practical skill more than an artful one. Over the years, I have come to discover technical precision blended with artistic interpretation is where the creative balance is for me. And that balance translates directly into my woodwork and knife sharpening.

I was in Mr. McClain’s junior high Industrial Arts class about the same time I got that first camera. He was a great teacher and encourager and, although I loved designing and making things from wood as much as making images, I was guided to the more “career-path worthy” pursuit of photography.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but making photographs became the first outlet for my passion to make things. A sort of quiet maker’s rebellion—doing what was expected of me (photography) but on my own terms. A technically correct photo can be a snapshot to remember a moment or an image that provides basic information about a place or person. Visual storytelling is more, it’s using light, aperture, framing, focal length, film and shutter speeds to take the viewer into the image. I was offered a job at an established and highly respected portrait studio before graduation, but I refused it. It just didn’t feel right. Now I know it’s because I would have been a picture taker, not a maker.

I have spent the past 30 years honing my visual storytelling craft. Photography gave me the opportunity to travel extensively, across the globe, to tell the stories of children in crisis and those helping them—organizations bringing to light the plight of AIDS orphans, abandoned children, impoverished families, and children enslaved in human trafficking. This work ultimately led my wife and I to Romania, where, over the past 15 years, we put down roots and where I rediscovered my love for working with my hands and wood and steel. 

Thanks to my dad’s influence, I am a life-long knife collector. As a teenager I asked for and received a bench grinder/sander combo for a birthday gift. The first piece of metal to get some shaping was a railroad spike. Whenever I could, I would take the opportunity to work with wood and steel. In college, I took both wood working and knife making courses (that 16th Century English literature course for the required liberal arts elective credit was no competition).

No one in my family was a “maker” by trade, but my dad could have been. He had the mind of an engineer and could figure out a way to make just about anything. Watching him, I learned how to master wood and steel. My step-dads were both get ‘er done kinda men. All three are gone now, but many of the tools I use all the time are from the respective workshops of these significant influences in my life.

Hone and True. Hone because, though usually the term applies only to sharpening, it also means to make more acute, intense, or effective. In that sense, it applies to my woodwork as I let the wood “speak” by letting its natural beauty drive the final design and highly polished form. True because whether I’m refining and edge or defining an object, I seek to deliver goods and services that are honest, right, and which fully realize the object’s potential. Through Hone & True, I want to create a fusion of artistry and precision, skill and mindfulness, balance and beauty. It’s the next page of my script, after all, McEntire means son of the carpenter.

Hear Paul's story on the DoubleShot Folk podcast.