By Savanah Mandeville
Diane Friend is no stranger to the great outdoors.
She and her husband, Rick, live for bow season, black powder season and the modern firearm season. Diane’s also known to catch crappie, bass, catfish and trout.
The couple’s own love for the hunt is why they put care and attention to detail into every hunting knife, tomahawk and leather product sold through their Seneca-based business, Friend Knife Making. Each piece is designed to have more than utilitarian value — they are works of art.
For 10 years, Rick has hand-forged the knives while Diane has crafted the leather sheaths. Her expertise runs the gamut of sheaths, holsters, wallets, rifle slings, wrist bands and ammunition cases. Despite her patient craftsmanship and obvious heart and soul put into each piece, leatherwork is a trade that found Diane and not the other way around.
“I had no interest in it at all,” she laughed. “My husband was into making knives as a hobby, and people were becoming interested in buying them. He came to me one day and said, ‘If you stitch the sheaths, I’ll do the rest.’ And he’s never made a sheath since!”
Diane harnessed a lifelong passion for creativity and dove headfirst into sheath making. She grew her expertise by watching a few instructional videos but mostly learned through trial and error. Over time, she developed a meticulous eye for high-quality leathers, impeccable staining, flawless carving and finishes, and pin-straight stitching.
“Everything is done completely by hand, so every single knife and sheath will be unique with their own characteristics,” she said.
Diane typically draws inspiration from the knives themselves. Working in tandem with her husband, she designs the sheaths to match in style and aesthetic to the knives they’ll accompany, recreating motifs like two-tone staining and nature influences. Every sheath is stamped with their logo and John 3:16.
Getting into leatherwork reignited another passion for Diane: photography. For 18 years, Diane owned the local weekly newspaper, Seneca News Dispatch. She also worked for the newspaper for 10 years prior to owning it.
“I did a lot of photography during my time at the paper, and it was the one thing I missed the most about the newspaper business,” she said.
Setting up displays and taking photos of the knives and sheaths for the website sparked her interest in photography again. Today, Diane is an experienced nature and wildlife photographer.
“I love to go outside and walk around and just capture what I happen to see,” she said. “You can capture details that you can’t begin to see with the naked eye. It’s fascinating.”
Diane is also a published author. Her book, “From the Journals of a Learner: Opposite Attraction,” has Christian themes with short stories and life lessons gleaned from two decades of journaling. It’s available for purchase on Amazon.
Diane describes this intrinsic motivation to create in these various capacities as God-given gifts.
“The Lord is the reason and has instilled the motivation within me,” she said. “I’ve learned that creativity is about trusting in Him and trusting the process. When the time is right, inspiration will come.”
Where to find Friend Knife Making:
Where to find Diane Friend’s photography: