Search This Blog

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Time well spent

Time spent with good friends around a fire is invariably some of the higest quality time you will spend in your life. If you happen to poke a few bars of really nice steel into the fire and then bash them around - well, lemmetelya, it just gets better and better.

We popped in to visit custom knifemaker Chris Grant on the edge of the Cairngorms this week and once we had got over the spectacular scenery:

We settled into a couple of evenings of hard but rewarding prototyping. This is both enjoyable and really hard work at the same time. Commercial decisions need to be made on the spot and although the results can be seen almost immediately, time is very limited so the pressure to get those decisions right every time goes through the roof. It's a mentally demanding process but the results are well worth a thousand mile round trip and a spot of pressurised thinking.

First up was an idea that I have been mulling over for some time - a marking knife that can be presented perfectly flush to a left or right corner and naturally balances correctly in either position, can be rolled or drawn over an edge or surface and is possibly the wierdest looking but simultaneously the most 'now why didn't anyone else figure this one out before' idea that my twisted mind has ever wrought. Can it be made commercially? I have no idea as yet, but seeing the idea fleshed out in both O1, piano wire and cut-throat razor steel certainly brings things a step closer.

Yes, the photo doesn't give much away - but at this stage of production it would be foolish to do so. Suffice to say I am very excited about bringing this product to market.

Next was a forged carving knife for green woodworking - we used the same razor steel for this and it takes probably twice the effort to forge that O1 would (guess who was swinging the hammer to get this one from round to flat) - "s'your spec pal, you've tae bash tha bugger oot!!!" People talk about steel 'flowing under the hammer' well this stuff flows like a glacier on a cold day, even at 900 degrees C, but it was well worth breaking a sweat over - I have seen edges that would slice free hanging tissue paper before but it's still very impressive. The next step would be ball bearing steel which is only just forgable by hand if you've got really big arms and a chip on your shoulder, but may just be viable under mechanised production. I've gone for the longest blade I thought was viable on the principle that you can always make things shorter, but we will see how it goes once it's handled.

While we were at it, I thought that the most ultimate, ultra-gucci spoon knife in the world would be a lovely thing to do, so here we have a differentially hardened white paper steel (which I also learned began as mass produced tamahagane) spoon knife blade, complete with hamon line. It was a right little tinker to make and took hours to get right but if your smith can knock one of these out you know you are dealing with someone who really knows their business, £125 a pop unhandled if anyone feels the need. Here it is roughed out and quickly etched to find the hamon, once fully polished I have no doubt that this will become one of my my most treasured posessions. I went for a longer shank than usual as this allows you to swoop in for the really low cuts that enable you to hollow oval shapes as well as circular ones.

Last of all was something for Her indoors, a stock removal Santoku from AE 1095/15N20 Damascus which turned out better than any of us could have imagined.

Stock removal is a cheaper manufacturing method than forging but more wasteful in terms of raw materials, forging would however have produced a larger blade. Nonetheless, this little chap will see some serious testing once it is handled and it will be enlightening to see how it performs as an everyday kitchen knife. Updates to follow.

Chris is shortly going to be moving workshops, so if you want anything made it's probably best to be both quick in placing your order and prepared to wait a while for it. I can however give my personal guarantee that he will stop at nothing to ensure that the quality of your finished item is second to none in the world.


  1. I second all of your comments about Chris. Not only a skilled craftsman but a gentleman too.

  2. What a splendid blog. I look forward to the next instalment. Good luck to Chris on his move to new premises....J

  3. a fine blog glad you on the same wave length like the rest of us C$%7S

  4. Great read, looking forward to the follow up!