We found out about Stephen and his amazing business up North and thought we'd share a bit about his craft! He recently completed his training in blacksmithing up in The Kootenays in British Columbia, with a focus on both traditional and contemporary ironwork.
A sturdy knife is one of the most useful tools you can have. It is an essential tool to have when camping and might save your life in an emergency. Knives are also a very useful tool for everyday life and indispensable for any craftsperson.
In our present age of mindless consumption, I try to make knives out of found materials. I also strive to use traditional techniques and hand tools whenever possible. If done properly this can produce a knife of high quality, beauty, and character.
It is very important that a knife is made out of good steel. High-carbon steel is the most versatile type of steel that can be used for this type of knife. I used an old worn out file and scrap maple wood from a furniture maker for this knife.
The process starts with grinding the teeth off the file and cutting out a piece that is then put in the forge and hammered to shape, following ancient black smithing techniques. Once the rough shape is made, it needs to be cooled very slowly to anneal the steel. This makes it soft enough for the final shaping to be done with hand tools. Fittingly, this knife was mostly shaped with hand files, the same thing it is made out of.
After this is done, holes are drilled for the handle and then it is ready for heat treating. I used a wood stove to heat the blade for hardening. It was then put in an oven for tempering. Heat treating the blade gives the steel specific characteristics that are essential in a good knife: hardness and toughness. This ensures a sharp edge that won’t chip or require resharpening too often.
Now the woodworking begins. The handle is cut to shape using a bandsaw, then drilled for hidden pins, epoxied, and clamped together. Once dry, the handle is shaped to its final form. As the last step, the blade is sharpened on sharpening stones and polished with a leather strop. Although a long process, it produces a knife that will hold up to many years of use.
Thank you so much for sharing these photos with us Stephen Zenga!
We will definitely share when his business is up and running. He's won us over with the quality and intricate work within this craft! It is a shame that blacksmithing is now a rare occupation- let's support local hardworking craftsmen like Stephen!