Born in Newcastle, NSW, Australia.
So far I’ve worked as a brickies labourer, general hand for a fire fighting company and in a steel mill, as crew on low level coastal surveillance flights and as technical crew on oil rigs in Australia, New Zealand and the Timor Sea. Further, I became an exploration geologist and spent 15 years or so chasing corporate scale gold deposits in outback Australia and un-developed equatorial Africa. In fact, all of my career has been spent being self sufficient in either deserts, remote wilderness, mud huts or on drill rigs perched over the black ocean. I can proudly claim that to date I’ve worn a suit twice, my brothers and my own weddings.
My family and I moved to the hills behind Adelaide, South Australia, early this century. Coincidentally and luckily, circumstance has allowed me time since to explore working with my hands. We all want to do this at some stage in our lives, to create something useful or lasting or arty farty. Well this is my chance and I intend to enjoy it. Which invites the question most people ask, why knives?
I’m attracted to knives by the flash of precision steelwork set against my favourite material, highly figured exotic wood. The combination has a lot in common with jewellery. It’s a naturally attractive marriage of opposites, with the complicated patterns and colours of wood framed by the simple elegance of polished steel.
In the main I’ve learned through trial and error, referring to books and videos when available. I’ve also been lucky enough to receive invaluable critical comment from Malcolm Day, an experienced knife maker at Hahndorf, also in the Adelaide Hills.
Frustrating, lonely, isolating and endearingly gratifying when it’s pulled off. There is a great deal of satisfaction to be had in concocting a knife design while watching the cricket on TV and then fabricating it to plan. I get excited when the drawing comes together, busy with arrows and annotations, and again if the knife does. Either way, there’s a win.
You can tell from the above that knife making is essentially a personal recreation for me. That being said, I’ve come to the realisation they have to go out the door. This clears the way and makes budget for the next one but also forces me to improve as the last thing I want to do is sell a knife that isn’t the best I can make at that time.
I believe there is an intrinsic value within the term “handmade”. A handmade project is in a real sense an historical document portraying the makers skills, thoughts and character of the time.
Importantly, this process culminates with the individual flavour and feel of the knife. A uniqueness which will, in years to come, give it worth beyond the sum of its parts. There is also an implied agreement between maker and client, that the term ‘handmade’ means great care was taken while constructing one knife at a time.
Why would someone consider a handmade knife? Well, amongst the many reasons don’t discount the following one, I think it’s important. The handmade knife, through design, colour, fit and style makes the owner feel good. It feels good to hold and admire and it feels good to use. It’s like owning a sports car simply for the visceral pleasures of sitting in that low and sexy drivers seat.
It doesn’t matter if the desire is for a handmade car, painting, furniture, clothing or knife, the commonality is a drive to be divorced from mass production. To have and own an object no one else has. I highly recommend that even if you don’t like my style, pursue a handmade knife from someone you do admire. Give mass production the bird and support individuality.
‘Sole authorship’ is the natural partner of ‘handmade’, especially for someone such as myself who is making knives for his own pleasure. This includes drawing up my own plans, making my own mosaic pins, leather or wood sheaths and presentation boxes.
However, the picture includes shades of grey. I am not in a position to forge steel so purchase well known, quality barstock from reliable sources. I have the blades professionally heat treated at Tooling and General HT Services in Adelaide. Hot dip blueing of carbon steel blades is done by a long time and experienced gunsmith, Daryl Hannaford of Blackwood in the Adelaide Hills.
If you are going to hand-make a knife, then you hand select the materials to do so.
My knives are made using stock removal from a number of steel types. I favour RWL34 for culinary knives or those knives to be mirror polished but I also use CPMS35VN for utilities and hunters, or for the carbon fans, 52100. The high carbon 5160 and 01 are my choice for hot dip caustic bluing. I also use commercially available Damascus bar stock.
All of my knives are flat ground because I prefer that aesthetic. Some are chisel ground because it makes them damned sharp.
I hand stitch all my own sheaths from top grade hide. Some have inserts of other materials such as cane toad, emu, snake or fish skin.
When talking to custom knife makers, the term ‘handmade’ has many shades of grey. In my case it means my power tools are a belt grinder, drill-press, buffing wheel and that’s it. These tools are for coarse shaping. The precision work, fit and finish is all done using hand tools, while polishing is achieved by hand rubbing grits 80 all the way through to 2000.
I hand sharpen my knives using stones of various grades, finishing with a leather strop
But most of all I like putting wood on my steel. My main focus is to frame an exotic, select hardwood with a knife blade. I regularly search international and Australian wood sellers for that special piece, and blow my budget every time. If you like premium wood on your knife you are in the right place.
Even though I purchase only milled and seasoned woods I still slab them to scale dimensions, then air dry them for at least one year before use. This is to acclimatise the wood to Australian conditions, particularly Adelaide, which has a low humidity and also to relieve the internal stresses common to wild grain or highly figured timber.
WHERE I’M AT
I started making knives as a stock removalist in late 2004. My situation does not lend itself to setting up a forge so this will not change. My workspace is primarily a sturdy bench and vice surrounded by a generous collection of exotic and highly figured timbers (that appears to be constantly growing). It’s not a bad place to spend an hour or two.
I make knives because I want to and therefore indulge my own aesthetic and bias when it comes to design. Sometimes I’ll run a particular concept through a number of iterations, trying out various permutations in handle materials and steels.
Ultimately I would like to develop an Art Deco styled knife. I’ve tried once or twice without any satisfying success. And indeed, looking around at what other makers are doing indicates it’s a rare achievement. Many who try appear to be forcing elaborately wrought Deco motifs onto blade and handle shapes that just don’t ring true. It has to be more stylish and simple than that. So occasionally you will see my ‘latest attempt’ at art deco pop up amongst the rest of my builds.
I also like to make culinary knives. With a working wife and young family I spend my share of time in the kitchen. Here I derive real satisfaction from using and keeping hair-splitting sharp various cooks knives I’ve built.
Please have a look around the site and hopefully you will like what I do. Perhaps even consider buying one of my knives because you share my fondness for the materials I use. Alternatively, contact me and talk about a project that could bring satisfaction to both of us.
Spec built items, purchased from the website display will be shipped on receipt of full payment. All taxes are paid by purchaser.
For commissioned items, I will only require a deposit if the item is of such a nature that I would have trouble marketing it to the greater public or the materials involved are unusually expensive.