I was 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 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, now retired.
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.
THE HANDMADE ETHOS
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 A handmade project is in a real sense an historical document portraying the makers skills, thoughts and character of the time.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 Heat Treating 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.
ABOUT THE RIFLEBIRD
The Magnificent Riflebird, Ptiloris magnificus, is one of three ‘birds of paradise’ from the most northern tip of tropical Australia. It has a splendid, iridescent, blue breast, a jewel in an otherwise jungle-green rainforest. Males display spectacularly on high branches, shaking their plumage like heavy silk, suddenly spreading and flicking their wings, crouching, their bill open and head thrown back, snapping from side to side like a flamenco dancer.
They are styled, elegant and refined. A splash of art deco in nature.
During the mid 90’s, my wife and I travelled for a year around Australia, visiting much of the remote wilderness. Essentially the enjoyment of travelling was for the sake of it, however we set a guiding goal of spotting all three endemic species of riflebird. Luckily, we found them and they have symbolised adventure for us ever since.