In a continuation of the Made By Hand Series, I was drawn to the work of writer turned knife maker Joel Bukiewicz.
I couldn’t get anyone to buy the first manuscript I’d written, and this was also just after the second Bush election, on which I’d worked pretty hard both in Georgia and down in Florida. So I was kind of like, “Fuck this, I’m makin’ a knife.”
Did you have a knife-making mentor?
No. I’m ashamed to say that I’ve still yet to set foot in another knifemaker’s shop. Early on I learned what I could from books and online resources, and then just spent countless hours in my little makeshift workshop screwing stuff up and trying not to get hurt. When you make a mistake that wrecks a piece you’ve already put 20 hours into, that’s a mistake you’re not going to make again. So I’d say learning was really a matter of getting my hands dirty and making lots of mistakes. And I’m still learning—there are always new processes to learn and play with, new and challenging materials to work with, new task-specific knives to try to get inside and build.
What is your favorite part of the process?
I think my favorite part of the process is the final unveiling, when I finish hand working the handles and remove the masking tape that’s been protecting the blade, and all of a sudden a knife appears. You’ve been working so long and hard on these different elements of the knife, getting everything symmetrical and balanced and perfect, and the handle looks great but the whole package is still this ugly thing covered in blue tape. And then off comes the tape and you have this beautiful finished piece in your hands. If I’ve put all my knowledge and effort and skill into it, then what I’m holding at that moment is as perfect a knife as I have it in me to make. That’s a great feeling.
Are there any new materials or processes that you are testing that will improve the performance of your knives?
There are indeed. I’ve been testing a bunch of new steel for the last 6 months or so, and it’s become more and more clearly apparent throughout the process that Carpenter’s new XHP steel is a head above anything else out there right now. It takes a beautiful grippy edge and it holds an extremely thin edge longer than any other material I’ve used. It’s also remarkably easy to sharpen, even at high hardnesses, and it’s super clean and highly stain resistant. As soon as I can get some from Carpenter’s mill I’ll be using it in everything I make, and, steel nerd that I am, I’m super, super excited about it.
His five ways to get the most out of your kitchen knife is full of evocative language and worth having a look at.
Quotes from Gastronomistra