January 11, 2016
Intrigued by Japanese blacksmith techniques, Peckham based Blade Smiths, Jonathan Warshawsky, James Ross Harris and Richard Warner first accidentally succeeded in hand making their first high carbon steel kitchen knife at the bottom of their garden in 2012. Jon and James, later joined by Richard, spent two years trying to replicate their first achievement using the Japanese techniques. Learning the process of hand forging their knives was arduous. Many mistakes were made and like anyone who is trying to discover an ancient process shrouded in secrecy, they had to lay the bricks as they walked over them.
The high carbon damascus steel is fused together using extreme heat, different japenese steels and repeated folding. The metal is intensely heated in their purpose built forge (under a railway arch in London) until nearly at melting point. The result is a blade of high resilience and strength, capable of retaining its sharp edge for a very long time. Recognised for its beautiful wavy pattern, this steel is formed into their knives with great patience and care in the Peckham forge.
Removed from the forge the metal is beaten and folded on itself repeatedly and diligently on an anvil to take the basic form on the blade. Pressing and hand grinding further refine this form.
Commonly seen in the forge’s social media feeds, there are videos of the knives being ground on large unnerving belt driven stone wheels.
In the basic form of a blade, the piece is taken through multiple stages of further grinding. Using increasingly smooth grades of belts, the blade is carefully honed to a cutting edge. During this process, it’s vital that the piece is kept from overheating as it gradually becomes thinner at its edge. Constantly the blade is cooled with water between phases of grinding.
Taken through multiple grinding stages, the blade is then fitted with its handle. The forge has locally sourced an abundance of varying types of timber that are turned into beautiful artisan handles seen below.
With the handle secured the blade can finally be hand honed on Japanese water stones. Naturally occurring, the stones are unrivalled for the purpose of knife sharpening. Much like the prior grinding stages, the water stones have varying grades often starting at a rough 200 grit going upward to 6,000 grit. Having recently purchased some of these stones ourselves the skill and effort to achieve a smooth and refined edge is crucial.
We find it hard to justify the images below in words but the artisan description is certainly justified with Blenheim Forge knives. Wavy and rippling, the Damascus steel folds scatter the blade surface. Hand hammered rivets secure the hand whittled handle and charming drop forged logo are seen in the following images.
On the forge website you can choose from the limited but fully capable range of handmade knives. The ‘Petty’, ‘Santoku’, ‘Nakiri’ and the ‘Gyuto’. With a lead time of two to three months, you can now understand the reason for your wait. Three highly skilled and motivated men are under a railway arch in Peckham hammering and grinding your knife to perfection. If anything the wait is reassuring and full of anticipation.
Now based in a new self built forge under a Peckham railway arch, Jonathan, James and Ross continue to craft their British made knives. With frequent success since their first attempt, we recognise their endeavour with huge respect. Head over to their website or social media feeds.
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