Making art from reclaimed steel

My story started with making my first knife from an old lawn mower blade, and used the camp fire pit in our backyard as a forge. It’s been love ever since.

Scrap steel is a beautiful thing

Steel I’m recycling to use in forging knives and tools

Steel is 100% recyclable and should NEVER be thrown out or end up in the garbage dump. It can always be used for something, and I love to reuse and re-purpose old tools and discarded steel. Some people see junk – I see new knives. I see the potential for something new and beautiful.

I see the art in junk. A beautiful new chef knife from an old broken shovel, camp knives from discarded dull saw blades, a kitchen chopper from the leaf spring of an old truck – what can be more cool than that? Making knives from recycled material that would have otherwise ended up in the dump is not only fun and rewarding, it is also an environmentally friendly ‘green’ enterprise.

my original backyard redneck forge I used when I first got started

How I Make My Knives

We use two different methods to make knives: stock removal and forging. We typically use stock removal when making a knife from stainless steel. This is the preferred material for kitchen knives, and we use only the best quality 440c stainless steel bar stock milled in the USA. While we do have a few unique kitchen knives forged from a truck leaf spring (very cool), it isn’t stainless so it does require periodic polishing, and not everyone wants to do that.

Stock removal and forging processes

Stock removal is the process of making a knife from a bar of flat ‘stock’ material, and cutting the knife from it. Once the profile of the knife has been cut from the flat stock, it is ground and sanded down into its final shape.

Forging is the best way to get the most out of re-purposed steel. Forging is the method of heating steel up to a ‘forging’ heat – when it becomes soft enough to change shape but not hot enough to melt. The blacksmith will then place the hot steel on an anvil and hammer the steel into shape.

Steel rescued from the dump that can be repurposed into beautiful new knives. This paring knife was forged from an old chunk of steel cable, and uses deer antler found in the woods for the handle (no deers were hurt!)

We use leaf spring salvaged from old trucks we get at a local auto wrecker. Leaf spring is high carbon 5160 steel, and is excellent for making knives. A knife made from 5160 is virtually indestructible and holds an edge under heavy use. It is not stainless, though, so it will develop a patina over time and will need to be polished periodically.

This has no effect, however, on its usefulness or durability and most outdoors people don’t mind a patina on their outdoor knives. It is a very worthwhile trade-off for the superior strength desired in a bushcraft knife.

Using stainless tool steel for the kitchen

Because kitchen knives do not need to be quite so strong, going to a 440c stainless is a good compromise for kitchen knives. That’s not to say that a knife made from stainless steel will be weak. 440c is still extremely strong, and is classed as a tool steel along with 01. It will hold up for a lifetime of rugged and demanding use in the home or restaurant.

All of our knives use a ‘full tang’ construction. This means there is steel the full length of the handle, and makes the knife extremely strong and durable.

The Best Material for a Knife Handle

Our knife handles are made from micarta or hardwood. They are finished by hand with a very fine grit sand paper, then treated with either tung oil or linseed oil. Micarta is the toughest material, but all of our handles will hold up to rugged use.

All of our hardwood is locally sourced. We use cherry wood from a mill in SW Ontario. And we currently have a lot of honey locust and maple from trees harvested right here on our property where the shop is located. Honey locust is an extremely strong and beautiful hardwood, in the same class as oak. We also use oak locally harvested.

Handmade camp knife with oak handle

All these hardwood’s make strong and gorgeous handles, and are sealed with tung oil or linseed oil. We also have a limited edition of small knives with handles made from the wood of an antique horse yoke we rescued and would have otherwise been thrown out. A favorite with horse lovers!

Micarta is man-made from resin and linen or canvas and will not shrink, warp or crack with heat, humidity or extreme cold. It’s almost as tough as steel, and is the preferred handle material for knives meant to be used outdoors in all kinds of weather.

Care and Maintenance.

When properly cared for and used only for its intended purpose, our handcrafted knives will last a lifetime.

All knives will need to be sharpened from time to time. A knife made from good quality high carbon steel and properly heat treated will keep a good edge for a long time before it needs to be sharpened. Keep your knife sharp – a sharp knife is actually safer than a dull one!

Why buy handmade?

Quality handmade knives from an experienced craftsmen will be far superior to cheap store-bought knives from China. That’s because we choose only the best steel made in the USA and Canada, and we are very careful with our heat treating. Each knife we make is individually heat-treated with care. This will ensure a superior, long lasting keen edge.

Since you are here visiting a website about handmade knives, maybe you’ve seen the TV show ‘Forged in Fire’ and watched what they do to their knives. It makes for entertaining TV, but as a general rule of thumb, by best advice is don’t do anything they do. Don’t use your knives as pry-bars or to chop through steel gas cans. Knives are not meant for that!

Paring knife forged from automotive spring steel. The handle is hardwood from a Honey Locust tree in my backyard

Any knife will corrode or rust over time. Even stainless steel will stain and corrode if you leave it buried in salt or at the bottom of a lake long enough. So you will need to periodically polish your knife, although with stainless you shouldn’t have to do it as often if you are treating your knife properly. Use a very fine grit or polishing compound, 600 grit or higher, to restore a blade that has developed a patina or a bit of rust.

Hand wash and dry immediately

We do not recommend putting your knife in the dishwasher, especially if your knife has a hardwood handle. However, stainless steel blades with micarta handles will hold up well in a dishwasher, but it is always best to hand wash and dry immediately.

Take proper care of your handmade knife and it will last decades, maybe longer than you. I have two handmade knives in my private collection that are well over a hundred years old, and still in excellent condition with the original handles.

Camp knife forged from automotive leaf spring, using walnut and deer antler in the handle

All of our knives are 100% made by hand in Ontario Canada. Our shop is located in Brantford, an hour west of Toronto and just twenty minutes from Hamilton.

If you have any questions about our knives and how we make them, please feel free to contact me using our handy little ‘Contacts’ page. Check out our galleries of available one-of-a-kind knives. We also do custom orders. A custom knife engraved with a special message, name or date will make a very unique gift.