“Congratulations!” he said while we jointly submerged a glowing piece of metal in an oil bath. I just quenched my first knife after heat treating and the process felt like having another baby.
It started four hours earlier when our group gathered in a bladesmith’s workshop. He started with safety rules and equipment, and followed with a rough plan. Yes, we will start with a small steel bar and go home with a finished knife. Yes, we will heat it until it glows and pound it with a hammer. It will be the real thing.
Blazing furnaces burn skin through gloves. Anvils sound like church bells. Grinding stones, aggressive and sharp like piranha’s teeth, are waiting for my slip. It’s magical.
Two opportunities attracted me to this endeavour: to create one of the first human tools and to go beyond designing digital interfaces. Crafting a physical item invokes a special feeling that is lost when creating something that will be forever trapped in pixels behind a glass.
Everyone in the group started with the same piece of metal, used the same tools, and followed the same process, but every knife looked different. Each of us had their own vision and work style, which was reflected in the final shape, and with it, utility.
I talked with the bladesmith during a break and two of his remarks resonated with me.
- He has been forging blades for 19 years, but he still tries to learn and improve with every new blade he makes. There is always something new he can try or make more complex to challenge himself.
- As a craftsman, he takes immense pride in high quality and effectiveness of his creations. Although he appreciates beauty very much, it comes second; function comes first.