I have always wanted to forge my own knife, even before the Thronin Project began; having been passionate about the martial arts since the age of 10, it was a long-lived ambition to make a blade from scratch and in August 2015 I finally got to turn that dream into a reality!
As if the stars had aligned, one of my ex-students, Alec Steele (I know, with a surname like that, it was destiny right?!) has set up his own forge in the heart of Norwich and is quickly becoming recognised as one of the brightest young talents in the world of blacksmiths.
One lazy Wednesday afternoon, armed with a rough sketch, a portable target and no idea about what to expect, I pulled up outside a bustling industrial unit and met 17 year old Alec, replete in a stylish white cowboy hat, jeans, and heeled boots – all that was missing was his lasso. This is not simple affectation on his part; Alec has worked extensively in the States where he has understudied and run workshops himself since he was a young school boy.
Having briefly caught up on all the news (we had not seen each other since he had left school the year before and set up as a self-employed craftsman), Alec lost no time in inducting me into the mysteries of knife-making.
Working with a rusted length of sprung steel from an old vehicle we set about cutting away the detritus until we were left with bars of pure potential. Then we fired up the forge, welded working handles to the end of the bars and, once they glowed yellow-gold, we hammered out the basic profile of the knives.
From this rough shape Alec patiently coached me through every stage of the process needed to transform the raw materials into a heat-treated, perfectly balanced and carefully weighted artefact. Having spent several hours grinding, polishing, and fine-tuning the blades, I have to say that I was reluctant to throw them at anything; I hated the idea that they might get dinked or shatter! After a little persuading however, I set the tripod and end-grain target up in the front yard and we whiled away a good half an hour putting the knives through their paces.
I have to say I was a little unnerved by just how quickly Alec picked the technique up and he was soon sticking clean throws into the centre of the board. I had my revenge however when he whipped out a lasso which he had stashed to one side after all, and challenged me to do my worst! I would like to boast that I caught a charging steer that happened to be passing by but the truth is I snared a rather forlorn looking office chair instead! Nonetheless, I think my honour was restored and as I left the yard in the late afternoon, clutching my newly made knives tightly. I felt exhausted, sore, blistered and ecstatically happy with what we had achieved.
I won’t lie, knife-making is hard, dirty work but it is also one of the most satisfying things I have ever done. If you are fortunate enough to be able to spend a day like I did to make your own blade under the watchful eye of a skilled artisan, I would urge you to do so. It felt like a kind of rite of passage for the journey I am on to become a world class thrower…who knows, perhaps I will be throwing my own bespoke knives on the day I am finally crowned champion? I can but dream!