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After 10 years working in professional kitchens, you would think I knew the secret of keeping my knives sharp. But, I didn’t. After noticing that the other chefs had the same problem, I saw an opportunity. The quest to learn how to best sharpen knives consumed me. I bought a ticket and traveled the country in search of learning the art of sharpening. When I returned to Seattle, I started my sharpening business in the back of an old mail truck and drove from restaurant to restaurant. I’d ask them to give me their most damaged knives with the promise “if I don’t make them better than new, you don’t have to pay.” I always got paid and my passion was born.
Of course, to better understand how to sharpen, I needed to understand how the knives are made. Then an ad for Bladesmith School opened the door to the next level. At the class, it felt like I stepped back nearly 2000 years. The primitive world of beating on hot steel and making tools that surpassed any knives I had ever sharpened was fantastic. The art of sharpening knives was no longer enough, I had to make them. And I needed to make them for the world I knew – kitchens.
That was 1994. Since then I have become one of 120 Master Bladesmiths in the US. To earn this title from the American Bladesmith Society, one must undergo years of study and then pass a Master’s Test. The test required building a 10″ Bowie knife made of 300+ layers of steel. This one knife had to cut through a 1″ free hanging rope in one swing, chop through a two-by-four twice, shave a swatch of arm hair (after the two-by-four), and finally, bend the blade at a 90-degree angle without the blade breaking. If you succeed, then you submit five flawless knives (including a 15th-century Quillion dagger, a very difficult knife to make) to a panel of judges.