Just culinary knives?
What steels do you use?
Currently I am working with 440C and AEB-L stainless and 52100 and 80crv2 high carbon. All classic, time-tested blade steels.
What woods do you use for the handles?
I use an assortment of domestic and tropical hardwoods. The domestic woods such as maple, cherry and walnut I choose for great grain patterns, tropical and other non-domestic woods for their fascinating colors and natural rot resistance. Most of my wood comes from Hearne Hardwoods in Oxford, PA, all responsibly and sustainably harvested; and most of that wood is culled from their seemingly endless treasure-filled scrap bins. Other handle wood comes from small scraps I have been guiltily holding on to for years and now glad I finally have a use for; and occasionally I’ll even pull a treasure out of my firewood stacks.
How do you decide which materials on which blades?
I spend an inordinate amount of time fretting over what pieces or combinations of woods, as well as other accent materials match the character and shape of the individual blade. In the end, it’s really just a matter of what looks and feels right on any given day.
Do you do production runs of the same blade?
Not in the strict sense of the term - no fun there. I will make a few knives from the same template at a time but to a greater or lesser degree individualize them all. As I shape the blade I will make changes to the original template, finding the right combinations of arcs and lines to please me that day.
How do you arrive at the shape of the handles?
This is the most fun for me, relying on my sculpture training. As with the blades, I play with the forms, curvatures, tapers and truncations until I arrive at an ultimate shape that looks and feels just right. Many are similar yet none are identical. That being said, there is only so far you can stray from traditional handle shapes which have evolved for efficiency and comfort over time (except for those cheese knives – no rules there).
How are handles finished?
Handles are sanded to an 800 grit (really smooth) finish. Following that, depending on the wood species they are coated with three to six coats of Waterlox, a "resin-modified tung oil" which soaks deeply into the wood and provides a hard, water resistant, moderately glossy finish.
Do you use stabilized wood?
Stabilization is the process of infusing the cells of the wood under pressure with toxic goo, essentially turning wood into plastic, with look and feel of real plastic. I don’t see the point. Granted, some types of woods require this treatment in order to be suitable for handles; I don’t use these woods. With a minimum of care the handles of my knives will last for the lifetime of the knives.
What are the other handle materials?
I use G10, a laminated epoxy material for scale liners and accents (scales being knife-talk for the two sides of the handle in a full tang knife) and color accents. Metal scale elements, pins and accents, are from copper, bronze, brass and nickel silver.
Do you do the heat treating?
Heat treating is the process of bringing the steel to the correct level of hardness for optimum cutting performance, a precise balance of hardness and flexibility - tempering. If the steel is too hard it becomes brittle and will easily break, too soft (always a relative term when talking about steel) and it will not retain its cutting edge. This is the only step in the process that I do not do. I send the blades, cut to profile but not yet tapered or ground to an edge, to a professional heat treating facility, assuring that the process is done correctly and consistently every time.
What about sharpening?
Most importantly, keep your knife honed on a fine ceramic sharpening rod (see the note under “Knife Care”). Do this with some consistency and your knife will need infrequent sharpenings. What occurs with use is that the cutting edge bends over (this is all happening at a microscopic level) but does not necessarily get dull. A few passes with the rod will restore the edge geometry to its optimum cutting performance.
But when it really needs sharpening…?
My favorite test for sharpness is to rest the blade on an unpeeled onion. If the blade bites in a bit and rests on the surface, the edge is good. If the blade slides off of the onion skin it's time to sharpen. There are many routes to go here and I cannot recommend one over another. It depends on your skill, patience and the time and money you want to invest in home sharpening. Do a bit of internet research. There are diamond and water stones for the traditionalist, manual and power devices that you pull the blade through and various jigs and machines. Be wary of some of the pull-through devices. Many work well but most are far too aggressive in the amount of metal that they remove and will shorten the life of the blade.
Send your knives back to me and I’ll be happy to sharpen them and do any cosmetic touch-ups that may be needed. No charge, just cover the cost of shipping to and fro.
What cutting board should I use?
Either high quality hardwood, bamboo or plastic cutting boards are fine. Good wood cutting boards, particularly end grain butcher block type boards are preferred, are easiest on the edge of your knife and will nicely compliment the aesthetic appeal of your lovely knife. Like all good things they require a bit more maintenance – a good scrubbing, drying and occasional rub down with mineral oil. On the other hand, you can toss a plastic board in the dishwasher – much to be said for that. Glass and marble cutting boards – NEVER – they will instantly ruin the cutting edge.
Of course, shipping is factored in to the cost of the knife.
Where are you?
We are located in the historic village of Arden, DE, just a bit south of Philadelphia. Originally tucked into the corner of my sculpture studio; now encroaching more on that space every day.
Are you available for visits?
Of course! If you are in the area, give a call or send a note, drop by to take a look. Not happy with the idea of purchasing a knife through photos alone? Give a call or send a note and drop by to take a look. Always pleased to welcome guests.
Any other questions you may have...
Give a call or send a note and I'll add it to this FAQ.