Inspired by the classic kitchen knives of Sabatier and Roselli, but always hankering for something more individual, Graham Gough started whittling handles using native hardwoods: Apple, Ash, Alder, Cherry, Laburnum, London Plane, Medlar, Pear, Oak, Walnut, Yew and many more.
An axe, a strong whittling knife, rasps/Japanese files, sandpaper and a power drill are his only tools.
My interest in knives went in tandem with my early interest in cooking. A Sabatier was the yardstick then but I always hankered for something more individual. The opportunity arose in Finland where I was sold an expensive Roselli carbon steel cook’s knife. No regrets – it is a superb beast, balanced and holds its edge superbly – however it’s Birch handle always seemed perfunctory.
One evening I sat down and attempted to whittle my own wooden handle with part success. The ‘part’ bit proved integral to moving forward dramatically and now I have now whittled/handled over 200 knives.
My handles are whittled by hand using native hardwoods: Apple, Ash, Alder, Cherry, Laburnum, London Plane, Medlar, Pear, Oak, Walnut, Yew and many more. Getting to know their individual grains and characteristics is fascinating and is a continuing process. An axe, a strong whittling knife, rasps/Japanese files, sandpaper and a power drill are my only tools. No patterns are followed: the process takes 4-6 hours, is intuitive and results in a unique knife every time.
Knife Blade Blanks: I have bypassed the brilliance and toughness of Stainless Steel for softer high-grade Carbon Steel. The world’s greatest knife-producing cultures, Scandinavia and Japan, both use high-grade Carbon Steels for their working knives. This speaks volumes and is why I buy my knife blanks from these two countries.
Knife production in Japan has evolved over centuries leading to a number of classic shapes. I handle Nakiri, Santoku, Gyoto, Kiritsuke and Yanagiba blades. Their uses are well defined, and importantly, they are relatively easy to sharpen. Prices start at £90.00
Working with the highly skilled Two Sticks Forge in Sussex, I have also designed my own small bladed Santoku style knife. These are aesthetically very pleasing and splendid to use. Prices start at £140.00
The Scandinavian blade blanks make general purpose or ‘outdoor’ knives. Many have a role in the kitchen too. Most have been skilfully hand forged by Finnish Craftsmen and show great care to design. Like the Japanese blanks above they are capable of great sharpness and need to be respected. Prices start at £45.00
A sharp knife will deliver precision cuts easily but needs handling with care. Firstly, learn how to hold and cut food properly and keep your fingers tips away from the knives cutting edge and always concentrate like mad. Mastering cutting techniques will make food prep safer and a pleasure to accomplish.
Maintainence: Unlike Stainless steel, carbon knives require more attention. With their wooden handles dishwashers are a no, no. The blade will rust if left wet and to keep a fine cutting edge always cut on wooden boards. Store your knife carefully too (a magnet block is good) and not in the rough and tumble of a utensils drawer.
You will gain the pleasure of learning the best method to sharpen your blade using a Whetstone (Stone/Ceramic). Some finish their knives on a leather strop. Brutal steels and sharpening ‘gadgets’ however good they may look are a definite no, no.
Well-Handled knives have sold successfully at Marchants Nursery, at our Marchants Artists Exhibitions, and we have shown twice at the annual Beautiful & Useful: Craft at the Garden Museum in Lambeth, London.
I am also at Marchants most of the time to help and show you the knives and to let you handle them.
Our knives are kept highly secure in locked cabinets, stock is not huge but commissions are welcome. Why not contact us for an appointment to view. I’ll look forward to it.
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