From Broken Saw Blades to Damascus Steel

 

Ed Storch from Mannville has been making knives for more than 55 years. they ranged in value from $100 – $1200
 
“I have been making knives since I was 12 or 13 and I turned 68 in February so it has been a little while” explains Ed Storch, one of 18 exhibitors at the first annual Metal Art Show and Sale held at the Reynolds Alberta Museum on September 29th and 30th, 2012. “My first knife was made from a broken saw blade and axe handle on the farm at Hanna. I just wanted to make my own knife and as I remember it, I didn’t want my parents to know what I was doing.” Glancing at his display of knives ranging in price from $100 - $1200 Storch wistfully disclosed, “I wish I still had that very, very crude knife now”.
Displays of hand crafted jewellery, knives, and blacksmith art were scattered among the antique vehicles, farm machinery, vintage aircraft and industrial machinery in the Reynolds Alberta Museum in celebration of Alberta’s Culture Days weekend. And, thanks to the generosity of the Museum, visitors were granted free admission to attend this special show and sale. Exhibitors included: 
Art and Jewelry
Amy Skrocki - Paragon of Design by Skrocki
Charlie Barnett - Charlie Barnett Saddlery
Ric Pollock - Folk Art by Ric
Les & Judy Short - Northern Lights Metal Art
Doug and Mary Wilson - Collector Items
Blacksmith Artists
Laslo Harangozo - Broken Anvil Forge
Brian Herrick - Hot Flash Forge
Shawn Cunningham - Front Step Forge
Knife Makers
Ed Storch - Storch Knives
Irvin Brunas - Brunas Blades
Clare Broeksma - knives and jigs
Roger and Diane Hatt - Hatt Custom Knives
Jay Kemble - Kemble Knives
Esther and Duncan Ferguson - Metal Work by Duncan
Gerry Kievit - G. Kievit Custom Knives
Morris Nesdole (and John Hopkins) - Custom knife maker
Rob and Marilyn Ridley- Canadian Knife maker Supply Ltd.
Larry Strandquist - Hand Crafted Custom Knives
 
Storch became serious about what was then, his hobby. “I went to Olds College in the early 1960's to learn blacksmithing and how to heat treat steel. Then I attended classes at Lakeland College in Vermilion to learn how to source knife makers' supplies and how to finish handles and blades to high standards.” Today, Stroch makes between 40 – 80 knives a year with each taking between 4 and 40 hours to complete depending on the complexity of the order.
“I try to divide my time into thirds. A third filling custom orders for knives, a third on personal development and a third attending shows like the one at RAM here today to keep my name in front of people.”  The majority of Storch’s knives are special orders by clients outlining  specific features and details. “I view my knives as an investment in the future, a legacy to be passed from one generation to the next. My knives are in use worldwide by professional chefs and cooks or for skinning animals.” 
 
How to get started with knife making.
Storch explained, “There are two basic ways to create a handmade knife from steel. The easiest way to get started in knife making is to start with stock removal. You get a piece of stock steel and grind away everything until it looks like a knife”. With stock removal, the knife maker removes pieces and shapes a piece of stock steel by cutting, grinding and shaping it into a knife.   The knife is completed by heat treating (hardening and tempering), attaching a handle and polishing it. Designs and artists logos/i.d. may be added.
“Once you have mastered stock removal you can carry on with Damascus. It’s more expensive and a lot more work.” The Damascus knife is the ultimate challenge in a blacksmith's ability.  “But when I have a Damascus knife making class in my shop, I have to open the large door to let the testosterone out it’s so much fun. I have studied under world-class knife maker Brian Lyttle and credit Brian as an inspiration and teacher in the art of pattern welding, also known as Damascus steel.”
Damascus knives are made by sandwiching different types of steel, similar to a deck of cards. The stack is heated in a forge and fire welded or hammered together on an anvil. The stack is drawn out to the desired length. It is then cut and restacked and re-welded until the desired number of layers are produced. The process is continued over and over and creates a single piece of metal containing layers of different metals producing different designs in each knife. 
Once the knife maker decides how he wants the blade to be shaped, he uses a chisel and hammer to systematically cut away all the extra metal scraps to form an outline. Additional hammering along the exterior thins the metal to form the edge of the knife.  Once the knife blade has been shaped and hardened, the handle is installed. Although many of the exhibitors used deer antlers, there were dozens of different types of materials.  
Many of the exhibitors at the Metal Art Show and Sale teach classes. Stroch concludes.  “A lot of the people here today are past students. It’s nice to meet with them and see some of their work.” Haven’t had so much fun in my life as making knives. I am having a heck of a good time making something useful out of a bar of steel.”
 
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