“There’s just a sort of ritual aspect to knives and cooks that I think is powerful,” says knife maker Will Griffin, of W.A. Griffin Blade Works. “The emotional connection you have to something that you use every day, that you take care of, it needs to work well and do all of those things, but it’s also a lot more than that.”
After cooking professionally for eight years, Will Griffin began to collect knives. His interest in how the tool is made and how they can be optimized to perform at their best began to grow after he realized the importance of knives in a professional kitchen. “Working in a restaurant has allowed me to appreciate all of the details of a kitchen knife, in a way that would be hard to do if you didn’t have that experience,” he says. “I think that informs what I do as a knife maker.”
Griffin makes each knife individually, using the process of hand forging. “I don’t work from patterns or specific templates ever. It’s so much more enjoyable for me to work that way rather than to get knives cut out by a machine. I find that that limits the expression that I’m able to put in each knife.”
First, he casts the metal, which involves heating it up to its melting point, and then pouring it into a mold. Next comes the forging process, where Griffin heats the metal and hammers it into shape. When it gets to a certain temperature, it becomes malleable and soft, allowing him to distribute the metal where he wants (thicker at the base, thinner at the tip.) It’s then heat treated: One of the most important steps in the process, it involves rapidly heating and cooling the steel to better control the materials. Griffin then grinds the blade and smooths out the overall shape of the knife. For the final step, he sharpens the knife on wet stones, which is the final bit of hand work makes the tool unique.
“I try to do my best to make something that lives up to the standard of what people want, something that has my spirit put into it, that has a story behind it, that then goes into somebody’s knife kit, and helps them express themselves through the food they make,” says Griffin. “They all reflect a certain part of me and how they were made.”