You may have noticed the surge in popularity of North American blacksmithing in recent years. A few factors are responsible—a certain History Channel reality show being one of them—but really it comes down to one main thing: it’s super cool. People are forging blades in their backyard, garage, workshop, just about anywhere else one can fit a forge. When it comes down to it, almost anyone can be a blacksmith with enough time and determination. Anyone can be a blacksmith, but not everyone can be Chris Green.
Chris is a young hotshot blacksmith from Salt Spring Island. He started forging professionally because he fell in love with the process and artistry of knife making. When you hold one of his knives, his passion for the craft is clear. It’s evident in the finish of the blades, the fit of the sheathes, the polish of the handles. Every detail is immaculate, like a meal plated by a Michelin-star chef. His diverse background as a chef, baker and even archeologist, give him a unique blacksmithing style. Like any artist he draws inspiration from everything that he’s learned over the years.
Through his years of blacksmithing, Chris has learned numerous techniques, including ancient Japanese knife-making methods that have been perfected over many centuries. In addition to San Mai (layering a hard steel with a protective “softer” steel) and Damascus or Suminagashi (folded and layered) techniques, Chris also makes knives using the legendary honyaki method.Making a honyaki knife is just like making a katana, Japan’s famed samurai sword. The knife is made from one piece of steel and heat-treated in such a way that the edge is very hard and stays sharp for a very long time. The spine of the knife, although still a part of the same piece of steel, is softer and protects the blade from breaking.
Honyaki knives start with a solid piece of high carbon steel, something that can attain more than 61HRC. At this hardness a knife is extremely fragile and dropping it on a tiled floor or stone would be devastating. But, when they heat-treat the knife using a honyaki method, the blacksmiths put a thin layer of clay close to the edge and a thicker layer of clay on the spine. This causes the edge to achieve the high temperature necessary to quench before the spine does. Called differential heat quenching, this process leaves the spine softer than the edge and able to act as a cushion, the way lamination does in other knives. A line forms in the steel where the clay thickness differs, and is called thehamon.
Most honyaki knives are 3-4 times more expensive than other knives knives. The reason is that differential heat quenching is much more difficult to perform and perfect. Even experienced master blacksmiths will have at least 1 in 10 blades crack or break after this style of heat treatment because of the two different expansion rates. When a knife is finished properly and ahamon is exposed, honyaki are perhaps the most beautiful knives you will ever see. The finished knife is incredibly hard; making it sharper than most other knives, even those made of similar materials. The trade-off comes when it is time to sharpen and in durability. Ultra-hard steels can take longer to sharpen and are more fragile than others, but the payoff is incredible. Steels this hard will stay sharp far longer than others, and can take a much smoother edge.
One of Chris' many, many hammers.
Lately we've been on the search for new Canadian makers to sell in our shops. We love what Chris does so much, that we asked him to design and craft five styles of outdoor knife for us. For this collaboration, we wanted something beautiful and functional, great for any kind of person who might be enjoying outdoor pursuits.
The results blew us away.
These knives are completely hand-hammered by Chris, even the tang. (The steel portion of the handle.) This means they are crazy sturdy, and being honyaki, they are crazy sharp and stunningly gorgeous. They are also the perfect “Goldilocks” size. They’re not tiny, but they’re also not enormous Rambo knives that the average person wouldn’t be comfortable with. Simply put, we think they’re perfect.
These are the first of many more Canadian-made knives, axes and many other products that will be stocked in our shop in the future. Here are the first five we’ve received:
This knife is for precise crafting work. It’s better known as a ‘wharncliffe blade’. The straight edge, combined with a spine that tapers towards the point means that you can easily control the tip while working with the knife and apply consistent force the entire time. A tapered, round handle makes for a comfortable grip when exerting more pressure on the knife, and allows you to hold the knife in a variety of ways. This style of blade is used for general utility work leaning towards fine point work.
This may be the best weighted and balanced knife that we’ve seen from Chris. The grip works surprisingly well in small and large hands alike, making this a great multi-purpose blade for anyone. While working you can comfortably rest your thumb on the spine, providing greater power when cutting difficult materials while the rest of the handle disappears nicely into your palm. The robust, but slightly thin edge is great for all kinds of outdoor jobs.
This knife is designed to be a go-to hunting knife. Its smaller size allows the knife to be used in a variety of situations, and excels at game preparation. If that’s not your style, it also makes the perfect fireside accompaniment. The hefty grip and blade make it a rugged choice for the toughest of jobs. For added ruggedness the spine is thicker than other Chris Green knives, and the grip flares pleasantly in the palm to prevent slipping while you work.
This general purpose outdoors knife is another “Goldilocks” of styles; not too robust nor too delicate, not to large or small. Just right. The handle is designed for maximum comfort while working with your thumb guiding the spine, but also allows your hand to grasp the blade in a pinch grip if you need more control. This is the ultimate outdoor multi-purpose knife. You can cut kindling and whittle, prepare a fireside dinner, or dress fowl from the day’s hunt.
This blade is the perfect tool for smaller, fine fireside tasks. If you prefer to spend your outdoors time campfire cooking and whittling wood, this is the blade for you. The slim, curved edge lies between a pocket knife and paring knife in function, while the long handle is suitable for all hand-sizes. Whether you prefer a backyard fire or a canoe-based fishing trip; this knife is great for any environment.