The difference between an artist and a craftsman is the Artist puts a little of themselves into each piece. It was a small part of myself that began this project last summer. This part.
As a 3D Artist, complex spirals fascinate me. A gradual uncoiling is what happens when I pull my hair down to see if it touches my belt yet. It always pings back because it is a spring; a season eagerly awaited here in Sheffield.
This copper is from an old truck. I split it into two to create a double helix like DNA. Copper needs constant annealing, but luckily unlike steel, it can be quenched in water rather than being left overnight to cool down. Still, it takes many heats to get the shape you want.
Here are some 'Making of' photographs.
See the Phoenix fly...
II have been making knives for 27 years and my plan was always to make the best knife in the world. A masterpiece can only be achieved with deep understanding of all the elements which combine to balance each new work. Only by boldly taking risks can you move down the road to mastery. A favourite mantra is ‘I don’t mind what happens’. Only by freeing yourself from the possibility of failure or success can you make the right decisions.
Its been a great year for Ferraby Knives. Looking back at all the knives I've made in 2017 has been really enjoyable - I usually only think about the knife I am about to make next! I've put loads in here because there loads that belonged here... scroll through and enjoy.
I closed my custom order book a couple of years ago but I still regularly get asked to make custom knives. I always say no. Almost always. Then I got an e-mail from a guy who suggested a project I couldn't resist!
He wanted me to make him a knife which he could give to his wife for her birthday and keep a little ink memento for himself . I am a bit of a romantic too and was game for a collaboration with a 5th generation Chef and a fellow Artist to make two knives that would last a lifetime.
The challenge was to design and make a 3D knife that would look good 2D, with Abalone shell, to a deadine. It had to fit onto his left forearm so he could pretend pick it up with his right hand ready to slice any pretend food. So a 4'' kitchen knife then....
The all important outline included a hooked handle and forged blade. I wanted to include some recognisably Ferraby details:
The shape changed a bit as it felt better in the hand. The 3D sculpting process is always intuitive and allows your inner self to find the knife in the wood. The colours and textures are all about balancing.
You can see the blues and greens of the Abalone are complimented by the golden heart wood and mirrored by the resin, the dark blue next to the silver wave (which looks black) and of course the blue sky reflected in the blade. The Bog Oak is balanced with the black denim and coconut fibre bolster lip. The silver wave is balanced with the Sterling Silver circlet that houses the Abalone.
I am lucky enough to be pals with one of the best Artist Tattoists - Dr Viper (Max). He popped round my place and took a great photo from which he produced the very fine graphic above.
Rene came to Sheffield for the day and we were tempted to write 'HAND DRAWN IN SHEFFIELD' instead of my HANDFORGED blade mark. There is only so much space on a blade though and though Max's peepers are first class it would be so small it would be illedgable. Oh well.
Motorbike chain, chainsaw steel and nickel from a boat. This knife is fast, with a keen cutting edge and cuts through hard wood like it's water!
This was the last custom outdoor knife that was ordered before my books closed two years ago so I decided to make this one a bit special!
The 4" blade was made from Sheffield Silver Fox 100, a steel made here in Sheffield, which is a high carbon stainless that has all the benefits of a carbon steel but without the rust. It's strong, holds a great edge and is easy to sharpen.
The bolster is a one off piece of pattern welded metal which was made using upcycled chainsaw chains, carbon steel motorbike chain and nickel from a boats hull by my blacksmith friend, Josh Burrell. I spent a week acid etching it using lemon juice to bring out the patterns. The lemon juice is good as it allows a very subtle etch and can bring out all the different colours and tones. The darker areas are where the carbon steel has been eaten away by the acid, leaving the silver patterns of nickel which are more resistant.
The collar is a carefully sculptured section of copper which is then cast in a resin mould. Blue and black pigment was carefully added to give the finished product a semi-opaque coloured finish which looks different in different lights.
I chose corian for the handle liner for its material properties as well as its aesthetic beauty complimenting the materials around it. It is a very dense material which is both heat resistant and durable. The deep black of the liner extenuates the lithe flowing form of the Ferraby Steel Wave on the spine of the knife. This is the signature mark of all my full tang knives.
The live edge of the olive wood has a blue resin fill. The wood has a much more subtle grain than many of the pieces I usually use so as to draw attention and carefully compliment the more patterned areas of the knife. The blue infill balances the orange of the olive but is also mirrored by the blue in the collar and when blue sky is reflected on the blade.
I spent a week making the sheath; each stitch hole has a graduated distance and the dying process took 14 incremental layers of dye.
I've managed to combine many of my latest methods with one of my original knife designs - the Wilderness 5. Out of the 12 outdoor knives I used to make this one was always the most popular.
I was happy to hear that the first project this knife will make is going to be a wooden spreading knife from a piece of local green wood.
So I bid farewell to this knife that has a chainsaw, a motorbike and a speed boat locked inside it. I wouldn't like to be the piece of wood!
It's been a great year for Ferraby Knives. I have worked in collaboration with some cracking folk and produced some of my best work. Since closing my custom order book in 2015 my creativity has accelerated, allowing me to constantly evolve my knife-making, by taking risks and exploring new ideas. After concentrating on fine tuning the 8'' Chef's knife for a year, I have returned to making Santokus and Parers, and there will be new blades coming soon....
Lets look down a year of knife-making and see some of my favourites:
This year also saw the release of the online series 'The Craftsman's Dinner' where Micheal Roux Jr came to my workshop to learn about knife making. It was great fun to take part in and I made lots of great friends.
In family life this November saw the arrival of our beautiful baby girl. My children bring so much joy to me and I can't wait to get her down the workshop when she's a bit bigger!
To celebrate the sucess of 2016 and the start of 2017 I have decided to giveaway one of my new paring knives. To be in with a chance to win simply enter via facebook, twitter or instagram, full details here - good luck!
I would like to thank everyone for all their support in 2016 and I wish you all the best for 2017, Will Ferraby
I needed to get a new material for my next project so I rang up my pal to scavenge something extra special!
Scavenger has the wow factor. The colours look fantastic and it is all made ethically from retired climbing rope that would have otherwise been wasted. A simple idea, executed with skill, I was very excited about this project. Here is Scavenger, AKA Tashe.
Sheffield is still world famous for knife making, but there are few knifemakers left. Sheffield is next to a stretch of Millstone Grit which made the best knife grindstones.
Great stretches of cliffs opened up as the giant stones were quarried out. You might expect nature to have re-colonised these cliffs over the last 50 years, but every crack, crevice and nook is stripped clean every day by a committed task force of climbers!
Climbing rope symbolises the reasons I love Sheffield. I have always been into climbing and love the focus brought on through nearly coming a cropper followed by the high of topping out.
The rope also represents collaboration and working together with trust. Looking after each other and sometimes giving your mate some slack while still being there to catch him if he falls.
I was building my son a little house in the garden when it came to me....
I was looking at a snail shell listening to a song in my head ‘...on the bus go round and round’. I had a screw in one hand and thought - “hmmm, I wonder?...”
As soon as I got into the workshop I grabbed a piece of hardwood and a box of high quality screws and started driving them in, until the wood could take no more!
I put the now quite heavy wood into the vice and chopped off all the ends with the old angle grinder.
Up till this point this project cost me very little. Then I tried to shape the handle. Turns out steel screws are really quite hard. In the end I chopped it into shape with the angle grinder but it started smoking! You can see the blackened wood below...
Blades and belts were quickly destroyed - £50 worth - then sanding it took a couple of days. The screws get woodburning hot, fast, so it all needed plenty of time to cool down.
But here she is, a proper one off as I won't be making another in a hurry! I really like the olive bolster with the black denim micarta.
I always say a knife is the perfect combination of practical and beautiful. Screws in one hand, electric screwdriver in the other and you can build a lot with wood. Seldom has the beauty of this modern wonder been explored. I have tried to keep the organic inspiration of the snail shell whilst letting the bold lines of the screws compliment the subtle grain of the wood.
This knife will be up for sale with a couple of others on this Friday's Knife Wall at Noon.
My friends opened up a bhaji shop round the corner from my house, with Indian food and fresh juice served in mini milk bottles. It is really popular, and there are now 2 more shops next door - a bar and space for happenings. It provides a place where people connect. I like to connect so I came out one day with a sack over my shoulder full of the smell of coffee. The sight of an empty coffee sack had given me an idea. Good hemp sacking might just make an awesome handle…
I like rescuing, and snatching a poor sack from the very fangs of a ferocious bin added distinctly to the appeal of this project.
My assistant Smudge and I chopped out a pile of sacking and painted each layer with high grade epoxy resin. Some girls are quite gifted at parking. Smudge parked right on top of the hemp in her VW Polo squeezing all the air bubbles out.
It is rough sawn then fitted to the blade with the black denim micarta, rosewood, brass and buffalo horn. It is the first time I have used this black horn, and I was impressed by its highly polished finish. I source all of my materials carefully and make sure my materials are positively sourced. I got the horn from the workshop clearance of one Sheffield’s last remaining folding knife makers - Trevor Abbett who sadly died last year in his 80’s.
When I had sawed it to shape and sanded it smooth, one pink fibre was exposed.
Standing out next to its plain neighbours I was thinking of my pals at the Thali bhaji shop and many others who are making a real go of it in Sheffield. With bold, original ideas and a bravery to go just for it 100%, there is a new wave of success stories boldly standing out, brightening up this Island which has always been proud of its inventors, entrepreneurs and small stars on the rise.
I enjoyed this project. There may well be more collaborations coming up over the next weeks....
We launched a fantastic film at The Roux in Parliament Square on Monday. London's press and bloggers were treated to a preview of the first film of a series all about Michel Roux Jr's search for Britain's finest craftsmen. Here it is:
James Rogan (Rogan Productions) hand picked a world class team including director Ed Mcgowan fresh from filming David Attenborough and Barack Obama. Multi award winning Robert Hollingworth was responsible for all the amazing shots like the tomato drop.
The craftsmen's dinner explores what it means to be a master craftsman. Passion. Dedication. Obsession. Caring about all the tiny details that nobody will probably notice, but the craftsmen will always know; so it must be perfect. We rely upon doing things the right way, even if it is usually the long hard way.
We are paid in a deep knowing of having made something well and given a little part of our selves to make others happy. Our prize is the ability to relax after a long day of hard, honest, work. Planting the seeds of tomorrows reputation with today's satisfaction.
I have made many new friends on this project which somehow proves that if you gather a group of people who all do totally different jobs but who all take a pride in doing them well then there are suddenly no barriers, only a group of human beings that enjoy each others company.
Before we came home we called in at Naine's North Street Potters in Clapham. Naine makes the best pots but that is probably because she has always done things the right way. She spends her time giving, as we walked in the door she handed us each a cup of almost ridiculous beauty. She looks after her community and epitomises the opposite of lazy and selfish. I feel richer having met her. She invited us have a go at throwing a pot and I was reminded of Michel's speech the night before. It was about teaching others. To complete the circle of craftsmanship, you have to hoist up the apprentice to stand on your shoulders. Naine was a very good teacher and held my hands tight to centre the clay then stepped away so my hands could learn.
I enjoyed teaching Michel how to make a Chef's knife, he was eager to get stuck in and a fast learner. Being involved in the process of learning deepens ones ability to learn. I have learned about filming, presenting, potting, farming, brewing and salmon smoking.... but perhaps it has all just been a great excuse to make some fabulous friends!
The Craftsmen: Sasha, Me, Michel, Ole, Nairne, Simon and Ian
My apprentice is called Smudge. Today I will try to pass on some of the inspiration and lessons I have been given from my fellow craftsmen.... mostly - 'Enjoy it!'
Craftsmen's Dinner YouTube Channel
Rogan Productions Blog - Ferraby Knives
Silverspoon Blog - Launch of the Craftsmen's Dinner
Ole Hansen -The Salmon Smoker
Naine - North Street Potters
Simon, Ridgeview Wine
Sasha - Grierson Organics
Thanks for the photos, Robert Holingworth and Piers Allardyce
A SHORT HISTORY OF FERRABY KNIFE MAKING
I knew Ferraby means 'Iron Forger' but I was surprised to discover my Grandfather's company was making knives from 1860! That could put my knife making vintage at 7th Generation.
I was chatting to my dear Grandma and she told me that the family company Ferraby and Hare celebrated their centenary in 1960. I mentioned this to my friend the next day and he found this rather fancy Victorian dagger stamped 'FERRABY and HARE' - the very name of my Grandfather's business.
The pommel is famous British hero Sir Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington and there is a very worn royal crowned family crest on the solid ivory handle. We don't know why this blade was commissioned nor by whom but it must have been well looked after to have survived and must have been well used to have worn the crest markings off solid ivory. The foot long blade is designed for killing so may have been used for hunting animals as well as men.
Where is this knife now? I know not, but in this picture Wellesley looks likes he's definitely got something in his jacket!
My dad was very surprised too, he had no idea the family had such a long history of knife making.
I looked up Ferraby and Hare and found this photo. I clicked on it and it was an ebay photo....and still live! I prepared to spend my savings to secure possession of this window to the land of my ancestors, and they must have helped out as I got it for a tenner. I was expecting something smaller.
Here is my son with a knife made by his great great great grandfather.
One of the most uncanny coincidences was seeing the stamp next to FERRABY.
It features a hammer pointing the same way with the same words 'HAND FORGED'. I designed the one below a couple of years ago never knowing a Ferraby had designed the same stamp!
Ferraby and Hare was based in Hull near the village of North Ferriby where it probably all started. They sold thousands of knives over the years, most of which were made in Sheffield. My Grandfather David Lake Ferraby sold many knives after he retired his Spitfire Command. There were always a few kicking round when we were young, and this appears to be the only one surviving. (Knife throwing is an easy road to knife loosing.) Here it is. Thanks for the photo Dad.
It has had at least 50 years of hard use and still going strong. Good old Sheffield Steel. These knives were made as fish knives used by the Herring Girls who would follow the migrating fish down the East coast armed with just a sharp knife and a rag to protect their other hand. They could gut 50 herrings in a minute apparently!
So here is the oldest Ferraby (87), who started this story and the youngest, ( aged 2) who holds the future of Ferraby Knives in his little strong hands.