Lets look down a year of knife-making and see some of my favourites:
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.
Olive wood is a good friend. Exciting yet dependable, soft when you are alone working together but a hard resilient exterior under pressure. If you look after her she will always be there for you. Beautiful undoubtedly, but full of personality and character with that priceless air of mystery.
As you may have gathered I feel rather passionate about Olive wood; this is why...
Beauty- The lively grain exudes quality and style with wild figuring, burr and sometimes even a double pattern. Wild means an irregular grain with unpredictable features. I love the golden colour with deep coffee swirls. The dark lines are from late summer growth where growth is slow; pale yellow is the spring growth.
Long life - Olive wood is from hot countries so it naturally gets thirsty. It is partial to a wee dram of olive oil once in a while. This means the wood matures and improves, darkening with age. It should be doing really well when your children pass it to their grand-children!
Fine finish - The arid conditions mean slow growth which makes the cell formation extra hard. and the wood very dense. Added to this, a closed grain which stays smooth and you achieve a highly polished finish.
Sustainable and ethical - older boughs are sawn off to encourage new growth with higher olive yield so the timber is just a by product of the olive industry. All productive olive trees have been planted by man and hundreds are replanted every year. I try to only source wood which is being managed using ethical and sustainable methods.
The olive tree, (Olea Europa) - is named after its purpose: oil. Originally from around Palestine, the olive shaped Mediterranean civilisation. The Greek God Athena beat Posidon in a competition by planting an olive which became a symbol of victory for the first Olympians and then of victorious Roman conquerors. Emperor Vespasian recognised the deep sybolic power of the garden of Gethsemane's sacred olive grove; so chopped it down little knowing the olive often represents renewal and hope due to its ability to send out new shoots after it has been damaged. One of these Gethsemane shoots is now the world's oldest olive - 2000 years old.
Today people around the world try to catch up with the tonnes of olive oil imbibed by Italians over the years. it is well known that it even turns the very skin olive in colour. The legendary elixir was said to have allowed Jeanne Calment (the world's oldest women) her 121 years. She used to drink it and rub it into her skin everyday ! Here she is...
The majority of the knives I make are used practically for a specific purpose, e.g. paring knife (to peel pares..?) I hope this one does not get used for purpose. The Bowie Knife was very popular before pistols were any good. At killing other men, that is. American men. They enjoyed it so much that even the Little Mesters here in Sheffield heard and started making thousands of them. Soon the Americans felt naked without a Sheffield bowie hanging from their hip.
Here is colonel Jim Bowie, famed for being stabbed 5 times without crying.
A bowie is halfway between penknife and sword. Designed for fighting someone armed with a penknife, it has a large finger guard to defend from wicked slashes and a swedge. This went on to influence the hair fashion of the 1990's. It is the end 3rd of the spine profiled into a semi blunt edge for stabby purposes. The blade is traditionally 9.5'' and has a clip point so its really pointy. A Bowie now describes most big knives with a swedge and a big finger guard.
Above is a typical Sheffield Bowie made by 'Little Mester' Reg Cooper. The Americans still love a Sheffield Bowie and this buffalo handled 10'' knife was made for Slyvester the Italian Stalione.
This is a Kershaw knife which my customer wanted to base the design on. I really liked the blade shape and bolster but modified the handle and choil. The choil is the rounded area at the base of the blade which can be used as a finger grip when controlled carving.
So here it is cut out of 5.5mm Sheffield spring steel En42. A Carbon steel is well suited to the larger blade as it is tough. Tough means that you can give it a really good chop and it won't bend, chip, break or fracture. 5.5mm is the thickest gauge steel I have ever used for a knife. It weighed 750g with sheath - not to be worn on a cheap belt!
People sometimes ask why I use hand tools so much; there is much more control and a machine can make mistakes much faster. This is the choil I mentioned. Many bowies are stick or file tang, but only a full tang can really balance and support a big boy.
I wanted to bring out the glorious colours of the olive wood so risked a royal blue posterior spacer. Framed by black, the blue is just subtle enough to complement the yellow /orange without standing out too much. The nickel silver rivets stand out proudly though, stating this is one strong handle who will be still lookin good during the next ice age.
With a long knife like this the sheath must be rigid to prevent the point catching on entry so I decided on a fold over style. This pattern has a good size opening for easy use and holds the blade tightly when the knife is at home in its little house. The door is locked securely with a heavy duty press stud so the blade cannot escape when entertaining guests with trampolining tricks.
The edges are painted black to bring out the leather's fine new colour and show off the stitch-work. You can see the gradient in the stitch spacing, getting closer together towards the heel and point. The whole sheath was then burnished and then infused with about half a pot of wax dubbin.
Standing with this reassuringly heavy blade weighing in my hand I could understand the confidence that inspired Jim Bowie to charge at a group of armed gunmen who had shot at his friend. Once recovered he proudly wore his big blade every day so everyone could see how a real man dresses for dinner.
Hello, Will Ferraby here.
Hi, would you like to make 15 leather knife rolls for Nigella Lawson's new T.V. show?
The programme will be called The Taste. And by the way you have 3 weeks.
So that was how I came to be designing and making leather knife
rolls with a speed that has thrown up a dust cloud over parts of Sheffield. The
first 9 days were spent sourcing materials - the leather needed to be just the
right shade of medium brown, thick enough to roll and the same colour/texture
throughout. In the end I got 2 skins from Claytons Tannery in Chesterfield which I found
at the bottom of a big pile. They were left over after covering a London
boardroom. The colour is called Whisky.
Here is my new diamond rivet logo, and my makers plate. I wanted to highlight that this was a product entirely made by me even though it had another name on the handle. These plates were made by David Greensmith out of aluminium. He always does a great job!
Here is inside of the finished roll with a set of factory knives. The flap is genuine suede made from pig skin. It was hard to find a bit without scar tissue on the skin side but I managed to get this fine looking pale grey. It is rivetted and glued with an added welt for extra security. Suede was perfect for this use as it is supple enough to protect each knife when the leather is rolled up.
I was asked to make a kitchen cleaver to match the rest of my Forged Finish Range
I decided to make it full tang out of 3.5mm 440B stainless to be as strong as possible.
Here is my initial design.
The shape is designed to give maximum control with the balance favouring the weighty blade.
The handle's ergonomic shape allows a tight finger grip and just enough length for a large hand.
A metal bolster protects the top of the wooden handle from wear during heavy use.
The bolster is aluminium and is riveted on with nickel silver - a soft metal alloy that will not snap under impact. The masking tape over the blade stops it getting scratched during the handling process.
I have hammered over the pins on the bolster and shaped the olive scales. It takes a while to select the best part of the grain to use for strength and beauty. This is one of the most beautiful pieces of wood I've had the pleasure of using. Next glue up, sand off and ...