A Brief History

A Brief History

The New Future, 2011-the present

After a long hiatus from the fire and many years spent teaching and developing other aspects of my art, design, and fabrication work, I am back at the forge with a new vision. My focus is on simple, sustainable, and functional works of art that are built to last.

A long term friend and client in Japan reignited the passion for traditional knifemaking and provided the first push to get back to the roots of my first forays into creating blades. Thanks also to the “soulsmith” Pierre, Louie Mills, Roy, Andrew, Lester at Dragonfly Iron, Tamaki, my parents, and many others for encouragement and assistance in getting the fire going again. See some current featured work or order a hardcover portfolio book documenting this decade of craft.

Hand forged Japanese inspired fusion dagger.
Hand forged Japanese inspired fusion dagger: The Bone Dagger (2013)

Knifemaking Round One, 1990-2002

Though my workflow has always been fairly centered around hand forging and Japanese style clay tempering in water, the aesthetic of my work has changed over the years. My work from the early to mid ‘nineties explored both traditional and modern styles, but relied on modern chemicals and epoxies, unlike my current work with natural materials and traditional techniques. The roots of working with reclaimed steels were already firmly established at this point in my knifemaking.

Heirloom presentation knife made from reclaimed materials.
The roots of reclaimed knife art: Wagon Spring Integral (1992)
Hand forged Japanese style tanto with Black Walnut shirasaya.
Clay tempered integral spring steel survival/bush knife: Linen Micarta Integral (1996)

The Pine Shop, 1992-1998

I built my first lean-to work shop in 1992 and was fortunate enough to be introduced to Mike at The Pine Shop shortly thereafter. The Pine Shop (later known as Ingrained Style), located in Calgary Kensington, specialized in beautifully crafted wooden furniture in traditional and custom styles. Mike was looking for a local blacksmith who could provide a line of hand-forged items as well as fill custom orders for his clients. Working with The Pine Shop was a great experience for me as Mike was always flexible in relation to my school schedule and helped me refine my marketing skills.

The majority of my orders from The Pine Shop were for ornamental items such as candle holders, chandeliers, door pulls, pot racks, and hinges in traditional styles. I was also able to participate in an outdoor blacksmithing demonstration as part of a street fair. Blacksmithing work paid for almost half of my university tuition and The Pine Shop was instrumental in a good proportion of those commissions–Thanks, Mike!

One of the most heavy-duty and high-profile orders from The Pine Shop was to craft the iron parts of a custom designed log bed ordered by figure skating champion Mr. Kurt Browning. Almost beyond the capacity of the small smithy, solid one inch bars of iron were forged, bent, and welded to resemble tree limbs bound in a grid. The finished ironwork was mounted in the head and foot of a massive log bed designed and crafted by the crew at The Pine Shop.

Outdoor heritage crafts demonstration in conjunction with The Pine Shop in Calgary. (1995)
Custom ironwork for Kurt Browning's log bed
Custom ironwork for Kurt Browning’s log bed. (1995)

Crossed Heart Forge, 1992-2002

When I opened my own blacksmith shop in Calgary in 1992, I was able to build on my learning and improve my skill with the hammer and anvil. I acquired most of the initial equipment through a farm estate auction that my grandfather found. A good-hearted southern Alberta farmer accepted one of my first handcrafted knives in trade for my first (whole) anvil. The backyard shop was in operation part time in the winter and full time in the summers from my first year of high school in 1992 until well after I finished university and the shop was relocated.

In addition to private commissions and orders, Crossed Heart Forge creations could be found at select retailers in Calgary NW, including The Pine Shop, The Tree House Flower & Gift Shop, Imagine This Handmade Gifts & Collectibles, and Hidden Creek Mercantile downtown.

Hard at work in the lean-to under a tree. (1993) More workshop photos here: Workshop History
Miniature feather knife with rawhide handle. (1995)

The Village Blacksmith – Emmanuel A. Schrock, 1992

In the spring of 1992, I traveled to Ohio, USA, to learn from Mr. Emmanuel Schrock in the format of a full-time short-term intensive crash course. Mr. Schrock, a former-Amish career blacksmith known for his fine detail and creative problem-solving, was patient enough to coach me in the basic skills of many smithing techniques. More about Mr. Schrock: Emmanuel A. Schrock (1924-2003)

Read more about Mr. Emmanuel Schrock here: Emmanuel A. Schrock (1924-2003)
Working at the Village Blacksmith Shop in Fredericksburg, Ohio. (1992)

How It All Began 1990-1991

I have always been a maker of things, whether it be scrap wood building blocks, cardboard creations, or miniature dirt and twig homes. Before the age of fourteen I began to experiment with hot and cold metal work, using found materials to produce small items. By day I hammered and painted steel nails and copper wire to create jewellery and by night I reshaped broken kitchen blades into miniature knives.

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to undertake a six month part-time apprenticeship at Theresa’s Jewellery, a local artisan and repair shop learning to solder and work with silver. It was also during this time that I developed an appreciation for Japanese craftsmanship and design sparked by an history and arts course at school and a subsequent visit by a collector of antique Japanese swords.

Painted feather earrings cold-forged from steel nails, big sellers in grade 8. (1991)
Oshigata and Japanese sword presentation for 8th grade Social Studies class. (1991)

Read more about my various workshops and creative spaces here: Workshop History