Last year for my 50th birthday my family gave me a gift card to The Smith Shop in Highland Park. They are a metal working studio who specialize in dramatic architectural metalwork, who also offer classes in blacksmithing, jewelry making and knife making. Of course I chose the chef’s knife workshop. I had NO idea what I was about to get myself into. My two-day, 8 hours each day, class started at 8 AM and the weather was predicted to be in the 90’s (I did this class last June). My instructor was Eric Hemker … if you’re a nerd you’ll recognize him from the History Channel show Forged in Fire (he won). He taught us how to forge, heat treat, grind and sharpen. It was an extremely physical and HOT task. We started with a straight piece of steel; we fired it with a 1000-degree open flame, we banged the living hell out of it to pull and taper the steel and refired it and banged some more. We then cut a handle and attached it and ground some more and hand sharpened it until it could cut everything like butter. I joked with my family that I gave my sister Karen a Shinola watch and Christine a piece of art for their 50th and they sent me to work on the chain gang. What the heck?!? We literally banged with a heavy hammer for 7 hours!
Although the class was incredibly difficult, I haven’t felt so much personal pride in a long time. The two days were extremely demanding, my arm was like jelly after the first day and my hand was full of blisters. Between the heat and the concentration it took to hit a heavy hammer on a hot piece of steel in the EXACT same spot, and to hold a blade up against a whirring metal grinder that can take your knuckles off I was definitely out of my element. Upon finishing my knife, I was exhausted, and my head was pounding with dehydration, but I left there feeling like a warrior. It really was a unique cool experience that I highly recommend. AND all my chef buddies were jealous of my sweet blade. WIN!
SMITH SHOP www.smithshop.com
ERIC HEMKER www.hemkerblacksmithing.com
Enjoy the pictures…