We are using the Guide Books less and less but Barrytown Knife Making was a guide book recommendation that stood out and appealed to me. A day spent making my own knife with Steve and Robyn.
I set off from our Hostel leaving Claire to explore Greymouth, as she didn’t fancy making a knife. Barrytown is a very small settlement on the stunning west coast of the South Island so my half hour drive was a beautiful start to the day.
Upon my arrival it was soon evident that Steve, the knife making guru was as much a comedian as he was a knife maker. The rest of the group joining me was made up of 3 Canadian girls, a German chap, a Swiss couple and brother and sister from Middlesborough. The German chap asked why I had never been to Germany and when I told him it was because I didn’t like sausages he was genuinely upset….”we have more than just sausages!”. He soon forgave me though and even tried to make a joke about sheep.
We were shortly handed a length of steel and were shown how to heat it in the fire and then bash it with a hammer. It felt mindless at the time but it was explained that this process started to shape the knife and also increase the carbon content of the steel. After 3 runs my steel was plunged into water and duck turd which contains something important…nitrate I think.
From here we moved on to grinding the blade on various grades of sand paper. Then we attached the brass bits with glue and rivets. Then we shaped a wooden handle and attached this with glue and rivets also. And then it was back to the grinding machines to put some shape into the handle.
The day was not all about knife making however and during breaks we were able to throw ninja stars and axes at a big wooden target or take a spin on a penny farthing. All of which I had a talent for weirdly. Having legs long enough to be able to mount a penny farthing like a normal bike is rather beneficial!
After lunch Robyn took us all for a stroll to see some animals….
…I suspect this was a decoy so that Steve could make some “corrections” to our knives because when we returned my knife was looking a lot more like a knife than when I last saw it.
The afternoon was spent griding the blade with ever finer sandpaper until we had an almost perfect blade surface. We then began polishing the blade under the watchful eye of Robyn in the front garden. The final act before Steve sharpened the knives was to stain and polish the handle.
YES! I really did make that. I was quite amazed that something that good could easily be made from the raw materials we were given.
Interspersed with the whole knife making process was an almost endless stream of jokes from Steve. Every time he spoke of how it was important that the knife looked good he would add “when held up in court” I was the only person laughing but I do have a liking for repetitive comedy (Dire Straits Graham?) Most of the humour was a little wasted on some of my classmates due to the language barrier and they did sometimes look at me strangely as I laughed hysterically.
The day ended with a celebratory glass of champagne. Once we had all agreed that the champagne was rather nice Steve revealed that it was in fact ordinary white wine he had passed through his Soda Stream! A typically surreal end to a rather surreal day.
All in all it was a thoroughly enjoyable day made all the better by superb hosts. And I am delighted with my knife, but must find somewhere safe to put it in the backpack as Claire nearly chopped her fingers off the other day.