So it’s probably about time we looked again at the burgeoning world of knives as works of art – the custom made kitchen knife.
In the beginning all knives were custom made and each knife was different. It was a little like the early days of cars, when coachbuilders pivoted from horse drawn vehicles to cars, and each car (or at least the body of the car) was built specifically for each individual client.
Then Henry Ford came along and all cars were exactly the same and – as he famously said – you could have a Model T Ford in any colour you liked, as long as it was black.
Whereas most kitchen knives these days are, like pretty much all cars since the Model T, factory produced in the millions, there still exist around the world (and around Australia) small independent knife makers (or ‘forgers’) who make beautiful knives by hand for discerning collectors. And generally they’re located somewhere like in a forest or in some mountains.
Often run by one person or a small team, the amount of effort and skill that goes into each knife made means only a small number of people are ever going to own one – waiting lists are long and prices are, well, ‘up there’.
One such maker of artisanal hand crafted knives is Mathieu Dechamps. Originally from Brussels in Belgium where he trained as a furniture maker, he first got involved in making knives when he was in Scotland and has now settled down half way across the world in the Dandenong Ranges, just outside Melbourne.
His knives are undoubtedly works of art, many featuring Damascus steel and handles crafted from sustainable (and often native Australian) woods. He has a very interesting approach to pricing – knives are charged out by the length of the blade per centimetre, although we’re guessing you wouldn’t want to go for much less than about 10cm for any type of knife (which incidentally makes the bargain end of the range about $400).
Another purveyor of handmade knives (who we have written about before on The Grind) is Tharwa Valley Forge, based in the ACT. As well as producing finely hand crafted custom made knives, Tharwa Valley Forge also runs courses on knife making, leather working and blacksmithing for those thinking of producing their own knives, or simply wanting to learn about (or go back to) the old way of doing these things.
Down in Sydney there is even a bricks and mortar shop where you can gaze lovingly at a whole collection of Japanese chef’s knives, all made by artisan knife makers in Japan.
Just so you know, a lot of these have price tags of $2,000 or so, with a few priced at upwards of $5,000. Plus add on the wait to get your knife if you order a custom version – order now and you might get your knife in 2026 (you’ll get your custom Ferrari quicker).
We don’t know if I.O.Shen knives are officially ‘collectors items’ just yet, but we do know that a certain celebrity chef (clue: with the initials J.O.) is a collector, along with his pirate cutlasses.