April 11, 2014
Some things are just easier to accomplish with a hammer and an anvil. It's a simple notion for sure, but one often lost in today's got-to-have-it-now world of mass production.
Think about it. Our kids play with cheap plastic "Made in China" deathtraps. Hunters are going afield with Duck Dynasty endorsed Walmart knock-off gear. We're a nation losing our grit.
That's why, to me, Nate Runals is a revelation.
Runals is a Michigan-based blacksmith who specializes in hand-forged blades. The kind of kickass craftsmanship that has to be forged, ground, heat-treated, polished, etched, and welded. He's created blades of all shapes and sizes for local butchers, policemen, and clients all over the country.
Last month I commissioned Runals to make a meat cleaver — this is our Meat Eater Issue, after all — from scratch. The result was a straightforward, heavy-duty blade with impeccable balance. The handle is a smooth olive wood with brass pins, and the blade is forged 1075 high carbon steel tempered for toughness. It cuts through bone with absolutely no problem and, for an unintended added value, carries the same oil-rubbed timber smell as my high school wood shop.
"What makes a hand-forged knife unique is that it's hand-forged," Runals said. "I love ancient blades with the subtleties of their form."
This is truly a relational craft. What Runals makes (money, friendships, reputation) is earned with long hours. There's no huge marketing efforts needed, just blades that are truly custom, down to the final sandpaper polish.
"The goal is that every knife be better than the last," he said. "Even if it's just something that I notice, all I want to do is get better, find my voice in this craft, and share it with others."
Our commissioned cleaver with a vegetable tanned cow leather cover.
This damascus blade, Runals' personal knife, is used for skinning and gutting animals.
An example of a beautiful friction folder with a black oak handle.
This blade is an old zoo cage and a file forge welded together.
Runal's custom hand-forging requires careful inspection of the steel to ensure a top quality product.
"I'm a blacksmith that focuses on blades, and tools. I'm enthralled by the process of creating things, anything that gets me closer to the core or creation really inspires me, and that is why I love to make tools€¦ hopefully my work inspires others to create."
"I'm a big fan of simple, well made things, and knives are no exception. I have the utmost respect for bladesmiths who spend so much time with carvings, scrimshaw, and inlays in their work, but for me at this point in time, that's just not how I express my idea of a knife to the world."
"The wood used on this knife was Osage Orange, I chose it because it's natural oils help it remain stable in changing climates. I never would have guessed that it would hold up so well to being in a campfire!"
This blade is made of 1084 high carbon steel. The spine is a little over 3/16 inches, and the length is about 5 inches.
"This blade is made of 1075 with the same heat treatment as my larger cleavers, the handle is diver salvaged black oak with nickel silver pins."
To see more of Nate Runals' custom knives, visit his personal website.