About Graham Clarke
Although I haven’t been a knife maker all my life I have long been associated with knives & knife making. In particular I love the metallurgy of knife making. I’m an Essex Boy but I’ve spent half my life in South Africa (34 years). I re-located from South Africa to Wiltshire in 2017
My grandfather first whetted my interest in metal when he showed me how to re-harden the tip of a screwdriver using a paraffin blowlamp and old motor car engine oil. That was over 55 years ago.
Between then and now I’ve qualified as a metallurgist, worked on the manufacture of guns, shells, tanks and rockets for the British Armed Forces, diamond drilling bits for the oil industry and processing equipment for nuclear fuels. I’ve always been intrigued by materials (not just metal) and their fabrication. For over 20 of my years in South Africa I provided a heat treatment service to the engineering industry. South Africa is also blessed with many of the worlds greatest knife makers I was privileged to be able to work with quite a few of them.
To me a knife has so many different features from its aesthetic appeal to its functionality in terms of edge retention and blade toughness. Being as metallurgist it’s easy for me to determine which material and what properties are ideal for your knife. It doesn’t matter whether it’s for hunting, cooking, or an everyday pocket knife. It’s what you want from your knife that’s important and it’s my goal as a knife maker to provide that for you.
Generally I usually make knife blades from stainless steel. I’ve nothing against carbon steels, they make very, very good knives. However, modern stainless steels are simply better in most circumstances. They hold an edge better, they are tougher and also very corrosion resistant.
Are there drawbacks to stainless steel knife blades? Yes of course there are, most engineering applications using metal are a compromise of one sort or another. Stainless steel is much more difficult to fabricate and heat treat than carbon steel in order to obtain optimum properties. But get it right and the knife is better. Even more so if using one of the new generation powder metallurgy steels (steel made from powder and not by melting).
In recent years i have spent a lot more time bladesmithing and most enjoy forging knives and axes. This interest has developed further in that I now offer bladesmithing tuition at the Vlakvark Forge bladesmithing school.
I also have an interest in Lapidary – the cutting and polishing of gemstones and I work mainly with Southern African gemstones. Combining the two interests and making knives with stone handles is what I enjoy most. Stone is a fabulous material for a knife handle. It’s cool to the touch, impervious to anything you’ll subject it to in normal use and it will outlive you and your knife. However, contrary to some popular belief, stone handled knives do not shatter if dropped. All my knives have a lifetime guarantee and the stone handle which will be replaced free of charge if damaged. Stone is, after all, already several millions of years old and has been heated and pressurised to a degree we cannot imagine during its creation. Once polished though, it has a beauty that has to be seen to be believed.
I also use wood and synthetic material for knife handles. Dyamondwood was originally developed in South Africa (as Pakka Wood) but is now made in the USA. It is laminated Beech where each layer is carefully dyed before laminating. Dyamondwood is fully impregnated at high pressure with a resin that renders the finished product totally impervious. I like it for its durability – it’s ideal for hunting and culinary applications where the emphasis is on the practical use of the knife. I also like synthetic materials such as G10 and carbon fibre, again because they are so durable.