A Lightening Ridge man has moved his knife making business from outback New South Wales to Dimboola.
Owing to his partner not being able to put up with the heat of Lightning Ridge, they made the decision to move south for the milder climate.
John Johnson, told the Banner this week he sells his knives worldwide to fastidious buyers who expect only the best quality knives for all sorts of reasons.
The knives he produces are from materials he collects from many different sources. Most of the steel comes from scrap he finds lying around the place although sometimes he has to pay scrap metal prices to get that bit of steel he sees a knife in.
He says he is here to stay after purchasing a property in Dimboola, and the business will operate from his shed.
Mr Johnson said, “Dimboola is a fantastic community where everyone has ‘bent over backwards’ to help us make the move to town. They made the decision easy for us, where other places did not want to help us at all”.
“Starting with the Bendigo Bank and the Hindmarsh Shire Council, they could not do enough for us to set up and get going, here in Dimboola,” he said.
“Other places we looked at did not want to help us at all. In fact they threw hoops for us to jump through, before they let me my start business,” he said
John, in partnership with another knife maker, developed a rolling machine that he can roll out the steel to the thickness he wants for the knife blade rather than using an eight pound hammer on an anvil.
“The equivalent machine from the United States would fill a single car garage and cost $45,000. The machine we have developed cost only ten percent of that price and takes up not much more room the a pedestal grinder”.
There are many skills in being a knife maker. It is not just making the finest blades, but also making handles and sheaths for the knives as well.
He makes his knife handles from a range of different products, from exotic woods to a bone, he has found from an animal. The sheaths he has made are also quite exotic being made from kangaroo tails through to ox leather. He prefers to use feral animal hides to make his sheaths.
John gets excited, having quite a passion for recycled material. “Some people cringe at the thought that my knives are constructed from recycled material, until they see the quality of the knives,” John said.
Some of the knives John was able to show had handles that are decorated with coloured resins that he impregnates with all sorts of materials. Some have a glow in the dark resin that he developed because his customers needed a solution when they cannot find their knife in the dark. The glowing handle obviously helps them to find them.
This business is a global business with 40 percent of sales headed to the United States and another 40 percent into Europe.
John said, “a small number of my knives are finding their way into Japan. I have made several sushi knives for the Japanese market. They just have a some trouble with the idea of the recycled materials I use,” he said.
John learned his craft from his grandfather.
“My grandfather lived in a small community who were very much like the Amish people. He made all his own tools from guns to farming equipment. I spent a lot of time with my grandfather making tools while I was growing up,” John said.
His skill in recyclable material is nothing short of amazing, where it is fascinating to learn what he has used to make some of his knives.
For those who like to learn to make a knife, he is happy to pass on some of his skills.
All he asks is that a student purchases a piece of steel for around $28.00 and he will show how to turn that into a knife.
The heating furnace is gas fired and can heat the steel to a working temperature in six minutes. The steel then goes into the special roller and is worked to flatten out the material. This process is repeated until the steel is reduced to the right thickness. He said a large bolt can be turned into four knives.
Because of his skill in getting the finest edge on his knives, he also is asked to repair people’s knives and sharpen other tools and equipment.
“ I have just sharpened the knives for the chef at the Victoria Hotel. One of his knives looked like it had been used to chop concrete. I was able to restore the blade and put a new edge on it,” he said.
Mr Johnson said, the range of knives he makes is virtually unlimited. As a registered knife maker he is able to produce some amazing knives for the world market. The local market may have restrictions on what you are allowed to own, and says he is able to advise on the legality of owning some knives.