Steve has been working his trade for over 50 years, yes that's right 50! And has already retired once! He is one of a handful of British artisans left making press knives.
The industry terminology varies for these knives; some people refer to them as clicking knives because they make a clicking noise when they click through the leather on the machine, where others call them press knives as they are pressed through the leather.
These knives are basically similar to any household kitchen cookie cutting tool for baking, but with much tougher metal and are made by hand.
Steve has created all my knifes by hand and has worked with various luxury brands over the years.
I sat down with him (well stood as there is nowhere to sit) in his workshop in East London. I had a go myself and it is certainly not as easy as he makes it look! Below are pictures I took of the process and how this craft is created from a single piece of steel.
1. He works from a hand cut pattern (pictured above) from the client. The flat steel has one side that is the bevelled edge that cuts the leather and the other is flat. The machine he is using is an old industrial machine and works with a foot lever that brings the top spanner head like tool towards the hammer tool and pinches together with the flat steel in between. The harder you move the lever the more it bends. But it is not as easy as it sounds though!
2. You first need to work out where to start on the pattern. You then tape tightly to the end of the flat steel to the pattern position.
3. Then you start by shaping the steel using the lever to move the spanner & hammer heads towards each other trapping the steel between to create a bend. If you have bent the steel to much to turn it upside-down and bent it back.
4. I personally found the straight edges the hardest to create, but the bends felt more natural with the lever and moving around the pattern to form the shape.
5. You need to make sure each time that the pattern is close up to the flat steel and it does not sit on the inside. You keep taping every few sections to make sure the pattern does not move away from the steel.
9. Within a matter of 10 mins he was pretty much finished! Sadly when it was my turn it took me over an hour to make a slightly smaller version of this knife!
10. Once the bending of the steel around the pattern was complete he cut the end to make sure it was flat so both ends meet.
11. He then welded the ends together. This was the outer part of the knife compete, but now he need to add sections across the knife to make it secure and add in the punch holes.
12. Its a real trade that need practicing to be a true artisan. Around me there were some spectacular shaped knifes which just baffles me to how he created them!
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