“It is a tragedy of the first magnitude that millions of people have ceased to use their hands as hands. Nature has bestowed upon us this great gift which is our hands. If the craze for machinery methods continues, it is highly likely that a time will come when we shall be so incapacitated and weak that we shall begin to curse ourselves for having forgotten the use of the living machines given to us by God.” – Mahathma Ghandi

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This quote from Gandhi emphasizes humans’ dependence on machines and technology, and what some would argue is an over-dependence on these time-saving tools. Whether you agree with this sentiment or not, it’s clear that there’s something beautiful about a truly handcrafted item, and that it would be tragic for traditional craftsmanship skills to be forgotten. These skills are historically-significant, but they’re also the methods we would fall back on if some catastrophic event eliminated our access to modern machinery.

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The Northmen Guild (formerly known as John Neeman Tools) is a group of northern European master craftsmen who “want to help people to remember how to use their hands… to achieve the true joy of creating something from humble beginnings”. The Guild does this by producing short films which document the creation process of traditional tools and structures. They also sell many of the items they produce, and even offer classes to train the next generation of craftsmen and women.

The multi-layered billet is folded and twisted during the forging process, creating a unique pattern.

We previously wrote about the guild’s videos The Birth of a Dugout Canoe and Building a Log Cabin in the Latvian Countryside.

The following video, titled The Birth of a Tool Part III: Damascus Steel Knife Making, is the third installation in a documentary series about bladesmithing. It shows craftsmen from the Guild producing a simple yet elegant Scandi-grind field knife from pattern-welded Damascus steel. While some modern tools such as a welder and power hammer are used in parts of the video, the end result is something that leaves no doubt about its handmade origin.

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