025 Aidan – Cut Throat Knives

025 Aidan - Knives

In Ep 6 of Season Two, ‘Living the Dream’, Aidan from Cut Throat Knives swings by the Confessional to reveal what goes on at an artisan blade smith. Whether it’s forging or stock-removal, Aidan tells us exactly just how far he will go to ensure that his knives are the most beautiful and functional knives on the market. If you love your knives and can’t imagine working in the kitchen without them, this episode is a must.

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SHOW NOTES

  • He likes to cook beef loin over charcoal and char sui pork ribs
  • He has a Pro Q Mountain smoker and a Weber Kettle on his apartment balcony
  • He prefers charcoal to gas
  • He was introduced to smoking when someone gave him a book called ‘Pickles, Pork and Brine’
  • 2017 is year 3 for Cut Throat Knives
    • He did a knife course with Adam Parker in Ballarat
    • His first knife was a hunting knife, but he’s never hunted
    • The process of taking mediocre ingredients and making something incredible really connected with him
  • The connection with Meatstock occured when Jay from Meatstock reached out to them and asked if they’d like to make the trophies. It timed up perfectly with the introduction of their brisket knife range
  • He takes a lot of influence from Japanese martial arts knives – he wants his knives to make you feel good in the kitchen
  • Aidan designs knives that he wishes existed
  • A razor sharp knife will shave the hair off your arm, but is no good for getting through the bark on the outside of a brisket
  • It takes 6-8 months of R&D to add a new knife to their range
  • There are two terms describing to what he does
    • Blade-smithing – forging to create the blank
    • Knife-making – stock removal method: grind away a piece of steel to create the blank
    • Aidan does a bit of both. He had a gas forge
  • A day in the life
    • They’ll have several knives that they’re working on at any one time with each at different stages
    • Heat treating will be a big part of it, which affect the hardness of the knive. They get heated to 1200 degrees and then rapidly lower the temperature to ‘temper’ the knife, making it harder
    • While the blanks are cooling, they take others and hit the grinders
    • Then they apply handles and do the laser etching
  • Damascus Steel – pattern welded steel
    • Layer up two different varieties of steel
    • Heat it up and compress it together while heated
    • Twist and torture it to change the patternation on the steel
    • It gets dipped in acid which creates the pattern
    • It’s not only an aesthetic appeal, but a statement of the skills of the knife-maker
  • To become a knife-maker:
    • He trains his own employees from scratch. It takes about six months
    • They need to have an artistic flair and be comfortable working with their hands
    • Must be willing to get hurt and get dirty
  • For the brisket knives:
    • He gets the blanks water-jet cut according to a Laser-CAD design
    • Then he starts grinding it down
    • The blanks start at 2.5mm thick and they grind from there
  • There are rules regarding the creation and sale of knives in Australia.
    • For example, daggers are illegal – long blades which are sharp on both sides as the only reason these exist is as a weapon
    • However, ‘tools’, be it for hunting, camping or cooking, are okay
  • Boning knives
    • Need to work a couple of different ways in your hand – like a hand shake, or in a dagger grip
    • The handles need to be designed to feel good in both grips
  • His biggest challenge has been handling the demand
    • Waiting lists have blown out as far as 18 months
    • To avoid a wait list, they have ‘off-the shelf’ knives, and also fully custom knives
  • His biggest success:
    • Getting the recognition from industry
    • Won a ‘Delicious Produce’ Award for outstanding design, a national award
  • Listener Questions
    • How do you know if a knife isn’t complete?
      • They have to be perfect before they go out
      • Sometimes you can’t send them out coz they aren’t ready, other times they’re so good you want to keep it for yourself
      • Issues can include scratch patterns from grinding, knocking the edge of the knife and ruining three days worth of work
    • Is steel selection important and how do you go about selecting the steel?
      • Steel is iron and carbon, but steel can be high or low carbon E.g. 0.6 to 1% carbon. More than that is cast iron
      • Some great steels for new knife makers include: 1080, 15N20 and 1075. They’re easy to work and very forgiving for heat treating
      • You heat these metals up until they are no longer magnetic and then quench them in canola oil
    • How to test knives for hardness, and what’s his favourite wood for handles?
      • Takes between 3 and 12 days to complete a knife
      • They have multiple knives on different steps at any one time
      • Knives go home with staff for testing
      • They test hardness with a Rockwell hardness tester
      • Also need to test for ductility – toughness: the metals ability to withstand deformation
      • If a knife becomes too hard, it becomes too brittle
      • Favourite wood is Huon Pine from Tasmania – a boat building wood which doesn’t rot and it floats in water
      • Huon Pine now is rescued timber dredged from the bottom of a lake having been cut by convicts 200 years ago
      • The wood is impregnated with resin to make it harder
    • How has the Australian BBQ scene contributed to the success of Cut Throat Knives and what does Aidan think is the future of custom knives in Australia?
      • The response to the brisket knives has been fantastic
      • To be a part of Meatstock has been incredible
      • The creativity of the Australian BBQ scene is blowing Aidan away
      • He thinks we’ll see more creativity and variance from the American way
      • People are learning to value handmade goods in Australia. At first he was a novelty but now people seem to understand and value it more
      • A lot will change in the handmade knife industry in Australia
    • Any benefits of using resin over wood in the handle?
      • No benefits, just differences based on your preferences
      • A wooden handle will have the warmth and feel of wood, but resin will have more colour
      • Cut Throat Knives have been stabilised – put into a resin bath, the resin is vacuumed into the wood before being cured in an oven
      • Stabilising will stop the wood from warping and ageing
    • Best way to sharpen knives and store them at home
      • Use a wet stone – take care of it and you’ll give it to your grand kids
      • Storage – magnetic knife boards
      • Don’t put them in a drawer or on a knife block – the thin edge of the knife will dull really easily
      • If using a knife block, store the knife with the edge facing upwards to avoid dulling
  • Three top tips for purchasing and maintaining knives
    • Buy knives that you’ll have a connection with
    • Take care of the tip – it’s the most fragile part
    • A falling knife has no handle – never try and catch a knife if you drop it
  • Find them at cutthroatknives.com.au, Cut Throat Knives on Facebook and Cut Throat Australia on Instagram

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