July 28, 2022 3 min read
While the art of blacksmithing has remained strong in Japan for centuries, it has waxed and waned in North America. Bladesmithing in the west became almost non-existent save for a handful of hobbyists. North American blacksmithing has experienced a resurgence. This has led to some genuinely great blades, such as those from Aaron Iron & Steel.
Like many of his contemporaries, Kensea first was inspired by watching Forged in Fire on the Discovery channel, and that inspiration quickly grew into an obsession. Living in Camrose, AB, he didn’t have much in the way of the local resources, but with the Internet’s help, he could get started as a self-taught blacksmith. It’s hard to overstate the internet's importance in the revival of western blacksmithing, with amateurs learning the ropes from YouTube and forums and professional bladesmiths earning a living from selling pieces solely through websites and Instagram pages. With a bit of surfing on the worldwide web, Kensea was able to start crafting his first blades, replicas of the swords he loved from Lord of the Rings.
Kensea got his start making swords, but once a request came through for a kitchen knife, his whole world changed.
Making 3-4 foot long swords is hard and takes a ton of skill. Not one to let a little hurdle get in his way, Kensea started forging smaller knives to learn the basics and hone his skills. Before long, he got his first sale through his Instagram and quickly fell in love with the knife-making process. The more he forged, the more his obsession for knifemaking grew. While he was first heavily influenced by the works of Bob Kramer and other great American knife makers, much like Knifewear founder Kevin Kent, he stumbled upon Japanese kitchen knives one day, and his whole world changed.
It’s well known at Knifewear that once a home cook or professional chef tries a Japanese knife, they forever compare every other knife to Japanese knives. You’re obsessed. There’s no going back, no closing that Pandora’s box. What do you know, the same is true for knifemakers! Once Kensea started forging Japanese-style blades, he was hooked. He started learning everything he could about Japanese knife making and stumbled upon our documentary, Springhammer. He refined his designs through each iteration and has found a distinct style that continues to evolve.
Much like many Japanese blacksmiths, Kensea uses a 100-year-old
springhammer, known as a powerhammer in the west.
Kensea’s is a big fan of simplicity and tools designed to serve a purpose. By making straightforward shapes with minimalist finishes, he lets himself focus on what’s important: getting the most out of his knife steel. The current lineup includes three main shapes, a santoku, a nakiri, and a longer drop-tip gyuto. Rather than get fancy with too many profiles or unique designs, he’s determined to master the basics before moving on. He’s already making fantastic blades, and we’re very proud to be stocking them soon in our Alberta shops this fall! Now entering his third year as a knifemaker, he’s using his current income to build up his brand and acquire the tools to turn his passion into a proper business.
We're very impressed with Kensea's blades, and they just keep getting better!
Despite his age, this young blacksmith has big plans for the future! He recently quit his job at A&W to better focus on his main passion and balance it with school and volleyball. Once he graduates, he’ll be putting everything into his knife making and has dreams of opening what he calls an “Ikea of handmade goods”. Think toolmakers, woodworkers, and other artisans, all collaborating to make high-quality products for the home. He believes folks should feel connected to the things they use and enjoy using quality things made sustainably by specialized makers, which only need to be bought once. I couldn’t agree more.
We’re very excited to see where Kensea’s career goes and thrilled to be selling his blades at our shops so early in his career. We are currently receiving small batches of knives from Aaron Iron & Steel, and we expect to get more in 2023 once he graduates highschool! Sign up for our mailing list to be notified when they're back in!
Check out this video from CBC News featuring Kensea and visiting blacksmith Masashi Yamamoto.
Nathan started at Knifewear in 2013, when he left the restaurant industry to slang knives. Nowadays, he handles our communications, social media, and YouTube channel. If you're reading words on this website or watching one of our videos, Nathan was involved. He spends his spare time growing food, cooking, fermenting food and booze, and enjoying the great outdoors.
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