I felt a bit uneasy walking into Steven and Robyn’s backyard. I arrived on a long driveway surrounded by meadows. I hesitated briefly before I continued. Was this the right place? Robyn hurried to introduce herself. She found an old shirt for me and gave me gloves and safety glasses. Before I knew it I also met Steven, who made a quick chat to everybody and then put us all to work. I was one of the last to put a cold piece of steel into the fire. When it was glowing orange I put it on the anvil and started banging. Why exactly we did this, I didn’t hear until afterwards. Steel itself it not necessarily strong. We had to strengthen it with carbon, hence the fire, the hammering, and dipping it into a bucket of cold water afterwards with a loud hiss.
When the steel had cooled down we could start the grinding process. The knife was now a black piece of steel and it needed to be cleaned up. We started with the middle bit, where the handle would be. Unfortunately not all the black came off the knife. Apparently it had gotten really hot. Steve seemed to be well impressed though. “Your knife might have some black on it, but it will be the sharpest of the lot.” A true murder weapon, which apparently, according to Steve anyway, women like to make. It was cool to see that each knife was already showing its own features and all looked different.
When the middle was ‘clean’, we put bronze pieces on top of the knife, drilled holes in them and put some pins with glue in. Then we went on sawing the wood for the handles. The thing with Steven is that you never really know if what he is saying is true. He told us the wood is Rimu, a New Zealand wood. It was recycled from the old mental hospital in Hokitika. So if customs asks when I cross the border, that’s what I’ll tell them… We drilled some more holes and put some more pins in to make the handle stick. Then we had to sand the wood several times. Just before lunch started we all wrapped our fingers in tape and put a chemical paste around the handle to fill up the holes. While we were eating, Steven was grinding all our knives, so we wouldn’t have to breath in the chemicals.
After some sandwiches we took the ponies out for a walk around the property and ended up at a massive swing. A long rope was attached to it and while one of us sat on the swing, the rest put it in motion. It was ridiculously high and had some good views out to the ocean. We had some time left to throw some axes and stars at a target and then it was time to get back to work. The knives had to be shaped and we did that by first drawing on them and then grinding it the way we wanted to. I only had to put a little emphasis on it and that was that. Sparks were flying around everywhere at this stage and we kept going. We had to grind the knife three more times, each time with different paper.
Steven worked on the last bits so we could polish. Then the wood got a shade darker by putting some liquid on it. Last but not least was the sharpening of the knife, which Steven did for us. The man had a strange kind of humor. Some things were funny, like “when you show your knife in court, you don’t want to just hold wood.” Other things were just a bit too much for me. “When you stab some homeless guy or old lady…” Let’s just say he is a character. I had a great day anyway and it was cool to do something not every visitor to New Zealand does. Besides that, I now have the best souvenir ever to take home.