Knifemaking: braving the storm and St. Elmo’s Fire

“I have seen many storms in my life. Most storms have caught me by surprise, so I had to learn very quickly to look further and understand that I am not capable of controlling the weather, to exercise the art of patience and to respect the fury of nature.”

Paulo Coelho

St. Erasmus, or St. Elmo, is known as the patron saint of sailors.   The namesake of this blade refers to a meteorological phenomenon that results from an electrically charged atmosphere that occurs during thunderstorms.  It manifests itself as a series of blue sparks, with the mast of the ship acting as a conductor.  During storms at sea, sailors would often observe St. Elmo’s Fire.  It has always been symbolized as a sign of the Divine, and sailors knew that they were looked after when it appeared.


I made this blade with idea of it being a seaworthy vessel- something that has braved many storms and still has its spirit intact.  Sometimes we brave so many storms that we forget how to enjoy the calm.  Instead of having a life of calm punctuated by storms, it becomes a life of storms punctuated by calm.

The important thing to realize is that beneath the churning waves and far beneath the thunder, lightning and winds is an entire body of calm.  And that there was calm before the storm and there will be calm after.

This isn’t to say that storms aren’t dangerous but they do come with their lessons.  I’ve spent a good amount of life in a state of anxiety anticipating storms.  Some of us have been conditioned to live in constant turbulence, lest we not be prepared for the foul weather.  Over time, we stop differentiating between the calm and the turbulent seas and create a maelstrom where there is none because we haven’t ever known what that calm feels like.  Shifting this type of thinking takes time and a good deal of work.  To be perpetually worried of the storms robs you from fully enjoying the moment and the beautiful things that occupy the vast majority of time between.  Ultimately you can’t control the Nature but you can control yourself.

This the lesson of St. Elmo’s Fire.  To allow the storms to pass and to have faith that you will find safe passage through the rough waters.  To feel your own calm in the midst of chaos.  Oftentimes you can find out what you are really made of within that chaos.

This blade was a commission for a very old friend who did a lovely photoshoot for me.  We’ve often talked about storms and how to get through them.

I did a series of kitchen knife designs and this one was sort of a wild card.  Functionally she is a German style chef’s knife.  The clip in the blade gives her some forward momentum.  The drop in the handle rests comfortably in the heel of the hand, and also follows the natural line of the forearm through the wrist.  The finger choil provides a comfortable resting place for the lower three fingers if a traditional chef’s grip is preferred.

The blade is 7.25″ long.  Blades these long are a continual challenge for me to grind.  If ground too thin they will warp and possibly crack during heat treat.  On blades this large there is grinding before and after hardening and tempering.

  I love working with Mesquite.  It has a fiery bouquet.
  St. Elmo’s Fire: 1095 spring steel with a phosphoric acid etch, Texas Mesquite handle and brass hardware.

There was some turkey involved on this past Thursday  

Trust that the storm will pass.

Be sure to check out Lauren Serpa and her beautiful work.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s