Knifemaking: creating space and the Pas de Deux

“You want to make two knives that become one.  Or perhaps one knife that becomes two.”

Igor Antonov


Over the years I’ve quite a bit of production work for the ballet company in town.  Building things, running a shuttle, being part of a crew that makes something special happen.  My most favorite part of the work I’ve done is a program called Lecture Demonstrations.  This is a fancy name for kiddie shows; in-school performances, where the company puts on performances for the children.  The company manager would line up shows at elementary schools and take care of all the administrative details.  I would show up to the ballet, load up sound equipment, props, costumes, and half a dozen dancers into a minivan and go to an elementary school, chat with school administrators, set up the sound system, wire up the lead ballerina, start the show, and punch the mic and music cues.  After the show everything would get torn down, packed up, and loaded into the minivan along with myself and the dancers.  Then we went to the next one.

The performance was an adaptation of “Coppelia”, made easily digestible for second graders, complete with talky bits and a question and answer.  The kids enjoyed it.

I feel most people who have seen any sort of ballet video or performance have seen the lady in the tutu dancing with the man in tights.  This is called pas de deux- French for “step of two”.  Man and lady dancing together.  Very simple on the surface.

Over the course of a month and a half we did two of these a day, four days a week, plus rehearsals.  After watching about 60 of these shows, I found that I really looked forward to the two sections of pas de deux in the program.  I loved the balance of the masculine and the feminine.  I loved the interdependence of the dance- they are both separate entities.  The beauty comes when the feminine surrenders to the masculine.  The masculine leaves a certain space for her to shine, for her to be what she is.  In doing what she does, the feminine leaves space for the masculine to be what he is.  Trust permeates throughout.  They both have their own identity but together they do things that individually they could not.

I had an idea for a knife.  There is a wonderful Ukrainian gentleman on the artistic staff who would come to these performances and give notes and critiques to the dancers on how the performance could be better.  He also gave me critiques on the the technical side of things.  After one of these critiques I told him what I do and how to work the pas de deux into it.  “Ah,” he says, “You want to make two knives that become one.  Or perhaps one knife that becomes two.”  I had to think about that for a couple of months.

To flow seamlessly between separate and together- this is the lesson of the Pas de Deux.  To leave space for things to be what they are while maintaining one’s own identity.  It is in this space that intimacy exists and blossoms.  To be so secure in oneself that submission requires small effort.  Sometimes we hold on to things so tightly that there isn’t any space for the things we need.  Sometimes there is a great amount of space and everything may seem  to sprawl and lose form.   Always, at the end of it all, everything ends up where it is supposed to be.

I chose to make one knife that became two.

First the feminine…
Rough grind  Hardened 

Purple Heartwood  


Here is where I had to take the handle off and put a new one on.  I couldn’t quite get that little tail to bond to the tail of the tang.  In the next picture you see the new handle with two little brass rivets.

 Now the masculine…



Tulipwood for him

Now the stinky part… 

The Pas de Deux, a kitchen pair: 1095 spring steel

The feminine is Purple Heartwood with brass hardware

The masculine is Tulipwood with brass hardware


Embrace the space.  You and your partner, in whatever form they may take, will both shine.

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