Chop, slice, cut, carve. For the amateur cook, one standard knife might do, but a real chef knows that for each of these kitchen tasks, you have to have the right tool.
Thanks to Steve Watkins, local chefs can order their own personalized kitchen knives from Watkins’s custom knife business, Ironman Forge.
Watkins started Ironman Forge in October 2009 to combine his interest in blacksmithing and his love for cooking and enjoying good food. He’d never heard of custom chef’s knives before, but that didn’t stop him from creating a career out of his two favorite hobbies.
Watkins began by telling his favorite chefs about what he could do while he was out to eat and offering them his knives to try. He asked for feedback during that first year and tweaked his designs until they suited himself and the chefs.
Ironman Forge knives are now in kitchens all around the Queen City. Watkins made a set of knives for Harvest Moon Grille using copper pins and handles made of blue curly maple wood to match the restaurant’s orange and blue design. Another set with iron and copper details goes with the kitchen decor at the Customshop.
Each knife is customized, from the materials used to the color of the handle to the size of the blade. Watkins uses two processes. For some knives, he starts with a sketch and then cuts the blade with a band saw, but for others he heats the blade in a forge and hammers it to shape. He finishes the knives by “soaking” the steel in heat at a blistering 1,475 degrees and then “quenching” it in a specialty oil. For a simple knife, the whole process takes about six hours. But Watkins says it’s worth it.
“It’s the same as shopping for a particular style of clothing,” he says. “Anytime you have a tool designed for you, it’s going to feel better and look better.”