By Bjorn Jacobsen 28th of August 2020
Jamie is possibly one of the most well-known guys in the Australian knife making community. He has a big beard, a big laugh and a big pan of Kransky at every show and market he goes to – making him a popular visitor both in front of and behind the tables of the other makers.
Jamie, who grew up outside of Sydney, spent a considerable amount of time in the school holidays and weekends with his grandfather - was also a keen maker. It was during this time that Jamie learnt how to use tools to construct wood and metal working projects in his grandfather’s workshop – but knife making was not yet part of this mix despite his attraction to movies with big blades or swords in them, like First Blood, Conan and Krull.
Like many a teenager living in the Blue Mountains, Jamie was a keen bushcrafter who spent many years working his way through the ranks in Army Cadets before joining the Scouts in his mid 20’s. It was whilst on a scout camp that Jamie met Anita for the first time, at 26 years old. Together they travelled throughout Australia and part of Europe where Jamie’s terrible school boy French and lack of Google Maps made for some interesting detours. Today Anita and Jamie live on the Central Coast with their daughter Lillie. Anita is key to most of us knowing Jamie today, but more on that later..
By trade Jamie is an electrician and after several years doing FIFO work in both QLD and Arnhem Land mine, he co-founded Total Concept Industries, doing project fire installations and inspections in commercial buildings in the greater Sydney area.
Since his cadet days, Jamie had always been fascinated with the Kokoda Trail. With the 75th anniversary of the Kokoda Trail looming, he and a mate organised to walk the track with a small group that was scheduled to finish in time to meet the many dignitaries, who had been helicoptered in, for the official dawn service on 25th of April 2017.
Even with 6 months of solid fitness training for the gruelling walk, it was harder than anticipated. Jamie reacted strongly to the malaria tablets they were taking while in Papua New Guinea. The resulting nightmares, lack of sleep and not being able to hold down most of what he ate made it a draining experience – but they managed to complete their trek the day before the dawn ceremony. Standing there at the edge of the jungle for that Dawn Service was a significant moment that has stayed with Jamie since. He says he is proud of having gone through the training and the trek, but the side effects of the malaria tablets would be coming home with him.
Back in Australia he struggled to snap out of it, having a hard time sleeping or concentrating at work. After some months, Anita and Jamie decided he needed some time off from work to recover and refocus. As his recovery gained momentum, Jamie’s focus kept coming back to finding his creative groove - which included blacksmithing and big blades. Having Anita support his decision to leave the company and the commute to give him time and space to focus and recover is part of Jamie coming back to the surface, if you will, and a big part of having him as the Sausage Man we know and love today. Having had the chance to take the time out and pursue a new path is something that not everyone is able to do, and Jamie is forever grateful for been given the opportunity – which included being given a 2-day course at Eveleigh Works with Matthew Mewburn for Father’s Day. That one weekend triggered a fire in Jamie’s belly to learn more, meet as many skilled persons as possible and hopefully make a new life that included making knives.
Blade Symposium 2018 was the first knife making event Jamie went to. He decided to spend some time and money investing in the knowledge and skills rather than just set up shop at home by himself and it was here that he got to know Riley B, Toby M, Shane P and many others in the network. It wasn’t long before Riley, Toby and Jamie started the informal Hunter Valley Hammer-ins to bring makers and others in the area together to share and learn.
Jamie and Corin U at the Blade Symposium (photo by Riley Burns);
At Blade Symposium, Matt M suggested Jamie should join the Artist Blacksmiths of NSW and come to Iron Fest with them… and this became the start of the Sausage Man Forge we know and love. Jamie has since been going to several of the Artist Blacksmith events each year to learn additional blacksmithing skills outside of knife making. Here at Forging in July a couple of years ago:
Bringing a frying pan and Kransky, Jamie started taking this around to the stalls and tables of the Blacksmith Village at Iron Fest as he now does at most knife shows in Australia. What better way to get to know everyone! Jamie realised that not everyone at the shows knows the other makers and a big pan of warm Kransky turned out to be a great ice-breaker for not only meeting people but also sometimes connecting other makers who might not otherwise have known each other today.
The St. Ives Medieval Fayre 2018, north of Sydney, was the first Creative Man show Jamie worked at - and what a show it was! Darwin was busy making smurf swords all weekend, the tent next to us insisted in playing the hurdi-gurdi no matter how hung-over we were in the mornings and we met Wayne Schmidt who was down from Queensland demonstrating traditional blacksmithing with his son. Wayne is another of the blacksmiths we have met at markets and shows who is always open for sharing his knowledge, bringing a wealth of stories and laughs to the circle around the campfire at night after most people go home.
Jamie enjoys making chef knives with the last few made from stainless Damascus and stabilised maple handles and he has sold some through word-of-mouth. With Kev Slattery and Mert Tansu in his corner, Jamie grew his chef knife game quickly and in 2020 he joined the Australian Knife Making Guild, passing with flying colours.
Jamie is also part of the KAA, helping promote knife making and the community of makers in Australia. Here at the Canberra Knife Show with Toby Murrill (Photo by Michael Masion)
The last couple of months Jamie has taken on teaching the blacksmithing and forged knife making workshops at Creative Man in Sydney and has proven to be a very engaging teacher. Many attended have never picked up a hammer before and Jamie guides them in a way that leaves them happy about the experience and proud of the result.
It cannot be ignored that Jamie sports a big beard. The beard somehow seems to have taken on a life of its own. People are drawn to the beard! At all the markets and shows we go to, people take photos and just agree he is looking way more like a blacksmith than the rest of us!
An example; after the QLD Knife Show in 2019, Jamie and I were driving until it got dark before stopping to crash at a hotel. On our way from the car park into the hotel – in the dark beer garden – a couple came running over and practically starts stroking Jamie’s beard in the dark, congratulating him on the achievement of having the biggest, bushiest beard they had seen! The same happened in Atlanta, Georgia at the BLADE Show, people kept saying what a great job Jamie was doing on his beard, like remembering not to shave was a great achievement. (editors note: no beard envy here, nooo)
Jamie’s Top Tips for New Makers:
- 1.Invest in knowledge before tools. Attend a course or go to a Blade Symposium before buying a grinder or investing a lot in tools. Make a knife or two by hand to truly understand the process before spending a lot of time and money setting up a workshop. When you have learned more about the process, you can see where you want to start and what tools will make the biggest improvement for you.
- 2.Don’t make a katana. Don’t make a sword straight away. Start small, learn the tools and the process then come back to the bigger projects later. Unless you are Jez, then you can make katanas straight away.
- 3.Don’t be afraid to make (non-lethal) mistakes. Obviously this does not apply in electrical work or skydiving, but when making knives it is not a bad idea to make some mistakes and have to fix them yourselves. It is a great way to learn. If you are really clever, you will even learn from other maker’s mistakes by studying their work, going to shows and picking knives up. The same is true in reverse, copy what is good in other’s work. When you pick up something that just feels right; Ask “why is this right?” and try to understand how you can learn from this knife in your own work.