Next up in our Meet The Maker Series is David Talko-Nicholas.
We're big fans of David's work and his simple approach to knife making, so have a read of his own relatively new journey...
I grew up fishing and diving and then worked as a commercial diver and dive instructor for years. I’ve always had a knife close to hand and on one or two occasions saved my own life with one. I also love to cook so I appreciate a decent chefs knife. These things coupled with a love for making pretty much anything have resulted in an obsession with knife making.
I’ve been making knives for about 18 months, which I fit in around a hectic family life (two girls aged 7 and 9) and my full time job as Assistant Harbour Master in East Gippsland, VIC. My wife also work full time as director of her own family law firm so shed time is occasionally hard to get.
My main passion is making chefs knives. I’ve been playing with full tang and Japanese style hidden tang knives. Turning a chunk of metal into a sleek chef’s blade is massively rewarding, and getting to use them every day makes it all the more worthwhile.
The aspect of knife making I find most challenging is fighting the urge to call something ‘good enough’ and moving on. My mother is the most meticulous artisan I have ever met and on many occasions I have watched her undo literally days worth of work in her craft because it didn’t meet her exacting standard. I try to apply that dedication to my work although I don’t always succeed. I’ve knocked the handles off one particular knife three bloody times and started again because it wasn’t quite right.
The most rewarding aspect of knife making for me is the constant improvement in the execution of small processes. Once I’ve finished a knife I tend to lose interest in the finished product pretty quickly and need to move on to the next one to see how I can improve on my techniques. I am also bloody obsessed with tools – my clothes are all torn and threadbare because I prefer to spend my ‘pocket money’ on tools and supplies.
My knife making goal is to turn out excellent chefs’ tools. I’m not too interested in decoration, I just want to be able to consistently turn out blades in which the materials, balance, edge geometry, profile and heat treat all come together to make simple, effective and beautiful tools. I have a long way to go but it’s a fun process
I’m sure makers of all types feel the same but as a society I think we are obsessed with obtaining new stuff all the time and so much of that stuff seems to be getting shoddier and more disposable every day. Taking the time to make something properly that is designed to last a lifetime can provide a real connection to a past where pride in the quality and longevity of a product was paramount.
If I had to give tips to an absolute beginner they would be:
- Don’t let a lack of flash tools get in the way. You can turn out excellent knives with hand tools and some patience. When you finally move on to more specialised tools you will have learnt bucket loads about the craft.
- Power tools are not always the answer! Power tools are great and they can save heaps of time but they can also destroy a piece of work in no time flat (they can also chew bits off you in no time flat). Often in the time it takes to set up a power tool, find my safety glasses and earmuffs under all the crap on my bench and get to work I can get the job done with a hand tool. All without the noise and the dust and with a greater sense of attachment to the process.
- Good files are a beautiful thing. Take the time to learn how to use files properly and it will absolutely pay off.
- Lots of people will disagree but I say if you are trying to make quality knives, don’t waste your valuable time with unknown steels. Yes, transforming a railway spike/farriers rasp/handful of thumbtacks into a blade is cool but unless you absolutely know the composition of the steel your heat treat will be a shot in the dark. Buy some 10 series carbon steel and get it right the first time.