An essential part of being a good cook is having the right equipment and for Paul that meant seeking out local Blacksmith Iain Hamilton who made him a quality chef’s knife that symbolized the blending of his old life as a chef with his new start at River Cottage Australia.
Paul also had a matching knife made which he presented to Hugh as a symbol of the link between River Cottage Australia and River Cottage U.K.
In some cultures it is traditionally believed that the giving of a knife as a gift to a friend will cut or sever the relationship. To avoid such ill luck, the receiver should give a coin in return so as to "pay" for the gift. It is common to include a penny, often taped to the blade which then returned to the giver.
Iain Hamilton is a self-taught blacksmith who has honed his skills through years of practice. He works with metal in variety of mediums, including medieval weaponry, knives, cookware, sculpture and jewellery.
The making of the chef’s knife for Paul followed some basic processes. Firstly steel preparation, meaning the heating of the steel and forging out the shape of the knife this can take anywhere from 40 minutes to an hour, and involves intense hammering for 2 to 4 minutes then 5 to 7 minutes of re- heating in the forge. And secondly annealing, which means the treatment of the metal in order to make it more workable then slow cooling of the steel in ash.
After that there is rough grinding of the metal to refine the shape of the blade which is then returned to the to the forge for placing of the blacksmith’s trade mark and thermal cycling followed by more annealing and a quick grind to clean it up.
The blade is then hardened and tempered which involves heating the blade to an orange heat and quenching it in oil; a cleaning grind is then applied. Using a special set of tongs that get heated in the forge till they’re bright orange the blade is then tempered and given a final grind and polish.
The handle is then attached by burning, which means heating the tang, which is the piece of metal that sits inside the wooden handle, and pushing it into the block of wood that will become the handle
The final steps involve the grinding and shaping, fitting and gluing of the handle which is then polished and sharpened. A hand made knife like the chef’s knives made for Paul could expect to outlast their owner by many lifetimes.