Bladesmith Zack Jonas’s knives live big outside his Warner studio (2024)


When Warner bladesmith Zack Jonas joined the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen in 2012, he was the only person selling knives at the Sunapee fair.

Bladesmithing hadn’t yet hit mainstream pop culture due to shows like Forged in Fire, and most people visiting Jonas’s booth didn’t know what his work actually entailed.

Times have changed, and these days, Jonas’s knives — particularly his damascus knives, made of two kinds of steel —are living big lives outside his studio.

Last year, Jonas was a guest on an episode of celebrity chef Nick DiGiovanni’s YouTube channel — an episode would garner 3 million views and prompt DiGiovanni to commission five knives from Jonas, including the one featured on DiGiovanni’s new cookbook, Knife Drop.

Even to the rookie eye, it’s easy to see the craftsmanship behind the damascus steel knife on the cover of DiGiovanni’s book, its blade made of dark and light steel swirling together like a fingerprint, its hand-carved wooden handle shaped and polished just right.

Jonas says the publicity has increased demand, and he’s since received commissions from A-list celebrities and top-name chefs, but to be honest, most of his knives end up in the hands of regular people, people who appreciate fine craftsmanship and are seeking objects that enrich their lives. And for him, that’s as good as it gets.

“There’s a fulfillment in knowing someone will use that knife every single day in preparation of their food, and that it will make them happy every time,” Jonas said via phone. “People will pick up my chef’s knife and get this surprised look on their face. They think it’s so light, but it’s actually heavier than most knives they use. It feels light because it’s balanced.”

Admittedly, his knives are not for everyone. Sure, the quality of craftsmanship might not be as high in commercial knives, maybe they’re less ergonomically friendly or feature lower-grade steel, but they’ll probably function well enough for most people. He says the experience of owning a really nice knife is kind of like owning a luxury automobile.

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“Any car will get you from A to B, but there’s an experiential difference between a cheap car and a very nice luxury car. Not everyone cares about having a nice luxury car, but for those who do, the experience is really different and satisfying and engaging in a different way,” Jonas said.

It takes a great deal of work to get a knife to such a high level. It starts with a bar of steel, which is forged in a hot flame and then hammered, ground, heat treated, tempered, and ground again. Then the handles, often made of hardwood, are shaped and fitted, polished and assembled.

“I strive for a less-is-more approach aesthetically. I feel like, in knife-making and in many other creative endeavors, a lot of people go for a ‘more is more’ approach, and then everything is noisy or busy or has more features. I try to aim for a more thoughtful approach to design. I like simple, clean lines,” he said.

Jonas learned bladesmithing at MassArt in Boston and refined his skills as an apprentice under one of the program’s instructors. His career in New Hampshire began 10years ago when he and his wife moved to Wilmot and built his studio from the ground up.

When the pandemic hit, the couple felt it was time to expand the shop and moved to Warner, where they found a house with an existing barn that he was able to convert into a much larger workshop with separate rooms for different bladesmithing steps, such as woodworking, grinding, and forging.

In the new year, Jonas will continue to do what he’s always done: create custom knives and host workshops in his home, taught by Jonas himself or guest artisans. But there are also some fun projects in the works, including a commissioned sword which, when finished, will be his most intricate and expensive piece to date.

Even now, it’s hard for Jonas to explain what it is about bladesmithing he finds so captivating. He says almost all the processes of knifemaking are unpleasant, dangerous, tedious, and otherwise not very nice. On paper, it doesn’t make sense that he’d love it so much.

“And yet, I do. There’s something indescribable about it. I sometimes joke with other knifemakers that we don’t like making knives; we like having made knives,” he said. “There’s something satisfying about the work itself, to shape something under your own hands and have it go from a pile of nondescript raw materials into a refined, elegant, functional piece of art.”


Bladesmith Zack Jonas’s knives live big outside his Warner studio (2024)


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