Sharpening Blades


Day 29 Barrytown

Today I am going to be doing a hands on activity that not many people have done before. I’m heading to Barrytown, 25 minutes north of Greymouth on the West Coast, NZ, to Barrytown Knife making. Probably not everyone’s choice of activities to do, but with over 20,000 people make knives since it started 12 years ago, it’s quite a popular attraction for the area. For me I was quite interested in the process of making a knife and the prefect opportunity to get my hands dirty again and make something.


I arrive at Steve and Robins (hosts for the day) house around 9am, the smell of burning coal, nice view of the Ocean and their little dog coming over to say hello. Before long there was 12 of us ready and eager to get stuck into the day. Putting on our Cover shirts, gloves and safety glasses to protect us, Steve tells us what’s installed for us today, basically turning a piece of flat bar steel into a nice shiny knife.


We all get given a piece of flat bar with a handle bolted on to the end of it. First step of the day is to make it into the basic shape that we want, we do this by placing the steel bar into the coal furnace that Steve has had going for a few hours, this is to get the steel red hot. After not to long my mine is glowing, I pull it out and place it on the Anvil and start bashing it with a little steel mellet   We do this 3 times, only hitting one edge on both sides to create what will become the sharp edge. After this Steve has one last go at it and gets any last twists and bends out of it.


Now our knife is starting to take shape, the next thing to do is to polish the blade, where the brass pieces will go. After sand it nice and smooth going down the grades of sandpaper it now time to put on the brass pieces. I super glue the brass pieces onto each side and then drill 2 holes right through, this is where I place 2 brass pins and then hit them with the hammer from both sides to flare the ends and lock them into place.


Once this was complete, I then did the same with the handle, cutting up some Rimu (Native NZ timber) to the shape of the handle, drilling three holes and then placing 3 large brass pins through and bending them over. At this stage, the knife kind of looks like something you had made back at primary school, well mine did. Now’s the time to start cleaning it up, we sand off the ends of the pins, start grinding the handle into shape and a quick bog up of any gaps between the blade and the handle.


Lunchtime activitys

Now it’s lunch time, we all pile into the house and help ourselves, making some nice sandwiches. Steven carry’s on and gets our knives ready for the next stage. After filling our belly’s, Robyn has a few activities for us, to fill in the rest of our lunch break. First up is a game of quoits and axe throwing, a skill I’m not very good at as I found out. After this she takes us out to the carpark, where they have set up a massive swing.  Someone sits on the seat while everyone else pulls a rope attached to the seat. Pulling to we can’t pull any further we let go and them flying towards the ocean, great views of the coast.


After shaping the blade

After we have had our fun it’s time to get back down to business and finish off our knives. Steve’s has given them a quick going over while we were at lunch, now we get to shape our blades. We get to shape them to whatever shape you wanted, we had all sorts of shapes crafted by the group, one for hunting, a blade for carving the Sunday roast and one that looked evil with not really a use. I didn’t come with a planned use for my knife so I made one that I liked the shape of, I just took a bit of a scallop out of the top at the end and left it at that.


Shaping the handles

Next it was time to start shinning this blades up, we all ground our blades until they were smooth, going down through three grades of sand paper. Now the blades are starting to shine. We then give the handles there final shaping before we wrap them in masking tape ready for the next stage. Its polishing time, we head to the other side of the house and all take a seat, Robin hands out some sandpaper and we start to sand to blades by hand, same thing going down the grades of sandpaper from 400 down to 1200. You can see the shine getting better after each, last step on the blade was to use some polishing compound, buffing to their final sparkle. The final step for the day is to stain the handle to a dark brown and buff it to a shine.



By now everyone is pretty happy with their knives, they all get laid out for the final photo display. We all sit down and have a drink with the hilarious hosts. Steve made us laugh the whole day with his, sometime inappropriate, jokes and humour but that just made for a very enjoyable day. Learning the basics of knife making and getting to take home something you have made. It takes the whole day but really recommend it if your heading down this way and interested in learning a new skill.


Finish product. My blade sixth in from the right

After our good byes, I head down to Greymouth where I meet up with my Parents who have flown down for the weekend to meet me. After checking into the Greymouth Seaside Top 10 holiday park and finding my parents we head out for some dinner. After a drive around town to find not much happening we end up at the Monteith’s Brewery. Unfortunately, the last tour has just left so we sit down and have some expensive Tapa’s and a glass to drink. After this we head back to the camp and watch a bit of rugby before its time for me to sign off on another day. Tomorrow plan is going to be a slightly weird and wild one.


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