A Modern Blacksmith Making Ancient Japanese Culinary Knives

Arnon Kartmazov of Bridgetown Forge works all day on his feet. Like the traditional blacksmith of old, he forges steel, repeatedly pounding and pressing a heated steel mass with his might and swiftness into conforming shape. But one of those feet stands solidly in the modern ‘smithing’ world that relies less on physical might, and more on mental acuity and modern equipment to accomplish the same age-old goal: reshaping raw steel into a finished object of beauty and purpose, “form that follows function”. “So, if I have to use something entirely modern I will use that. If I have to use a technique which is a few thousand years old, I will use that too,” says Kartmazov.

A native Russian Jew, Arnon Kartmazov immigrated to Israel with his family when he was 11, and fell in love working with metal and fire while still in his youth. First, apprenticing with a master blacksmith in Jerusalem for a year, he went on to apprentice in Japan with other masters (including a sword-maker) for four years, before operating his own shop in Kyoto, Japan for almost a decade.

Arnon Kartmazov forging steel

Arnon Kartmazov of Bridgetown Forge in Portland, Oregon

Since opening in 2000, his 5000 square foot shop in Portland, Oregon, contains the types of equipment that would be typical of a 19th century blacksmith shop, such as a coal fired forge, and anvils— and of a modern facility —pneumatic tools, gas fired forge, and a plasma cutter, as well.

As Kartmazov explains in the video, he enjoys cooking, and this knowledge helps inform his decisions as he shapes and reshapes the heated steel into culinary knives of many different shapes, sizes, and intended purposes.

Tomorrow, we look at some of his knives, and some of the special qualities that define them.

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