Canadian Makers’ Self-Taught Approach Leads to Bold Knife Design

Solid Steel Works is pressing forward with new designs and a burgeoning kitchen knife line. The two-man team, located in Vancouver, Canada, says that their work benefits from the fact that they are self-taught in the art of bladesmithing.

“We are known for having big chunky folders with unique designs,” says Solid Steel Works Co-Founder Mark. Some of the duo’s most popular models blend striking looks with large cutting edges, thick titanium scales, and of course premium custom knife finishing. The Reaver model (see feature image above) is a flipper with a 4-inch, M390 sheepsfoot blade. But describing the shape as a ‘sheepsfoot’ doesn’t convey the full picture: a massive notch on the spine and a grandiose false edge on the top make the Reaver pop visually.

Sometimes, custom knives make the transition from usable blades to highly refined collector’s pieces. Accord to Mark, Solid Steel Works’s products attempt to straddle the line between aptitude and art. “I build everything to be used,” he says simply. “Yes, I do sell to people who have hundreds of knives in cases, but most if not all want them to be perfectly useable, and they are tested.” A Solid Steel Works knife probably won’t have a career as a daily beater, but the team wants to ensure they would stand up to daily use and abuse if need be.

Solid Steel Works Guillotine

Solid Steel Works Guillotine

The designs themselves aren’t the only unique element in a Solid Steel Works build. “First of all we are self taught,” Mark explains. “So we don’t follow ALL the typical ideas handed down by the old makers. I do study the old makers style and ideas, but only take things I think are suitable.” He cites frame lock tolerancing and math as an example of accepted wisdom he embraces, but his concept of the ‘show side’ of the knife is more unconventional. “To me the lock side is the show side. When you put your knife down on the table, which side faces up? It’s the lock side, the show side.”

Solid Steel Works’s process for new models is equally unconventional. “I look around at off-cuts and weird pieces of metal around the shop, then sketch onto those shapes and put them together.” This Frankensteinian approach has lead to new models in the past, like the shop’s plus-size Razor model. “Sometimes the graveyard births a new model, but it’s a more organic process versus planning new models.” In perhaps surprising contrast to their burly folders, Solid Steel Works is also pursuing hand-forged kitchen knives. The forging began as an exercise in technique. “But kitchen knives naturally crawled out from the crucible of fire,” Mark elaborates. “We are now building a foundry, again to learn. We want to move metal in every way possible, and we will in time. It will all contribute to us learning how to make better blade products.”

Knife featured in image: Solid Steel Works Reaver