Rooted.

On a thin wire, a small gray bird flits her tail. Flings her wings to balance. Hops sideways and flies off. A phoebe bird - a fly catcher - she keeps her nest under the eaves of the shed by Bloodroot's shop. Her cry is crackly, and her nest is a mess of moss and twigs perched precariously under a roof. I watch the phoebes flit around the garden, flying back and forth from the fence to the eaves and back, while I work here every day. 

I'm the very mobile part of Bloodroot Blades. Luke and David have to be behind the anvil, in front of the forge, at the grinder. They have stations. My laptop and I can sit anywhere, and most often, I am outside. Because we're in Georgia, and spring is waning, that won't last long. Soon it will be much too hot to sit outside on this bench and write emails to all of you. But now, it's 70 degrees, and I can sit in the dappled shade, write to you, and watch the phoebes. 

The phoebe's nest under the eaves

The phoebe's nest under the eaves

Behind the garden and the birds is a rising roof. Right now, David and I live fifteen minutes away from the Bloodroot shop, and we drive here each morning. But, when Luke and Helen and David and I bought this land together, the plan was always that we would build a house here and move to the land. That process has begun, and every day, the time gets closer that we will get up in the morning and walk through wet grass to work rather than drive along busy roads.

So, we are becoming more and more rooted to this land in Oglethorpe County. Luke and Helen have long been growing roots here, and now David and I are, too. We tend the garden like we already live here, dealing with its mysteries. Like why the garlic doesn't seem to be doing so well but the leeks are doing fabulously. If I figure that out, I'll let you know. I'll probably figure it out from that back porch, pictured above. But that will be a gardening post for another time. Until then, I'll leave you with some Mary Oliver, oft quoted, but never old:

The Summer Day

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
—Mary Oliver

 

 

A short walk.

When my vision at the bench gets a little blurry or my mind obsessed with some facet or another, I try to take a walk, heading down familiar trails to see what the woods have to offer in the way of wisdom and provision - perhaps the same thing in the end.

What I am typically looking for in the summer and fall are the little orange treasures among the leaves, chanterelles.

My immediate object is dinner, and I am thinking to myself in business terms: these mushrooms are tasty, free and relatively easy to spot. I am still striving in a way.

Then clarity, and the breath that I had been meaning to take.

Our families have thrown in together so that we can make a kind of life, one where we can live a bit smaller and experience a bit more wonder. We find ourselves immensely grateful to the community surrounding Bloodroot for making that life a possibility.

We have the honor of serving a tremendous group of people, each with his or her own story, and we get to hear parts of that story in the process of designing, making, and sending. Thank you.

I walk back to the shop along the creek, grateful for all that the time had to offer and hopeful that tomorrow will bring new conversation and renewed vision. And maybe a few more mushrooms.

A New Site

photo: Paige French

photo: Paige French

You may have noticed that for awhile now, our website has had a new look. But, we never mentioned it. At all. In the flurry of activity around here, we (thankfully) finished a redesign and let the new site go live without saying a word. And that's fine, except one of the words we didn't say was a word of thanks.

Since Bloodroot became Bloodroot (Four years ago, now? Five?), there have been more than a few people in the Athens community who have been endlessly encouraging and supportive. Two of those people are John and Paige French. Their friendship to us is invaluable, not just because they've helped us as we have developed our business, but because they are loving, giving human beings whose vision of the world is encouraging to us. They always remind us of the truth, remind us of what we really value, when it's easy to run off course.

John designed this website for us, and much of the beautiful lifestyle and process photography comes from the endlessly-talented Paige. Thanks, you two. We admire you so much, and we are very thankful to have you in our lives. 

photo: Paige French

photo: Paige French

You will also find photography on the site by The Grey Ones, two local portrait, documentary, and lifestyle photographers who did some beautiful work for us. Thank you, Jordan and Ben.

Now, a word toward what's actually new on this "new" site:  we've just recently finished the Process page detailing the steps through which the guys take each knife. We hope this becomes an educational resource, and it definitely becomes a bit technical at time. Luke uses words like "austenite." For those of you who want to go full nerd, have at it.  I know we do.

photo: Paige French

photo: Paige French

David has also finished putting together details on our Legacy pieces, those knives to which customers have supplied their unique materials, making each piece an amalgamation of impossibly beautiful stories. We feel very honored to be able to build these knives.

photo: Bloodroot Blades

photo: Bloodroot Blades

And finally, newest of the new: we actually posted here. On the blog. That we hadn't posted on since 2014. And, we're going to try to keep doing it. So, stop in every once in awhile to see what's new.  And, as always, thank you all for your continued support of our work.  We love being in community with all of you who come to visit us here. If you ever want to, just drop us a line to say hello. We'd love it :)


A brief tour of the new space.

1 Building Front.jpg

We have teamed up with our good friend Paige French over the past months and done a couple of projects to document our new shop and surroundings. She and her husband John and their wonderful family have meant a great deal to us and have been some our biggest supporters and cheerleaders.

Paige has a wonderful eye for the moment-in-image and seems to capture the everyday objects that regularly surround Luke and me with a view that helps me be more mindful of the 'ordinary.' 

Entering the main doors and looking straight ahead: our two anvils. 

The Peddinghaus that my father gave me

3 Anvil.jpg

and the Soderfors with which Luke and his father started their adventures in smithing. 

3 Anvil (1).jpg

Forges and grinders to the left:

forge.jpg
grinder.jpg

On the right, the drill press and doorway to the handling room.

4 drill press and doorway.jpg

Our current best friend.

5 our friend the stove.jpg

Below the shop, we have been in the process of clearing out some of the undergrowth and marveling at the 'hidden' oaks.

6 Below the Shop.jpg

It has been a great deal of work to get here. But I think that we are going to stay for quite a while...

Musings

Two days ago the first of the Bloodroot (Sangiunaria canadensis) poked their buds through the dead leaves next to the shop yet today it is 40 degrees with windblown rain. 

 

I like that our namesake is something living, unobtrusive and elegant. For me seeing this come up each spring is a marvel. It is something you see only if you have the eyes to see it. It is so short lived in its showy form that you must be eagerly awaiting it or it will be missed altogether. Since we started Bloodroot Blades seeing this flower always makes me feel like it's a new year, that introspection is in order, and new prospects are in the wings.

I am no longer a professional student walking the long path towards a faculty career like I have been for almost a decade. I honestly thank God for it! Having stepped off that path last year has had its bittersweet moments. A few weeks ago I could have met with one of David and my heros and favorite author, Wendell Berry, near his home in Kentucky. It was with a group of people I have been long connected with and greatly respect, but I now do not qualify as one of them and could not participate. I am no longer a future colleague to those who long thought I was, but instead I am one who "left the path"- a statistic for department heads. 

However, instead of studying sustainability I am now more than ever living it and being challenged by it. How is living and working with intentionality less of an educational process than pedagogy? It is an interesting practice to desire and choose ways of doing business that support our principles, yet feel the pull and need to make a living and run a business with accumen and intelligence. In the day to day work and intesive time spent on email, phone, and with customers there is little opportunity for introspection. I am happy that David and I had some time to establish ourselves with one another and build a foundation that could handle the pressures of a 19+ month waiting list. We love building knives and working with people of many walks of life. We love working together, we love our families, and we love doing life other than work. We have both chosen this life, this opportunity, and are here, God willing, to stay.

Thank you all for making this a possiblity. 

All the best, 

 

~Luke

Life from the bench.

I had a moment yesterday in the shop where I realized an irony of a owning a 'hand-made' business: I use the i-pad on the right as much or more than the file in the back. It is interesting to consider that something we consider 'virtual' is so very real in our practice. Yes, we have to be good with hammers, grinders, files, and, oddly, dental instruments (center back), but we also must be good with the tools of community and information. 

We recently entered a contest of American-made crafts in Martha Stewart Living and would be thankful for your help in voting and putting the word out. Online voting closes in mid-September. Luke and I spent some quality time putting together our thoughts in what ended up a brief package, and we would love to hear your feedback.

Thanks so much,

David

Every Hand is Different

We received a thoughtful email a few months back from a woman who had lost her son in a car accident. Her son's best friend was seriously injured in the accident and, after much recovery, has reworked his future into the culinary arts. His forearm and wrist is now supported by titanium, and he has very limited mobility in the wrist. The woman employed us to fit her son's friend for a knife because all the standard knife types require wrist flexibility. She brought him to the shop for a fitting and here is the result of our discussion:


Over the last several years, David and I have come to understand that each hand is unique and that a knife may be loved by one and disliked by another. It's one of the main reasons that we build knives to the person for the most part.

After the fitting, David and I were both thinking the same thing: we like working out of a paradigm that views a hand with a titanium support like every other hand--instead of a cause for increased prices or special treatment. Ours is not the industrial model which homogenizes, but a model that delights in complexity and diversity. 

Being a small part in this family's story is a privilege for us.

 

-LS

 

A New Set of Great Old Knives

My neighbor, Matthew, from Big City Bread, brought us set of beautiful old Sabatiers for restoration. They were storied family knives, belonging to his grandmother, father and Matthew himself when he was in culinary school in New York. 

There were a couple of things that needed tending to in order to bring them back into full service:

One was that they needed rehandling. Sabs are riveted but not glued so there is a build up between the scales and the tang that develops over time. Also, rehandling would improve the balance of the two larger knives because the original plastic handles are a bit light and shift the fulcrum point out into the blade a bit.

 

The other was a reprofiling for the two chefs. They had been steeled so much over the years that the profile needed to be flattened out to make full contact with the cutting board. 

 

First, came the handles. The scales were fairly easy to remove intact because the rivets are aluminum and can be tapped out using a drill press and a punch. The fitting is a little trickier because the tang has a strong distal taper and the rear of the bolster is angled forward. Matthew chose to use the black-dyed coffee bag laminate and copper pins to pay homage to the originals 

 

Then came the glue up.

After a bit of grinding and finishing on the handles, as well as a grinding, reprofiling and sharpening the blades, they were again ready for full use. A new, old set of knives. Thank you, Matthew, for trusting us with this project. It was a pleasure.


 

Reworking the Endings

One of the great joys in this business is taking otherwise useless or nearly useless things and restoring their usefulness.  In a way, we continue their stories.

I went to Abbeville, SC, to pick up a few sawblades from Grant, the grandson of John A., a lumbermill owner. The mill was opened around 1906, was in full use through the 30s, and saw some use through the 50s.  Now, the remnants of this old mill belong to Grant.  He had posted some old sawblades for sale on Craigslist, and I went down to see if we could use them.  They were leaning against trees in his back yard, former pieces of a milltown and a piece of our country's manufacturing history, now going to disuse.  

When I pulled up in the Camry--a source of a bit of good-natured laughter from the fellows who weren't sure how they'd get blades into that trunk--Grant told me a little bit about his family history and what these sawblades signified.

We had to do a little cutting to fit them all in (46" and 55" across respectively). But Grant was very kind and excited to see that the steel still had some life in it. A lot of life as it turns out.  As Luke and I have tested it, the steel has turned out to have remarkable flexibility and edge-holding properties.  Perfect for turning into an excellent kitchen knife.  

Luke and I will take these and cut them. 

And work with them into something new and useful again.

I have a lot of respect for people like Grant who understand that what we are doing is continuing the memory of his family. Rather than destroying an heirloom, we are hopefully creating them. The family that gets a knife from his blades will know the history of its steel--and in some small way will know Grant and John A..

Things left unattended will decay. Even our kitchen counters bear witness to this truth. But with use and care, we can check that decay, slow it down, or reverse it. That's why I like making kitchen knives from rusting blades. It feels very redemptive.

I am very greatful to be able to be a part of this work of rescuing would-be losses. Anything we can do to keep these pieces of history out of the front yards of suburbia and off the walls of Applebees is worth doing.

 

A Letter

“Our place of safety can only be the community, and not just one community, but many of them everywhere. Upon that depends all that we still claim to value: freedom, dignity, health, mutual help and affection, undestructive pleasure, and the rest. Human life, as most of us would still like to define it, is community life.”

Wendell Berry from The Art of the Commonplace


Luke and I during the last few months have made the decision to leave our respective professions and do Bloodroot full time. Our leaving had to do less with business and more to do with community. We see a vibrant, beautiful group of people who are attempting to live out a certain ethos of friendship, food, tools, earth, dignity, respect—the list can’t ever be exhaustive—these friends are in Manhattan apartments and rural South Georgia farms. They might be chefs, home gardeners and cooks, people just trying to live more simply in the middle of busy lives. What holds us together is the notion that the people we feed are important to us and the food that we serve is a gift. 

The ‘business model’ would have Luke and me trying our damnedest to supply for all demand, to raise our prices to all the market would bear (or cheapen our product to flood said market), to exploit all our resources, and to scale Bloodroot to the point that we could retire having branded a concept and left it for dead. But we bought into Bloodroot because of the concept of community that Wendell Berry speaks of. We are buying into this ethos, not a business model.

Both of our lifelong earnings may be decidedly less than had we stayed on our respective beaten paths. Our real security, however, must lie in supporting the work of our families and friends.  Our posture must be one of gratitude and not one of entitlement. Luke (and Helen, Wren, Nell and Muir) and I (and Katy) look forward to being in community with you in the coming years. We are already thankful for the ways that you have let us be part of your stories and look forward to continuing to support your work with quality work of our own.