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.