Metal Monkey Knives

There are few things more frustrating, futile, and potentially dangerous than trying to force a blunt chunk of metal through a pumpkin…

Tobias Bockholt thinks so too, but unlike the rest of us, the Torquay-based school teacher decided to do something about it. After training with an experienced knife maker in 2014, and setting up a studio at Ashmore Arts, Tobias soon found himself taking custom orders as Metal Monkey Knives.


Elle Murrell

Tobias Bockholt of Metal Monkey Knives. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

The majority of Tobias’ knives are Japanese inspired, and they feature  quality carbon steels with handles made from Australian and exotic timbers. He crafts general purpose kitchen knives (Santoku and Gyuto or Chef knife) as well as specializsd knives like Yanagiba (sushi knife in the middle), steak knives, paring knives, bread knives, and more. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

In 2016, Tobias moved his workshop to Ashmore Arts on the outskirts of Torquay, where there are no issues with the noise and dust associated with a knife maker’s craft. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

‘I really enjoy the community and the collaborations here – like getting some stunning timber off-cuts from a sculptor or furniture maker, and having things made for the workshop within minutes,’ Tobias says.  Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

Most of all, Tobias appreciates having another blacksmith next door, Dave Graham from Simply Forged. ‘It doesn’t happen very often that you bump into someone that shares your passion about hot steel and hammers!’ Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

On average, it takes more than 15 hours to create a monosteel knife, but when working with Damascus steel, this time can easily double. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

Like many of the makers we feature, Tobias’ first sales were to locals in the area and friends. ‘As my product got better and attracted more interest on social media, I started selling nationally and now internationally with increasing success!’ he tells. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

Elle Murrell
22nd of May 2017

Tobias Bockholt’s first foray into the niche craft of knife making began with lots of research, and some eBay hunting for vintage pieces to restore. After crafting new handles and meticulously re-grinding, Tobias realised the only thing he wasn’t renewing was the blade. He sought out a course with Ballarat knife maker Adam Parker in 2014, and a year later found himself taking custom orders as Metal Monkey Knives. ‘If people ask me about it, I often joke that I am a full spare-time maker!’ jests the full-time secondary school teacher.

In a container-workshop at Ashmore Arts just outside Torquay, Tobias crafts general purpose kitchen knives as well as specialised knives like Yanagiba (sushi knifes), steak knives, paring knives and bread knives from scratch. ‘The majority are Japanese-inspired, however, they feature more elaborate handles made from amazing Australian and exotic timbers,’ explains the knife maker, who favours dense and hard wearing timbers or those he has stabilised with resin.

For selected pieces, Tobias forges his own strikingly patterned, multi-layered steel, known as Damascus steel. He stacks alternating layers of two carbon steels (one with a higher nickel content), before heating and hammering them together. The block of steel is then forged out into a long bar, cut, re-stacked, and the process begins all over again. ‘In this way, I create steel that has 60 to 300 layers, which show up as a black-and-silver pattern in the finished blade,’ he explains.

The craftsman likes to be challenged by the needs of his clients. ‘For example, I was asked to re-think the ergonometry of a set of knives to suit the lower center of gravity for a customer in a wheelchair,’ he says. ‘My knives are heading out to chefs and collectors, as well as to people like me that just enjoy cooking and want the tools to match their passion!’

Tobias Bockholt will be moving into a bigger space at Ashmore Arts soon. Place a custom-made order, or keep up with new designs, stockists and knife making classes via his Facebook page, here.

Bladesmith and knife maker Tobias Bockholt of Metal Monkey Knives. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

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