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!’