Blades of Steel: Nate Runals' Custom Knives
April 11, 2014
Some things are just easier to accomplish with a hammer and an anvil. It's a simple notion for sure, but one often lost in today's got-to-have-it-now world of mass production.
Think about it. Our kids play with cheap plastic "Made in China" deathtraps. Hunters are going afield with Duck Dynasty endorsed Walmart knock-off gear. We're a nation losing our grit.
That's why, to me, Nate Runals is a revelation.
Runals is a Michigan-based blacksmith who specializes in hand-forged blades. The kind of kickass craftsmanship that has to be forged, ground, heat-treated, polished, etched, and welded. He's created blades of all shapes and sizes for local butchers, policemen, and clients all over the country.
Last month I commissioned Runals to make a meat cleaver — this is our Meat Eater Issue, after all — from scratch. The result was a straightforward, heavy-duty blade with impeccable balance. The handle is a smooth olive wood with brass pins, and the blade is forged 1075 high carbon steel tempered for toughness. It cuts through bone with absolutely no problem and, for an unintended added value, carries the same oil-rubbed timber smell as my high school wood shop.
"What makes a hand-forged knife unique is that it's hand-forged," Runals said. "I love ancient blades with the subtleties of their form."
This is truly a relational craft. What Runals makes (money, friendships, reputation) is earned with long hours. There's no huge marketing efforts needed, just blades that are truly custom, down to the final sandpaper polish.
"The goal is that every knife be better than the last," he said. "Even if it's just something that I notice, all I want to do is get better, find my voice in this craft, and share it with others."
Our commissioned cleaver with a vegetable tanned cow leather cover.
This damascus blade, Runals' personal knife, is used for skinning and gutting animals.
An example of a beautiful friction folder with a black oak handle.