Few things could be as satisfying as the primal act of burying yourself deep in the Latvian woods for the winter season making knives by hand, yet the talented crew at John Neeman Tools lives this reality every day. Their mission? To use their blacksmith and woodworking knowledge that’s been passed down through many generations of Latvian toolmakers to create the best—and most original—woodworking tools and knives on earth. In this three-part series, the crew at Neeman takes us behind the scenes into their small workshop to show us the knife and toolmaking process that’s just as relevant today as it was generations ago.
Process: John Neeman Tools
“Its a tragedy of the first magnitude that millions of people have ceased to use their hands as hands. Nature has bestowed upon us this great gift which is our hands. If the craze for machinery methods continues, it is highly likely that a time will come when we shall be so incapacitated and weak that we shall begin to curse ourselves for having forgotten the use of the living machines given to us by God.”
(Part I: The Birth of an Axe)
(Part II: The Birth of a Chisel)
(Part III: The Birth of a Knife)
The crew uses a variety of materials ranging from 9260 spring steel in their blades (the same material used by samurai swordsmiths for centuries due to its ability to resist snapping and shattering), to locally harvested and kiln dried elm for handles and local high-quality leather cow hide for hand stitched sheaths.
The level of quality seen in their tools is unparalleled in a world of mass-produced pocket knives and shrink-wrapped axes from Home Depot. Like a fine piece of jewelry however, the tools do come in at a steep price: a Bearded Eye Baltic Broad Axe comes in at $480 while a chef’s kitchen knife comes in at a hefty $1150.
(Images via John Neeman Tools)