The cutting edge of craft in the South Kilkenny countryside

The cutting edge of craft

Patrick Brennan at work at his forge at Chapel Hill, Thomastown

Patrick Brennan travelled to the world’s biggest knife exhibition, Blade 2018, in Atlanta earlier this month.
He was the first ever Irish knifemaker to attend the show and sold over 30 pieces of work.

Patrick lives and works in a magical part of South Kilkenny, close to Chapel Hill. Surrounded by nature the silence is almost deafening, but this still and quiet environment allows Patrick to perfect his craft.
“I suppose I was always interested in knives, well ever since I left school,” he said. “I had a bad accident in 2010 and I broke my back in five places and I was in a wheelchair for two years.”
It was during this time that Patrick developed his knowledge and interest in the craft of creating blades, handles and leather sheaths.
“This kind of work really helped with my hand to eye co-ordination and balance and it was good for my focus - it really helped my rehabilitation,” he said.
“I create very high performance knives used by outdoor enthusiasts and professional chefs. I was taught my craft by Gil Hibben who made the infamous Rambo 3 knife for Sylvester Stallone and The Expendables knives.”
Patrick learned his craft from masters all over the world including Murray Carter, the only western bladesmith to receive an honour as a 16th generation Japanese bladesmith.
“Murray taught me how to make the finest high performance Japanese kitchen knives,” he added. “I also travelled to the US spending time learning from master bladesmiths and knifemakers before returning to Kilkenny to open my own forge creating individual handcrafted bespoke knives from the finest materials.”
Other gurus he learned from including Wes Hibben and Lin Rhea.
Patrick uses exotic timbers including Honduras Rosewood and he has also made handles from camel bone and Figured Irish Yew and bog yew from Kerry.
He explains the process which involves using a specialist knife in bar form and then moulding and forging the steel into the shape you want and then refining it.
“It is somewhere between a craft and an art,” he said.
The bladesmith says that he enjoys creating something from using raw materials and he was recently accepted into the Knifemakers Guild.
“When I started to make knives I needed to find out and learn more so I went to America and spent three months there with all the greats touring around and going to shows - it was intensive training,” he said.
Using only the best of materials from all over the world, including Japanese steel and the tusk of an ancient Alaskan mammoth Patrick creates beautiful pieces that will last a lifetime.
He also creates by hand leather sheaths to store the knives. They are handstiched using a saddle stitched tradition leatherworking technique for the very strongest sheaths on the market. This durability and attention to detail are some of the most appealing aspects of his work.
In this throwaway culture it is uplifting and reassuring to see someone learn and perfect a craft to create pieces that are essential for meeting our basic needs in cooking and survival.
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