Melbourne bladesmith, Aidan Mackinnon loves nothing more than dedicating 15 hours or more to transforming a raw hunk of steel and a block of wood into a one-of-a-kind, high performance, heirloom knife.
And creating a one-of-a-kind, high performance knife is what fuels his dedication and uncompromising creativity for his craft.
Cut Throat Knives was founded in 2014, after Aidan fascinated with the ancient craft tried his hand at making a knife. It was love at first slice.
When I started, I immediately knew this is what I wanted to do. It just made sense to me, it combined my interest of food with design, with working with my hands and then elements of art as well.
I was hooked from day 1.
Each of Aidan’s hand sculpted knives are bought to life in his fingers and it is this collaboration between the raw materials – Aidan likes to work with Australian materials – and his own humanity that Aidan believes makes each piece flesh alive in quality and function.
In our long-distance interview, I caught up with Aidan as he was training with some Master bladesmiths in the United States whilst I was here in Melbourne.
I admit as an interviewee he couldn’t have been more generous with his time and personable with intimate details of Cut Throat Knives and a craft that he loves.
1.Hi Aidan, you are currently in training with some bladesmiths in the United States, what so far has been the best learning you have received there?
Hi Simmon, the best thing that I’ve learnt is that I’ve demystified some of the aura around the celebrity knife makers. It can be easy when you work in a certain field to put people on pedestals and the knife making community is no different.
It has been fantastic learning from some of the thought leaders in my field but also realizing that they are just makers like the rest of us.
2.Where did your fascination with knife making first begin?
I’ve always been into food and through that you gain an appreciation for well-made tools. When I first moved out of home I bought a Global Knife and then slowly just kept on upgrading through the various factory made options.
Then about 5 years ago I came across the work of Cut Brooklyn and Blok Knives and just found the concept fascinating, that there were these guys making beautiful tools by hand.
After a little bit, I decided to learn how to make a knife and did a course in Australia and I really fell for the craft. Within 7 months I had launched Cut Throat Knives.
3. At the beginning, tell me about the first knife you ever made?
The first Chef Knife I ever made was with Tharwa Valley Forge in Canberra, they are a blacksmithing and bladesmithing school.
I hammered out a piece of steel under the tutelage and glued on a handle and shaped it. By anybody’s standards it was rough, even my own but I saw it as a stepping point. I still have it in my workshop acting as a reminder of how far I’ve come.
4. You believe the human element of crafting a handmade knife is of the utmost importance in creating the fine detail of a bespoke blade, how so?
Every element of a handmade knife is about attention to detail.
The lines of the blade are a little more refined, the blades are ground very thin, and often have complex compound grinds. The heat treatment is done to the highest standard possible (something that is difficult when factories are bulk heat treating blades).
Finally, the choice of the materials in the handle and the contouring of the handle.
These improvements however slight stack up and produce a better end result.
As a knife maker, we have to be about pushing the envelope, getting the most out of the materials so that it is a lifetime purchase.
5. Will you share your design philosophy behind the crafting of your beautiful knives?
First and foremost, they are about function, if they don’t excel where they need to everything else is moot. Beyond that my goal is to create a kitchen heirloom, in that sense I’m trying to create an object that has an emotional connection to it.
For example I did a collaboration with a florist, where we lasered peonies onto the blade and had a handle that was resin cast that contained a single flower. Not only will it perform well, but for a florist this is a tool that takes their work passion and embodies it in a kitchen object.
6. What plans do you have for the future of Cut Throat Knives?
We are about to launch our own range of Damascus and San Mai blades. These will be complete bespoke custom work where we work with the customer to create a truly individual piece.
We are also revamping our leather range to include a greater selection of options.
We have some other projects in the works but for now they will remain a secret
7. And for all the budding bladesmiths, home chefs and others you have knife making classes starting soon. Very exciting, please tell me about them.
Knife making classes will be starting shortly.
They will be run as a two-day course where we teach the basics of knife making and sharpening with a heavy focus on kitchen knives.
8. The food industry is ever evolving and ever inspiring, from whom do you draw inspiration from?
Within my own field; Blok Knives, Cut Brooklyn, Maumasi Fire Arts, David Lisch
Outside of my craft; the Dapper Dead, Sauer and Steiner, Kylie Kwong, Grafa Garden, Brooklyn Copper, Borough Furnace, Black Tide Tattoo, North St Botanical (the list is long)
Within the culinary world (this list is very, very long); Adam Perry Lang, Kenji Lopez Alt, Josh Niland, Dan Barber to name just a few.
9. Why should people buy a handmade knife as opposed to a commercially made one?
I would encourage people to enhance their cooking experience through good produce and good tools. Maybe that means buying one of my knives or maybe it is the cheap Santoku that you bought when you lived in Japan and every time you use it, it reminds you of your time there.
I think that there is something special about holding a well-made tool and knowing that there is a person and a story behind that object. If that connects with you and enhances your cooking, then absolutely I encourage you to give me a call.
- And finally, what is the best way I can take care of one of your beautifully made Cut Throat Knives?
There are a few elements to taking care of a well-made knife,
- Take care of the tip and the rest takes care of itself.
When sharpening get it professionally sharpened, or use whetstones. Never use those pull through sharpeners, they are terrible.
- Store on a magnetic knife block or in a wooden knife block with the edge facing up (don’t rest the edge on the wood).
- Never just throw it in the draw.
- Hand wash only. It takes 5 seconds to clean the blade and dry it.
Quality has no substitute; throwaway culture deserves disposal; and time-honored skills are worthy of recognition.
Look forward to your return to Melbourne!
With images courtesy of Cut Throat Knives and Aidan Mackinnon.