Meet the Knife-Maker

On the weekend of the 4th and 5th of April, we’re excited to be teaming up with chef and knife-maker Dan Maltwood of Pareusi knives, to offer a unique two day knife-making and cookery course in which you’ll spend a day making your own kitchen knife with Dan, followed by a day spent putting it through its paces with Rupert. This is the perfect course for any enthusiastic cook or chef, learning new skills in the workshop and the kitchen and walking away with an incredible tool that you’ll enjoy using for many years to come. Over the weekend both Dan and Rupert will cook for you, so you’ll get to enjoy great food in some amazing settings.  To learn more about Dan, his route to becoming a craftsman making knives for some of the biggest names in the business, and what you can expect from the knife-making day of this special course, we visited his workshop on the cliff top above St Agnes for a chat.

I originally trained as a chef.  I find it hard to sit still and I always want to be doing something, so would get bored on my days off.  We made this knife up, and I took it into college when I was doing my NVQ Level 3 and a load of chefs from the course came up to me and asked if they could buy it off me or if I could make them one. I said it was just a bit of fun, and kind of ignored it, but then came in again the week after and somehow I’d got this reputation as being a knife maker and making all these cool knives. That was an electrifying lightbulb moment for me, and I realised that I could do something with this. I committed and over the last three years I’ve been focused on knife making and building the business

I made my first knife after watching a clip on a TV programme.  I got the rough basics of heating metal up and putting it into water, which now I look back on I think “what on earth was I doing?!” because my process has refined and developed so much more! There was a lot of trial and error in the beginning, a few YouTube videos, I read some books, and eventually I managed to work it all out and get my process down.

I designed our courses to be really accessible, so that everybody walks away with a beautiful, functional kitchen knife.  We run a two day full course where you make the whole knife from start to finish, and I’ll always end up helping out at some point here or there, if somebody doesn’t feel confident or safe doing a particular process then I’ll do that for them, but we’ve had people who have never used a power tool before and they’ve smashed it and made a beautiful knife. You’ve just got to be careful and take your time with it. With the two day full course people can either choose a shape from our range and use one of our pre-cut knife blanks, or they can do some research into designs at home, bring in some ideas, and we’ll make that custom knife for them. For this course with Philleigh Way, because we’re making a knife in a day, we’ll be offering a choice of our standard shapes so that people can use one of our pre-cut blanks. Cutting out, grinding and profiling a custom shape will just take too much time. We’re going to streamline the process so that it can be done in a day, and everybody has a finished knife ready to use on the Sunday.

Making a knife involves a lot of different processes, which makes it really engaging and interesting.  I buy in sheet steel and then use a process called stock removal, so I draw out the template on the steel and then cut it out with an angle grinder.  Once I’ve made the outline shape, it’s a case of grinding, heat treating and tempering the blade before sharpening and polishing. For the handles we’ve got some lovely wood – black walnut, bocote which is a really pretty wood from Mexico, and I’ve just got in some African blackwood for a special project which is a really heavy, dense and beautiful wood used by ornamental wood turners.

We’re going to offer a choice of three different knife styles for the weekend course; a paring knife, an all-round chef’s knife, or a carving knife (a big long one). The knives we’ll make on the day will start out as pre-cut shapes that have been ground down, so all the long, laborious and less pleasant processes will have already been done by me. They’ll be grading and polishing the blade, putting the handle on and then sharpening it, and finishing the handle which is a really nice job – going through different grades of abrasive paper and using nice oils and a beeswax to make the grain pop out. I use one of the most expensive beeswax that you can get, but it’s just the most amazing natural product from Devon and makes the handles look and feel incredible. I had a father and son do a workshop weekend together a few weeks ago and one made a cleaver and the other a little Japanese style paring knife. They bought in their own burr maple for the handle and when we oiled the handles and the grain popped out, it just looked amazing.

We’ve had some big name chefs ordering steak knives for their restaurants, so I’m making a lot of cutlery at the moment.  We’re currently working on a set of steak knives for Paul Ainsworth’s No6 restaurant in Padstow, and Mahé, that’ll have antler handles and a really nice curved profile with the curve of the handle transitioning into the curve of the blade. Paul’s got two of our knives that he uses in the kitchen. We made a set of steak knives for Restaurant Gordon Ramsey and I’m about to start making a set for Simon Martin, a chef from Manchester who just got the first Michelin star in the city in over 40 years. Because the steak knives are all custom designs for those restaurants, it’s great to work with them and see the chef’s creative sides, and to collaborate on ideas.

When I started Pareusi I was still sous chef at 2 rosette hotel (The Rose in Vale at Mithian, near St Agnes) and I continue to do the odd service there to help out, so I’ve still got a real understanding of what chefs need from their knives and an opportunity to put new designs through their paces.

My favourite knife to use is the Pareusi Classic, which is a standard French style chef’s knife with a really nicely shaped handle. I’ve been a chef for over ten years, so all of our knives are designed to be used for hours and hours on end, and to be comfortable. A knife is a tool for a chef, and they will be using their knives all day long, all week long. A knife might look really nice, but a cool looking handle might not be comfortable nor an interesting shape very well weighted for long-term use. These knives are designed for chefs, which means that they’ll definitely be comfortable and up to the task for the everyday enthusiast cooking at home.


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