Zack Jonas is forging new traditions
A knife can be more than a means to an end
Full tang chef’s knife with 5-inch African blackwood handle, 7.5-inch high carbon Texas wind Damascus steel. A tool for the serious chef with added strength and weight of a full tang.
It takes a strong metal to make a blade. Zack Jonas is a Journeyman Smith of bladesmithing, the art of forging and shaping alloys into a blade. Each blade type that Jonas creates has been designed and refined for a perfect blend of aesthetics and utility. His knives range from tools to bring down big game or to chop lettuce. The pure beauty of the steel edge along with integration of the handle make these utilitarian tools a joy to hold and behold.
To think, all this focus, all this skill and knowledge started as a night class at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design in 2009. Since then, Jonas has studied under a variety of blade masters, including apprenticing with JD Smith of the American Bladesmith Society. He has also studied Japanese bladesmithing and has sharpened his sense of design by delving into engraving, jewelry, philosophy and the history of the visual arts.
He draws inspiration from around the globe, saying “I am intrigued by the mystique and technical perfection of the samurai blade, by the sinuous curves of the Persian and Indian armory and by the hardheaded pragmatism of Western pieces.”
The process of creating a blade is laborious. Steel bars are forged under temperatures exceeding 2,300 degrees. Jonas hammers the steel into the desired shape while it still has a reddish glow. The blade is further refined with a grinder and then polished. At this point he stamps in his mark. But it is not finished. The steel has to be “annealed” with a heating and cooling process, then tempered through another, less hot, heating and cooling cycle. The blade becomes a knife when Jonas fits a handle to the tang (or shank) and sharpens the cutting edge. The exacting technique of heat-treating makes a blade strong, supple and able to keep a sharp edge.
Jonas will soon test his metal. Sharp, robust, supple and beautiful in fit and finish are the required qualities for a bladesmith to join the 300 other Master Bladesmiths in the world. Here’s hoping he stays on the cutting edge.