The History of Knife Making

Where did it all start ...?

Knife making, or blade smithing, is an incredibly ancient art, with knives being mankind's oldest known tools. 

The first knives were created, perhaps even prior to the existence of Homo sapiens! Hard to get your head around, isn't it? But knife-like tools, made simply by breaking open stone to reveal a blade-type edge, have been discovered by archaeologists, dating as far back as 2.6 million years.

Of course, these 'knives' were primitive in the extreme, but they did serve their purpose, assisting our ancient ancestors when it came to hunting, fishing, harvesting, cutting skins and - no doubt - defending themselves agains sabre tooth tigers and the like!

As Homo sapiens did begin to dominate, knife making became a somewhat more sophisticated practice. Think of the finely chiselled pieces of flint, pictures of which no doubt adorned your school history book ...

But things really took off during the Bronze Age. 

The Dawn of the Heavy Metals

The first metal blades, made of copper and bronze, appeared between 3000 and 700 BC. These had obvious advantages over their earlier stone counterparts. Crucially, they were far more durable. However, bronze knives did lose their sharpness quite easily and sharpening stones were required.

Then! Around 3,500 years ago, the Iron Age commenced, leading to knives, swords and daggers that were stronger, more durable and able to keep their edge much better and for longer than any of the tools that came before them.

Knives from Outer Space 

 

A fascinating aside to the advent of iron age knives, is that some of the earliest  tools in existence are in fact made from iron sourced from meteors! The dagger found in Tutankhamun's tomb, which is dated circa 1300 BC, is one such example. On the other side of the planet, the Inuits also fashioned objects from meteor iron.

The Samurais of Old

Many ancient civilisations have viewed knife making as an almost sacred art. The modern day, highly prized Japanese chef knives are made using techniques originally developed for making Samurai swords or "katana" over a millennia ago. The earliest examples of contemporary Japanese swords date from the 1300's. Katana swords were originally crafted for military leaders or nobility but later became mass produced for use in war and trade. The shift from sword to knife making came in the 1850's.

The Canny Celts

The Celts were certainly no slouches when it came to working with iron. The Proto-Celtic Hallstatt culture were making iron swords as early as the 8th century BC. Their discovery of iron was a major advantage to them and gave the Celts the technological edge they needed to spread successfully throughout modern day Europe.

And now?

Nowadays, steel is, of course, the most commonly used material in the blade making process, although new materials are always being implemented - such as titanium and cobalt alloys. 

Knives remain one of the most versatile tools known to man although, thankfully, they are more commonly used today in the kitchen than for fighting sabre tooth tigers!