Wenerstrom Forge Piñon Knife
The Piñon was designed and prototyped by Max in collaboration with Duke IV during his June 2021 stay at our Chico Basin Ranch. The name comes from the ubiquitous piñon trees that populate the American Southwest. This comfortable knife is slim and sharp, just like the needles on a piñon.
Max hand forges each blade from Hitachi White/410 stainless steel sourced from Japan, meaning superior edge retention despite years of daily use and frequent sharpening. With a length of only 6.75 inches, the classic slim profile makes for a lightweight everyday carry, while the 3-inch cutting edge means enough versatility and power for chores in the field, camp, or in the home. Paired with a snag-free teardrop handle and lanyard for easy indexing and quick cutting, the Piñon is versatile and useful.
Each knife comes in a custom shaped sheath built with durable veg tanned leather. The slotted sheath design has been Duke’s preferred style for many years-- the cross draw design is perfect for riding, yet versatile for everyday carry, as the sheath can be worn 360 degrees around the belt.
ABOUT THE ARTISAN
Max Wenerstrom has been making knives since he was 15, when his passion and talent for blacksmithing quickly outgrew his parents’ garage. Restless to produce the sharpest, highest quality blades possible, Max traveled to Oregon to study with 17th-generation Yoshimoto bladesmith, Murray Carter. After completing his training, Max returned to his hometown of Richwood to expand his operation into Ohio’s premier small-batch Japanese forge.
Sculpting a knife in the Japanese tradition requires a precise yet nuanced approach to each piece of steel. A low-temperature forge ensures hardness, sharpness, and strength. Proper annealing and heat treating produce knives that take and and retain a sharper edge than mass-produced consumer knives.
We begin each knife with a piece of high-carbon Hitatchi white steel. The steel is heated uniformly to 1700°F, a temperature that affords malleability without comprising sharpness. A practiced and observant bladesmith like Max can accurately gauge the temperature of the steel by color alone. At this early stage, great care is taken not to overheat the steel, as high temperatures will burn away carbon and produce a softer, duller knife.
Avoiding high temperatures is a rigorous endeavor; the steel must be constantly reheated to keep it workable. Through a painstaking repetition of heating and hammering, the blade’s rudimentary shape and balance are established. With each heating, the temperature is gradually reduced, refining the molecular structure and grain pattern of the steel. Next, the blade is heated to a dull cherry-red and allowed to cool slowly in straw or wood ash. This step, called annealing, guarantees that the final knife will be just pliable enough to prevent breakage and chipping.
After the blade is ground into its final shape, it receives its forge stamp and undergoes heat treatment. During heat treatment, the blade is coated in wet clay and heated in total darkness to afford a clearer estimate of the temperature. Once the knife is properly tempered, it’s quenched in lukewarm water, thereby preserving the carefully-forged molecular structure. The blade’s final hardness rating (64-66 HRC) indicates both durability and sharpness.
The blade is sharpened by hand on a series of whetstones to produce a razor-sharp primary edge and a thin secondary edge. Finally, it receives a thorough polish to achieve a mirror-shine without compromising balance and performance. Breathtaking handles made from artisan Micarta, wood, or bone are set with resin and pins. The final product is an uncommonly sharp, heirloom-quality knife.