Knife making unleashes creative side

He makes the sharpest tool in the drawer.

Tucked in the back of a lifestyle block, past the clucking chickens, blooming flowers, and promising veggies, William Murray carefully forges metal into knives.

The job is known traditionally as a cutler, but William described himself as a knife forger not make forks or spoons.

William had always been creative, and could thank his father Lindsay for that.

Growing up in Kakanui, William spent time in his father’s studio and trying out the forge.

In fact, it was Lindsay who gave him the push to pick up the trade.

Soon after he completed a building apprenticeship in Dunedin, William moved overseas in 2003, bouncing around Scotland and England.

Artisan William Murray was inspired by his father to start making knives. PHOTO: RUBY HEYWARD
Artisan William Murray was inspired by his father to start making knives. PHOTO: RUBY HEYWARD
In 2010, he returned to his home town of Kakanui, where he eventually started a family with his partner Jess Smith.

Perhaps because he was a little “restless” upon returning, his father encouraged him to start forging knives.

“He’s just a creative person and always has been – I guess that’s where I get it from,” William said.

“There’s probably lots of creative people out there who don’t realise it or have never had a go.”

Creativity was not the only thing he inherited from his father.

As a craftsman, boat maker and woodsman, Lindsay had helped with many projects in Oamaru’s Victorian precinct, rescuing old pieces of timber and scrap metals – much of which William used in creations of his own.

After forging and shaping, William’s knifes were finished with wooden handles carved from oak or fruit trees and historic timber.

He loved creating an item that was useful, had longevity, and was aesthetically beautiful –  though his favourite knife was one of the first ones he made and the “least desirable”.

“The other cool thing is, you are always learning and improving.”

He particularly enjoyed “forming something out of nothing”.

That was why he preferred creating as he went.

“I think if you get into too much commission work, then it takes a bit of the creativity and the fun out of it.”

Not that it was out of the question.

Blacksmithing seemed to be becoming a family tradition as his daughter Ivy (2) and son Heath (6) enjoyed being out in the studio working on bits and bobs.

William would love it if his children caught the blacksmithing bug, especially as there seemed to be a building appreciation of craftwork and artisans.

He is participating in Meet the Maker for the second time, and will be working from his father’s studio in Kakanui from 9am to 4pm.

As part of this year’s Waitaki Arts Festival, Meet the Maker runs from October 23 to 24.

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