San Mai Nakiri


The creation and use of tools is part of what defines human beings and separates us from other primates. The knife, it could be argued, was the first tool; now used throughout the world daily, it has become an essential part of the human existence.


Sam Gleeson’s submission showcases a progressive pathway of skills inspired by centuries old bladesmith techniques pushed into the modern age. Working with carefully selected base materials, each completed blade represents the development in understanding of metal fusion and forging, from necessity to extravagance of design.


In response to the ‘Pathways’ theme, Sam’s three pieces identify the journey of human need through creation, to refinement and efficiency, arriving at achievement for the sake of expression – being able to use heritage skills and apply them with a modern craft interpretation is what fuels my daily desire to work – looking into history to inform the future. 


The blade shown here is multi-layer clad, san-mai Nakiri (vegetable knife).  Layers of 100+ year old wrought iron cartwheel rim have been forge welded together to create the decorative softer cladding sandwiching a high carbon steel cutting edge. The layered construction allows for a very thin, yet strong blade.


Description: 170mm in house laminated steel – layers made from wrought iron cartwheel rims and old plough tines, with a 26C3 high carbon steel cutting edge. Fully forged and profiled with distal taper throughout the blade. Traditional style horn and wood handle with hidden tang construction, shaped with right handed biased. Balance of weight at join of blade/handle. Full acid etch to give pattern contrast, sharpened on Japanese whetstones.

Materials: laminated steel blade with wrought iron layering over high carbon steel core. White buffalo horn and wind-felled Irish Rippled Sycamore handle.


Artist Bio

Sam Gleeson is a bladesmith; he creates knives as contemporary tools to be used in the professional kitchen and the home to prepare meals, to be enjoyed for their creativity as well as their purpose.


The craft of bladesmithing includes metalworking techniques similar to those used by blacksmiths, woodworking for handles and sheathes and leatherworking for rolls or cases. The process is elemental – earth for the ore, air to fuel the forge, fire to heat the steel and water to quench the blade; being able to work at such a base understanding in the modern age is inspiring in itself.


Sam is motivated by materials and the story they hold – giving new purpose to found and recycled steels and incorporate them into his work using centuries old forge-welding techniques to blend and twist them together. High carbon steels sandwiched between found gems; wrought iron cart wheels, whiskey barrel straps, limbs from long forgotten orchards, 300 year old storm-damaged trees from Irish Estate Houses or bog found relics of mellenia old forests brought back to life.


Sam has arrived at creating an individual expression of a common tool.