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At first glance, Halcyon Forge looks like any other backyard machine shop. The concrete floor is scuffed and dirty, and the popcorn ceiling peels back in fist-sized patches. Wooden workbenches littered with scraps of steel and hand tools wrap around the perimeter, and circular saw blades hang from the wall, with orange rust slowly eating away at their sharp, toothed edges. There’s an organized chaos to the shop, and if you look closely, you’ll start to see hints of the usable pieces for the artwork being made here. Halcyon Forge is the creation of 26-year-old Joseph Schrum, who began making chef knives in his garage in Sedalia, Missouri, two years ago. It took him a year and a half to hone his craft, but it didn’t take long for hunters and chefs – and even home cooks – to take notice. Schrum, who sells his chef knives through Bertarelli Cutlery in St. Louis and via custom orders on his website, made his first knife three years ago after attending a hunting trade show. With little more than a handsaw, two propane torches, a $30 sander, some Osage orange wood and metal files, the knife took Schrum 50 hours to complete and is just 9 inches long from tip to end. But the tiny knife was just the beginning of his new fascination. “It’s really a hobby gone awry,” he says, gathering four blocks of wood needed to complete one of the custom orders he’s currently working on.

Joseph Schrum’s handmade chef knives are as much a piece of art as they are an everyday kitchen essential. Written by ettie berneking photography by zach bauman

Few of the knives Schrum makes are for himself. Most are shipped out, but he did have a moment to make himself a small hunting knife for his 26th birthday in July. He used 1095 high-carbon steel for the blade, and the handle was made with old curly bubinga wood he picked up from a woodturner friend. The finger guard was made with nickel silver. Schrum mostly hunts deer and small game, and he always carries one of his knives with him when hunting. “My hunting knives have a nice belly in the blade to help clean larger game,” he says. Since launching Halcyon Forge, he’s completed several orders for hunting knives, but what he’s best known for are his chef knives. “I really wanted something that was usable every day, not once a year, so I started making chef knives,” he says. It took Schrum a year of research after making that first small paring knife and a dozen or so small hunting knives to figure out the dimensions, thickness and grip he wanted for a chef knife. Even now, with dozens of custom orders in his queue, Schrum says he’s still learning and experimenting. Every knife he makes starts with a piece of high-carbon steel. Schrum sources his steel at swap meets, through local sources and even from his dad. This is why the shop is littered with rusted saw blades, metal files and ball bearings.

October 2016 Feast Magazine  

Inspired by our love of nature, this issue of Feast is dedicated to the joys of fall in the Midwest. Crack open a cold one, find a place to...

October 2016 Feast Magazine  

Inspired by our love of nature, this issue of Feast is dedicated to the joys of fall in the Midwest. Crack open a cold one, find a place to...