Many people say that there is a distinct difference between a machine made knife and a hand forged blade produced in the old world manner of anvil and hammer. Some would argue the major differences arise from the nature of the materials involved or the shaping of the blade itself. This is a long standing debate, but what must be realized is that there is much more to this argument than meets the eye.
A piece of the bladesmith’s soul is forged into every blade. The ancient art of forging blades carries a sliver from the soul of every smith into the work. The romance of the bladesmithing profession, steeped in mystery and secrecy for centuries, imbues some metaphysical essence into the steel. Thousands of people notice the difference between a handmade blade and a machine made blade. There is a definite change in the steel and myself when forging a blade from beginning to end. As if a part of me goes with every blade made. Perhaps the extraordinary abilities of such swords as Durendal and Excaliber comes from the soul and hands that forged them.
A deep connection to the past, possibly even past lives, is awoken when holding a hand forged knife or crafting a blade by hand. It is more than just my passion for history. It is more than just an elemental kinship with the materials involved, for we humans contain iron and carbon in our construction just as steel does. That “good” or “right” feeling that we detect comes from more than just the base matter of composition. It is a metaphysical or theological connection to all that ever was and all that is. The experience is certainly positive. A deeper connection to our history and our humanity is made by virtue of the simple physical contact. It stirs the soul, gives us a rush of adrenaline, and causes the eyebrow to rise in response to the primal and barely conscious perception of collective human connection.
We have all picked up a blade that just didn’t feel right. It felt “dead” for lack of a better term. Where has the life gone? Did it ever have one? Knives churned out in the hundreds by the industrial machine lack the care and soul of a handmade blade. Without a caring, living, breathing craftsman (or woman) there can be no soul in the blade. While a machine made blade can be for all intents and purposes “perfect” in symmetry and proportion, it also lacks the feel. The little idiosyncrasies of hand craftsmanship give the handmade knife a character and uniqueness unable to be duplicated by a machine. While not “perfect” from a mathematical standpoint, the handmade knife is superior in more than just mechanics. Just as with a favorite tool or item of special significance, the handmade knife gives a certain level of comfort and security to the owner. The owner indeed bonds with the blade’s soul and the two work more efficiently as one.
Those little feelings not perceptible by the eye are what make the true difference. Even between two top-quality knives, one handmade, the other machine made, the handmade knife feels different; it feels better. That feeling is what makes you want to fight the forces of chaos, even if it is in your own backyard. It quickens your pulse and puts a spring in your step. Your nostrils flare and your muscles flex. Cutting vegetables or make-believe trolls. Defending hearth and home. While not every handmade blade may be physically beautiful, the light within is the true beauty.