Former St. Johnian is a Knife Nerd Forged on Japanese Steel

Paul Rogalski - 27/05/2011

The original Calgary is the neighborhood of Inglewood, a convergence of rusty train yards, old brick buildings and a plethora of ghost stories. The main strip is a collection of pawnshops, antiques and top eateries clad in a history only the prairies can provide.

Tucked in a recession of one of the hood’s oldest building fronts is a non-descript door, crowned with a small hanging sign hinting as to what’s inside. The window to the right reveals an unusual kiosk decorated with stacks of sharpening stones, a basin of water and a pile of rags-all the makings of a knife sharpening bar. Open the door and take a step inside and Knifewear ( with its ten glass, knife filled cases is revealed.  Knifewear is the brainchild of Calgary’s resident Knife Nerd, Kevin Kent a former Sous Chef of Fergus Henderson and St. John Restaurant in London.

His inventory begins with the well-respected “Shun” brand and expands to include the unknown, but historically established family names like Kato san and Fujiwara san. Just like a fine jeweler, the further in you venture, the more exclusive the offerings become and the more there is to learn about the makers.

Each transaction is supplemented with an education about the knife’s creator, sometimes one whose great, great, great grandfather mastered their skills on Samurai swords and passed their knowledge through the generations. Most of the knives are handcrafted, hand-folded and hand-forged steel works of art.They boast different hardiness’ of steel, unusual shapes and custom designs. I’ve found myself needing a bib to catch my drool as I’ve explored the expansive selection and don’t think I would be the only chef to do so. For the record it was in London that Kevin found is love for Japanese steel and in Canada his calling to be the Knifeman. Expanding its portfolio beyond knives, Knifewear also holds a line of intriguingt-shirts featuring the butchery charts of cows, horses and hogs-all designed in a manner that is “rock star” cool…I could see Lemmy from Motörhead wearing one of these. Knifewear also offers classes to teach skills on cutting and seminars for sharpening; sharing techniques and secrets needed to maintain a samurai master’s edge.

For those without desire to sharpen their own, Knifewear will sharpen your knife for you. Half the income from this has been donated to the Red Cross, for Japan Earthquake and tsunami relief. Thus far between collections and sharpening Knifeware has donated over $4500.00 to this noble cause-that means there are a lot of sharp knives out there. I admit it’s taken a bit for me to wrap my head around this: a London influence on Japanese steel has gestated in the Canadian prairie…close to a rusty train yard, old brick buildings and antique shops. How perfectly unfitting.

The fact that all of this makes perfect sense to me must make me a nerd too…a knife nerd.