My First Trip To Panaca
So, last year, I made up my mind to go in to business for myself. I looked at a couple different options, and one thing kept popping up over and over; making handmade kitchen knives. Considering I know pretty much nothing about making them, I figured I would try my hand at selling other maker’s knives first. My first step in this journey would have to be visiting at least one maker first, try to learn as much as I could during that visit, and talk business. So I sent Devin Thomas an email, and asked if I could make my way to his place. He responded, and told me he was busy for the time I was thinking, but we eventually worked out another time I could visit a couple months later. The day finally came, and I made my way across Nevada. I started during the night, so I could get there bright and early in the morning. My plan was to stop at one of the little towns on the way for breakfast, but once I really got driving, I just kept going. I arrived in Panaca a little early and hungry. I did notice a nice little state park (Cathedral Gorge State Park) on the drive in, and decided to stop at the gas station for a hot dog, soda, and chips, then head back and take in the sites. For something I never knew was there, I discovered a pretty remarkable place.
Well, after eating, walking around, and being amazed by the sites, it was finally time to get to Devin’s house. So, I was finally there! I walked over to the shop, knocked, heard people working, and walked in. Well, there were two guys that weren’t Devin. They did however, point me to him in the main house. As I walk out of the shop, Devin’s son John was walking out of the main house, and introduced himself. We went in to the house, and talked while Devin was entering the room. From here, things become hard to remember. Not that I don’t remember a lot, but the wealth of information Devin has is incredible. I know I wasn’t even able to scratch the surface of what he knows, but wow, he easily has a PHD’s worth of knowledge on steels, Damascus, and knives. His son John told me, “My dad teaches me at least one new thing each day.”
We talked knives, I showed him a couple I had brought with me, he showed me a couple, and then he said he had one 270mm ITK he had to finish. I was able to watch him do the final grind, attach the handle, and then sharpen the knife before packing and shipping it. After that, we went back to the shop, and he asked me what I wanted to see first. He told me I had to forge something, “That’s the reason people come down.” We grabbed a piece of steel his son John had prepped, and stuck it in the forge to heat up. Devin explained what I needed to do, provided the safety equipment, then let me go to it. I grabbed the tongs, and went in to grab the piece of steel that was attached to a piece of rebar. I was trying to grab it securely with the tongs, but I took too much time. By the time I had the bar clasped in the tongs, and was moving towards the hammer, I noticed my hands starting to burn. Devin immediately told me to drop everything, take off the gloves, and dunk my hands in water. As macho as I was trying to be, I did as I was told. It did help that I could feel my skin blister. Devin quickly joked that I owed him a new pair of gloves. Head down, I couldn’t help but laugh. Ok, let’s go again, this time though, I needed to move quickly. “Just grab it and go,” I told myself. With the steel in hand, and hands not burning, John guided me in drawing out the steel in to a bar, then passing it through the rolling mill once it was close to the proper dimensions.
By the end of the day, I had to get going, but I did end up with a knife roughly ground to shape, and a handle that was done besides easing the corners. I had instructions on how to finish the knife, and my first lesson on what it takes to make something along the lines of a functional knife. I still need the tools for the job, but at least now I have a starting point.
Just wanted to show the knife I was able to finish from the trip down. I'm not even sure how many hours I've spent sanding this thing before I was able to etch it. Mind you that everything was done by hand on my end, but man that steel is tough. This has become my go to knife for prep in the kitchen, even outperforming my 210mm ITK from Devin that has been living in my kitchen.
Nice story and nice knife.