About Me

 
 
                                                                    My wife  Heather and I.
My name is Salem Straub, and I currently live in the town of Tonasket, in Washington State.
I began teaching myself to build knives, tools, and hardware in the summer of 2003 at the age of twenty.  I lived in a primitive rural environment, off the grid and I needed a way to work and repair metal items without electricity.  I turned to blacksmithing with a charcoal forge to meet these needs.

At this early stage I read widely what literature I could find on the subject, and used the techniques I learned from those pages to make and repair simple items.  Some of these were large spikes for positioning and later driving together the hand fitted logs of a cabin wall, froes for splitting shingles, drawknives for peeling the bark off of logs, gate and door hardware such as hinges, bolts, and latches, and later, knives and tomahawks as I became more proficient.  A very common project in those days was some blacksmithing tool made to fit a need in the shop, and hence give way to the creation of new items and tools.  (A blacksmith often makes many of his/her own tools and is one of the few artisans who can do so.)

As I learned more and more of the craft, and added more books to my library, I logged ever-increasing hours at the forge and anvil.  The more time I spent actually working on hot steel, the more hammer control I gained as I built muscle memories through endless repetition.  Heat and reheat, strike–turn–strike, full face hammer blow, half face blow, hit hard to move steel, hit softly and carefully to refine shape and surface texture- these became second nature to me.  It is a long journey and after twelve years all I can say is I have merely scratched the surface; the depth of the craft is more than any one person, let alone myself, could hope to master every aspect of in a lifetime.

All smiths have specialties or areas of expertise in their work greater than other areas- some will be metal sculptors, some will be bladesmiths, some will do large architectural commissions, some will be toolmakers, etc.  Some smiths begin learning the craft with a strong idea about their direction within it, and others of us find our path as we try different aspects of metalwork.  I fall somewhere in between, as I have always loved knives (as a matter of fact, was expelled from the sixth grade for unwisely carrying a switchblade) but enjoy general smith work as well.

After leaving that rural area where my metal obsession began, I have moved from place to place, living most recently on the Hawaiian islands of Maui and Oahu, where I was fortunate enough to work with and learn from Ken Onion at his shop in Kaneohe, for a few months.  I've continued to make knives whenever time and space have permitted.  I have now relocated back to Washington state- and I've established my new shop as a more permanent base of operations for my knifemaking art.  It grows old after awhile hauling anvils and heavy tools from state to state and across oceans!

Since settling on bladesmithing as a specialty and learning and refining the fundamentals of that craft, as well as acquiring here and there in my travels the specialized tools necessary for knives, I have explored within knifemaking in general to find materials, techniques, and styles that I prefer.  These reflect as well my knifemaking philosophy and the projected aims of my art.

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