When Astronomy Meets Knifemaking: The Custom “Black Hole” Knife

Black Hole custom knife
Dan Petersen (inset) said the original photo of the real black hole colorized it as red but he doubts that is its actual color. “However, as matter gets pulled into the black hole there is likely heat given off that may have some color,” he noted—ergo the red centers in the white swirls to represent black holes on the handle. (Whetstone Studio image)


  • KNIFE NAME: Vitreous Enamel Handle Hunter
  • KNIFE TYPE: Fixed blade
  • BLADE MATERIAL: Mosaic damascus of W2 tool and 15N20 nickel-alloy steels in a checkerboard pattern accordion cut, flattened and forged to shape
  • BLADE PATTERN: Clip point
  • HANDLE: Copper pipe covered inside and out w/vitreous glass enamel
  • FITTINGS: 303 stainless steel

The Story

ABS master smith Dan L. Petersen is a professor at Washburn University. When astronomers found the first real black hole last spring and shared photos of it, it intrigued him so much so that he made a knife inspired by the wonder of it all. In fact, one of Petersen’s knives won the Custom Knife Collectors Association‘s (CKCA) annual Fisk Cutlery Challenge, earning the prof a cool $20,000.

“One of the [black hole] photos looked similar to the circular white and red patterns in the handle,” Dan explained. “I tried to get a bluish-black-of-the-universe effect, then the white swirls showing matter spinning around the red center black holes.”

Black hole photo
The black hole image that inspired Petersen. (Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration image)

To taper the copper-pipe handle, Petersen spun it on a lathe using metal-spinning techniques. He added vitreous glass enamel to the outside and inside of the handle. He heated the handle to 1,500-degrees F and rotated it until it melted and fused to the metal. He repeated the glass procedure with a layer of dark blue glass and then black glass for the universe effect.

Oh, and as for the $20,000, it helped Dan buy a lathe for metal spinning.

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