BLADE Magazine

Irishman uses fossilized bog oak for knife handles

Smyth Knives’ Flat-Grind Utility Knife is made using O1 tool steel, black G10 scales, and blue liners. The blade is 3 inches, and the knife is 7.5 inches overall.

Irishman Paddy Smyth of Smyth Knives in County Roscommon, Ireland, sells 90 percent of his knives through his website to customers in the USA. The other 10 percent are purchased through The Quiet Cailin Studios in Cong, County Mayo, where “The Quiet Man,” starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara, was filmed. Some even incorporate ancient bog oak.

Irish Eyes Will Smile Over Smyth Knives

But it was another movie that sparked a love of knives in Paddy growing up. He watched wide-eyed as the work of Gil Hibben’s was deftly wielded in “Rambo III.” It is “my favorite knife of all time, so I have huge respect for [Hibben’s] work,” Paddy commented. He had a week-long visit last year from Jeff Knox,  who trained with Hibben in the US. “He has been a great help to me also with advice and sourcing materials as its hugely difficult to get materials in Ireland,” Paddy added.

Paddy Smyth lives in County Roscommon in Ireland and undoubtedly with a name like Smyth has knifemaking in his blood.

He also mentioned that Walter Sorrells’ YouTube channel has been helpful and inspirational.

However, Paddy is a self-taught knifemaker and much of his learning has been by trial and error over the years. “I continue to learn,” he noted. He was trained as a chef and butcher and always had a keen interest in hunting, so he was intrigued by what made a high-quality knife. “So, I basically decided to have a go at knifemaking and caught the knifemaking bug,” he said.

Paddy concentrates on compact pocket and neck knives, bushcrafting and hunting/skinning knives. He makes specialty chef knives to order to client specifications. His favorite steels are O1 an Niolox stainless. He appreciates the consistent finish and heat treat he gets using these steels.

He likes three grinds: Scandi for his bushcrafting blades because it’s easy to maintain an edge; and flat and hollow, according to customer preference, because they both work well for his hunting and skinning blades. For bushcrafters, he chops and batons wood to test for toughness, and then fine-carves paper to verify sharpness. Cutting heavy cardboard with its abrasive quality helps him get a feel for how long his blades will stay sharp. He does ensure his flat- and hollow-ground blades can handle the detailed work of skinning and boning.

The Claw by Smyth Knives, left, is 5.25 inches long, with a 2.2-inch cutting blade. It’s perfect for close skinning/boning/gutting with complete one-finger control.

“My favorite handle material is ancient Irish bog oak, which can be up to 10,000 years old. It finishes really well and has beautiful character and history,” Paddy explained. “It’s very difficult to work with as it’s so hard it’s almost fossilized. And it’s becoming harder to find good pieces. It’s very hard on machinery and tools, but the work is worth the finished product.”

There are no knife shows currently in Ireland, so Paddy sells his work online at Prices range from 90 to 500 Euros plus shipping with discounts for repeat customers. Also, check out the boutique artisan gallery in County Mayo where Smyth Knives are also sold on Facebook. Smyth Knives on Facebook and @smythknives on Instagram are chock full of additional photos and videos. You can call Paddy at 00353 87 6281252.

All Smyth Knives are completely handmade and heat-treated in house. Leatherwork is specific to each knife, so no two creations are the same. Paddy is a retail manager for an oil company based in the west of Ireland. He lives in Roscommontown with his wife, Edel, and their three boys, Shane, Darragh and Cian.

The ornate file work on the spine of this knife by Paddy Smyth in County Roscommon, Ireland, is reminiscent of a Celtic pattern.

“When I started making knives, I realized I had found something incredibly natural to me, as if I was meant to do this or was maybe in my blood, as my family name is Smyth,” Paddy noted. “I’m completely at peace when I’m in the workshop.”




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