ART MEETS CRAFT IN JONESBOROUGH, TENNESSEE, USA

Heart Wood Forge

Will Manning, Blacksmith, Artisan

Incredible creations by Will Manning

Incredible creations by Will Manning

 
 

It all started when…

It started with the love of my life — an amazing woman who loves food. Nearly a decade ago, she brought me into her colorful culinary world, and together we dove into growing as many varieties of tomatoes as we could, brewing beer & baking bread. Unintentionally, we were connecting with the origins of our food, an innate human desire.

As a blacksmith, making tools for everyday use was my job, and I began forging and grinding knives. Bringing my work from the shop to the kitchen, I was making as many knives as I could and learning from what seemed like just as many failures.

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Uncompromising Craftsmanship

Heart Wood Forge located in historic, beautiful, downtown Jonesborough, TN

Upon arriving, Will offers us a drink of refreshing, sparkling water. Of course, I go for the beer. Head in the refrigerator, Will yells "There's Sierra Nevada or Modelo. What's your pick?" I do like Sierra Nevada beers as a rule; however, on a hot summer day, I enjoy a Modelo Especial. "Is it an Especial? "Exactly, Yes that's what it is." I'm enjoying this visit immensely.

The room we are standing in is just off to the side of the forge area. Boxes and shelves lined with bulk woods. Will uses some exotic woods for handles; however, All of the wood Will uses can be considered reclamation wood of some sort. For instance, It took a bit of inspection to discover that a massive object in the corner was a pine stump sitting upside down, roots protruding. Heartwood Forge was located initially in Athens, GA. The pine stump came from that earlier property.

Furthermore, the name Heartwood Forge derives from the Athens property. Will found that when he was clearing his old shop out, his truck kept getting stuck on stumps because the grass was so tall he couldn't see the stumps below. "I just like the idea that the tree produces the heartwood as it is getting older and it's there to stay and to help."

 

The Process

Will is a believer in many of the old, time-honored methods of knife making. The process is time-consuming as Will scrutinizes every single detail. It's a forge, after all. Therefore the temperature stays at a constant 'HOT AS HADES'.

He shares some recent works he has finished, curiously he doesn't show me one of the many magnificently brilliant handmade knives. Instead, he explains his choice. "This one is full of problems, so I turned it into a study in facets. It's not sharpened, but the problem with it - looking at the bolster, you'll see the spine. See that line going perpendicular to the plate? That was improper alignment for pin placement. The bolsters are pinned on. There's another issue with the knife, and I'm not happy with it."

Of course I see nothing wrong, to my eye the knife is gorgeous. Will is adamant that there is no way the blade is acceptable to sell.

If you're interested in made in the Southern Highlands handcrafted, artisan knives that stand the test of time and the eye test of beauty, HWF is your first call and here's why (see below)

 
Additionally, I have actually stopped taking all orders as I work through my three year backlog of orders (hopefully it’s a little shorter by now) but in the meantime, I’m transitioning to a different approach where I will likely sell less but only make what I love vs. having a long list of similar knives to make and risk getting burnt out.

I know this sounds like a whole bunch of “no” s but I’m trying to be more realistic these days - where saying yes all the time has been a good thing for my start, it is not sustainable for me as human.

At the moment, I’m oversold and really have no need to generate more demand. I hope that is understandable.
— Will Manning