It’s a mad dash to the checkout when Biltsharp releases a new knife. The Philadelphia-based workshop run by Adam Balkovic puts out a very limited number of knives each month, and, despite price tags that can reach $2,000, they sell fast. We visited the studio and talked to Balkovic about the process of crafting such lust-worthy knives.
CM: How did you get into making knives?
AB: A number of years ago, I had a workshop in the basement of a building in Philly’s Italian Market. I was working at Di Bruno Bros. at the time and woodworking was a creative outlet for me. One day I was talking with my boss about our knives, and I told him that the standard 8″ chef knife isn’t the best tool for breaking a giant wheel of Cravero Parmigiano. I told him, “I’m just going to make a 10″ chef knife in my shop.” He laughed and said no one does that. I took it as a challenge and made my first chef knife. After that, I just kept making more and more knives because I loved to do it. People really liked them and eventually I left the cheese shop to do Biltsharp full-time.
CM: Was there a guiding idea behind Biltsharp?
AB: I love making things with my hands. I’m excited about each knife I make. I guess the idea is to make really awesome knives that people will use and love, ones that will last for lifetimes. The ultimate goal of Biltsharp is to end up on Antiques Roadshow 3000.
CM: Obviously there are other knife makers out there. What makes your knives so unique?
AB: Quality is of the highest priority in everything I make. I also enjoy making many different kinds of knives, with as many great materials as I can find. I love finding great pieces of some crazy-looking burl and having the opportunity to match it up with unique materials I work with in my shop. Variety is something I really value. If I couldn’t work on a chef knife one day and a 14″ machete the next, it would be no fun.
CM: So what’s the process like for creating a knife, and how long does it take?
AB: That depends on the knife. Generally speaking, there are a good number of steps that go into making a knife, and some of them might take an entire day. I never work on one knife at a time, so this is always the hardest question to answer. I might spend the entire day just doing the grinds on a batch of knives or just doing the glue ups for handles. It’s well worth the effort in the end. That’s all for designs that I’ve done before, then there are the special projects that are a real challenge. Recently, I ended up doing cast silver for a knife handle, which I had never done before. Researching and testing new techniques or materials is always fun.
CM: We noticed a lot of your knives are sold out; how fast do they sell?
AB: Everything I make is handmade, so I can only make so much at a time, and I have a mighty long customs list that I’ve been chipping away at. At most, we’ll post items every few weeks. Usually we sell out within a day, sometimes within a few hours.
CM: Even if someone can’t get their hands on one of your knives, any tips on caring for a quality knife?
AB: Keep your knife clean and dry when you’re not using it. For the kitchen, I use a knife magnet. The blocks can dull or even nick your blade. That said, knives are meant to be used, so put yours to work, just take care of it when you’re done, and it will take care of you.
Learn more about Biltsharp and try your luck at acquiring a knife of your own at Biltsharp.com