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Photo by Chris Casella

Sharp Art

Steel is in Terry Afortiori’s blood. And now, in his eye.

The third-generation metal worker became engrossed in a new hobby of hand-crafting knives earlier this year, his ADD and family history fueling a new obsession through 12-hour marathons in the shop. His new passion wasn’t even derailed by two eye injuries, one in which a piece of 200-year-old steel flew behind his goggles and began oxidizing on his eyeball.

He was at least resourceful enough to craft himself a leather eyepatch to help get him around town, and keep his nose to the grindstone on custom orders that haven’t stopped rolling in since the winter. “I looked like a hipster pirate,” he said. “It was pretty brutal.”

It hasn’t affected his focus at all, churning out more than 50 pieces in the last few months, most notably for Kraft House No. 5’s star chef Marcus Meacham.

Afortiori had always painted as a young man, and played in local bands, and as his last band was hitting the outs, his thoughts turned to an artistic legacy outside of songs and canvasses.

“I thought, ‘I want to make an impact – make something that’s around long after I’m gone.’ And what stays around longer than knives? I ordered some steel and gave it a shot.”

Afortiori spent weeks diving deep into the history of knife-making, researching designs he favored, types of wood, blade angles, finding his style after only a few gnarly prototypes.

The result are breathtaking pieces, pristinely forged steel blades gripped by exotic wood handles crafted from Africa, South America, and Asia with timeless designs that satisfy the tastes of both bushmen and butchermen. Meacham has commissioned several knives for himself and other clients, opening up a whole new vertical for Afortiori’s devotion.

“A lightbulb just went off, and I thought of a whole other kind of knife-making and history I could dig into,” he said of moving into the kitchen arena.

His Nakiri and Santoku knives are priced at $200, just a shade above the asking price for some national brands, a fair number considering you’re getting a custom piece from a local craftsman.

Afortiori’s young business got a shot in the arm when he received orders and a glowing review from former Discovery Channel survival expert Dave Canterbery, and they are in talks about offering Afortiori’s work for sale on his website, Selfrelianceoutfitters.com. Afortiori also has plans to expand his machine capabilities and branch out into axes, chisels, and tool restoration.

Quite an impact already for a former artist and drummer just trying to craft a new legacy.

“It’s so personal,” he said. “There’s a specific knife for a specific person. This is something they will use every day. When I was selling art, it didn’t feel as personal. It didn’t feel like it had a purpose. It just hung on someone’s wall. These get used. They don’t just hang there.”

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Travis Hoewischer

I've been working in journalism in central Ohio for more than a decade, and have been lucky enough to be a part of (614) Magazine since the very first issue. Proud to live in a city that still cares – and still reads.

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