Knives Illustrated - - On The Edge - STORY BY JOSHUA SWANAGON – PHO­TOS BY RYU LIM

Go into most any black­smith shop and you will find a host of mod­ern tools de­signed to make life eas­ier on the smitty. But not every shop works that way. As I watched season one of “Forged in Fire,” I found my­self im­me­di­ately root­ing for Ryu Lim, a sim­ple black­smith with an old-school ap­proach to amaz­ing de­signs. When he won his episode that season, I wasn’t sur­prised in the least. Although, I will say that I was im­pressed with what he man­aged with such sim­ple tools and pro­cesses. A true mas­ter of his form.

01 Hum­ble Be­gin­nings

An early bloomer, Ryu found his pas­sion for black­smithing at the ten­der age of eight years old when his older cousin took him to a black­smith’s shop and he was deeply fas­ci­nated by the whole process. At that point, he hung around shops and helped move coal around, then would go home and pound nails into knives us­ing the tech­niques he had seen.

02 The Challenges

He finds his big­gest chal­lenge in mak­ing sure he knows enough about the need to make sure his knives are fully func­tional for their in­tended use.

03 Func­tional Tastes

When asked what his fa­vorite style of knife to make is, he leaned to­wards more func­tional in na­ture and prefers sur­vival, com­bat and wilder­ness style knives.

04 Dual Method­ol­ogy

Although Ryu forges 90% of his knives, he does en­joy do­ing stock re­moval for play­time on his days off, find­ing it re­fresh­ing.

05 Ma­te­rial Pref­er­ence

He prefers to work with 80CRV2 and 1075 high car­bon steels from New Jer­sey Steel Baron in the con­struc­tion of his knives. Fin­ish­ing them off with nat­u­ral ma­te­ri­als for the han­dle scales, such as wood, horn and nat­u­ral ob­jects cast in resin.

06 Cre­ative Process

Be­cause of his be­lief that his knives must func­tion prop­erly, he of­ten im­merses him­self into sit­u­a­tions that would re­quire a knife, in­clud­ing spend­ing months in the woods, so that he can find what features would be the most im­por­tant for that given sce­nario.

07 The Per­sonal Touch

Although 29-year-old Ryu has a few de­signs that he is very happy with— and would like to of­fer pro­duc­tion models of—all of his knives are cur­rently hand­made out of his Union, NJ shop and re­ceive the per­sonal touch.

08 Or­der­ing

Once he reaches two years’ worth of or­ders, Ryu closes his books un­til he gets down to a rea­son­able level, then he re­opens the books. He is cur­rently down to three months’ worth of or­ders, so you may want to start con­tact­ing him soon, be­fore the books close again. KI


Right: The top knife is a San­toku, forged from 15N20 with a 7-inch-long blade and fea­tur­ing sumi-e style Ja­panese ink paint­ing of a Bon­sai Tree. The bot­tom knife is a Hone­suki bon­ing knife with a 7-inch blade and African black­wood col­lar.

Left: The 4-inch drop­point tex­tured blade is forged out of 80CRV2 and the han­dle scales are con­structed of cast pinecone scales.

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