This is the story of how such a simple object opened my eyes to the path my life had taken. Those who dare, read to the end, I promise a secret to life in the ending.
Eversince I can remember, I had a knife by my side. I was taught at the young age of four to shoot and handle knives.
And through every trial and tribulation, my knife was at my side. When I had to rescue my friend and myself from an alcoholic, and afterward being scolded by my parents for doing so, my knife was at my side.
When they shot my neighbour, his wife and daughter, I jumped the wall in my pajamas and injured ankle, knife in hand. I saved the wife, the daughter and son’s lives that night.
When countless muggers and attackers tried to kill me because I did not immediatley get scared of them, my knife ensured my victory.
When a man with a machete took me on in our back yard, I could stop him before he got to my loved ones. All thanks to my knife.
Not to mention all the seatbelts I had cut to get people out of the frequent car wrecks that happened on the dangerous corner in front of our house. Or the litteral hundreds of times where merely flashing my knife stopped attackers from doing harm to me or my friends, family, and girlfriend.
(Just writing this makes me realise what an inhospitable and dangerous place I live in)
Naturally, it was my dream to make my own knife. So, recently I had taken on the mammoth task of making my own, without many of the tools I needed.
Poetically the steel I used came as a favour, I had to carefully saw out the blank knives out of the bar, and my reward would be keeping one of the blanks for myself.
Just the way God carefully decided on how to shape me, into the form I had to take in the end. No normal “steel” would do… you see, my path was going to be one rough road.
I proceeded to create the edge using a file. Not exactly the perfect tool for the job, but it had to do. There are so few times where things are perfectly right, it’s up to us to create our own opportunity.
Although rough, the edge took shape over the course of a few days.
Because of the deep scratches the file made, I had to spend the next week sanding down the edge until smooth. The knife had to be polished fairly bright to avoid stress cracks later…
Just like I remember my childhood. I used to think I had a perfect family, even though deep down I knew that it was lies I was telling myself.
Just when I had thought I had my life all figured out, everything nice and shiny… my whole world crumbled.
The fire you see there may not look like much… but it reached over 1300 degrees Celsius. Enough to make softer metals melt, enough to incinerate most things we know.
So hot that the knife’s metal lost its magnetism.
Yes, my life was hell for two years. And I could not understand why it had to be that way. Just like the knife being unaware of the microscopic changes in its metal’s structure.
When the steel reached that critical temperature, it had to be quenched in oil. Boy was it spectacular. On contact the oil burst into flames and almost immediately started boiling.
Then back to an oven it went, being heated back up to 200 degrees.
Sometimes things have to get worse before getting better…
This is what came out of the oven…
That beautifully polished surface burnt beyond recognition. Just like the remains of my life after going through hell.
But, the metal was now so hard that files would just skate off the surface. It destroyed any kind of sandpaper in seconds. It had gone through all that to become truly strong, harder than anything trying to bite into it.
But, in its current state it was unfit to be a tool. The pitting and scale making it prone to rust, and making it impossible to properly mount a handle.
Just like I was. I trusted no-one. My paranoia and cold hard approach to life was way too harsh on other people. It did me no favour, it only paved the way for my downfall.
And this was no easy task, as the hard blade ate away the sandpaper very quickly. Patience prevailed. After a few hours the blade started becoming smooth.
I had to learn how to be social once more, I had to learn to trust once again. It was a painstaking process, but it had to be done.
Once the blade became smooth once more, it had to be polished. The polish makes the rust-prone steel somewhat resistant to staining. The polishing took days. It was painstaking, frustrating, and sometimes exasperating. Yet, the result was well worth it.
Just like all the scars I had to heal, and restore myself to my former happiness. It was vital. Otherwise I would end up going backwards once more.
The wooden handles had to be made. The piece of teak I found was beautifully flawed, just like me, just like any other person. I am a skilled metal worker, but I had never worked with wood before.
Sometimes we are faced with problems we can tackle with the same tools, but the problem will behave differently.
But, when the handles neared completion, the knife started looking more and more like a simple kitchen knife. I wasn’t about to go through that much trouble for something which would be ordinary.
So I decided to go outside my comfort zone and drive to a place where I could find a more suitable material. It was far, but well worth the effort. The new handle material was easy to work with.
Just goes to show, the real magic happens outside our comfort zones.
The handles had to be filed meticulously to ensure a good fit. When doing so much, it would be foolish not to finish it correctly. Having the end in sight gave me a new breath of life.
The last step, or so I thought, was to sharpen the blade. I’ve always been good at hand sharpening, using oilstones to shape the edge. An old art for sure, no guides are used, and the sound of the blade tells you if the angle is right or not. You have to trust your own instincts. The brutally hard steel carved away at my course stone. The same stone that had re-edged swords was no match for all the hard work and preparation that had been done to this particular piece of steel.
The edge took a while to take shape, and some of the stone shavings had scratched the blade deeply. The blade had to be painstakingly re-polished. Sometimes things happen that cause scratches in us. And it is up to us to polish out that damage.
After polishing the knife was complete. All that hard work paid off. And just like life, the work wasn’t quite done. A knife on its own, though useful, it needs a sheath. A place where it can be kept.
I’m still looking for my place. The sheath is a story for another day.
As promised, the secret. There are many other secrets to life. This is one:
There are so many metaphors around us. Everything we do can teach us, to solve our problems, and to better understand. Just as I saw my reflection in the knife I made, I also saw my life reflected in its making.
I hope that you too could learn from this. That somehow this could be the answer you needed.
Lastly, we tend to forget how special we are. You are one in seven billion people on this planet. No one else will ever be like you. You are an irreplaceable part of this world. Have the courage to be truly you. Even when it’s different, even when others don’t understand.
From me to you, with kindness and regard