The team of teachers at the Tharwa Valley Forge bring a wide range of experiences to the courses. They are selected not just for their technical skills, but also for their people skills. To be encouraging, patient, flexible and passionate make our teachers more effective in introducing students to our art and to get a great result.
Karim began his journey with knifemaking under Master Bladesmith Thomas Gerner in 1995. Thomas was the first Australian Master Bladesmith from the prestigious American Bladesmith Society. Karim has developed his skills in the area of blade forging, heat treating steel, handle construction, sheath making and leatherwork.
He has been teaching knife making since 1998, and created the Tharwa Valley Forge to provide further opportunities for teaching and learning in 2003. He currently teaches courses in Knifemaking, Forging, Damascus and Sharpening as well as making custom knives to order. He is the President of the Australian Knifemaking Guild (AKG), and has previously held the position of State Representative of the ACT/NSW branch of the AKG.
Karim was an Outdoor Educator for over 13 years with Outward Bound Australia, designing and running personal development programs for youth. He also ran a prestigious national leadership program with the Australian Rural Leadership Foundation for 5 years. Karim holds a Certificate IV in Workplace Training and Assessment and has used his extensive experience as an educator to develop and refine the courses delivered at Tharwa Valley Forge.
Kevin has had a strong interest in knives and knifemaking since he was young. In October 2010, he participated in a weekend class here at Tharwa Valley Forge and was hooked from that moment.
With the assistance of Karim, he gathered the tools and knowledge to start knifemaking in his own garage. Keen to grow as a knifemaker, Kevin volunteered to assist at Tharwa Valley Forge and helped out with classes for a number of years. Over that time Kevin has grown as a knifemaker and is now a highly sought-after teacher in his own right.
Kevin is a self-sufficient knifemaker who conducts forging, heat treating, handle construction and sheath making. Kevin also makes his own Damascus steel and enjoys the freedom of being to explore creating various patterns through this process.
Kev operates his own workshop at kevsforge.com
Dean was hooked on Tharwa Valley Forge from the very first moment he took a course here. He went from helping tidy up and setup classes in exchange for workshop time to making his own blades. One day six years ago, Karim challenged Dean to make two razors - something Dean had never tried before. Using Karim's knowledge and conducting his own research, Dean designed and made two razors using Damascus Steel and Buffalo Horn.
Dean saw that no-one else was making razors in Australia; although many knifemakers try making razors at least once, no one was doing it with any regularity. He decided to challenge himself to learn all he could about razor making, and has since become the largest razor maker in Australia. He now makes handmade custom designed razors in both traditional Japanese and Western styles.
As his reputation began to spread by word of mouth, Dean was sought out by clients seeking restoration of their heirloom razors. He is frequently called upon by clients from around the world to restore cut throat razors that have been passed down through generations. His unique skill set combined with the top of the line equipment at Tharwa Valley Forge ensures that his restorations are second to none.
Dean has taught over 20 Razor Making Courses so far at Tharwa Valley Forge and says that he finds people who attend his razor making course have two main concerns: "how do I keep my razor sharp?", and "how do I use a razor without cutting myself?" Because of this, Dean's courses not only cover the practical elements of razor making, but also cover the correct use and maintenance of razors, including exploration of elements of razor design such as edge geometry and symetrical versus asymmetrical hollow ground blades.
Being an expert on making razor sharp edges, Dean also teaches our highly-regarded Sharpening Classes.
Alistair was introduced to knives when he was a young man in Scouts. Many years ago, a chance conversation with his local butcher lead him to discover that the butcher made custom knives. Alistair’s butcher was kind enough to teach him a few things about knifemaking and gave him some steel to make his first knife.
Unfortunately, before Alistair could finish his first knife his family moved. That knife blank remained in a desk drawer, unfinished, through eight more house moves but was never forgotten. Fifteen years later Alistair got back into knife making with a course at Tharwa Valley Forge. After completing his course, and 15 years after it was started, Alistair finished the knife he had begun making with the butcher.
In 2005 Alistair made his first slipjoint folding knife – gaining him admission to the Australian Knifemaker Guild as a Probationary Member. In 2007, he was accepted as a Full Member of the Australian Knifemaker Guild, and in 2012 he won the "Best Folder" Prize at the Australian Knifemaker Guild Melbourne Show. Since then, Alistair has risen to become one of the best folding knife makers in Australia.
As a knifemaker and a perfectionist, Alistair loves the mechanisms involved with making folding knives. Whether it is getting the spring to fit flat on a slipjoint or the perfecting the lockup of a linerlock, getting everything to fit together is a very rewarding process.
In addition to teaching Folding Knife courses at Tharwa Valley Forge he makes and sells his own knives, including knives that are sold by Spyderco.
Alistair's website can be seenhere
Leila has been making knives since she was 6 years old. Having first crawled into her father's workshop as a toddler, she developed a keen interest in hammers and fire. At five, she operated the 30-ton hydraulic power press by standing on a bucket to reach the controls. Now much taller, she uses the press to create her own Damascus steel (and no longer needs to stand on a bucket).
Leila started her bladesmithing career specialising in cooking knives. Because of their unique provenance and high quality these knives were highly sought after by professional chefs and collectors alike.
At age 11, Leila presented a forging demonstration at the 2014 International Cutlers Exhibition in Sydney. Later that year, Leila was one of the guest presenters at Ben Shewry's WAW Gathering in Melbourne. Speaking on the importance of making things, she impressed the 300 delegates from the catering industry with her no-nonsense advice and confident delivery.
In November 2016, Leila spoke at the YMCA National Convention in Adelaide. Speaking to the gathering of young people she stressed the value of a “Do It Yourself” mind-set and the importance of self-reliance, as opposed to relying on modern consumer culture to supply them with the latest and greatest.
Leila has donated a number of knives to raise funds for charitable organisations. In December 2016, a knife Leila donated to the ACT's palliative care facility, Clare Holland House set a new personal record when it was sold at auction for $4,000.
She is a regular at the knife shows around the country where she sells a diverse range of her own knives.
If you're interested in buying one of Leila's knives, please check out her Instagram as they sell-out very quickly.
Dave has been coaxing bows from saplings, trees and lumber since he was 14. Starting with simple branches and small saplings strung with baling twine, Dave soon yearned for a more authentic savage's experience.
Dave sought out the writings of bowyers past and present, such as Adrian Elliot Hodgkins and the modern champions - Tim Baker, Jim Hamm and the like. With this newfound knowledge, Dave was able to make much more efficient weapons for the target butts and for the hunt.
After moving from the bush to the city, Dave began using milled timber in place of standing trees. At about the same time, Dave discovered that with the application of clever and complex formulae and technical drawings, bow design and performance could be enhanced to a much higher standard.
Dave has worked as a semi-professional bowyer at times, and still takes commissions on occasion. His bows have been sent as far as Townsville to Hobart, and Perth to Sydney. Dave has started teaching the art of bowyery so as to share the skills, experience and joy of crafting primal wooden bows able to compete with modern fibreglass productions with pride and authority.
Adam began making knives as a young man, but the demands of family and career meant that he put his hammer down for a few years. Adam went on to spend many years working in a wide range of technical and trade roles, including as a mechanic and metal fabricator.
Some years after he last made a knife, Adam was exploring creativity as an escape from the stresses of day-to-day life when he rediscovered his passion for bladesmithing. His experience in the trades combined with his previous foray into bladesmithing lead him to develop both a formidible skill base and home workshop.
Adam's keen technical mindset and deep well of creativity has seen him create a diverse range of unique knives, including high quality stainless steel fishing knives, Damascus steel art knives, Steampunk inspired barrel knives, and his highly sought after cheese axes. Asides from being an accomplished bladesmith, Adam is an artist that works in metal, wood, leather, and plastic.
Adam is one of a handful of full-time bladesmiths in Australia, and works at Tharwa Valley Forge creating custom knives, production orders, and teaching a variety of Bladesmithing courses.
Hailing from Orange in NSW, James has long enjoyed creating things with his hands. Unfortunately for James, his home town did little to fulfill his passion for creativity, as the only opportunity to make things with his hands was making pizzas at the local pizza shop.
Seeking to broaden his horizons, James undertook work experience at Tharwa Valley Forge. His creativity and skill caught the eye of Karim, leading James to move to Canberra to pursue a career as an Artisan.
Having studied Metal Arts at TAFE, James is a skilled fabricator that has made everything from practical everyday items such as seating and work benches, through to art installations of his own design.
James is now an Assistant Cutler at Tharwa Valley Forge and is developing into a skilled Bladesmith. He makes production knives and cutlery at the Forge, and assists with the conduct of courses. In addition to loving his job, James is very happy to have access to a comprehensive workshop where he can continue to grow as a creator and knife maker.
Like many of the staff at Tharwa Valley Forge, Mark took a circuitous route into knifemaking. He enlisted in the Australian Army at age 17 and served for 13 years in an interesting variety of roles: aircraft refueller, recruit instructor, trainee helicopter pilot, electronic warfare specialist, and military linguist. He saw Active Service in East Timor and Iraq.
As a result of his service in Iraq, Mark was medically discharged in 2009. He faced a difficult six years of recovery before he was ready to attempt to return to the workforce. Asides from the support of his family, one of the biggest factors contributing to his recovery was his engagement with art and creativity. In particular, he credits the volunteer work of Art Therapists Tanja Johnston and Jandy Paramanathan at Austin Repatriation Hospital for leading him to where he is today.
Like many veterans who have been affected by their service, Mark faced a signifcant degree of difficulty reintegrating into civilian society. Translating his military skills into something relevant to civilian employers proved challenging, but Mark found his niche in marketing and analytics. It turns out that if you are good at using data driven methodologies to find people who make IEDs, then you are probably pretty good at finding people and selling stuff to them online.
Mark and Karim are in the process of developing a series of courses for veterans and their families that will assist them to reintegrate and reconnect following their military service. Using a model based on sustainable altruism, Tharwa Valley Forge has already begun providing courses to veterans who have been affected by their service.
Asides from his work with the veteran community at Tharwa Valley Forge, Mark provides analytics and marketing support to the team as well as using his creative skills to assist with the conduct of courses.