Our Team


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 Haddad

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. Previously he was the ACT/NSW State representative for 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.

Kevin Slattery

Kevin has had a strong interest in knives and knife making since he was young. He participated in a weekend class here at Tharwa Valley Forge in October 2010 and was hooked from that moment. Kevin was keen to progress with knife making and with the assistance of Karim he started getting together the tools and know how to take on knife making out of his own garage. Kevin volunteered to assist in the running of classes so that he could develop his knowledge and skills and this has led him to take on a teaching role at the forge.

Kevin has expanded his skills to become self-sufficient in knife making undertaking 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.

His website can been seen here - kevsforge.com

Dean Jard

Dean's love of razors began before he first learnt to shave. He now makes handmade custom designed razors in both traditional Japanese and Western styles. 

Dean runs the razor making and sharpening classes at Tharwa Valley Forge.

Alistair Phillips

Alistair first got interested in knives back when he was in scouts as a lad. He found out that our local butcher was a part time custom knife maker and he showed him a few things and gave him some steel to make his first knife. Unfortunately before Alistair could finish it off his family moved and that knife blank sat in his desk drawer for 15 years unfinished. It went through 8 moves but was never forgotten. Alistair got back into knife making again when he did a course at the Tharwa Valley Forge. He finished his first knife on that course and then 16 years after it was started Alistair finished his second knife.

Since then he has become a full member of the Australian Knifemakers Guild. After acquiring a fair bit of equipment, in 2008 he started to specialize in folding knives.

Alistair won the "Best Folder" Prize at the 2012 Australian Knifemakers Guild Show in Melbourne.

Alistair's website can be seen here

Leila Haddad

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 (she doesnt need to stand on the bucket!).

Leila specialised in cooking knives which are high sought after by professional chefs and collectors. 

Leila gave a forging demonstration at the International Cutlers Exhibition in Sydney 2014.

In October 2014 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 Novemebr 2016, Leila spoke at the YMCA National  Convention in Adelaide.  Again she stressed the importance to the gathering of young people learning to make something and to do soemthing for themsleves, rather than relying on modern society to supply them with the latest and greatest.

She is a regular at the knife shows around the country.

In 2016, Leila donated a knife to the charity auction for the ACT's palliative care facility, Clare Holland House.  The knife sold on the evening for $4 000.

Follow Leila's creations on Instagram at https://instagram.com/leilasknives/


Read more: Leila Haddad

Dave Clarke

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.