THE HUMBOLDT HUSTLE: To get through lean times, this biologist turned into a high-end blacksmith |  Lost Coast Outpost

THE HUMBOLDT HUSTLE: To get through lean times, this biologist turned into a high-end blacksmith | Lost Coast Outpost


Deal with with care: Jason Lopiccolo with a few of his completed knives | Pictures: Andrew Goff

There’ll by no means be a scarcity of makers in Humboldt County. There has all the time been a whole lot of worth within the arts and crafts group as a complete.

Jason Lopiccolo, 38, is a full-time biologist and part-time high-end knifemaker. As a part of her day by day work for the Watershed Stewards program, Lopiccolo writes, analyzes knowledge, and helps onboard younger scientists for a ten.5-month program at numerous California places.

After finishing a 40-hour work week, he spends 25-30 hours of his remaining time making knives.

“You are taking the time whenever you love doing one thing,” Lopiccolo continued. “I do not understand how lengthy I can maintain it operating as a knife maker.”


Above and under: A few of Jason’s completed merchandise | instagram


Lopiccolo makes his knives in his backyard

There are a number of methods to get your arms on certainly one of Jason’s knives. You will discover his knives obtainable at a neighborhood vendor’s markets. You possibly can work at a specialty cutlery store in Sacramento. Or you possibly can contact him immediately by certainly one of his numerous on-line avenues – through e mail,
instagram
or his website.

At one level, Lopiccolo did direct gross sales by his web site, however since he cannot maintain issues in inventory recurrently, he refrains from utilizing it. In any case, about 60% of its gross sales are native and the remaining are on-line, all around the United States.


“It began as a result of I wanted to do one thing with my arms,” Lopiccolo mentioned.

Ten years in the past, earlier than forging with sizzling metals, Lopiccolo earned his bachelor’s diploma in biology. At the moment, he was nonetheless working and nonetheless wanted to take out loans. He labored full-time as an algae grower cultivating microalgae for an oyster hatchery and likewise taught laboratory lessons in numerous topics (invertebrate zoology, phycology, intertidal ecology) at Humboldt State whereas finishing his mastery.

Since arriving in Humboldt County, Lopiccolo has jostled at his a number of jobs to pay his payments. As soon as his knife making took off, it helped complement his earnings sufficient to remain afloat.

“You survive, however you positive as hell do not prosper,” Lopiccolo mentioned.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Lopiccolo misplaced all type of work, leaving him unemployed for six months. At the moment, knife making stored a roof over his head till he was employed for his present gig.

He wasn’t all the time good at it.

Lopiccolo was launched to picket spoon carving by his mom. She wished all her kids to make her picket spoons for her fiftieth birthday. Lopiccolo actually took to it. A lot in order that he held conferences known as “Whittling Wednesdays”, the place folks would come to his home to whittle spoons within the night. He loved it a lot that it was the primary exercise of his bachelor get together.

It turned his gateway to knives.

β€œOne summer time, I had free time. On a lark, I purchased an affordable forge on-line and began hammering,” Lopiccolo mentioned. “My first knives had been for spoon carving, then I began making kitchen knives.”

Lopiccolo describes the primary knives he made as typically horrible. He realized, made errors, then did one thing first rate and began promoting just a few. The very first knife he bought was round $40.

It began with just a few posts on his private Fb web page. Individuals began speaking. Then he was approached by the Bayside Grange to begin promoting at certainly one of their tables there. After accepting their invitation, he sparked a bit extra curiosity. Of the, j.lopiccolo_blades on Instagram gained momentum and made it a neighborhood speaking level.


Crafting stunning knives takes endurance. Above, Lopiccolo heats his metallic in a propane forge. As soon as the metal is shiny and malleable, he rigorously makes use of tongs to extract it from the forge, then makes use of a mixture of a 12-ton hydraulic press and a trusty anvil and hammer to form the room. This course of is repeated till the form is to his liking.





An unfinished Damascus metal knife prepared for grinding


Some Knife Deal with Choices

Usually, he makes batches of about ten knives at a time. Every takes about 12 hours in whole to do. It was in no way worthwhile, nevertheless it held up. It is apparent that Lopiccolo loves his craft, and most of the price of every knife is recouping the price of supplies and the time it took to make it.

The sourcing of supplies provides to the size of its course of, however we stay in an space that is stuffed with stunning woods for making handles, the preferred being burl redwood. There may be all the time a narrative for each piece Lopiccolo works with.

Every time he travels, he manages to deliver house new wooden for crafting. Whereas in Norway for his honeymoon – he’s married to elected supervisor Natalie Arroyo – he was given a block of birch that might not slot in his baggage. Decided, he stopped at a fuel station, purchased a noticed and sawed the block of wooden into items that might maintain his baggage.

On the final North Nation Truthful in Arcata, certainly one of his knives bought for $600. The most costly knife he is bought thus far was slightly below $1,000.

“I lastly made sufficient cash to purchase a digitally managed oven,” Lopiccolo continued. “It was most likely a very powerful factor I might have achieved.”

Lopiccolo considers himself a superbly competent blacksmith, however needs he might pay to get a few of his first knives again. Primarily as a result of he thinks they’re terrible, however there’s additionally a little bit of nostalgia behind it. He additionally plans to supply to make newer and higher knives for these folks, however they do not wish to return them. Both they gave them as presents or they now have their very own sentimental worth.

Your common house prepare dinner does not want the sharpest, most costly knife. This stuff do not make it particular. A neighborhood maker who spends hours making a one-of-a-kind on a regular basis device is particular.

Lopiccolo is aware of this, as do his shoppers.

“I by no means wish to be a full-time knife maker.” mentioned Lopiccolo. “I feel that might take away the enjoyment.”

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