MOST parents would be concerned if their teenage son was into knives but not the proud parents of Luka Scannell.
Because this teenager has a talent for making specialty knives and joins a small but illustrious set of bladesmiths living and working in West Cork.
The 17-year-old, a student of Schull Community College, first got his inspiration from Fingal Ferguson of food firm Gubbeen, whose knives sell internationally.
Three years ago, after seeing Fingal’s Instagram posts, Luka and a friend began researching knife-making skills on YouTube.
‘We had the tools – basic files and steel – and started making them in a shed, but as time went on I got more into it,’ Luka told The Southern Star.
Over the last couple of years, he has built up his tool collection and honed his craft, all the time frequently checking in with Fingal and other close contacts in the business.
Luka made those contacts after attending a special event for knife makers that was held at Connolly’s of Leap and featured as part of the programme for last year’s A Taste of West Cork Food Festival.
Fingal, who led the event, has always been supportive but another bladesmith, Glengarriff-based Sam Dunn, is hugely encouraging to Luka too, as is Rory Conner in Ballylickey.
Another person who continues to help Luka in a big way is JJ Bowen, a blacksmith from Rathura in Schull.
‘It’s really interesting to see him working in the family forge,’ said Luka. ‘He has taught me lots of different techniques in what is a traditional and highly-skilled craft.’
The student currently works out of an old shipping container at Colla in Schull, where he was, for a long time, kept busy making kitchen knives for family and friends.
Then ‘friends of friends’ started placing orders for his special chef’s knives. But it is only since he started his own Instagram account, Collaforge, that the commissions have started coming in thick and fast. They include commissions from chefs who appreciate Luka’s fine work and original designs.
The young bladesmith insists that his knives are not expensive, considering they are handmade, and that a lot of thought and time goes into them.
‘Mostly,’ he said, ‘I am just looking to cover my costs. The real fascination is not the knives, it has more to do with the process of making the knives.’
His latest project has the potential to become a big seller in West Cork because he is working on a prototype for a set of cheese knives that will take the West Cork hedgerows as its inspiration.
Hedgerow flowers, such as foxgloves, calendula and gorse, will be cast in resin that will be used in the handle of the knives.
Luka told The Southern Star he plans on doing his Leaving Certificate next year. However, long-term, he said his aim is to build his skills through an appropriate college course, or apprenticeship, and make this his chosen career.