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 was the President of the Australian Knifemaking Guild (AKG) for 4 years and the State Representative of the ACT/NSW 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 and has used his extensive experience as an educator to develop and refine the courses delivered at Tharwa Valley Forge.
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 seen here
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 bows 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.
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 October 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 $4,100. In 2017 anoher one of her knives sold for $4,000 for the same cause.
She is a regular at the knife shows around the country where she sells a diverse range of her own knives.
Leila teaches Japanese Knifemaking and Junior Blacksmithing at the Tharwa Valley Forge.
If you're interested in buying one of Leila's knives, please check out her Instagram as they sell-out very quickly.
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.
Baz has been making knives since 2012 and has a talent for being able to make anything he puts his mind to.
He is a full-time cutler at Tharwa Valley Forge and also instructs on knifemaking, blacksmithing, and metal sculpture courses.
The first knife Baz made was from a lawnmower blade, pallet wood and some copper pipe. He still uses it occasionally, because it's humbling to be reminded of his knifemaking beginnings.
Baz's knifemaking journey started with a special project. To raise money for the Starlight Children's Foundation - and to give sick kids in hospital a thrill - Baz made the world's first wearable and complete, all-steel Ironman suit. He received a lot of support from total strangers, eager to be part of a worthy cause. To say 'thank you' Baz made knives as gifts for those who had helped him out. It wasn't long before the practice paid off and Baz was able to make and sell knives, to fund completion of the suit.
Baz served in the Army and saw active service in East Timor. In 2018 he took a course with Tharwa Valley Forge as part of our Veterans & Families Maker Program. Since then he's become a valuable full-time member of our team.
You can see more of his work on his website, including more of the story of the steel Ironman suit and current project of an 8.4 metre space fighter.
Charlie joined our team in early 2021 and brings a wealth of teaching experience with him having taught visual arts in Australia, New Zealand, America and Germany before turning his hand to teaching sculpture and blacksmithing here at Tharwa Valley Forge.
He is a sculpture artist, with a Masters Degree in sculpture, who’s practice encompasses glass, stone and metal - though he still dables in other art forms. Working at Tharwa Valley Forge has given Charlie the opportunity to learn from the rest of the team and expand his creativity into knives and other blacksmithing projects with the goal to expand his teaching to these other areas.
Charlie adds a wealth of other skills and experiences to the team including renovation, hospitality and landscaping.
Russell joined the team in early 2021 bring over 15 years of experience in knife making to our team. He has spent most of his adult life working with metal and eventually blended his passion for the outdoors and metal working skills into a fascination with knife making. Starting with a small bushcraft style knife it wasn’t long before he progressed to larger, more complicated builds and has thrown in a couple of swords just to ‘prove he could’.
Russell has proven to be a good ‘fit’ for Tharwa Valley Forge - his production knives are of a very high standard and we have had plenty of positive feedback from students he has taught.
Russell is currently teaching the Knife in a Day and the Stainless outdoor knife courses and is preparing to start teaching Japanese and Kitchen knives.