Adding a White-Handled Knife to My Mix

My current collection of magical knives.  From top to bottom:  "Crooked" by The Metal Craft, "Olive" by West Elm, and "Candle" by The Metal Craft.

My current collection of magical knives. From top to bottom: “Crooked” by The Metal Craft, “Olive” by West Elm, and “Candle” by The Metal Craft.

Boy, for a practitioner who was ambivalent about knives before hooking up with a coven, I’ve sure acquired an awful lot since then!  Just before my 27th birthday in 2010, I acquired my athame, “Candle.”  A few months later in March, 2011, I found “Crooked,” my boline.  Both are handmade pieces by Brewan Blacksmith at The Metal Craft.

When I initially got Crooked, I intended to use it for my all-purpose white knife…but after about a year or so, I had to admit you could really only gracefully use it to cut herbs or slice through cords.  (It also makes a great ‘theatric prop’ for harvest rituals where we symbolically cut down crops in circle.)  I found myself grasping the blade for better control in, say, carving runes onto candles, halving-down cakes, carving wood, wax, or soap, etc.  Clearly that isn’t the safest thing to do, even if you’re not working in a darkened room heavy with incense smoke.  So I decided that Crooked would become a true boline–a knife dedicated to harvesting herbs for magical work–and I would acquire a straight-bladed knife to use as my white-handled knife–the all-purpose utilitarian blade of magical work.

Over the past year, I’ve had an opportunity to work with lots of different style of knives:  all manner of daggers, fantasy blades, and hunting knives.  None of them felt quite right, or even moved quite right.  Eventually I realized that what I really wanted was a sturdy paring knife, just like the one I use in cooking.  The thing, though, is that there really isn’t much of a market for light-handled paring knives.  They’re kitchen workhorses, so light handles would stain too quickly for anyone to want to spend much money on quality materials.  The only white handled paring knives I could find were invariably the cheap Victorinox or Norpro blades, which use plastic handles.  Others, like Wüsthof’s Ikon or Wolfgang Puck’s knives used a synthetic resin for their white handles.  I thought I’d never find an appropriate knife without going a custom route.

However, during a recent trip to Portland, I happened to browse the new Market section of West Elm’s store and found they were selling some very handsome kitchen knives:  Damascus-style blades with olivewood handles.  Honestly, these knives are about as close to my beloved Shun Classics as it gets (with the noted exception of having an ambidextrous handle).  They’re gorgeous, solid pieces, and I’m sure they’d stand up to a lifetime’s worth of kitchen abuse.  I, of course, was immediately drawn to their gorgeous olivewood handles.  I’ve always been drawn to olivewood pieces for their dramatic grain patterns, but had never really seen such light ones before.  It quickly dawned on me that I’d found my perfect white-handled knife, so I proudly totted one up to the cash register, where my wallet was highly pleased by its $15 sale price.

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West Elm’s Damascus Steel Knife Collection.  They look more brown against this grey, but I can assure you that the handles are very, very light-colored.

Since the handle is unfinished, I was careful to rub a mixture of beeswax and olive oil into it to help keep the wood moisturized.  I found that this treatment didn’t change the lighter parts of the handle, but it did make the darker parts of the grain stand out more, which looks lovely. My only regret with this knife is that the left side of the blade is imprinted with “West Elm MRKT China,” but then, most commercial blades have a similar marking on them, whether they’re meant for the kitchen or not.  All in all, I’m in love with my new blade, which I’ve lovingly named Olive.  It’s my hope we can make wonderful magic together!

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