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 | Images: Andrew Goff

There’ll by no means be a scarcity of makers in Humboldt County. There has all the time been lots 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 every 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 if you love doing one thing,” Lopiccolo continued. “I do not know the way lengthy I can hold it working as a knife maker.”


Above and beneath: 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 considered one of Jason’s knives. You could find his knives obtainable at an area vendor’s markets. You may work at a specialty cutlery store in Sacramento. Or you’ll be able to contact him immediately via considered one of his numerous on-line avenues – by way of e-mail,
instagram
or his website.

At one level, Lopiccolo did direct gross sales via his web site, however since he cannot hold issues in inventory frequently, 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 stated.

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 stated.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Lopiccolo misplaced all type of work, leaving him unemployed for six months. At the moment, knife making saved 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 needed all her youngsters to make her picket spoons for her fiftieth birthday. Lopiccolo actually took to it. A lot in order that he held conferences referred to 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 principle exercise of his bachelor celebration.

It turned his gateway to knives.

β€œOne summer time, I had free time. On a lark, I purchased an inexpensive forge on-line and began hammering,” Lopiccolo stated. “My first knives have 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 respectable and began promoting a couple of. The very first knife he bought was round $40.

It began with a couple of posts on his private Fb web page. Individuals began speaking. Then he was approached by the Bayside Grange to begin promoting at considered 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 an area speaking level.


Crafting lovely knives takes endurance. Above, Lopiccolo heats his steel 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 mix 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 on no account worthwhile, but it surely 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 reside in an space that is filled with lovely 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 residence 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 gasoline 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, considered one of his knives bought for $600. The costliest knife he is bought to date was slightly below $1,000.

“I lastly made sufficient cash to purchase a digitally managed oven,” Lopiccolo continued. “It was in all probability crucial factor I may have completed.”

Lopiccolo considers himself a superbly competent blacksmith, however needs he may 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 items or they now have their very own sentimental worth.

Your common residence cook dinner would not want the sharpest, most costly knife. This stuff do not make it particular. An area 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.” stated Lopiccolo. “I believe that might take away the enjoyment.”

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