Chefs around the world use knives made by Milwaukee bladesmith

MILWAUKEE – Chefs around the world use knives made by a Milwaukee man. Nathan Zimmerman, a 31-year-old blacksmith from Milwaukee, makes some of the finest flatware you’ll ever see or use.

“Not really a job. It’s more like a pursuit of craftsmanship or a pursuit of excellence or just turning the crazy ideas I have in my head into a 3D object,” Zimmerman said.

For about five years, he has been making knives and swords in his workshop on East Capitol Drive in Milwaukee. However, he was making knives long before he moved into his workshop. Zimmerman forged blades for years as a hobby before turning it into a business.

James Groh

One of the Zimmerman knives he makes. It can take a few days to several months to make a single knife.

His passion for knives began in his childhood. It was a combination of his love for all things fantasy like board games, video games, and movies, as well as his love for cooking.

“I spent many years working in back-of-the-house kitchens. I spent a lot of time in front of a big box of onions with a knife and a cutting board, and I learned what I like and what I don’t like and what cuts well and what doesn’t cut well,” he said.

For him, it is the continuation of a long historical tradition of tool making.

Nathan Zimmerman

James Groh

Zimmerman works on a small blade in his studio on E. Abert Place in Milwaukee.

“I’m still heating up a piece of steel and hammering it into shape on a piece of other steel with a piece of steel in my hand. It’s the same basic process people have been doing ever since. thousands and thousands of years, and it’s a lot of fun and a lot of satisfaction.”

On its website, a knife set, which includes a knife, carving fork, and board, costs $1,420. There are cheaper options, but can cost a few hundred dollars.

“I think my knives are so good because they cut better than any production knife on the market,” he said.

Nathan Zimmerman

James Groh

Hammer the handle of a blade.

For custom knives, he has four tiers which are $75/inch, $100/inch, $150/inch, and the latest and finest of his custom pieces must be given individual quotes given the level of complexity.

“When you don’t necessarily need to create a functional piece, you can create really fun shapes, curves, lines and colors,” Zimmerman said of his custom pieces.

However, the forge is not his main source of income. Zimmerman also works with the Sharp Brothers, who sharpen knives, blades and other cutting tools. Zimmerman visits farmers markets in Waukesha and Greenfield every weekend to offer blade sharpening.

“Sharpening is how I fund my addiction to knife making. It definitely makes more money than knife making,” he said.

But it’s the knives that are his real passion. He would like more people to appreciate the craftsmanship of a well-made blade and the transition from cutlery bought at Target to something nicer. His knives are at restaurants like Sanford and Eagle Park Brewing in Milwaukee. He also shipped knives across the country and around the world.

You can see a list of Zimmerman’s products on his website and follow him on social media.

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