Tasmania is home to many unique, talented artisans with a commitment to creating sustainable products with indigenous ingredients and materials, salvaged, and recycled materials. In our blog, we’ll be featuring some of these Tassie originals, whose visions align with Professor Fuzzworthy’s commitment to handmade products, pure ingredients, and zero waste. Our first profile is of Tim Lowry, owner of Copping-based Organic Blades.
"I built one workshop out in the middle of the bush, and did everything from scratch, even breaking out charcoal from trees I felled myself on the land to run my forge."
With high-carbon steel blades featuring swirling, almost hallucinogenic designs, and handles carved from ancient Huon Pine, She Oak Timber, Stag Antlers and other exotic materials, Tim Lowry’s hand-forged knives are as beautiful as they are functional and long-lasting.
Self-taught, he’s been practicing his trade since his early teens, and, after years of selling his creations at open-air markets and struggling to get his practice off the ground, Lowry had a breakthrough when he introduced his Organic Blades (Handmade Tasmanian kitchen and utility knives) shop online and reinforced his marketing with popular Facebook and Instagram Accounts.
Since then, his business has taken off. Connoisseurs of his work across Australia and New Zealand often purchase Organic Blades as luxury gifts and then decide they need a second knife for themselves.
Lowry was born and raised in Hobart, has traveled a good deal, but continues to call Tassie home. “I spent two years sailing around the world when I was 11-13 with my family. My life has definitely been full of adventures,” he says. Between his booming practice and helping his partner raise infant son Charlie, Lowry found time to answer a few of our questions early one chilly morning in June.
When did you discover your passion for knife making and how did you get started?
“Right back at the very beginning I was about 13 and started mucking around making knives. My best mate’s dad was a knife maker. I observed the basics and then started out with the most basic of tools, a hacksaw, and a file. And I was working under my parents’ house, driving everyone nuts with the noise. I had a dream that hopefully one day I would be able to make a living from what I was so passionate about.”
Starting out, did you apprentice with someone?
“Not really, I observed the basics, but I am completely self-taught,” he says, adding “before YouTube.”
How did Organic Blades come about and when did you open your workshop?
Talk a bit about the importance of using materials like Huon Pine and other Tasmanian based woods to create your knives?
“I try my hardest to use salvaged and recycled materials where possible. This includes handle material and the steel. For some of my high carbon steel, I recycle out of old sawmill and bandsaw blades and the timber is salvaged from fallen trees or I recycle out of an old boat or window frame timber. Being a little bit biased, I think Tasmania has some of the most beautiful timber, especially the prehistoric Huon Pine."
"I also salvage Tasmanian Fallow deer antlers for knife handles. These antlers have been cast off from stags."
Aesthetically your knives are amazing, but from a utilitarian perspective, what makes them superior?
"Beauty is a by-product of balance. Things that are naturally balanced will flow. I spend a lot of time not just focused on the appearance of a knife but also the functionality. Knives are complex tools, manipulating grain structures, hardening, and tempering. How the edge has been set up, laid back, or slight shoulder is a very big difference between a thick shoulder ‘one use wonder’ and a tuned fine edge. There are no short cuts creating a fine edge in a tool that will probably be used every day.”
Organic Blades brands some of your creations as “Damascus.” Do you have a set line of knives and then create original pieces for clients too?
"My knives are fully free-handed and are constantly evolving, this means no two knives are ever the same, it’s hard to define a set range for this reason. I find I do my best work when I am not under any pressure, hence I am very picky when it comes to custom work. Almost all the components of my knives are handmade."
You mention your knives outliving the owners. How long do you plan for them to last?
“A knife that works well, you will fall in love with and look after it and a looked after knife will last a very long time.”
With orders coming in steadily, do you have any plans for expansion or to develop new products in the near future?
“I’ve been working on a kitchen tool range, including carving sets and cooking utensils. I also have plans to eventually open my workshop up for visitors by appointment and possibly knife-making classes.”
A Man Who Loves His Work
"Though Lowry wants to continue expanding his business, he’s content earning a living doing what he loves, with minimal compromise.
“Since starting under my parents’ house, you can fast forward many years. My workshop and knives have drastically evolved, but I can say I still have the same dream,” he says. “I love making knives not because it’s my job but because I love creating something people will find useful that brings as much happiness for them as it did for me making it!”
The bladesmith adds, “Hell if I had wanted a good income I would have become a lawyer.”
Fact: Shoulder. The tapered step in the side of a blade where the bevel meets the flat tang. A square, straight, clean shoulder has always been a badge of quality.