Madison Life and Times Spring 2016 - Page 27

BUSINESS FEATURE Vehikite made the first few knives out of files (farrier rasps used in shoeing horses), and https://www.instagram. then showed them to his younger brother, com/black_roc_knives/ Ron. https://www.facebook. “I told Ken, ‘with com/BlackRocKnives/ your artistic ability and my mouth we can do this!’” recalled Ron Vehikite, who works at the POET ethanol plant near Alexandria. “He lit a fire under me,” says Ken, laughing. “He even put some money into it.” Thus, Blackroc Knives was born. “Roc” is a mythical raven as large as an eagle and strong enough to fly away with an elephant in its talons. While Ron explains the process, Ken wipes a blade with mustard squirted right from its podgy yellow container. The acid from the mustard leaves a tiger striped patina. There’s an antique Buffalo forge in the corner. Coal bits lay in the fire pan with a heavy oal bits lay in the piece of hollowed steel fire pan with a Ken uses as an oven, heavy piece of heating it and then hollowed steel Ken inserting a rectangular uses as an oven, steel bar to be fashheating it and then ioned into a blade with hammer strikes. After inserting a rectangular the blade is formed, it’s steel bar to be fashioned cooled in oil and then into a blade with tempered in an electric hammer strikes. After kiln to put flexibility the blade is formed, it’s back into the steel after cooled in oil and then it has been shaped and tempered in an electric hardened. kiln to put flexibility back Instead of farrier files, the Vehikites now into the steel after it buy high-grade carbon has been shaped and steel to ensure a consishardened. tency and quality in the forging process. The handles are made with hardwoods, hemp wrap, composite (Micarta), or G10 laminate, but Ken prefers the simplicity and natural feel of wood. Blackroc knives have a rugged, rustic look. Ken says people connect more with something handmade, which is why On social media C Ken Vehikite sharpens a Blackroc knife. they don’t try to make every knife perfect or the same as the last. “We try to leave a trace of imperfections and uniqueness with each one,” he explained. But Ken doesn’t take requests for custom orders. He sells only what comes off his bench. “I don’t want another job,” he explains with a laugh. “I did custom orders with motorcycle painting, and that made it stressful and took the fun out of it. This way, I get to make what I like. … If I’m going to do this, I don’t want a boss, so I don’t let people pay up front.” Ken wears a stubby knife hanging upside down on a Para cord around his neck. Its cute but sinister appearance makes Ken laugh and explain that he XYH\