Ask any knowledgeable outdoor sports minded person what the most essential tool is for any adventure. Without a doubt it will be a sturdy knife, and for good reason. From the earliest times to today’s modern methods of manufacturing, knives are the most important tool ever conceived. They come in many shapes and sizes and are used in thousands of applications, from surgeries to slicing bread and everything in between. Mankind would probably not exist without some form of cutlery. We take them for granted but life would not be the same without them. Nate Hardin, owner of Halfbreed Knives, has taken cutlery to a whole new perspective. He has slowly carved a niche for himself as one of our area’s top knife makers. The eccentric craftsman is taking a stand against mass produced cutlery. Nate Hardin, owner of Halfbreed Knives, begins shaping of a piece of steel.
Photo by: Author Before walking into his Galveston shop, the sound of rock music emulated from the old wooden building. Stepping inside it looked like organized chaos. Grinders of various sizes and shapes lined the floor. Other machines like sanders, presses and saws also had their place. In the back room a forge put off an eerie orange glow as racks of steel stood ready to be formed into razor sharp works of art. Since age 11, Hardin has had a deep rooted interest in anything sharp. As a child he would buy inexpensive knives at auctions and rummage sales, then reshape and rework them to his liking. He began hanging out with other well-known area knife makers like Don “Flip” Marschand and Buck McKnight, both now deceased. Through the years Hardin held down several lucrative full-time jobs but his spare time always involved making knives. In 2010 he decided to pursue his true passion and began hand forging his own brand of cutlery. “It’s the hardest job I’ve ever had,” said Hardin, who spends up to 80 hours a week in his shop. For now he is a one-man show and makes his personal product from start to finish. He is also the one who sells and ships them. All of his knives are mailed direct as technically he has no storefront. “I probably only make 50 cents an hour,” he said with a laugh, “but I love what I do.” Someday Hardin would like to open up a studio-shop where people can come in and watch the entire process in a safe surrounding. According to Hardin, no one could venture into a business of this magnitude without cooperation from their family and friends and he is appreciative of his wife Talee’ and the support she has provided. The process of crafting a handmade blade begins with a raw piece of steel. Hardin prefers 10-series which contains a high carbon content. The steel is heated to 1500 degrees in his forge. He then takes the red hot piece of steel and begins shaping it on an anvil, striking it with a hammer reminiscent of old time blacksmiths. “I like to do this in the dark where I can see the color change as I work it,” he explained. Final shaping is done with different types of grinders and sanders. Once the blade is worked into shape Hardin then heat treats it to attain a Rockwell hardness of 59. In his opinion, this is the perfect hardness for a knife to be strong while maintaining a sharp edge. He then decides what type of handle he will use. When purchasing a custom made knife a person is buying more than a blade. Unlike mass produced cutlery, handmade knives have soul and you are actually buying a piece of the person who made it. That was easy to tell as I handled dozens of Hardin’s work. Each knife felt solid and strong from his large blades to the smallest skinning knife. The Walton resident believes in providing great customer service for anyone buying his product. When you buy one of his knives you are also getting a lifetime warranty. Hardin provides free lifetime sharpening. “I have only had three knives come back for sharpening and they were from full-time butchers who use their knives every day,” he said proudly. Handcrafted knives, from forge to finish, are more than a cutting tool. They are heirlooms lasting many lifetimes. Hardin believes there is a resurgence in people preferring hand crafted items, especially knives. He believes it to the point where he has “Handmade” tattooed across his dirty, scratched fingers, a testament to hours of hard work. “Even though I did it I wouldn’t recommend getting your fingers tattooed,” he added with a laugh. Halfbreed knives range in prices from $80 to $1,000 dollars, depending on size and style. Hardin has sold knives to people living in all 50 states and 11 countries. But he doesn’t rest on his own merits. “I wouldn’t be the knife maker I am today without help from family, friends and members of the knife making community,” he added humbly. “I owe them a gratitude of thanks.” To inquire about Halfbreed Custom Knives you can email Hardin at email@example.com or give him a call at (765) 437-8883.