Matthew Hopkins Berry
I’ve been smithing since 1990. I started out with a hammer, and anvil, a coal forge, and a book. These days I have a lot more tools. Since then I’ve taken numerous classes in bladesmithing, jewelry techniques, and foundry work. I spend a large amount of time working with other smiths, exchanging techniques and ideas. You’re never done learning to be a bladesmith.
I do all the work on my pieces, excepting collaborations with other makers. I start with steel bars, blocks of wood, ingots of bronze, sides of leather, and other ‘raw’ materials. My goal is to make pieces that excel both in function and in appearance, which often go hand in hand. I build each piece to last for generations.
Bladesmithing is an ancient craft. Some tools and techniques have not changed in 1000 years. Many of my tools are antiques. As much as I admire the legacy of the craft, I use modern technology where it produces a better result than traditional processes. The biggest differences are in the steel and heat treating.
Modern steel is much cleaner and homogeneous than ancient steel, and the alloying elements are controlled with a precision that ancients smiths couldn’t even dream of. I make all my blades from high quality steel directly from the mill. I do not use recycled steel because you can’t know the history of how it’s been treated. Nothing is more devastating to a bladesmith then spending hours shaping a blade only to have it crack in the quench because of micro-fractures that occured in it’s previous job as a leaf spring.
I heat treat using digitally controlled kilns with an argon atmosphere. While not as romantic as pushing the blade back and forth over a fire, it allows a level of precision in temperature control that simply can’t be matched in a fire. I use industrial quench oils paired to the specific type of steel I’m working with for optimal cooling rates. The result is blades that have superior qualities spread throughout the blade. No soft spots, no areas of excessive grain growth.
I specialize in historical pieces from the viking age, but I have made pieces from the bronze age up to modern knives. I tend to work on bigger blades, with swords being my favorite.
I also do some work in what I’d call historically-based fantasy pieces. These are pieces that aesthetically are close to historical examples, retain all the practicalities & performance of historical pieces, but also pull from modern fantasy art & literature.