When Gregg Salter was a young boy growing up in England, he would tinker alongside his father in the garden shed, repairing old pieces of furniture, fixing windows, and carving objects out of wood. This childhood hobby became a career in his mid-20s, when Salter formally trained as a joiner and carpenter under a master woodworker. He restored all styles of period windows and doors, a 500-year-old Tudor manor house using original tools, and even a historical barge at Oxford University. After becoming a master carpenter in his own right, be began to travel the world and landed on the Big Island of Hawaii and decided to call this piece of paradise home. Salter continued in the field of construction building high-end homes and cabinetry until 2008 when, in the economic downturn, he came across an opportunity.
From his home woodshop, he began to pass the time with one of his first loves, carving knife handles. Salter and his wife, Marie, realized they could turn his impeccable skills into a business. So that same year Salter combined his passion for Old World woodworking techniques with his lifelong interest in knives to create Salter Fine Cutlery. Resembling more a work of art than a utilitarian object, each knife is designed and handcrafted by Salter.
Today he continues to work from his woodshop on the Big Island, spending hours carving, hand-sanding, and hand-finishing every piece he creates, and he loves every step of the process. “I try and minimize the use of modern electric tools as much as possible, as well as large machines, which can produce a cookie-cutter production knife,” Salter explains. Instead each knife handle is carefully free-formed by hand and painstakingly hand-sanded to perfection.
As a Hawaiian-based artisan, he primarily uses reclaimed, kiln-dried koa wood, which is native to Hawaii and known for its rich color, grain patterns, and chatoyance. “It gives the wood an almost iridescent quality,” he explains. “The wood is kiln-dried to produce a fine-art quality grade for each knife handle.”
To make knife handles suitable for repeated use in the kitchen, Salter first stabilizes the handles with a marine-grade product, and then repeatedly hand-sands the handle and finishes with a hardwood flooring sealant. Between each application of sealant, the handles are hand-buffed and hand-rubbed to achieve a smooth and polished finish. “We use natural oils for the final finishing step to produce a low luster that is easy to maintain with periodic reapplication of the oil,” he says. He also offers handle refinishing to keep handles looking their best for years to come.
In equal measure, the same care and attention goes into crafting the cutlery components of the knives. The high carbon stainless steel blades are made by expert bladesmiths from Japan. Each blade is hand-forged and engraved with the blacksmith’s signature. “This carbon stainless steel is the highest quality steel you can get,” says Salter. “Each blade can be custom designed and Salter offers several attractive patterns. For bladesmiths who still make their blades the traditional way,
highly customized, Salter’s idea to make some of the highest-quality knives using old-fashioned techniques has really paid off.
His knife-making skills are world renowned with chefs and collectors alike. With repeat global customers, Salter has taken orders for New York’s top steak houses, Michelin-star chefs, and the world’s elite, who want their dining tables to be graced with the finest. “We’ve had several orders from visitors to the Island of Hawaii who want to take something special home from the island,” notes Marie.
Since each knife is unique and custom designed, it takes an average of two to three weeks to create set of eight steak knives. That is after the blades are made—only 40 blades are produced each month by the bladesmiths. Salter also makes breathtaking koa wood presentation boxes for the knives. If you are looking for the finest in cutlery, look no further than Gregg Salter and Salter Fine Cutlery.
For more information, visit salterfinecutlery.com.