In Store: Knife Mecca West

The Epicurean Edge in Kirkland is home to the world’s sharpest and strongest custom knives. Some of them made with woolly mammoth teeth.

Handmade Akifusa culinary knives and factory Shun Elite culinary knives. Photography by Kyle Johnson for City Arts.

Bladesmiths are a culture of people who, I imagine, don’t have a lot of hair left on their arms.

In order to become a journeyman smith under the American Bladesmith Society, an apprentice must subject his blade to several Herculean tests, including chopping into a wooden two-by-four twice, without damaging the blade. Then he must use the same blade to shave off some arm hair to prove it has kept its edge.

Still an apprentice by preference, Daniel O’Malley has proved himself to be a master salesman of knives as the proprietor of the Epicurean Edge. A friendly man, generous with laughter and expertise in this specialty craft, O’Malley connects a worldwide network of bladesmiths with avid collectors of custom handmade knives.

Handmade knives from Sweden by (from front) Carl Michael, Tobbe Lundstrom, Andre Andersson, Michael Andersson and Anders Hogstrom

O’Malley’s career started back in 1996 when he founded Blade Gallery, Inc., an online store intended to help friends sell their work. He ran the business out of his Fremont basement, next to a forge he built, complete with an 1800s anvil sitting on a tree stump.

Soon, collectors and chefs wanted to browse his collection in person. “We had people flying in from Russia to buy ten-thousand-dollar knives. My two hounds, Max and Cougar, would be nipping at their heels, and I thought, ‘This isn’t the impression I want to give.’” He wound up in his current storefront in Kirkland.

“Kirkland is a tough place to have a business,” O’Malley says. “For me, it’s ideal because we’re a destination business. On our block, however, Epicurean Edge and Santorini Grill are the only businesses still here since we moved here in 2003.”

O’Malley’s store has emerged as literally one of a handful of stores in the country to go to for this level of specialization in culinary knives.

Handmade “folder” by Rick Dunkerley

At Epicurean Edge you’ll find custom pieces made with fossilized mammoth ivory that is more than twenty thousand years old, drawn from soil deposits in Siberia. Other materials include meteorite, walrus or warthog tusk, woolly mammoth tooth, antique tortoiseshell and, of course, exotic wood from around the world.

O’Malley has traveled Japan to visit knife makers and swordsmiths and regularly attends “hammer-ins,” where bladesmiths get together in mini-conferences and try out new techniques together.

Among  O’Malley’s favorite makers right now are his mentor, Bill Burke, based in Idaho, Tokifusa Iizuka of Japan, and Michael Rader, a Seattle blade­smith who now lives entirely off the grid on a mountaintop outside of Sumner. All his electricity is generated from a stream. The work of these makers and some living even further afield are available on the store’s Web site.

Perhaps O’Malley’s success stems from his great appreciation of the journeymen he has met, including one backcountry bladesmith in Florida who singlehandedly rediscovered a lost method of manipulating Damascus steel that hadn’t been practiced in more than a hundred years. “These guys are capable of doing work in their garage that is better than what the most state-of-the-art factory is doing.” •


The Epicurean Edge

107 Central Way, Kirkland
Tuesday–Saturday, 11am–7pm
Sunday, 12pm–5pm