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Introducing Maumasi Fire Arts

Discussion in 'Life on the Edge' started by Mrmnms, Feb 28, 2016.

  1. Mrmnms

    Mrmnms Founding Member Gold Contributor

    Who are you in the real world? Where are you from? Tell us about yourself.

    A) In real life, my name is Mareko Maumasi and I am a full time Bladesmith based out of Tumwater, WA. I grew up in the Puget Sound area of Washington state. I’ve always had a bit of a creative side. Some of my earliest memories are playing with Lincoln Logs, Legos, and Play-Doh. Growing up, I was always that artsy kid in school that ‘can draw really good.’ For as long as I can remember I’ve loved building things. We didn’t have a metal shop at my school, so I was habitually enrolled in wood shop classes. I always thought I would end up doing something with wood working, be it furniture building, finish carpentry, or building instruments (becoming a luthier was a big dream of mine). In the fall of 2008, I was 24 yrs old and had held 20-some different jobs around my hometown of Olympia, WA since I started working at the age of 15. I was a bit lost and didn’t know what I was really doing with my life at the time, cooking at a local brewpub and assisting teaching salsa dancing lessons. My salsa dancing partner started working as an administrative assistant for this interesting guy she said. He’d been all over the world, had had all kinds of jobs, was now a knifemaker and she thought that we’d get along really well. She thought perhaps I could glean some wisdom from him during a good BS session over a couple beers, and she was right. That man was Bob Kramer, who, as fate would have it, would help change the course of my life. Our meeting went so well that he offered me the opportunity to work with him in his shop, and the rest, as they say, is history.


    What's your beverage of choice?

    A) Water! NW artisan well water to be exact. It wasn’t until I spent some time traveling around the country a bit, as well as across the pacific to S. Korea, that I realized just how absolutely awesomely clean and delicious our water is here in the PNW. Now if we’re talkin’ booze, then I am a beer, bourbon, and red wine man. I love craft IPA’s and Reds. Georgetown Brewing is a particular favorite from Seattle, but I don’t get all uppity about it. I also love Olympia and Rainier beer as well. Willette Pot Still Reserve is probably one of the best bourbons I’ve ever tasted in my life. Great for mixin’ up a Boulevardier, which is the bourbon version of my favorite cocktail, the Negroni (more specifically, I take mine up with an dash extra of Campari, and a burnt peel in an absinthe washed tumbler). When it comes to red wine I’m not very knowledgeable, but I generally like Cab/Sav blends and Merlots.

    When did you get the knife bug?

    A) I grew up a pretty rough and tumble boy. I was always climbing trees, digging huge holes to China, building forts, idealizing Conan the Barbarian, and being a Boy Scout through most of my childhood. So, it was natural for me to have a love and appreciation for knives, but I never really collected knives. Since I was about 10, I’ve always had one knife handy for the odd cutting, carving and prying job. It wasn’t until I started working in kitchens that I really began to prize knives.


    You have a long term relationship with Bob Kramer, who you often speak so highly of. Who were/are your other greatest influences in your knife making?

    A) Before meeting Bob, I didn’t know a damn thing about knifemaking or that modern day knifemakers existed. I would say that Bob has definitely had the greatest influence on my knifemaking, as it is very unlikely that I would be making knives if it wasn’t for meeting him. Following Bob, I wouldn’t hesitate in saying that David Lisch has been a great influence as well. When I first started working on my own, he opened up his school space to me, where I had access to the tools and workspace needed for me to begin creating my own knives. It was there that I not only learned how to forge knives, but how to make integral knives, which was taught to Dave by Michael Rader, who is another great influence. His fit and finish sets an incredible standard that I continually strive to match. Bill Burke not only is a friend but has been a great mentor whose ear I bend often. His skill and efficiency in making damascus and forging blades is nothing short of inspiring, which why he is definitely one of my major forging heroes. Adam and Haley DesRosiers are producing some of the most well heat-treated, hard working chopping, hunting, and camp knives available today. Finally, Michael Quesenberry, best known for his bowie and hunting knives. Nearly all his knives are full integral blades, meaning the blade, guard and full tang are all forged from one solid piece of steel. The precision of his forge work and the level of skill it takes to execute the knives he builds is on a completely other level from Mastersmith. He’s another bladesmith hero that I’m fortunate enough to call a friend.


    What are you best known for?

    A) When it comes to knives, I am best know for my damascus, forged-integral bolster chef’s knives as well as my highly contoured and extremely ergonomic western style handles. When it comes to food I’m known (to friends and family) for my pizza, biscuits and gravy, cookies, salsa, and my black-ball spaghetti (sounds weird, but it’s the result of the meatballs being braised in red wine after browning in a cast iron skillet).

    Do you have a favorite everyday knife?

    A) In the kitchen, my everyday use knife is the second knife I ever built, through and through, on my own. It was a proof of concept in regards to the blade profile you see on all my European style chef’s knives. Outside of the kitchen I always have a folder clipped in the pocket of my pants. For the most part it’s used as a scraping tool rather than a cutting tool.

    What is your favorite part of the knife making process? Why?

    A) My favorite part of the process is working with my customers and figuring out not just what they want made, but why and how they plan to use it, so that I can better tailor their knife to them. Designing and making the damascus steel is a very near tie.

    What is your least favorite part of the process? Why

    A) My least favorite part of the process is the back pain and aching body that is a result of all the grinding work. Thank God for my chiropractor! There’s no way I could do this work without him.


    What are you favorite knives / sizes?

    A) I could do pretty much everything I want in the kitchen with a good 9.5” chef’s knife and a 5” petty. There are few tasks I couldn’t accomplish between those two knives.

    Do you make anything besides kitchen knives?

    A) Definitely! I’ve built hunting knives, fighting knives, swords, oyster daggers, belt buckles, and bottle openers. Outside the knife world, I’ve made all kinds of jewelry, from damascus wedding bands, earrings and pendants to wooden earrings.

    How does your food background influence your knife making?

    A) I feel like it definitely gives me an advantage when it comes to understanding how a knife is held and used in all types of food prep applications. While I can literally build almost any kind of fixed blade knife, if someone asked me to build a knife I hadn’t made before, my first step would be to do as much research about the knife as I possibly could. I would learn about the different sizes, profiles, handle styles, guards, handle materials, edge geometry, benefits of different grinds, etc. While all this research helps, it will never replace the hours upon hours of hands on experience with the knife. It is my experience working in kitchens, as well as being the executive chef at home, that allows me to stand behind my work with absolute confidence and say not only have many years of practice and training gone into crafting this tool, but several years of firsthand, real world experience has gone into designing it.

    How often do you sharpen your own knives?

    A) It may be surprising, but I don’t have to sharpen my knives very often. I use a fine grit ceramic hone on my knives but only a few swipes each side, and only if it really feels like the knife isn’t cutting like it ought to be. The ceramic hone is aggressive enough to help me maintain a good working edge without removing a ton of material, and really allows me to go long periods between sharpenings. I would say I sharpen my knives maybe once or twice a year.


    Do you have some advice on how to care for your knives?

    A) I work exclusively with high-carbon steel, which basically means: Carefully hand wash only and thoroughly dry before storing the knife where it won’t ding and bang around on other knives, kitchen gadgets and whatnot. Good options for storage are drawer blocks or magnetic bars. Camilla oil is always a great extra safety precaution to help displace and protect against excess moisture wanting to make its home on your knife. Now, all that being said, if I’m prepping a bunch of food, there’s no way I’m washing that knife every time I need to step away to do something else. I just do a quick rinse and dry before setting the knife down. It’s only when I’m going between potentially hazardous and non-hazardous foods, or when I’m done cooking, that I actually take the time to properly wash my knife.

    What are your interests outside of food and knives?

    A) I’ve played the play guitar for 16 years, which I love. I also enjoy games and sports that require a sense of marksmanship, like pool (best winning streak: 17 games in 5hrs), bowling (best avg. 180), darts (cricket and 301 are favorites), archery (no compound bows), or shooting skeet and trap. I really enjoy hiking through the woods and foraging, especially late summer and early fall. I sail from time to time and was on a local racing team for a few years. My wife and I enjoy playing dominoes and cards, with cribbage being a particular favorite of ours. We also enjoy watching movies of all genres.

    Can you name a few people you’d love to work, cook or have dinner with?

    A) I would love to work with the fellows over at Bloodroot Blades. I had the great pleasure of getting to meet them down in ATL last June and they are really great guys. We keep in contact and ask questions of each other from time to time. I’ve been following them for a while and am a big fan of what they’re doing with recycled and re-purposed materials.

    B) In Seattle there’s a great group of food nerds called ChefSteps who’re doing some really awesome work with food and educating folks in the art of sous vide cooking. I would love to be their kitchen monkey for a day, slicing, dicing and prepping for them as they work their culinary magic.

    C) If I could sit down to dinner with people who I think make amazing food, I would probably invite David Chang, Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern. David Chang seems like he has a lot of energy, is super creative and has great business acumen. I’ve always admired Anthony Bourdain’s sense of adventure, and he just seems like a really interesting guy. I religiously listen to Andrew Zimmern’s podcast and I love that he’s a cultural anthropologist for food. He comes from a rough background, turned his life around and now does a lot of work to help other people, which I really admire.


    (Other than me! ) Who's the most interesting/ coolest/notable person you’ve made knives for?

    A) Lucretia is pretty awesome and has been a really great customer to work with. She’s funny, smart and always puts a smile on my face. She’s also been a really great advocate for my work. The greatest part of doing this work, for me, is having the opportunity to meet complete strangers, whether they’re practically neighbors or half way around the world, and creating a solid relationship and community with them. It probably sounds cheesy, but I love striving to make the world a smaller place.

    Do you do a lot of cooking? Do you have a specialty?

    A) I cook all the time at home, and my wife loves it! My favorite thing to cook is my “Black-Ball Spaghetti.” It definitely sounds odd, but it’s a home run every time. I make my meatballs 50/50 beef and pork, simply seasoned with salt, pepper, Italian bread crumbs and an egg. Mix it all up and make 1.5’’ meatballs. Preheat your cast iron pan to a med-med/hi temp and with the help of a little olive oil, begin browning the meatballs. Leave the balls in the pan and add in fresh minced garlic to your own personal taste. I use at least a couple of cloves. Sauté for just a few moments before dousing the pan with half a bottle of red wine. Deglaze your pan and reduce the heat to med, allowing the meatballs to simmer partially covered in the red wine for about 15. The red wine will reduce down by quite a bit, which, in combination with your fonde and gently sautéed garlic, makes for a nice base to begin building your spaghetti sauce on. I like a thicker sauce, so for every 20oz can of tomato sauce I use, I’ll add a small 8oz can of tomato paste, and for every set of those add a tablespoon of sugar to cut the acid some. Season with fresh herbs, salt and pepper, and allow the sauce to simmer on med/low for 30min to an hour before serving. That should give you enough time to boil your pasta and make some garlic bread if you so choose (I do).


    Do you have a favorite meal?

    A) I pho-kin love PHO! Tripe, tendon, rare beef, meatballs, several spoons full of chili pepper paste, fresh basil, sprouts, vermicelli noodles? What the hell else could you want?

    I know you’re active in the knife community, and are doing a charity fundraiser for a fellow maker and his family. Can you tell us a little about it?

    A) Sure thing, the DesRosiers (deh-roh-zhers) are friends as well as an incredibly talented bladesmithing duo. Both Adam and Haley are Master Bladesmiths that make some of the most highly prized knives in the world. On December 30, 2015 tragedy struck the DesRosiers, as a routine day in the shop quickly transformed into a devastating blaze that not only claimed the entirety of their newly constructed shop, two lifetimes of acquired tools and supplies, but also the lives of their sweet dutiful dogs. Haley and Adam narrowly escaped with their own lives. To honor them, their friendship, and their many contributions to the art and trade of Bladesmithing, I will be auctioning off a piece of my own work Monday, February 29th @ 10am, with all proceeds going to aid and support them as they work to pick up the pieces and rebuild their shop and their lives.

    We had the pleasure of watching you on the TV show Forged In Fire.(I still think you won!) How has the exposure impacted you?

    A) Well first, thank you! You definitely are not the first person to express that sentiment about the show. I am very thankful and fortunate that they portrayed me so authentically (which was my biggest concern going into the filming). There were several inquiries for swords following the show, but none ever followed through. I have had some kitchen knife orders as a direct result of folks seeing me on the show, but for the most part I have received a lot of messages from people wanting nothing other than to let me know that I did a great job. So far, I’ve only been recognized for my “TV fame” by a complete stranger once. It was a surreal experience!


    Your work and finish are amazing. Do people really think you can bang out a knife like what you produce in a couple hours?

    A) Fortunately 99% of folks understand that this work is very labor intensive and that no knife really worth a damn can be built in only a of couple hours. Although, there are definitely people who seem shocked when I tell them how long it actually takes to make a knife. I think it’s hard to imagine it taking that much time if you have no idea what really goes into it. I try to help educate them and usually they come around to understanding what it really means to hand forge and build a quality knife.

    Do your friends and family appreciate how talented you are, and how cool your work is?

    A) They do. My friends always ask me how my work is going and when they introduce me to new people, they always bring it up because I never do. There’s no way I’ll ever start a conversation by saying, “Hi, my name is Mareko. I make knives.” My family is also extremely supportive of what I do, especially my wife who is always willing to listen to me yammer on about knifemaking. It is awesome to have so much love and support from so many good people. I’m thankful every day that I get to go to my studio, be my own boss, and make great knives.


    If there was one thing you would want people to know about you, what would it be?

    A) I’m as loyal as they come. So, as long as you’re good people, you’ll have a friend for life.

    Any final words for forum members?

    A) I know this has been a long read and probably not as well articulated as I would’ve liked, but I really appreciate you taking the time to get to know me out in the real world. If any of you have follow up questions please don’t hesitate to ask ‘em. Cheers!
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 29, 2016
  2. Toothpick

    Toothpick #2 since day #1 Founding Member

  3. Mrmnms

    Mrmnms Founding Member Gold Contributor

    just a few hours left in his charity auction
  4. Great interview!!

    And just when I thought Mareko couldn't be a better guy, he goes and drops that meatball/spaghetti recipe on me.

    Truly my friend, you are a saint!!

  5. cheflarge

    cheflarge Founding Member

    Outstanding work by all involved. F'N GREAT INTERVIEW!!! :jump
  6. Lucretia

    Lucretia Founding Member

    A great interview! And thanks for the nice words. It's easy to be a good customer when someone provides a great product and great customer service. And my Maumasi knives make me happy every time I use them!

    And I'm going to have to try that spaghetti recipe.
  7. MotoMike

    MotoMike Founding Member

    Killed it guys. Most excellent
  8. Jeffery Hunter

    Jeffery Hunter Founding Member

    Great read! Thanks guys!
  9. Jim

    Jim Old Curmudgeon Founding Member

  10. Thank you all!! I apologize for delayed reply, very busy day yesterday. The auction raised $1650 smacksroos for the DesRosiers! Thank you all for your help in promoting the sale and getting such a great contribution to the DesRosiers!

    I was in credibly flattered to be approached by @Mrmnms to do this interview. I've been needing to put something like this together for some time now, but have stifled to get it off the back burner. Thanks for the kick in pants to get my butt in gear and just do it!

    Please if anyone has any follow up questions, I would love to hear them.

    Thank you and you're welcome @CrisAnderson27, I love that recipe! One you get it down, I can be whipped together in 30min!
  11. Lucretia

    Lucretia Founding Member

    Sounds like you'd need cast iron to get the meatballs black. Have you tried it in any other kind of pan?

    Congratulations on the auction! Very generous of you, and a great looking knife.
  12. @Lucretia, I've also made it in a heavy bottomed stainless steel skillet as well. Really, you could do it in anything you like. I use these pans because they're what I've got, as well as they help create those brown little crispies that I'm so "fond" of.
  13. @Mareko Maumasi thanks for the awesome interview! I've followed your work for a bit and always enjoy seeing what you do. I'm glad you mentioned Mr Lisch, I've had the pleasure of meeting David Lisch and having a few beers with him at his previous space south of Seattle. I was hanging out with the guys from Holy Mountain (when they were Wayward Brewers) and heard some loud noises next door, I wandered over and David let me hang out and pester him with questions. He told me I could make knives at home and where to start... So I did! Very nice guy who does awesome work.
  14. @T1978_sach, Thanks! Yes Dave is a good man! He helped provide the means for me to get my business off the ground. Cheers!
  15. Great interview, guys! I must have missed it when it was first posted. Thanks!

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