Eight years on from starting his artisanal bladesmith business Cut Throat Knives, Aidan Mackinnon found a bigger and better space just down the road from the Coburg North tram terminus – and around the corner from his previous, petite workshop – and moved in late 2021. Having made the leap from a career in international development by way of a knife-making class in Ballarat, his knife-making passion has grown exponentially.
“When you work in policy, sometimes you write documents that people never read,” Mackinnon tells Broadsheet. “But when you make a knife, it exists in the world after you have finished making it. I really love cooking and making knives means that I am in the service of other people cooking. If I can make a knife that adds to the cooking experience and makes you want to go into the kitchen, it is special.”
Mackinnon’s attention to detail – as seen in his blades – extends to his workshop and retail space. He gives the impression that each choice he makes is carefully made, and based on a lot of research. The arched wooden ceiling and curved wooden display plinths in the small entrance showroom mimic the curved corner of the Cut Throat end-grain chopping boards. Sleek timber cupboards form a wall along one side, with an example of each of the six different blade styles inlaid in the cupboard doors, which are handleless. Another two walls are made of glass, with knife images on the glazing band and a large neon pink Cut Throat logo of crisscrossed knives glowing on the far wall.
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Mackinnon wants to make people think differently about his craft, and believes the space must reflect that. “It was time to invite people in, but we couldn’t have a storefront on High Street because what we do is industrial, noisy and needs room.”
As the business grew, so did requests for classes. Initially, Mackinnon thought if he did a class every six months, that would stop people asking – but he discovered how much he enjoyed passing on his knowledge and there are now two-day workshops every two weeks. Indigo Roberts has taken over the reins as the lead educator at Cut Throat, having joined the team last year after 10 years as a fine jeweller.
The space doesn’t look like a blacksmith or bladesmith’s space. The cavernous workshop may well have workbenches, tools, anvils (five new ones for classes are delivered on the day Broadsheet visits) and heavy-duty machinery, but the belt grinders are pink and red and sit against a pink and grey graffitied wall. There is a couch area with a planter filled with indigenous plants where customers can sit and chat about the kind of knife they’re after, whether it’s off the shelf or custom-made. As well as the six different blades, customers can choose from nine different handle materials.
“I have a real love of materiality,” says Mackinnon. “I like to play with a lot of different materials. We use a lot of different wood, but we also use resin, mother-of-pearl, disco-hued Dichrolam, mammoth tooth and a jaunty handle made from upcycled orange juice and milk bottle caps.”
Back to that mammoth tooth: Mackinnon sources it from Denmark (and previously Russia) for only a couple bespoke knives a year. “It is a very expensive and very unforgiving material to work with and so because of that it is not super common to see on knives,” he says. “I love this idea of having a fossil, a link to the past that gets used daily. It makes our unique product that little more special.”
It's all part of his carefully considered approach. “People say, ‘Why these knives versus any other knife?’” says Mackinnon. “I tell them that the best knife I could make you is the one your grandfather gave you, but since I can’t make that knife, how do I make one that you take care of and want to continue using? For me it is about sole authorship; one person makes the whole knife from start to finish, with care.”
Cut Throat Knives
3/54 Bakers Road, Coburg North
Tue to Fri 10am–5pm