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Made for Knoxville: Phillips Forged handcrafts artisan kitchen knives

John Phillips combines his love of metalworking and cooking to create artisan kitchen knives that are one of a kind.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Knoxville is known as the Maker City, and it's businesses like Phillips Forged that fuel the fire of creativity.

It's an artisan knife shop gaining national recognition for the owner's crafty cutlery.

John Phillips set up his forge and workshop in the garage behind his house in Northwest Knoxville. If you listen close enough, you'll hear the sounds of sharp art in the making.

"Phillips Forged Knives is my company where we make carbon steel Damascus kitchen cutlery," Phillips said.

He's proud to be a part of a community dedicated to art and craftmanship.

"There's so many artisans here, and so many people here that it's really cool we have this environment where I can make and sell these things," Phillips said.

He's always had a fire within him for metal and art. College encouraged him to join those passions.

"I got into making knives through studying fine art at University of Tennessee, where I learned metalwork and to combine that with my love of food and curiosity for making things," Phillips said.

His knives are unlike anything you've seen before. No two are the same.

"The patterns are really what make my knives special," Phillips said. "I make a special type of steel called Damascus steel, which is layering metallurgically dissimilar metals to create these beautiful patterns, and I use some special machinery that I've developed to make that all happen."

His work gained national recognition when he won the History Channel's show, Forged in Fire in 2019, season 6 episode 20.

"Forged in Fire is a show where blacksmiths are basically led into a room that they've never been in before and given a bunch of metal that they don't know what it is, and then they're told they have to make a knife, and then the judges then proceed to destroy the knives," Phillips said.

Through every step in the process, he pays special attention to each blade.

"A lot of people don't realize that a handmade knife takes hours to make and there's, you know, almost 100 steps in completing a piece, and so it's a totally different product than a commercial knife that you'd get at the store," Phillips said.

This unique kitchen tool is meant to spark creativity.

"You want to have a functional piece of art and you want to have something that's going to inspire you to then make beautiful things, so that's what I really love about making kitchen knives is that these tools inspire other artists."

He avoids having "too many irons in the fire" and is always looking forward to his next handmade piece.

"My favorite thing I made is usually the last thing I've made," Phillips said. "Whatever I'm working on is where I put all my energy into, and I really try to push the idea that's in front of me as far as I can, and then I move on."

His purpose is inspiring others, and said the businesses is planning to expand near downtown Knoxville, to create a brick and mortar shop.

He recently completed a set for Blackberry Farm and is working on a special cookware line he hopes to release soon.

Phillips said each of his knives can range anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000.

If you would like to buy a handcrafted knife, sign up for the Phillips Forged newsletter. That's the best way to find out about new releases.