Quitting his job as a bricklayer, Marshall set himself up as a blacksmith, converting an old Skyline garage out the back of his parents’ home in central Auckland into a workshop. But initial experimentation with a coal forge didn’t go well. “It was very smoky,” he says. “No one around here could hang their washing out to dry whenever I got fired up.” In the interest of neighbourly relations, he needed a more suburban-friendly system, so he switched to gas.
Apart from the anvils, which he bought on Trade Me, Marshall has made just about everything in the workshop, including the forge (using fire bricks in a welded steel frame). His first piece was a punch, followed by a pair of tongs, then a hammer. “I love making tools – I’d rather make something than buy it.” Nothing gets wasted; there are no sparks, offcuts or shavings. Forging is more a process of “squashing” the steel into shape, he explains – “a bit like manipulating very firm play dough”. Knives and frying pans are his current speciality. “I like the rustic, old-fashioned, unfinished look,” he says. “These are handmade products. Each object tells a story, and no two knives are exactly the same.”
Marshall sells his wares online, runs blacksmithing courses and hosts visits to his workshop (see soloblacksmith.com or @thesoloblacksmith on Instagram). As for the armoury he once dreamed of, Marshall admits it’s just not practical for 21st-century living. “I still haven’t made that sword.” You get a taste of Marshall’s medieval flair from his website, though, where his work is described as being crafted from four elements: “Fire, steel, strength and sweat.”
A selection of knives made by Marshall
Photos by Ken Downie