Knife-obsession turns chef into master craftsman

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NHB Knifeworks

Designer Nathaniel “Nate” Hargrove Bonner

Age • 35

Home • Maplewood

What he sells • Handmade artisan chef knives, including chef, utility, paring and custom-made knives in stainless, carbon and damascus steel with handcast and figured wood handles; and knife accessories. He’s creating a new line of made-in-Maplewood Damascus steel knives.

How to buy • Visit 7328 Manchester Road, Maplewood, or

Knife-obsessed • “I’ve been a collector all my whole life. My grandfather tinkered with knives a lot, and I learned to sharpen in the Cub Scouts,” Nathaniel “Nate” Hargrove Bonner explained. He said that his grandfather used to buy him knives, very sharp knives “all the time,” but his stepmother and dad would always take them away. “I got to keep this bowie knife for a while one time. It was a big western gnarly-looking cowboy knife. I hid it in my sock drawer,” he said. But within a few months, his stepmom was putting something away and discovered it. He was 5. Ever the killjoy, she took the potentially lethal weapon out of the elementary schooler’s possession. “Yeah, she and my dad freaked out about that,” he said. “She was just livid. She talks about it to this day.” But he admits that he played hide and seek with items from his could-have-been knife collection for years after, “I’d hide them, and they’d take them. I’d hide them, and they’d take them.” But there are no hard feelings, his stepmom, Melody Noel, is his business co-founder and helps run the Maplewood shop.

Will work for knives • His chosen career paths have always included places “where I could be around knives all the time. In culinary school, I’d save money with food to buy better knives, then I was like I’m spending so much on knives, I should be making these,” he said. “I was trading up and selling them constantly to switch things out and into my collection.” Bonner is a graduate of the New England Culinary Institute but insists, “I don’t do anything frou-frou. I’m into rustic and traditional European food. I like doing a twist on the peasant version of something. I still cook with a Crock Pot at home.” As a professional chef, Bonner has worked as executive chef and instructor most recently for Viking Culinary School and Chaumette Vineyards & Winery. He was a knife skills instructor (of course) while he cultivated NHB Knifeworks business.

World’s oldest tool • “The first thing people did was pick up something to cut and scratch and fabricate with,” Bonner said. “There are natural sharp shapes formed by nature,” he said of rock shards that became prized caveman trophies. “We just figured out how to put a handle on it. And that’s the part that fascinates me because that’s the part that connects you to the knife.

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