According to legend, Crom, the Cimmerian god of the earth, had a question for the fallen warriors who sought to enter the afterlife. “What is the riddle of steel?” he would ask, and if the hero before him had no answer, Crom would cast him out from Valhalla.
If this story sounds familiar to you, it’s probably because you’ve seen Conan the Barbarian. Fort Worth-based blade-smith Nick Huff, himself a Conan fan, is on his own quest for an answer to Crom’s question. In the process, he’s uncovered the mysteries of fire and steel and learned how to join the two into beautiful, functional pieces of art.
Growing up in rural Iowa, Nick learned to hunt, trap, and fish, and along with those outdoor skills, Nick learned to appreciate the tools that make hunting game a lot easier than it was for cavemen – like a good knife, for example. But besides showing Nick the ropes of outdoor living, his dad was also gifted at wood-working and all things mechanical. His dad was always fixing things, and so Nick developed a life-long love of tinkering with stuff.
Nick moved to Texas, basically heading west from Iowa, running into I-35, and heading south because he figured it would be warmer. He got a job as a mover, but as a self-taught artist, Nick realized he was more interested in his creative side than in lifting dressers and big screen TVs. He learned to tattoo.
Nick is no longer in the tattooing business, but knife-making has been his main artistic output since 2013, after the encouragement of Fort Worth bladesmith Terry Shanks. Shanks proved to be a great mentor, and through trial, error, sweat, blood, fire, and blow after blow of his hammer, Nick learned how to shape the steel. YouTube videos were also incredibly helpful, and the internet has no shortage of knife-makers willing to share their knowledge. Nowadays, Nick counts himself as someone with advice to give about knife-making, though he’d rather just let his work speak for itself.
Made from metal and wood, Nick’s knives are each a unique work of art, and he can forge one to just about any shape or length – whether you want one that looks good in a case or when you’re dressing a deer, he can customize a knife to your own design, though his stock of one-offs and short-run knives might also have what you’re looking for. And thus, you too may have an answer to the Riddle of Steel.
I have loved knives my whole life. The chance to make my own seemed like a great idea. I would love to make a knife for you too.