Thursday, January 30, 2020

Knifemaker Feature: Part 2

This week, the work of two bladesmiths have come to our attention, and we have again chosen to share their stories with you. 
***Ulysse Robert
"I'm a trained watchmaker/jeweller who developed an interest for knives over the years. I currently work in a small workshop in the province of Quebec (Canada) making various types of knives and tools.

Like watchmaking, bladesmithing is a field where one never stops learning. I like making knives that challenge me in both design and construction as much as possible. I also find great satisfaction in taking raw materials and combining them together to create not only a functional tool, but an object of beauty.

Recently, I had the opportunity of combining my passion for horology and bladesmithing by creating custom watchmaker's case openers. They are all made individually from my own damascus steel following the watchmaker's specifications.

My favourite type of knives are the ones that I know will be used by the customer, from a large kitchen knife to a small folding knife. Knowing that one of my blades will be used and cherished by its owner for many years to come is what makes me happy at the end of the day. "

Instagram: @ulysserobertknives
***Trevor McDonough
"I began making custom knives in November 2013 while in high school. I wanted my father’s Christmas present to be special that year so I came up with the idea of making him a knife for when we would go camping and fishing. I never had the intention of making knives to sell but quickly it would become my full time job.

I began with almost zero knowledge of making a knife other than it had to be hardened somehow and be sharp. After over 60 hours of work and dozens of hours of research, I had completed my father’s knife with its rough shape, filed bevels, rudimentary heat treat, and crude Osage orange wood scales. While labouring on this piece I fell in love with the process of taking a piece of steel and turning it into something beautiful and useful.

I quickly began reaching out to other knife makers and tried to soak up as much knowledge as I possibly could. Being so young and so enthusiastic about the process of making a knife these other makers were excited to share their tips and tricks of making a quality knife with me. I was also fortunate enough to live close to Rob Thomas, a world class Damascus smith who took me under his wing and taught me how to forge a quality steel. I began investing all of my money into new machines and spent most of my days designing with dreams of making a folder.

I finished my first folder in July 2014 and since then have created several other models that have opened up new knowledge and trials for me. One of my favourite and best knives I have made to this day has a san mai blade that Rob Thomas and myself forged with a thunderstorm Kevlar micarta overlay on the show scale and for the back spacer. Trying new materials, styles, and fine tuning details to perfection is now my passion and I am extremely grateful to everyone who has supported me and helped me make this dream a reality."


Manufactured in Brookvale

We are excited! This week we reached another important milestone with NH2... the guilloche of timascus! 'Guilloché' is a decorative technique reserved exclusively for the decoration of brass watch dials using a stationary cutting tool moved over the surface creating trenches and grooves. The more detailed the design, the more eye-catching the pattern is. It goes without saying that even the smallest imperfection would stand out like a sore thumb. There are only a handful of dial makers who 'do guilloche' in the traditional way.

Our guilloche is created using a high precision, modern CNC mill. We use much smaller tools that can be turned between 40 to 50 thousand rpm. This allows for not just much finer grooves but we can guilloche extremely hard materials like Titanium and Timascus; and decorate not just a dial but all internal watch components! The end result is simply amazing. The combination of three timascus alloys; the uniqueness of the colours; and the accuracy of each pass of the cutting tool; and the intricacy of the pattern means our guilloche looks more like a hologram than a ‘three dimensional’ surface. The grooves are so fine that they feel more like a smooth glass surface under your finger.

The first prototypes are in the workshop as we speak, and we expect to have the first fully decorated bridges ready to be assembled in around three months. I wish I could disclose more, but at this stage I would not want for this to be copied by the Swiss or the Chinese!     

Friday, January 24, 2020

BREAKING NEWS- Watch and Act!

*** BREAKING NEWS- Watch and Act! - 2020 World Watch Auction in Aid of the Australian Wildfire Crisis. 
At midday yesterday, a rather urgent message interrupted an already hectic day: it was Andrew from Time and Tide. "We need a watch for an upcoming auction: Deadline: tomorrow".   There was not a slightest doubt in my mind that a request to donate a watch for such a worthy cause could only be answered with yes, happy to help.  But a twenty-four-hour deadline meant that a Timascus piece - that takes at least 2 months to machine - would be out of the question.  On the other hand, to donate a standard stock watch would be too ordinary.   "When are you going to make me a watch?" pestered Tanya for years. I was reluctant to answer, but not without reason: a 44mm ‘Rebelde’ was too large for her wrist; and she stopped wearing her Cartier Tank when we started our own brand. Patience!

Finally, in February last year, a Mark 1 prototype with serial number 1/200, a custom red rotor and kangaroo strap became her first 'special' watch. And she has been wearing it since, daily.   “Sorry Tanya, I need your Mark 1 back to the workshop. Kind of urgent, will tell you more later”.   All I can say is – bid strongly. Currently, there are 17 watches being auctioned: H Moser, Bulgari, Longines, Hublot, Zenith and a few other brands which kindly donated timepieces for a good cause. Amongst them: two humble Australian brands.

I would love to see Mark 1 No. 1 staying in Australia, rather than being shipped overseas and I am sure that you would too. There is not much I can do to make it happen, but if you're a subscriber to my newsletter and end up being the highest bidder, the watch will come with the same guarantee offered to Tanya- a free lifetime guarantee. As long as I'm around, the watch will be taken care of.

All funds raised (100% of it) will be equally disbursed to the following charities: The Country Fire Authority @CFAVIC Wildlife Victoria @WILDLIFEVICTORIA Gippsland Emergency Relief Fund WWW.GERF.ORG.AU New South Wales Rural Fire Service @NSWRFS World Wildlife Fund @WWF_AUSTRALIA
PS. This is an international auction, bidding in US dollars.                         

Thursday, January 16, 2020

The second oldest tool: Knifemaker Feature

We love people who shape metal with their bare hands! Today, a quick introduction to no less than four craftsman, metalsmith knife makers! Knives need no introduction: the second oldest tool, still in continuous use - whose basic construction hasn't changed since day it was invented. An irreplaceable tool or a deadly weapon - simply and beautifully crafted, treasured, and worn with pride.

I have a real appreciation for people that are patient and determined enough to practise and perfect a true skill; particularly in industries where the standard for large corporations is mass production and low costs. I especially take interest when children and young adults demonstrate an early desire to learn how to design and machine their own creations.

Yesterday, I sent out a notice to knifemakers who also happen to follow our projects, asking them to share stories about their craft with us.

Meet Jackson Rumble from Canberra, Aidan MacKinnon from Melbourne, Clement Linder from Bern / Switzerland, and Bjorn Jacobsen from Sydney's Northern Beaches - our neighbour.

I hope these four short stories will motivate you to excel in what you do/make/design.
***Jackson Rumble
"I started making knives in 2013 after taking a knife making course at the Tharwa Valley Forge. Over the next few years I set up a basic shop in my parents’ garage. Starting out with some very basic tools, I gradually expanded getting my first belt grinder in 2015.

In 2016 I started making knives full time at the Tharwa Valley Forge. Later on that year I started teaching knife making and blade smithing classes. Which I’m still currently doing.

2019 was a massive year for me. I started working towards testing for my journeyman smith ranking with the American Bladesmithing Society. After around 8 months of painfully tedious work I achieved my JS stamp and was awarded the Joe Keeslar award for the best knife submitted by a JS applicant.

My favourite/ best knife would have to the keyhole fighter form my JS set. It was a huge challenge throughout the build, I was forced to rethink many of my processes. But well worth it in the end!

My advice would be to take as many classes and learn from as many different people as possible. There is something to learn from everyone.The best advice I received was to plan and draw each one of my knives before starting work."

If you would like to see more of Jackson's work, follow his instagram - @rumble_knives. 

The Damascus knife in the photo is made from 1075/ 15n20 carbon steel. The steel stock took 4 days to make, and the whole knife took around 2 weeks to finish up. 

My 2 favourite handle timbers are: Gidgee from Australia, and Desert 
Ironwood from the US. They are both extremely hard, durable and look fantastic!
***Aidan Mackinnon
"I am a full time bladesmith (knife maker) specializing in bespoke handmade kitchen knives working out of my workshop in Melbourne.

Knives are often our primary interaction between ourselves and our food - It is with this in mind that Cut Throat Knives are designed to enhance the cooking experience.

All our knives are handcrafted and sole authorship (just one person works on the knife from start to finish). They are made from the finest materials available with the care and attention that precision cutting tools deserve, with each blade spending roughly 20-25 hours a bladesmiths hands.

In a world of increasingly disposable, valueless items, where homes and garage sales and superstores are packed with mediocre pieces that are bought, used, and ignored, what could be more important than learning once again to value what we buy, and feel a connection to the people who create around us?"

If you would like more information about Aidan's work, here is a link to his website:
and his instagram:
***Clement Linder
"I started making knives at the age of 14. I always liked making stuff and someday I got the idea that I could make a knife. I love knifemaking because of the combination of different materials like steel, wood, composite materials etc. It just never gets boring. The attention to detail needed in knifemaking is almost as crazy as in watchmaking. Every part of the knife must be finished by hand.

My favourite kind of knives are kitchen knives. They are interesting to make, and everyone can use it. I really like combining Japanese blade shapes with western style handles.

I’m currently doing an apprenticeship as a machinist. And with access to the equipment we have at school, the possibility of making more complicated knives opened up to me. I started designing my first folding knife, and after a few prototypes I machined 15 knives.

Last September I was lucky that Titan Gilroy (Titans of CNC on Youtube) came to Switzerland and visited our school. He liked what I did and decided to make a short film about my folding knife ("

***Bjorn Jacobson
Originally from Norway where knife making is a traditional hobby, I started again in Australia some years ago.
In the beginning I was doing “kit knife making” where the blade is ready-made and I was making my own handles.
Over time I started forging and grinding my own blades, and today also run workshops in Sydney in chef knife making and blacksmithing.

Ray Mears is quoted as saying 'Carbon steel has soul, stainless has not.' I tend to also prefer carbon steel with its ability to be forged to shape. There is something primal in shaping a knife by hammer and fire, a connection to our human past of shaping the world to our will by hand. Seeing the steel coming out of the forge and be guided by the hammer and take on a new form is a powerful experience. I enjoy working with natural materials like wood, leather and antler and seeing an idea come to life.

For chef knives I prefer stainless steel due to ease of maintenance, carbon steel in the kitchen tends to patina a bit much. I like the Swedish stainless steel 12c27 for ease of heat treatment in my hobby workshop. It is a good combination of edge retention, corrosion resistance and ease of sharpening for my everyday knives.

Even my chef knives tend to be with Curly Birch handles, a Scandinavian pale hardwood that I just love the look of. I often stain the curly birch with dark leather dye, then sand it again to take some or most of the stain off. Like on this chef knife showing the grain structure of the wood through the stain and polish.
The chef knife in the photo is one my favourites and we still use it every day, it was one of my assessment knives for the Australian Knifemakers Guild."                          

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Happy to serve you....

A common small business mistake: the assumption that both existing and potential customers are fully aware of the range of products and services available to them.

If your customers keep asking: “So what do you do, or specialise in?” then something is fundamentally misaligned, and both parties are losing out on revenue, time, resources and mutual appreciation.

Here is a (not so) short list of 'things' we can do for you:

1. We repair watches.

Our speciality is the restoration of vintage Rolex and Omega watches, particularly watches which are rejected by their makers as 'too old to be repaired'. Most vintage watches are repairable.

2. We offer a free assessment and free quotes.

We are always happy to discuss whether your timepiece is worth repairing. We always see a restoration project as a partnership. We invest our time, you invest your money. The end result should be satisfying for both parties. The first step is to assess your watch thoroughly, and we do so free of charge.

3. We repair pocket watches.

This might come as a surprise, but pocket watches are actually more time consuming to repair than wristwatches for a simple reason, the majority of pocket watches brought in for service are 100 years old! Unlike with wristwatches, pocket watch parts are hard to source and often the only solution if for them to be handmade.

4. Insurance valuations are our speciality.

Every day thousands of watches are stolen and only a tiny percentage are recovered and reunited with owners. A jewellery safe is not enough protection from theft; it is the watertight insurance policy that will cover your loss. In order to obtain cover, your insurer would expect you to provide and insurance valuation document - and this is where we come in! We charge between $100 - $200 per watch, depending on the amount of research required to quote a price. In most instances, we can provide a valuation on the same day that you come in.

5. We sell second-hand watches!

"Well that's quite obvious!" you might say. What is less obvious is that other than what we stock online,  we can also source a particular model that you might be looking for. You can find the entire inventory here:

6. We buy watches!

Considering selling a single piece or an entire collection? Happy to make you an offer for the lot! We offer quick, confidential, hassle-free settlement.

7. We sell premium quality, Swiss watchmakers tools

We are authorised dealers for Bergeon, AF, and Asco Switzerland. Whilst our range is rather modest, our loupes, screwdrivers, and tweezers are the best that money can buy- suitable for both professionals and enthusiasts. (

8. Need a clock gear? Give us a call

We can create one off, custom-made clock gears from 5mm in diameter, up to 300mm, and any module! Obviously, gear cutting services are for clock restorers. We are also setup for small scale high precision CNC milling, turning, EDM wire cutting, polishing, gear hobbing. When we don't make watch parts, we make other super cool bits for other makers.

9. We offer watch-making classes to people of all ages

During the winter months, we open up our doors, and offer watchmaking classes in our workshop. With a passion that is as intricate as watches, it is always a pleasure to share our excitement. We can teach you how to pull a watch a part, to see what makes it tick (and tock) - and if you have patience and dedication, we'll guide you through assembly process. A true life changing experience!

10. We have a Premium newsletter

The title says it all. A service offered to crazy watch collectors, who wish to be informed first about any new arrivals for a $99 per year subscription fee. (

11. Almost forgot!

Yes! We also make our own watches.                         

The Birth of Papagena

Drawing individual components, machining, measuring to check tolerances, and then hand polishing them is the first phase of watch making.

The second, equally critical phase is colouring: the anodizing process which makes the dull, greyish titanium blossom into fireworks of colour. All this work is done in Brookvale, and the main plate and bridges are then delivered to my workbench for assembly. Assembly is sequential: ruby jewels are inserted by hand, of course, each individually finely adjusted to height using a 60 year old high precision tool. Steel locating and banking pins are pressed into Timascus, slowly but firmly. NH2 is a hybrid watch: it still contains a number of Swiss made parts (gear train and escapement). Making those parts work in harmony with parts we make in our workshop is a serious engineering challenge in itself.

The watch mechanism comes to life after a series of 'assemblings and dissassemblings', readjustments, and tuning procedures. Timascus is not an easy material to deal with because of its natural tendency to warp and bend out of shape. Nevertheless, it is a beautiful metal on so many levels: light, anti-magnetic, highly corrosion resistant - and above all: it blooms in colours like no other metal. Actually, the more you look at it, the less it looks like a metal and more like an organic living thing.

Coming to life is a moment of truth: a mere ‘ticking’ is not what makes a watch a timepiece. Watchmakers are striving for perfection in timekeeping. Usually, an hour after the first heartbeat, the mechanism will reach a level where it “becomes a regulator” keeping time within a few seconds in various positions. And at that point, officially, the watch is born.

Unfortunately, there is no time to celebrate. The next phase is disassembly – entirely and completely. Each component is cleaned, re-lubricated; from the mainspring down to the cap jewel, each requiring a precise amount of very specific lubricant. Three hours later, the watch is back on the timing machine for another run of adjustments.

The next phase: the watch mechanism is left to run for a week- alone, undisturbed, wound daily. In this phase I am looking for any potential problems which will only become obvious once every gear has rotated a number of times, repeatedly.

Assembling the dial and hands, inserting and securing the watch mechanism inside the titanium case, adjusting the winding stem and crown to fit, and pressing in crystals, is the next phase of assembly. Again, and quite often, there is still something to be filed, or tightened, greased or tested, but by the end of that day, the watch is ready to be strapped onto a watch winder. While NH2 is a manual wind watch, having it ‘in motion’ that imitates a wearer’s wrist is a practical test of it’s performance.

By the end of the second month, the watch is fully tested and almost ready to go- but not until it undertakes yet one more disassembly: the main plate is now ready to be engraved with a serial number and our logo, which is done in Brookvale.

In total, it takes three months to make a watch. During that period, we never consider the watch as a sum of its parts, but as a creature- and in the case of Timascus, we give the watch a name based on its character, its colours, and its behaviour throughout the making process. NH2 No. 11, Papagena, is no exception.

There is not the slightest doubt in my mind that one day, Timascus NH2 pieces will be recognised for what they really are. Unique pieces created with passion stemming from the roots of historical horology, manufactured in Australia, carved out of an incredibly exciting material, showcasing impeccable workmanship. Watches that will never be thrown away, but passed on, cherished, and looked after for generations to come.

You can watch a short clip of Papagena coming to life here:

Friday, January 10, 2020

Not on my watch, Batman!

It’s been a while since someone has tried to sell me a fake Rolex- so imagine offering me a fake 'Batman' on the first day back to work! Clearly the seller stood no chance, but I was still surprised at the quality of his replica.

Not only did it look right from a distance, but it felt right. The quality of steel, bezel, and overall weight – the things that would usually be a dead giveaway, all seemed plausible. However, the devil is in the detail. Once up close, there was no doubt that we were dealing with a high grade, Chinese-built replica that could fool even a professional.

So, what gave it away, you may ask?

- Firstly, the rehaut was not engraved but laser etched.
- Secondly, whilst the Rolex engraving and serial number appeared fairly original and all the letters except for the ‘R’ seemed legitimate, that key digit had a slightly elongated flick.
- Lastly, the Rolex symbol on the winding crown was just ever so slightly different to the real one.

The bottom line is this: It didn't fool me, but only because I have handled thousands of Rolex watches over the years. However, there is no doubt that for a novice buyer, it would be impossible to distinguish this fake against the real version.

I wonder, how many fake 'Batmans' are floating around? If you have bought one recently, and have any suspicions, then here's the deal. Bring it in, I'll assess it FREE OF CHARGE in less than 10 seconds, and give you some peace of mind.
This free assessment applies to "Rolex Batman" models ONLY.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

NH2 Timascus No. 11

NH2 Timascus No. 11- Papagena. Under construction
After a couple of weeks on break, mainly due to extremely hot weather and unbearable smoke, we are back in the workshop. With temperatures in the high 40°s at times the machinery had to be shut down because we just could not get rid of all the heat generated from the cooling units and compressors. But late last night, the main plate for NH2 Timascus No.11 has been completed and the assembly will soon commence.

No.11 is our second green Timascus NH2. The first one (No.5) was nicknamed Papageno, and No. 11 is its matching partner and companion- Papagena. Papageno and Papagena are characters from Mozart's famous opera ' The Magic Flute'. Papageno is the bird catcher who is unable to find a wife, and Papagena appears in his life at his lowest point (note the noose!)
Watch this one first:
Then this version with English translation:
... and dozens more of your choice!

Apart from the obvious - a green colour scheme - there are a number of other similarities between the green NH2 Timascus and Mozart's couple.  Bringing out the vibrant green colours out of Timascus is extremely difficult and at this stage a third green piece is not likely anytime soon. The pattern of Timascus No.11 is a beautiful rosebud with green, turquoise, lime and purple accents and the finest hint of french blue.

NH2 Timascus No. 5 - Papageno. Sold. 

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

What is time?

“What is time? We surely know what we mean when we speak of it. We also know what is meant when we hear someone else talking about it. What, then, is time? Provided that no one asks me, I know. If I want explain it to an inquirer, I do not know” lamented Augustine in Anno Domino 340.

Six hundred years earlier, Aristotle cut to the chase in his Physics “First, does time belong to the class of things that exist or to that of things that do not exist? Then secondly, what is its nature?” Is it even real, he wondered. And if it is, is time absolute, as Newton proposed, or relative, as Einstein argued?

Or, should we simply stop worrying altogether, and settle for probably the only way humanly possible: to describe time through a metaphor; to accept it as flow of a river, or something that stands still like a moment between two hearth beats, that flies like an arrow, freezes like ice, runs out like sand, cuts short, or like love, last for eternity?

My watch no longer keeps time”, he said.

It never had.   

The Breguet of Moss Vale

It has been a week since we visited the best clockmaker in the world and I still can't get over it. Deryck Noakes was born and raised in South Africa, but in the early 90's migrated to London to pursue clockmaking. In London, he had the opportunity to study and restore some of the most remarkable clocks by famous 18th and 19th Century makers. Very swiftly he established himself as a go-to clock maker of  high-grade, custom made clock.

I said it last week, and I'll repeat it again- Deryck is a mechanical genius with a rare ability to see in his mind hundreds of gears and levers working in harmony and then reproduce those images and motions in clockwork. Furthermore, he makes all the components himself in his workshop from gear and pinion cutting, down to making jewels, and hand carving of ivory.

Twelve years ago, Deryck and his family migrated to Australia and set up their workshop an hour and a half south-west of Sydney. This was the biggest gift Australia could have received. Ironically, Australia is yet to discover Deryck, a humble man, focused on creating masterpieces- not self promotion.

Whilst we spent over three hours with Deryck, our main focus was on two clocks only. The first was the planetarium mentioned previously, and the second- a regulator in the style of Breguet No. 3671 currently in the British Royal Collection. Deryck describes his clock as an 'in depth analysis time-piece built in honour of Breguet's genius'.

What makes Breguet's clock so special?

A traditional clock with one pendulum could be easily set and adjusted to keep perfect time, however in the case of even the smallest disturbance it would take hours for a regulator to restore its original rate keeping.

Over 200 years ago, Breguet realised that two pendulums working in harmony, swinging in opposite directions would influence each other resulting in improved accuracy in time keeping. Also, such a system, if disturbed, would return to its original rate far quicker than a single pendulum clock. Breguet's  No. 3671 was a practical realisation of the theory behind two synchronised pendulums. After his death, his Double-Pendulum Resonance Clock was acquired by King George IV, one of his long term admirers, in 1825, and to this day, it remains an inspiration to every clockmaker trying to create a masterpiece of their own. Deryck's double pendulum regulator not only pays homage to Breguet, but features three distinctive solutions that elevates the original design to the next level.

Aesthetically, Deryck's clock displays the finest workmanship one would only expect from the most skilled craftsman. With a case of flame mahogany, and fully french polished with true mercury gilded mouldings standing two metres tall, Buchanan No. 5 is a very complex, very refined, and technically impressive scientific instrument which would be appreciated by any sophisticated horologist. The No.5 was completely built in Australia and arguably this is the finest Australian made clock of all time.

While over the decades a number of clockmakers have attempted to create a 'tribute to Breguet's clock', arguably only Deryck has lived up to the challenge. It goes without saying that the acquisition of Buchanan No. 5 should be on a list of priority cultural pieces for the Australian Government to attain. It would be an irreversible loss if the clock was ever to leave Australia. Personally, I am not in a position to acquire the clock due to current commitments to manufacturing project but otherwise it would be an honour to call myself the first guardian of Deryck Noakes' regulator. Even partial ownership in a syndicate would be quite a special pleasure if it means keeping the clock in Australia.

If you are wondering why there are no photos of Deryck and his sons, I am respecting his wish to not publish any pictures of them.

To be continued...

(For further reading, please see the following link for more information on King George IV's collection of Breguet timepieces: