The "K" Word

Kailash Blades would be nothing without its Craftsmen.

 

They perpetuate a craft that has existed for centuries and with their skills, resourcefulness and adaptability allow us to run our business in the unique way that we do. It gives us flexible, intimate production that enables us to deliver fully handmade, characterful knives to customers and foster the connection between user, process and creator.

 

Nepalese Blacksmiths typically begin their careers working under one of their elder relatives, as apprentices working menial tasks such as making Karda or cutting the initial sheet spring to size for working.

From here they learn how to make an entire knife from start to finish and take responsibility for every step of production, something very far removed from the western concept of the production line.

 

It is much more accurate to think of Nepalese Blacksmiths as individual craftsmen producing standardised designs than to think of them as factory workers in the Western sense.
While they may eventually specialise in making a specific style of khukuri like a sirupate, or even a specific model such as the British Service Issue, they retain the skillset needed to more or less function as a One Man Factory.

 

While a Nepalese Blacksmith may be responsible for every step in their knife's production it doesn't mean that they work alone. Workshops can hold merely a Blacksmith and their apprentice in an isolated village or as many as 16 in industrial areas like Kathmandu or Dharan.
In situations like the initial hot-cutting of the stock from the leaf spring or the actual forging process, they work in teams, with two other smiths wielding sledgehammers acting as strikers while the main Blacksmith positions the knife against the anvil and directs the blows to shape the knife as close to the final form as possible to save as much material and time on the grinder as possible.  He also controls the amount of heat put into the knife from the coal fired furnaces and puts the knife through normalisation cycles to relieve stresses from the forging process.

After this, the knives have their profiles edges and occasionally tangs ground to the correct shape on large rough bench grinders and any engravings are hammered in by hand. These designs range from a simple single chirra or line to a full decorative scene which is then filled with brass.  The knife is then differentially oil quenched, resulting in a very hard edge and a durable and malleable spine, quickly adjusted for straightness then tempered in a kiln to finish off the heat treat.

We also offer a traditional water based heat treat, which you can read about in our Traditional Design info section.

If the knife is rat tail, from here it is burned into the wood or buffalo horn handle block to fit then carved to shape using the blade itself. It's then refined and sanded and smoothed before any hardware at the bolster or butt is added  and it is finally peened over to hold the entire construction together soundly.

 

If the Knife is Panawal or Full tang in construction, the handle scales are cut from a single block and flattened against a grinding wheel before being pinned in place. Unlike western methods, the entire pinned handle is shaped carved and sanded while still attached to the spine using knives, files and sanding wheels.

The knife is then given it's final grind,  and finished using progressively finer grits on a grinding wheel before finally being polished against a buffing wheel. The final stage is sharpening, which is completed using a rough file along one side of the knife until a burr is formed, then it is cut away more gently on the opposite side, repeated with exactly the same angle with less and less force until the burr is undetectable. From here the blade is given a final honing against a wet riverstone before being packed and sent to the customer.

Clearly, Nepalese Blacksmiths are incredibly skilled and talented craftsmen, but they have historically been underappreciated by mainstream Nepalese society.

Kailash Blades would be nothing without its Craftsmen.

 

They perpetuate a craft that has existed for centuries and with their skills, resourcefulness and adaptability allow us to run our business in the unique way that we do. It gives us flexible, intimate production that enables us to deliver fully handmade, characterful knives to customers and foster the connection between user, process and creator.

 

Nepalese Blacksmiths typically begin their careers working under one of their elder relatives, as apprentices working menial tasks such as making Karda or cutting the initial sheet spring to size for working.
From here they learn how to make an entire knife from start to finish and take responsibility for every step of production, something very far removed from the western concept of the production line.

It is much more accurate to think of Nepalese Blacksmiths as individual craftsmen producing standardised designs than to think of them as factory workers in the Western sense. While they may eventually specialise in making a specific style of khukuri like a sirupate, or even a specific model such as the British Service Issue, they retain the skillset needed to more or less function as a One Man Factory.

While a Craftsman may be responsible for every step in their knife's production it doesn't mean that they work alone. Workshops can hold merely one smith and their apprentice in an isolated village or as many as 16 in industrial areas like Kathmandu or Dharan.
In situations like the initial hot-cutting of the stock from the leaf spring or the actual forging process, they work in teams, with two other Blacksmiths wielding sledgehammers acting as strikers while the main smith positions the knife against the anvil and directs the blows to shape the knife as close to the final form as possible to save as much material and time on the grinder as possible.  He also controls the amount of heat put into the knife from the coal fired furnaces and puts the knife through normalisation cycles to relieve stresses from the forging process.
After this, the knives have their profiles edges and occasionally tangs ground to the correct shape on large rough bench grinders and any engravings are hammered in by hand. These designs range from a simple single chirra or line to a full decorative scene which is then filled with brass.  The knife is then differentially oil quenched, resulting in a very hard edge and a durable and malleable spine, quickly adjusted for straightness then tempered in a kiln to finish off the heat treat.

We also offer a traditional water based heat treat, which you can read about in our Traditional Design info section.

upright kami

If the knife is rat tail, from here it is burned into the wood or buffalo horn handle block to fit then carved to shape using the blade itself. It's then refined and sanded and smoothed before any hardware at the bolster or butt is added  and it is finally peened over to hold the entire construction together soundly.

 

If the Knife is Panawal or Full tang in construction, the handle scales are cut from a single block and flattened against a grinding wheel before being pinned in place. Unlike western methods, the entire pinned handle is shaped carved and sanded while still attached to the spine using knives, files and sanding wheels.
 
The knife is then given it's final grind,  and finished using progressively finer grits on a grinding wheel before finally being polished against a buffing wheel. The final stage is sharpening, which is completed using a rough file along one side of the knife until a burr is formed, then it is cut away more gently on the opposite side, repeated with exactly the same angle with less and less force until the burr is undetectable. From here the blade is given a final honing against a wet riverstone before being packed and sent to the customer.
 
Clearly, Kamis are incredibly skilled and talented craftsmen, but they have historically been underappreciated by mainstream Nepalese society.

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The name "Kami" comes from the Nepalese word for Worker or Maker and is in fact not just the Nepalese word for Blacksmith but is instead the name for an entire ethnicity and class group within the Hindu Caste system.This caste are primarily blacksmiths and goldsmiths and are believed to have descended from the deity Viswakarma, who is the personification of creation itself.

While outside Nepal the word is a purely positive word that conjures up images of hard working, elite craftsmen for whom their work is their life, inside Nepal it's another situation entirely.

Within the Hindu Caste system, the Kamis occupy a particularly low rung with some even classifying as Untouchables, a sector of society that is very heavily ostracised and discriminated against by the upper castes which view them as "impure". Your caste is passed on through your family and last name which in turn determines what you do for work, who you marry and the education you have access to.

Nowadays the Hindu Caste system and discrimination based on it has been outlawed, but the disadvantage and damage caused by it still lives on, whether it be in the continued lack of social mobility for lower classes or simply a change in the way somebody speaks to you once they hear your last name.

Kailash Blades was established in part as a response to this inequality.

As legislation and social Attitudes have opened up, the attitudes and business practices of a lot of employers have clamped even tighter, as these structures that have facilitated their exploitation are being swept out underneath them. Employers often lend their staff money to pay off debts, only to later force them to work at a reduced rate of pay to recoup their money, drastically affecting the worker's families. They have control over the supply of work, while the Blacksmiths have no alternative but to take what they can. Employers use this leverage to force them to work at even lower rates and in worse conditions.

In the west, the word "Kami" has become a standard term for Nepalese Blacksmiths because of its widespread use by manufacturers. However, in Nepal itself you would only ever call someone a Kami behind their back as it carries so much weight as a word, simultaneously asserting someone else as inferior to you, dirtier than you and worse than you, while also reminding a person of all the harship a person has gone through because of the way they were born. The blatant use of this deep slur over the years by these manufacturers highlights their true colours and the depth of their disrespect for their workforce and their heritage.

We do not abide by by this. In fact this page is the only mention of the term "Kami" you'll find on our website.

Kailash Blades has torn down the previous power structures and placed more agency into the hands of the workers. If a Blacksmith loves their work and wants to thrive in their occupation we can provide the environment and wages to give them a better quality of life than they'd get with any other employer. If they're looking to work themselves out of their profession while taking on other work, work while completing studies or upskill into a new area of the industry, we can work with them and provide them with the tools necessary to achieve their goals. Regardless of whichever path they choose, they'll be treated with the dignity and respect that They deserve.

For more information on how we do this, visit our Beliefs on People Section.

The name "Kami" comes from the Nepalese word for Worker or Maker and is in fact not just the Nepalese word for Blacksmith but is instead the name for an entire ethnicity and class group within the Hindu Caste system.

This caste are primarily blacksmiths and goldsmiths and are believed to have descended from the deity Viswakarma, who is the personification of creation itself.

 

While outside Nepal the word is a purely positive word that conjures up images of hard working, elite craftsmen for whom their work is their life, inside Nepal it's another situation entirely.

Within the Hindu Caste system, the Kamis occupy a particularly low rung with some even classifying as Untouchables, a sector of society that is very heavily ostracised and discriminated against by the upper castes which view them as "impure". Your caste is passed on through your family and last name which in turn determines what you do for work, who you marry and the education you have access to.

 

Nowadays the Hindu Caste system and discrimination based on it has been outlawed, but the disadvantage and damage caused by it still lives on, whether it be in the continued lack of social mobility for lower classes or simply a change in the way somebody speaks to you once they hear your last name.

33161895_2432107656815512_2957895155861946368_o (1)

Kailash Blades was established in part as a response to this inequality.

As legislation and social Attitudes have opened up, the attitudes and business practices of a lot of employers have clamped even tighter, as these structures that have facilitated their exploitation are being swept out underneath them. Employers often lend their staff money to pay off debts, only to later force them to work at a reduced rate of pay to recoup their money, drastically affecting the worker's families. They have control over the supply of work, while the Blacksmiths have no alternative but to take what they can. Employers use this leverage to force them to work at even lower rates and in worse conditions.

In the west, the word "Kami" has become a standard term for Nepalese Blacksmiths because of its widespread use by manufacturers. However, in Nepal itself you would only ever call someone a Kami behind their back as it carries so much weight as a word, simultaneously asserting someone else as inferior to you, dirtier than you and worse than you, while also reminding a person of all the harship a person has gone through because of the way they were born. The blatant use of this deep slur over the years by these manufacturers highlights their true colours and the depth of their disrespect for their workforce and their heritage.

We do not abide by by this. In fact this page is the only mention of the term "Kami" you'll find on our website.

Kailash Blades has torn down the previous power structures and placed more agency into the hands of the workers. If a Blacksmith loves their work and wants to thrive in their occupation we can provide the environment and wages to give them a better quality of life than they'd get with any other employer. If they're looking to work themselves out of their profession while taking on other work, work while completing studies or upskill into a new area of the industry, we can work with them and provide them with the tools necessary to achieve their goals. Regardless of whichever path they choose, they'll be treated with the dignity and respect that They deserve.

For more information on how we do this, visit our Beliefs on People Section.

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