There’s probably no other tool that we use that combines universal functionality with craftsmanship and beauty as much as a knife does.
We use knives for everything from cutting rope to carving works of art, all the while being a work of art themselves.
Scott Laughlin, the owner of Sandstorm Custom Knives, makes his living crafting handmade knives and he lives by the philosophy that “Life is too short to carry an ugly knife.”
That’s the slogan on Sandstorm Custom Knives’ website where Laughlin points out that knives are one of mankind’s earliest tools. From the Stone Age to today, everyone uses knives every day. They also live on in our legends from the historical Samurai swords of Japan to the mystical sword in the stone.
Scott Laughlin and his wife Holly run Sandstorm Custom Knives and Sharpening where they sell a variety of handmade knives.
Knives are a tool that are more effective the higher the quality of the materials and craftsmanship involved in their making. Most of today’s mass-produced knives fit your hand badly, have poor fit and finish and can’t stand up to real work in the outdoors, Laughlin says.
Laughlin says his mission is to build the best knives for every purpose. He builds them from the handle out, which ensures the most comfortable grip possible before he even designs the blade.
“My passion is to create knives that are as beautiful as they are functional,” Laughlin says. “Knives that perform superbly, balance naturally in your hands – knives that you are proud to pass on to others.”
And Laughlin is recognized for the quality of his work. Sandstorm Custom Knives not only makes custom knives for many purposes but it also sharpens just about any tool that has an edge. And it’s funny what people come to appreciate and the lengths they’ll go for quality work. Sandstorm’s sharpening service has attracted customers from the mainland because getting the job done right is that important to them.
“We’ve even had a couple come from Vancouver, purposefully, to have their knives sharpened by us,” Laughlin says.
Other happy customers are involved in the food processing industry, the sportsfishing industry and even education. A culinary teacher in one of the local high schools brought in for sharpening all of the knives used in her classes.
It’s all done in a small workshop that Laughlin admits is “getting a bit tight” and a small storefront in Campbellton between Associated Tire and the Campbell River Lodge where Sandstorm custom knives are sold. It’s also where you can drop off your blades for sharpening.
Sandstorm has been operating in Campbell River for two-and-a-half years but Laughlin has been a knifemaker for 31 years. He got into the craft when he was 17 and was given a little wooden-handled knife with a plastic sheath and no guard on it. He wasn’t thinking one day and stuck the knife into a dock and his hand slipped down the knife onto the blade.
“Cut my fingers pretty bad,” Laughlin says. “I thought, ‘There’s got to be a better knife out there and a better way of making them.’”
What followed was “a whole lot of what not to do,” as he taught himself how to make knives.
“I made a few that were passable and one that I was proud of,” Laughlin says.
When he moved to Courtenay, he met Jamie Hipwell, a part-time knife-maker, full-time autobody mechanic.
“He kind of taught me how to hollow-grind knives,” Laughlin said.
Eventually he learned to perfect the techniques he was taught and received kudos from his teacher. And now the student has become the teacher.
For years Laughlin did knifemaking as a sideline business that supplemented the tree topping and falling that he did as a main job. Eventually, he decided to try his hand at knifemaking as a full time business.
Now he and his wife of eight years, Holly, work the business as a team. Laughlin says Holly calls it a one-man business but he says it’s a two-person operation with her fronting the sales end and he’s the maker.
“I couldn’t do this without her, I tell ya,” Laughlin says.
It hasn’t taken long for his knives to become known far and wide. It began with places like the Pier Street Market in Campbell River and has spread to clientele all over the world. Laughlin says it is a good feeling knowing his knives are literally being used in every corner of the globe.
A particular specialty of Laughlin’s is his fillet knives, after all, Campbell River calls itself the Salmon Capital of the World and so people who come here to fish often discover his knives and take them away. They make cleaning fish a joy.
But Sandstorm also makes everything from high quality kitchen knives to hunting knives and pocket knives.
“I basically make anything from little hunting knives all the way up to Samurai swords,” Laughlin says.
All his knives come with free sharpening and lifetime guarantees. If you want one though, be sure to order early. It takes time to hand make a knife.
For more information, visit www.sandstormknives.com.