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The pointy end of starting a small business


“What I'm trying to achieve is getting people to connect with food and cooking again.” - Tobi Bockholt

Pic: One of Metal Monkey Knives' custom pieces

How many of us are guilty of being disconnected from our food? We arrive at a restaurant knowing what we’ll order after having already pored over its menu online. We know the best seat in the house from scrolling through the restaurant’s geo-tag on Instagram and we spend most of the time waiting for our meals, looking at our phones.


Teacher-turned-artist, Tobi Bockholt believes we spend so much time sitting in front of screens, we create nothing but data.


Tobi, who is passionate about food and cooking has always been interested in handiwork, particularly steelworks. After becoming frustrated with the knives in his block at home and shocked by the price-point of buying a new commercial knife, began restoring old chef knives about five years ago.


After some practice, Tobi started forging his own blades in order to create a custom piece better suited to his style and needs. “It was a lot of trial and error because you only get better as you do it,” he says. “I'm now about 500-600 knives in which is quite an achievement over a reasonably short amount of time.”


As Tobi’s skills as a bladesmith improved, he started getting orders from family and friends for their own custom knives. Eventually, he created Metal Monkey Knives as a second job alongside his teaching career. “What I'm trying to achieve is getting people to connect with food and cooking again,” he says.


Tobi admits while improving his craft every day, he struggled with the business-side of selling his knives but having support from his local artist community helped. “There are a lot of other people in the same boat as I am now who were able to give me some really good advice,” he says.


Although he is currently juggling his business with a full-time teaching career, Tobi hopes to transition to running the business full-time soon, with a move down south also in his plans. “My partner and I are currently living on the Victorian Coast in Torquay which is quite an expensive area to live,” Tobi explains. “Living just off knife-making would be a struggle so we purchased a piece of land in Tasmania and are currently converting an old school bus into a tiny home for us to live in down there.”


Tobi credits social media, particularly Instagram as a major source of traffic for his business. “Your physical location is reasonably irrelevant now. Maybe five per cent of my business is coming locally; the rest is through the internet,” he says.


Through sharing his craft online, Metal Monkey Knives has attracted customers from Europe, Russia and America – a key market for Tobi. “There are a couple of specialist knife shops in America which have had interest in my knives but they wanted quantities that I just can't do as yet,” he says.


While a second set of hands would help Tobi meet customer demand, his knife making will remain a solo project for the moment. “If I'm conceptualising something and give it away to someone else, it might not come back the way that I wanted it to be,” he says. “I have to do everything by myself but it just means my knives are more of a boutique item.”


Combining his love of bladesmithing and his background in teaching, Tobi now runs a two-day knife making course. “People don’t necessarily want to just buy a product; they want to have an experience and something that connects them with it,” he says.


Learn more about Metal Monkey Knives or follow them on Instagram.



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