The abandoned canisters of Britain’s second most popular narcotic, laughing gas, clutter parks, roadsides, and city centers, causing misery to many communities. But one blacksmith has come up with a novel way to utilize them: he’s turned them into handcrafted kitchen knives.
Because of the widespread use of the canisters, several local governments have enacted local restrictions, while the home secretary is pushing for a countrywide ban. However, after being backed by chefs devoted to minimum waste, Tim Westley’s handcrafted kitchen blades are garnering a cult following among ecologically concerned diners.
Westley knives are selling in record speed on his website, Clement Knives, after pledging to produce at least two-thirds of his blades from empty “nos” canisters. “I usually make five a week, and when they go up on the site, there’s a rush to buy them, especially around the holidays.”
This week, it took just two or three minutes for them all to go,” he claimed.
“I’d like to believe that customers buy them because they like the zero-waste concept rather than because they simply want a knife.”
Last year, Westley, a former artist-in-residence at the London Museum of Water & Steam, relocated his forge to south-west Scotland. He’s always been dedicated to producing knives out of repurposed materials, such as metal dredged from canals using magnets.
Then, while out walking with his dog, Mayday, he grew concerned about the sight of strewn canister mounds, fearing that they may cause bikers to slide.
Westley was challenged by his friend Douglas McMaster, the creator of Silo, the UK’s first zero-waste restaurant, to recycle the canisters into blades last year. Westley has committed to solely utilize recycled canisters for all of his blades as a consequence of the experiment’s success. He utilizes recyclable plastic for the handles.
Nitrous oxide, sometimes known as laughing gas, is the second most popular drug among 16- to 24-year-olds, behind cannabis, according to Home Office statistics.
The government is considering making possessing laughing gas a criminal offense. However, the drug advocacy group Release has warned against criminalizing what is a reasonably harmless narcotic when used in moderation.
However, everyone agrees that the popularity of laughing gas has resulted in an unsightly trash issue. Westley is employing old blacksmithing processes to help eliminate this new type of trash.
He utilizes ten canisters for a normal 210mm blade, a technique he describes as “laborious but worthwhile.” He uses an angle grinder to chop off the edges of the canisters before opening and flattening them with a hammer on an anvil.
The flattened soft steel pieces are then forge welded to the sharpened edge, which is made of a tougher carbon steel. “It’s called San Mai, and it’s been used by Japanese knife makers for years,” Westley said.
They employ two soft steel layers in the center, with a firm steel layer in the centre. The only variation is that for the mild steel, I use nos canisters. It employs an old approach to solve a contemporary issue.”
“It’s more work, but it’s worth it,” he said, “because we should be using more of the materials we already have.” My knives are equally as excellent, if not better, than those manufactured using common materials. There is no waste since there are no industrial operations involved.”
In fact, according to Westley, the knives consume more garbage than they generate. The worn sanding belts used for cleaning the blades are transformed into plant pots, while the steel off-cuts are sold to a scrap metal broker.
McMaster received Westley’s first nos canister knife, and he has been providing his restaurant with knives ever since. Despite the scruffy look given by the repurposed materials used, McMaster stated they were equivalent to any knife he has used.
Westley’s knives are also being used by his chef colleagues at the low-waste London pizzeria Crate, and McMaster plans to include Westley’s knives on his Zero Waste Cooking School YouTube channel.