A Craftsman Since Birth: Julian Kresse’s Story

A Craftsman Since Birth: Julian Kresse’s Story

Julian Kresse Forge
Julian and friends forging
This post was republished from Medium, where Noble Impact 201 scholar and teen craftsman Julian Kresse blogs about his passion for knifemaking. Follow Julian on Twitter and Instagram.

I have always been a creative child but it was not until I started karate and got to choose the katana sword as my weapon that I knew I wanted to be a blacksmith.

As a child I was always a creative. My whole life, I wanted to know how things worked. I would take broken radios apart to understand how these machines worked. Taking apart my first radio was driven by curiosity to understand how everything in the world works. I found it fascinating that something we use in everyday life is so simple to operate, yet so complex on the inside.

I also had a knack for solving puzzles that were meant for kids ages 16 and up, when I was only four years old; setting things where they needed to be; and building brick forts out of the scrap bricks that we had in our backyard — I believe these were all steps towards my interests. Having the passion to build, create, and learn these fascinations carried me to where I am now.

Julian Kresse BlacksmithNext came karate. After taking karate for 4 to 5 years, students get an opportunity to choose a weapon. The “katana” was the weapon I chose, and it’s the one that brought me to where I am now. After doing a little bit of research on the Japanese sword, I became fascinated by the beauty of the sword and the perfection of the design. Going back to my old habits, I started to learn how this amazing sword was created. I was utterly fascinated by the amount of time and skill that went into creating just one sword.

That’s how I began to understand what I desire to do: blacksmithing.

I set up a forge in my backyard and started to create items, like hooks or spatulas. Forging is the process of making or shaping an object, such as a metal object, by heating it in a fire or furnace and beating or hammering it. My forge helped me to learn the tools of blacksmithing, but the desire to make knives and swords kept ticking in my mind.

So, I started to look for homemade knives online, and this large world of custom knives was introduced to me. These people were creating wonderful pieces of art and design was wonderfully crafted and I knew this is where I belonged.

Custom Wood Handle Set
Custom wood handles done by Julian Kresse for a client’s beloved knife set
I started to spend hours working on designs, and I would even spend all of my money on knives. I would make a list of things that I liked about the knife and things I didn’t like.

I went through hundreds of designs until I started to come up with designs that I could see becoming real products. I started to forge knives and axes out of old railroad spikes. This was fun and helpful, but I was ready to start making products that were at a very close tolerance. I wanted to start to sell my creations. The only problem was before I sent something out into the world I wanted to know whatever it was, it was done to the best of my ability. Quality is important to me.

I started to save up for tools; I also started to ask everyone I knew to see if they had tools that they did not use anymore. I am starting to get a collection of small hand tools and a few cheap power tools. I am currently saving up for bigger tools like a belt grinder and a drill press. I am also learning programs like SolidWorks so I can to start to learn how to use a CNC machine.

I know I want to do this for a living. I am a craftsman, and I want to make my product be the best it can be. Hopefully my passion can flow through my designs.

A knife made by Julian Kresse
A knife made by Julian Kresse
Julian Kresse Talks Bladesmithing And Entrepreneurship

Julian Kresse Talks Bladesmithing And Entrepreneurship

This post is part of the Noble Impact Scholars Series, which highlights incredibly talented Noble Impact scholars and the work they’re pursuing.

We recently sat down with 16-year-old Julian Kresse from eStem Public Charter School. Julian has a very unique passion – bladesmithing. From a young age, he’s been involved in a martial arts practice that has exposed him to different techniques and approaches to the craft. Julian has taken initial interest and turned it in to a company through research, determination and skill.

 

NI: Hi Julian, tell us a little about yourself.

JK: I was born in Little Rock, Arkansas and have lived here my whole life. From a young age,  I was putting together puzzles and building things. I love to draw and design. When I was about 9 or 10, I started Cuong Nhu, a martial arts style. This completely changed my life for the better. I lost a lot of weight and became  more confident in myself. When I was 11, I went to Italy for a year with my family. When I got back I continued Cuong Nhu. I was going everyday and then later started to take Kickboxing and Tai Chi. In Cuong Nhu, we started using weapons. I studied how these weapons were made, and fell in love with the craft.

 

NI: We heard you have significant side hustle called bladesmithing. How did that happen?

JK: I started studying bladesmithing because of Cuong Nhu and became interested in different techniques and approaches.

The idea for my business came from a life of always working with dull knives. I started thinking about a way to sharpen knives more effectively. I was familiar with the traditional Japanese methods of sharpening with a water stone, but I wanted to make sure my knives were precisely honed and sharpened. I looked around for a high quality sharpener. The best one I could find was something called an “Edge Pro”, but it $600 – $700. Then one fateful day, I found one for $5 at an estate sale.

 

NI: What’s one piece of advice you would give to someone who has a passion, but doesn’t know what to do with it?

JK: One piece of advice that I’d give someone that has a passion but doesn’t know what to do with it, would be to study their passion as much as possible. Find other people that have the same passion and see what they are doing with theirs. The more people they meet with the same passion, the more friends and connections gained.

 

NI: What is the number one piece of advice you would give to other young entrepreneurs who want to start their own thing?

JK: You have to have the grit and self-control that comes with being your own boss. It’s up to you if you give up or not. It’s up to you to goof around or get down to business. Starting your own business is not easy there will be hard times that you think you will give up but you have to stay strong and see your idea through.