Cheese Knife by Paul Garrett. Photo Courtesy of Smoky Mountain Ironware.

Paul Garrett is the Folk School’s Resident Artist in Blacksmithing. Our Craft Shop is currently featuring his collection of hand-forged culinary tools, so I thought I would check-in with Paul to find out more about his work and also how he’s doing during the current pandemic. Paul is a full-time artist-blacksmith who has been working with metal since 1978. He is owner/operator of Ironwood Forge and Smoky Mountain Ironware and has experience in projects ranging from architectural to functional to artistic. Enjoy our conversation!

Paul at the Instructor’s Forge in the Clay Spencer Blacksmith Shop

CP: Are you able to work in your shop on campus right now? 

PG: I am able to work in the shop, it’s pretty isolated there and not many folks are on campus. It feels good to swing a hammer and I am catching up on things.

CP: What are you making in your shop these days?

PG: I’ve been working on some custom fire place door sets and screens. I’ve also been doing repair work and new product development.

CP: Your collection of culinary tools includes a bottle opener, a cheese knife, and herb knife, and skewers. How did you come up with the idea for the collection?

PG: Most of my ideas come from people. Customers always have good suggestions.

Every blacksmith has their version of the bottle opener. I developed my own shape over the years and the form was definitely inspired by Matt Jenkins. The cheese knife came to me in a moment of creativity when sketching. The herb cutter is an old design. I developed it for my collection when the folks at the Craft Shop requested it. People appreciate high quality handmade ironware.

Herb Cutter by Paul Garrett. Photo Courtesy of Smoky Mountain Ironware.

CP: Is there one tool that is most popular? 

PG: Probably the cheese knife. It’s an original shape, but based off an old design.

CP: What is your favorite cheese?

PG: Smoked gouda!

CP: Do folks need to do anything in particular to care for the ironware pieces in the kitchen?

PG: It’s easy to take care of. You treat it like cast iron, but a little soap is also fine. If you see a rust spot on it, just take one of those green Scotch-Brite pads and knock the rust off. Then you can give it a light coat of oil. I use mineral oil

CP: Any closing words? Or words of encouragement for our folk school audience?

PG: I am trying to be an optimist during the weird times we are going through. I limit my exposure to the news, but I am still trying to be informed. It’s important to be willing to listen and stay in touch with one another. We’ll eventually get back together again at the Folk School. We have to get through this. There’s no other way. So, let’s stand tall and keep our chins up until we can all meet again.


Paul Garrett’s Culinary Collection at the Folk School Craft Shop


The Bottle Opener

Ever since the bottle cap was introduced in 1892 - known then as the crown cork – people have been manufacturing all manner of ingenious and clever ways to pop a top and get at the beverage.

To us, the simplest is always the best, and our hand-forged bottle openers are just that. They have just the right feel in the palm of your hand, and are sturdy without being bulky. We recommend arriving at the next cookout or dinner party with an extra one for the host, and always, keep one for yourself.  Forged Steel 5″

The Herb Chopper

We all love fresh herbs in our cooking, even more so if they came out of our own garden. They just make the food taste better. How we prepare it matters too. Using our Grandmother’s cookie  cutters and rolling pin around the holidays, or her old cast iron skillet every morning, gives us a comfort that’s bound to affect the taste of our food as well.

What better way to continue these traditions than by starting new ones of our own. Our hand forged Herb Choppers are hand made with the same care as Grandma’s pies, and will last for generations. With their beautiful design, they will feel as comfortable to use in the next lifetime as they do now.   3.5″w x 4.5″ h

The Cheese Knife

The cheese tray is often the center piece of the hors d’oeuvres table at an event or a dinner party. Why not set your presentation off with one of our elegant cheese knives. Designed and made by us, it curls into the hand with style, and is a pleasure to hold and to use.

Good for most types of cheeses, this hand forged knife will be a tasteful statement at your next social, and would be the ideal gift for the cheese lovers on your list.
Forged Steel Approx. 6.5″ long

Descriptions Courtesy of Smoky Mountain Ironware.

Call the Folk School at 800-365-5724, ext. 125 or 828-837-2775 to order by phone.

Upcoming Classes

Arts & Craft Ironwork

February 21–27, 2021

Expand your skills as a blacksmith while immersing in the timeless elegance of Arts and Crafts ironwork. Learn traditional and contemporary techniques of forging, joining, and finishing metals to create strong, simple, and functional designs based on those of the masters like Roycroft, Stickley, and others. Make items such as door knockers, candlesticks, coat racks, or drawer pulls. Gain professional shop knowledge, resources, and insight in this intermediate to advanced class. Basic blacksmithing skills are required.

Learn more.

Developing Good Habits

June 11–13, 2021

As with any new endeavor, it’s important to develop good habits early to ensure the maximum benefit. Explore foundational techniques of forging, including drawing-out, upsetting, twisting, splitting, and more. Focus on ergonomic and safe work methods, and use your newfound knowledge to make useful and decorative items in an energetic weekend. Only moderate strength is needed, along with the desire to try blacksmithing or brush up on current skills.

Learn more.

Cory Marie Podielski
About Cory Marie Podielski

Cory Marie Podielski is a freelance graphic designer, photographer, and writer for the John C. Campbell Folk School. She has been writing for the Folk School Blog since 2012 and enjoys interviewing artists, musicians, and craftspeople. In her spare time, she enjoys playing the banjo, dancing, printmaking, playing in clay, and assisting in Folk School bread baking classes.