Farmers Market spotlight: Meet Steamboat Springs knife forger Lucas Gumbiner
Editor’s note: Each Friday, Explore Steamboat will feature another unique vendor at the Main Street Steamboat Farmers Market.
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — This Saturday, 20-year-old blacksmith Lucas Gumbiner makes his Main Street Steamboat Farmers Market debut with his business Gumbiner Custom Knives.
Each of Gumbiner’s hand-built knives is forged in his Steamboat Springs barn. Many of his pieces are personally commissioned, and he’s maintained a steady five-piece-deep waitlist for more than two years.
Among Gumbiner’s list of clients is Denver chef Duy Pham, well-known for his innovative work with Foraged Restaurant and Parker Garage. Gumbiner is also set to collaborate on a project with local chef Joe Campbell, of Besame and Mambo. Campbell will be bringing a Gumbiner knife with him to his appearance as a guest chef at New York’s James Beard House in September.
At his Farmers Market stand, Gumbiner will sell various styles of knives — mostly kitchen knives — at prices ranging from $30 to nearly $1,000. He’ll also offer accessories such as keychains and bottle openers, and knife-care products including blade oil and sharpening supplies.
While Gumbiner’s Custom Knives is thriving, the business’ story began as a kind of gag.
“About three years ago, my parents wanted me to get a hobby,” Gumbiner said. “As a complete joke, I tossed the idea of me getting a forger out there, with a complete lack of belief that they would take it seriously.”
But take it seriously, they did. Soon, Gumbiner had a full-fledged forging set-up. But jokes aside, the purchase wasn’t random or careless.
Lucas had grown up helping his dad with woodworking projects and had gotten increasingly interested in the craft over the few years prior, crediting shows including “Forged by Fire,” a History Channel show that challenges four master bladesmiths to recreate various swords from throughout history, which are then tested and discussed by judges, for a $10,000 prize.
Learning to forge was no easy task for then-17-year-old Gumbiner. He spent hundreds of hours on Youtube, watching experienced blacksmiths’ processes and experimenting with the processes himself, trial and error. There aren’t many forgers to apprentice with or classes to take in Northwest Colorado, Gumbiner explained.
“(Learning myself) was hard,” Gumbiner said. “It was certainly a lot of wasted materials and time.”
What: Gumbiner Custom Knives at the Main Street Steamboat Farmers Market
When: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. June 22, July 6, July 27, Aug. 10, Aug. 17
Where: Seventh and Yampa streets
Over time, Gumbiner has gotten to know more blacksmiths — some in Denver, many more on the East Coast and in the Midwest. Though he hasn’t met up with many of them face to face, he’s able to call them up or message them with blacksmithing questions.
“Anywhere, the knife-making community is the same. It’s a fantastic community,” Gumbiner said. “They’re willing to share their information.”
Gumbiner creates a wide variety of knives, but his specialty is Japanese culinary knives.
“The process (of Japanese folded steel) is incredible,” Gumbiner said.
The process begins with 20 pieces of steel, and using heat, pressure and patience, the 20 turn it into a single piece, with watery, wavy patterns of lights and darks throughout the steel.
“You can manipulate it in an infinite number of patterns and possibilities. No piece is similar to any other in the world,” Gumbiner said.
Gumbiner’s favorite parts of the knife-making process are the forging — the heating and the hammering steel. The other parts of the process, he finds tedious. He’s a self-proclaimed “not very business-minded person” and credits friends and family with helping out his business.
And it’s all worth it.
“Once I have a knife 100% completed and in my hand, remembering all the trials and tribulations that went into it puts a smile on my face,” Gumbiner said.
In addition to Saturday, Gumbiner will also set up shop at the Farmers Market on July 6 and 27 and Aug. 10 and 17.
Find more information about Gumbiner Custom Knives at gumbinercustomknives.com.
Julia Ben-Asher is a contributing writer for Steamboat Pilot & Today.
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