The Art of Knife Craft: Messermacher Kappeller

11 Dec 2020
5 min read
Richard Kappeller brings unwavering passion and superb skill to his craft of producing high-quality, eye-catching knives. Since founding his business Messermacher Kappeller in Salzburg, Austria in 2002, he has continued his dream of bringing his love of knife making to life, providing beautiful and durable knives for all customers’ needs. FOUR sits down with Richard to find out more…

Can you give us a brief overview of Messermacher Kappeller and its founding story?

Knifemaking is a passion I fell for when I was very young. My parents insisted I graduate from a wood technological college near Salzburg, but the moment I turned 18, I founded the Messermacher knifemaker company. I am proud that today, after 18 years, my business is well-known for its unique, handcrafted pieces. My team has grown over the years and my knives are now sold in two Messermacher flagship stores in Salzburg and Vienna, as well as online through our website.

My philosophy is guided by my love for the elegance of knives, no matter what their use is. To underline this elegance I use engravings, filework and precious stones. As for my preferred design, I like the idea of bringing customers’ requests to life.

Can you give us an overview of your products?

Our production has a wide range. The Cuisine knives are specially crafted to make cooking and kitchen preparation a breeze, and include specific blade types and sizes best suited for different culinary applications such as the Santoku, Sax and steak knives, as well as Chef de Cuisine sets and the Red Dot awarded Amenite cutlery. We also make a beautiful variety of Everyday Companions, such as allrounder and office knives.

For those with a more adventurous spirit, Messermacher also crafts specialized Outdoor and Hunting knives. From the Joe Vogel survival knife to the compact and sturdy Termite knife, Corvus knife for mountain climbing and Liner Lock and Slip Joint folding knives, each one is produced to the highest quality levels in order to guarantee durability while exposed to the elements. The array of Hunt knives are also made to expert standards, and have been been carefully designed and produced to ensure the optimum cutting and slicing abilities. The hunting range includes Falcon daggers and Knicker, Skinner and Gut knives.

In addition to these knives, we are also able to custom manufacture anything and everything that our clients need.

What makes your products stand out in comparison to other knife brands?

A combination of exclusive base material and the choice of hundreds of handle materials gives room for creativity. We also work with personal handle materials – e.g. a piece of the tree you used to climb when you were little or the crown antler of your last hunting trip. We once handcrafted a wonderful knife for cutting the umbilical cord – that was very special!

What is the history behind the design and production of the knives? Is it a traditional method that has been passed down over generations, or is it a new method that undergoes constant innovation?

Tradition today lies mostly in the outline of our knives. Historical knife forms are maintained but can be interpreted in a completely new way. 3D printing, CAD design and CNC mill are married with traditional techniques, while materials like precious woods, horn or mammoth ivory can be replaced by innovative materials like Titanium, Raffir or Micarta – thus developing the art of knifemaking even further.

Can you tell us more about the production process from conception to execution and how this results in a top-quality product – especially since the knives are hand-crafted in-house?

We can guarantee exceptional quality as our core team works hand in hand at our Salzburg workshop. From design to handcraft, the whole production can be surveilled.

What materials are used to craft the knives and how do these make the knives superior?

We only use specially selected steel. For our standard blades we use high-tenacity tool steel to ensure the optimal edge holding ability and sharpness according to use. For our more exclusive knives, we use Damascus steel for its high edge-holding ability and high flexibility. Each one of these knives is a very unique masterpiece, because much like a finger print, no two pieces of Damascus steel are alike.

For construction of the handles, we use hundreds of different materials, and this wide selection makes our knives very desirable. From high-tech material like Raffir, Micarta, titanium and carbon to natural materials like precious wood, horn, abalone, coral, amber, jade or rare and exclusive mammoth ivory, if you think of it, we can make a knife handle out of it. For the more delicate or porous materials (e.g. poplar or coral) we stabilize them first to increase their strength and durability.

You have some special collections – can you tell us more about these and what makes them unique?

Our “Zunftlinie” collection was designed on occasion of being awarded our own guild sign for the shop in Salzburg’s old town centre in 2016 and is thus very special to us. This collection consists of 3 models, namely the Traditional knife used for hunting or outdoor snacking; the hygienic and easy-to-clean, full tang Cuisine knife designed for daily kitchen use, and the Elegance knife, an elaborate piece of craftsmanship with a graceful tang.

The “Amenite” is another notable collection consisting of stainless Damascus steel cutlery. Each piece in this Red Dot awarded collection is made from a single block to reveal the distinctive beauty of Damascus steel patterns.

What is your favourite Messermacher Kappeller knife and why?

My favorite knife is a small integral knife with an exquisite handle made out of Yowah Nut Opal that I once designed for the shop – but couldn’t part with.

Can customers custom-design their own unique knives with you? If so, how does this work?

Yes, there are various possibilities for custom designing your knife. You can talk to us personally about the knife you want to have, letting us know what purpose you would like it to serve and what it should look like – perhaps you have a special piece of wood or horn you would like as handle material for your personal knife.

On the Messermacher website there is also an online knife-configurator where you can design your own knife in five easy steps by choosing from our wide material range. Once you are content, just send the result to our workshop and your design will be handcrafted and delivered to your home.

If you want to give your knife an even more personal touch, you can handcraft your own knife in one of our in-house workshops. In just two days time you will learn how to work on steel, cut and polish a blade, design and finish a handle and sharpen your knife professionally – all under the guidance of our expert workshop team.

Tell us about some of your awards?

Our Damascus steel Amenite cutlery was lauded with a Red Dot Award in 2019 and Messermacher has also received the Salzburg Award for outstanding craftsmanship. Furthermore, various of our knives have been recognized as “Knife of the Year” in different categories including Cuisine, Fixed Blade Knife and Folding Knife at the Messermagazin & International Knife Fair in Solingen, Germany.

What’s next for Messermacher Kappeller, any new projects on the horizon?

At the moment my focus is on trying out new materials and new knife shapes. I am currently working on barber knives and on refining jack knife mechanisms. Apart from spreading the joy of knife-making at our inhouse-seminars, I have a dream: renovating an old castle and transforming it into a perfect seminar location – restaurant and rooms to stay included.

To find out more, visit Messermacher Kappeller’s website and follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest

You can also visit the Messermacher Kappeller flagship stores in Austria at Getreidegasse 25 in Salzburg and Rauhensteingasse 5 in Vienna.