Monday, November 30, 2020

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Blade Runner


Knifesmith John Ftizen totes a lethal armory of his art. Right: Bowie and  “Frankenstein” knives. Photo by Adam Finkle.

The moment you see John Fitzen, you know this is a guy from another time and place. A time when people shunned lawyers and courts and settled disputes with Bowie knives. A place where Rob Roy or keelboatman Mike Fink would feel right at home.

“Everybody knows me—that guy with the kilt and knives,” shrugs Fitzen, who is built like a tallish dwarf.

That’s the least of Fitzen’s visual impact. Take the accessories. His right hand sports at least three skull rings, plus a skull-motif bracelet; on his left, a couple of Iron Crosses and a knife-fighting wrist band of thick elephant hide.

Fitzen is proud of being a throwback—a master knifesmith who hand-forges Damascus blades that shimmer like a contour map of iron and steel. “It’s my art,” Fitzen says.

It’s an ancient decorative art that requires engraving, wax castings of brass, silver and gold for pommels and elephant ivory (salvaged from old tchotchkes) for handles.

In the folds and recesses of his leather kilt, Fitzen carries a foot-long fighting knife—beautiful in its ferocity, a stubby all-purpose “rhinoceros” blade, a slab-like “Mini Bully” folding knife—and, after rooting around, he dredges up a Goth-black Swiss Army knife, complete with corkscrew.

But Fitzen isn’t a Luddite. Like Indiana Jones, he knows what happens to the guy who brings a knife to a gun fight. Reaching behind his back, Fitzen unholsters an engraved semi-auto pistol. Its slide gleams with dark waves of Damascus steel. If Highlander should happen to appear in Salt Lake, he’ll claim this .45 as his own.

In the unlikely event the .45 jams, Fitzen is packing two stainless-steel .22 magnum derringers and a taser rides on his left hip. On the back of his belt is a telescoping fighting baton.

In all, Fitzen walks around with 13 pounds of fighting steel, and that’s not counting a skull-chain attached to his wallet that could double as a nasty mace.

“I’m not paranoid,” he says, explaining that his personal armory is simply a mobile sample case. “It sells knives for me. People ask me ‘Why do you carry all that?’ By the time I explain it, I end up selling stuff.”

In a Salt Lake shop, Fitzen makes his blades by hand, folding, forging and refolding up to 600 layers of iron and high-carbon steel into feathery layers for strength and a superb edge. His Skull Knives line sell for $200 upwards to $10,000, which makes sense when he shows you a blade forged from an alloy that contains nickel steel from a meteorite.

Above all, Fitzen is a master of sharpening blades—which, as the growing subculture of knife connoisseurs and collectors will tell you, is as important as the blade itself.

“I’m really known for my edges,” Fitzen says, as he sharpens a blade in his cave-like shop. “I get knives sent to me from all over the world to sharpen.”

Fitzen’s business is supported by a convergence of subcultures, including a growing demographic of young guys who are fascinated by blade lore, history and knife combat. They tend to gravitate toward Fitzen’s Bowies (a nasty weapon made famous by Texas legend Jim Bowie) and “Frankenstein” knives (a brutal blade that incorporates bolts reminiscent of the ones in the monster’s neck). Survivalists embrace Bowies as a basic tool: “These knives are like a Roman short sword. You can do anything with these knives—chop a tree down or shave with them,” Fitzen explains.

Another knife market is in the geekdom of Goth and fantasy addicts, who are drawn to the dark glamour of Fitzen’s art. He creates functional beauty that will eviscerate an orc or saber open a champagne bottle.

“A guy came in who said, ‘I’m the King of the Elves. I want to commission a sword from you,’” Fitzen recalls. “I said, sure. Unfortunately, I later found out he didn’t have the elvish magic to pay for it.”

Click here to visit his business, Skull Knives & The Razor’s Edge, online.

WEB EXTRA>>>Watch our video of Fitzen at work.

Next>>>Shoshone teens create a video game to save their language.

Back>>>Read other stories from our December 2013 issue.

Mark your calendars! Our 12 Days of Giveaways starts Dec 1! ✨⁠

With giveaway items from local businesses such as @gotbeautydotcom, @woodhouseholladay, @cactusandtropicals and many more, you won't want to miss this! 🎁⁠

Here's the idea: ⁠
⭐ Tag a friend on our giveaway post who you believe should win the giveaway item! The person you tag is then entered to win! (Friends can tag one another) 💑⁠
⭐ Be sure to follow us (@slmag) and the giveaway provider on insta! ⁠
⭐ Entry deadline will be at 10PM. The winner will be announced at 11:59PM and a new prize will be posted at 8AM each day. ⁠

#giveaways #win #contest #christmas #gift #holiday #12daysofgiveaways #slmag

A holiday letter from our editor, Mary Brown Malouf:⁠

"It’s the season for celebration. And let’s face it—it was a bad year for cheer. Nevertheless, though masked and socially distanced, we will join together again this year in love and joy for one another. We will clink glasses, feast, toast to a better future and enjoy what we have, taking care to live in the moment. Remembering the good times in the midst of the not-so-good and pledging to support one another."⁠

Have a wonderful and safe holiday. Cheers! 🥂⁠

To read the full letter, go to the link in bio.

Happy Friday! We all know the best way to celebrate the end of the week is with a cocktail 😉! ⁠

🍸 And our next highlighted cocktail is the perfect way to start your weekend. @alibislc's 'Far From The Tree' by Clif Reagle:⁠

1.5 oz. @shdistillery Bourbon⁠
1.5 oz. Utah Honey and Akane Apple Shrub⁠
.25+ oz. @waterpocketdistillery Snow Angel .25 oz. lemon juice⁠
Barspoon of simple syrup⁠
2 dashes Regans Orange Bitters⁠
Combine in shaker over ice, shake and strain into a footed glass. Serve with dried apple garnish.⁠

“My goal for this drink was to make it with as many local ingredients as possible,” says Reagle, “and seeing as the farm scene is pretty quiet in November I decided to go with a classic method of fruit preservation: the shrub.⁠

VOTE VOTE VOTE AWAY! Grab our magazine, grab a cocktail (or make it yourself) and get voting. Cheers!🥂⁠

Link in bio to vote and learn more about Clif Reagle!

Yes. Thanksgiving is going to be different this year. So instead of stressing out to prepare a meal, help support local restaurants who need our love this Thanksgiving. 🦃⁠

Restaurants are doing what they can to make this Thanksgiving seamless for us. With offerings of curbside pick up, meal kits, and even delivery, ordering out this Thanksgiving seems like a no-brainer.⁠

Oh and did we mention no family-sized mess to clean up afterward? That’s a win-win in our book. 😉 Check the link in bio for full list of restaurants. 🍽️

Don't forget to vote in our 2020 Cocktail Contest!! 🍸🍹🥂⁠

Our next highlighted coktail is @thecopperonion's “Not Today Satan” by Frank Mealy:⁠

1.5 oz. @shdistillery Bourbon⁠
1.5 oz. pear shrub (Champagne Vinegar/Earl Grey simple 2:1)⁠
.75 oz. lemon juice⁠
Preheat glass with hot water. Mix ingredients, pour into the hot glass, top with hot water and garnish with cinnamon stick, star anise and dried pear.⁠

Mealy is a full-time bartender for the Copper Group. “Inspiration for this drink came from the expectation that we’re going to be running our outdoor patio season longer because of Covid.” People are more comfortable sitting outside, Mealy says, “So I wanted to make a hot drink for the colder months.”⁠

VOTE VOTE VOTE AWAY! Grab our magazine, grab a cocktail (or make it yourself) and get voting. Cheers!🥂⁠

Link in bio to vote and learn more about Frank Mealy!

Our 2020 Cocktail Contest is live!! 🍸🍹🥂

We’ll be highlighting our cocktail contest contestants throughout the next few weeks. Starting with @takashi_slc’s “Red Dirt Garden” by Crystal Daniels:

- 1.5 oz. Amaro Bilaro
- .5 oz. @shdistillery Barrel-strength Rye
- .75 oz. Lemon juice
- 1 oz. Red rice orgeat made with @redbuttegarden botanicals
- Pinch of Jacobsen Salt from @caputosmarket

Daniels garnished her cocktail with banana leaves and an edible begonia- if you can’t get the begonia, another colorful edible bloom will do. 🌺

VOTE VOTE VOTE AWAY! Grab our magazine, grab a cocktail (or make it yourself) and get voting. Cheers!🥂

Link in bio to vote!

Did you know that the first woman to cast a ballot in the United States voted right here in Salt Lake City?

In 1870, on her way to work as a schoolteacher, Seraph Young stopped by SLC’s old City Hall—right across from the Capitol—and made history as the first woman to vote under a women's equal suffrage law.

Like many of us, Young voted early in that election simply because she had to get to work on time. Her story reminds us of the power ordinary people have to make history. Now, get out and vote!

Photo: Ron Fox

Our November-December issue is on stands now!!⁠

And our annual cocktail contest is open for voting! Take all precautions, support our hardworking hospitality community and remember to smile. 🍹🍸🧉⁠

Pick up a magazine, grab a cocktail and vote! Happy November, everyone! ⁠

Check the link in bio to vote.

Trick or treat? COVID cases are getting scary.

111K confirmed cases and 601 deaths in Utah.

Link in bio for a little op-ed on face masks. 😷

Here in Utah, we live on the traditional and ancestral homelands of the Shoshone, Paiute, Goshute and Ute Tribes. Today we celebrate the people who first called this land home. We remember the struggles and tragedies they endured and recognize the fight for justice and autonomy that Indigenous Peoples still face. ⁠

Go to the link in bio to give to Diné Bikéyah and support Bears Ears. 🏜️