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Seasoned bartender, Gavin Holmes, of Toronto’s Hi-Lo Bar, puts the Jackson Cannon Bar knife to the test. His favourite feature? The flush top edge; great for quickly scraping away debris. (Signe Langford for The Globe and Mail)
Seasoned bartender, Gavin Holmes, of Toronto’s Hi-Lo Bar, puts the Jackson Cannon Bar knife to the test. His favourite feature? The flush top edge; great for quickly scraping away debris. (Signe Langford for The Globe and Mail)

Leather-working tool is reborn as bar-friendly blade Add to ...

As the cocktail scene was heating up a decade ago, Jackson Cannon, co-owner and bartender of the Hawthorne of Boston, was on the hunt for the perfect knife. Looking to recreate pre-Prohibition cocktails, which tend to include plenty of citrus and garnishes such as twists and curls, he foraged through antique tool collections. The knives typically found behind most bars are cheap, throwaway paring knives or steak knives spirited from the cutlery station, and neither offers a sharp edge or versatility of function. What he found was the “square-point shoe knife,” a knife designed for leather work. Cannon was impressed by the squared tip, which made it easy to craft garnishes and pick seeds out of fruit, but the design needed tweaking.

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He took his ideas to Massachusetts-based, R. Murphy Knives co-owner Mimi Younkins, and they collaborated on the design. For instance, the duel-functioning handle boasts a perfectly flush top edge, from blade tip to handle butt, which allows the bartender to flip it over, and use it, squeegee-style, to clean off cutting boards. They worked on the blade, too, using a higher-grade stainless steel – one that’s able to withstand the daily onslaught of highly corrosive citric acid.

R. Murphy Knives have been hand-crafting knives and tools for dental and surgical applications, the food industry, and leather-working, since 1850, and according to Younkins, the curious blunt-nosed blade has had a few incarnations. “This knife was born as a leather-cutting knife for the shoe-making industry,” she says. “When we bought the company in 2009, we repurposed some of the knives. We put a plastic handle on this knife and sold it to the food processing industry, where it’s used to open 50-pound sacks of flour, for trimming produce, you may even see your local farmer using one, too.”

Specs: The ice-tempered, hand-ground and honed blade is made from high-carbon stainless steel (420 HC). It boasts a full tang; that means the blade runs the full length of the knife, right to the end of the handle, which translates to a much longer life, perfect balance, and a lovely heft in the hand. The smoothly contoured handle is made from cocobolo – a tropical hardwood, and is triple-brass riveted. Cocobolo is the species of choice for kitchen knives, as it can endure years of water exposure, but its harvesting is not without some controversy.

Jackson Cannon Bar Knife $79 (U.S.) from rmurphyknives.com

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