Lee Zierten  |  Knives

In 2004, Lee Zierten ordered a knife-making kit from a magazine to make a simple hunting knife for himself. Zierten has always been a crafty fellow. When Zierten retired from a marketing position in the printing industry, he found himself bored with the newfound free time and decided to devote himself to cutlery.

Today, Zierten has produced hundreds of artisan knives – ranging from delicately elaborate Damascus hunting knives to ergonomic everyday cutlery for the kitchen. Practical Art is the only shop in the Valley that sells the knives, which range in price from approximately $60 to $125 each. Customers can find blades of all styles: steak, paring, filet, sandwich, chopping and Santoku. Lee suggests people invest in three crucial knives: a good chopping knife (like a Santoku or small chef’s knife), a paring knife and a serrated knife. Each of Lee’s knives is a testament to balance, weight, grip and cutting angle. All of Zierten’s knives can be made to order, and he hopes his customers can get the same use out of them.

The transition to knife maker was natural for the soft-spoken handyman. “There was a time when people did things with their hands,” he says. “I like to create things that are utilitarian.” And his pieces truly are practical. In fact, Zierten, a cook himself, has been using the same set of handmade knives for more than three years.

Once you have your go-to set, there are two factors critical to keeping your knives in tip-top shape. First, Zierten encourages buying wood or soft plastic cutting boards. Using glass or hard plastic will shorten a knife’s lifespan by dulling it. Next, Zierten says absolutely never put knives in the dishwasher. “The heat will soften the edge of the blade,” he says. Instead, use soapy water and a sponge or brush to clean them after each use. Zierten says his knives will last a lifetime if taken care of properly. He even gives a lifetime warranty on them but is quick to note the lifetime is his, not the customer’s.