In 2006, I found myself in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, teaching raids and tactics to some counterparts. During a lunch break, a fellow trainer and I found an ad in a local magazine for Japanese-style swords. We called the number and soon we met a man named Dominique Eluere, who owned two factories where they made knives and Japanese-style swords. We visited the factories and I was amazed. The steel was heated in coals, and while one guy worked a bellows, another would form the steel with a hammer on a large anvil. Sayas (scabbards) were cut with miniature saws from single pieces of Cambodian Jackwood. Blades were wet polished by hand over buckets of water. I could imagine the exact same scene 500 hundred years ago. Mr. Eluere explained that the only difference was the steel they were using was of far higher quality than anything they could have imagined in medieval Japan.

Eluere started making knives in Vietnam over 20 years ago. In 1997, he moved his operation to Phnom Penh, Cambodia where he hired a professional blacksmith, bought antique Japanese swords and tried to copy every detail. Other professionals from France and Sweden came on board to help with engineering and training local artisans. It took years of trials, failures, and study.
After visiting the factories, I went to Eluere’s home where he displayed gleaming rows of katanas and wakizashis waiting to be shipped all over the world. It was like being in a museum where you are encouraged to touch. Thai silk, manta ray skin, and silver menuki adorned each tsuka (handle). Before I left I had been measured and ordered my own custom sword set. They were not my first custom knives, but they were the first ones I had commissioned. The price was very reasonable, and while my set took months to complete, it was worth the wait. 

Today, Citadel Knives employs over 60 workers to make dozens of different knives, and they still take custom orders. A few years ago, they partnered with Fox Cutlery who produced Citadel’s folding knife named Deimos. Citadel recently produced a prototype of a tactical/fighting folder they call Phobos. Phobos and Deimos were twin sons of Ares and Aphrodite. Mr. Eluere sent me the prototype of Phobos to try out for myself.

For more information visit depdep.com

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