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National prize for Will

Will McKern may be young, but he’s already gained a reputation in the local area for his impressive knife making skills.

And now his craftsmanship is gaining national attention.

The Deni High School Year 11 student competed at the 2022 Australian Knife Making Awards and took home the prize for Best Beginner Outdoor Knife.

Having only entered for the experience and to get some feedback from professionals on his forging skills, Will said the outcome was a surprise.

“I wasn’t expecting to win anything,” he said.

“I felt like I rushed this one a bit to get it in on time, so I was really shocked when I won.”

For taking out first place, Will won a knife sharpening tool which he has already “tested out a few times.”

What started as a hobby about two years ago during COVID has now given Will a bit of a name around town, with many friends, family and others putting in orders for knives.

“I had an interest in knives and use them a bit, so I just thought maybe I could have a go at making one,” said Will.

Despite saying his knives “weren’t very good” when he started, Will has made about 15 since then.

Most have been sold, but when it comes to the award-winning knife Will says he will “hold on to it for a while.”

Will McKern in action using his home forge, melting down some steel for a knife.

“They take about a month and a half to make,” he said.

“You have to first get piece of steel, flatten it, cut it, sand down the edges, make the guards, fit them and make the handle, then there’s a lot of buffing to make everything super smooth and shiny.

“A fair bit goes into it.”

To reflect the amount of work that goes in to each knife, Will’s prices start at $150 for a smaller knife to $400 for the larger knives.

Will said he can make “pretty much” any sort of knife.

The passionate craftsman is completely self-taught from YouTube and all his knife making tools in his workshop are also made from scratch.

Will’s dad Alistair McKern said he’s happy Will is doing something he enjoys so much, which is keeping him busy.

“He is always out here fiddling with something, which is great,” he said.

Despite not yet attending one himself, Will hopes that one day he will be able to take his own creations to a big knife show.

Will McKern’s winning knife.