Custom Knives from Scottish Highlands

Skye Knives, Glendale, Isle of Skye, IV55 8WY.

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About Jake Cleland, Custom Knife Maker

I run a small custom knife business on the Isle of Skye in the North-West Highlands of Scotland. I began learning the craft from my father while still at school, and have since learnt from some amazing knifemakers worldwide.

About my Work: I've built a gas forge beside Bob's grandfather's anvil (from his old family farm in Argyll). My blades are now hand-forged there, where I specialise in differential clay-tempering to produce the combination of toughness and flexibility made visible in the distinctive hamon. I also specialise in sgian dubhs, many of which are sold locally (not simply costume items: unlike many commercial sgians, these are true knives, practical as well as part of traditional Highland dress). Therefore, I've spent time working with my friend Garth Duncan (some of my knives are in his beautiful gallery at Duncan House in south Skye), who makes exceptional gold and silver Celtic jewellery. I'm also interested in Japanese knifemaking, and have attended sword-forging workshops, run by Howard Clark at Owen Bush's forge in Kent. In between commissions, I'm currently working on the fittings for the sword-blades I made there.
Loch Dunvegan

About the Isle of Skye: Skye is the largest of the Inner Hebrides. We are in the very north-west of the island, 2 miles from the most north-westerly point of Scotland that can be reached by road. We have spectacular views of the Outer Hebrides encircling the horizon, and often of whales, basking sharks, seals, and both golden and sea eagles. Skye itself is an island of exceptional beauty, dominated by numerous sea-lochs, and of course by the Cullins, a small but impressive mountain range very popular with mountaineers.

Our township of Glendale is overlooked by MacLeod’s Tables, spectacular flat topped mountains. According to legend, a Chief of Clan MacLeod once entertained guests there, afer they insulted his 'rustic' dining hall in nearby Dunvegan Castle.

On a more contemporary note, Dunvegan is also home to the internationally renowned folk and world music band, the Peatbog Faeries – one of the most successful bands to have emerged from Skye’s vibrant traditional music scene.

The Cuillins of Skye
The Cullins are the remnants of an ancient volcanic crater. Some of the range is steep and craggy, as in this picture, other parts have more rounded, scree-covered slopes. They are world famous among mountaineers, and attract many walkers and climbers to the island. Most of the peaks are named for the local men who first mastered them, and mountain guiding remains an important part of island life. Many famous climbers have trained for larger mountains on this craggy ridge, for although it is not high - by Alpine standards - the rock is notoriously difficult, and the weather dangerously changeable. Luckily, there is an easier way to enter the heart of the range. Boat trips depart from Elgol (a few miles past Duncan House) to Loch Coruisk, a sea loch which penetrates right to the heart of the mountains.
Dunvegan Castle, Seat of Clan MacLeod
Dunvegan Castle is the ancestral seat of the Clan MacLeod, whose members still hold their international parliament here every four years. It is reputed to be the oldest continuously inhabited structure in the whole of the British Isles. Loch Dunvegan is one of the deepest sea lochs on Skye, and was therefore an ideal base for the sea-faring sons of Leod. This fact is probably also the reason for the high number of Iron Age Brochs all around its shores.

Its current, Victorian, incarnation is built around the medieval keep, which itself stood on top of an even earlier fort. This castle has been continuously occupied since the first millenium AD, and is the only intact castle remaining on the island (although there are impressive ruins of several others from the heyday of the clans).

The chief, MacLeod of MacLeod, still owns much of the land in the area. Not Glendale though! Glendale was the site of intense land unrest in the late 19th century - so much so that, at one point, government troops were sent on a gunboat to quell the locals - which resulted in the community buying the land for itself in the early 20th century. Before that, however, many people were forced to emigrate in the Clearances, which is why there are more than 20 other Glendales around the world.

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