Leland knife maker’s work is a cut above the rest

Nicholas Nichols, of Leland, was one of the winners of Our State Magazine’s Made in NC awards.
Updated: Feb. 18, 2021 at 4:15 PM EST
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LELAND, N.C. (WECT) - One look at one of his knives and it is easy to see Nicholas Nichols, of Leland, is a cut above the rest. The knife maker was recently announced as one of the winners of Our State Magazine’s Made in NC awards.

“My wife’s happy because it’s the only hobby I’ve ever had that actually paid for itself,” he said.

Nichols became interested in knife making just a few years ago when he learned his great-great-grandfather was a blacksmith in Columbus County.

“It kind of led me down this road of trying to find out everything I can find out about him,” he said. “I met a man up in Hampstead and he was making railroad tie knives with his son and that got me turned onto this whole crazy knife world and I haven’t looked back,” Nichols said.

His knives are growing in popularity because of his excellent craftsmanship and because of the materials he uses.

Nichols uses teak wood from the Battleship North Carolina for the handles, reclaimed after the deck of the historic ship was replaced two decades ago.

“I got some of it and every knife I ever put it on sold,” he said.

He found many have an emotional and personal connection to the Battleship.

“People donated their pennies in their nickels and their dimes when they had to push to bring the Battleship here,” he said. He’s also had buyers who had relatives serve on the ship in World War II.

He also utilizes other unique materials including Jack Daniels barrels, Maker’s Mark barrels, Gibson guitar bodies and the flooring of the Carmichael Auditorium, where Michael Jordan played during his college career at UNC Chapel Hill.

After Our State named Nichols as one of its winners of the Made in NC awards, which highlight some of the best creations from across the state, demand for his work spiked.

“We went from about a month to a two month backlog to over a year now,” he said. “It’s pretty wild and people want to wait.”

His pieces are more than the sharp edges and smooth handles; they are his legacy.

“I tell everybody that little stamp on there is like my piece of immortality,” he said. “It will be here when I’m gone and it might even be here when they are gone but it’ll be something they can look back on and treasure for a long, long time to come.”

To see more of his work, click here.

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