Justin Lamoureux has been captivated by the art of blacksmithing since he was a young tyke, visiting the local Renaissance fair each year in his hometown of Winnipeg, Manitoba. But, he never thought he’d actually be able to practice blacksmithing, even as a hobby.
“Fire, steel…” he rattled off. It all just seemed unattainable.
Partly due to the allure of all the latest blacksmithing TV shows, the fascination finally got the best of him. Justin began attending auctions around town to see what kind of materials and tools he could get his hands on.
As he slowly built up his shop of specialized bladesmithing equipment, even making some tools of his own, he took a stab at creating his own knives.
“There are so many different knives!” Justin said. “Some can be beautiful, some can be rudimentary, yet still very functional.”
But what he really likes about creating knives are the skills he develops and sharpens along the way.
“You can start from something so rudimentary, make something, then progress, and progress, and progress, all while becoming a better bladesmith,” he said.
Rainy Day Forge, first just a hobby, eventually became a brand where Justin continues to polish his knife-making skills, most of which are made for bushcrafting and wilderness survival.
This creativity and love for the wild really started as a kid growing up in the country “before the Internet,” he laughed. Stealing his dad’s tools, making something out of trees, building rafts — “I always tried making my own stuff.”
“I think my level of craft really took a turn when I started getting into knife making,” he said.
Then, just last year, when a buddy set out to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail (without a knife), Justin’s craft took yet another trajectory.
At his send-off celebration, his friend admitted he couldn’t find a backpacking knife that he was willing to carry the distance.
“I told him ‘You’re leaving in three days, that doesn’t give me much time!’”
Not only did Justin pull off creating a lightweight backpacker’s knife, but that particular design was the first iteration of his increasingly popular Ultralight Knife (ULK).
That first prototype is now “out in the wild” after his friend accidentally lost it somewhere along the AT.
Subsequently, to make the ULK less losable, Justin made a few adjustments going forward. The knives now come equipped with a small paracord wrap and a bright colored sheath.
Not only does the ULK weigh just one ounce, but Justin hopes backpackers will be attracted to the aesthetic of it too. “It’s pretty,” he laughed.
Every detail of the ULK, down to each drilled hole, has been meticulously thought out. Justin believes you can’t really get a feel for the knife until you literally get it in your hand. “The holes are pinch points, not just for weight loss,” he said.
The way the ULK locks into your hand removes the need for a handle. “Your hand is the handle,” he said.
It’s a lengthy, time-consuming process, Justin said of making the ULKs, or any of his knives. He joked, “It’s not: you cut it and you have a knife.”
“There’s chemistry, different temperatures, ways to cool your metal, hundreds of different types of steel,” he rattled off. “You just keep learning.”
That, and the constant creative outlet is what Justin loves most.
“I enjoy the refinement of my skills and the build process,” he said of making knives. “There are some tedious steps in their construction that I have to resolve, but that’s fun, too.”
In between his day job as a middle school teacher, Justin is turning his once hobby into a bonafide business. But even with a lot on his plate, he still carves out time for fun and field testing as an avid canoer and mushroom picker.
Even though Rainy Day Forge is just a one-man show, Justin is quick to acknowledge the contributions of his wife. “She helps with running the whole household,” he laughed, “because a lot of my time is occupied in the shop.”
While the brand is still in its infancy with just a couple batches of ULKs out in the field, Justin said the response from backpackers so far has been “really awesome” and he said he fully plans to keep heeding the need and “strike while the iron’s hot.”