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Around the country, bladesmiths like Washington’s Michael Rader and Pennsylvania’s Butch Harner forge raw metal into beautiful knives. Choosing small over large-scale can make a world of difference for artisans. Onetime industrial mechanic Quintin Middleton of South Carolina was able to go full-time as a blade whisperer after Southern chefs like Sean Brock and Frank Stitt went nuts for his line of ergonomic kitchen knives ($100–820; middletonmadeknives.com). Middleton shapes the wooden handles with a finger notch in the heel and forges his high-carbon steel blades with rounded spines, which are less likely to cause blistering. Any way you slice it, both cooks and craftsmen win when you buy local.

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