story and photo by Jennifer Crites
Clang! The blacksmith’s hammer smites a red-hot metal rod. Sparks fly. The rod flattens one blow at a time. “I love this,” says Christopher Greywolf. He means the sweaty exertion, the pure pleasure of reshaping steel.
Under Greywolf’s hammer, metal morphs into hunting knives, daggers, swords, throwing axes, machetes and even full suits of armor, like those that once protected warriors in medieval Europe and Asia. “Armor has to have balance and flexibility,” he explains, pointing to a 14th-century-style Japanese samurai O-yoroi (armor) vestment in his collection, its hand guards comprised of overlapping plates that slide when the wearer moves.
Crafting a suit of armor—which sells for $500 for a very basic costume armor to $2,000 and up for more complex outfits—can take two months or longer. His blades are similarly intricate; they have handles made from antler bone, fossilized ivory, oosik (walrus penile bone) or wood overlaid with leather or stingray skin and can take 100 hours to make.
Greywolf, whose name reflects his Native American Blackfoot ancestry, took to the blade business naturally thanks to early martial arts training, a stint in the Army and an apprenticeship with a Honolulu knife maker—initially as a way to make his own practice weapons. When his mentor left the Islands, Wolf, as he likes to be called, took over the forge at his McCully-area shop.
Greywolf has made props for the Fantasy Island movie remake and the Army Community Theatre’s staging of Camelot. He’s crafted bronze handrails for the Moana Hotel’s renovation, sharpened knives for chefs, refurbished weapons owned by antique collectors, and forged swords and armor for history re-enactors, of which he is one. But this modern-day warrior’s enthusiasm for the art and history of weaponry doesn’t stop at the anvil. He suits up in Roman, Viking, samurai and other ancient commando gear to give lectures and demonstrations at libraries, schools, museums and other venues around the state through the University of Hawai‘i’s Outreach College. “I try and bring the culture to life by representing a person from that culture,” he says. Each summer he heads for Mongolia to teach archery, wrestling, horseback riding and other elements of that country’s military arts to cultural heritage re-enactors.
The Mongolia connection? Greywolf’s son was born there and christened Temujin, the little-known first name of that famous Mongol ruler, Genghis Khan. The name means “iron warrior”—or blacksmith. HH
To reach Greywolf, call (808) 277-2738