IRON RIVER, Mich. (WJMN) – The winners of the 2023 Upper Peninsula Championship Rodeo walked away with a sense of accomplishment and some hardware that’s a little different than other trophies. Instead of a belt buckle, this year’s winners were presented with a hand-made knife that has some Michigan flare.

Forged by fire, shaped by a skilled hand using brute force is in part a science, a study in thermodynamics. It’s an understanding of raw metal at a molecular level. And for Daniel Szugyi, it’s a passion, a calling, and the pursuit of perfection.

“I feel that way when each knife I make it has a soul has a heart it has a function. And it’s not just pretty, but it’s it’s practical. You can use it,” said Daniel Szugyi.

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For Daniel, knifemaking is creating a functional piece of art using ancient methods combined with today’s modern knowledge of metallurgy. His blades are highly sought after for the precision in which they are made. He uses a process known as Damascus, characterized by welding different types of steel together and working them into folded layers fired in a kiln, then hammered into shape and finally, round to a razor’s edge. What makes his knives so unique and special to Michigan is because one of the types of steel he uses, comes from the roadway of the Mackinac Bridge.

“One of my customers went and bought some of the Mackinac Bridge at auction and he said I want to make a knife with this, and I want to help him out with that. And it turns out that Mackinac Bridge steel has very low carbon, you can’t make a knife out of Mackinac Bridge steel unless you combine it with high carbon steel. So, I talked with him for a little bit and was like let’s come up with a way to make knives with this steel that you can actually use so I started making Mackinac Bridge in Damascus,” added Szugyi.

Szugyi Knives is based out of Cheboygan. We visited Daniel at a companion ship in Indian River to see how his knives are made.

This unique component of Daniels knives caught the eye of the Upper Peninsula Rodeo. Traditionally, rodeo champions receive a big belt buckle as their trophy. However, this year’s winners received a custom-made Daniel Szugyi Mackinac Bridge knife.


“The Upper Peninsula Championship Rodeo contacted me out of the blue. Bernadette just messaged me on Facebook and said, “Hey, I saw your knife and I think it’d be a really cool prize for our cowboys,” said Szugyi.

Daniel typically makes around 300 custom knives a year and as you can see, it’s hard work.

“This job is very physically demanding. There’s a lot that goes into making a knife primarily on your joints and your wrist and your elbows and your shoulders because of the forging action that you have to do. You’re holding a piece of steel and you’re hitting it with a hammer. You can only do that so many times before it starts hurting,” added Szugyi.

More information about Szugyi Knives can be found here.