Blades of beauty on show

For most people knives are nothing more than utensils needed to cut food – necessary but not revolutionary.

Yet this perception is put to bed once the Cape Knifemakers’ Guild display their blades of beauty.

Their annual show takes place tomorrow, Friday October 21, and Saturday October 22 at the Jansen Hall, in Jansen Road, Milnerton. It’s a chance for the public to buy their unique handmade knives and learn more about the art of making them.

Guild chairman Rick Afonso, promises this year will be one of the best so far.

“Visitors can expect to see a huge variety of handmade knives encompassing kitchen knives, hunting knives, fighting knives, daggers, folding knives, art knives, swords and tomahawks”.

There will also be a high-end custom knife collection on display as well as custom-made wooden boxes for knives.

Mr Afonso, of Fish Hoek, works as an IT systems engineer. He joined the guild in 2014, but had fallen in love with knives long before then.

“The knife was and is an indispensable tool, the first made by man. My first experience of handmade knives was at a gun show with my father and uncle back in the 70s. Knifemakers always seemed to have tables at the gun shows.

“The first time I picked up one of those handmade knives, I decided that one day I would try knifemaking. It took me a long time, but about five years ago I decided it’s now or never and gave it a try and haven’t stopped since,” he said.

Mr Afonso usually spends between eight to 12 hours on weekends on his hobby but puts in extra hours at night in the weeks leading up to a show.

He said most knifemakers can find the past-time costly when they get started – tools, machines, measuring equipment and more are needed.

“Once this is done you will occasionally still add another machine or tool as needed. Initial costs will vary widely – depending on what machines and tools you want or can afford and the work space you have available.

“After these initial set-up costs the ongoing costs are made up of consumables, such as knife steel, abrasive belts, sandpaper, handle materials, epoxies, glues etc. These are factored into the selling price of a knife.”

He explained the rigorous process applicants must go through before being accepted as a member of the guild.

“Prospective members must submit two knives made by themselves. The knives should be made to as high a standard as the applicant is capable. At least one of the two knives must have a properly fitted metal guard or bolsters (the area of the knife which is at the front of the handle separating the handle from the blade). In addition, both of the knife blades must be finished in one of two recognised finishes, either a hand rubbed satin finish or a mirror polish.

“The knives are scrutinised by a group of members who examine them carefully, looking at how well the knives have been constructed.”

Over the past four years, Mr Afonso has made almost 50 knives. “I have given some away to relatives and friends. The majority, however, were orders by colleagues and friends, with others being sold at the Cape Knifemakers’ Guild Show and the Cape Knife Club Show.”

His latest challenge is to master the folding knife, which he says is more complex than making fixed-blade knives.

“I have built three folding-knife kits, and have designed a couple of folding knives on paper, but I haven’t yet completed any of my own. I am currently teaching myself Computer Aided Design (CAD) to convert my paper drawings into CAD designs. This is not one hundred percent necessary. However, using CAD will allow me to edit and modify and ‘test’ the working of a design before actually cutting out any steel or titanium. This ensures all relevant parts, pivot points etc are put in the correct place for proper and safe functioning.

“There is a saying in knifemaking circles – fixed blades need accuracy in hundredths of an inch, while folders require thousandths of an inch.”

Mr Afonso said he found it strange that many people have no idea that knifemaking exists.

“Up until about 18 months ago, when knifemaking experienced somewhat of a renaissance with the popularity of the TV series Forged in Fire, if I mentioned that I was a knifemaker I would often be asked, ‘Do people still do that? I thought knives were made in a factory by machines.’

“Suffice to say, we often end up having a long conversation about knife making, the different types of knifemaking and the fact that this is a wonderful, fascinating and very creative hobby and can generate income too.”

* For more information about the guild and the knives its members make, visit capeknifemakersguild.com/ and find them on Facebook @CapeKnifemakers
Guild