In ancient times the knife helped man hunt, eat and
survive. Although knives evolved with man, the basic structure of
the knife has remained the same over the ages.
In Western society, knives, apart from those with
which we eat and use in the kitchen, have lost their place as daily
tools and all but disappeared as weapons.
In modern times the knife has become more than just
a utility tool; it is a fashion item – gentlemen’s jewelry and space
age man appears to almost have a love affair with knives and edged
weapons. The aesthetic pleasure of owning one of man’s most ancient
of tools seems to have increased as man’s practical need for a knife
The earliest South African knives were made in 1797
by Christiaan Kuhnel at Genadendal, a Moravian mission post high in
the Riviersonderend mountains.
During the past 30-odd years, a small group of
enthusiasts brought the art of knife making back to life in South
Influenced by the revival of the art in the United
States in the 1970’s, the Knife Makers’ Guild of Southern Africa (KGSA)
was established in 1980. It aims to bring knife makers together at
an annual show, to further the craft and to set standards of
makers can only become members after they have submitted five of
their personally handcrafted knives to the guild for evaluation. A
panel of three experts assesses the knives and a pass mark of 75%
must be achieved before membership is granted.
One such member is André Thorburn who became a
professional knife maker after losing his job in 1993. Since early
childhood he wanted to make knives and took the opportunity when he
met Roelf Swanepoel in 1989 who introduced him to the art of knife
He sold his golf clubs and club cart and built his
first belt grinder. He sold his first knife in 1990 to a friend.
He became a member of the Knife Makers Guild of
Southern Africa in 1995 and since has been Chairman of this
prestigious organisation since 2007. He attends knife shows all
around Europe and in the USA and has met and has been influenced by
some of the best knife makers in the world.
He believes that custom knives must be excellent in
form and function and he tests and uses his own knives, giving some
to friends and family members to use and abuse to see how much his
hand made knives can really take.
In 2001 he became a member of the German Knife
Makers Guild and a member of the Italian Guild at the end of 2004,
attending the knife show in Milan in November every year. He was
accepted as member of the American Guild in 2007.
a member of the four major Guilds in the world is a honour that he
share with only a few other knife makers. He won several awards at
local shows as well as overseas shows.
He attended engraving courses Emporia Kansas and
Antwerpen and a further Design and layout course with the GRS team
He loves knives - and when passion and consulate
skill meet, masterpieces are created.
André will be joined by 50 other South African Guild
members when they exhibit their work at the annual Knife makers’
Guild Show to be held at the Mosaïek Lifestyle Centre, Communion
Exhibition Hall, Daniele Street off Davidson Street in Fairland,
The ancient craft of knifemaking is alive and well
in South Africa. Come and see for yourself at the show on 11th and
Contact Andre on Tel: 014 736 5748 or his wife Marietjie Thorburn
the show organiser on Tel: 082 650 1441 for more details.