Herman Jonker

Melinda Rietveld's knifemaking experience

Recently Melinda (Bertie Rietveld's wife) attended a knifemaking course with us where she and Craig (Bertie's assistent) learned hands-on how to make their own knives.

Melinda Rietveld wrote the following article in the Edgehog Magazine (2006, issue 1, p10-11), sharing her knife-making experience with her fellow knifemakers. Here is her account of the course, verbatim:

"Knife Course - Pain and Pleasure..."

By Melinda Rietveld

"In 1986 I attended a Guild Knife Show with Bertie and since then knife making has been a part of my life with regular Shows and of course the fact that Bertie & Batavia Engineering have been manufacturing and supplying the Knifemakers with Contact wheels for about 18 years and grinders for the best part of 10 years and damascus for the last 14 years. I've worked for the Guild at the Shows in many different ways and have been editor of this newsletter for a total of 7 years now, so I kind of enjoy being involved with the knife making movement in this country.

A few years ago there was a call for judges for the Show Competition and I thought - well, why not, done most other things, love knives, have a mini knife collection, how hard could it be? Under the guidance of the Chief Judge Willie Venter and the rest of the judging panel, I have learnt a lot about knifes and the competition standards........it is most enjoyable and extremely interesting.

The only thing I haven't done yet is make a knife! So that part of the knifemaking process still eluded me..

Nowadays there are quite a few knife makers that offer a knifemaking course and so I asked Gawie & Thinus Herbst to book me on one of their courses. At the Guild Show 2005 they gave me the course notes and after reading them and knowing a little bit of what I was in for, we agreed on a workshop date.

So here's my experience of making my first knife!

Day 1

Leave home at 5:30 am with Craig (Bertie's part time workshop assistant!) and arrive at the Herbst workshop at 7:00 am. We have a cup of coffee and a chat on the patio and then go to the workshop.

Gawie gives a brief explanation of different types of knives, grinds, etc. He also explains that while we will make a knife during the course it is essential that we go home and make another to reinforce all that we have learnt and then we can move on to desiging our own knives and developing our own style.

We have a brief discussion on handle materials and steels and then he gives us a piece of steel. This piece of steel will be a knife at the end of the course - very hard to believe looking at it then! We then scribe the placement of the bolster pins and handle pins and grind on the steel. Next comes the grinding! Oh boy, up until then I was fine and then Gawie gave us a "throaway" pice of mild steel to practice on.. Slight feeling of relief and I step up to the grinder and start to grind.

Here I must mention that Gawie taught us to grind free hand - which is a little more difficult than grinding with a rest. My first grinds were wonky to say the least, but Gawie told me what I was doing wrong and how to fix it!

Eventually I started getting it right and boy was I pleased with myself. Craig on the other hand did not have any trouble grinding and was soon hollow grinding like an experienced knifemaker.

Without realising it, it was lunchtime! We were going to do the hollow grind on the "knife" after lunch and the butterflies were back. I was a bit nervous, but after a lovely lunch, we went back into the workshop and started to grind the blade. Slowly and as accurately as I could (with tons of help!) the hollow ground blade started taking shape.

The rest of the day was hectic and we had to drill holes and start the bolsters and get the knives ready for heat treatment and at the end of the day when we left the knives were in the heat treatment oven. By the time I got home, I was exhausted and my muscles were aching, not to mention my sore feet!

Day 2

Report back at the Herbst workshop at 7:00 am for coffee and a chat and then back into the workshop. Gawie had finished the heat treatment and tempering for us the night before and the first task was to final grind the blade and then sand and polish. Ouch - I never knew that my finger joints could be so eina after sanding!!

Then we moved on to the shaping and attaching the bolsters and around this stage, I noticed that the knife was starting to take form and while yesterday I was constantly leaving the "knife" all over the workshop, (whilst Gawie was showing us various machines and how to use them), and constantly looking for it, today it was always in my hand or in the pocket of my workshop apron.

Next we chose the wood for the handles and a liner to match and started to attach and shape the handle - a dusty, messy job but Gawie gave us protective glasses and masks ant it made life a bit easier - although if you wear spectacles you will know that wearing a dust mask means that you have to hold your breath too, otherwise your glasses mist up!

More sanding! This time the shaping and finishing of the handle. Almost done! Eventually that piece of steel and sqaure bolster parts and wood, had been ground and shaped and made into a knife! It looked like a knife, it just needed to be sharpened! Gawie explained how to sharpen the knife, but by now I was so exhausted that he sharpened the knife for me and we then went inside for a lesson in making leather sheaths and then it was time to use the Positiv 20 system and put our names on the knives.

The knife was finished, there was a sence of pride in me and (hopefully no one saw) a tear in my eye!

Thanks to Gawie & Thinus for their patience and ALL their help.

On the drive home a thought occurred to me that at the Guild Show 2006 competition judging I will understand the "making of a knife" a little better, I will also be able to identify small mistakes, know where they occurred and when they could've been fixed! Above all I will be able to identify the character of the custom make knife! Sorry guys!"

Knife course/s, grinders & accessories and supplies
Contact Gawie or Thinus
Tel: 012 525 1295
Cell: 082 254 8016
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