Hereís a custom knife by Kevin Harvey of rural South Africa. If you havenít heard of him, his standing is something like Murray Carterís in his region of the world, the respected director of his own knife-making school and the winner of many awards for artistry. He partners with his wife and students for most of his work and turns out some of the most creative knife designs Iíve ever seen. Epicurean Edge carries some of his work.
The knife itself is beautiful, local in materials and spirit (the handle is warthog tusk and African blackwood; the damascus is Kevinís original design), and is the product of the most cooperative relationship Iíve ever experienced between client and knifemaker. Thatís the part I want to focus on, how his openness and accessibility, despite his reputation, made this little project possible.
Has anyone else ever been though something like this? I became totally entranced with the dudeís way of life, described on his website http://www.heavinforge.co.za/ and linked articles. I contacted him out of the blue and, after a few months of back and forth emails (which included preliminary drawings and construction diagrams), arrived at a design that wound up on my doorstep eight thousand miles from his ranch on the African veldt.
So, pardon me if I wax poetic for a minute, but this knife has a lot of dreams wrapped up in it. Itís not just an efficient tool whose technical details we might hammer out in the forum, but a symbol of an admired lifestyle (the same way Ed Fowlerís knives affected me), cultural talisman, object of art and emotions and a kind of link between two strangers, worlds apart. This purchase was the opposite of an anonymous one at Sur La Table or on Amazonóand those purchases have their place, too, needless to say. But as you look at this knife and are itching to know how it performs, I just want to emphasize again all that went into it: Kevinís creativity most of all, but also his accessibility and my persistence (he was reluctant to ship to the U.S. at first). The knife is what brokered contact between this home cook and that rural craftsman.
Kevin is a skilled engraver and he recommended a gold-leaf-embossed butt cap that was inspired by Japanese ďtsuba,Ē or sword guards, that often feature butterflies. The petty wasnít part of the order but Kevin created it out of the same billet and offered it to me with a piggy-back sheath he threw in without being askedóhence the caterpillar and butterfly motif. The blackwood and warthog tusk make this 210mm knife a little handle heavy, and the grind isnít ideal. But it will find use at special occasions and family gatherings. Any thoughts?