Sunday, January 11, 2015

Time to make a knife.

Our Christmas present to Charlie and Jasper was a two-day knife-making workshop at Gardner Knives, based at beautiful Seppeltsfield in the Barossa Valley.

On our New Zealand holiday last year, Jasper had been entranced by the blacksmithing facilities at Weta, where swords were made for the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies. Then later in the year we happened across the artist-in-residence knife maker at Seppeltsfield. Sword... knife...more or less the same thing, only rather more useful in real life!

Andy was keen to make himself a chef's knife. And two January workshop days became available due to a cancellation. No time like the present! Even if the forecast was 38 degrees C both days (and rising).

Whilst the big chaps got to work, Clem and I popped in and out of the workshop to observe, and explored the area. The blacksmith's room is ridiculously picturesque, with rustic tools, stone walls, blasting furnace and light flooding through old windows, and I went a bit mad on taking photos.

Seppeltsfield is a very large, old winemaking property established by the Seppelt family. Whilst the Seppelts are no longer owners, it has recently returned to private ownership and management that is determined to preserve its heritage and restore its place in the Barossa community. Which is so nice to know in these times when so many grand old family businesses are bought by faceless corporations, properties are sold off and brands become meaningless logos slapped on whatever sells.
 This is the Seppelt family mausoleum, built around 90 years ago at the top of a hill that overlooks Seppeltsfield. Huge old date palms line the roads throughout and leading into the property. Clem didn't seem to be creeped out by the fact there are dead people inside this building, and we walked all around it and through a pine forest on the hill beside it.
 When we looked in on the boys, they were well underway.
 Charlie and Jasper made 'hidden tang' knives, starting with a rod of knife-making steel that had to be flattened and ground down.

 Andy's 'full tang' knife was crafted from an old car leaf-spring. Baz at Gardner Knives loves to recycle old metal tools and scrap, which was one of the things about his workshop that appealed so much to us.
 Even Clem was invited in on the act, to help sand a wooden knife handle with increasingly fine-grit sandpaper.

 Can I just get a 'phwoar' for my husband using an impressively large and dangerous power tool? (Pity he wasn't wearing the leather apron in this shot, too.)
 Here you can see Jasper's knife-in-progress. The part he's holding is the 'hidden tang' which is the metal extension of the blade that is then glued inside the knife handle.

 Andy's 'full tang' knife has the steel sandwiched in between two slices of wood, held by metal pins, and the steel is visible all the way along the handle.

 Jasper's knife handle is made from the base of a Fallow Deer antler (they shed their antlers). The rest of the antler isn't suitable for knife-making but is apparently very much suited to boy-souvenir-hunting so we now have four of these floating about the house. Lucky us.

The process of polishing an antler knife handle with a belt sander produces an odd, not entirely pleasant smell that Charlie likened to burnt cornchips and Andy to having your teeth drilled. Just in case you were wondering.
 The proud knife-makers at the end of two ridiculously hot but extremely exciting, instructive and rewarding days of hard work.

At the end of the second day, clouds were gathering and when we dropped into a winery on the way home, we were treated to spectacular lightning, thunder and downpour that we watched from the broad verandah overlooking paddocks and vines. (Photos taken out that way were a uselessly rainy blur.) It was a welcome relief after the heat and also much-needed to help contain a scary large bushfire that was out of control in the Mount Lofty Ranges.
And now, back to slothing about at home and the work/school holiday juggle, which doesn't make for nearly as exciting photos! But we have three fabulous new knives to remember our time by (I can vouch for the fact that they cut cake very, very well), and a few Barossa wines that seemed to sneak into the car during our trip, too.

- Jane xx


  1. What a cool thing to do and what a great picture of the three of them holding up their new knives with pride! :-)

  2. Oh wow this is an amazing thing to have done - do they do them regularly? I might look into book one for my hubby. I think my boys are a bit small still for this one!

  3. This looks fantastic - what a wonderful experience. Looking forward to seeing some deer antler objects next!

  4. SO. COOL. Omigosh, so cool. But seriously? Pounding molten hot steel at 38 degrees Celsius? I'm surprised at how cool and collected your guys look, working under those conditions. Hardly a drop of sweat?!

  5. This is a totally cool gift, what a fab thing to do!!! I'm also amazed how grown up your boys are getting, I know boys do grow, it's the way of life, but I find when you read other peoples' blogs and get little moments of their lives every few weeks or so, it really does show.

    Happy New Year to you and your gang, hope it's a good one!! Bethxx

  6. Make a knife?
    OMG, I have just found Hugo's 18 th gift.


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