About André Van Straaten
If my mom were still alive she woud eagerly tell stories of how I, as a toddler, used to always get into the cutlery draw and pull out the knives. Blades seem to have held a fascination for me from almost before I could walk. I remember buying my first bowie knife when I was about 12. I saved all my pocket money and, while on our annual coastal holiday, visited a small local pawn shop and bought what I thought was the most beautiful knife in the world. I still have that knife. Well, what is left of it anyway. It no longer has a handle and the guard is missing, its chipped and scratched from being battered in ways that would make any knifemaker shudder. It’s really a piece of junk but I never could bring myself to throw it away.
When I turned 15 I tried my hand at making blades. Nothing too complicated, I wanted to make the stiletto dagger I saw on the cover of a fantasy novel. I found a piece of steel in the garage and sawed and filed it to shape. I created a guard, handle and even a wooden sheath for it. Of course the blade was mild steel so it would never hold an edge but that didn’t bother me. Having found a taste for blade construction my next projects were a little more ambitious. At a nearby building site I found two discarded sheets of mild steel and I decided to make some fantasy axes. It took me weeks of hack sawing and filing to get them to shape, but the effort was well worth it. One of those axes was lost or stolen some years back, but I still have that first dagger and a large double bladed battle axe.
Over the years I’ve purchased a few knives, but I could never find a knife that I considered perfect. This got me to thinking that perhaps I should make my own perfect blade. I scoured the internet for local knifemaking courses and eventually signed up for the full house bladesmithing course with master bladesmith Kevin Harvey. On that course I forged a wicked fighter and an elegant integral damascus blade. Since then I’ve been on two more courses and set up a full knifemaking workshop of my own so I can make the knives that I want. With any luck, perhaps other blade enthusiasts will want them too.
Knifemaking courses attended:
Introduction to Bladesmithing – Kevin Harvey (Heavin Forge)
Introduction to Damascus steel making – Kevin Harvey
Fixed blade knife making – Herbst Knifemaking Academy
Liner lock folders – Herbst Knifemaking Academy
The Blade Building Process
I studied graphic design and had my own design company for over 20 years. During that time I developed an eye for aesthetics, lines, balance and proportion. It’s this skill I strive to bring to my knife designs. Although a knife should be a functional tool I see no reason for it to be ugly. I like clean, flowing lines, elegant curves and interesting shapes. I don’t claim to have the perfect design yet, or even the best designs, they are all works in progress, an evolution to what I would consider the perfect edged tool.
I use the stock removal process when building my knives. I would love to be able to forge, however extensive injuries to both arms (sustained in a motorcycle accident) don't allow me to hold tongs or swing a hammer for extended periods. Although I do not forge blades I am still able to build knives in carbon and Damascus steels which are available in bar stock or billets.
I am quite fond of using Bohler N690 and Lohmann L4528 which are high end stainless steels. Both are extremely durable and wear resistant and hold an edge very well. Bigger blades are made from 5160 carbon steel which is very tough and often used to build swords. I also build knives in carbon Damascus (sourced from reputable makers) and Damasteel (stainless damascus) on request
Handle materials vary from local hardwoods,, stabilized burls, bone and horn to custom made G10 and mosaic pins. Walter van Jaarsveld, a close friend of mine, designed and developed the unique mosaic pins which have almost become a signature element on my hunting knives. His creative contribution to my knifemaking career has been invaluable and I will forever be indebted to him.