About André Van Straaten
If you chat to my mom she will 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
By day I am a graphic designer, but as the sun sinks below the horizon I don a mask, some spandex tights and fight crime in ...... hang on.... that’s a different story.
I’ve been a graphic designer for over 27 years. In that time I’ve 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 a recurring tennis elbow injury has kept me from it. As I get older the various joints seem to take more of a beating and the healing periods get longer and longer. Although I don't forge 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 which is a high end stainless steel with an alloy that is common in many good knives. This steel is very similar to 440C steel, it is an extremely durable knife steel that is wear resistant an holds and edge very well. I also use, Sandvik 12c27 and 14c28 for smaller knives. These are well-rounded stainless knife steels with excellent edge performance allowing razor sharpness, high hardness, exceptional toughness and good corrosion resistance.
For more information visit Bohler or Sandvik's site.
Handle materials vary from local hardwoods, bone and horn to custom made G10 and mosaic pins. A close friend of mine who loves to mess around with epoxy makes most of my mosaic pins and custom G10, more pics and info on this will be posted at a later date.