In September 2021 we started planning a special edition knife to mark the 100th Shrike produced since we began serialising them in 2019. After much deliberation we decided on marking the occasion by making it our first ever Damascus blade.
While over the years we haven’t delved into the use of Damascus, primarily because it is more decorative than necessary for our knives, the time just felt right to make this a first. We started by procuring a Damascus billet made by local bladesmith Pieter Goosen, then began the work.
Some design decisions were made on the fly. We hadn’t yet decided what kind of handle we were going to give the 100th Shrike until right before we were ready to heat treat the blade. Tsukamaki is probably the hallmark of our high-end knives and we naturally ended up concluding it was the way to go.
But first heat treating… Unfortunately as much as we would have liked to heat treat this blade ourselves, we simply don’t have the facility to do so. Luckily we know a few people. A visit to Rick Afonso from Afonso Knifeworks turned our piece of Damascus into a knife blade. We also learned a lot from the very knowledgable bladesmith.
Once the heat treating process was done, we set to work on finishing the knife and handle. We had some trouble getting our hands on black buffalo horn knife making scales locally, and we ended up turning to making our own. We luckily had a piece of water buffalo horn tip in its natural state we had ordered some years ago from our Tsukamaki supplier. This type of horn is used mostly making the fittings for Japanese sword saya’s (scabbard). It was much more tricky as we had to cut individual rounds for the fittings out of irregular shaped material, but the end result was simply stunning. The horn fittings polished up beautifully and are one of our favourite parts of the handle.
The other feature we settled on was the leather Ito. Technically also a first as we have never used the matte black leather Ito like this before. The industry standard in knife making is to resin coat wrapped handles to harden them and weather proof them. It also makes doing Kydex sheaths on these knife handles easier as the sheathing process doesn’t like a handle material with any give in it. To get the handle right meant we had to really focus on making a true to tradition Tsukamaki handle. Meaning it had to be incredibly tight and stretched properly so that the Ito didn’t move or compress in the sheath-making process later. While it was incredibly tough on the fingers, the results speak for themselves. One thing the picture doesn’t do justice to is the feel of the handle. Like a classic racing steering wheel, the leather just has a warmth and subtle grip to it that can’t be ignored.
Once the blade of this 100th Shrike had been hand sanded to a high polish, etched to reveal its unique pattern and the handle wrapped up as perfectly as we could, it needed a special presentation. Another first for us but well befitting a special edition 100th Shrike, we commissioned our friend and master Japanese woodworker Cameron Barnes of Cameron Barnes Furniture to create a presentation box for us.
All in all this knife allowed us to raise the bar for ourselves. To push ourselves to a level of fit, finish and presentation worth of Art Knife status, but still remain grounded in the utilitarian form of our designs. Our knives are made to be carried, and although this one is bespoke it is still fully usable.
We also commemorated the process by creating a short film on the build from start to finish.
We would like to thank everyone of our customers and patrons who have supported us this far and allowed us to raise the bar on our work incrementally over the last 4 years.