When my eldest son, Alex, left to explore the Amazon jungle, the most useful present he was given was a set of knives – not, of course, the silver-handled, engraved with a coat of arms and arranged in a felt-lined wooden box variety – but the ultimate “go-to” knives for surviving in the jungle. They were put to the test before he even got to the Amazon, in an encounter with a stingray in Los Llanos, Venezuela. Both knives – the big one, for hunting or chopping, and the smaller one, for filleting or carving – soon became essential tools in his daily life.
Their maker, Chris Goldmann, began creating knives as a hobby about eight years ago when he left his native South Africa (and the bush he loved) and moved to Portugal to join his family, who had emigrated there. But the Algarve felt restrictive, with little to replace the outdoor pursuits he used to enjoy.
With time on his hands, he decided to tackle a life-long ambition to make a knife. Having sourced the Damasteel from Sweden, he set about teaching himself from a book. One knife turned into two, then three, and rough attempts were whittled down into fine specimens. By then he was hooked.
Now Chris has started making straight razors to add to his bespoke collection of utility, biltong, chef’s, santoku, butcher’s and bird and trout knives. They are works of art, taking many hours to produce from his now almost state-of-the-art workshop. No corners are cut, nor quality compromised – from the lengthy tempering and cryogenic treatment (which ensures a stronger knife), to the choice of steel (such as Masame) or the material for the handle, which could be giraffe bone, woolly mammoth ivory tusk or a variety of polished woods.
As I felt the weight of the knives in my hand, I listened to Chris explain that the razors were “hanging hair sharp”, that the heat-treatment process he follows increases the steel’s hardness and minimises its brittleness, and that he guarantees all his knives for life (unless they have been misused). He also told me about his belt grinder and buffing machine, but in truth what I was thinking was how magnificently – and poignantly – he has managed to evoke the powerful wilderness of South Africa in an implement so small.
On June 30, at Britain’s premier knife show in Tortworth, Gloucestershire, the knives can be seen in all their glory. Meanwhile, look at his website and order away – for while he may guarantee the life of the knife, I will guarantee the pleasure the purchase will bring you.
And in case you were wondering, my son returned – no digits missing – with the knives. While on his travels someone had offered him their mother and sister in exchange for them; the fact that he wasn’t tempted is a recommendation in itself.
First picture, from top: Rhodesian teak handle with turquoise spacer and Björkman-twist patterned Damasteel blade, €400. Giraffe bone handle and Masame steel blade, €850.
Second picture, from top: santoku knife with giraffe bone handle and Vinland patterned Damasteel blade, €750. Medium chef’s knife with giraffe bone handle and Vinland patterned Damasteel blade, €500.
Third picture, from top: bird and trout knife with mammoth ivory handle, ebony spacer, copper bolster and Björkman-twist patterned Damasteel blade, €850. Utility knife with Rhodesian teak slab and Ladder-patterned Damasteel blade, €400.