Top quality handcrafted knives.
When one door closes…another opens.
Well, it did for Stefan Diedericks of Kwazulu-Natal North Coast…or rather he forced it open. He turned his passion into a career, and hasn’t looked back. Stefan Diedericks grew up in Bothas Hill in Kwazulu-Natal in South Africa, where his father was an Afrikaans & Woodwork teacher at Kearsney College, a prestigious boarding schools for senior school boys: “My father loved woodwork, and I developed a passion for working with my hands at an early age. As a boy, I often carried a knife, which was used to cut and whittle sticks, or just to cut some fruit.”
Stefan made his first knife when he was about 10 years old: “I took an old file from my father’s workshop, stripped off the plastic handle, and ground it to shape on a bench grinder.” At that time of course, Stefan had no knowledge of heat treatment or anything else that went into making a good knife. He laughs, “The workshop manager at Kearsney showed me how to heat treat the blade, but I thought he was mad. There was no way I was going to stick this blade – which I had worked so hard on so that it was nice and shiny – into a fire.”
In 2001 – twenty years later – Stefan admits to being slightly wiser: “By then I knew much more about different knife steels and proper heat treatment, so it was time to try and make my second knife. This time the result was much better.”
A year later, Stefan attended a fixed blade knife course with internationally renowned knife-maker Andrè Thorburn and later with Gawie and Thinus Herbst, all members of the Knifemakers’ Guild of Southern Africa (KGSA). He says it’s thanks to their guidance that his knife-making skills rocketed.
Stefan continued making knives as a hobby, but everything changed in 2015: “I was retrenched as Operations Manager at Okapi, the pocket and cane knife manufacturer. I wasn’t going to sit around and wait for another job, I decided to turn my hobby into a career. I got stuck into my knife making.”
SD Knives is Stefan and his wife Charmaine, who handles all the marketing and sales. He says, “She’s also an integral part in the development of new knives and quality assurance. Her fine eye for detail is vitally important in ensuring that each knife that leaves the workshop is to the high standard for which we have become known.”
Stefan calls his workshop ‘modest’, but he says “I have produced some very fine knives that have found homes all across the globe, including the USA, Canada, UK and Europe.”
He grins, “I know some of my knives have been purchased and passed on to celebrities. The wonderful thing is that, if they are well looked after, many of my knives will still be around long after I am no longer alive and who knows where they will go and in whose hands they may end up in.”
One thing’s for sure, some of them have resulted in Stefan receiving awards at local knife shows.
Stefan exhibits annually at the Durban Easter Knife Show (DEKS), and they’ve also exhibited at Huntex in Johannesburg, the Baobab Custom Knife Show and Brooklyn Knife Show in Pretoria.
Stefan says, that although he makes a variety of shapes and styles of knives – including hunting-, kitchen-, folding-, tactical and art knives – his focus has shifted recently to traditional slip joint folding knives: “Those folders are a classic and are growing in popularity. In many countries like the UK, they are the only knives that can be carried legally.
“I enjoy getting to meet interesting people from all walks of life from all over the world,” he says. “And people are welcome to visit and discuss what they like.”
Apart from the knives which Stefan makes, he also presents fixed blade knife making courses; “Over a two-day period, I teach a student everything from design, heat treatment, grinding, handle fitment and making a leather sheath and many other aspects of the trade.”
Stefan’s passion for knives hasn’t waned, and he has a small personal collection: “They vary from inexpensive factory made knives to expensive handmade knives from some of the South African Knifemaker’s Guild Members. My collection also includes knives from both my grandfathers, and an Anglo Boer War British Cavalry Sabre.”
Most knives that Stefan makes are sold via Instagram, Facebook or the website. To a limited extent, he will take and make custom orders.
In 2012, Stefan was co-founder of the North Coast Knife Makers Club, of which he is currently the chairman: “The club has been a great source of information and skills development for both new and old knife makers,” he says.
Over the years since 2007, Stefan has received numerous awards for his knives at the various shows. In 2012, at DEKS, he won Best Fighting Knife, and Best Bird and Trout Knife. In 2016, at the Baobab Custom Knife Show, he won Best Working Folder, and Best Working Fixed Blade; last year, at DEKS, he won Best point of interest for his double detent friction folder.
And his favourite knife? “It’s difficult to say. I love the functionality of a well- made hunting knife, but equally, I like a smooth working folding knife and the flowing lines of a big Bowie, not to mention the beauty of some art knives.”
- 2007 – Knife makers’ Guild of Southern Africa Guild Show, 1st place, bi-annual competition for non-guild members.
- 2009 – Knife makers’ Guild of Southern Africa Guild Show, 3rd place, bi-annual competition for non-guild members.
- 2011 – Knife makers’ Guild of Southern Africa Guild Show, 1st place, bi-annual competition for non-guild members.
- 2012 – DEKS, Best fighting knife
- 2012 – DEKS, Best bird and trout knife
- 2016 – Baobab Custom Knife Show, Best working folder
- 2016 – Baobab Custom Knife Show, Best working fixed blade
- 2017 – DEKS, Best point of interest for my double detent friction folder
From: Flamingo, Air Namibia in-flight Magazine April 2018
Article: SD Knives – Made By Hand – Edited by Anne Schauffer