The art of knife making

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There are 7 different types of typical Mallorcan knives that are essentially used in farming. In fact, farmers and fishermen are the best customers of knife makers.

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Among these 7 most representative knives, we can take as an example the “trinxet” (large pocket pruning knife). It is mainly used for grape harvesting. The shepherd’s or fisherman’s knife is another typical cutting tool. They are both clearly designed for farming and fishing purposes. Farmers use them daily in the fields and in their vegetable gardens. Handicraft knives are not stainless but, on the other hand, they provide an excellent cut and can be easily sharpened. Even though these are the best known cutting tools, there are other implements that have been widely used since time immemorial: axes, sharp pruning spades, sheep shearing scissors, etc. They have common characteristics with the knives handmade in Mallorca.

Normally, knives are made of stainless steel. But the typical Mallorcan knives are made of carbon steel, which provides a sharper blade. White and black horns from old male goats are used to make the handles. It is a very resistant material. The handles are sometimes made of wood.

Nowadays there are very few knife makers on the island. In fact, only four people continue with the family tradition of passing their businesses down from generation to generation. They teach their children and grandchildren, who will later make knives for farmers, fishermen and visitors. The latter buy their knives in markets and fairs as a souvenir of Mallorca. In Llucmajor, Muro or Consell you can find artisans making knives with their hands in small smithies. They basically use the hearth and the anvil, where the metal is shaped. The smith strikes the carbon steel to flatten it and give it the necessary thickness.

Josep Ordinas, for instance, has a workshop in Llucmajor. After inheriting and learning the trade from his father, he has now passed it down to his son. He in turn has been able to combine harmoniously modernity and tradition. It is easy to find pruning knives, axes and penknives of various types and sizes on the stands of the numerous weekly markets held in the different municipalities of the island. Furthermore, you can find shops specializing in knives and cutting tools in smithies of the towns and in the old part of Palma. They are available in different types, sizes and shapes for those who have a passion for these handicraft tools. However, a lot of people also use them in farming and fishing. Thus this kind of tools is usually quite common in Mallorcan homes and estates.

Knive making masters devote their time to making knives in workshops that are made to resemble smithies. They also make other kinds of farming tools. In addition, they repair and maintain tools. They sharpen and repair knives and tools for everyday use and farming purposes. In fact, some of them own machines that are over 100 years old. These machines take up practically the whole workshop because the strops go from one side to the other of the room.

All in all, knife making is a trade that, despite being in danger of disappearing, is still very necessary and useful. Because without knife makers or “ganivaters”, as they are known in Mallorca, we would lose part of the island’s culture.

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15/05/2009, 15:29:12h.

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