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Biltong Knife

 
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Grys Baard
Touleier


Joined: 13 Jun 2012
Posts: 7
Location: Florida, USA

PostPosted: Mon Sep 04, 2017 6:47 pm    Post subject: Biltong Knife Reply with quote

I'm interested in knives and enjoy learning about them, but the "biltong knife," as a type, is one that has escaped me until today. This is something we just don't have in the United States. I saw a fleeting image of one on Chris Fourie's ad on this forum, which sparked my interest.

I've heard of biltong, which I understand is similar to jerky, but cut a bit thicker and, of course, made with African meats. I've heard eland makes the best, but will defer to those of you who actually know.

It appears a biltong knife has a rather broad, sheepsfoot blade, and may be either a fixed blade or a folder. Sort of like a rigging knife, but maybe a bit smaller. I did a quick Google search, and from the pictures which popped up, I see that some have straight handles and straight edges, but some have a slightly curved cutting edge on the blade, affixed to a haft which may or may not be gently curved in the opposite direction. Some of the photos showed finger grooves, "safe," blunted points, deep curves, and other such features that appear quite modern. There's even a John Deere biltong knife, for heaven's sake.

Is this basic type of knife a fairly recent innovation, or have they been around for a while? Were they used on the South African frontier, back in the days of black powder and white smoke? How would you describe a "typical" biltong knife, in case some poor, ignorant soul would like to make one?

I can envision reshaping the back of a Green River blade (not sure which one... maybe a small butcher or a Dadley...), annealing the tang to drill for pins, maybe a set of bone or tambotie scales... I think I have everything I need...

Best regards,

Grys Baard
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Marius Burger
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Joined: 13 Apr 2010
Posts: 745

PostPosted: Thu Sep 07, 2017 3:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Most people cut biltong with the knife's blade working towards the thumb, in this case used as a sort of anvil to cut against. The convex curve of the cutting edge sort of follows that of your extended thumb. The handle is sometimes given a curve which sits well inside your hand. I have no idea if this is a classic shape or a design which cropped up recently. Biltong can be rather tough to cut and therefore biltong knives are built rather stout.

Marius
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Grys Baard
Touleier


Joined: 13 Jun 2012
Posts: 7
Location: Florida, USA

PostPosted: Sat Sep 09, 2017 3:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you, Marius. I've found a lot of pictures of these knives, but not much on their history. There is a photo of someone cutting biltong just as you describe on this site: Ron Tufnell Knives.

Thanks,

Grys Baard
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Daan
Voortrekker


Joined: 28 Jul 2008
Posts: 375
Location: Bethlehem, Vrijstaat

PostPosted: Sun Sep 10, 2017 11:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

If I remember correctly MC Heunis once posted a picture of the different models of original 'Herneuter' knives on this forum.
(Herneuter knifes is the holy grail of original Southern African knives. It was made by early German missionaries; the Herrn Huters).
One of the models had an inward curving blade, exactly like these 'biltong knifes, and was named as a pruning knife.
The exact same type of knife was found in the grave of a Voortrekker (early pioneer) that was excavated in the vicinity of the battle of Vegkop.
So these knives were definitely carried by the Voortrekkers.
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Daan
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Joined: 28 Jul 2008
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Location: Bethlehem, Vrijstaat

PostPosted: Sun Sep 10, 2017 11:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Here's the thread I mentioned in the previous post;
http://whitesmoke.co.za/powwow/viewtopic.php?t=2375&postdays=0&postorder=asc&highlight=herneuter&start=0
Most of the pictures do not show anymore due to Photobucket pulling a fast one on us, but you will find the history of the knifes at least.
On page 3 some photos are still showing.
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Grys Baard
Touleier


Joined: 13 Jun 2012
Posts: 7
Location: Florida, USA

PostPosted: Sun Sep 10, 2017 3:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you, Daan.

I had a look at the thread and the remaining photographs. I can see that the modern biltong knives evolved from the Herneuter. Willem did a great job on his reproductions!

This must be a very old style of trade knife, in both senses of the word; used by "tradesmen," such as shoemakers, and traded to native and non-native outdoorsmen. The basic style of handle shape, ferrule, and "stick tang" are reminiscent of the current production of Mora knives from Sweden, although the Mora blades are of a different shape and generally of laminated steel. Mora knives are all the rage with bushcrafters on both sides of the Atlantic. However, I was also struck by the resemblance to traditional "shoe knives." These are still being made, in versions with straight and with curved blades: R. Murphy Leatherworker's Knives

I have two green handled shoe knives with curved blades, precisely the same as those shown in the link, second row from the bottom. Mine are pretty old but in very good shape. I understood from my father that they belonged to his grandfather, along with several awls we still have in the family. They look too good to be that old, though.

Anyway, thank you for the information!

Grys Baard
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