For most of his life, Don Leslie has been drawn to vocations where he been able to work with his hands. For the first 30 years of his career, he worked as a butcher in Johannesburg, but after many years spent in this industry, he decided to pack in the frenetic city life and move to Sedgefield.
When he arrived in the Garden Route he felt the need for a serious path shift, and he started off by restoring and selling antique furniture and later went on to making his own furniture range using a local indigenous timbers. Then, when the building boom swept the Garden Route, he started a construction company and went on to become one of the most sought after builders in the region, constructing homes of superior workmanship from Sedgefield to Plettenberg Bay.
A few of years ago, at the young age of 73, he decided it was time to retire, but that hasn't seemed to have slowed him down much. These days, when he isn't tending to his heirloom vegetables, you will you find him at home in his humble workshop, lovingly handcrafting one of his unique knives. Knife making started off as a hobby which has provided Don with an immensely rewarding creative - and meditative - outlet, each knife taking many days to complete. What started off as a way to keep his hands busy and to pass the time, has now fortunately become an additional source of income for him. He started off making knives for friends and family, and they have proved so popular that now he has orders lined up from others.
He has dabbled in making a variety of different knife styles, but his most popular to date are his Puukko knives and Santoku knives. A Pukko knife is a small, traditional Finnish belt knife with a single curving cutting edge and a flat back. The basic components of a puukko are a hilt and a blade along with a sheath, which can be then attached to a belt. It is an everyday style knife that is used for everything from hunting to fishing.
A Santoku knife is a general-purpose kitchen knife originating from Japan, with a blade of between 13cm and 20cm in length. The word Santoku means 'three virtues' and refers to the three cutting tasks that this knife is designed for: slicing, dicing and mincing.
For the handles of his knives, Don uses a wide range of African hardwood, including Red & Black Ivory, Candlewood, Paduak, Zebrano, Purple Heart, Sneezewood, Wild Olive and Ironwood. No two knives are alike. Don admits he still has a lot to learn, but with very basic and unsophisticated tools, every knife he has handcrafted thus far, is a true and one-of-a-kind work of art.
For any information or commissions call: 082 579 7644