Words by Kai Coates

Local craftsmen creating amazing products, from surfboards to kitchen knives and furniture.

Buying a product is one thing, but knowing who made the products is a whole other ball game; it creates a personal touch and helps build a great client relationship. Our hometown is full of creative craftsmen, and we have highlighted a few to learn more about them and their fantastic products. #supportlocal

Let’s start with a well-known local on our coast, Justin Sykes. He grew up in the surf, which inspired him to establish The Bay Surfboards. Justin was looking for a space to shape boards for himself and his friends during weekends and evenings. The perfect spot came up for rent in the Salt Rock area; it was an old spray booth, already fitted with an extractor fan and divided into two booths. All he had to do was put in a couple of shelves, kit it out, and then he had a shaping bay. Local surfer Gordo was instrumental in getting things going by passing on his knowledge to Justin. It started gaining traction when friends came to hang out and show interest in the boards that were being shaped. As it turned out, people were more interested in ordering a board than making their own. Justin said the learning process has been gratifying, and he is proud to be surfing his own boards. The goal is to make great quality boards that suit a surfer’s needs. Want to see the boards? You can find them for sale at his brother Shane’s restaurant, Mi Acai.

Moving away from the ocean to more of a great guys’ gift for those knife enthusiasts. Meet Alexander Conchar, a builder and a hobbyist knife maker. He loves making things out of raw materials and has always had a passion for knives. What better than combining the two and making tools or cutting instruments that people can use daily? Alex did a knife-making course 21 years ago at Heavin forge with the great knife makers Kevin Harvey and his wife Heather and was lucky to find a local community of other knife makers.

Alex makes hunting, filleting, folding, cleavers and tactical knives. As it is only a hobby, he only makes a few knives a year, but he says that it is fulfilling to create something with your bare hands and see the joy when people use it and enjoy your handy work. He uses two types of steel in his blades: balbachdamast (stainless Damascus) from Germany and N690, cobalt-enriched stainless steel from the Austrian steel company Bohler. It is affordable and good quality steel used by most knife makers and holds an edge well. Alex uses materials like stabilised wood, G10, micarta, bone carbon fibre and natural woods on the handles. The sheaths are made of either leather or a heat-moulded plastic called Kydex.

In the local knife community, there is another knife craftsman who specialises in kitchen knives as he was a professional chef for most of his 20s, so he has a deep understanding of what makes a great chef knife. Meet David Hoehler, a full-time knifemaker for the last three years. He is considered by most to be the top knifemaker specialising in kitchen knives in South Africa, and for the previous year, most of his knives have gone to America! All his knives are made from scratch by himself. David works out of a small workshop at home. He has loved knives his whole life and says it’s hard to believe that he gets to make them for a living now. Some celebrity chefs who currently own his knives are Gordon Ramsay, Reuben Ruffel and Luke Dale Roberts! David’s favourite design is his 8″/210mm chef knife, and if he were only allowed one knife for the rest of his life, he would choose his 8″ hands down. So, do you want to feel like a top chef? Get yourself these gorgeous and top-quality knives.

Artisans are so creative with their hands, and I always find it astonishing how they make things from scratch, but what fascinates me is the intricate details in beautiful jewellery. Meet Kevin Hall, who, after completing a five-year apprenticeship in jewellery manufacturing and diamond mounting, established Halls Designer Jewellery in 1996 with a passion for creating jewellery and an obsession with coloured gemstones and diamonds. Kevin spends most of his days at his bench, creating beautiful handcrafted pieces using trusted traditional methods. He has a small showroom and workshop in Simbithi Office Park that carries his stunning range of jewellery that suits everyone’s needs. Whether it be a simple piece of jewellery or something extravagantly beyond your wildest dream, Halls Designer Jewellery will make it a reality.

Almost everyone has their trusty wooden cutting board, but maybe it’s time for that board to retire. Meet Bruce Wacher, founder of Wacher.co, a digital design and manufacturing studio. With a primary focus on natural materials, specifically wood, his objective is to leverage CAD design and CNC manufacturing processes to reimagine and redefine our relationship and interactions with everyday products. Wacher.co’s current product focus includes kitchen/tableware, wine accessories and unique lighting. Bruce is currently working on various custom-serving solutions for a national restaurant franchise. You may have already seen his woodworking used at Conchilla, Orange Tree Cafe and Wozza Lifestyle. Yet his favourite product at the moment is the CARVER-A. This cleverly designed and cut wooden meat board is next level. This is your braai best friend for serving your steak proe-stukkies, as the line crevices catch the juices from the meat so that it doesn’t spill and mess all over your table. Plus, the two indents at either end of the board can hold your salt, pepper and sauces to dip the meat in!

Meet our last makers, Barry and Debbie Holland, the Owners of Abenzi Africa, who are perhaps better known as Comrades Marathon runners, with Debbie holding a coveted Double Green Number for 20 Medals. Barry is the Comrades Marathon Record holder for the most Medals in the 100 Year history of the race, and this year was his 48th consecutive run. While they are passionate about running, they are equally passionate about adding the WOW factor to people’s homes with their unique furniture. The word Abenzi means ‘to make’, and it also means ‘the makers’, which is rather fitting for this article. They specialise in manufacturing unique live edge furniture designed by nature and handmade in Africa. Only the finest quality French Oak, Cottonwood, Mahogany, Walnut, and occasionally Camphor is used for the locally assembled tops. The modern, stylish legs for the furniture are fabricated locally using a rectangular steel tube and flat bar, then Zinc and Powder Coated.

Their range of furniture includes dining tables, coffee tables, desks, sideboards, side tables, convenience tables and mobile bar counters with matching bar stools. They deliver and do the final assembly onsite, free of charge, in the greater Ballito area. A key element of the business’s success is the ability to make bespoke sizes; any item in the range can be made longer, shorter, wider or narrower to fit the home spaces of the customers specifically. Next time you look for lovely wooden furniture for your home or office, look at “the makers” that is Abenzi Africa.

You see, local is lekker!