Knife Making, Art, and a Gaucho Tradition

Great silver craftsmen in rural culture

Fábrica de quesos y dulce de leche by Edgardo ReinaGustar

There is a long history of knife making in Argentina, with its origins dating back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Argentinian gauchos are inextricably linked to these knives. They are so emblematic of the local culture, of rural areas, and were key figures in the wars of independence.

Cuchillo (2021-01-20/2021-01-23) by Nicolás VarvaraGustar

Knives were the symbol of the gauchos: they were used both as a defensive weapon in times of combat, but also as a tool in everyday life. They were the ideal utensil for all their daily chores, from eating to butchering animals. Their knives were often unique, having been made from materials that were readily available, such as broken sabers, files, horns, or animal bones.

Champignones, Colonia Suiza, San Carlos de Bariloche (2021-02-08/2021-02-11) by Diego TorchiaGustar

Over the years, knife making was established as a tradition in the country. Families of knife makers emerged, passing down knowledge through generations, turning Argentinian knife making into an art.

Restaurant y parrilla (2021-01-23/2021-01-24) by Julián GómezGustar

Today, many continue the practice. Knives are used in home kitchens and in restaurants, for Sunday barbecues, and are even found as rustic-style decoration in some houses.

Día de Elecciones en el Norte (1937) by Alfredo GRAMAJO GUTIERREZGustar

Deep-rooted tradition

Pictures and stories from the late 19th century depict knives as part of everyday life for Argentinian gauchos.

The gauchos’ knife is commonly known as a facón or creole knife. It is a weapon with a metal blade, a handle, and a sheath (a type of case to store it in).

El asado (1871) by Ignacio MANZONIGustar

Knives were part of everyday life. Over the years, their use has become more sophisticated. These days they are considered a highly traditional art with deep Argentinian roots.

Cuchillería artesanal argentinaGustar

Paulo Marcial Romero

From the town of Viale, in the province of Entre Ríos, Paulo has been working as an artisan knife maker for more than 50 years. He specializes in traditional creole knives, with blades measuring between 5 and 8 inches (13 to 20 cm), made from carbon steel.  

He makes the handles from stabilized, polished, and turned wood, which he covers with horse leather. He also makes sheaths from cow leather.

These traditional knives are very popular in Entre Ríos. In the town of Viale, there is an annual celebration known as the National Festival of Barbecue and Leather, where Romero’s knives have received awards. His creations are perfect for the local gastronomy.

Cuchillería artesanal argentinaGustar

Jerónimo Coll

From the city of Tandil, for many years Jerónimo Coll has taken his work around the world at exhibitions and shows. In so doing he has contributed to the knowledge and understanding of these traditional arts which he learned from his father, the renowned master braider Máximo P. Coll.

Cuchillería artesanal argentinaGustar

His creole knives have finely crafted blades, and handles made from wood, leather, silver, or alpaca silver. He uses the technique of weaving with an awl, which consists of weaving strands of horse leather on a wooden base, and then making metal endings.

Cuchillería artesanal argentinaGustar

Mariano Gugliotta

From the city of Buenos Aires, Mariano started in the profession by working in his father’s workshop, first as a blacksmith and then as a knife maker. Since 2008, he has organized the Annual Knife Show. 

Cuchillería artesanal argentinaGustar

His steel blades are carefully handcrafted. He starts with 18 sheets of alloy steel that he folds until reaching at least 200 layers, building up a structure visible in the finished knife.

For the handles, he uses both local and imported wood.

He also uses deer antlers and some synthetic materials. His sheaths are made from natural, tanned leather, using a technique of embossing and engraving, depending on the level of the piece.

Cuchillería artesanal argentinaGustar

Juan Rocha and Rosalía Nubile

They are a couple from Zárate in the province of Buenos Aires. Juan’s skills and profession complement Rosalía’s creativity when it comes to assembling the leather sheaths. They use a variety of materials, including local woods, alpaca silver, and deer antlers.

Cuchillería artesanal argentinaGustar

Eduardo Salazar

He has more than 20 years of experience in knife making in Jujuy. He uses the awl weaving technique for the handles. His sheaths are generally made from rawhide and horse leather straps.

Puesto de ruta, venta quesos y salames (2021-02-28/2021-03-01) by Juan Pablo LanciottiGustar

Each family of craftsmen has their own techniques and traditions. Thanks to them, knife making is a popular art throughout Argentina, combining craftsmanship with local idiosyncrasies and hallmarks.

Credits: Story

Mercado de Artesanías Tradicionales e Innovadoras Argentinas (MATRIA) - Ministerio de Cultura de la Nación / Edición: Diego Marinelli / Texto: Ayelén Iñigo 

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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