Cuchillo Canario

AN32 N. African Knife

Code EU28 

A Cuchillo Canario ("Gran Canaria Naife"), the traditional knife of the Canary Islands. This one is dated late 19th to early 20th c.  It is about 10 inches in total length. The leaf shaped blade measures 5 ¼ inches with expected wear and light stains.  The blade is decorated with punch-style engraving on one side.  The hilt is multi-layered and beautifully detailed.  It remains tight and sturdy.  The leather scabbard is in good condition and stiching intact.  The design suggests it is styled after the oldest variety, "Cuchillo de feria", or alternatively designated "Cumbre" or "Campo". Yet there are also elements of the hilt design that are typical of those made in the region of Gran Canaria.   See here for more information about the types (Spanish).

This style of knife is a traditional craft of the people of Gran Canaria, and the method of making them is passed on from father to son.  Originally a tool of agriculture, it has since the 18th C. become part of traditional dress

The craft of the knife maker is exclusively masculine. The blades are made by a smith, the handles are mounted by a knife maker and the traditional user was a man. Women never use or even own a Canary Islands knife, even though many of their domestic activities require cutting utensils. The knife, apart from its utilitarian value, acts as a symbol of the masculinity of the one who carries it.

The horn is cut into circles of different thickness and diameter, and these are then pierced in the centre to be set into the tang of the knife blade. Everything is held together at the two ends by metal tips. Incisions are made in the circles of horn from different angles, and these are filled with pieces of metal of different colours. The work is finished off by polishing the blade. 

The working technique for marquetry, which consists of filling wooden objects with small pieces of precious materials to make geometric shapes and bright colours, is reminiscent of the technique for the making of the handles of the Canary Islands knives.   

The design of the "naife"  strongly influenced by the Albacete types and also definitely show a Toledo Arabic inspiration.