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Meet your maker: Maka leather goods

Eight-pocket knife roll from Maka, Handmade knives from Skate Shank.

Eight-pocket knife roll from Maka, Handmade knives from Skate Shank.

Jock Zonfrillo, Matt Stone and Ben Turner all store their knives in a Maka.

Mick "Maka" Kerkham didn't learn to sew until he was 39. Now, at 51, the self-taught designer can't get enough of it: he spends his days in his back-garden shed in Sorell, 30 kilometres north-east of Hobart, sewing classic leather knife rolls and sheaths as well as toolbelts for some of the country's best chefs and makers.

What do people want in a knife roll, Mick?

Sometimes they want something to match their knives (black and silver, say) and sometimes it's to match their personality. A lot of the chefs are going for that retro or vintage look at the moment. I don't skimp on expense; I use quality brass buckles, which age softly with the leather. I have a laser engraver, too, so can put people's names on the rolls. I've had parents buying them for their kids when they've finished their apprenticeships. People are really embracing that aspect.

What do you look for when sourcing your leathers?

We're losing a lot of our tanneries in Australia. It's a hard industry, but if we don't use it, we'll lose it. I always source Australian leathers when I can, but otherwise they come from New Zealand. I use full-grain cow and upper leathers and also an oxblood leather from Tasmania. These are the best cuts. I love leaving branding marks and interesting imperfections (as long as it doesn't make weakness) and always try to incorporate them into my work.

Maka leather goods, from $270 for an eight-pocket knife roll, available on commission, 0438 591 631, maka.com.au.

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