The Desert Knife

The Desert Knife

Posted by Kiri Dolman on

Each of the Japanese knives made from Gidgee wood from South Australia’s Simpson Desert are more than just a knife to Koi Knives’ Shannon Dolman. As he holds and looks over the hand-crafted knife handles that were made from wood he foraged from a 4WD-ing trip across the harsh yet beautiful Australian outback, he is reminded of good times, comradery amongst mates, setting up camp for the night, and how the Gidgee wood was the lifeblood of their journey.

“This wood was the lifeblood of our trips,” explained Shannon, knife maker and co-owner of Adelaide based Koi Knives.

“Without it we couldn’t have fires and without fires we couldn’t cook food.”

Travelling and camping through the outback has become an annual trip for Shannon, his father Dennis, and a group of 10 other mates. Packed in three to four 4WDs they will set off for about a week into some of the country’s most isolated and tough terrain where they will be out of phone reception for days as at time.

“It started as a bit of boys trip,” said Shannon.

“Going away with my Dad, spending some time with him and a group of friends, everyone ranging in different ages and backgrounds.”

Starting from Adelaide, they will make their to the Simpson Desert, passing through landmarks such as Oodnadatta and Mt Dare.

Appreciating and holidaying by SA’s natural beauty is a common interest amongst the group with several of the men owning neighbouring holiday homes along the River Murray at Purnong. It was this connection that drew the group together, and where they will plan their 4WDing adventures. And while they all range in age from early 40s to mid-70s, they all have one goal in common on these trips according to Shannon, “crossing the desert, adventure and good times”.

“It’s fun,” he reminisced.

“You drive most of the day, stop and get your campfire, get your dinner, talk about the day, get up and keep driving.

“You pull over for lunch, set up trestles, have some cheese and crackers, someone might pull out a bottle of wine.

“You get up in the morning, have a coffee, CIBO in the dessert they call it.”


Camping by the fire in their swags at night with no toilets or showers in sight, there is no glamping on these trips. Yet meal times remain first class with the group cooking up tasty feasts on fire and coals each night. Dishes have included chilli con carne, ‘bugga’ chicken (chickens wrapped in flour and water and buried in the coals to cook), roast dinners and steak. Each meal is always washed down with cold beers and fine wines. “CIBO in the desert” is then up and running in the morning to get everyone going with one car carrying a proper coffee machine.

Shannon said as soon as they found a good camping spot for the night everyone would first go searching for fire wood and get the fire going before it became too dark. He said the Gidgee wood burnt so well for their fires due to the wood being so dense.

“There’s minimal water because they don’t grow fast so the wood gets really dense and hard,” he said.

The Gidgee wood from the 2020 Trip was delivered to the Koi Knives arborist who prepared and set it in resin, with the vibrant colours contrasting against the dark, dense wood. It was then paired with Japanese Damascus steel to create beautiful handles for knifes such as the Gyuto, Bunka and Petty. The end result – not only a fusion of Japanese and Australian cultures and beauty, but also a symbol of adventure, survival, mate ship and life-long memories.


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