Donnerstag, 9. Februar 2012

Jagd und Hund-report from bushcrafter´s and knifemaker´s paradise

 So, on Saturday it was that time of year again, and I visited the Jagd und Hund Expo, I have looked forward to the entire year. Courtesy of Ms. Heinrigs, I got there as a press representant, and I immediately made for the media centre to have a chat with the responsible staff members. Turns out Ms. heinrigs had a lot to do, but still had some time to give me very valuable input and much appreciated information. The Jagd und Hund exposition has once again affirmed a leading position on a marketplace of many quality expositions all over Europe. There were thousands of visitors over the week, totalling over 72.000 visitors all in all. Booths were occupied by ehibitors from 34 nations, and this time ecological projects were a definitive issue with the expo. So the topic of geocaching, a  currently booming sport, which unfortunately sometimes takes place in the thicket of the underbrush and after dark, therefore irritating wildstock, was addressed as well as renaturization and educational programmes by regional and national hunting and fishing associations. There were booths informing hunting and fishing newbies as well as educational booths for kids.I was especially fond of the educational programme taking place in hall 3B, where kids, both whole and handicapped, were able to experience several different wild animals (biologics, of course;-)), stroking animal skins and build insect hotels. There were experienced tutors, and it was great to see that the booth was crammed full with kids actually having fun learning.
The aisles were crammed full with visitors, according to Ms. Heinrigs generating a netto sales volume p.c. of 40.000.000 €. Loads of visitors came from farther away than 100 km, visitors from Belgium, France, Denmark, Sweden, the UK, Ireland, Poland, Russia, Croatia, Lithuania, Latvia, Switzerland, Austria, Romania, the Czech Republic, some even from Australia, Africa, New Zealand and the United States. This generates a great cosmopolitical  atmosphere on the expo, one thing that I like best about the whole event.
 In hall 3B there was the booth of Hans and Steffi Schild doing a great job on tutoring children about the basics of wildlife. He said that it´s a sorry fact many kids do not know the most basic facts about wildlife in our native forest lands. I have made this experience myself, that some kids really think even cows are lilac and milk is made in factories. Mind, you, this is not a joke, but a quote from an eleven-year-old I tutored myself some years ago. Even better that people like Hans Schild do this job, and from what I can tell, a great one. Go to his website here.
 Having fun stroking a wild pig might not be as great an idea when it´s still alive, but in this context offered a great possibility to discover what it is all about, and learn you should not try this in the woods!
 This mole is presumably dead... or does it just play at being so?;-)
 I ventured on to the Bogenzeit booth, where there were longbows for leisure and sport as well as a professional tutoring. The Bogenzeit corporation uses the longbow techniques as a means of therapy and meditation and teaches, amongst other things, intuitive shooting in very desireable environment. Plus, there are a load of associated topics, like roving holidays in the wilderness and the like. Go to their website here.
They also offered a load of quality leatherware. I had to really hold onto my breeches not to spend all my money there!

Then I ventured on to the booth of this friendly gentleman her. Mr. Szábò was delighted to meet me in person, and we had a nice little chat together. He had a load of quality knives on display. I had little time so I went on, but I daresay I will place an order with him soon.... Go to his website here. (take note it´s not ready yet... I will inform you. Watch this space!)

I have come to really like those simple but beautiful traditional Hungarian hunting and shepherd´s knives, especially those you can see to the right. Those were executed with meticulous craftsmanship, and spell reliability. Typically they are slipjoint folders with a stiff spring, but, as I hinted in another post already, the geometry of the pivot-to-handle-relation prevents them from snapping close so easily. Of course, they are still slipjoints, and if you need a prybar, get yourself a prybar, not a knife. But for cutting and whittling and carving they have done for hundreds of years and certainly will do for another hundred...

There also were more modern concepts on display, each of them finished really great, with no play and little tolerances.

Those knives are all made from 1.4034 steel, and some of you might find that a strange choice for a high quality custom knife. But given a correct temper 1.4034 can achieve a Rockwell hardness of about 54-56 when tempered evenly and up to 58-60 when tempered differentially. If a blade is harder than 54 Rockwell you can cut steel nails with it. How many steel nails do you cut in your leisure time?;-) So I have no problem whatsoever with the choice of the steel, for it is one that is relatively close to my favourite spring steel, C55CrSi, with the exception of 13 % Chromium.
Kitchen knives, handcrafted like the rest of the lot.
My favourite from last year´s expo, a set of steak knives with stag antler handles and cutting boards that also serve as a knife block. Have to do something like that myself soon!
On I ventured deep into the lurking dangers of the expo halls, and skulking in the darkness of Hall 5, I met this little fellow. It is a Wolpertinger, an increasingly rare species in Bavaria. This is no biologic, mind you. If they get surprised, they fall in a kind of rigor. This one was surprised in a beer garden where he was about to steal a pretzel and a mug of Weissbier. The rigor is enduring for quite a long time, but cannot quite be calculated, and since those creatures are known for making quite a lot of mischief, households in Bavaria more and more obstain from displaying them openly, keeping them in boxes with a lock outside!;-)
There were a lot of thsoe fellows around. I do not quite care about them being sold without further notation on their more annoying habits...;-)

Then I went on to the Otter booth, and whom did I meet? You might know this guy as Meinhart, the scytheman I met on the "Schmiedefest" at the Krenzer Hammer last year. We had quite a nice chat, and he told me he was currently working as a shear-grinding apprentice. Look here for an article in the Kölner Stadtanzeiger. 
Meinhard is also acquainted with Mr. Morsbach, former head of Otter knives and now selling the Mercator / Katze 55 K knife.
At the booth I found this interesting gutting knife, a folding knife with no tip and a slipjoint mechanism, a novel idea now produced by Otter, and courtesy of Mr. Morsbach.
Lots of weekend projects, most of them out of 440C, but also some damascus blades.
Mr. Remscheid, a funny and competent colleage to Mr. Morsbach, presenting his favourite neck and pocket knife, a giant bowie.;-)
This is the master himself. I have a deep respect for this man who knows how to walk his way, has an overflowing creativity and a load of knowledge. I keep learning from him every time we meet, and he has given me valuable input on my knifemaking already.
I walked on to a more pressing topic. This is the booth of the Landesfischereiverband NRW e.V...

They currently work hard for the renaturization of lakes and rivers in North-Rhine-Westfalia, my home region. Power plants, accumulation lakes, industrialization and urbanization all have contributed to a lot of barriers for the breeding of fish and river cancer and other aquatic wildlife. Now the Europen Union is funding the renaturalization of rivers and lakes to promote the reestablishment of wildlife into our regional water bodies with some 80.000.000€. The project is scheduled until 2027, and the association is involved as a counselling member of staff, and is not involved into financial processes.
One little known topic is the fact that native cancer are currently being surpressed by non-native kinds, therefore generating an imbalance in the ecosystem that can even lead to pollution with alga and thusly rout entire local ecosystems. But that´s not the only project promoted by hard work by both staff and executives. Another topic is the building of devices to help salmon overcome artificial barriers to promote their breeding. All this is hard work, I guess, and the activists deserve my deepest respect.

My thanks go to Dr. Niepagenkämper who took the time to answer my questions and point out the finer relations of the ecosystems involved, but also the funding aspects of the project, and I hope to promote their work if only a tiny bit with my article. They certainly do not get the attention they deserve for their engagement. Too many simpletons still think hunters and fishers are "just killing animals". That they also take the responsibility for entire ecosystems and most of them doing a great job, is a little known thing. As is the case with most any group, there are black sheep for sure, but that can never be the majority.
They also had a fishing demo with a big basin on display demonstrating new and basic fishing techniques. There were lots of interested spectators and a competent audience making for a cool but enlightening atmosphere.

Then it was time for my visit in Hall 6, where I had some people to meet;-). First, I met Mr. Weber from Weberknives. Go to their website here.
They have loads of goodies for the accomplished weekend-project knifemaker as well as the professional. To the right you can see supplies for making traditional German hunting swords, decorative bolsters, handles, all from brass.
They sell Pakistan damascus blades and have a thorough quality management policy. Those blades are not made from tin cans and other junk, but from 15N20 and 1095 steel qualities with a guaranteed Rockwell hardness of 60HRC.
Blades from 1.4109, 1.4034 and 440C qualities.
Traditional and modern blade shapes from different steel qualities.
The company also specializes in making traditional German "Jagdnicker" knives and blades, most in 440C steel. I really like this style of knife. It is simple, easy to carry and cuts well, and makes for a great allround cutter.
Also on display were a load of colourfully etched blades for knives to go with a traditional Bavarian attire. These are a part of German culture and serve as a snack knife to be carried in the "Lederhose" (leather pants). In that, they can be compared to the Scottish Sgian Dubh. The term "Jagdnicker" comes from the German hunting jargon term "abnicken", which means, to stick the neck of a wounded deer to kill it by severing the spinal nerve system fibres. In that, it is a hunting knife per definitionem. Another cultural aspect is the "Brotzeit", a traditional platter of snack items, which is served mainly on a wooden board in the "Biergarten", where traditionally no table cutlery would be provided (nowadays it is, of course!), and one had to use one´s own knife (and sometimes fork) to skew bacon, radishes, cheese, pickled cucumber, and spread mustard and "Kren" (a paste of hot horse radish, cream and sometimes apple) on the meat and cheese. A competition in `em days;-) as well as nowadays is who can carve the finest accordeon decor from the "Radi", a white radish, which is sprinkled with salt and sometimes pepper. The "Brotzeit", in that, is more of a ritual, and involves a good deal of drinking, too, "Weissbier" and schnapps alike, and a good deal of showing off the knife, which is often decorated far beyond practicability. The knife is the pride of any true Bavarian, and older versions are to be found decorated with scales of ebony, intarsia in mother-of-pearl, silver, and even gold, but those are rare. I hope I can do a post on the kind of knife sometime soon, for it is a very interesting topic for sure.  
Also on display was a wide array of different scale materials, hardwood, micarta, G-10, everything one could wish for.
Stag and reindeer antler galore...

This friendly guy is Mr. Weber jun. proudly displaying one of the company´s premium and most recent projects, a cooperation with Walther knives for their anniversary. The blade is from the Weber lineup, made from 440C, 11,5 cm long, with bead-blasted Micarta scales, and will only see a limited production run of 500 pieces.

I went on  my way to visit the Hubertus booth (Get to their website here)just some aisles away, and had the privilege to meet with Dr. Henning Ritter, a real insider and bristling with competence on any traditional German knife design one can think of. He even works as a consultant for the German magazine "Messermagazin" for his competence as a conoisseur of cultural history and history of art, and he has contributed a lot to what few facts I know about the topic.

Mr. Ritter also had this take on a tactical design on display, one of the company´s current novelties. The blade is 150 mm long, with a 440 C bowie blade, a Kraton handle and a leather sheath. Apart from that, the company really excells in making traditional designs. Their automatic knives are famed world wide, and they make traditional German hunting folders and Jagdnicker designs in a multitude of forms. If you ever have the chance to visit the city of Solingen, pay them a visit, it´s well worth it!

I was all fluffy already from all that talking and walking and taking photos, so I had a break with some delicious food and drink, and had quite a share of coffee, before I ventured on to my personal highlight of the show, the Karesuando booth.

I met with Ulf, Per and Martin, who were quite busy. As usual, they compensated with their great mood and enthusiasm even when the going got tough, and their enthusiasm for their products is honest and simply motivates to work on your skills, too. Take a look at their website here.

I really, really like those Saami knives, and will make some myself, soon, again. I simply love the warm colour of the birchwood burr and the cool contrast to the reindeer antler´s white colour. The fine ornaments add to the atmosphere of a beautiful knife that even works in the bargain.

You might wonder whether I get paid to say so.;-) But I only write about the booths I can really relate to, and that enthuse and inspire me. Needless to say, there were quite a lot of booths inspiring me, the one downside of the expo, that there simply is not enough time for all of them.

This is the common man´s lineup;-), none too shabby either...

Ulf had a lot of historical finds on display, too, amongst which was this very interesting broadaxe. It presumably dates back (originally) to the year 919 and began its life a s a viking "dane-axe", a war axe maybe, and, according to Ulf, was modified later to be used as a woodworking tool. I cannot say if this is actually the case, but it was found in the joisting of an old Swedish cloister. The handle is a preserved original. Later, a layer of higher carbon steel was welded onto the edge part, and one on the back to serve as a hammer "poll", and the blade was slightly offset. I am a bit sceptical as to the "viking" origin of the tool and its age, for it screams "tool" on top of its lungs, and where would be the harm? It is older than 200 years at least, that much I can agree with Ulf.
What hints towards a weapon origin, however, is the fact, that the blade is rather thin all over its width, just some 6-8mm thick, and there are several welding layers presumeably applied later. Plus, the blade is not a two-layer, asymmetrical bevel one, but a symmetrical one with three layers. I do not think it might be a typical daneox, for the socket towards the handle is not typical of axes of that period. But then there is a welded layer in the area that might as well hint of  a later modification. In the picture to the right you can see the edge part that was shoed on.
The offset of the blade. Note the thin blade!
The welds at the socket.
Those are knives Ulf made himself with blades from Karesuando and Poul Strande. Reindeer antler and birchwood burr all.

Another historical piece, a butcher knife he found in the dumpster.
And this is his EDC knife (on top) he made to be carried in the society of the future.;-) Just kidding, he made it to make midget filets.;-)
Real big one, eh? Why is it everyone is making miniatures at the moment?

This is a sheath for that knife, glued onto the foot of his midget hotel.... great time at the Karesuando booth I had. We had a chat and a laugh, and interesting discussions. Ulf is now moving over to Sweden, has given up completely on being a German, which is only fair and righteous if you want to migrate to another country. He is sick of German mentality and the travesty show that once was called government, and I can fairly understand his reasons...
On I went to the booth of Mr. Belenczak, another fine Hungarian knifemaker. He makes extremely rustic knives, all handforged with little to no power tools. I daresay his knifemaking is genuinely "tribal", even if he would not call it that name. He just does what he does, and is righteously proud of his achievements. Those are knives from carbon steel, fire, anvil, hammer and a tiny little filing.
More traditional Hungarian shepherd and hunting knives. Could have bought the entire booth, but didn´t.
Still more of them, and some weekenders, too.
The expo was crammed full of expositors of name and fame, amongst which the Leatherman booth was but one.
I also had a nice talk with Mr. Janas Madaras, another Hungarian craftsman from the folkart division, who was there with his colleague, Mr. Vergil Culda, who was presenting very high quality woodcarving items.
Note the details on those trophy boards! This is Mr. Vergil Culda, proud crafter of the chair to the right. Awesome, for sure!
Delicate carvings in antler and wood. I really like those knives, they simply have a kind of spirit to them.
This was a chandelier they had on display, a novel item finished only but recently. Antler and wood.
... without words...
...table cutlery...
More traditional Hungarian folding knives...
Note the billhook pruning knives to the left!

I must say that I own several of his works, and they are really great, with an awesome finish, but preserving an air of the handcrafted still. The steel is excellently tempered. The 440C-blades stand the Solingen nail test, and that´s a feat to achieve with that steel! The hollow grinds are always so sharp you can use them as an actual razor, the only limitation being the handle!
But he can also do differently. Tribal designs from 55CrMoV carbon steel, as excellent as the rest!
Last but in no way least, his woodworking tools that do another great job. Mr. Madaras certainly is a very accomplished craftsman. I am currently thinking of learning the language, if only a bit, to better communicate with those craftsmen. They have a culture of craftsmanship that is actually alive and well, and there might be much to learn.
This is a wardrobe hanger. Wood and chamois horn. I simply like the playful abstraction achieved by the mixing of those materials.
And I am amazed that you cannot quite tell where the animal part subsides and the wood part begins. You have to look closely to make out the difference. I love that very much.

This is the knife that won the Brno exposition custom knife award. 440C, handfiled corkscrew, engravings, awl, saw, gutting blade, main blade, stag antler scales, and entirely made by hand.

More fine art on display.

I said goodbye and went back to the Otter booth to take some more photos and to discuss some matters with Mr. Morsbach. I had seen a lot of custom knives and fine art, but being as is, the Otter lineup is none too shabby either, for production items, that is. They specialize in pruning tools and knives for the industry, but are currently expanding their lineup of hunting and bushcraft knives, too. They had a lot of them on display, and some novelties, too. Having torture tested their knives to an extent noone in their right mind would ever throw at their blades, I can say, they came out still begging for more. I am talking real quality here. Most of their blades are made from 1.4125 steel, which is nearly identical to 440C, the folding knives often being made from 1.2003 (C75) steel.

Pruning and working folders...

Hunting knives...

This is a novelty, a short but sturdy hunter with a folding saw and a gutting blade. 440C steel with olive wood scales.

They also have a quality damascus lineup, traditional as well as modern design blades.

As a conclusion I want to say it was a very intensive day. It was an interesting experience to visit the expo, and many impressions were there to be taken home. The exposition is a must-go for every nature enthusiast, knife afficionado, hunters and fishers, bushcrafters, families even, now also geocachers and other sports enthusiasts who want to inform themselves about the ecosystems that make their own habitat, too. There were too many shows, expositions, tutorials to mention them all. as an example there was that famed birds of prey show, the show of offroad trucks and SUVs,  bowshooting tutorials, kids tutorials, fishing and hunting tutorials, lectures on hunting, shooting, guns and ammunition as well as geocaching and the learning place that is made by nature. I missed the national deer bell competition on the day before, which was highly recognized throughout Europe, and a load of other events, leading to the resolve that next year will see me visiting that giant show at least three days again.

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