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Mittwoch, 7. Mai 2014

Solingen Knifemaker´s Fair 2014-II- meeting old friends and opening leaden boxes.

 There was a lot to see at Solingen this year. I had already lost Willi, but was quite confident where to find him-for outside, in the beautiful yard of the museum, overshadowed by majestic old trees it was where Achim, Norbert, Gunnar and our old master and tutor, Matthias Zwissler, had their booth.
 So outside I went, and there was some smithing going on as well, and by the great grandmaster of Germany, Fred Schmalz, in the bargain. Mr. Schmalz is well over 65 years old, and is still going stronger than ever, and you can feel he is fed by the fire . There was a lot of tech talk going on, on a very high level, and you could learn a lot about bladesmithing and making damascus by simply standing there and looking. Also, it kindled the flame in myself again.
 But there had been enough morale;-) off to the feeding! I had some sandwiches, some meat balls, a lot of coffee... and whom did I meet at the coffee  booth? Willi, of course, for the blood level in his caffeine was rising and he had to do something against it. Then some cake and a goulash soup, and I was feeling human again... we met Rolf, and Stefan, and a lot of folks from Münster Knifemaking Club, sat under an old tree, had some great food and enjoyed a chat, some weird jokes and Rolf poked me in the ribs with his knife;-) perfect.
 Then we were off to Achim´s booth. Achim has but an email-adress, but I daresay he is one of the most accomplished knifesmiths and metallurgists in Germany, maybe in Europe, but he is very down-to-earth. Here is a batoning test with one of his more simple knives. Here you can find something that is frankly insane from a metzallurgical point of view and requires a lot of knowledge: Stainless Pulad.

The knives he had on display were just plain beuatiful. It is quite a feature to make a Seax with a clean pattern like this. It is certainly not my style, for it is a bit too clean for my liking, and I prefer a more ornamental design. But I have seen him whacking this Seax into a rod of high-carbon steel with not so much of an afterthought and no damage to the blade.

 Top is a Persian javelin, a Leuku, and a dagger. The latter aappeals to me mostly because of the delicate pattern on the blade, but, again, the design´s not my piece of cake.
 This Wootz blade, however,
 just made me want to have it... Above is a big camp knife out of mono steel. What I like best is the versatility of this guy. He can do a lot of styles, and the quality of his blades is legendary.
 Another Seax by Achim.
 Next to Achim was Norbert, another Lord of Metal. And as we came by, he did THIS (Apologies again for messing up the perspective, I promise I will learn it some day):

MAD!!!! These are the results:

 Top is one of his kitchen knives. Below is a knife out of Pakistani damascus.
 Now, this is the "Amilas" test which is not considered very polite amongst bladesmiths, but plagiarism is not polite either;-) and I guess the point is made by this edge;-).
 Then there was a sabre demonstration going on. There were demos the whole day, from Iai-Do to Ken-Do, to Kyu-Do, European Martial Arts (Long sword, short sword and buckler, sabre, rapier, sword and shield), and, of course, the smelting by the guys and the forging by Fred Schmalz.
 They had an Aristotle furnace going...
 As well as a more traditional smelting furnace. To the left there´s Matthias who managed to take a day off from his strenueous life to come to Solingen, and I hope he will be well... but that´s another story and the internet is no place for it.

 This is how the air flow is achieved, just a simple garden hose does the job.
At the forge of Mr. Schmalz I came across a novel kind of flux (at least to me). He mixrd Borax with rust to provide a better cleaning effect on the metal´s surface and a metal reduction effect, as I guess.

So, the visit to the yard was certainly inspiring. Of course, when I went upstairs, my camera did decide my time was out, but I did not agree. I met with Mr. Fazekas, who had his great works of art on display, not much new, but great no less. At the booth of Wolf Borger I got some material to work with the newly-kindled fire..., 1.2842 steel and red G-10 fibre. I met with Gerhard Wieland, and Daniel Boll. But the most intensive encounter I have had since many years was yet to come at the booth of Peter Johnsson. Now Peter was herding ;-) the Arctic fire folks in 2013. Visit their website for the most interesting quest that has given the magic troll and myself quite something to think about for some months, and it turns out the troll was quite close to a winning guess... So I came across one of my biggest idols in the bladesmithing world, and before I knew it, we were hotly engaged in a most inspiring conversation about sword physics and medieval design theories. Peter has a most intriguing theory concerning the architectural design of medieval swords which I find both plausible and inspiring, even if I to date do not comprehend it completely still. Here he treats the proportional design of the Soborg sword, which can stand as an example for many others of the type, and he is currently doing statistical research on the proportions of swords from the early medieval age to high medieval times. What struck him as very peculiar is that the design principles of those artifacts where the same as those applied to medieval churches, cathedrals and cloisters, and bearing similarities to sacral architecture. He gave me a tour-de-force view of medieval architecture of swords and buildings alike, and in no time we were deeply engaged in a philosophical conversation. Now this all might not seem so peculiar, and I am personally accustomed to the feel of a well - made sword in my hand. But there was a bunch of friendly folks around also partaking in the conversation, amongst whom there was a girl. She was beautiful, but you could tell she was a bit withdrawn. Then Peter handed her one of his swords, a Gothic hand-and-a-half sword, one very similar to this one. At that moment it was as if a veil was removed from a shining light. Her eyes sparkled with fire, and Peter just said: "You feel it, do you?". It was beautiful, both to see the girl suddenly radiating, and Peter´s plain and simple reaction. Then we were again deeply engaged in some philosophical discussion, and soon we were nearing spiritual topics, as is not so far-off, considering his theory. Anyway, I saw at that moment something that is often quoted and seldom seen: That which we love to call "the power of the sword". I understood a whole lot of things in this moment, too many to explain in a humble post on a blog in the internet. I understood that there is a deity that is not easy to agnize, and I understood that there are methods to feel it. And that these methods are nothing new, but a secret jealously kept by keepers generally not apt to the task. And that the steel keeps the secret much better than any human master, but that there is a force behind the steel that is greater still. The design principles that Peter loves to relate to are just that: Design principles. But they serve a much bigger purpose. And, what I find most beautiful about this swordsmith is not that he makes great blades. There are others around doing that too. There were a great many lot of them on the Knifemaker´s fair, and a great many very great individuals and characters, too. But I have seen the locks of iron, copper and silver open in the way he talks about agnition, just a tiny bit, but it gave me a lot of hope.

Now I will not take up swordsmithing because of meeting with Peter Johnsson. I will not study the principles of sword design because of it. But what I realized is that I have never stopped on that way, and that it was there the whole time. And it isn´t about the tools or the weapons.

Who knows need not ask, who asks, will get no answer. But I opened a leaden casket to see the locks of iron, copper and silver undone. Those are my very own words, and readers of my blog know that. Peter found some very similar. I hope to stay in contact to him. Period.

There are many more impressions. I could tell you how we sat in the yard again, the Iaido  and Kyudo show with their meditational atmosphere, or the plain recreational violence;-) of European Martial arts. Of great food, of steel and chatting, of seeing new works not only by the masters, but also by my friends and aquaintances. Of how it was all a very friendly, peaceful meeting of educated, even academical people. But I can only suggest to get down here and pay this fair a visit. You´ll see a whole lot of weapons and a whole lot of peaceful atmosphere.

 

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