Freitag, 13. Februar 2015

Jagd und Hund Expo 2015: Harmony and controversy

Jagd und Hund Expo 2015 is over, and this time it was a very intense experience with very mixed feelings. The magic troll had warned me that on the day I wanted to go to make some photos and the article, there was a protest action scheduled by vegans and the local animal rights movement. Now I am all for treating animals the way they deserve. In fact, I would not be offended to be eaten by a wild pig or a fox if I fall dead in the forest, for humans are not so different from other animals in my book. The fact that we use tools does not make us better, in contrast, we have to do so in the first, in order to even be able to survive just so. And industrial meat "production" is a perversion of our shrewd minds. I do obstain from discount meat as much as I can. I am no saint at all, but I try to get better. If I can´t afford sensible meat (meaning venison that actually has been hunted, "happy" pork and beef and chicken), I cook vegetarian. It has been two years and a half since I last saw a McDonalds, Burger King or KFC from the inside, and I prepare as much fresh and high quality food myself, including wild herbs, mushrooms and vegetables.
Now these funny chaps and lassies were standing there, a bit lonely, shouting "blood, blood, blood on YOUR hands" and "hunters, fuck off, no one misses you", all robed in synthetics with an energy balance so far off that you need a star chart to find it, and gorging themselves on soya proteine on which corporations like Monsanto and BASF have a monopole. And most of you know what THAT means. I know full well that there are a great many hunters who´d better have not an arms license, let alone should be permitted to go hunting. But we still play at living in a democracy, so you just can´t prohibit them. Far better would be to convince them to fulfill their task of protecting nature, by teaching and feeding the love for nature. But certainly not by screaming insults at them or building a totalitarian system. It is ridiculous, that none of them actually went inside to actually talk to the exhibitors. Of course, there were a lot of corporations inside offering hunting "sports" vacations, and chance is, a lot of rich, overweight perverts with a big bore gun will travel to Africa to shoot one or two lions to pulp only for trophies. But then many wildlife resorts have to rely on them to be able to keep up their work of protecting the animals inside from poachers. It´s unfair, that much is true, and it is even more unfair that many poachers have to rely on their criminal work to be able to keep their family alive, but that´s reality. To change this, we as Western civilization have to give up exploiting these nations and offer up a good deal of our wealth and welfare, meaning going back to an agrarian lifestyle, and let´s be honest: Who wants that? I could do this, and maybe you, my faithful readers, but how realistic is this? So wildlife resorts will be relying on fat cats with a fat belly and a fat purse to be able to keep up their work. Of course, there are still the commercial hunting travel corporations on the marketplace. You cannot ban them. You have to convince people not to buy their travels, or convince them to a new hunting ethics that is very old, and that, as I am informed, is practiced in Sweden with a great success: If you want to shoot an elk, fine, get one, but use all of it, not just the trophy, and not more than one a year. You will only get the weak ones.
Better yet, give those fat guys a batch of dogs and a boar spear period.;-). That way, the boar will weed out the weak ones.:-)

But you will never convince people in any context if you scream insults at them.

By the way, I want to thank Olaf und Heike, from Wildfang Design for whom I worked on the expo and who fetched me for my leisurely stroll too. I just like the two of them. They make great garments out of sensibly produced or even recycled leather all by hand, and they are some of the nicest and most laidback people I have met in the last ten years. The love for what they do talks out of their work and makes it really outstanding. I will never be able to afford so much of a vest by them, but hey, one can still dream...;-). Go visit their website, it´s well worth it.
Talking of which, after a chat I went on my merry way, rounded a bend and - tadaah - stumbled into the Karesuando booth. Now those who know me know that I have a close relation to this corporation. Karesuando knife blades started my knifemaking endeavors anew, way before I made my dirt forge. I have used them at many tutorials, and those blades might not be something to brag about, but they do not need any bragging. They are no heebie-jeebies-goobalahbah-unobtanium blades, but have been refined by a thousand years of perfection. It shows. They typically hold an edge well enough while being that sturdy that the carbon steel blades I have tested to destruction break at a nearly full-cycle (180°) bend. They have to be sharpened, of course, but can be with little effort. The handles are typically extremely well made with little to no tolerances. If you do with them what you can do sensibly do with a knife (not excluding mild batoning) even those with a short tang can stand up to a lot of use.

Of course, I also have a good affinity to the people I have met there: Gabriele, Per-Eric, Gunnar, Ulf, Martin, all of them were simply nice people. Now one can argue, anyone is nice when he tries to sell you something. The culprit is, I have bought so much from them in my life that they did not actively try to sell me more;-). I am just convinced of the quality of their knives and gear. Many of you bushcrafters have used and loved Karesuando knives. So I must not tell you how they perform. They are not the ultimate prybar, but if you want a prybar, get yourself one, and not a knife.

Now they are on a new trail: With a hunter out of RWL 34 and a massive amount of new models with damasteel blades some of their blades tell an altogether new story. Their Galten överlevnadskniv is nothing revolutionary, just a proven workhorse that now comes with a diamond hone and a firesteel.(source: manufacturer´s website)

In Germany they are available via Boker knives. And now we come to a problem. Their prices have gone up in a soaring manner, and while I understand that this is due to a high amount of handwork and high quality, e.g. the hunter or the Galten now compete with knives like the Bush Prowler by Ilkka Seikku, which is custom-made to your specifications or the Fällkniven F1 in some specifications with a three-layer laminate blade. RWL 34 now is a good steel, and I have no doubts the knife will perform as great as every Karesuando knife does, but it is hard to compete with a legend. And then there´s always that ever-ubiquitous Mora Bushcraft with a monstrous value-for money. That Karesuando hunter knife will have a hard time beating the performance of the Mora, which comes at almost half of the price. It would be a different matter with a steel that could be marketed better (don´t get me wrong, Uddeholm 1770 or 12C27 was a steel that did it all. I do not know about that Rokki carbon steel they now use). In short terms, raising the prices while changing two steels at once, and using a steel that is not all the rage is trying to do aggressive US-style marketing without the proper instrument. I would suggest CPM-3V or D2 or Uddeholm Sleipner or a three-layer Cowry-X. Then the price could be even higher, and cater to collectors more than users, for the latter ones did not ask for anything else than what was at hand. As is, I suspect there will be difficulties.

But as is, those Galten models will be what they are: Dead functional workhorses you can trust your life on, refined in a thousand years of Saami culture. This leads me to another aspect:

Karesuando is more than "just" another knifemaking corporation. They transport Saami culture, and, given that the Saami people are still being discriminated in Sweden and Russia, this can but be a good thing. For if you own something typical of a culture and are endeared by it, you are far more open to the other cultural aspects as well. For instance, the knife in the picture above is a functional neck knife, and the scrimshaw is highly decorative and simply beautiful, butt deeply immersed in Saami traditional culture and belief. The drawing shows a traditional Saami drum with a four-fold cardinal partition, which presumeably stands for the four winds. Different character symbols are represented in the drawing as well, which can be read as "the diversity of the universal brotherhood of men is a part of the spiritual and actual domain of the four directions" (my personal interpretation). The Karesuando logo present there is a manufacturer´s logo in the first, but also a representation of the reindeer that play such an important role in the survival of Saami culture while having a cultural and religious aspect also. But above all, it is a beautiful knife. We in Europe have created a mindset of "sic et non", meaning, we cannot but think in dualisms. Either it is just a knife, and then there is nothing to it, or it is an object of superstition. Truckloads of absolutely absurd Athamen give testament to this fact. I daresay that to a Saami a knife has to be a knife. He or she needs it every day, and it is a simple tool that has to get the job done. But it plays an important role in Saami culture as well, and there´s no reason why it can´t be beautiful or symbolic. But it will always remain a trusty tool, and the fact that it IS a trusty and essential tool is reason for its importance in culture.
 The necklace represents a Saami drum, with even more connection to the world of the spiritual, which is-according to my information-not seen as disconnected to the actual world, but an essential part of it. The drum, often referred to poetically as "riding reindeer" or "horse", eases the contact or, better said, makes one see clearer. It is not about superstition, but about the spiritual essence in everyday life. Saami are, for the most part, a bit suspicious to share their religion with Europeans, and I cannot at all blame them for it, so do not expect any holy truths from my mouth, I have no permission to go further into detail. But I guess, the point is made.

If you want to learn about Saami culture, feel free to ask Saami people. If they see you mean it actually and don´t want a tourist pantomime, maybe you´ll make some friends. They are humans as any human is, no noble savages, but everyday people. But in my book, our "culture" can learn a lot from them. At least we can learn that we have been wrong for a thousand years, and have done wrong to them for a thousand years. And if you really mean it, do not try to solve their issues with Western culture. Try to solve your own issues and make your own wrong better.
 Here you can see how the tang is fitted into the handle, fitted with epoxy. Typically the tang is short (about half of the blade´s length), and one can argue that the leverage forces on the handle when batoning would be too high. But if you consider that many epoxy resins have a ductile and tensile strength of about 200-370 N/mm² (rebar steel has the same) and that there is little room to move inside the handle, I guess the wood of the handle would give way before the resin did, and if you apply 200 N to a knife, chance is, the blade will break first. The problem with batoning is, if you do it repeatedly, eventually the whole blob of resin with the tang inside will work against the wood, and, being harder than it, will work loose a space inside over the years (if you do it every other day, that is). Then the handle will fail you. But not before. And there´s quite a chance, the scales on a full tang will come loose in the same time. The advantage of a full tang is, however, that you can still handle it, should the scales fall off, and do a cord wrapping. In a survival situation, this could be relevant. But if you know the how-do´s, you can far more easily replace a handle on a short tang with few provisions than on a scales handle to have an actual handle. Scandinavian seaxes and knives came that way for a thousand years, and in a culture that actually had to trust their lives upon it. And it is a totally different mindset. We in our culture tend to play around with the thought "what happens if you get dropped out of an airplane naked with only your knife". Saami people would never be caught that unprepared in the wilderness. And lots of the abuse we throw at our "survival knives" are scenarios centering around a military training or military background. Those knives are hunting and outdoor knives for cutting meat and whittling wood. For chopping, there´s an axe.
And, for the application of being versatile, light and sturdy everyday use essentials for people who know how to use them, they are more than well suited. And there´s another reason for a hidden tang: Typically in the vicinity of Karesuando, winter temperatures drop well clear of the freezing point. And you do not want a frozen knife tang frostburned into your skin, do you?;-) Anyway, there ones was a run of full tang Karesuando bushcraft knives. I am one of the few lucky ones that owns one of them.... could we please see another run?;-)
 Beautiful "Ripan" models with Damasteel "Norrsken" and "Odin´s ladder" patterns.
 I took this picture exclusively for my lovely magic troll, who loves this cute hatchet... and I guess I can relate to that. It looks like a ladie´s fashion accessory;-).
 I also loved those firesteels, beautifully fitted with reindeer antler.
 The famous Galten model with a stainless steel blade.
 Various Vuonjal knives...

 A load of goodies again! I also loved the Leuku, which is one of the most cleanly made long knives I have seen so far.
 Gabriele catwalked the Karesuando fashion accessory line for me. Now Gabriele is a most friendly and simply nice person, and I found it somewhat funny that that hatchet suited her so well I mistook it for some gaudy fashion belt accessory indeed; apologies for this rather strange compliment!;-) I hope she will provide me with an article about her corporation with impressions of the lovely surroundings soon!
 Another detail of the hatchet´s head. The head is made from high-carbon tool steel, the handle is birchwood burl with reindeer antler intarsia. Those birch burrs are not taken from callouses, but they grow that way in the harsh climate of the North. The cold and rough weather is responsible for the wood having a way higher density than any Central European birch would have, except wood from high alpine regions.
 This is Gabriele´s whittling knife, worn down from a year of demonstrations with the firesteel and a lot of whittling done. It is the same knife she had with her last year. You can see, those blades are actually being tested;-).
 Then it was time for the goodbyes and new welcomes: I wanted to buy some arrows, since I need to get some practice in. Lars Anderson really changed my perspective on archery, and while I will not get that good, there´s no reason not to try, is it?;-) So off with me to the Bogenzeit booth. I bought three cheapo arrows for practicing my newbie skills, and had a nice chat.
 Love that Gargoyle target, but would like to cuddle it rather than shoot it...
 A lot of quality leather goods on display.

 Dream and wonderland.... blimey, I have to make myself another bow..;-) it´s getting a habit...
 Next were the booths of the state forest bureaus and educational institutions. BLOOD ON YOUR HANDS!!!
 Here kids could have fun...
 ...and be educated about the coherence of ecosystems. Message;-D.
 A lot of birds of prey were there. The birds were acclimated to the crowds, and were very well cared of. I especially loved the owls (YOLO-you obviously love owls).
 Princess Nitpicky let me know she did not mind me  being there at all.
 ...still do not get the gist, eh, ****, you are NOT my type...
 This cutie however made up for the ignorance...
 Boohoo? Boo? wakawakawakaWAKAWAKAWAKA!!!!!!!!:-) was made, too.;-P
 I´d love to have one of these. If only I needed it...bummer.;-P
 Then onwards to the Dannecker Collection booth. They always have a load of knives and quality leather clothing at a bargain on display, and did a most interesting demo on engraving.
 Then suddenly around a bend, and to the Gamsjaga booth. The old rascal had a load of knives and gear on display. And this is an interesting topic that would be sort of a head topic of this expo. I daresay he believes himself that he makes those knives himself by hand in the Bayrisches Land region in Germany from old leaf springs. I am informed otherwise, and the source is most reliable. But that´s not my business. I am informed that his knives are made in the Czech republic and in Pakistan. When I had learned that last year, it was only natural that I put the knives I own from him through their paces, in order to find out what they can do. The culprit is, they are made well enough for the price. One of the Drudenmesser ritual knives I own is obviously not made of leaf springs or any such like. It is highly stain resistant for a Damascus, and a steel analysis of grinding dust and fragments revealed a high percentage of chromium contents hinting of an industrial raw material consisting of 0,4 and 0,75 % stainless carbon steels. The hardness of both Damascus blades is high enough to carve mild steel rodss, and it even chops antler and cuts paper afterwards. The finish is somewhat raw, and certainly not even nearly up to par with even the simplest of Peter Pfaffinger´s absolutely great and culturally relevant knives, but that´s not an issue, for they come at a fraction of a price. SOMEONE with very few tools has made them in a very frugally equipped shop, and SOMEONE makes a sparse profit by telling lies about it. This SOMEONE would fare far better if he´d tell the truth.
 The knife below is actually what it claims to be, high carbon steel laminate with white paper steel and T-55 tank cannon. I am informed they are made in the Czech republic, and they are absolutely a different matter. They are finished quite well, and you can see in the blade of the knife first from below that they are selectively tempered. The blade is nice and thin. It is a most excellent whittler and snack knife, and yap, I DO love it.
 Those are new interpretations of the traditional German hunting knife. Please look closely at the stamp.
 Then look closely at this page.
 You will find the same mistake if you look closely.
 Now the culprit is, those are really good knives, not excellent ones, but knives that get the job done actually quite well. I personally like them and in my opinion they are made by good craftsmen with little provisions. What I absolutely detest is that there´s someone, may he know the underside of society´s vessel as much as one can, making some disputable profit out of someone who has even less and works hard, while the old rascal maybe doesn´t. I know smiths when I meet one. This is most certainly none. No harm done, really, if he´d not say otherwise. It is a most sorry affair that the products are of good quality. We´ll see further down that there´s a whole situation centred around this.
 The booth of the Scottish Tweed and wax company calmed down a bit... I was drooling so much all over the place that they had me throon outta...;-D
 Now back to this controversial topic. Let me introduce you to Mr. Izwán. He makes knives in Pakistan. Those are his knives below, and he certainly is not a tribal knifemaker anymore. But Pakistani knifemaking hails from this background. Now I have always been controversial about the topic of Pakistani knives, and some of them are of very, very poor quality.  I have learned that these knives are not, and my personal impression is that they are up to par with a lot of custom knives in Germany. The culprit is, those guys are good. They can make Damascus knives out of 1095 and 15N20 steels that take a homogenous crystalline structure and a high Rockwell hardness with good flexibility.

 The knives are, for the most part, beautifully made, and even if some of the shapes are not my piece of cake, one cannot but acknowledge the craftsmanship.
 The pattern control is meticulous, the finish excellent. I loved the Kopis second from the bottom.
 They can do every conceivable shape and handle material. They can adapt to any wish you can utter and will do it for you if you but buy ten blades.
 And they do it for a crap as payment. They work hard, so hard, that a well-trained European smith would presumeably collapse in one day. But it´s a living. And we want to buy a bowie knife for 49€. I hope the workers all have an insurance and health care and the kids go to school. But Pakistan is not exactly famed for its social system, and corporations working for Western customers are not known to be nice to their co-workers. I have the impression that this corporation is a bit different, or maybe it is just a hope. It certainly is not meant as a criticism of the Pakistani political or economical system. I have no right to criticize it. What I criticize, however, is something that I must claim guilty of myself. I was led to believe they were the enemy. I joined the whining choir of those who said it was them destroying the marketplace, and indeed I have a hard time explaining why I would charge 200€ for a monosteel spring steel knife with a sheath (IF I would sell them;-)) because of those prizes that are right impossible to best for a German knifemaker. For Germans HAVE fees to pay for health care and insurance, and the cost of living is higher. But then we earn a lot more, and we live in welfare and commodity. And part of our welfare comes from exploit and lying and claiming a copyright. For what? Because we can draw a sketch and order someone to get it done? That´s not creativity. Creativity is sole-author, it is anarchic and playful, and cares a bullshit for plagiarism, for it thrums with energy that thrives through it vibrantly. But it needs to be fed by actually doing it and daring to do. There are thousand reasons I have heard in the last years why it is not possible to make good and serviceable knives from old crap, there are thousands of know-it-alls claiming to have all there is on the latest magic steels and having the opinion you can´t take spring steel, for it´s too soft and blah and blah. There are thousands of know-it-alls making us believe "they" are the enemy. Fit in what you like. But no one has actually done anything, but cheap talking and drawing sketches and doing speculations and brokery with bank accounts and the lives of other hard-working men. And no one even dares to say their knives are NOT made in Germany, but proudly in Pakistan, India or China. And they have every right to be proud of their history. It is safe to say that our technology would not exist had it not been for metallurgists in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq  and the like. Wootz Damascus presumeably originated from the region of the Achaemenid empire. Without Wootz, it can be questioned very much if the modern smelting technologies would have been invented. All of these aforementioned countries have a strong history of metalworking, and if we would allow this to come at a price, more things than are now would be fine. Maybe even this insane global conflict would be at least not as violent as it is.

It is respect that would solve the problem. We owe them our technology. If you can´t afford a Bowie knife or a Kopis that comes with a price tag that actually suits the needs of the maker and leaves room for his or her creativity, the products would be far better than they are even to date. And do not get me wrong, they are something to be proud of even so. But then kids and adults alike would get a better life, good education and health insurance and no hard work. I cannot speak for this corporation, but in the textile industry exploit of children is commonplace. I am not necessarily against children´s work, for I cannot evaluate the cultural background, for I know too little, and I have an easy say from my position. And I do not criticize this corporation, but our Western mindset.

In short, we tend to exploit everyone around us. When they do not want to be exploited anymore we get a tantrum or start whining. This is childish and disgusting.

The alternative? IF you produce a knife in Pakistan, be proud of it. Tell it like it is, and take the best, not the cheapest, and pay a price that suits the maker. You´d want to be treated that way, too. Invest in social issues as much as you can. Or better yet, make it yourself where you live in a friendly competition, and, if someone offers a better product, learn from him instead of whining and turning yourself into a big disgrace.

Back to business: I talked to Mr. Izwán, and I guess he found me a bit weird;-). Please take note that I will discuss any changes of the article with him and will maybe edit it to suit his needs out of respect. I hope he will provide me with more information about his corporation and how he works. He promised me to provide me with a video for publication. I look forward to learning more about Pakistani knifemaking! As is, Mr. Izwán has corrected a big mistake of mine I made: Assuming Pakistan meant bad quality. And he kindled my interest for the Persian and Achaemenid metalworking culture.

 The booth next door, however, was a right contrast, and I found the dispatching by the expo organization not too good.

The Hungarian custom knifemakers shared a big booth. It was a good example of how creativity expresses itself and how vibrant energy and high quality can counteract the fight for bargain. Mr. Joszéf Jeneszes was there for the first time and had really interesting goodies on display. This triple-edged woodworking tool was made out of beautiful Damascus. It came in at a justified 330€.
 A Tanto friction folder, another meticulously accomplished idea. Not exactly bargain for sure, but I guess my point is made.
 The grand master of Hungarian knifemaking was next, Mr. Joszef Fazekas. We traded a handshake, and I revelled in the sheer lustre of his creations.
 I am really inspired by those knives that he calls Bo-Kri (bowie-Khukhuri).

Wonderful scrimshaw...

 ...and the other side.
 And then I met with Rainer. Rainer Grösche is a knifemaker from Germany doing mostly most exclusive pen knives with rare and priced materials.
 He had these beauties on display. We chatted a good while, and dreamed up some plans for the future, maybe doing an event together with music, cigars and whiskey- and knives and forging of course.

 Next was the booth of Attila Kertész. I especially loved these half-tang knives. be continued...

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