Mittwoch, 4. Mai 2016

Of Swords and Owls and new and old wisdom- Solingen knife expo 2016

 On Sunday the tides were turning again towards the DAY. THAT day. In every year I - and more and more of my friends- visit the Solingen knife expo. Nick and Kathrin were meeting me in the train, and Torben had joined us. Torben is currently contemplating becoming a full - time - swordsmith. I had advised him he´d rather not become a swordsmith as only profession, but rather get as complete an education as possible, meaning, doing an apprenticeship as a blacksmith and bladesmith and get those swordsmithing skills by personal studies in archaeology, metallurgy, mythology, philosophy, psychology, law and first and foremostly, bladesmithing. I also suggested he´d have a chat with the best on the expo, and there he was. As is customary with me on the expo, I was still in the entrance hall of the museum when I had my first chat. Nick and Kathrin, who are accustomed to that endeavour, were off on their own, and Torben joined in.

It was a really cool experience, for it was at the checkroom where there was a young lady going like "Hey, nice cap you have, Naalbindning, is it?" I looked at her and was like "yeah, it´s my luck charm cap...Viking reenactress, are you?". It all ended in a half of an hour of chatting, discussion and sharing a laugh or two. I gave her my Email, and there might be some cooperation in the future. We´ll see...

Then I ventured into the room where I usually tardy a lot of time in a most agreeable manner. This year would be no different.
 As always, it was a pleasure to meet with the Steigerwald couple. Stefan is a full - time knifemaker and sells knifemaking supplies. He had this really cool display made for a top - quality watch. I am always amazed at the technically advanced and lovingly made display systems and art concept knives he makes, for they show an abnormal attention to detail. Maybe not my piece of cake most of the time, but my respect goes to the craftsmanship, which is meticulous.
Next to Stefan was another nice guy I always like to meet, Peter Abel of Lindenschmiede smithy.
I really love his style of blades that combine eloquence with an interesting and rugged atmosphere.
For the quality offered, the blades present a right bargain.
For a smaller budget, he got some Solingen kitchen knives on display.

Here Mel Gibson ...errr... Peter shows off his latest somewhat psychotic--- erm--- kitchen knife???:-D This was a huge beast with a proper spine thickness.

After having a chat with peter about this and that, I immediately made to the second floor of the museum. There Anssi Ruusuvuori held a lecture on the Finnish Puukko. It certainly inspired me to do a feature on that myself, and I have learned a lot. It also was a right privilege to meet with Mrs. Ph. D. (Dr.) Grotkamp - Schepers who managed her last expo as head of the museum, for she will enjoy her retirement from now on. I would very much like to thank her for all the great times I had at the museum. She was a very competent manager, with a vast knowledge and a heart for blades. Even more so, she also had a vision, and the museum would not exist in this form had it not been for her motivation. I, for one, in turn would not know what I know had it not been for this museum. The bladesmithing community worldwide owes a lot to this person. From my heart, I wish her all the best!

Then I was off to meet up with Peter. I am not quite sure if he is my master. What I can safely say, though, is, that he is a guy I personally feel obliged to thank for years of enlightening moments, and I mean it in a spiritual way. Peter is a very professional person, and hides his real personality well, but the ideas and the spirit that drives him are so violently strong that it simply shines through his very existence. I can´t put it another way than this: He once stated that he felt himself as a warrior of the mind (and spirit, I might add), and the light of wisdom and knowledge. This light shines through him in a very concrete manner.
I feel a bit helpless, and I am not convinced that my gibberish makes any sense to you. Peter is on the one hand a normal guy. He is like you and me. He is a human beings and he has his shortcomings and you could make fun of them. I do not even know how he drinks his coffee, and chance is, he sometimes gets a bit annoyed by this his faithful swordsmith´s groupie, for swordsmithing groupies tend to be a bit on the ugly side of pretty;-D. But there is something about Peter that has nothing to do with all that stuff. He is driven, and you can feel it radiating off him. As Rick Furrer once put it, he does not "make swords, because he can´t make anything else, but because he CAN´T make anything else." I know full well the picture of the xiphos he made for the exposition and which he presents here, does not do it 10 % justice. Nothing can at all. The mere first sight of this sword has kept my mind racing for months, when I first saw it last year. It is not because it is so beautiful and that I would want something like this, or want to make something like this, but because the object itself has an energy that speaks for itself. Whether you can feel it or whether you cannot feel it - words and even pictures cannot do it justice. It is poetry come to life. It is the very essence of the poetic light, penetrating and piercing and even violent, rising up from the dark cauldron of a lake in the forest. Stars are reflected on its surface, and slowly, deliberately the sword rises. Male and female, god and goddess, and yet it is neither. The reflection of enlightenment  shimmers around its edges, and the stars are reflected deep in its surface. It is like the moon on the water; The waves do not affect it, but ripples run through it to cast another quality into its violent light. For violent it is. It incorporates a fury against the injustice and the ravaging of the dream; a primeval anger against the ruin of knowledge and the downfall of morality. The blade is fierce; to handle it without risk for the hand that holds it, for the heart to which it is an elongation, there has to be a hilt that is not to be corroded.

 A hilt of gold.

Five fingers are the hand upon the handle of the sword: Birth, life, love and death-the question where the thumb is- is the answer.

Peter has made this sword. But, as I suspect, this sword has made Peter, too. It has consumed a lot of his energy, or so I feel it, and it is a bit possessive... and I should say that it might be expected that his swordsmithing, at least for himself, might not be the same as before.

I must admit I was really taken by our conversation. Whenever I meet with Peter, I leave with a lot of very intense feelings and thoughts. This time it was far worse than usual, for this sword is the very essence of my path, the path I have been on for the last 24 years. It is a symbol that is searingly energetic, laden with meaning, and it sank deep into my heart and mind and soul. So I roamed somewhat engaged in thought through the aisles, and for a good measure of time I was unable to see anything. It did not quite help meeting Meinhard, who was doing a scythe demo in the atrium of the museum and who tried to exchange some superfluous jokes with me. I am meaning no offence by saying so, but after a genuine spiritual experience I was not quite in a mood of telling jokes.

On the other hand, it made me mad that so many people strive so much to remain ignorant (excluding Meinhard). I am not saying that everyone should fall into a frenzy just by looking at Peter Johnsson´s swords and talk a lot of philosophical gibberish. Many of you, my faithful readers, cannot relate to all that metaphysical talk. But most of you actually think for yourselves and come to your own conclusions. I see it in the comments you post and read it on your blogs. But in everyday society, there currently is a movement to become ever so much more ignorant of the real world, where you do not have two extra lives and you can´t swish a situation or a problem away by a flick of your fingers. Meinhard´s desperate joking fetched me back into that world, and it helped me root myself back into the position I am in. Peter´s sword is a part of an ideal world, in an idiomatic sense of the world. It is true, and it is the other side made steel. It is a piece of real magic. Magic is not permitted anymore. You shall circumscribe it by prosaic words. Everything has to be focused upon the psychotic personality of Mammon-Pluto. I call him a name. I call him by his real name. I name him by the name he bore in an ideal world: I name him the ursurper. I name him the grey maggot. I name him the spider that kills dreams. I name him venom and doom of the world.

Before the cauldron, the sword has risen - He of the Long Hand was permitted to it.

And slowly, "I came to my senses" again, but knew not which senses...if that makes any sense to you...:-)


I had another visit to do, and this was one of my favourite human beings on the expo, namely JT Pallikkö. He is a guy I really value, for I  should think he is one of the mentally healthiest persons I have ever met, even if he often looks like a lunatic;-). JT ´s always good for exchanging some mad jokes, but his work and the little talk we had on more grave subjects shows he is a very complete and complex personality. He does not make much out of it. He just makes excellent knives and swords and lets his work speak for itself, and he is very down-to-earth.

But then he showed me this hunting sword. Not his fault that my metaphysical antennas were still chafed raw by the encounter with the piercing light. And hey, as he put it, just a rustic piece. Now I obviously have a liking for rustic,

...and I obviously love owls...
...especially when they are carved that nicely....
...and that big knife all in all was very inspiring...
...but what I saw was something different.
I saw a hunter, stealthy as the flight of the owl in a time that was not a time, in a place that was not a place, wearing this hunting sword on his belt. Lightly he was shod, and slightly he trod, and his face was hooded, as he stalked his prey with the fierce elegance of a fox.
Back to reality-I was simply amazed at the balance of the piece. It had a short tang not reaching all the way through the handle, and a broad and unfullered blade... and yet it was that dexterous you could handle it with three fingers, with a COG just some two or three centimetres from the hilt. When I addressed JT upon that, he just shrugged and smiled and said "Maybe it´s the massive guard... and there´s a pin through the tang...". That´s JT for you.;-) To put it quite plaintive, this achievement is an astonishing feature even for a true master. It is one thing to make a blade that´s hard and flexible enough. Another is a geometry that cuts well. Yet another is aesthetics. To achieve balance and percussion with some dirty tricks like fullers and regrinding or tapering or drilling or whatnot is good. But to achieve balance and percussion like this with a blade that has no fullers and where everything speaks against its favours needs a first try effort. So to say, you have one chance to get it right, and that´s the first and last of it.  
I liked the other pieces as well, of course. I might want to steal one or the other idea from him, but will never be able to get up to this standard.
I liked this detail of the hunting sword´s scabbard. All the mountings are handforged, of course.
Then he showed me another highlight of his. Finland, as the rest of the world, is not the safest place to be these days.
So he showed me...
..with a flick of a hand...
drawing his very special take on a Kerambit design. This incorporates a quick-draw-sheath made from specially hardened leather with a snap almost like Kydex, but far more silent.
We then discussed on end how fierce a Kerambit actually is. And we both agreed that most Kerambits only have an option for lethal techniques, and this was not sitting quite that well with JT. For this I respect him most of all. His take offers two options for non-lethal techniques, and the blade option is but tertiary. The ring has a blunt point to inflict pain on sensitive body parts as the back of a hand. The blade´s spine offers another spike for the same purpose. Only in the most desperate scenario of all one actually has to use the blade. This shows true insight in the real nature of a defence situation. We also agreed that it is always better to give your opponent a quick blow and run away, or run away in the first. Remember: A knife fight is NOT AT ALL romantic. It is the worst kind of fight anyone could ever get into, and there is a high possibility that none of the opponents will live to tell the tale afterwards.
Better go and pick some mushrooms;-).
This is another take on the Kerambit theme JT interpreted. I understood it was the predecessor of the one above. He is currently doing negotiations upon a production or semi-production run on the Kerambit. I asked him if he gave me permission to make one for myself, but I do not think I will. I don´t like fighting knives much, and I don´t think I will want to make myself one.
This absolutely handsome gentleman;-) was next to JT´s booth, Pekka Tuominen did not have that much on display,
but his excellent work as he had on his booth spoke for itself and his opus more clearly than many other knifemaker´s portfolio. His knives are always made with meticulous craftsmanship that spell excellence.
Unfortunately I was being late, so I missed out on the work of Anssi Ruusuvuori. He was the one who held the lecture on the Finnish Puukko in historical times and gave valuable insight along the lines of his new book that only but recently has been translated into German. Having browsed through it I can say, it´s a good buy, if you can afford it, and is on my wish list right now.

Off to - whose? booth now:
Yap, you are right, Maihkel Eklund, famed Swedish knifemaking master, had a load of goodies on display, from his trademark highly decorated mini hand axes... his wonderfully engraved belt knives...
...meticulously crafted weekend project blades at an outright bargain price for the quality...
folders and watches...

...and his own personality;-) Maihkel is another great guy I always like to meet, even if I am constantly short of time when I meet him. To my liking, the expo should last a week or so, then I would be able to get in all the talk I would normally need! 

Turning to the other aisle, I met Andreas Hendrichs again. Andreas is a most accomplished swordsmith... one can easily see in these blades...

I especially loved that seax.

...blade blanks...
I feel I have seen this knife on the booth of the laid Robert Sederl last year, I´d nearly swear an oath upon it in fact, but Andreas said it was originally his, so so be it.... it´s a cool design anyways...:-)
I was craving some coffee and I was being a bit over the top, so I had to settle down. In the garden of the museum there was this Kyudo demo waiting... and a someone (you know who you are :-)) who stated this was a "disgusting discipline cult" and that he was put off by it. To emphasize it, he repeated it several times, just to make sure I was getting the point. I was too deeply submerged in my own thoughts to properly react... and I know he reads my blog. So I should say I am not agreed. Of course, any military discipline and drill is. But it misses the mark by far. It is a ritualistic art, and in that empowers the individual to safely access the darker aspects of one´s self to overcome and integrate them into one´s personality. It has its roots in military discipline, but aggression and warfare and armed conflict is a part of us as human species. A part that is not pretty, but a part no less. In order to learn self control, one naturally has to put oneself under scrutiny. Rituals always help in the integration of psychological contents and conflicts. Kyudo in my opinion, is a ritual that helps overcome inner conflicts. Of course, it is a Zen discipline, and even Zen has a sorry history of fascistic tendencies, but that´s also true with the runes. While those were instrumentalized in the Third Reich, this is but a span of some 17 years in a history that´s presumeably more than1400 years old or older.
I was a bit relieved to meet with Achim and Norbert. Achim Wirtz and Norbert Bahls are friends of my old tutor, Matthias Zwissler, and it´s always a pleasure to meet. They are craftsmen through and through and offer legendary quality.
..and also the famed monster Damascus material, a Damascus that is ideal for beginners, because it forges very unproblematically.
Knives by Norbert. I like the clean lines and no-nonsense aesthetics... fact his style shares a lot of similarities to that of Achim.
I still love that Seax Achim made last year... I have to make one myself soon.
I was outright relieved to be able to settle down a bit, and I had a cuppa coffee and a piece of cake and a delicious sausage. Then Nick, Kathrin and Torben and I met again. We walked out of the museum, said our goodbyes, and were off to Gräfrath village to have some delicious food at Gräfrather Klosterbräu.
On our way home we came by this advertisement. It reads "You live. Do you remember?". To me, this slogan summed up the essence of a day that was not exactly easy for me.

I took home a lot of inspiration and a new sense of purpose.

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