Jump to content
Christopher Price

Knifemaker Interview Series, a biography workshop

Recommended Posts

Thanks Christopher for keeping this rolling ,I still enjoy reading it .I copied your idea and started a similar thread on British Blades .It sure does need nudging now and then ........Well done Christopher Price....

 

As for Chris moss....

I have loved watching your work evolve ,it is full and thoughtful . When I see a post with your name on it I know we are in for a treat .Cherish your creative nature It is a most important thing and what draws the likes of all in this thread together.I look forward to seeing what you come up with in the future .

Thanks for showing us what you have done so far .

All the best Owen

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Okay, okay, you've had your holidays, let's get on with it! ;)

 

sorry.. school is starting this week.. and been abit busy.. i will get to it very soon

thanks for your patience!

~Chris

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

:ph34r:

 

Either school is kicking your butt, or this is the ninja interview.

 

:lol:

Edited by Christopher Price

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
:ph34r:

 

Either school is kicking your butt, or this is the ninja interview.

 

:lol:

 

 

gonna have to plead the 5th on this one! *grins*

 

 

OK Chris, one more bunch of questions then I will pass the interview onto you.

 

first, a personal selfish question :D, do you ever see yourself giving a full length sword a try?

 

You work in many different styles, Japanese, now phillipino, among others, are there any style blades you see yourself gravitating to for the future?

 

And finally; you are a very modest person, as well as highly skilled, you are an incredible maker, what would be some advice you would give to those just starting in the craft?

 

Thanks very much for participating Chris, I look forward to your interview.

 

 

To answer your first question, yes, i do plan on making a full size sword. i have a katana forged, filed and ready fro heat treat. It is going to be one of the first things that i heat treat with my new salt pot when it is finished. Personally i like the size of a wakizashi better. i just like it more. So while i dont know how many "full length" swords i am going to make, i am at least going to try it. I have a shobu wakizashi with a damascus blade and cast bronze fittings almost done... so be watching for that one

 

With different styles, i like to play around with that i think is cool at the time. I consistently like the japanese work. I also really like clean working knives. Bowie knives are also attractive to me when done well. I dont think i will do a whole lot of the norse style swords/seax/knives. I am enjoying more ornate work more and more.. and like making something detailed, however i dislike it when knives become so detailed the look cluttered. So as far as other styles, it would be hard to predict, but if i see something i like i will most likely try my hand at it. I would really like to get into doing more laminate steel. finishing up my hydraulic press is going to speed that along.

 

Well... *sheepish* i DO pride myself in my humility... *grins* As far as advice for new makers? I would say take advantage of the knowledge that we have here on the forum. There is so much information and so many people willing to help. Also, don't be afraid to try something and fail. But when you fail, ask the questions "why did it fail?" and then WRITE IT DOWN SOMEWHERE i have a little notebook for stuff like that.. so that when i get it right.. i can write it down after the failure.. and know how to do it better next time. Heat treating became alot easier to figure out when i started logging my results. and dont be afraid to ask question on the forum.

 

in closing, i wanted to tahnk all of you guys who have followed my work and cheered me on.. even when there wasnt much to cheer about. You have made a big impact in the way i do things and how i atack problems. thanks so much

 

AS for our new interviewee i have several people lined up.. and i just need to get their responses to my invite POSTING SOON!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

okay.... now... *drumroll* i am pleased to say i have our next interviewee lined up.. I cant believe no-one has interviews him yet.

 

just a taste, he has been on of the most influential knife-makes of the modern era. An is one of my biggest role-models when it comes to knives

i'll have questions up in a little bit

thanks!

~Chris

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
okay.... now... *drumroll* i am pleased to say i have our next interviewee lined up.. I cant believe no-one has interviews him yet.

 

just a taste, he has been on of the most influential knife-makes of the modern era. An is one of my biggest role-models when it comes to knives

i'll have questions up in a little bit

thanks!

~Chris

 

 

Hmm I wonder who THAT could be? :D

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

okayyyyy! so here w go. i wanted to thank Sam for picking me to interview, but i have to say, i get a much beter interviewee than Sam did.

 

Don Fogg has a greed to be interviewed and after several weeks of forced procrastination (due to a full schedule) i have finally gotten around to posting the preliminary questions for Mr. Fogg.

 

Mr. Fogg,

 

What got you started making knives? There have been people making knives for years and years and years, but you have really had an impact on how knives are made and looked at. Why do you think that is?

 

When i first started doing serious research on knives, and i stumbled across your website, your knives are the first i can really remember seeing a hamon on. can you give us a history on you and hamons? also, is there a reason for the cherry blossom as your makers mark?

 

WE all have work that we do.. and are glad to be finished with, and we have things that we really enjoy. What have been your most enjoyable/ rewarding projects. what are you favorites?

 

I know i have been inspired by your work and the simple fact that we are on this forum implys we are fans, but if we are inspired by you, who are you inspired by?

 

what is the breakdown of knives customers design and knives you design. when you make a knife, do you sit down and design the knife on paper before you get started? do you "design" the hamon for a knife? What is your favorite design or genre?

 

The fit and finish on your knives is flawless. Where did you learn such precision and craftsmanship?

 

Thanks for being willing to participate in this interview, and i look forward to hearing back from you.

thanks so much

~chris

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for asking me Chris. I am going to have to answer your questions in parts.

 

I first started blacksmithing because it looked interesting. A college friend, Peter Happny of Portsmouth, NH, agreed to take me on, trading work for lessons in his shop at Strawberry Banke Historical Village. I met Jimmy Fikes while working in that shop. It was through Jimmy that I started bladesmithing. We did our first custom show together in Birmingham, Alabama in 1979. It was not long after that we met another maker Jim Schmidt of Balston Spa, NY.

 

Jimmy Fikes, Jim Schmidt and I use to meet once a month at Jimmy's shop in Orange, MA to share what we had been working on and to teach each other. I was definitely the junior craftsman at those gatherings, but I learned a lot from both of them.

 

I am not sure of the impact of my work on others. I do see some ideas picked up and carried on, but that is the way of things. If I were to attribute one factor that increased the accessibility of my work it would have to be the internet. I have had a website up and running since the mid 90's. The web site allowed me to present my work and my ideas on the craft to a very wide audience. I have always enjoyed teaching and sharing what I have learned, it gives me pleasure.

 

The work has always been a guide for me. Each piece is a continuation from the last, forming a storyline of how I spend my time and revealing what I have learned. I need that kind of feedback.

 

You asked about hamon and for me my fascination began early on when I had the chance to see the Japanese living treasure swordsmith Gassan demonstrate at the Boston Fine Arts museum. They had a piece of his on display that was in perfect polish. It was displayed in a plexiglass case at eye height and perfectly lit. I had never seen anything so ethereal. I realized for the first time that this craft that I had just started could take me as far as I could imagine.

 

It has only been in the last 7-8 years that I got serious about hamon. It required study, control, and patience and it taught me all them. I am fascinated by the subtlety. It is as if you are painting with crystals.

 

I need to take a break, but will come back to the other questions at the next opportunity.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

What have been your most enjoyable/ rewarding projects. what are you favorites?

 

I would have to say that I enjoyed my collaborative work with Murad Sayen and Jim Kelso as much as anything. Both are true artists and working with them has changed my vision. During a collaboration I am free to work on just the blades and take that as far as I am able knowing that when I am finished the process will continue on to places I could never reach. It is a lot like jamming and if we act with purity, the work transcends us. I was truly blessed to have been able to work with both of these men.

 

For my own work, there have been quite a few pieces over time that have been breakthroughs for me, but to single them out would be difficult. I don't have much attachment to the pieces, they seem more like transitions to me than objects because they pass through my hands so quickly.

 

Creating requires a total immersion. Time morphs, the mind moves through problem solving in a nonverbal dialog with the material. Working has a definite rhythm. It is physical, it is impersonal and yet consumes the focus. It is a unique state where one can actually be in the present. In a very real sense I am working on my being as I work on the material.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have to say this is so cool! I looke forward to reading more.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Cherry Blossom

 

I think the cherry blossom is a perfect symbol for me. They come out at the turn of seasons and are full of hope. The blossoms are delicate, beautiful and so transitory you must stop to enjoy them and then they are gone. I chose to make them out of 24k gold and my intent was to make one stop and take the time to appreciate what they are seeing.

 

what is the breakdown of knives customers design and knives you design. when you make a knife, do you sit down and design the knife on paper before you get started? do you "design" the hamon for a knife? What is your favorite design or genre?

 

I learned early on that trying to build anothers dream is too difficult for me. I don't have the people skills or the raw talent to pull it off and so I rarely work to others designs. I am greatly influenced by historical work and by modern masters, but I study line and form more as a language and am not very good at reproduction. I try to find forms that are interesting often in nature and then try to understand why they are attractive to me. I am more comfortable with a camera than a pen so I will often spend time when the light is right, looking for things that draw my attention. I sift through the images and let my eye guide me. I think that despite the sinster connotations of the work, what I am ultimately looking for is beauty and that is an intangible, receding horizon, that forever changes as you grow. When I am distracted from this by life, I begin to lose focus and wander until I recognize I am lost and need to get back to what makes me happy.

 

The design aspect of knifemaking comes after I have a successful blade. I will trace it and than sit down and spend some time working out transitions, proportions and embellishment for the handle. They rarely come out the way I draw them however because the reality of the materials and the confluence of lines is hard for me to imagine without holding it in my hands. I think in 3D.

 

As to the hamon, I suggest what I would like it to do, but don't design it. The most exciting aspect of that transition is in its whimsey. It would lose interest for me if I had total control over the process. Then it would become too literal and would have no surpise, no depth beyond my own subjective limitation.

 

Suppertime.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

To think I was going to ask how you colored your stamp gold, definitely just kidding. Thanks for taking the time to give us your insights.

 

Take care, Craig

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The fit and finish on your knives is flawless. Where did you learn such precision and craftsmanship?

 

Nothing made by hand is flawless, but I do the best that I can. The goal isn't perfection however, in fact seeking perfection can skew the work and take the life out of it. If we wait for everything to be perfect, we will not get any work done and it is in the doing that we get better. There is no excuse for sloppy workmanship, but one must find a point where we are accepting of our skill level, do our best and intend to do better.

 

Fit and finish is an interesting and complicated subject. There is the conflict between finish and function, handmade verses machinemade, craftsmandship and artistry. Tai Goo has been exploring this in his work and it is at the core of the neotribal movement.

 

If the goal were to make perfect fit and finish then we would move away from hand held and into machines. It is the stock removal verses bladesmith debate. Even within the stock removal arena there is a debate about using new technology laser cutting, edm, CAD CAM work.

 

I learned a lesson early on. I made a variable speed disk grinder that I mounted horizontally and I became quite adept at grinding blades with it. After a little bit Murad, who was handling my blades made the comment that they were beginning to have the same look and suggested that I back away from the disk and see what evolved. He was absolutely right, I had unconsciously started to design and forge my work with the expectation of going to the disk. While it improved my speed and finish, it affected my designs. That is OK because we are always in that situation, every tool has its effect, but the lesson was to realize this and to work consciously.

 

I enjoy playing with my tools, seeing what they can do, exploring the potential. Often this leads to building new tools, such as the forging press to open up new ways of working with the material. Work evolves continually and that is part of the enjoyment for me. Recently, due to various moves around the country, I have found myself without many of the tools that I have been using for years. My disk grind is gone and so are my belt grinders. My shop is in the basement of my house and I have decided not to replace them for various reasons, dust and noise being high on the list. This has brought me back to hand tools exclusively and I have to say that I am really enjoying the handwork. The first benefit is that I spend more time forging which is why I started in the first place and it has slowed me down and given me time.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Don, Thanks so much for agreeing to be interviewed by Chris.

 

I'm pretty much shocked that you have given up on belt grinders but I believe its something many Bladesmiths are currently struggling with.

 

Could you give us a short list of the tools you are currently using? I'm guessing the "Sen" is high up on the list.

 

Are you using water stones or working with the tool I saw you using which was steel flat stock fashioned into a double handle with a piece of 2 inch wide abrasive applied to it which you were using like a Sen?

 

How much "Electric" are you using these days in your work? Anything you can think of or care to comment on regarding your current process of knife making is of great interest to me and I'm sure everyone else.

 

Have you ever considered writing a book or getting involved in a book project? Have you ever been asked to write a book and passed on it?

 

In my opinion you are by far the most influential knife maker on the Internet and possibly the most influential knife maker in our current Forging Revival. It will be most interesting to see how your influence will effect others now that you are getting away from modern tools.

 

 

As always thanks for everything, your influence is beyond measure.

B.L. Bondurant

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Could you give us a short list of the tools you are currently using? I'm guessing the "Sen" is high up on the list.

 

I don't want to be misunderstood, I have nothing against grinders or their use. When I have access I will use them for profiling and knocking the bark off the blades or roughing. I just don't one now. So my primary tools are

 

Sen

Files

Stones

Paper

 

No big surprise.

 

StoningSeax640.jpg

 

I am using a Norton KB-8 Blue stone for shaping and am looking to buy a foundation stone when I can locate a reasonable source.

 

How much "Electric" are you using these days in your work? Anything you can think of or care to comment on regarding your current process of knife making is of great interest to me and I'm sure everyone else.

I have electricity and no problem with power tools. My latest addition is a dental drill that has endless torque. I guess my situation today comes under the catagory of work with what you've got. You don't need a lot of expensive tools to make knives, the most important thing is the desire.

 

My current process for making knives is slow. My overhead is low, I don't have a family to support any longer so I am not in production with the knives. I make them purely for my own satisfaction and am grateful that there are still people out there who want them when I am finished. In truth, this has always been about mental health for me and I am not alone, for many, the shop is a refuge from the stress of their day to day lives.

 

Have you ever considered writing a book or getting involved in a book project? Have you ever been asked to write a book and passed on it?

When I was in college I studied writing and it was my first craft. I have always assumed that I would get back to it one day. I have put most of my energy into the web and haven't quite found the motivation to move to print. With the advantages offered by self publishing now, it may become a realistic goal.

 

It will be most interesting to see how your influence will effect others now that you are getting away from modern tools.

My intent is not to influence people in a direction other than to suggest that there are many ways to follow the path. Do the best you can with what you have in the time you are given.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Don,,, I started reading your posts and found myself nodding, and uh-huh'ing, and then I stopped for a minute and wondered if I shouldn't be reading them for fear that I will not find MY way through this art and will "do it like Don" instead of like JM. That is not to say I dont want to learn from you but it is so easy for me to abscond your knowledge without actually going through the necessary steps. Argh,,, what to do??????? But again, thanks is warranted for the openness and effort you put into your sharing,,,

 

jm

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I was a little afraid of the dogpile, since everyone has their own questions for Don, besides the ones Chris Moss is asking.

 

Don, if you don't mind, I think it's good as long as you're not feeling overwhelmed. Just say so, and we'll back off a bit. That said, I do have my own list. ;)

 

What is your favorite material to work with? Any certain factory steel, or home-made? Do you have a favorite manufacturer?

 

Who, in our community, should we look to as our mentors? Who do you think has the most to offer, and is willing in your experience to help upcoming smiths?

 

What is the most important aspect of bladesmithing; or if not just one, how would you rank them? If we should perfect any one aspect of our work, what ought it be?

 

Do you have a picture of your first knife to share with us? What about your "best work ever"? Do you value perfection of simple methods, or execution of complex techniques, in a finished project?

 

 

 

And again, thank you thank you thank you for spending the time it takes keeping this forum clean and organized, and filled with some of the best craftsmen I've ever had the pleasure of meeting. It is a haven on the web, and I am deeply grateful for it. For you to spend even more time answering our questions when you could be living, is an even greater gift.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

What is your favorite material to work with? Any certain factory steel, or home-made? Do you have a favorite manufacturer?

 

I would have to say that I have used 1095 more than any other steel. I bought a lot of it a few years ago and it became my favorite because I had it. If I could find a reliable source it would be W-2 though, it has all the characteristics I want in a bladesmith steel.

 

What is the most important aspect of bladesmithing; or if not just one, how would you rank them? If we should perfect any one aspect of our work, what ought it be?

 

The single most important thing is heat treatment. Heat treatment begins everytime the steel goes in the fire. Good fundamentals and control are essential, all else is secondary.

 

Who, in our community, should we look to as our mentors? Who do you think has the most to offer, and is willing in your experience to help upcoming smiths?

 

We are learning from each other, we are mentoring each other. I am really pleased when I see folks jumping in to help with questions on the forum. The power of our group is that we all bring something to the table and when we share openly, we all grow.

 

The hammerins are wonderful opportunities to get together, for sharing and learning. It is amazing the energy these hammerins can generate. This is a craft that has boot strapped itself up from near extinction to the present simply by folks helping others along the way. It is a great model for how the world could be if we weren't trying to profit on every exchange.

 

Do you have a picture of your first knife to share with us? What about your "best work ever"? Do you value perfection of simple methods, or execution of complex techniques, in a finished project?

FirstKnife1975.jpg

 

I still have it and use it. For me it is comforting to think we all start at the beginning.

 

I won't get into qualifying the work, but I can say that it has been an effort on my part to refine or distill the work to the simplest form that expresses elegance and power. The flow of energy conveyed in a few lines and when those lines are right, the piece is alive.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Don.

you already touched on it a bit ....... when you put your heart and soul into a piece it is not easy to escape it totaly when it is done....could you expand on your thoughts about objectivity and your own wotk ....... do you find it hard to veiw your own work objectivly? I find time helps , but does your view of a piece you made change over time ? what & who change it ? You stated that once a piece is done you don't feel much of an attatchment to it......... do you feel you are objective about it then? or does it still take a while for you to become detached from it..... have you reversed your objectivity after thinking you don't like the outcome and them sometime latter realized that wasn't half bad and I may revisit that again?.......and when do you close you mind to what others may say and fallow you own path?? Maybe use your first knife as a plaform for this question? Thanks

dick

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Do you find it hard to veiw your own work objectivly? I find time helps , but does your view of a piece you made change over time ? what & who change it ? You stated that once a piece is done you don't feel much of an attatchment to it......... do you feel you are objective about it then?

 

I think I understand what you are asking. I try to be objective when I am working, there are times though when you are too close to the work to see what it needs, then time can help or another set of eyes. I don't feel much attachment to the pieces at any point really, it is more like they are growing as I work on them, but they don't exist until I am finished and I am only finished when it is done. I have been known to knock finished handles off and restart.

 

When do you close you mind to what others may say and fallow you own path?? Maybe use your first knife as a plaform for this question?

 

Criticism is probably at the core of these questions and you have to be very thick skinned to take negative comments or be very sure of what you have created. To be very sure you must be objective about your work. To use my first knife as a jumping off point, if someone were to say that it is butt ugly and poorly made, I would have agreed, but it was still a major accomplishment for me and I take satisfaction in that achievement. I can accept criticism that is fair, honest and true because I should know all that about the work already. If something is pointed out to me that I did not know, then I have learned something and will not make that mistake again.

 

In the early days, I would pucker right up when a well known knifemaker or collector stopped to look at my work. I was vulnerable to their comments and greatly affected by the opinion of others. I don't think that ever really goes away because when you display your work, present it to the public you are asking for their attention and they are going to look. They will approved or reject depending on their perspective and often that has nothing to do with the way you see things.

 

I did a show after being off the circuit for a while and I brought a new piece with me that was like nothing I had done before. I had used some new skills and tried a different design language than I was use to, but when I finished I was pleased. A self appointed critic came to the table and examined the knife then proceeded to tell me how it didn't work for him. He was quite detailed and open with his critique and to be honest my only reaction was that he obviously didn't have any taste. When the critic left the table, the man standing next to him, who was an art professor, said he had come by the table to tell me how much that he appreciated the same piece. Of course, he had great taste, but in truth neither of their opinions were right or wrong. I took them to mean that the piece was now in the world and had begun its own journey. It would affect people in different ways, but I was done with it, it was out of my hands.

 

If I didn't answer your question Dick please respond so we can have a dialog about it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Don,

yes you did get to most of my questions but one ..... this isn't my thread and I don't want to hijack it from Chris so I only will ask one more about your eye....... Do you find that your eye changes over time?That what you didn't like before you now do like ,or visersa? the thought of " you know that was not half bad maybe I'll push that a idea a little further" or " What was I thinking ?....I guess this isn't so much about your "eye" as is it about opinion /judgement/impresion......... and it is not related only to your own work........but to how you precive things.......Kind of like the Bob Dylan song ."I was so much older then, I younger than that now" It is easier for me to experiance this in the music world but I have experianced it in the visual world also.....I heard a good quote the other day. "minds are like parachutes they work better if they are open" I feel as though you have a open mind. do you some times find you like something now that you didn't before? Or not like something that you did before? and can you give an example? thanks

Dick

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Do you find that your eye changes over time?

 

When I first started I would have had no idea what you were talking about, but over time I realized that I was seeing differently and have come to call it my "eye" as well. It is interesting how learning something new will change how you see and things make more sense when you look back at them. I am more aware of subtlities and energies created by line and form, color and texture, now because I have learned to appreciate them.

 

Do you some times find you like something now that you didn't before? Or not like something that you did before? and can you give an example?

I can't think of an instance where I revisited something that I hadn't liked and saw it differently, but I have had the experience of seeing a piece I have made in the past and being satisfied to see that it has held up, stood the test of time. One change that has been fairly constant for me is that I am moving more and more towards quiet and subtle. Working with hamon has influenced my eye greatly, it makes some of my early work seem loud by contrast. I know that the "eye" can be trained, but if it lacks experience then there is some truth missing also.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


×
×
  • Create New...