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Christopher Price

Knifemaker Interview Series, a biography workshop

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Sorry for the delay guys. Been crazy around here! The first victim I contacted is tied up for a while and I'm waiting to hear back from the second one. I'll start just as soon as I nail one down.

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Next up, we have David Sloan from Diller Nebraska. I've been good friends with Sid at Little Giant for a long time, about two or three years ago he was telling me about a knifemaker that was hanging around his shop a bit. Well, Sid had some good things to say about Dave and his knives. I met Dave at the Little Giant 100th birthday last year, where I did a damascus demo, Dave helped and did a blade forging demo, was good fun. Dave also was a big help with a demo I did at the BAM conference last year. Dave also shares my passion for Little Giant hammers :D

 

Dave, how did you get into bladesmithing? How long have you been making knives? What type of knives do you enjoy building?

Edited by Don Hanson

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Thanks Don,

 

Looks like I'm up to bat. The easiest way to say that I got into bladesmithing would be Harlan "Sid" Suedmeier. I started making knives about 7 years ago. Mostly stock removal at the time. Then after reading Ed Fowlers book Knife Talk. I became interested in forging. Then located the local blacksmith organization (Prairie Blacksmith Association). It's an excellent group willing to share information. Once in the group everyone said I need to talk to Sid if I wanted to know anything about knife making. Being an avid Blade subscriber I had seen several articles Sid had wrote and had been a subject of. During this time I had acquired a Little Giant hammer 25#. So in taking Sid's rebuilding course and discussion of knives over the weekend. He suggested I take the Intro to Bladesmithing offered by the ABS and lined up a scholarship to pay for tuition through the PBA.

 

With all that said hopefully at the 2010 Blade Show I will bring home the JS title in honor of the friendship and support that I have received from such good folks such as Don and Sid.

 

The style of knife I like to build are small to medium hunters, but here recently I have found a demand for my larger knives 8-10" long clip bowies. I use mainly plain high carbon steel. This summer I hope to get a chance to experiment more with some W2 that I recently purchased. I believe fully what Don stated in one of his posts. I probably won't do much with Damascus until I master the ways of plain carbon steel.

 

One side note I happen to be a Little Giant fan also. I own one 25#er and one 100#er which I'm currently rebuilding (just attached the belts and motor today).

 

Thanks

 

Dave from Diller

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The single most important thing a new maker can do, is make 100 simple using knives. Test them, sell them, give them away and get feed back on how they work.

 

Don Hanson, Fantastic Quote!

 

 

 

Quick Note, Big Thanks to everyone for all the history and valuable information.

Edited by Bryan Bondurant

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Thanks, Bryan!

 

Dave, how about a little back ground, like other work, main job, interesting jobs. Any plans to become a fulltime maker?

 

Also, who's work has inspired you the most?

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My first job was skinning Deer during deer season for the home town Meat Plant when I was in high school. Looking back now this was when I started testing factory made knives. Trying to find that perfect skinning knife. So after high school I stayed with Meat processing for 10 years and 3 different locations.

 

After 10 years in the Meat business. I decided to branch out. So I got a job in Nebraska here in the u-joint and driveline manufacturing business. This really helped me along on my knifemaking. I was able after a year to get a position in the Heat Treat department were I spent 5 years before taking a position as a supervisor. The heat treat position which I had was purely a production job with little practical ht knowledge needed, but being interested in knives and the ht process. I had all the HTing books and a full metallurgical lab available to my disposal. So I took advantage and learned as much as I could.

 

Interesting side note all u-joints are case hardened if made in the us. All of the furnaces that we used were carborization furnaces which means we started with low carbon 1010 material and drove carbon into it to a depth of about .04 with a composition similar to 1095.

 

The current economic times has caught up with me. My position at this manufacturing facility was eliminated due to poor economic conditions. So as luck has it Diller has one of the largest home town meat processing plants in the area.

 

 

Some day I would like to go full time in Knifemaking. At this point I'm still in the dreaming stages. I'm currently working on expanding my market base to reach more customers.

 

As far an inspiration this ones a little tough, I subscribed to Blade Magazine in 1988 and have received every issue except one since then. So I have followed quite a few makers. A list of makers that have inspired me would have to be Wayne Goddard, Bill Moran, Jim Crowell and most recently for his fixed blade knives Don Hanson.

 

Dave from Diller

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Yeah, it was a bummer hearing about your job. Hopefully things will improve.

 

Guys, I was intrigued by a blade Dave showed me awhile back. He forged a blade from mild steel and clayed it up, like we do for a hamon, then carbonized the unclayed portion to around .95 carbon, it was cool and I don't think anyone has ever done it before. Dave can you elaborate on this a bit?

 

I've about run out of questions. Anything interesting happening at the Little Giant factory? Like maybe the start of a brand new 100 pounder? :) Any plans for a get together early next year? Last year was a lot of fun!

Edited by Don Hanson

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That is one bright thing on the horizon. Everyone reading this should make plans to come to Nebraska City next January. Sid and I have discussed it to some length that he will be having another doings at his place in January of 2010. So plan on coming over Don.

 

I've included a photo of the knife Don was referring to in his last post. The transition line is very faint. I actually etch it to long. All I started with was a piece of 1/4" stock that I purchased from Tractor Supply. Forged my blade to shape and rough ground it. I coated the back of the blade with the black furnace cement from Tractor Supply also. I was just using this to block the absorption of carbon.

 

Here's the process the parts actually go through with technical terms and all. We start with rough machined part made of 1010X. Once in the furnace the parts are heated to 1725 degrees in a RX gas atmosphere then raw natural gas is added to raise the carbon potential to 1.1 percent. The RX gas keeps the parts from scaling which allows the carbon to be adsorbed from the natural gas. Base carbon steels of the 10 series cannot absorb more than .95. The process we used allowed for .045" of case.

 

 

 

Dave from Diller

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That's pretty cool, Dave.

 

I'll be at Sid's in January, would not miss it.

 

I guess we're about done. How about adding a few photos of your work here.

 

Pick someone to interrogate next. Let me or Chris know if you need help picking someone.

 

Thanks, Dave!

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Thanks Don,

 

It was fun. I'll see if I can't locate the next victim.

 

I was sworn not to tell. But Sid gave me a hands on lesson on how to properly align the ram guide on a 100#er. I've also heard that someone is buy up all of the purple metal flake finger nail polish they can find.

 

Most of my work is posted on www.myspace.com/sloansknives

 

But here is some of my most recent.

 

Thanks

 

Dave from Diller

 

 

2009_0620wenge0017.JPG

 

2009_0620wenge0020.JPG

 

2009_0620wenge0014.JPG

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Very good Dave and thanks! Nice work! I like em all...

 

So, you and Sid have been messin with a 100#er ;) Purple metal flake finger nail polish??? Might look OK :D

 

Thanks Man!

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Sorry about the delay, but I managed to track down our next interview. He's a gentleman frequently found posting here and the man that introduced me to this informative forum.

 

He would be Bruce Norris. I meet Bruce a few years back at a local blacksmith gathering and he approached me about the ABS school. Since I had attended and he was planning on going. Since then I don't think Bruce has looked back, he always forging ahead (sorry about the pun).

 

Bruce what lead to you bladesmithing rather than just stock removal knife making?

 

What influences is/are your current projects following? (Nordic, Oriental or Traditional)?

 

Thanks

Dave from diller

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About 10 years ago I hooked up to the internet for the first time and, while exploring for knife related topics, ran across Don's website. I can still remember my reaction upon looking at the forum for the first time. Here was a place where I could talk about something that I have a passion for and people would not think me strange, nor would their eyes cross and then glaze over1 I felt a strange mixture of relief, excitement, camraderie, and amazement. Over ten years later and this place still makes me feel the same way. Anyway, back to the topic.

 

Through a thread on the Bladesmiths Forum, I heard the name Ron Reil in relation to forge building. So. I took a look and found a wealth of information on Ron's site and after several months of waiting, managed to scrape up enough money to build a forge. It was one of the freon tank forges and had a venturi burner built by yours truly. I wish I still had it, the forge gods smiled on that one and the interior volume was perfect for the burner I built. I could run for about a week on a 20 lb. propane tank, forging 6-8 hrs. per day. As these things go, my wife and I argued about the amount of time I was spending at this and I was so upset and frustrated that I just got rid of it! Well... A few years later and I was back at it.

 

Bladesmithing as opposed to Stock Removal seems much more natural to me. Each has its place and there is no real clear cut line between the two. However, you can manipulate the metal through forging in ways that are much more laborious to achieve with abrasives. Then there is the whole pattern welded steel side of things and that pretty much demands a fire. I had made a few knives via stock removal prior to starting to forge but, after that first forged knife there was no going back.

 

Northern European type stuff is what I seem to be hung up on right now, Pukkos, Seaxes, and Langseax. I would really like to have a go at a multi-bar sword in the next few years. Ethnic knives and swords are a big area of interest to me and I tend to pick and choose what I would like to try from a wide range of cultures. Some of the things I would like to make, in no particular order, are: Falcata, kukri, yatagahn, khyber knife, pesh kebz, jambiya, kindjal, hand and a half sword, and others not coming to mind at the moment. Right now I am working on a small broken back seax but, that is mostly because I'm tired of my wife borrowing my knife when we are at Faire. Not mentioning any names here but, somebody put it back in the sheath without cleaning it first and I did not find out until the Faire after that one.

 

Some of my earliest inspirations were Japanese swords and one of these years I would like to have a go at making them. Not to mention they are my sons favorite and it would make a good keepsake for him. I have my "Box of Shame" with all the not finished blades I've made, mostly hunters and bowies that I forged at the ABS Intro to Bladesmithing class. There are probably half a dozen blades on the bench that need guards and/or handles and they range in style.

 

~Bruce~

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Very informative! Thanks Bruce.

 

What makers have influenced you the most? Or maybe not a maker at all that has influenced your style?

 

I see in your last post you mentioned a faire, is this a common outing were set up and demonstrate and show off your wares?

 

Dave from diller

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Picking knifemakers who have influenced my work is very difficult for me because there are so many talented makers out there. I think that most knives I see have something to offer and that I learn from each and every one of them. Sometimes it is the "something is not quite in synch. with that knife, I wonder what it is?" Other times it's "Wow! That is just right on. Look how the such and such part was done. I never would have thought of doing it that way." Don Fogg has been a great influence simply because of hosting the forum, never mind his own body of work.

 

Early on I was an avid reader of Blade magazine and would look forward eagerly to all the "eye candy." I have not so much as looked at Blade for probably a year or two. Something changed about the content and focus of the magazine about the time J. Bruce Voyles left and it just doesn't appeal as much to me anymore. Too slick, too much focus on factory stuff, less and less of the informative content. Basically just a bunch more of what I call "fluff", empty of anything meaningful. The Bladesmiths Forum is pretty much where I go to see what "the other guys" are doing anymore and where I come for inspiration.

 

I do not think that I have really developed a "style" that is my own yet. I cannot quite decide if that is good or bad. Having a style that is immediately recognizable as your own does wonders for getting attention and making your name mean something to customers. Daniel Winkler for example. On the other hand, once you have developed a style it becomes difficult to do anything in another style because, it is not what the customers want and expect from you. A few makers have even managed to develop more than one style. Don Hanson comes to mind. Imagine Mr. Hanson building a tactical folding knife. It just wouldn't be his "style!" I think that having a style takes time, longer for some then others, and that a good way to develop your own style is to make a large number of knives. Over time it will just happen as a result of your methods of work and the decisions that you make while you are putting the knives together. So far my own volume of work has been rather meager.

 

Faire is mentioned because my wife and I occaisionally set up at Rennaissance Faires, SCA events, craft shows, and so on. My displays at such are sadly lacking and we most often are mistaken for some of the living history people but, there is only so much time... My wife likes to use the line "but, my husband is a blacksmith and he sometimes demonstrates" as a way to open the doors for the booth she runs which sells jewelry, soap, perfume, journals, and so on. Also, the faires are something to occupy her and give her something fun to look forward to however, the number of faires that we are able to attend has been declining.

 

~Bruce~

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Bruce,

 

You wouldn't happen to have photo's of some of your current work?

 

And any off handed information you'd like to share before I turn the floor over to you?

 

Dave from Diller

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Here are a few pictures of the aforementioned broken back seax for my wife. I just finished this one on Sunday, so it is as recent as it gets! The legal pad is a small, notepad sized one, not the 8.5" x 11" legal pads. I thought it would help with scale but, if you do not know the size of the pad it is kind of deceptive!

 

Steel = scrap of leafspring, treated as 5160

OAL = 7 & 3/4 inches

BL = 3 & 5/8 inches

HL = 4 & 1/8 inches

Handle is walnut, carved with simple circle motif, and fittings are copper

Wife_Seax_001.jpg

Wife_Seax_002.jpg

Wife_Seax_003.jpg

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And any off handed information you'd like to share before I turn the floor over to you?

I am somewhat hesitant to throw this out here because, I tend to be fairly private about my personal life but, the intent of the interview thread is to get to know the members better and this has a huge bearing on my knifemaking. My wife has a number of extremely serious health problems and her condition has been steadily worsening. As you can imagine, this has had a huge bearing on every aspect of our lives. Sometimes, the only way to deal with issues such as these is to pick up a hammer and not think about anything else for an hour or two. Too bad finishing work is harder to loose myself in, if that were not the case I'd have a lot more finished knives to show!

 

~Bruce~

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Sorry for the delay people. The subject of the next interview is a gentleman from New Zealand who also is a jeweler. If the name, Richard Van Dijk came to mind, then you are correct! I feel that I must apologize in advance because, I am just going to pop out questions as they occur and there will be no rhyme or reason. Richard, feel free to answer the questions in whichever order you like.

 

Would you please tell us a bit about yourself and the events that brought you to being a knifemaker.

 

From the posts you have made here on the forum and your website I get the impression that you have a store catering to tourists in New Zealand. Is this correct, and can you tell us a bit more about how you make your living? What kind of schedule do you keep? How involved in the day to day operation of the shop are you? How do you find time to make knives?

 

What challenges have you overcome on this path and are there any obstacles that you still face?

 

How many knives do you make, on average, in a years time, and what is it that drives you to create them?

 

What is your creative process like? Do you just pick up a piece of steel and see a knife in there or, do you pick up a pen and paper? Maybe it is a little of both? Whatever the case, I would like to know how you get to the point where you are holding a knife.

 

Do you feel that your experience as a jeweler has had an affect on your knifemaking and, if so, how has it affected your work?

 

How long does it take you to make a knife? How do you price a knife that is for sale?

 

That is all for now... I'm looking forward to seeing your response!

 

~Bruce~

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Greetings All and thank you Bruce for inviting me, you asre asking a serious amount of questions there, I will answer them as time allows.

 

 

I was brought up in Holland and as a jong lad I was always interested in swords and knives and and was often stuffing around with things like that.

I always wanted to make knives and swords but never thought it was possible, so when I was introduced to making jewellery that was the next best thing.

 

After high school I spend a year in New Zealand , I travelled around as a long haired jong hippie and sold some of the simple jewellery I was making and did some fruit picking ect. I really got to like NZ and made my mind up to emigrate at a later stage.

 

I started my training as a goldsmith in 1972 and qualified in 1976 I made the odd knife than mainly by stock removal and every body declared me weird especialy when I told them I wanted to make knives for a living.

 

After finishing my training I could not get a job as a jeweller but got a job in a dental lab. where I worked a few years and was in charge of all the casting, plating and finishing.

 

In 1979 I emigrated to NZ I got a job in Auckland but that was a big town and not what I came to NZ for so my wife (at that time) and I moved to Blenheim at the top of the South Island where we lived in the country surrounded by dairy farms.

One day in 1980 I walked into a book store and found a book most of you might know, Step by Step knife Making by David Boye, THAT changed my live.

 

All the tools I had were some jewellery tools a drill a polishing machine and bench grinder.

I found myself some big timber circular saw blades nailed them to a fence post and started cutting with a hacksaw, this took forever as you can imagine and annealed them in the fireplace then grind them to shape on my bench grinder, I still have some pic's of them and just dug them out. ( by the by the black spacers on one of the knifes are black dyed bone buttons I picked up at secondhand clothing stores)

I heat treated them with my propane torch and was very proud when I sold my first piece, I was also making jewellery and working for the railways at the time.

 

That is it for today, have a look at my early pieces below.

 

Richard

1_First_knives.JPG

2_Early_Knives.JPG

3_Early_Knives.JPG

4_Early_knives.JPG

Edited by Richard van Dijk

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Bruce, I failed to thank you for your participation, Dave too. So Thank You.

 

And Richard, welcome to the interview. Those early pieces sure seem purposefully made, and show a great eye. Thanks for joining in... I look forward to hearing more!

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My life changed and I moved to Dunedin after splitting up, I got a full time job as a jeweller for a while I had to seriously concentrate on my job, I bluffed my way in there when they showed me a diamond cluster ring and asked me if I could make one I answered yes but I am a bit rusty, I had had a fair bit of experience in the bigger silversmithing work and this was the first time I saw a diamond ring like that, but I managed.

 

After some time I got bored with the jewellery I worked full time and did work for other places as well so I bought a band saw this enabled me to make a grinder more or less after a pic in Step by Step knife Making because I had never really seen one, I am still using it but have adapted it here and there.

 

I started again with some saw blade and files to make knives from, the trouble here in NZ is that is hard to get your hands on some decent steel.

I started stock removal knives from 440 C I had to get the steel shipped from the US, it does make it expensive. (see pic’s)

1_SS_Pa.JPG

2_SS_Persian.JPG

3_SS_Fighter.JPG

4_SS_Executive.JPG

Edited by Richard van Dijk

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I got my hands on a blade magazine at one stage, they can be hard to get here at times, I saw some pictures of Damascus knives and really wanted to have a go at that, this was all before the computer age.

 

The first Damascus I made would have been in 1995 I made a small piece in a converted barbecue and a vacuum cleaner as air source, one half failed and from the other half I made my first folder to give to my father on his 70th birthday. (see pic)

 

A blacksmith friend introduced me to the basics of forge welding, although he had never done blades before and never welded carbon steel; this is when I started experimenting with pattern welding.

I hired space in his forge and that meant I could also use his power hammer at times.

The second knife I forged in Damascus was sold in a gallery to Orlando Bloom (Pic) also a couple of other pieces to his mates Frodo and Pipin who’s real names I can’t think of at the moment, they were filming The Lord of the Rings.

 

Please excuse the quality of some of the pics they are photographs of pics so much quicker than scanning.

 

To be continued

1_Dam_folder_Pa.JPG

2_Dam_Orlando.JPG

2_Dam_Detail_Orlando.JPG

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My apologies for the delay, I just got a young guy over from France to do 6 weeks of work experience here and that has kept me fairly busy.

 

Ever since I started Damascus forging I mainly concentrated on this, I just love the forging process and after all that work that quick etch to see if that pattern looks like what you wanted.

 

I attended the Melbourne Knife show in 1998 for the first time and that was the first time that I saw Damascus other than my own, I also learned about Custom Officers.

 

In 2000 I got enormous reoccurring trouble with rsi. (Occupational overuse syndrome) and I decided to quit the full time jewellery making it was just getting to small for me, as far as I am concerned blade smithing is so much more varied in tasks and just that little bit bigger and because of that I can manage.

I was selling pieces from my home on the Otago Peninsula, this is on the way to

some fantastic wildlife tourist attractions, also through my first website, local art and craft shows and several galleries but a very nasty experience with one of them put a

stop to that.

 

 

In 2001 my life changed again and I bought a little house a little further down the Peninsula where I would still get the tourist traffic and had a workshop build 40m2 or 430 square foot it looked huge, it is too small now.

All the Damascus I forged I did completely by hand and made some great pieces (see pic’s) but I was getting more and more orders and more failures thane I liked so I decided that it was time to invest in a hydraulic press.

My knowledge about that sort of thing was nil and my welding skills suspect to say the least, so I approached a firm that was specialising in log splitters, they build me a 17 ton press the most I can get out of single phase power, it really changed the results, I have a lot less rejects these days.

 

Some time later Antonio Cejunior approached me after seeing a piece of mine I posted on this site he asked me if I was interested in making a piece for an exhibition he was organising it was an amazing opportunity and of course I said yes, it took me 3 attempts to get it right and about 3 months I learnt an enormous lot, it was my first sword, if I say so my self it came out very nice and I just made the deadline. (pic’s)

 

2005 was also the first time that I attended the New York Knife show, I am not sure if you guys realise how much it costs to attend a show like that, coming from New Zealand, yes the table fees are expensive but the travel is a lot more and then the dreaded ………. CUSTOMS and the import duties you don’t seem to be able to claim back even if you don’t sell anything, it is not as if we are talking mega $$$$$, if anyone has discovered a good way to deal with these guys I would be very gratefull for advice.

 

After that show I flew to the Netherlands to see family and I took an order for 2 knives from a guy who was sitting next to me in the plane it was probably one of the nicest sales I made and I have sold several pieces to him since.

For this trip I also approached several other blade smiths in the Netherlands and Germany among others Andrew Jordan and Heinz Denig it is amazing how friendly these people are one of the Dutch smiths drove me to Germany to meet Heinz and they made me very welcome.

 

The year after I also attended the Munich show and was invited by Uli Hennicke to come and visit, the Sunrise Project still lays on my pile of unfinished pieces I am ashamed to say, the orders are always in the way.

I think that blade smiths in the US and other countries where you are not one of the very few are very lucky there is so much inspiration, encouragement and help over there my experience is that it is not something you see much of in other art forms.

I would love to attend one of the hammerins and a few shows if any one has some suggestions, please let me know, I would love to do that in the future.

Seax_102.jpg

Seax_102_detail.jpg

103_Bowie.JPG

103_Bowie_Detail.JPG

Sword_1.JPG

Sword_Detail_A.JPG

Sword_Detail_B.JPG

Sword_Detail_C.JPG

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Richard,

You do some real quality work , thanks for showing .... have you thought of coming to the states on a work program? I don't know all the details But I would think you could get a green card to come here for a given amount of time to work as a teacher... you could get paid and attend hammerins and workshops while you are here.... If you don't mind being away from home and can arrainge all the details it might be a way to get more bang for your buck to travel here.... perhaps someone who has done this will chime in about how to do it....

And I have a question.... Do your ideas spring from what you want to make or do you take an idea a customer has and run with it? what is your least favorite part of making knives and why? sorry that was three questions

Dick

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