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Christopher Price

Knifemaker Interview Series, a biography workshop

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Hi All

My apologies again for leaving it so long the tax man and students took priority, thank you Dick for your comments, I would not mind coming to the US for a while and attending some of the hammerins ect. over there perhaps the Polytechnic where I do a bit of teaching has some contacts there, I will find out.

 

As far as where do my ideas spring from, well I do wonder my self at times but I love the exotic stuff from Middle East India North Africa and Indonesia but for some reason I don't like the Japanese stuff much.

Often I just look through books or I sit with a sketch pad while I am watching TV and I am just rough sketching designs this usually gets me all motivated again and then I would love to drop the orders.

 

Sometimes lots later I look through the drawings and find one I like, with that in my head I start forging often it turns out different again, not because I can't forge the shape but because I see something in the shape I have under the hammer.

Then when the blade is forged out and polished I tend to trace the shape on paper and design the handle around it and again often the ideas change again as I am working I can see things much clearer when I got the bits of metal in my hands, I guess it is all part of the thinking process for me.

 

As far as orders is concerned the customer often tells me, I really like that knife but I like a bit of that one as well, most of the time I just start and since they have given me an idea what they like and I work towards that, sending the customer progress pictures usually this works very well.

I find it easier to just make a piece than making a detailed drawing, I know this sounds a bit chaotic but that’s how it seems to work for me.

This is the reason I guess why after a few standard knives I really have to make something that I want to make.

 

The least favourite thing about making knives for me is probably the finishing of the blade a close second would is probably anything what pins me down to the workbench for to long, like making fittings for some of the knives, but once started I can’t see the knife with anything else than what developed in my mind so I just have to continue, I guess it is a left over from too many years working as a manufacturing jeweller.

Leatherwork is something else I am not so keen on but I still have not found anyone who can do it the way I like.

 

This might sound all a bit negative but don’t get me wrong I would not want to do anything else and I get enormous satisfaction of the end product and I tend to “play” with it for a few days, I never had that feeling with jewellery.

 

Here are a couple of pieces that just developed while working.

 

Also have a look at

for some more of my work

115 Art knife.JPG

132 a Carver.JPG

Edited by Richard van Dijk

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Richard, that is just fantastic work. I'd like to interject with a question, if I might.

 

Do you sell most of your work locally, or do you export to other markets like the US? I ask, because the work you're showing here strikes me as very exotic, and I'd think there's a premium on that from an overseas maker of your caliber.

 

The correllary is, of course, do you find it manageble to be a full time knifemaker in the modern world?

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Hi All

 

At the moment I have 2 young guys in the workshop, one came from France to work with me for 6 weeks and a local guy they keep me rather busy and it has been difficult for me to get to my PC, apart from the daily duties.

 

Thank for your compliments Christopher, to be honest I live on the smell of an oily rag but I prefer it to being employed (nobody would really want me anymore) apart from the little bit of teaching I do.

 

The orders for most of my Damascus knives mainly have been coming from my website, in general from overseas, US, Hawaii, Australia, UK, all over Europe and even the Solomon’s although there seems to be more and more interest here in NZ.

 

As I have mentioned my workshop is not that far from major wildlife tourist-attractions, I have a sign on the main road and I advertise in a couple of tourist mags, people do have to look for me a bit but the ones who really want to come and see me find me.

I don’t have a (retail) shop, in my workshop I have a showcase with my work on display at the moment I have very little Damascus work in there, I am mostly working on orders.

 

In the tourist season I mostly sell my roughies, I post them here every now and then, I generally just start making these, they are quite fun because I don’t have to spend forever finishing.

At the moment my 2 “apprentices” are helping me out with them, this really teaches them to forge and grind in preparation for the finer work.

 

At times it takes a lot of time to deal with customers but because I can explain to them what is involved in making my knives most people very quickly understand how much time is involved and you create an appreciation for knives as an art form.

This is something what I find very important, sometimes I get the guys in the workshop and after they have seen what I do they go and drag the wife out of the car, who earlier on refused to set foot in a knife workshop, most times they too they walk out of the door impressed. (Especially if I show them pic’s of Sgian Dubhs with diamonds or other stones)

 

Often I get told I can’t justify that sort of money right now, so they buy a roughie or 6 months to a year later I get an email with an order.

Word of mouth is also a very powerful marketing tool, I get people around who heard of me through friends or other travellers in the US, Europe or NZ.

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I know you've been busy, so I'll ask you one last question before I think it's time to turn it over...

 

How do you like teaching, and what does the process of schooling an apprentice teach you about the craft?

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Thanks Christopher,

Yes you are right I have been drawing this out far to long I have been burning a lot of midnight oil, even one of my neighbours started complaining.

I really enjoy teaching if I am working with motivated studends, it is a little dissapointing that not all of them are.

I also have been teaching night classes these are fun because all people attending come there because to learn, some of these people come up with some great ideas , however the governement just withdrew the funding for these courses so they will be no more.

Over the last few weeks I have had 2 guys over here, it is good to see them making progress but I must say that I am finding it at times difficult to consentrate on my own work.

I will be asking the guy from France to post his last piece here in Show and Tell.

Over the years I have had about 6 apprentices in the jewellery trade and it is surprising what you learn from, you have been doing things all these years and then you have to go and explain why you do it that way also you learn to see something through someone elses eyes and that makes you think so much more out of the square and I love the brainstorming what goes with it.

 

Again My apologies for stretching this out so long, thank you all for your patience.

 

Richard

Edited by Richard van Dijk

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So now Ladies and Gentlemen

 

I would like to introduce to you someone who really does not need an introduction he has been posting some fantastic work over the years Uli Hennicke.

 

Hi Uli, I am very happy that you accepted my invitation because I am sure that many people here would love to know a little more about you and your work.

 

I would love to know how did you get started in bladesmithing and was it an accepted trade in Germany. (when I started most people thought I was mad)

 

Richard

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Thanks Richard for inviting me to this interview and your first question.

I always worked realy gladly with my hands, as I was young the first way after scool was into the handicraft celler of my perents house.

I was building ship and airplain moddels and because of the reason I have had not enough money to buy some moddel kits I made my one construktions. They worked, mostly :D .

 

Later one I become a plumber, learning in my uncles smal company. This was realy interresting, because I was involved in everry part of this job.

 

Over the years I worked in differend companys in my job as a plumber and I have not enough time to do what I realy like to do.

I become discontent and I walked to a realy hard and bad time for me. More death than allive till the moment I was the first time in a smithy, this was the moment for me to come home, absolute emotional and wonderfull.

This is about 14 years ago.

Edited by Ulrich Hennicke

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Allright, Ulrich!

 

And Thank You, Richard, for sharing. I really appreciate hearing perspectives from around the world. Yours was no exception.

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Uli whath happened after you walked into that smithy, did you get an apprinticeship if so how long did it take you or are you self tought, did you straight away start with knives and swords or did you do general blacksmithing first

When dit you make your first knife?

 

Richard

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The first knifes I made wher in stockremoval from ATS 34 because I hered this is a good steel for knifes, this is about 14 years ago.

The internet was not so populare in this times so I get some informations out from books and some knifemakers in Germany.

It was not so easy to get a "Ausbildungsstelle" apprenticeship training position as a blacksmith. So I was realy happy to get a job in Mr Gradingers shop, a realy lovely man.

I was nearly 1 year in Herman Gradingers workshop in Mainz Germany, he is a realy well known Artist blacksmith and he trained me blacksmithing and in the eavenings it was possible to work in his shop.

In this time I made my first damascus and started with knifesmithing.

Than I was 2 month in England and worked with a nother interesting artist blacksmith he used realy big steelparts to build his grills and other things.

This was a exiting time.

 

After this time I got a offer to rent a smithy near Mainz and I desidet to go into the self-employment as a artist blacksmith and knifemaker.

This are the first stepps to that point what I do today, a nice and also a hard time to surviva.

 

Here you can see wy I did not write so much in my posts, because my English is not the best, but I hope you all can see what I am talking about. :D

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Uli, please say whatever you like - we will worry about making sense of it. smile.gif

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I agree.

 

I have always wanted to listen about your background.

 

Best regards

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Und also Deutche kann Ich nur ein bißchen verstehe. ;)

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I'll ask you a couple, then...

 

How many blades would you say you've made now, over the length of your career?

 

 

and,

 

 

We all follwed the Black Uljake project closely. I was very impressed with the designs of both sword and knife... what was your inspiration for these shapes, how did you settle on them, and were you totally satisfied with how it all came out?

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I'll sneak in a question or two please Uli,

 

what is your favorite part of the creation process?

 

do you forge anything other than blades?

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And my questions have to do with your particular aesthetics:

 

What influences you? Do you find other kinds of shapes and forms in other arts that influence you? if so would you care to share with us?

 

Best

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I was going to ask you how you managed to survive when you first started, I can immagine it would have been very difficult if you have nothing else to fall back on.

Is the smithy in Mainz the one where I visited you?

When you rented a smithy there did it come with equipment, you seem to have some amazing gear.

 

I realise all these questions will be hard to answer in English, you can send me an email in German if you like I have several German friends here who can help with this.

 

Richard

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I'll ask you a couple, then...

 

How many blades would you say you've made now, over the length of your career?

 

 

and,

 

 

We all follwed the Black Uljake project closely. I was very impressed with the designs of both sword and knife... what was your inspiration for these shapes, how did you settle on them, and were you totally satisfied with how it all came out?

 

 

I have not counted al the blades and knifes I made in the past 14 years.

But I thinke about 1500 is realistic, inclouding the one they whent into the bin :D

 

To the scond question; YES I was and I am realy satisfied with this project.

Some things just have to build like that they come out, it is difficult to describe.

They are in my minde and I just have to let them out and build it.

 

In this special BLACK ULJAKE project I shurly was inspirated by Jakes work and feeling to his art. We both where able to grow on this.

Thanks Jake, my friend :D

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I'll sneak in a question or two please Uli,

 

what is your favorite part of the creation process?

 

do you forge anything other than blades?

 

 

Sam, in the last 3,5 years we moved here to the northern part of Germany I just made knifes and swords, before I made also other things like balustrades, gates, and free sculpturing in steel.

In fact just in the moment I build a smal handrail for a good friend. :lol:

 

I don`t have favorite parts while building, I realy like making damascussteel and the forging, also it is verry exciting for me to work out the shapes at the grinder.

Edited by Ulrich Hennicke

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Uli, do you sell most of your knives and swords in Germany or does most of it go to other countries and how do you market them?

 

Richard

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Uli, do you sell most of your knives and swords in Germany or does most of it go to other countries and how do you market them?

 

Richard

 

 

Hi Richard, no I am not dad; just so bussy to bring al the orders on the way.

Back to your question.

The main market for my work is Europe, but I have also customers in USA, Russia, Saudi Arabia and its growing over the years. :D

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Thanks Uli

 

Happy New Year to everybody

 

I know what you mean, it can be hard to find spare time, I have the same problem.

 

Is there any thing else you would like to share with us, or show us pictures from other work you have done, or would you like to introduce someone else?

 

Richard

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