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Knifemaker Interview Series, a biography workshop

Christopher Price

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I love how well this series has gone, but it seems to have run out of steam.


Uli, if you're willing and have the time, we would love you to interview someone. If not, we understand.

The Tidewater Forge

Christopher Price, Bladesmith

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  • 10 months later...

Well, since Uli is out of communication these days, that thread ran out. :(


BUT:! Be careful what you ask for, Petr. Do you know why?


It's because you're next! :ph34r::P


You seem to have a good handle on what looks like quite an interesting bladesmithing bunch there in the Czech Republic, so I have no doubt that you will be able to find a good person to interview who will then continue the thread, not that you must interview another Czech at all, of course.


So, let's get started!


I know a bit about you from the question-answer session we had during the creation of the Maldon Foes, and I'm sure your other fellow collaborators had a similar session. Would you mind sharing some of that with the rest of the board?


First, would you share with us your idea of who you are, what you do, and why you do it?


I'll add questions as I think of them and as you answer. I'll be out of town tomorrow, but rest assured I won't let you go free until we've delved into your psyche. B)

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The blade, elegant
Slicing through the sweet, warm breeze
with a precise hit.

Sam Wands (10 years old)

Gold for the merchant, silver for the maid;
Copper for the craftsman, cunning at their trade.
Good! Laughed the baron, sitting in his hall;
But steel---cold steel---shall be master of them all!

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Revenge is best served cold!


Ok i will share what you are interested in.

I was born in 1977 in Prague and lived almost all my life there. I was always very strongly influenced with manlike romantism (wild west, indians, sailors, knights and such). At my juvenile years i like to draw so when i was 15 after elementary school, I went to study specialized high school por polygraphy, DTP, graphics etc. Wned i was at age of 19 and this study closed i went to study anthropology to Charles University in Prague. I loved old folklore and books like Golden Bough were my pulp these days, but i wanted to do something contemporary and chalenging. So i decided to study cultural phenomena associated with skinhead subculture (i am real antifascist, before you ask :-)) It was very exhausting to do terrain research.


At my final years i met my great beloved future wife. In CR, it is fact, that if you work on humanities field, you have to have VERY humble life style, bordering with poverty :). So i knew, that i will keep anthropology as my interest and returned to graphic field, where i work till now.


I have two great childern: daughter Ronja (5) and son Borivoj (2). My wife name is Marcela


I am a leader of bunch of great folk, forming viking living history group Skjaldborg. You can see what we do here: www.skjaldborg.cz Its only in czech but pictures do the talking.


I will interupt here, to do some work and see if you have some questions, and after that i will go to my blademaking story :-)

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Thank you for playing along, Petr! :D


I think in most countries if you want to work in the humanities you must be willing to live in poverty. :( Not that bladesmithing is a way to get rich, of course... :rolleyes:


However, in your case I think your decision to go into graphic arts and design was a good one. Your eye for design is VERY good, as anyone who has seen your sketches can agree.


Is that how you got into blademaking? Or did you go into the living history thing first, then realize that you could make better than what was readily available? What draws you to the Vikings? The art?


I know you will get into this later, but when did you meet Patrick Barta, and how did that affect your direction in blades?


I apologise for the somewhat scattered questions, but I'm just asking things as they come into my head. :lol:


Speaking of things that just pop into my head, I know the fall of communism came when you were relatively young. How has that affected the bladesmithing world in the Czech Republic? I cannot imagine the feeling of freedom that must have been in the air in Prague after 1989. I know a LOT of Americans went there to "teach english," which was often code for "to drink great beer for cheap and have a lot of fun." ;) Did that massive influx of Americans have an effect on you, and what did the older people think about that?


I promise we'll go fully into blades with the next series of scattered questions, don't worry. B)

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You are welcome! But its an honour to be in such a good company!


I came to bladesmithing as matter of need. I worked on many crafts as a part of my LH hobby and i wanted to hilt saxes, knives and swords. But i was disappointed by quality and waiting lists of smiths here. So i started my own lousy attempts.


What drew me to vikings? I would say it above mentioned romanticism and admiring the ethos of theif culture (selfresponsibility, entrepreneurship, bravery...) The art was important too, but in these days i was as misguided as common admirer of norse art is (dont let me start on this :-))


stopped to open swedish christamass beer :-)


I first met Patrick about 7 years ago. I was visiting him with my good frien, who wanted to buy a sword from him. After that, i started to invite him to our annual seminars about viking culture. When i was in "only hilting" stage, he provided me with some blades, and it was completely differnt experience than with others (afterwards i realised, that i am the only one who can have his composite bare blades). Since then, he was giant help to my efforts and he willingly answers my silly questions


Begining od 90´s in prague it was a wild dream of freedom, I was studyin in the old centre of Prague, beer and culture was everywhere. I met two of these English teachers, Mat and Dan, both became my friends, accompanying us in Pubs, concerts and philosofical debates. Both of them are reason that i never felt to any serious antiAmerican stereotype, as many europeans did (and i owe them this!) In my family there was noone who was supporting old regime, so to me, it was pure joy :-D

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I spent a week in Prague in October, 1989, on a Senior year field trip. It is an epic city, and that was an epic time. DDR shut down its borders while we were there... and we wondered about getting home on time.


I am looking forward to this thread having new life. Thanks, Petr, for prompting it - and Alan for rising to the occasion.

The Tidewater Forge

Christopher Price, Bladesmith

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Chris, I'm glad you approve! I broke a rule and didn't ask Petr if he was willing to be interviewed (or you if you minded!) before I started. Somewhat cruel of me, but this thread did need a kick-start. :P


So Petr, I am truly impressed, but not surprised, that Mr. Barta let you hilt his bare blades! Then again, anyone who has seen your work can attest that it speaks for you in the best possible way.


To all: when Petr and I were working on the Maldon Foe saxes, he posted some pictures of a folding knife called Moby Dick. It was a whale carved from antler and brass, used as the handle scales of a knife made by somebody else. My wife loved it so much that Petr made her a necklace pendant in the same style, a small sperm whale carved in the round from a single piece of antler with brass highlights. I'd show pictures of it but she refuses to model. ;) Maybe Thursday I'll take pictures of it alone. :( It is her most favorite necklace, worn only for special occasions.


Petr again: After doing all the hilting, and working with Mr. Barta's composite blades, that's what brought you into the idea that you could make your own? I share with you that part about wanting things that simply were not available at my price range, that's how and why I started making tomahawks. And saxes, and swords... :lol: I suspect several of us started because of that.


How did you start? I mean, what materials did you start working with first? You are a master of antler carving and leatherwork. Was that the first thing you did getting into the living history?


I'll let you answer fully all day tomorrow, it's midnight in Prague and it's suppertime in Tennessee. B)

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Hey! new day...


I am happy that your wife still like this small whale, it was just a quick piece of carving and a pleasure to make.


Patricks Blades were impulse to me more in HOW to make blades, i mean, i knew him in time, when he was the only one in my world who worked old iron and made steel. But it needs to be said that the biggest impulse in forging and forgeweldin was this forum, before this, my attempts were chaotic, this place gave me opportunity to study more systematicaly.


When i try to remember what materials i used to work at first, i must say that first serious attempts were in etching steel, and wax models for bronze and silver casting.






i also did some chasing/repousse



but some time, it was my speciality to make antler viking combs too




But going deeply into bladesmithing, it all came together. Its a craft where i can use all of that, to create piece which allready exist in my head. And when i learned how to forge weld - oh my! thats addictive and beautiful!


your turn :-)

Edited by Petr Florianek
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Petr & Alan.

thank you for collaborating once again to start this back up... very fittingbiggrin.gif



Can you remember the first thing you ever made? do you still have it?smile.gif ... can you remember your thoughts about it and why it led you to make more?


I like your comb work you just showed us.. It explains where your carving abilities come from...



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Hey Richard! i am glad you are enjoying this.


I was always making things with my hands, so its hard to say what was first. When i try to remember, i think that one of the first more serious thing was big knife, inspired by scythian akinakes, with cast bronze pommel with two elk heads in Black Sea style.


These were the days, when my biggest inspiration was Jiri Borovicka, very talented smith and artist. Unfortunately we are not in contact now, due to some personal incompactibility


This is his work, not mine


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Ah, yes, I remember seeing pictures of some of those things. Those antler combs in particular got my attention because they look just like examples excavated at Jellinge and Old Uppsala among other places. That was what told me you were a true brother of the Fiery Beard: You just really FEEL it.


On that note, let's get metaphysical for a minute. ;) When Chris interviewed me, I talked about sometimes when I'm engrossed in my work that I seem to enter a zone of timelessness where I can feel a force from the past guiding my hands, particlularly when I'm doing something that is historically correct and that I know how to do in theory, but that I have never actually done. Sometimes I feel like I'm just along for the ride, watching my hands do things I did not know I could do. Does that ever happen to you? I do not mean feeling "posessed" or anything like that. I just mean sometimes when I'm working with hand tools it seems I just instinctively know exactly what to do without thinking about it. It's when I think about it that I get into trouble, in fact. :lol:


Another question: How important is it to you to use traditional tools? I know you have in the past posted pictures of your carving tools you made yourself. For example, I will use power tools like a band saw and a belt grinder, but ONLY when it will not affect the feel of the finished piece. What are your feelings about the means to the end?


More tomorrow...

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I probably know the feeling, but it comes to me more during designing stage, i draw and draw, and suddenly, i do not have to invent how it will look, it just pop in my head. But i had experienced the same feeling you described few times, especialy since forging frankish narrow sax




It was funny experience, because i really felt, that something is different, i stopped working for second, and wondered about it :-)


As for use of traditional tools: I work the way that all the final surface must be done by hand, very often with traditional or home made tools and non traditional sand paper.

I also tend to use authentic materials, in authentic combinations


For example, i was a bit itchy, using bog oak together with reindeer, i felt that red deer or moose would me more apropriate. But i do make exceptions.


I dont have belt sander, so i rough out the piece with angle grinder and then file. I use drill. My handles are made by hand, except the drilling.


Jared: with more intricate models, i use services of professional foundry, but for simple pieces, i used soapstones, clay and cutlefish bone


looking forward to another set of questions. In the next session i would like to mention my obsession with collaborative work :-)

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I use the tools for the same reasons as you, then! ^_^ I have been known to tell people that if you want an authentic-looking result you must use the original tools and methods for finishing things. I do have a belt grinder and a power hammer, and I use them as much as I can to save wear on my arms, but there is really no substitute for hand finishing a piece. Add to that the fact that many of the things the two of us make are impossible to machine-finish because of the shapes and cross-sections, and you have an excellent argument for keeping the old methods alive, no? B)


Ah, yes, the collaborations! :lol:


I like that about you as well. It was my great honor and pleasure to be the first here to work with you. :D On that note I'll take this opportunity to make one thing clear to all: The Maldon Foes project was entirely Petr's concept from start to finish. I regret that the publishers of that book, "Spirit of the Sword," got that wrong and did not credit you for the photo they used. :( At least they did spell you name correctly, though. The editors said they'd correct the attribution if they print a second edition.


At first I thought you liked collaborations because perhaps you didn't have the forge or workspace to do your own blades. Now I know that's not it. So tell us, what is your obsession with collaborative work? I have not done many collaborative pieces, mostly because I'm such a control freak when it comes to things with my name involved. To date I know you have done the Heptisax with Owen Bush, several hilts and mounts with various people not on this forum, and that you're in the midst of a work with Dave Stephens. It certainly fosters a feeling of interconnectedness here, and is in keeping with the old ways in which the smith only made the blade and someone else mounted it.


What do you get from it?

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And now another question that was raised by the previous ones: What is your workshop situation? Do you have space at your home, or do you generally share space with someone else?


That raises yet another question! :rolleyes:


After you made our forum your home, we started seeing more Czech makers becoming members. Was that your doing? How close is the bladesmithing community in the Czech Republic? As you have seen from all the hammer-in pictures here in the U.S.A., the community here, while large, is very interconnected. The ABS has a little to do with that. Is there a similar guild where you are?

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Hey, the did not say that it was your photo :-) they only said "courtesy" and you are courteous, arent you? :-)

Honestly, i dont care about credits in the book, its funny i made it there, what pisses me of ist that Ric is not included, i would happily sacrifice my place to him. He is a beacon in swordmaking. (honestly i can even say there are others in the book, who can free some space for him, but not from this forum)


It was a great joy to collaborate on Foes, i owe you that, because you told me that its exception. So that justifies the little whale :-)


I have a dream, that maybe some time, i would like to make these things more often, and maybe for living. But now, its my aprentinceship, i want to learn, i want precize my skills, i want to earn some respect as maker. Collaborative work is precious to me as i can learn a lot from the fellow craftman. This is mainly on the basis of small things, but it also helps me to concentrate more on my work, as i try not to screw efforts of someone else. Plus the work of collaborator inspires ma lot, Both foes and heptisax really kicked me and the blades inspired my making. I hope that i fulfill another thing i strive for: I want both sides of collaboration to be profitable from it. So i really put much thought to these pieces, more than to those entirely mine, at least in most cases.


We live on different sides of the globe, but this is a way how to tie our bonds, this community is special and it needs to be fostered. I feel support from all of you and i want to support you :-)

Edited by Petr Florianek
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I have old barn as my workshop, just 4 metres from my house, I have smithing half and the half tor other things. As i started to learn some jewellery techniques, i wnat to separate some clean space too, for finishing work.


As for other czech makers here, some of it was my doing: Hloh, Tomas Rucker and may be some others

Bladesmithing community here, is somewhat similar to yours, but it lacks your inovative and active ethos, i have some very good friens in it, but otherwise, i am not active it it much, because of little spare time, and my difficult character :-)

There is some guild in CR, but i dont see this very useful, and my friends from community here neither

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Thank you, Petr!


Lately you have been doing some jewelry work under the tutelage of Wojtec (?) from Poland. I am truly amazed by the intricacy and accuracy you have attained with the wirework and granulation.


Based on what We've seen from you so far, you seem to be one of those people who can make anything at all. :ph34r:


What do you want to do more than anything? I can see you retiring into the past with your Living History group, becoming Petr the Smith, master of leather, antler, wood, bone, and all metals. I myself don't do the Living History thing mostly because I'm lazy and I wear glasses, plus my wife makes fun of me when I (to quote her) play dress-up. :lol: She of course did it for years, working as a weaver at places specializing in the living history of the old south, so she got it out of her system during those years.


Maybe what I am asking is, what is your philosophy of life, what do you derive from the things you make, and where do you see yourself going with all this? I can see you rivalling Mr. Barta if you choose that path. You have twice referred to yourself as "difficult," but as far as I'm concerned you are a steadfast friend. Of course, I do not live with you! ;)


Now is the time for you to explain what it all means, in other words. :)

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Well, Wojtek is great teacher, and i am looking forward to seeing him here on our viking Yule celebration, boar roast and camping. And then, in february, second part of my aprentinceship!

But i seriously doubt, that i can do anything. I want to try to perfect my inlay and overlay skill, but it too time consuming :-(


I tend to think of my creations as of stories in steel, i have very narrative way of thinking, i see story (or a glimpse of) behind all of my pieces. Thats what i want to do, make those stories, becoming better in telling them through developing my manual skills and my eye.


People from this forum were very helpfull even in my design problems, i will show you that little later.


I will not be rivalling Patrick, even if i am that good in future, we have lot in common, but he is great in being faithfull to originals, i see my strenght in growing on the past styles, nurturing my ideas in given style, creating new things of old times


When i say i am difficult, because i have my principals, values and i need to be true to them, combined with the fact, that i dont care much if i am popular, I am sometimes hard to go with. When someone is my friend, i will not let him down, but if he makes mistake (with capital M) i will surely tell him.


Philosophicaly i am cheerfull sceptic, compassioning libertarian. I like to talk philosophy and faith while drinking beer:-)

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I understand about the time involved. I'm impressed you do as much as you do with two small children to take care of!


Mmmmm... A Viking boar roast at Yule... Sounds like a wonderful time.


How has this forum helped you with design problems? I know it helps me just to see how others have solved certain problems. This is probably the only place on the internet you can get real, historically accurate answers to questions about pattern-welded blades and saxes from people who really know what they're talking about, not to mention just about every other aspect of metalworking from fine jewelry to smelting.


What else would you like to say about yourself?

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Here its full of splendid artist, only seeing how do they aproach design, lines, flow its a big lesson.


I completely agree, that this is the best place on internet, and i cannot sepparate the forum from its members.


If you saw the first sketch for heptisax, you would see, how helpless i was, but Owen started to refer to the thing as of "my saxon baseball bat" and it lighted up my brain, after that i even found evidence for conical antler pommel :-)


I am preparing design for a sword with guard found in swedish sigtuna. I showed the sketch to Peter Johnsson, and after his few sentences, it completely rebooted my imagination.


right before PJ intervention, left after



The value of this forum as the source of hard data, technical, and historical is also great.


I have to stop now, i experimented with caffeine little too much :-)

to be continued

Edited by Petr Florianek
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I have to stop now, i experimented with caffeine little too much :-)

to be continued


So, have you recovered from the caffeine overdose and New Year's Eve celebrations? ;)


Whenever you do, please continue. B)

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Yes a bit! we have an espresso maker in studio, and i started to inprovise with settings. Terrible results!


I wanted to say a little about inspiration outside this wonderful place. I already mentioned Patrick Barta



Wojciech Kochman



but i am also humbled by a work of my frien Petr Dohnal and his son Petr Dohnal



and want to show you also work of my friend, estonian artist, carver and jewellery maker Indrek Jets, he has amazing i eye for late viking styles



This is only a selection I wanted to show you, not the complete list by any means.


In future, besides developing my manual skills, want to study old art styles of celtic and germanic people, because i think, that if you look at most of present recreations of this art, it does not show much understanding.

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