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Christopher Price

Knifemaker Interview Series, a biography workshop

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Thanks Mike and Howard and Chris, this has to be one of the best threads ever. It is one thing to read technical aspects about heat treating, but a whole nother to read about the intent behind each smith, and they're approach and passion for the craft.

Edited by Sam Salvati

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Howard seems to be running out of steam, so let me pitch a couple more your way before you find a new victim, please.

 

Given your research into the archeology of steel production, do you think those 500+ years from now will find us anachronistic when paired with the vaunted "information age", or misplace us in history altogether?

 

Given your knowledge of chemistry (inorganic, specifically), your experience with the smelters you've built, and modern measurement technology, what would it take to thoroughly understand the dynamic environment in the hearth of a steel-producing furnace? Do you think it's possible given enough money and expertise, or are we still at a dead-end 4000 years into the making of metal this way on fully understanding it?

 

Besides the element of Zen you've described, the meditative quality of bladesmithing, what goals do you pursue in your craft? Is there a certain look or feel to your work you're still striving for, a standard to be reached, or is it just a pleasant journey with no firm target in sight? What bladesmithing accomplishment would make you sit back and say, "well it doesn't get much better than that"?

 

 

Thanks for sharing everything you have so far, you're a deeply appreciated friend on this board to many, and to me in particular. I hope one day I can bring so much and take so little from a conversation.

 

 

Wowo chris, those are some really excellent questions, i can't wait to see the response

 

Stephan

P.S. this thread is simply awesome, i've greatly enjoyed reading everyone's thoughts and perspectives.

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Given your research into the archeology of steel production, do you think those 500+ years from now will find us anachronistic when paired with the vaunted "information age", or misplace us in history altogether?

 

No, I really don't. No matter how the technology of society advances, there always seems to be a counterbalancing force to resist it. Luddites to some degree. My example would be the efforts of ABANA to restore smithing (in general) when it was nearly lost as a hand craft. We've certainly given up a great deal of hand-artisan work to the industrial might of the corporate world. Some of us have been fortunate to acquire larger than average hammers, but then look at the burgeoning industrial development of the small air hammer coming out of China and elsewhere. They wouldn't make those hammers if there wasn't a demand. Despite the obvious competition, India is producing better pattern welded steel than was available in the US for many years. They wouldn't do it, if there wasn't a demand. And, the market drives it. Prices were high for "hand made" PW steels and they figured out a way to produce with a lower margin than we can afford. In several ways, there is a pull in one direction and then a pull in the other.

 

There will always be someone who likes to get dirty despite social norms. Despite the pressures to wear a suit and tie (gack!), there seem to be any number of anachronistic groups who dress up on weekends to be something else in a simpler (?) time. The grand mean is maintained.

 

Given your knowledge of chemistry (inorganic, specifically), your experience with the smelters you've built, and modern measurement technology, what would it take to thoroughly understand the dynamic environment in the hearth of a steel-producing furnace? Do you think it's possible given enough money and expertise, or are we still at a dead-end 4000 years into the making of metal this way on fully understanding it?

 

:lol: I'd be the last person to call myself a chemist. I didn't like the way university classes taught the stuff, or didn't see any purpose to knowing "this xxxx" when what we pre-med folks needed was biochemistry. I was flunking a chemistry class in college when I was ace-ing a microanatomy class. The difference? 12 nerds who got all the time they wanted on electron microscopes vs. 800 bodies of whom maybe 100 finished the course. Give me a fun toy to play with and I can/will learn anything interesting.

 

Oops off topic. I suspect there is money out there to do such a project. It will take the combined efforts of archeometals types and others to bring that kind of money together. There are certainly the tools to do the job. We'd need some protected thermocouples and some high temperature tubing to take samples from the fire at varying depths. The idea being to get the sample before the probes became part of the the experiment. I'm not sure that general steel industry would be interested since their processes are very much more efficient than a stack smelter. They can control atomic chemistry if they want to. From their perspective returning to the old days makes no sense. But a visionary who wants to make a mark somewhere might put up the money.

 

Besides the element of Zen you've described, the meditative quality of bladesmithing, what goals do you pursue in your craft? Is there a certain look or feel to your work you're still striving for, a standard to be reached, or is it just a pleasant journey with no firm target in sight? What bladesmithing accomplishment would make you sit back and say, "well it doesn't get much better than that"?

 

No. 1: Get out of the honeydew list. (Y'all can fill in whatever excuse comes next...) :rolleyes: Oh come on, you didn't think this was entirely for the customers or simply to accumulate knowledge didja?

 

No. 2: Keep myself moving when the strongest temptation is to become a vegetable in front of the computer (dammit got caught again) or the TV. To get something done, any accomplishment. Move the total list of projects along. Most customers still don't perceive the amount of preparatory or processing work that goes into making the stuff we do. Taking the bloom into billet form is not easy and consumes fuel and time and still might not be useful when it's done. There are a lot of risks. Dormancy is the biggest. Shop work is physically taxing and I'm generally already beat from a 5.5 day week. This is a big challenge for me.

 

As to the work, I'd like to have a professional sword appraiser confused by the look, but not deceived. I'd like to have some traditionally steeped sword-smiths use the material and pronounce it "as good as...". In that end, it's a matter of taking what knowledge is out there, massaging it into useful processes, outside the traditional pathways, and doing it in a way that the folks who are working with the traditionally acceptable materials, say "it's good enough." That means someone will be able to leap from that point forward and possibly be able to work upward from there to an art piece.

 

Ultimately, to pass on into retirement as someone who respected the craft at its heart. Maybe I'll have shortcuts, we all do, but in the end, my heart will have been in the right place and I won't be excluded from the company of smiths because my methods were suspect or I claimed something that did not stand up to scrutiny.

 

However, the bestest final goal is based on the following. 1967: A paraphrased quote from a good teacher. This happens to be from a medical professor, but I use it freely with any type of educational situation.

 

"It is not possible to teach all there is to know. Half of what a student learns here will be obsolete by the time they graduate and half of what they will need to know has not yet been discovered. What we should do here is teach them how to teach themselves."

 

I would hope that encounters with me leave learners in a position to teach themselves. Literally, to work myself out of a job. That does not always happen, but it remains a strong goal. Then, once the need for a teacher is gone, perhaps a good friendship will persist. That aspect is very true of the friends in the craft I have now.

 

I figured out most of this stuff on my own. Even if I didn't know something, I studied before I went to an expert so I'd have learned which questions were good ones and not waste their time. Sometimes I'd find out that I already knew the answer and their way of doing was less efficient or based on some small error. It didn't stop me from learning them, their ways of talking to customers etc. There is always something to be gained from any encounter.

 

If I can do that, anyone can. That does not mean that simply showing someone where to look is enough. I think you can all see that learning from me, or Howard for that matter, and any number of other fine folks who drift in and out here and there, is not just learning how to heat treat a particular steel, but how to heat treat yourself. It's a matter of dealing with each person as a whole human being and not simply where we interact at the point of transferring a simple skill.

 

I'd have a lot of issues if I was going to teach a kid to make a sword only to find out they chopped up their classmates with it, or teach them self defense only to find they were a bully. I'd have a lot less issues with a swordsman who wanted to learn how to make a sword that was indestructible, but who worked as hard at making himself indestructible with or without the sword only to find out that they didn't need the sword after all. The craft is forging the soul, heat testing it, polishing it, practicing with it daily. When that works, it ain't much better.

 

See what happens when I start thinking around an anvil. I bet none of you ever thought a big lump of iron could do that.

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Sorry computer decided to duplicate it, or may be my clumsy fingers.

Edited by Mike Blue

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bravo,,,, thanks mike,,

jm

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Thank you Mike B) . The technical aspects of blademaking can be found anywhere, and as you said after awhile can be done with your eyes closed, but the mental intent behind those actions will often be the cause for success or failure, THAT is good advice IMO more so even than technical advice (though that is always welcome to :D ). I find that the day goes better if I clarify my intent each day before starting work, and keep a positive attitude even if stuff goes wrong.

Edited by Sam Salvati

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I just want to say thanks you to Chris who had the gorgeous idea to begin this topic, and to all the masters who previously shared and will in future share they thoughts here. This is a mind blower and goes far over the technical knowledge of the smithing. I firmly believe that any artisan-craftmen-artist of any craft could learn a lot reading here.

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Like all great ideas, Giuseppe, this one was not entirely original... I'd seen a similar thing done on another forum, and thought it very appropriate for our little group. Compliments go to those who put themselves out there, and are the real contributors to the beauty in this discussion. I thank you all.

 

Mike, you're a wise man. Don't let any fool tell you otherwise, ever. If Howard's done with you, perhaps you can start stalking our next victim.

 

Hats off to you, sir.

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It's a tough choice as to who gets asked next. However, this next is a good one. Owen Bush. As I know him, a smith with a talented and very diverse background. And, not because of a recent set of photos either. Some of us knifesmiths should be a little embarrassed by our lack of general smithing skills. If they use a hammer to make blades, the UK fellows are all-around talents for the most part, blades are just something else in their repertoire.

 

I'll use the generic questions to begin. Owen, please start by telling us how you got into smithing. What was your first exposure to the craft?

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Thanks Mike ,

That is quite a list of people to follow on from,thanks for the seat by the fire (so to speak).

I have been smithing now for 14 years on and off and I must admit that it comes as a bit of a shock to think it's been that long .Amongst the smithing and other things, the bladesmithing has woven in and out sometimes being at the core of what I do and for a long while being forgotten lying dormant for many years (one craft to rule them all and in the darkness bind them!!!!!) .

I have always been aware of blacksmithing ,but there was never any idea that it was a real thing,the idea that people hit metal with a hammer ,that people made knives and swords was not somthing that I had ever really considered .I had done my fair share of designing repeating crossbows and drawing fantasy swords in the back of school classes but the Reality that smiths existed was not ever on the radar.

My first real encounter with a smith was being taken along to meet an artist blacksmith by a friend of my fathers .I was 21 had dropped out of university (three years into an environmental science degree) and was odd jobbing and traveling and I think my father were trying to find me a way.....,.

I cant remember the name of the smith ,but he was talented ,making very forged gothic ironwork ,he had a lovly old forge (situated at the bottom of his garden) and was dirty .Had he had a power hammer I think I would have been sold on the idea there and then ,as it was I was left with a feeling that this guy worked alone in his shop with no one to talk to ,I left with the thought that smithing seemed to be a lonly profession and not for me ,the seed however was sown .so I left and forgot about it .........

six months later I found myself just before a big fancy dress party ,with no costume .so I borrowed a friends Mig welder and set about making a gladiators outfit .Horned helm ,pronged gauntlett ,sword (sort of) and a spiked metal shoulder armour (I still have the helmet and gauntlet).It was rough and ready and to be quite honest wearing a sharp spikey metal outfit (over a toga) to a party in a flat isnt the best idea .I had however gotten hooked on "Making" ,I build a rubbish Forge and bought a 20lb anvil and started bashing.............................

I had been heading towards going back to uni to become a physiotherapist and was re taking Alevels and had volenteer work looming in a local hospital ,blacksmithing kind of swept that away and I managed to get myself a place on a one year "Restoration blacksmithing" course at Hereford college and that was that .During my interview for Hereford I had shown some knives I made .My tutor (to be) told me that If i was interested in knives He could teach me all I needed to know in a week???(I have never understood how or why Blacksmiths so often seem to look down on knifemaking,I have a feeling they have never gotten far enough to find out what it is).

Doing a vocational course of your own choosing is such a way different experience from the run of the mill going to school and uni and always wondering why .I had an amazing year of working hard and partying hard and I think that it was certainly one of the best years of my life .I finished college with a good(basic) smithing knowledge and spent 6 weeks in Arkansas doing the ABS basic bladesmithing ,handles and a week of one on one damascus with Jerry fisk . I came Back to England buzzing with ideas and new knowledge and started my business (this was Back in 95) My business card read :-

Owen Bush Blacksmith-Bladesmith

I started demonstrating at craft fairs (eventualy I was doing 24 weekends a year demoing) and as fate would have it at about the same time I came back from the ABS a head master was stabbed and Killed outside his school and the Uk began a Knife amnesty (despite the fact that knives were perfectly legal) .I was showing knives along side my smithing (my best work ,damascus and under glass) and I got fed up with women complaning about it ,calling me a warmonger to my face and so I stopped making knives for quite a while and consentrated on the smithing ,making a couple of blades a year (usually for other crafts people ).

and so somthings that were started were forgotten or at least left to slumber before they had really had a chance to start .I had my business cards re printed :-

Owen Bush Artist Blacksmith

It wasnt untill I saw a Damascus exhibition by Mick Maxen that I was finaly woken up to the fact that I had been missing my calling .Micks exhibition really pissed me off ,I wasnt jelous of what he was doing ,more dismal at having let go of some thing I had treasured .Mick had started making at around the same time as me but had kept at it when i let it die .That and seeing Jake Pownings work really set me back on the path of steel .

anyhow I have rambled on and I hope I havnt bored you all .

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Thanks Mike ,

That is quite a list of people to follow on from,thanks for the seat by the fire (so to speak). ... anyhow I have rambled on and I hope I havnt bored you all.

 

Not at all, you're a welcome addition to any fireside. The language of the hammer is universally understood by those with an ear for it, irrespective of the tongue used. I'm interested in the take you have on the UK traditions and comparing your history to where things are today. When I look back into the history of knives in the US, I find a lot of Sheffield stuff. England supplied huge amounts of trade materials, obviously for profit. Where do you see knifemaking or bladesmithing going in the UK?

Edited by Mike Blue

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I find the idea of english knife making having a history in the recent sense quite odd .

I come from a country that was a world wide exporter of knives ,knives that shaped the world .I live on the outskirts of a city that has a roman name and a main river that fills books with the blades dredged out of it ,I can go to my local museums and see Celtic ,Viking,Saxon ,Norman and high medieval swords......

From the point of view of someone growing up in the 70s and 80s as far as I knew there was/is no modern English knife heritage.

I had to cross the pond to learn anything about bladesmithing ,If I was a little less English and spoke another european language then there are rich northern european ,German and french Knife heritages .

It is a strange situation really ,as far as knives go I think that most americans would be shocked at our real lack of a continuous knife tradition.

There was Sheffield, but sheffield has died out and there were never the makers with sole authership of there work ,they made blades or assembled folding knives and a lot of it is and was shoddy .

When I started making Knives I was aware of very few contempory knife makers .

Alan Wood,Farid,Jeff Hague and hector cole and frank Craddock making swords and Jim Jackson who was ABS trained and was armourer to the Queen (as far as I knew) so that is 6 there were no doubt more .

English knife making has been in a sorry state (from my point of view) Very little inovation ,with one type of over coppied knife shape dominating the recent hand made scene (the "ray mears woodlaw" knife and its many coppies ).There was up untill recently no bladesmithing tradition here at all .

This is changing and the internet has had an awfull lot to do with this ,I have started to see a few makers emerge in the last two years or so who are aspiring to make knives that could be held up against the fine work that comes out of the USA and Europe .

In my beliefe the future of UK knife making is firmly in the hands of part timers ,I count myself as one of them.We are in a situation where there isnt really a mature market in the UK and the market that exists is very closed in its idea of what a knife is.There is a lot of educating to do but as more makers emerge then people will start to understand what it is that a bladesmith does .

There is a really good knife scene starting to blossom over here and I am hoping to do my part in keeping that movement going .Its interesting to me how the internet has really created the possability of a real flesh and blood comunity of people starting to gather .Forge ins are really important in this process ,in the last few years I hav hosted 4 forge ins and been to 3 others I Have made real friends (from across the world as well as around the corner) there is a real power in knowing you can share an opinion or result with someone who speakes the same language .

There are still very few people Making Knives in the Uk But a movement is starting and the interest is there, I can tell that you have seen the fire burning here Mike ,We have a good scene going with British Blades at its core and a good core group going on within british blades.I Have opened a Smithing school (specialising in mainly Bladesmithing) and for Some reason I seem to have set myself on a little bit of a quest to try and lift the scene in the UK and in the process try and better myself (and of course earn a crust in the process),We shall see.........

 

I have really found that getting into swords has been a coming home to me and I am now looking Back into the ancient wealth that our British Heritage holds .I have managed To handle origional Viking and Saxon Blades and More recently medieval stuff too ,this stuff calls to me and in the process of me trying to make it "real" I can only look to the past .

I come from a country that is in the process of methodically banning most Of what I love and aspire to make ,which is more than a little bit confusing .

There is now a UK knife show ,I did it last year there were 3 bladesmiths ,I am fairly certain there will be more this year and the work is getting better .For my own Part I think my Work is starting to get good enough to offer to a world market and I am fairly certain that despite our law makers there will be a lot of good work coming from England over the coming years .You guys across the Pond had an emergence of bladesmithing in the 70s and 80s ,I Really hope we can try and follow in your footsteps (in a reserved and English manner of course ,Just like Boodica!!)

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This leads me to another interesting question. Tell us a little more of your experience handling old blades. I have been fortunate to handle Oakshotte blades here in the states and they are surprisingly light and of good quality materials, good steels and heat treated well. I know the Tower Moat study suggests all sorts of materials and techniques. You also mentioned a lot of artifacts being dredged up somewhere near you. Was there consistency of production, and of better quality than traditionally have been attributed to old blades? What sort of knowledge was had back then?

 

We're sort of stuck with Hollywood interpreting an uncommon view of how swords really are. Most folks don't realize that the Conan sword weighs about nine pounds. Good for bunching up muscles on screen, but not much for an afternoon on the field of battle.

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Well.....

I have only started to look at Origional pieces this year and I am by no means an expert .

What I have learned so far .

I have spent a lot of time looking in the British Museum especially the section with the saxon swords and I was Lucky enough to have a look through there Back rooms earlier this year( Mick Maxen Had done some work with Janet Lang there Metals expert and He got me an "In " ).

I got to Have a look at their blades that were not on view and afterwards I got to look at some microscope sections of saxon blades and print outs from a electron micrograph (which gives images based on material composition) .

They had an amazing selection of seaxes both Weapons and tools so the first thing I have learned is that Seax is as wide as saying Knife for a large period of time ,there were cleaver seaxes to full size scramseax to little bitty steak knife seaxes .

I had a look at a number of swords (Viking and saxon ) and they again varied ,Viking swords are "sopposed " to be heavy and choppy with small handles .of the 8 or so I saw they Varied some were heavy some had small handles ,some had enough space for my blacksmiths mits with a couple of extra fingers gap .

There was an Ingelrii that was light ,well balanced and quite an amazing blade almost unrusted.this was a fast sword and not at all thuggish .One Imagines a real swordsman wealding this sword .I am going to go back and document it and another blade there ,I'll be making swords based on them.

A lot of the blades in the archives are so rusted away they are in fibre glass cradles ,there was one however that was so rusted through you could see into the twists Like A spiral pasta half the layers had been eaten away.

There was also some of the most complex convoluted patternwelding I have seen in the flesh .

The sword sections were really interesting, some Phosphor iron and steeled iron with Hardned Martensite edges (some hardnesses into the 50s on the Rockwell scale ) and some not hardned .there are questions as to the decomposition of Martensite over time and some samples had edges showing spheroidal anealing or somthing akin to that . (or that is how it looked ,ferrite with very dispersed compact carbide bundles ) .

I am passing along a section of the blade I made with out Tamahegane (from the smelt Mike Blue did with us last May) as Janet Lang is doing research into the strength of different patternwelding Patterns ,she is looking for non Manganese steel from a blume .so I should get back the chem of our blume and if it is appropriat I'll make up some more for her to make samples from .

One thing to Remember is that whilst most museums are Really there for the use of the general Public ,You have to be polite ,Dress well and not come over as a sword/knife nut. Also If you can Make the whole meeting a two way thing most curators are interested in anything you may be able to add to there knowledge ,generally your visit will add to there work load .

A group of us were lucky enough to Have a handling session After Don's sword course at the V and A .and we were all lucky enough to Have Peter Johnsson along (If you ever get a chance to hear Peter talk about swords It is well worth it ) there were some lovley elegant blades and also some Ponsy fashion acessories All very interesting though .

A lot of the blades were not all that finely finished 120 grit ish ( lordy I wish I could get away with that,I spent all day today hand sanding blades)

swords can be fighting tools ,ceremonial iconic "standards" and Ponsy "Rolex esk" Man Jewlery so old swords are not always "best" examples of what people would have been hacking at each other with .

We have no modern feed back for the swords we make (Hopefully) and whilst you can test how well a sword cuts you cant ever have the real experiance of how one of these pointy things handles in there job of work.

To Pick up a sword as a 21st century blacksmith and try to put your self in the place of the warrior who wealded it is all but imposable. You can get an idea, but the person who practiced with that sword every day ,the person whos life was protected by it or the person whos life was taken would Have known whether there sword was "right" and how it was really used .

The best thing we as modern sword Makers can do is look at "real" swords and take them as working models to base our modern fantasies on, that way our modern work can be both Real and of our imagination.

I Have the tools Now to Document more blades and I intend to do so (Thanks to Peter Johnsson, for his passing on of documenting techniques).

BTW my local River is the Thames (that little river running through Londinium!!!!!!!!!) and all sorts of stuff has been dredged out of there ,loads of swords and Seaxes (I will be meating More of them I am sure) .

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I've been most impressed by the technical proficiency of the old blades and armor. Many are lightweight and of good steel and hardened well. They didn't have the means to do scanning electron microscopy but the old smiths knew their way from trial and error pretty well.

 

As the last set of questions: where do you go from here?

 

I know you're building a school. How did that come about? There are a number of like minded individuals scattered throughout the UK. Do you see that coalescing into something uniquely English or will European influences sway things as they have for a thousand years or so? Will you continue to investigate the archeological works and creat modern reproductions to preserve those techniques? Are you working on something more to your liking, driven by your own muse?

 

Thanks for sharing Owen. See you in a few weeks and we can continue this in more lubricated fashion. You get to pick the next smith.

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Owen, With all the current laws coming out in England against knives and swords do you ever see a time when you would move to America or another country to continue your work? Ive seen video of you instructing classes in England, can you talk about that? How many people are now becoming bladesmiths in your area full time and part time? Sometimes I read articles and posts on the British Blades website and see your name there, do you see more new people coming along and getting involved as if the art is growing or do you see it in decline?

 

In America many of the new Bladesmiths have passed on forging and just grind out their knives, how does this play out in England? Do you view that as a trend or do people tend to get on with traditional forging? Are you a member of the ABS? What organizations are you a member of, if any? Do you have any plans to go back to Arkansas in the future as either a student or instructor?

 

My compliments to you and your work, Bryan Lee

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Bryan,

I really do not know what is going to be the outcome from the sword ban ,In theory one should be able to make for reinactors and martial artists but so far the way this would work is vague and to make curved swords and get it wrong would be a prison sentence.

I have a Hope that Making will still be possable ,within the confines of the new law and export should be OK

It will be ironic if it is not posssable for me to make swords now that I have become proficient at it .

I really like england and would find it hard to leave as I have a daughter with didabilities and she will be best cared for here .I did really like canada when I visited and before we knew about my daughters illness we were planning to start a smithing school in France.

I am a Member Of the ABS ,I had an idea of doing the journyman - Master route but I am undecided I dont really like there style of knife and If I got to making master smith knives there is no way I could sell them ther just isnt a UK market and I could never be competative with americans .I stay a member though ,I got a lot from the school and I may try for journyman some day who knows .

Most knifemaking in the UK is grinding ,and most of that is very uninventive (in my opinion) I am left completly cold by precision flat ground stock withan edge bevel ground onto it (Blaaaaaa) .Grinding makes sence in a lot of ways ,There is very little room in th Uk and not having a forge saves on space .

I came to bladesmithing through blacksmithing and for me forging is the way to go for most stuff ,I will happily grind out a blade If it is time effective or the best way of doing the job .

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I've been most impressed by the technical proficiency of the old blades and armor. Many are lightweight and of good steel and hardened well. They didn't have the means to do scanning electron microscopy but the old smiths knew their way from trial and error pretty well.

 

As the last set of questions: where do you go from here?

 

I know you're building a school. How did that come about? There are a number of like minded individuals scattered throughout the UK. Do you see that coalescing into something uniquely English or will European influences sway things as they have for a thousand years or so? Will you continue to investigate the archeological works and creat modern reproductions to preserve those techniques? Are you working on something more to your liking, driven by your own muse?

 

Thanks for sharing Owen. See you in a few weeks and we can continue this in more lubricated fashion. You get to pick the next smith.

 

 

Mike,

I have High hopes for the school. It is now up and running and I have been teaching courses since feb.I Like Teaching a lot (I have a lot of enthusiasm for bladesmithing and try and Pass that on) I hope to carve a niche for myself here and have more guys from over the pond and channel come teach too .Dons sword course was a great success and I am working on a couple of people for a course next year .There are other Blacksmithing schools in the Uk but what I have to offer is different, so I hope to concentrate on Damascus and bladesmithing (I offer Blacksmithing courses too).

Starting a school was always on the agenda .I started one in wales about 10 years ago but the land lord came back to England so that closed down ,I am enthusiastic about sharing the Love of smithing But I also wish to make it into a viable business that will provide me with 1/3 to1/2 of my income .

I have been indulging my muse latley and have had a good month on the blades for a show in sweden and also England in the next few weeks .I wish to make more finished pieces however I find blades easier to sell so for the meantime I am a bladesmithand not really a cutler (I do need to do more handle work as I fall short in this area).Unfortunatly I have gotten into Tanto and Hamon and I can see that being a whole other path I LOVE the asthetics of Japanese Blades (especialy the bare ones) .I just cut up and remade a Tanto from the smelt we did last year and that is without doubt the most rewarding blade I have ever made.so for my own work I see a split between the Viking and the Japanese or maby a combo? Wee shall see .

I plan to do a lot of museum based work too .It is the only way see the Real swords of the past ,It is very easy to follow American trends and I would hate to find myself making a saxon blade with a ricasso.

I am keen to do more networking and I am doing a Damascus Demo at the British Artist Blacksmiths Association AGM at the begining of Aug I think that will be Fun, I want to venture more into europe and meet a few smiths there I shall be attending a Damascus convention in Germanie in August (the day after the BABA gig) and I hope to do some more collaberation work.

so tis all busy busy busy .

Amoungst all that I will be doing whatever work comes my way ,The bladesmithing pays a bit and the school another bit and outside of that I make props for Tv shows,Do general blacksmithing and Have been a set Maker ,copper smith and spent two summers as an engineer for scrapheap challenge (our for-runner to Junkyard wars) If there is no metal work I drive trucks . so I turn my hand to everything and do a hotch potch juggling act of making a living from it all .

I am looking forward to Jacks Forge in in may ,I really enjoyed my one ,it was an amazing week with Don, Jake , Peter and the gang (it was certainly one of those "best days of my life" kind of thing) .Jacks forge in is a lot less serious and I can have fun ,fun ,fun and drink a lot of Beer! so all is good .

I feel that the british bladesmithing scene is growing weve got forge ins,cutting comps and fly by Americans!! People are certainly coming together and inspiring one another and that is how it all works things cant help but move along when people start sharing ideas and dreams .

 

Thanks for the cyber seat by the fire Mike,I look forward to sharing a glass or few of Rum by a real one in a month or so .

Right ,Time to find another interviewee.

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Oky Doky,

there Are a few People that I would like to ask questions, but following the Recent Sword course and Forge in at my place I Would really like to throw a few questions at Peter Johnsson .He gave a great talk at the forge in but more than that He was the added Bonus of the course and weekend I was very pleased He came along (I Have a feeling He could have entertained the crowd for the whole day (if I had let Him!!)

Peter is a maker and designer of swords He is also the most involved sword Maker I have ever Met (or could really imagine)

He Has documented 100 or so Historic swords and is a true lover of swords. Almost to the extent of being a sword Cassanova ,He has been intimate with Many ,Knows the lines and curves of Many,Many More but Has Loved them all (I imagine swords in the Back Rooms of museums giggling to one another when they hear Peter is going to measure them up!!!)I Hope you dont mind that analogy Peter .

so first Question.

How did your interest in swords Begine ,when did you Make your first sword and what inspired you to do it

(if you have any Pictures chuck a couple in please)

Edited by owen bush

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This is great! good interview Owen. you have a truly boudacious perspective.

looking forward to what Peter has to say as well.

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Thanks Owen!

 

This is a very rich thread that I have enjoyed reading. Thank you guys for sharing such personal and profound views on the craft!

I will try to add to what has been said in what way I can.

 

The sword has been a fascination since childhood. I was brought up with the Norse and classic myths, told to me by my father and mother. They brought me along to museums and ancient places where the myth and the past became something very much alive. The imagination was nourished from the objects and places and so became rooted in reality. This is something that still grabs me: the relationship between the "unreality" of myth and past times with the "reality" of the now we are living. It is like you cannot have one without the other.

 

My father is a sculptor and also some kind of inventor and hobby scientist. His workshop at home was my favorite room to spend time in. To get some uninterrupted time and peace of mind to do his own work he often made semi-finished objects I could work on by myself. That was how I was showed the beauty in making things. I learned from watching him and saw how it was possible to gradually learn what I could not at first accomplish. Perhaps the most important lesson in my life. From the beginning swords were naturally something of an obsession. They have always been and still are. The sword often had a central place in sagas and myths. But there was also a reality to it. It was easy to see that the swords described in all those stories had once actually existed as perfect and shining examples of capable craft. Something of their powerful presence survives even if they are rusted today. Even as a kid I was mesmerized by them.

 

One of my first swords was made of masonite and painted with phosphoric paint. This was Sting (the sword of Bilbo Baggins) and glowed in the dark and I was six years old. I was rather happy with this sword for a while, but it failed me in battle against some dark lord or other (or was it a tree?). Something more dependable had to be found. Lesson learned: the myth alone will not take you far. It has to be backed up by well thought out construction and materials or it will fail you miserably.

 

Another early childhood memory is a dream about owning a perfect sword. It had a powerful presence, feeling alive in my hand. The steel blade was a thing of awesome beauty. I was completely convinced of the reality of it as I in the dream went to bed and propped the sword against a chair so that it would be the first thing I saw in the morning. To my dismay, there was no sword to see when I woke up....

Scarred for life, perhaps?

 

My father gave me a chinese cast iron anvil on my 8th birthday. He showed me how to forge a knife blade out of a lathe tool, heating with a propane torch and hardening in raps oil.

On my little chinese anvil I set to cold-hammering miniature swords out of 1,2 mm welding rod. This was back in the mid 70´s. The anvil eventually flaked and split apart after much abuse but I still have some of the swords I made.

 

Perhaps a snapshot of some of these "early works" will show you where I come from?

IMG_4875.jpg

Edited by peter johnsson

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Wow. If that's what you did as a kid, I can't wait to see your current work!

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Production has been small these last couple of years. I have become father of two little daughters and the past year was mostly spent taking care of them. Moving to a new workshop also slowed things down.

Now I am looking forward to get started again. A year away from work puts a perspective on things.

 

I attach some examples of what I´ve brought to the knife maker show in Solingen that last couple of years. This pretty much shows the character of what I´ve been doing lately.

H.3.jpg

H.1.jpg

IMG_0919.jpg

IMG_3454.jpg

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