Prague Advent Knife Exhibition 2019

Prague Advent Knife Exhibition 2019

Even a long standing knife show as the Prague Advent Exhibition can have some surprises, as Martin Helebrant found out.
Text and pictures: Martin Helebrant
Right: Prague exhibition organizer Zdeněk Janča (on the right) talking with one of exhibitors.

The Prague knife exhibition is a safe haven in the churn of the modern world. The venue, the New Town Hall at Prague’s Charles square, is traditional and has hosted the exhibition for many years. The same goes for the date – the second Advent Sunday. The organizer, Zdeněk Janča, is (almost) the same for all the years I know him. The Northern start shines above the Northern Pole. Some things you simply take for granted.
Prague hosts two exhibitions per year, and each has its own, distinctive character. The Advent exhibition usually has more visitors and maybe has slightly more international presence of knife makers. Although you will not hear the supermarket curse - Christmas carols – there is definitely something like a Christmas atmosphere in the air.
Left: The queue of visitors at the entry lasted almost till noon. Right: A look at the Large Hall, with the tables
of most of the knife makers.

The 2019 exhibition, on December 8, was held in the same space as the previous show – the heart of the exhibition is the Large Hall on the first floor, were you can find the tables of most of the knife makers. The slightly smaller Hall of Commons (Mázhaus) is dedicated to factory production knives, grinding and sharpening tools and raw materials. Two smaller rooms are used by a variety of related products and to ease the burden of the formerly crowded corridors and gangways between the tables.
The Prague Advent Knife Exhibition 2019 hosted about 90 exhibitors, but in bit unusual composition. This time, I failed to find a single Polish knife maker, and the Slovak presence was small, almost diminutive, as well. There were about ten knife makers from Russia or Ukraine. In 2018, Hervé Maunoury was the first French knifemaker to come to Prague, and this time he was accompanied by four other skilled coutelliers.
As I mentioned in previous reports, there is something like a national style of knife making and I recognized it again in Prague. The French exhibitors had their tables adjacent and their knives were clearly different from the remainder of the exhibition. A typical French knife is, in my opinion, a rather simple, rural style knife with an unlocked blade (friction folder or slip joint) but made with great craftsmanship. Look for example at the knives of Florian Baroud with fine filed ornaments on the back of the knife. I personally enjoyed the large folding knives from Franck Souville. (His knives have been presented several times in the European Blades Mag. reports on the annual Coutellia in Thiers, ed.)
Two knives by French maker Florian Baroud. Both have Carbon Damask blades, measuring 102 mm with
the upper knife and 80 mm with the lower one. The upper knife is a fixed blade with a Palisander handle,
the handle of the lower slip joint folder is Thuja wood.

The Czech knife makers were displaying their best skills. Michal “Jakuza” Jarý presented attractive sandwich blades on both folding and fixed blade knives. The friction folder is in my opinion a step away from his previous style, but the quality remains of the highest level. Filip Kurota, known for his folders, also presented a fine fixed blade, confirming his capability of creating a perfectly tuned and balanced shape.
A fixed blade (top) and a folding knife by Michal  “Jakuza” Jarý (CZ). The upper knife has a 90 mm blade made
from D2 and food industry stainless steel Damask, and a handle from Olive wood and bone. The folder has a
73 mm blade from Sleipner and 100% Nickel and a Titanium handle.
A fixed blade and a folder by Czech maker Filip Kurota. The fixed blade (top) has a 90 mm RWL-34 blade,
partially hardened. The handle is from Olive wood. The folder has an 84 mm C 130 blade and Titanium handle.

A pleasant surprise for me were the tables of Richard Tesařík and Josef Rusnák. They both showed highly sculpted knives, with precious materials perfectly processed into the fully functional artefact. The double edged folding dagger of Josef Rusnák was quite breathtaking, with its sculpted handle inlay of chocolate brown mammoth bone with golden accents. Less sculpted, but still using a magnificent Damask blade, and with excellent craftsmanship, was the double edged dagger by Ferdinand Křehlík. Equally attractive was Mr Křehlík’s large chef’s knife, with DLC (Diamond Like Coating – a special surface treatment providing abrasion resistance comparable to diamond) on the blade. There were more Asia-inspired knives on the Prague Advent exhibition. Another nice example of an inspiration, not a copy, was the Santoku by Marek Hlavica.
A double edged dagger by Ferdinand Křehlík (CZ). The 230 mm blade is Carbon Damask (19 312), the handle
material is Ebony. The overall length is 366 mm.
Czech maker Ferdinand Křehlík also presented this Asian-style chef’s knife with a Diamond Like Coating
on the 220 mm Carbon Damask blade. The handle is Ebony, the overall length is 366 mm.
Two sculpted folders by Richard Tesařík (CZ). Both have a Damasteel blade, of 89 and 94 mm respectively.
The upper knife has a 416 stainless steel handle and measures 215 mm overall. The lower knife is 221 mm
long and has a handle made from engraved titanium and mammoth tooth.
A breath taking folding dagger by Josef Rusnák (CZ). The 99 mm blade is Damask by Mike Norris, the
handle is 416 stainless steel and Titanium, with sculpted inlays of Mammoth and Gold. The overall length
of the knife is 224 mm.

Some more blunt pointed blades, were on the table of Václav Čížek. This time they had nothing to do with Asia. The Czech Republic has no coastline, but still the traditional shape of the seaman’s knife as made by Čížek would please the heart and hand of every “old salt”, should some have passed by.
Two liner lock folding knives by Václav Čížek (CZ).  The upper knife has a 95 mm RWL-34 blade and a
Carbon Composite handle scales. The overall length is 223 mm. The lower knife has a 100 mm Carbon
Damask blade and Ironwood handle scales, and measures 28 mm when opened.
The Asian inspiration is present probably on every exhibition I visited. This time, on the table of Emperor Swords, were presented small steel sculptures, which incorporated a small pointed edge or spike. Traditionally, these were part of the inventory of houses in ancient China, providing the owner a last stand defense tool – a discrete, but very efficient weapon capable of penetrating even an iron breast plate, if used skillfully and properly.
As I said, the Slovak presence was weak this time, but there is one “hard core” master that came – Štefan Galovič. I enjoy his work, especially because he makes knives using the Axis lock – one of the best locks I know. Mr Galovič is making his knives in a semi-serial way, they are strong, and perfect in function. This time he presented a new model. If the previous models are workers, the new one is a working beauty – simple, almost ascetic lines, but perfectly balanced and assembled. I cannot call it a gentleman’s jewel, for this it has too little ornate in it. But I can call it a man’s delight. Atop of the perfect shape I appreciate the serrations on the back of the blade which provide the friction to enable a lightning fast single-handed opening of the knife.
What to say last? Prague Advent was a bit different this time. I missed the Slovaks and Poles, but the French were a fair and matching substitute. When I asked them if the visit was worth it, their opinion was: “We made some small business, but it was worth of coming and we will definitely come again”. I am looking forward to that. Almost 1000 paying visitors is another confirmation of the quality of Prague Advent. And like always, the exhibition was a social event for the Czech knife making community as well.
The next Prague exhibition will be held next month, on March 15, 2020. This time it will be expanded with archery products. Make a note on your calendar. You are very welcome.
An Axis lock folding knife by Czech maker Štefan Galovič. The 95 mm blade is made from M390 steel,
the handle material is Yuma Ivory. The overall length of the knife is 202 mm.
Hungarian knife maker Istvan Boldog presented this fixed blade, made from N690 steel. The handle is
Maple wood. The blade measures 106 mm, overall length is 222 mm.
Jan Jeníček (CZ), a student from the high school of applied arts from Turnov (SUPŠ Turnov) presented this
original design project. The two integral blades are made from 14 260 spring steel, and measure 235 and
226 mm respectively. They can be used as separate knives, or lock together with magnets.
The “Misericordia” (bottom) and “Stradiotta” (top) by Czech maker Antonín Prošek. Both have a 14 260
spring steel blade, of 300 and 240 mm respectively. The Misericordia measures 430 mm overall and has
a handle made of Buffalo horn and bone. The Stradiotta has an overall length of 390 mm and features a
Buffalo horn and Brass handle.
A fixed blade by Arkadiy Dabakyan (CZ). The 108 mm blade is Wootz steel, the handle material is Bog Oak. he overall length of the knife is 232 mm.
An impressive kitchen knife by Czech maker Marek Hlavica. The Carbon Damask blade measures 20 cm.
The handle material is Thuja. The overall length of the knife is 33 cm.
Left: The table of Roman Švarc. Right: A salad bar and tea or coffee were prepared for the exhibitors to refresh them. The catering of the show was rated high above average and contributed to a friendly, warm atmosphere.
The table of Okské nože in the Hall of Commons.