Prague Spring 2019 Knife Exhibition

Prague Spring 2019 Knife Exhibition
 

The spring Prague 2019 was maybe a bit lean and lazy, but still it provided a rich and ample sample of Czech knife making. The exhibition is getting more international as well, both with respect to exhibitors and visitors.
 
Text and pictures: Martin Helebrant

 
Right: This year’s spring exhibition saw an increase of Russian knives made in cooperatives, usually named
a Forgery with the name of the leading blacksmith. Here is the presentation  of one such cooperative dealer.
 
In European Blades Mag. 23, I wrote that the Czech knife season starts with the Brno exhibition. But I must add that no matter how attractive, the Brno show is just a beginning. Spring would not be complete without the Prague exhibition which was held this year on April the 20th. The venue is traditional, the New Town Hall, on the corner of Vodičkova street and Karlovo square. Similar to the Advent exhibition, the organizer used not only the traditional floors of the Great hall and Dining room of Commons. Thanks to that, the exhibition had ample space and the jammed lanes between the tables – especially on corridors – were a distant nightmare of the past.
 
  
Left: Sharpening stones from aluminum oxide (artificial corrundum) by Bělský brousek.
Right: Early medieval edged weapons from Tomáš Šmolka – Juan, made by proper historic technology on the basis of archeological findings.

 
The exhibition started gently. The spring Prague exhibition is always a bit relaxed, but this year it seemed to be even lazier than usually. The regular readers maybe remember, that I mentioned this kind of laziness from the autumn Brno. The situation was similar in Prague, there were 68 exhibitors and just about 700 visitors. When thinking about the possible reason for this, I realized that only a day before, on Saturday, there was the knife exhibition in Bratislava, Slovakia.
Czechs and Slovaks lived for years in one country, they split only in 1993 and the markets are still very close. It takes a mere 3 hours from Prague to Bratislava, either by car or train, but maybe the coincidence of the exhibitions had a negative effect on the participation of knife makers, at least from Slovakia, which were almost completely absent in Prague. Also I noticed quite a lack of Polish makers.
 
     
Left: Table of the Czech Cold Steel knives dealer.
Centre: The table with the mammoth bone and tusk from dealer Sergey Gouralnik from Germany.
Right: Table of Piskač a syn, a.s. – dealers of the 3M grinding belts and materials.

Their absence was balanced by an increased presence of knives from the Russian Federation.  Russia has a long tradition of cooperatives – of a collective work of relatively independent people on the same product. It seems me that more and more emerging teams of blacksmiths and knife makers are present on the Czech market. Usually they are called Kuznitsa (Forgery) with the name of leading blacksmith or founder.  They are represented by local dealers, quite often also a person from the former USSR. Here in the Czech Republic there are already known knife makers from the former USSR republics, namely from Ukraine there is VladForge led by Vladimir Chulan and an excellent blacksmith – master of mosaic Damask steel Grigorii Verezhnikov.
Among the new exhibitors in Prague was Vlad Matveev, a blacksmith with his challenging mosaic Damask blades. Another master worth mentioning is Sergei Berezin from Kuznitsa Nazarova and his push daggers made from carbon Damask.
 
Push daggers by Sergei Berezin from Russian Kuznitsa Nazarova (Nazarov Forgery). The blade length is
80, 75 and 75 mm respectively, with an overall length of 190, 127 and 130 mm.
 
Some examples of the work of Vlad Matveev (RU). The Carbon and Nickel steel Damask blades measure
120, 170 and 145 mm respectively.
 
Last but not least – the Siberian knives, production of several masters imported into Czech Republic under this trade mark. There is a lot of Russian spirit in these knives, still at the same time they were able to make a step out from the traditional, a bit Byzantine style and find a new, modern face. 
 
Three knives by G. Vashenkov, imported by Siberia Knives (RU). The 140 mm, 120 mm and 1150 mm
blades are Carbon and Nickel steel Damask. The handles are Wengé, Brass, and Corian and Birch.
 

The Czechs of course dominated the floor. A nice example of relatively small but nicely made slip joint folding knives were knives made by Filip Kurota. This is a perfect example of a an excellent craftsmanship, compact in size, highly functional, a gentlemen’s jewelry which still can be carried legally across Europe. Another nice folder was made by Radim Dachs, using a combination of carbon steel mosaic Damask of his own production, stainless steel bolsters and dinosaur bone on the scales. Jiří Javůrek is known as a blacksmith and usually his table attracts people because of his handmade axes of many shapes and sizes. This time he added simple, well made knives, cleavers and large knives, made from partially hardened spring steel. Another well-known blacksmith, Arkady Dabakyan also stepped from his envelope, offering a nicely made folder with a back lock and scales made from whale bone – a material which definitely is not common in Central Europe.
 
Filip Kurota from Filda’s Knives (CZ) presented these three slip joint folding knives. The blades are RWL 34,
Carbon and selectively hardened stainless sandwich. The handle materials are Zirconium and Pertinax.
The overall length is 175, 180 mm and 175 mm respectively.
 
One blade and two finished knives by Jiří Javůrek (CZ). All three are made from 14 260 spring steel, with
a blade length of 270, 115 and 95 mm respectively. The lower knife on the left has a cattle bone handle,
the one on the right a Birch handle.
 
  
A back lock folding knife by Arkady Dabakyan (CZ). The 91 mm blade is stainless Damask, the handle is
Whale bone. The overall length (unfolded) is 205 mm.

The kitchen knives made by Tomáš Čížek are worth mentioning. He seems to specialize a bit on them and when observing his work in the course of time, you can clearly see the progress. Kitchen knives were also presented on the table of Tomáš “Bittner” Přívratský. These were much more traditional than Čížek’s work, but the quality of both is beyond dispute. There were some new exhibitors on the floor. I would like to point out K. Bárta from Bártovo nože (Bárta’s knives) who presented knives with interesting bolsters, made as castings from a white metal.  Another good freshman on the exhibition was Vít Mačas, who presented very simple but clean and straight forward made knives with carbon Damask blades. Gollik from Prague presented tidily machined  knives, true engineering pets, resembling by its technicism style a bit the production of Polish knife makers.
 
Two kitchen knives from Tomáš Čížek (CZ). The upper one has a 185 mm AK5 steel blade and Oak and
Epoxy handle. The lower one has a 145 mm N695 blade and an Epoxy handle. Overall length is 325 and
225 mm respectively.
 
Three kitchen knives made by Tomáš “Bittner” Přívratský (CZ). All three have Carbon and Nickel steel
Damask blades, measuring 252, 225 and 170 mm respectively. The handle materials are Maple and
Reindeer antler, Lidny and Ebony of Buffalo horn.
 
Vítek Mačas (CZ) was a freshman to the show, with these two sturdy knives. The blades are Carbon and
Nickel steel Damask, the handles are Cattle bone and Walnut, and Antler. The overall lengths are 195
and 200 mm respectively.
 
Two knives by Golik Knives (CZ). Both are made from Sleipner 5/11 steel with Micarta handles. The top
knife has a 130 mm blade and an overall length of 252 mm. The bottom knife measures 180 mm.

I would also like to mention edged weapons and knives by Juan – Tomáš Smolka from Ludgeřovice (Northern Moravia). His swords, sabers and knives might at a first sight lack the finesse of the top cutlery product of today. On second sight you have to appreciate the edges that are made by procedures matching the historical mediaeval processing – only charcoal is used during the forging, only handmade, from nothing but carbon steels, usually from materials that are found rotting somewhere in a barn. Interesting is a wave-like seam between the high carbon edge and the softer body of the blade. This kind of forge welding is documented from archeologic artifacts and Mr. Smolka dedicated a lot of time and effort to resurrect is. According to his own words, he is trying to reproduce the “common man’s tools” of the past, instead of the luxurious goods of the aristocracy.
 
A fixed blade by Tomáš Šmolka – Juan. The 130 mm blade is Carbon Damask and carbon steel, forge
welded. The handle is oak.
 
Finally, I would like to mention the offer of materials and tools for knife makers. The large surprise was a booth with mammoth tusks and bones, that was presented by S. Gouralnik from Germany. The booth, respectively the offer of materials by Jatagan seems to me to grow from exhibition to exhibition, offering not only handle materials, but also semi-finished blades, bolsters, pommels and special screws, rivets, pins and other “cutlery bijoux”. There were about four dealers of steels and blade materials, apart from the already mentioned masters of Damask blades. The Piskač a syn company showed a large assortment of grinding belts and clothes, as well as some specific tools. These originate mostly in the 3M production and provide high, industrial performance grinding even in  small workshops.
 
Michal “Jakuza” Jarý (CZ) made this knife with a C130 / Carbon steel Damask blade. The handle is Alpaca
and antler. The blade length is 100 mm, overall length is 224 mm.

The last words of this report I would like to spend about sharpening stones. Bělský brousek. stones are made from alumina ceramic (Al2O3) – an artificial corundum, material hardest of all except of diamond. I encountered this material for the first time with Spyderco, now Bělský brousek provides the same quality in many different sizes. There are three different grits available which should be sufficient for most of the daily knife care. The fourth, finest grade has a green surface because it is impregnated by a lapping media and the result is comparable with a leather strap used for final sharpening of a razor blade.
 
Three knives from Lubomír Šmidrkal (CZ). The upper one has a 231 mm blade from N690 steel with a Field
Maple handle. The overall length is 342 mm. The knife on the lower left has a 98 mm blade from AK5 and
AK9 Sandwich and a Yew handle. The lower right knife has a 90 mm Damask blade and an Acacia handle.
Overall length is 198 mm.

The spring Prague 2019 was maybe a bit lean and lazy. Still it has provided a rich and ample sample of Czech knife making. The trend of international taste of this exhibition has been confirmed, I especially appreciate the fact that both the exhibitors and visitors came not only from the East, but also from the West. It is not surprising – the quality in general is good, sometimes really excellent, and you can still find knives that in this price level you will never buy in Germany or Austria. And do not forget, Prague is less than five hours by train from Berlin or four hours from Vienna.
The next large knife exhibition in the Czech Republic will be the national exhibition in Příbram in early September.
 
The upper knife – the Lapponian - is made by Jiří “Želva” Hrála; the two lower ones are by Noemi Kloušová.
All three have spring steel blades and the handle materials are Antler, Hazelnut and Maple. The overall
length of the knives is 326, 252 and 203 mm.
 
Three examples of the work of Jiří Cígler from Darken Knife. The 122, 110 and 80 mm blades are 19 191
Damask, stainless steel and carbon steel sandwich. The handle materials are Pine cone in Epoxy resin,
Ebony and Walnut.
 
Two knives by Maxmilián Netrval (CZ). Both have carbon steel and nickel steel Damask blades. The upper
knife has a 110 mm blade and Snakewood handle. The lower knife has a 100 mm blade and Elm handle.
 
Two knives by Petr Janda (CZ). The upper one has a 115 mm blade from C130 steel and a Jatoba handle.
The lower knife has a 100 mm Carbon Damask blade with a Grenadille handle. Overall length of the knives
is 230 and 205 mm respectively.
 
A folder made by Tomáš Horský (CZ). The 130 mm blade is Carbon Damask with a thumbstud, the handle
is made from Titanium with a Stingray skin inlay. The opened length is 280 mm.
 
Three knives with sculpted bolsters, by K. Bárta from Bártovo nože (CZ). The blades are Spring steel and
the handles are mixed woods. The overall length is 320, 295 and 228 mm respectively.
 
Two fixed blade knives by Radim Dachs (CZ). The 110 mm blades are from D2 steel, the handles are made
from Alder and Resin composite.
 

Three knives by Václav Komberec (CZ). The 105 mm blades are Nickel steel (top knife), and Carbon and
Nickel steel Damask. The handle of all three knives is Ostrich bone.