A knife is not merely a tool. Even the simplest knives that you use in your kitchen have a story behind them. While most knives on the market are mass-produced, there are those which are exquisite and unique, often one-of-a-kind masterpieces. Private knifemakers who have mastered the life on the edge know exactly what this unique profession entails and can shed some light on this evasive and often invisible, but elegant and noble profession. To explore the journey of a knifemaker, I sat down with Milan Pokorný, the founder of knife.cz and a professional knifemaker (www / facebook) to discuss this growing industry and to get a rare glimpse into this prestigious profession and its roots here in the Czech Republic.
Knifemaking in what is now the Czech Republic dates back centuries. However, in its modern sense, the situation changed dramatically only relatively recently. Throughout the 90s, many people including Milan suddenly gained access to information from abroad and with this came access to new materials and skill sets. His technical education in machine management and this personal fascination lead him to start looking into knife production as a hobby. Much of his early inspiration and direction was driven by his close friend, a fellow-knifemaker with international experience from Canada, Buddy Weston. Since 1999, Milan began producing knives himself, during his free time. As he continued improving his skill set, his goal started to shift towards becoming a full-time knifemaker and making a living out of his passion. The lack of unified discussion and coherence also lead to Milan establishing knife.cz, which has become the primary source of discussions, tips and inspiration among hobbyists and professionals in the field.
Milan’s dream to become a full-time knifemaker came true in 2013. With the help of tools inherited from his father and his family’s respect and support, he set up his own workshop at his family house. From there, the magic was born. Like most knifemakers, he has evolved his own style and currently specializes in the production of folding knives for daily carry but also full tang knives intended to be used in nature. He prides himself with using innovative techniques such as the process of coloring titanium (anodization) by using different intensity levels of electrical current, a technique which even internationally, very few are able to match.
Clearly, a knifemaker’s day is not just about producing knives. The considerable time he devotes to this work can be divided into designing them, researching, seeking supplies, business meetings, communicating with his clients and essentially, producing it all into late evening hours. Many of Milan’s customers know exactly what they want and customization is paramount to many of them. As a result, there is constant need to evolve with customer’s needs. With clients seeing what the norm is abroad, local knifemakers need to follow the international market and offer the same quality and workmanship that is visible abroad. Materials can range from exotic steel, layered damast steel, meteorites, fossilized mammoth teeth, carbon fiber, exotic woods, diamonds, gold, silver, titanium and a wide array of other valuables. Each piece that is produced is hand-crafted, hand-fitted and treated with utmost attention to detail. The tolerance for any mistakes is minimal and the results often spectacular. Each piece becomes a work of art, a piece with a human touch.
Few people realize that production time for each knife revolves around 6-10 weeks depending on the amount of orders. Sometimes, despite the skill set that Milan has built up over the years, some of the work requires assistance from other professionals (engravers, jewelers and others). Despite the longer time required for the eventual piece the client receives, the result is, without a doubt well worth the wait. Some clients prefer to wait until all of it is complete to see their piece while others cannot resist the tempation to ask for a photo or two during the process.
Throughout his career, Milan has created hundreds of knives and believes that the hobby will evolve further with other fellow knifemakers entering the market. The connection with international knifemakers and the availability of information will probably mean that this hobby will continue growing. Those who look beyond the edge will realize just how much time, thought and attention to detail each knifemaker “donates” to his sharp children (read knives). The resulting works of art are not just static items, but rather living and fully functional pieces that tell a story and please the curious eye.
What do you think about this profession?