“As far as I know I’m the first in my family to become a blacksmith. In 1991 I quit studying veterinary science to become a ferrier and started looking for a place to learn it, following the German apprentice system. An old ferrier told me: ‘Don’t do it: you`ll see four hooves for the rest of your life. Become a blacksmith first, then you can go for horses any time you want.’ That was indeed the best advice I’ve ever received.
During my three years of apprenticeship it turned out that I had talent for forging, so I started in Northern Germany with traditional forging; railings, stairs, roses – you name it. Then I also decided to teach myself blademaking. One day I attended a Viking re-enactment event and was hooked. Since then I mostly forge early medieval stuff. Mostly blades, but also tools and kitchenware etc.
I use a number of different steels, depending on the customer`s wishes and expectations. Tool steel like 2842 (K720 or O2), nickel/iron, sometimes meteorite. I do make a lot of steel myself and have come to like that best, even if it does not produce the same “showy” results, or perhaps because of that.
I do like to recycle steel and iron. We have here an abundance of absolutely lovely old steel (mining chisels, 18th century) and also “real” iron, often bloomery, from the 16th century which looks exactly like my own iron. Consequently I need to use a broad variety of heat treatments. I use a gas forge for that and, depending on the steel, oil or water. Anyway the old fashioned steels are generally water hardened.
I like to temper knives to a medium Rockwell hardness, about 57 HRC, unless more is required for particular uses, like kitchen blades that are usually around 60 HRC. I really prefer easy resharpening and advise customers not to fall for the harder-is-better trend. Needless to say, no stainless or damasteel in my forge!
I do have most authentic materials at hand, from bog oak to curly birch, ivory, antler, and so on – I’ve had about 25 years time to collect stuff. Lately, though, I like to focus as much as possible on the forging itself, providing blades to other craftsmen, rather than making knives myself.
My other interests and hobbies are silver smithing, fishing and, most important of all, sailing and beer brewing. Very important!”
Go to Gotz Iron Works website.