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Meet Anton - Knife Handle Maker and Thrill Seeker!

Discussion in 'Life on the Edge' started by Toothpick, Jun 18, 2015.

  1. Toothpick

    Toothpick #2 since day #1 Founding Member

    Who are you?

    That’s a good question that happens to cross my mind every second morning or so. I’m supposed to be a 30 something years old grown up adult, who’s responsible, intelligent, active and easy going. But that’s rarely the case (except for “easy going” maybe).

    I got a PC at the age of 6 and quickly decided that PCs and dogs are the only things in life worth my attention. And while normal kids were playing outside, I kept playing with my PC and dog at home. I was a hopeless nerd back then with an ultimate plan to replace Bill Gates and rule the world. Well, that didn’t worked for some reasons, so I just finished high school, then wasted few years in a university and by the age of 25 changed several computer related jobs and was still sure that PCs and dogs are the only worthwhile things in life. Then all of a sudden I decided to move from my hometown to Saint-Petersburg and that’s when my life changed. I discovered there are few more things other than dogs and computers in life.

    And that’s probably when my real childhood begun. I learned a lot of different things: salsa, horseback riding, rock climbing, figure skating, skydiving, photography, rollerskating and many other things. In my first year in Saint-Petersburg, I got acquainted with more people than in my whole previous life combined. I discovered couchsurfing and hosted many amazing people from different parts of the world. Fall in love with travelling and later discovered the deep rabbit hole of kitchen knives.


    Where are you located in Russia?

    I’m living Saint-Petersburg, which is clearly the best city in our big country. But please don’t trust my words, come and see yourself!

    Hidden deep in the sleeping quarters, I believe my balcony workshop is the highest workshop among all the makers here on the forum :)

    The balcony is about 3 square meters, so it’s hard to get tired while walking from one corner to another.

    anton highest workshop.jpg

    How do you take your coffee?

    In a large jar usually. In the largest jar, I could find in the morning. I’m addicted and can hardly survive through the morning without a portion of coffee. But I’m also the laziest person on this half of world, so we got a fully automatic coffee machine that can do all the needed magic with a press of a button. That won’t give you the best coffee in the world, but it’s good enough. Also, I’m sucker when it comes to differentiating all sorts of coffee. After acquiring coffee machine, I went to local shop and spent a fortune getting small bags of each type of coffee beans they got there. Tried them all, remembered which one I liked the best and been buying exactly that type since then. Again, it’s not the most amazing thing I’ve tried in my life, but it’s good enough.

    How did you get started making knife handles?

    Blame Stefan. No really, it’s all his fault. He hadn’t had anything in the stock back when my knives addiction started. Besides my first Japanese knife was a 50$ Tanaka and it felt stupid paying over 100$ for a handle.
    Japanese handle looks very simple and I decided to make one myself. Well, two years later I still can’t call it rocket science, but if I knew how much troubles and costs would be involved, I’d just keep the original crappy handle and call it a day.

    anton sing.jpg

    Are there any woods you don't touch? Refuse to work with?

    Nothing special really. There are many woods that are harder to work with. Oily woods or very soft woods for example. But I think almost anything can be used for handle making these days. Just look at the latest handle that Stefan has made from spaghetti! :)

    anton workshop indoor.jpg

    Do you source any local burl?

    Sometimes, but not often. I’m so very spoiled by the BurlSource that it’s really hard to buy wood anywhere else. First of all, there aren’t many sellers for wood here, especially if we are talking about stabilized wood. The quality varies a lot and it’s usually a big gamble. I buy some Karelian Birch from time to time, but I’m not sure whether it’s local or imported from Finland.

    Once Mert asked me if it’s possible to find any special materials that can be used for handles here, so I searched and found out that you can get pretty cheap prices on Mammoth teeth here. So I bought 2 of them with an intention of sending them to Australia later, but discovered that they need specials papers to be allowed for exportation from Russia. So I have a huge 2kg Mammoth teeth souvenir sitting in the kitchen and frightening our guests.

    On the good front it seems I’ve found a pretty good source for walrus tusks.

    Was it scary to jump from hobby handles to making them for paying customers?

    I can’t express enough how much that scares me.

    anton sky.jpg

    Are there Russian websites like KKFora?

    No, not really. There are few knives related forums, but they are dedicated mostly to hunting knives, folders, fighters etc. The only specialised Russian kitchen knives forum has about 1 or 2 new posts per month. Not every month.
    But thanks to Andrey Kozlovsky — there’s at least one good website with very good articles about kitchen knives: different types of knives, types of steel, history, sharpening and so on. That guy has probably the largest collection of kitchen knives here. A very passionate and knowledgeable collector who is trying to ignite interest for good kitchen knives in Russia.

    anton food.jpg

    Is the food culture changing in Russia as it did in the states and Europe over the last decade?

    I’d say all aspects of life in Russia started to change rapidly in 1990. Back then there was no internet, no foreign books about cooking, no foreign products and even local products were hard to get. And then comes overwhelming flow of all sorts of products from all over the world.

    These days you can find almost any kind of food here in SPb. Sushi bars became popular 10-15 years ago and there are tons of them here. Chinese and Italian restaurants are popular as well. In the malls, you can usually find a food court with some US fast foods, but I can hardly include them into "food culture" :)

    Speaking of food, do you cook? If so what is your favorite dish to make?

    I wasn’t cooking till I got that knives bug. Once you acquire some kitchen knives you just have no other choice than to cook with them. So I’m still learning the basics (every word is linked to different image).

    anton run.jpg

    If you could have breakfast/lunch/dinner with anyone alive or dead who would it be?

    Hm, the persons that I’d name is probably completely unknown outside of Russia and even here most people have never heard about them.They are Daniil Andreev and Vladimir Solovyov — poets, philosophers and very spiritual people. Their books influenced me a lot and I wish I could ever talk to them or just listen to their conversation with each other (which has never happened in real life).

    I’d probably name Jesus if not for the language barrier.

    anton food 2.jpg

    What tools do you use to create the handles? Any favorite tool or tools?

    I’m a tool junkie. Trying new tools is probably half of the fun of that hobby. Just as a good kitchen knife would put a smile on your face while you cut some food, a properly made tool will put a smile on your face when you are making a handle.

    I make western handles with hand tools only and that’s where good rasps and knives come handy. Liogier makes the best rasps I’ve tried, but they would cost you an arm and leg. Dragon rasps are not bad and would do the work reasonably well.

    I shape WA handles on a 300mm disk sander. Still couldn’t figure out how to effectively rotate table, so I just leave it as is and do all the shaping freehand. Hopefully one day in the future I’ll get myself a belt grinder, so the process of making WA handles would change.

    You’ll learn that not all drilling bits are equal and you’ll spend some time reading about different verities of them, about sharpening, about some exotic stuff and so on. Then you’ll spend a lot of money on them.

    God save you from dipping into chisels rabbit hole. You can find those made from the same steels as your kitchen knives. And there are also super old Japanese makers who carry the ancient secrets of perfect chisels and all that **************** :) Well, good chisels aren’t cheap, but using them is a pure joy.

    Same holds true to almost every tool that I use: good things costs more but gives you much more satisfaction.

    What gave you the idea for your cool packaging?

    It kinda embarrassing to me to pay several hundreds of dollars for a knife and then receive it wrapped in newspaper and a piece of cardboard. It ruins the first moment. And the first moment is very important to me. Do you remember how it felt when you received a nicely wrapped present?
    Have you seen how Jon from JKI does the packaging? I think it was him, who influenced me and convinced that it’s not too hard or too expensive to make a nice packaging.

    I tried to come up with a simple packaging that would be cheap, functional (protecting the handle) and more or less nice looking. The current method is just a compromise, but it works. I could order custom sized nice cardboard boxes from China that would look way better. But they would also triple the price. So I settled on gluing my own packaging. It takes time, but I’m more or less satisfied with the end result.

    I’m sure that sooner or later all custom makers would come up with their own nice packaging solutions as it's playing some role in customers perception and affects business.

    anton food 3.jpg

    You must have a few nice kitchen knives...So what is your favorite?

    I’m not sure whether I have too many nice knives or not enough… and can’t say I have a single favourite. All the knives that I got during last year are nice and can put a smile on my face. Kato and Marko’s 180mm are probably my most used ones. Mert’s knife is nice as well but used less often because it’s 240mm and I’m just a small home cook :)

    My wife ignores most of my favourite knives and uses either 10$ Victorinox birds’ beak knife or stainless 160mm Bladowski mini-gyuto.

    Also I have few nice knives that are sitting and waiting for new handles to be done, so once I finish with them there could be new favourites.

    Anton knife.jpg

    What other hobbies do you enjoy?

    I’m guilty of changing hobbies rapidly. There are people who could enjoy collecting stamps for the whole their life, or playing football or something else. Unlike them, I tend to change my hobbies every few years.

    The latest addition to my hobbies was singing. One day I hope to match Frank Sinatra, but till that moment I’ll keep taking lessons and try working on my vocal skills. BTW I happen to sing when I’m making handles, so if you are a believer of unseen energy flows, you might be entertained to know that each custom handle is energetically “charged” with few good songs :)

    My wife keeps laughing at me when she sees me singing loud on the balcony while wearing respirator and noise cancelling earphones.

    Another hobby that I acquired about a year or two ago is karting. I believe in US it’s called Go Karts. Those things just blow adrenaline into your blood. No smart electronics, no hydraulic power steering, no gearbox, no nonsense. I love the speed and competition that’s always there on a small karting circuits.

    There were also many other hobbies that I don’t pursue hard anymore, but still enjoy from time to time. Running, skydiving, rock climbing, winter swimming, volleyball, ping pong, figure skating and few others.

    Do you have any final words for the members of the KKFora?

    You guys rock!

    anton rock.jpg
  2. Toothpick

    Toothpick #2 since day #1 Founding Member

  3. Mrmnms

    Mrmnms Founding Member Gold Contributor

    Антон , ты бомба. Keep it up my friend.
  4. James

    James smarter then your average duck Founding Member Gold Contributor

    That swimming video is refreshing to watch hear on a hot day, come February.... i don't think I'll watch it anymore lol
  5. Very nice read in the morning. Thank you for sharing. Great article! This part of the forum was the biggest joy when I joined. Very exciting to get to know you guys.
  6. XooMG

    XooMG Founding Member

    Oh no, they got you Anton!

    note to self: do not become popular
  7. V1P

    V1P Founding Member

    Hey guys, Robert is hiding here *point finger*. Let's interview him next!
  8. Nice interview that shows some unexpected sides of you! I'm still trying to depict you making handles on your balcony. Do your neighbours and their neighbours also sing - or wear noise-cancelling earphones?
  9. Oh, Mark, if you you knew how close to the truth you are…
    If you try to image the howling of the hungry and badly wounded bear, that would give you the rough idea of how my neighbour sing. Now when I think of it, it could have been one of reasons for me for taking singing classes. And I'm pretty sure that my bear-neighbour is also some sort of craftsman, as I can hear sounds of drilling waaay too often.

    Several time I thought about making some video of the whole process, but my balcony is such a mess most of the time, that I was too ashamed to film it. Here's my "work table" with all the stuff that I'm working on.
    Here's how ugly my handles looks like after cutting, filing a tang and glueing. On the very bottom reground Forgecraft awaits one of those handles. My current schedule leaves very little free time, so I have no idea when I'll be able to finish any of those.
  10. WildBoar

    WildBoar Founding Member Contributor

    Great interview. It was nice learning more about you.
  11. Wow, a man of many hobbies! :)
  12. There's some nice birch there! Also dyed birch?

    On that subject my 30+ pieces finally arrived to K&G, I thought the package was lost, but yay I'm getting some stabilized birch :)
  13. I can easily get non stabilised blocks of Birch here, but the stabilised dyed are 2-3 times more expensive and harder to get here. The dyed pieces in the current batch are all Maple or at least that's what was advertised :)

    Robin, is it a sad true that there are no decent companies in Europe that could do stabilisation for you or you specifically wanted to use K&G services for some reasons? I mean sending wood back and forth over the ocean is both expensive and time consuming…
  14. MotoMike

    MotoMike Founding Member

    Thanks for a very enjoyable read. I will live vicariously through you Anton.
  15. Stumblinman

    Stumblinman Founding Member

    That was a cool insight. thanks My first two were cars and computers.
  16. There are two in sweden actually. I bought a testpiece from one and it's promising. I'll compare it to K&G... Actually for me sending over pieces I cut myself are much cheaper than buying ready stabilized. I calculate I will have spent about 10-15 eur/piece. However time consuming yes :s
  17. But is it possible for you to cut/dry wood yourself and send it to those Sweden guys for stabilisation?
    I have found some guys who sell stabilised wood here, but they aren't interesting in offering stabilisation as a service.
  18. Yes exactly. There are two businesses that do that. But they take 6-8 weeks so K&G is similar in time.

    The planks I get are very dry, I finish dry them when cut up in the oven at low temp and then send them off.

    I just picked this one up, 75 eur for 3 kg quality "super":

    I'll send some stabilized your way for cheaps later if you'd like.

    Attached Files:

  19. 75€ for 3kg of quality wood sounds like dream :)
    I guess I'll ping you about the Birch later one day
  20. cheflarge

    cheflarge Founding Member

    Awesome stuff, Anton, great read!!! :cool:

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