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[Sort of off topic] So many Kamis... So few stores selling the real deal.

Discussion in 'Himalayan Imports' started by snowwolf, Jan 11, 2014.

  1. Jens Schuetz

    Jens Schuetz

    Jun 24, 2013
    Even traditional can be new if boiled down to the original intentions.
    Did a Samurai have a Katana for having a Katana sake or to win in a battle? Did he ride on horses because he liked animals or for its speed and carrying capabilities? Did he wear a wooden/iron armor to stop projectiles or because he liked natural and shiny material?
    Then wouldn't a modern Samurai use the best weapon of today and ride in a vehicle with a combustion engine and have some modern Kevlar and ceramic armor? If he wouldn't he'd be under armed (lol) and slow and very vulnerable! Kind of not his traditional goals I guess.
    So if a Kukris traditional intention is to help its owner to chop stuff as good as possible it seems only logical that a traditional Kukri today could be bigger for bigger customers and made from better steel.
  2. snowwolf

    snowwolf Gold Member Gold Member

    Nov 11, 2013
    It was on this basis that I wrote the initial post. With 50 000+ Kamis in Nepal there must be many good ones. I was wondering why so few places are known to westerners for providing good functional Kukris.

    I agree. Modern Kamis using modern materials to improve the usability and the performance of an already great design is a big plus. As I don't care much for "genuine", I look for blade performance and durability. On those, HI do not disappoint.
  3. Aleous


    Aug 24, 2013
    I agree with Howard Wallace's points wholeheartedly. Though this being the Himalayan Imports manufacturer forum most of us tend to be biased. I respect and enjoy khukuri from all the vendor's I've bought from. I consider them all traditional/genuine in one way or another, they all have a cho and are all made in Nepal(at least the models I have are). Though Himalayan Imports is still my favorite simply because they have the best fit/finish, quality control, customer service, and warranty. If they deviate a little from tradition well that's to be expected, it's evolution.
  4. Zixinus


    Apr 16, 2009
    I think part of the problem is simply that false products are making penetration instead of the genuine ones. In Western, even in my little east-European, countries the typical kukris sold as Nepalese are fakes. I have brought a kukri which I am still suspect in its authenticity from a man claiming to be Nepalese (he had darker skin and sold other paraphernalia). Hungary has gotten a small dose of Newage movement, which is fascinated with Eastern stuff (there is a logged Buddhist temple/school in country). Such a crowd tends to attract people who are willing to fake their identity for the sake of profit.

    This kukri had problems with the upper plate and I had to bring it to a local knife-maker. The knife-maker is certain that this one is a fake (I did bring him my HI one and he was positive about that). The blade is suspiciously shiny (I highly doubt that kamis use chrome-alloyed stainless steel). So it might be a fake Chinese one or just (which I believe in my more optimistic moments) a mediocre one. I have yet to truly stress-test it to learn the truth.

    That, and the fact that for Western costumers there are Western-made kukris, made by Western companies using better steel than most kamis can hope to get (plus easier guarantee, have better marketing, etc). For many knife aficionados, these are enough. And when one of them goes out to try a traditional one, they likely get the cheaply-made ones or fakes and quietly consider traditional ones inferior or just bad. Few will go to the length to buy authentic ones. Most, if they grow to like the design, will stick to Western-made ones.
    I also on the humble opinion also that the traditional sheath and accessories also seem underwhelming to a Westerner (consider that similar large survival knives comes with complete packs). I admit that I had a new sheath made for my HI kukri and haven't used the chakma and karda much.

    As for the whole down-looking kamis thing, this is sadly a common thing in most cultures. I never understood why kamis were considered untouchables (do I recall that right?), because they mainly worked with metal (I guess its the horn and leather).

    Even European culture had this sort of downlooking for craftsman. Do you think that the contempt for the working man developed during the Industrial Revolution? No, it was there long before that. Factories (and there were factories, don't think that it was all handcraft before) were also dark, dangerous, miserable places long before the steam engine came to be. It was during the Industrial Revolution and subsequent worker revolts (and later revolutions and/or reform movements) that the working man's image changed in the culture.

    I am happy to see HI doing its work in this sense. It does solve the problem a regular knife enthusiast would have if they wanted to try or collect a traditional kukri.
  5. Gehazi


    Jun 30, 2013
    great post zixinus and spot on about the collapse of the image of the worker in the west during the industrial revolution, and the aftermath of the first liberal movements( followed by the wars that the rich men waged against said workers)
    other than antiques people like us have nowhere to go for good authentic blades, thankfully HI exists.
  6. Jens Schuetz

    Jens Schuetz

    Jun 24, 2013
    I think the industrial revolution didn't directly enhance the image of the skilled laborers.
    Lets see why.
    In the middle ages a shoemaker had to know how to make a whole shoe. This involved cutting a sole, stitching leather, punching holes etc.
    During the industrial revolution all you needed was a guy standing on an assembly line and only capable of performing one of the steps. These tasks didn't need skilled labor and whatever random unskilled guy asked for the least money while waiting in a line with many other people in front of the factory in the morning got the job.
    Were did these cheap laborers come from?
    They came from the farming population. Fertilizers and machines drastically increase producivity and made farming much much much less labor intensive. While almost everybody was a farmer in the middle ages almost nobody needed to be one after the agricultural revolution.
    Now most people worked in factories and didn't even need much skills. This diluted the worth of manufacturing labor. Because this cheap labor was able to create similar products like skilled craftsmen did before, it put nearly all of these craftsmen out of business. Be it marble cutters, or soccer ball tailors. ALL GONE!
    What little skilled labor survived was able to do so because it could not be replaced yet (drivers) or served in niche markets to the wealthy (handmade rolex watches). This rarity due to requiring special skills and being tailored to the rich enhanced the price of the few crafts who prevailed. But again these were only few crafts and only very few within each craft, the majority of crafts and craftsmen were devalued to the max and went the way of the dinosaur.

    You can see different stages of this dynamic in many countries of the world even today. In India, lots of people have a tailor coming directly to their house. Tailors are plenty and cheap and thus not treasured very much. However in the US were almost all tailors have been killed by machines there are only a few left and if you really need one it comes with a hefty price tag. So this particular tailor is worth a lot but tailors as a whole don't get much appreciation ($) as there are only very very few left which could actually receive any appreciation.
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2014
  7. Gehazi


    Jun 30, 2013
    hmmm , very good points jens, I have heard of a western tailor who gets 100k for a coat, so spot on about real craftsmanship being tailored to the rich, but I suppose it always was, could not be more well reasoned or laid down jens, thanks
  8. Zixinus


    Apr 16, 2009
    I believe I did made a diversion with this from the topic, but I'd like to clarify what I meant. I spent far too much time as it is on this and I made this without sleeping the previous night. So despite my efforts to curtail this, this might be a bit rambly and unfocused. I apologize for that, and I probably droned off into more unrelated topics.

    I didn't say it did. Enhancing came with when the workers fought for it, when new humanist ideals came to play that started to value every men born as equal, when revolutions changed how governments worked and so on. The Industrial Revolution was a centuries-spanning thing occurring over multiple countries that involved multiple cultures in multiple ways. Changes didn't end with it either.

    In fact, I'd like to argue that the cultural change of a working man kept changing after the industrial revolution and is still changing today. Modern democracies where every poor sap (or every man, or every white and so on) had a vote also changed the value of an average worker. Don't just think of communism (which before and after the USSR was far from an united philosophy), think egalitarianism, humanism, civil rights, new definitions to be person. The breakdown of old class systems, the emergence of new form of society has too changed the image.

    My point is that the idea of the wide valuing handcraft is a bit of a modern phenomenon. Handcraft stands out in a world where economics and technology favor mass manufacturing. In a today's handcraft, individual touches and making to costumer specifications are favored and liked. Small differences and personal touches make every piece truly unique and people appreciate that. People more readily make emotional connections to a handcrafter (an actual person) than to a big manufacturing company.

    Also remember that not everything handcrafted was of superb quality by a master who took great pride in the work. The best work and the masterwork was reserved for the elite and/or wealthy. People didn't make handcrafting for the sake of handcrafting, they did it because they had to. Most things were what was affordable, what was available to people who had to do a hundred other things. Handcrafting doesn't mean that you aren't producing lots of things in a series. Just because you had a cottage full of women making clothes, from raw materials to finished product, by hand doesn't mean it wasn't essentially a factory.

    No, again: the dark misery of factories and contempt for those who worked in them was there before the industrial revolution. A good craftsman could at best aspire to be a good servant to his lord.

    What the industrial revolution changed wasn't handcrafting. Handcrafting was being replaced by trained labor overseen by highly-skilled labor before the industrial revolution. What the industrial revolution brought with it was the switch from relying on muscle power to chemical power as utilized by a steam engine (and many other things that I probably forgot or don't even know about). Machines that were previously powered by muscle was now powered by steam. Mechanization of water and windmills became more complex, bigger, more efficient. Yes, this made work worse, the tempo dictated by emotionless machines. But it was already bad to begin with.

    The topic of what the industrial revolution brought with it is a big one, and one that I am not prepared in discussing what effect it had, one that I am not fully prepared to detail with authenticity.

    Yeah, except that you are forget who was the skilled labor here: the engineers, technicians, mechanics, machinists and so on. Who do you think made the machines, operated them and maintained them, adjusted them, built them? Machines and machine components did not appear out of the thin air, they had to be made. And do you honestly think that the people making the machines knew how to make a shoe?
    No, when they made the machine they knew how to make a shoe. It also had to be a good shoe, otherwise people would have stuck to corner cobblers.

    Also, things didn't switch from everything being handcrafted to everyone suddenly being a factory drone. That system developed in steps, in waves and with inventions.

    Technology changes over time and so does associated economy. When the first iron swords were made, they weren't masterworks of perfection and pride, but cheaper imitations of expensive bronze swords. Making bronze required getting both tin and copper. With iron, you just needed iron which was more widely available. Once they figured out how to do it with iron, iron was favored and expensive bronze fallen out of favor. Those that did bronze had to either retrain or change their business. Bronze-working was not forgotten, it just became a smaller and more specialized market with more specialized skills.

    As for the rest, mass production was just another technology change that had the same effect. Mass production is also not all evil: how do you think the copying monks reacted when they saw the the many, many printed versions of the bible, all cheaper and more precisely copied than their work? It sparked the Reformation and the fact that much wider class of people could have a copy of the Bible, to read about Jesus and God on their own and not rely on one authority's interpretation. Beforehand, only the elite and members of the Church could have a Bible. People learned what they could from what was spoken. Now, literacy became practical for more people and more and more books became published about more things. Euclid's Elements was no longer restricted to a nobleman's teacher, but became free to be studied by people who barely knew what geometry was.

    But going into the economics, the technicalities and the history of mass manufacturing is a massive thing and not quite the point. Point is that jobs were created, jobs disappeared, jobs changed.

    Some traditions were lost, but not all. Marble cutting is still something that people who work with marble statues do today. Skills, technology and knowledge transformed, changed, learned new things, marginalized older things all the time.

    The value of handcrafting changed from just work to something that is only valuable when people put passion, art and tradition into it. It survives because it can do what mass produced goods can't, providing the personal touch and emotional trust that big companies have a harder time bridging. It went small scale, it partially became a hobby for people and with the internet there is a renewal in this. I would certainly not have heard of kukris, nevermind Himalayan Imports, if it weren't for the internet.

    And honestly, are you lamenting the loss of soccer ball tailors (and yes, I do not know what that is, it is probably a new thing)? Just because something was done by hand does not mean it was an art or a worthy skill or even part of culture's tradition. It was mostly work, and it could be monotonous, soul-crushing work all the same.

    No, what you are thinking of is an English episode specifically. There the landowners ejected farmers during regular agriculture in favour of using the land to breed sheep to be used in the blooming textile industry. The farmers didn't really own the land they worked on for generations. They were considered servants that were essentially the property of the lord to use it as they willed.

    The fact that from most people to relatively few people went into farming was not one agricultural revolution worldwide. In some countries, farmwork is still done by hand because modern means are unavailable and thus is done by large numbers of people to compensate.

    Landless farmers have flocked to the city in hope of a new living before the industrial revolution and since that. In my country (Hungary), there was a great deal of peasantry during the industrial revolution that stayed peasants. What happened is that their rights and land ownership was transformed as the country transfored with the times. Peasents demanded to have their own land and guess what? It was in the political and even economical interest of the lord landowners to do that, to sell their land because the elite's and landowner's finances changed.

    The exact economics of who became the unskilled laborers in factories varies with the country, with period of history and the locale. Cities had people continuously coming into them since medieval times. It was with the industrial revolution that more people could be housed, more people could actually live and not die of plaques.
  9. Yangdu

    Yangdu [email protected] Himalayan Imports-Owner Moderator

    Apr 5, 2005
    Great post, Howard

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