History gives Ken’s business cutting edge

Ken Bradford of Bismarck Metalcraft Deloraine

History gives Ken’s business cutting edge

APRIL 2015JOANNE EISEMANN

 Mike Moores

KEN BRADFORD of Bismarck Metalwork has been making knives, swords and armour professionally since 1988, full time since he moved Deloraine in 2004.

The business draws its name from its origin; at the time he lived in Collinsvale, near Hobart which, before the 1st World War, was known as Bismarck.

His involvement with making knives began as a young man; Ken explains, “I’d always been interested in history since I was a little boy; no one could ever tell me how a sword was made, so I investigated and it started from there, I taught myself”.

All the knives on display in his shop are made by Ken. An Italian blacksmith he met viathe internet makes some of his sword blades.

Ken says, “I used to make all the blades myself, but I’m getting arthritis and making some blades is too heavy for me. He makes excellent blades; I use his blades in the rapier fighting that I do”.

The steel Ken uses is purchased from America, as the steel he uses is unavailable in Australia.

He makes, shapes and polishes blades before sending them to Sydney for heat treatment. In Sydney the blades go into a vacuum furnace and come back a smoky colour, ready for final polishing and handle fitting.

Ken makes a range of knives, from fruit knives and throwing knives to the more unusual such as a replica of a 300 year old fishing knife.

His metalwork also includes the unique – such as chain mail and armour for a Teddy Bear – and the very difficult, such as gauntlets. Ken says he won’t be rushing to make another pair of those!

“I haven’t followed any particular style of knife making. I went off on my own path, what I thought was the way to go, what I was interested in. A lot of it is inventiveness, creativity; you have to use your brains”.

Ken enjoys using some of the swords and armour he makes. He belongs to a Launceston rapier club that meets weekly and a re-enactment group from Burnie, Knights Templar.

“Fighting with a rapier is a lot faster than heavy metal fighting; they are two different periods of re-enactment”, Ken notes.

“Sword fighting in these groups is safe”, assures Ken, “Rapiers have tips on the ends and with larger weapons, there are limitations on where you can hit, when you strike – you pull your blow at the last minute; it’s not just a case of swinging and bashing and hacking – there is a lot of skill involved”.

Some of Ken’s business comes from Tasmania, but most comes from the mainland and overseas. He has a website, www.bismarckmetalcraft.com, that receives 50–100,000 hits per month. The shop is located beside his house at 6 Grigg Street, Deloraine.

Check the Bismark Metalcraft Facebook page for opening times.