Expert Interview: Simen Stryckers about the Grailer 2
Every knife comes with a story. The Grailer 2, designed by knife maker Simen Stryckers, is no exception. We spoke to Simen about his passion for knives and how his first cooperation with a knife brand came to be.
Who are you?
I am Simen Stryckers. A 24-year old Belgian knife maker. I have been living in Antwerp my entire life. The last eight years I have been producing knives with Maarten, my twin brother.
What do you do/study?
I completed various technical and practical studies, including mechanical engineering. Now that I have graduated I work as a designer at a company that produces industrial security products.
How did you first come into contact with knives as a hobby?
At a young age I already carried a pocket knife. An Opinel knife, to be exact. When I started making my own knives I started looking into the subject more. Via YouTube I came into contact with many other knife enthusiasts. Before I knew it I was hooked.
Why did you start making your own knives?
As a kid I was always busy 'creating' things. At some point I thought: why not make a knife. It appealed to me. I started making more, because I wanted to become really good at it. I didn't really feel like buying a knife, but wanted to make one that suited my every need. I soon realized that it wasn't as easy as I thought at first. But this was also what kept me going.
How did you start making knives?
The first knife I made, I made with the help of a BBQ. I used hot coals and a hammer to forge a knife from a file. I soon noticed that I needed better steel and better machines. Throughout the years I upgraded my machines. Many of the machines I use today, I made with my brother Maarten. That is how I ended up in the workshop I use today.
What position does a knife hold in your day-to-day life?
For me a knife is a practical tool you can always carry with you. If this knife happens to be stunning as well, it is a bonus. So yes, I really use all my pocket knives and carry them on a daily basis. When I need to cut something as I prepare lunch, for paper, tape, cord and for many more things. I am a creative person and that is when a pocket knife will always come in handy.
How does your background in mechanical engineering influence your knife-making skills?
I think a lot about how my knives are constructed and how the forces are divided over the specific parts. Which parts wear out and why. If you can easily take the knife apart and put it back together. Whether the knife is sustainable. I learned a lot about different materials during my studies. I use this knowledge when I select materials for a knife.
What inspires you?
Because of my studies I now consider knives to be simple machines. That is why I try to make them as simple as possible. No unnecessary parts to make sure none of them can break down easily. I am a big fan of minimalist designs and they are a massive source of inspiration for me.
How do you start making a knife?
The design simply comes to me. I start with a list of results from my studies or a list of demands the pocket knife needs to adhere to. This leaves me with the shape of the pocket knife. I sketch it on paper from my mind. I often need more than one sketch to come up with a design I am truly happy with. Afterwards I scan that sketch and put it on my computer. On the computer I make a 3D model with moving parts to make sure everything works and has the right finish. Once everything is as it should be I can start producing the knife.
What drives you?
I want to make a good as possible pocket knife. A knife you can be proud of, that makes you happy as you carry it. Each knife that I make should be better than the one before. It keeps me occupied and sharp. Each knife is a new challenge.
How do you want to make a difference in the knife world?
I want to do so by making my knives truly useful. No weird shapes or incredibly expensive materials to stand out. You often see this on handmade knives. Simply a good knife you can use. No unnecessary frills.
What problems do you run into?
I try to create each knife as I see it in my mind. This, however, isn't always easy. I too make mistakes. Another problem I have faced is that I cannot make a lot of pocket knives because it is mainly my hobby. I do not produce knives on a full-time basis. Because I don't depend on them in terms of income I need to choose quality over quantity. That is the good side to the story. If one doesn't turn out as I had envisioned it at first I keep it myself or give it away as a gift. I don't want to sell knives I am not 100% happy with.
What do you love most about making/designing knives?
Creating knives is incredibly satisfactory. But also the idea that someone will carry and use my pocket knife. Especially if that customer is happy and tells me how much he uses it.
For who and which use did you design the Grailer 2? And how did you come up with it?
The Grailer 2 is a knife for anyone who always wants to keep a pocket knife close. For daily tasks such a preparing food and cutting cardboard. A real all-rounder. I designed the Grailer 2 as such that it won't take up too much room in your pocket when closed. I was able to do this by making sure the blade and the handle aren't as high and by not adding a thumb hole to the blade. I did do this on some of my previous knives, making them relatively broad. The small flipper keeps the knife nice and slim. This design is also enhanced with only one standoff to keep it simple and sleek. And yet this pocket knife should also be perfect in use. That is why I added the longer blade.
The Grailer 2 is not only an all-rounder when it comes to functionality. Also in terms of design this knife is very versatile. You could, for instance, casually carry this knife with some jeans and a t-shirt. However, because of its weight and slim design you can also easily combine the Grailer 2 with a neat outfit.
What are the differences between the Findus and the Grailer 2?
The Grailer 2 came from one of my custom pocket knives: the Findus V2. The design is basically the same. Merely the details are slightly different. The flipper, for instance, has more ridges to make sure opening the knife is easier and the stoppin was adjusted. It is now nicely integrated in the blade. The Grailer 2 is also enhanced with a lockbar insert in the carbon fibre scale on which the bearing rotates. But that is not all, we also used a different type of steel, namely 20CV. Better than the steel I used for the Findus.
Why did you decide to cooperate with Grailer?
A cooperation with Grailer is the perfect opportunity for me to introduce my own design to a big audience. That is why I am also thrilled that the Grailer knife was made by WE Knife. A brand of which I know that the products are really good and meet my high standards. Otherwise I wouldn't have gone for it. In short, it was an amazing experience and the result is something to be very proud of.
Which direction are you taking afer the Grailer 2?
After the Grailer project I will continue producing my own knives. I still have a passion for knife making and will continue to do so. I want to continue to innovate and improve my work. I have a couple new designs that I want to produce and I want to start experimenting with backlocks. That drive of making each knife better than the previous one keeps me busy.
How will the Grailer project help you with this?
This cooperation with Grailer will definitely help me with this. Because of the Grailer project I will start making a name for myself, many more will know who I am. It is also amazing to hear what people think of my design. That they will use the Grailer 2 and can give me some feedback. I will use this feedback when I start producing my next knives. That is how I can continue to improve my work.