Interview with Knifemaker Otso Alai

In this new category on our blog we want to share the story of small craftsman- and women, the story of inspiring people that make a change in this – somewhat- strange world. We want to give you a peak into their lives and crafts, so you can get to know them more, and pick up a trick or two!

In this first edition we will feature our dear friend David, from Otso Alai Knifes. You will find out  what a knife-maker looks for in his own knives, and the view on life of this mountain man.

1. Where on the internet can people find you (website, socials etc.)?
You can find me mainly on my Instagram account @otso_alai , as well as on Facebook as David del Moral Balparda or Cuchillos Otso Alai Knives . I also have a Bigcartel online store; www.otsoalai.bigcartel.com

Sheepbushcraft Running With Sheep Otso Alai Knives Handmade Traditional Bushcraft Flint and Steel-42. What is your favourite way of spending time outdoors?
No shadow of a doubt, my favourite way of spending time outdoors is climbing mountains, exploring wilderness areas, forests, canyons, caves, rivers and fishing!

3. Do you have any strange habits before leaving on a trip?
I guess I have a habit of making sure there will be no risk of electrical storms around the area I´ll be going – but that probably doesn’t qualify as strange does it? I guess I am a lot more common man than I thought!

4. Can you name three things that you would never go on an adventure without? 
A knife, metal water container and possibles pouch would definitely come along with me.

We as humans have the obligation to protect our brothers, be it sheep or wolves, trees or bees.

5. What does you morning (routine) look like when you are out and about?
When out in the mountains, I fly out of the car with my backpack, and hit the wilderness as soon as possible. Once I am there, I check the compass and always look behind to be sure I recognize the terrain i´ll be returning to. I also check the sky for storm clouds, and look for the peak I want to climb and make trail! I have made it a habit to always be listening for wild animals and in some cases be alert for bears or wild dogs. But in any case, I enjoy the wilderness!

6. What is the last (bushcraft/survival) skill you learned, and how did you master it?
I think I have only really mastered the skill of returning home safely, not a reliable skill but I am still learning the rest.

7. What music do you listen to when unpacking?
That would be the sound of my boy telling me what he has been up to in my absence, haha! The alternative would be my all time favourites, Faith No More.

We would love to tell our readers more about your knifemaking business.
8. When did you start making knives?
In august 2013.

9. Looking back out your journey, where did you think making knives was going to take you at the beginning?
I guess I was just excited at the vision of doing something I loved, but had no idea if I would be able to expand my business. For now, I try to live day by day, and not get stuck in thinking about the future too much.

The best knife is the one you have on you when you need it!

10. What were some of the unexpected hurdles, you took to get where you are? Or, what is the greatest lesson you learned so far on your journey?
The biggest obstacles for me were, and still are, the legal barriers the Spanish government set for small artisans, crafters and makers, like myself. We knife-makers here, are unable to send knives abroad, as they are considered weapons. I would have to pay a ridiculous amount of taxes every month (300€), to be able to export my knives. However, there is always a way around, and for now I seem to get knives to mainland Europe.

The lesson I have learned is to trust in ones dream and in the universe – as it will always provide- but we must listen to our inner voice, to allow for the universe to act!

Sheepbushcraft Running With Sheep Otso Alai Knives Handmade Traditional Bushcraft Flint and Steel-211. Where do you think it will take you now (where will you be five years from now)?
I have no idea! Ask me in five years time and I will tell you all about it.

12. What motivates you to get better at your art of making knives?
When I see knives from other knife-makers and I think “Wow! I want to do something like that, but with my personal touch!” The fact that all my customers have been very happy with their knives, and come back for more gives me enough motivation to carry on. I keep improving my skills in hope to reach more people in search of a great tool!

13. How would you describe a ‘perfect’ knife? What specifications would it have, how would it look like, what would you be able to do with it?
That’s a tricky one! The best knife is the one you have on you when you need it! I don’t think there is perfect knife, there’s a tool for every task. If in jungle environment a machete is ideal, but in high rocky mountains, I would leave the machete at home, and take a lightweight knife If you are crafting, and on camp then a bushcraft knife is ideal.

Me, personally, I always have a belt knife with me, no more than 22 cm (8,7 inch) in total length, a multitool and a large chopper in my pack. But as I said, each terrain demands different tools. Three things I look for in my knives are; that they must be sharp, have a finger guard of some kind and be tough. The rest is up to each individual person! However, the knife has to be sharp and ready for use, safe so you can stab in case of animal attacks (in my case wild dogs) and tough to resist the hard use.

One thing I remember fondly, is that he always carried with him; a knife, some string and a lighter.

14. Do you have mentors, or others, you look up to?
Actually I don’t like to look up to or down to anyone, but if someone has inspired me in my life, that would be my grandfather. He fought in the Spanish civil war when he was only 14, survived the hunger and poverty of the aftermath, and stayed a man of honour; true to his family and beliefs.

He was a man of the outdoors, he showed me the forests and the way people lived in the past. My grandfather would tell me stories of our family ancestors, owners of coal mines in Bilbao, Mayors of Bilbao and bankers. He himself worked with his hands, with precious stones and owned a pawn shop in the old quarters of Bilbao. One thing I remember fondly, is that he always carried with him, a knife, some string and a lighter. I  find myself doing the same now!

Sheepbushcraft Running With Sheep Otso Alai Knives Handmade Traditional Bushcraft Flint and Steel-115. What do you want people to know about your knives?
My knives are all hand forged, handcrafted with much love and passion. I make knives that are to be used. I use my own knives and believe me, I am not soft with them.

I named my knives Otso Alai, which is Basque for happy wolf. I have a strong connection and love for wolves, and believe that their freedom and adaptive capabilities as natural born survivors are impregnated in each of my knives. Being born in the Basque country, I had to use a Basque name.

Another reason for the name is to try and bring some light and positive energy, to the unfair treatment wolves have had, and still have, in Spain and around the world. Wolves have been persecuted and hated since man became sedentary. Never fully understood, or accepted as an animal that deserves to be protected, and respected. I hope one day man and wolf can live together, watching over the mountains and wilderness of the earth. We as humans have the obligation to protect our brothers, be it sheep or wolves, trees or bees. There is a place for everything and everyone here on this beautiful earth!

Sheepbushcraft Running With Sheep Otso Alai Knives Handmade Traditional Bushcraft Flint and Steel-616. Is there anything else you would like to add?
Only a thank you, for this lovely interview and my wish for others to listen to their hearts and fight to achieve their dreams. Whether it be in knife-making, leathercraft, writing, photography or anything else for that matter. It is never too late to start a new life, and leave the darkness of political, economic and social control! We, the people, have the power, and we must make small changes in ourselves to be able to change everything else! Freedom is our right, and we must fight to recover the freedom we have been robbed from.

 

Thank you so much David, for kindly and patiently answering all of our questions! If you enjoyed this interview, we invite you to check out David and his beautiful knives on his website and socials!

Photo credits: David/Otso Alai

 

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