The harsh wind of the Scottish Highlands whips rain relentlessly into his face. The cold spreads throughout his body. His stomach growls. His reaction: a satisfied smile. Because he loves nature and breathes adventure. Since 2007, Hajo Wilkes has been sharing his enthusiasm for the extraordinary with his major customers and the specialized trade from Germany, the Benelux countries and Great Britain in the Boker field service. His vita and diverse hobbies make him an indispensable member of the Boker product development team. There is hardly a product group in the range that does not include the outdoor enthusiast as a target and user group. In the following, the likeable adventure field worker provides interesting insights into fire, black powder and magic.
What brought you to our knife business?
My maternal grandfather was a butcher and hunter, my paternal grandfather a toolmaker. If other children went out to play, they were asked if they had a cap. I, on the other hand, was asked if I had a knife. A knife was always something real. I could do practical things with it and it gave me an added sense of adventure when wandering around in the woods. Early on, I started making simple knives for myself out of lawn mower blades and saw blades. I also can‘t do virtually any of my hobbies without knives.
What are those hobbies?
I like anything to do with the outdoors, old crafts, fire, embers, smoke and shooting. That‘s quite a lot. Well, let‘s go one by one. What are you doing outdoors? I have hiked the Pyrenees 700 km from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic, Sardinia, the Cevennes, the Massif Central and the Scottish West Highlands in their entirety. I am lucky that my wife has been enthusiastically by my side everywhere. In fact, she is often the one who displays a hair-raising risk-taking spirit when it comes to route and stage planning. We‘ve stayed in tents, old bunkers, and once even in a disused slaughterhouse. I like bike tours as well. On Iceland, we rode the Kjölur mountain route with tent and bike. Due to dust, wind and roadway it was one of the hardest projects. Sometimes the tours only barely went well. We were already dehydrated and clearly hypothermic. Statistically, most people die of hypothermia between 0°C and +10°C. In the Pyrenees, at 1,400 meters above sea level, we were in the middle of a thunderstorm. That was an existential experience. I did two alpine rock climbing courses and one ice climbing course. From the age of 16, I was a very active scuba diver for a while. The last dive I did was to the remains of the Tirpitz in 2008. No, I did not bring up the steel for our knives. I was there purely as a tourist.
Are there already plans for new projects?
Last year I fulfilled another of my childhood wishes. I got my hunting license and joined the brass band of our hunting club. There will still be a lot to experience here, I think. However, I still have an old score to settle 38 with the Watzmann. I have already had to cancel the ridge traverse three times due to bad weather conditions.
What do you mean by embers and old crafts?
I love our fireplace and making wood for it. From time to time I also use our stove to soften old files and rasps - sometimes with a blowtorch if need be. With an angle grinder and a file I rework them into simple blades. Then I bring them to red heat again and harden them with preheated salad oil. Finally, I leave the blades on 2x 20 min at 200°C in our oven. I am not interested in the processing. My colleagues at Boker can do that better. What I find fascinating is the thermal process. One must not forget: Whether my colleagues are professionals or me as an amateur - we metalworkers are magicians! We reorganize atomic lattices! Which other craftsman can claim that? Speaking of old crafts: My shaving is done exclusively with a traditional razor. And that under all circumstances. That is a point of honor!
Then you mentioned shooting.
In 2017, I started shooting muzzleloaders. Noise, smoke and flames - great! I have a permit for handling black powder according to the German Explosives Act §27. But in the meantime I also shoot pistol, revolver and rifle in small and large caliber as well as shotgun with passion. For clay pigeon shooting I even still have grandpa‘s good old Italian buck shotgun. During the Corona period, the bow was added because the shooting ranges had closed. Again, everything you can do outdoors is the best.
So you count yourself to many of our customer groups. The only area where you haven‘t left any footprints so far is in the military-tactical field, right?
That‘s not quite true. During my During my basic military service, I was in the reconnaissance and liaison platoon in the tank barracks in Hemer. In that short time, I enjoyed house combat training, guard and security training, anti-tank training with regular weapons and homemade ordnance, and a radio operator ATN. I guarded an ammunition dump in a wooded area. That was a so-called real mission, i.e., with live ammunition.
You travel a lot as a salesman. Do you have any tips for our customers from this wealth of experience?
1. Check in the hotel the evening before if the water is warm - in the morning under the shower it is too late.
2. Basic rule in case of fire alarm in English hotels: stay in bed! Guests in pajamas with money and passport in the corridor are easily recognized as UK newcomers.
3. Bike lanes in Amsterdam are red. Red is a warning color. This should be taken very seriously.
4. If rest area toilets are unappetizing, nevertheless, do not escape into the bushes. Unexpected things happen there. One‘s own appearance can be misunderstood.
5 And most importantly, to avoid a fight to the death, do not eat fish sandwiches in the open air in English coastal towns! The seagulls there are large, experienced, ready for violence and work as a well-rehearsed team.