Ingo Eispert is washed with all woods at Boker. The married family man has been working at Boker since 2014 and is head of the scales department. The production of the sometimes difficult handle shells requires a lot of material knowledge and a high degree of craftsmanship. In addition, the master carpenter gives us some more interesting insights into his everyday work.
The profession of a carpenter/joiner is certainly something that few people expect to find in a knife factory. What are your tasks and how can we imagine your profession?
In my department I process all the materials that are needed for the production of the handle scales of our knives. This includes a wide variety of woods such as bog oak, cocobolo or pearl wood, but of course also many local varieties such as oak, beech or plum wood. Not only the source material itself, but also the dimensions of the materials differ greatly from each other. In the simplest case, my job is to cut shells from existing scantlings. When working with whole logs that are virtually unfinished or when cutting historical materials such as the oak beams and planks from Castle Burg or discarded whiskey barrels, a particularly high degree of care is required. Here, even the first cut often determines how many shells can be obtained from the scarce and precious materials. In addition, animal materials such as stag horn or bone as well as plastics such as Micarta and G10 are often used. In my department, the material blanks are cut, milled and drilled until finally the small shell for the knife handle is created.
Is the work difficult to learn? What is often underestimated by outsiders in your work?
The manufacture of handle shells is complex and requires a lot of experience and intuition. As a carpenter, I have been able to gain a lot of useful experience over the course of 34 years, which I bring to my daily work. This means that I first carefully select the materials and then process them with the machines as precisely as possible in accordance with the material. Despite planned work processes, no two work steps are the same, as the different material properties always require special machining and processing. That makes my work very varied.
Are there materials that you have to be especially careful with so that no damage occurs?
There are indeed many sensitive materials that require careful and gentle processing. We have particularly sensitive materials stabilized before processing with the help of state-of-the-art processes, so that a significantly improved hardness, stability and sturdiness is achieved. Thanks to this treatment, even soft or sensitive woods are suitable for heavy (outdoor) use and contact with moisture. When it comes to processing, hybrid materials present a special challenge. Here, precious natural woods are cast with high-quality, partly colored acrylic resins in a special process. Similar to the individual grain of each wood, very unique gradients and optical effects are created. The cutting of these materials also requires a lot of experience and intuition.
What is your favorite wood and why?
My favorite wood is the American cherry. It develops its deep reddish-brown color only over time through exposure to UV light.
How self-critical are you of your work?
I set very high standards for my work and that of my team, because I always want to give 100% in order to achieve the best possible result. The values of Boker and what the company stands for are the yardstick of my work.
What does a typical working day look like for you?
My working day starts punctually at 6 o'clock in the morning. First, the office stuff gets done. That means sifting through e-mails, sorting orders, entering them on the computer and distributing them to the employees. After that, I usually check the quality and condition of the recently arrived material. Only then do I start my actual work, cutting wood and panel materials to size. However, organizational tasks also fall within my remit, e.g. the procurement of samples or coordination with other departments.
When do you talk about a successful working day? Is it important to you that you are also physically challenged in your job?
When I have completed the tasks I set out to do, everything has gone smoothly, and in the end a top quality product leaves the department. It's very important to me to also be physically challenged at work, since I'm not exactly a desk jockey :)
How can I imagine working in the shell department? Does everyone work for themselves or do you complement each other as a team?
Working as a team is a lot of fun but also indispensable in my department. Each work step builds on the previous one. If one colleague doesn't work as cleanly, the next one has much more work to do. That's why we talk to each other a lot and help each other to ensure the high quality standards for the coating and, of course, for the product.
Besides your job, are there any hobbies or other things you do in your free time? If you have time, what is important to you?
The most important thing for me is my family. I enjoy spending time with them and it gives me a lot of strength. Another thing that is close to my heart is my volunteer work for the German Federal Agency for Technical Relief (THW). Besides that, I spend a lot of time outdoors, mountain biking or taking long walks with our dog. In general, I do a lot of sports in my free time.
Do you have a personal connection to knives besides your professional activities? (Were you born with a fascination for knives?)
My grandparents introduced me to knives at an early age. They had a silverware factory and knives have interested me since childhood. My first contact with Boker was at the Solingen's most popular flea market called Zöppkesmarkt, where the current managing directors and their siblings sold knives at a quaint stand with a half-timbered look.
Can you tell us your favorite knife? What do you particularly like about it?
Damascus knives with wooden handles hold a great fascination for me. The careful selection of fine materials and the loving craftsmanship tell the story of the knife and make it something very special.
If you were to design your own knife, what would it look like?
It would definitely be a rescue knife. Being a practical guy, I appreciate the functionality and solidity of these knives. On top of that, they also look really good.
What was your career at Boker like? What were your highlights during your time at Boker?
I was lucky enough to work directly as a department manager for the shell department in 2014. In addition, I am still a first aider and safety officer. Even though my daily workplace is in the shell department, outside appointments are also very important to ensure the quality of our products and to avoid potential problems from the outset that can only be discovered later in the production process. I regularly visit major wood suppliers/importers together with our purchasing department. Especially in the case of scarce and extremely rare materials, determining the quality on site is indispensable for a satisfactory end product. This is where I bring in my expertise, create an understanding of our requirements and processes in further processing. A special highlight was certainly the business trip to our sales partner Muela in Spain. It was absolutely exciting to see how another company from the same industry processes sophisticated natural materials. The open exchange was valuable and very interesting for both sides.
Where do you see yourself in the future (10 years?) Do you have specific goals for the next few years?
I see my place continuing in the shell department in the future and look forward to more exciting projects. I would like to contribute my knowledge and experience there as well as pass it on, in order to further strengthen the preservation of the Boker brand for the future.
We are observing that the topic of sustainability and the local sourcing of our raw materials is playing an increasingly important role and that domestic woods are also being valued more strongly again. How do you assess this development and where do you see Boker Manufaktur in 30 years?
I think it's great when we process woods and raw materials from the local region. This strengthens local markets and the shorter transport routes make a lasting contribution to environmental protection. The Boker brand will continue to assert itself in markets around the world, because quality and values speak for themselves.
What tip would you give to applicants who are interested in a job at our manufactory?
You should have a general interest in knives and their manufacture. In addition, manual dexterity and a good grasp of things are very advantageous. In addition, I appreciate it very much if you can look beyond the scope of your actual job in order to better understand and categorize issues.