|Artisan Lê Xuân Hùng is busy producing knives for the upcoming Tết. — VNS Photo Ly Ly Cao|
By Thanh Nga
The Lunar New Year is approaching, and we visit Đa Sỹ forging village, a traditional residential cluster in Hà Đông District, Hà Nội, famous for centuries for its high-quality agricultural tools and cutlery.
The Lunar New Year is approaching, and the sounds of steel and iron from beating hammers resound throughout Đa Sỹ. Coal furnaces here burn all day to serve people during Tết.
Although it has been through thousands of years with many changes, the locals here still keep the same job, working as blacksmiths.
At the workshop of artisan Lê Xuân Hùng, his whole family is busy making knives for customers.
Hùng's family has been making cutlery for many generations. He has been in this profession for 40 years, and his sons follow him in this traditional career.
|Artisan Lê Xuân Hùng and his wife. —VNS Photo Ollie Arci|
“Preparing for Tết, we have a lot of orders, and we can't meet the needs of customers,” Hùng told Việt Nam News.
“We have many foreign and domestic orders at this time, three times higher than usual. My family earns about VNĐ6-7 million (US$260 – $304) per day. I don’t hire more workers, only my family, my wife and children work together. New workers do not have many skills and experience, so this would affect the quality of the products."
“For my key products, if customers order difficult designs, I will do it, and if it’s easy, I don’t accept it. From kitchen knives, stainless steel scissors, medical knives, hand planers, machine planers, moulds and templates, I can do it all,” Hùng said.
The 72-year-old artisan Nguyễn Văn Mộc, who has been making and selling knives in the village his whole life, said: "At the end of the year, many customers order large quantities of knives for wholesale. We have to double our capacity to keep up with the schedule before Tết comes".
Like most other small-scale households, Mộc's family has to invest in machinery to increase productivity. Due to incredible demand, his blacksmith lights are on from early morning to late afternoon.
Mộc said that besides taking full advantage of machinery, the blacksmith always had to ensure technicality at many stages which required manual methods.
|Artisan Nguyễn Văn Mộc repairs a scissor for a customer. — VNS Photo Thanh Nga|
“I grew up in Đa Sỹ, and my ancestors also worked as blacksmiths. My main products are knives and scissors, especially a long-bladed knife used in machines for grinding scrap plastic,” he said.
“The profession will be stable if your product quality is good. But you have to love your job so you will research and produce better products for customers, so then the number of orders is stable.”
More and more customers come to Mộc to buy and repair cutlery.
“I often come here to buy blacksmith items. Today I brought some scissors to sharpen at Mộc’s workshop. Đa Sỹ’s knives and scissors are very good because this is a craft village with a long tradition,” said customer Bùi Gia Uyên.
While customer Lê Huyền Nhung comes to the village to buy a cleaver for her parents to use over Tết.
“My family has been using Đa Sỹ’s knives for a long time. My parents only trust the products from this village. They are not beautiful in appearance, but they are good and durable,” Nhung said.
|The coal furnaces are always burning all day to serve the needs of the people during Tết. — VNS Photo Ollie Arci|
From the 11th lunar month onwards, the village welcomes many retail customers and wholesale buyers, so the work at Tết makes things hectic.
“When Tết comes, everyone wants to buy new appliances, especially cutlery, so we are also busier with work. Although we are tired, we are still happy because in addition to our income, we are proud to bring our products across the country to the kitchens of many families," craftsman Hoàng Văn Cung said.
Currently, there is much foreign cutlery available in Việt Nam, but Đa Sỹ cutlery has a firm position in the market.
“People buy other products but later find that their quality is not good as that of hand-forged products, so the majority of customers return to the products here,” artisan Hùng said.
Quality always comes first in the village, which has the motto to "keep the fire."
|Đa Sỹ forging village is famous for centuries for its high-quality agricultural tools and cutlery. — VNS Photo Ly Ly Cao|
According to Hoàng Quốc Chính, chairman of Đa Sỹ Craft Village Association, the village has 1,328 households employed in the business, including 700 blacksmiths. The average income per worker is VNĐ4 million per month.
“Each month, the village supplies hundreds of tonnes of goods across the country,” Chính said.
During the Tết holiday, Đa Sỹ's knives and scissors spread all over the country, contributing to a happy and prosperous Tết for the Vietnamese people. VNS