Jay Fisher - World Class Knifemaker

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"Knapp Trailhead" obverse side view in 440C high chromium stainless steel blade, hand-engraved 304 stainless steel bolsters, Mookaite Jasper gemstone  handle, hand-carved,  hand-dyed leather sheath
Mookaite Jasper Gemstone handle on "Knapp Trailhead"

Best Knife Information
Learning About Knives

"Patriot" obverse side view in 440C high chromium stainless steel blade, 304 stainless steel bolsters, Lace Amethyst gemstone handle, shark skin inlaid in hand-carved leather sheath
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"Thuban" obverse side view in hot-blued 1095/nickel damascus blade, hand-engraved 304 stainless steel bolsters, Shattuckite gemstone handle, hand-carved, hand-dyed leather sheath
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Thanks, It's Free!

Thanks for being here. I believe that one of the most important things I can do as an artist, craftsman, and knifemaking professional is to educate. Here, on this website, you can learn more than on any other website in the world about how a professional, full-time custom knifemaker works, and have access to the very best knife information available. You can learn what making fine handmade and custom knives is all about, and how and why it's important in our modern world, as well as the world of the past and the future. You can discover the major and minor issues and solutions about knife problems, and you can find out what the most advanced knife users in the world are using.

I promise that if you read the entire website (this may take months), you will know more than the average person, more than the average knife owner, and even more than the average knife maker and knife manufacturer about the finest handmade, custom, and specialty knives available in the world today.

I live in an unusual world—the world of fine handmade knives. There are very few professional full-time knifemakers; it is a fairly rare profession. While there are many people who try their hand at making knives, or make knives as a hobby, there are only a relatively few of us who make knives for a living, and fewer yet who have done this for as long as I have (decades). You would be correct in thinking I'm very proud of this; it's not a vocation for the timid. It's a very physical, tactile, and full-contact profession filled with noisy high speed machinery, incredible heat, chemical exposures, and an insane amount of dust, sparks, and motion. It's high tech machinery, it's hammers and hand-files. It's complicated and sophisticated scientific cryogenic processing. It's brutally gripping and grinding rocks under the spray of cold water; it's accurately cutting tiny bits of metal under a microscope.

It's also about web development, publicity, accounting, travel, and materials acquisition. It's about research into the deepest recesses of our past, historical uses and styles, embellishment arts and emotion. It's about survival in the most basic of emergencies; it's about fulfilling the most extreme critical needs of the most advanced counterterrorism units. It's about accomplished restaurant chefs; it's about investment collectors.

Most of all, it's about sharing what I know and do with others including business-to-business and expert-to-organization consultation. The people I work for and consult with are the reason I'm successful, and the reason I have what I consider to be the greatest job in the world.

This website is available, for free, to anyone who will take the time to read it. While there are some parts that are restricted, most of the important information is here, 24/7, for anyone to indulge in. While it's not legal to copy and paste or use my writing without permission, the ideas I put forth—and all ideas, for that matter—are free to use, free to understand, free to share. Ideas are not protected intellectual property; only the presentation (writing and photos) of them is protected. I invite anyone to learn as much as they can about the very best fine handmade and custom knives here, and share this resource with others.

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"Raijin" Tactical combat knife, obverse side view in CPMS30V high vanadium stainless tool steel blade, 304 stainless steel bolsters, carbon fiber handle, locking sheath in kydex, aluminum, stainless steel with Ultimate belt loop extender package and all accessories
More about this Counterterrorism "Raijin"

The Best Knife Information Available

There is a lot of access to information on the internet. If you put the search term "best knife information" into most search engines, you will see plenty of references, websites, and advertisements. You'll see knife catalog sales companies giving out inadequate, simplistic, and largely sponsor-driven comments, presented only generally and with weak, sparse overviews of things like steel and alloys. These are very incomplete descriptions.

For example, a frequently repeated claim is that certain steels were "specially developed for the knife and cutlery industry." When you read that one singular comment, you need to know that the entire website is suspect. There are no steels specifically developed for the knife trade and industry, anywhere. Steel use is a tremendously large field, and the tool and die industry is colossal. All steels used for knives today are designed for other uses, and knives are made of these steels simply because knives are tools. Claims of special steels used for knives is an pathetic advertising ploy, and you'll see this repeated on Wikipedia (open source and not peer-reviewed) and on many other sites that are selling knives made of the very steels they identify. I hope that you can recognize this advertising technique, and I hope you understand that knives make up less than a fraction of 1% of steel sales and global applications.

The worldwide picture is revealing. What is the largest use and application of steel in the world? As of the latest recent data (WorldSteel.org), most of the steel is hot-rolled sheets and coils. Alloy tool steel production overall is less than 9% of all steel production and use, and the majority of that is stainless steel. For a real shock, know that of the 9% of steels that are alloy steels, only 1.3% of those are alloy tool steels. In the relatively tiny alloy tool steel market, the uses follow in this order, from highest to lowest amount: automobile and transportation, industrial pipe and tubing, followed by consumer goods, typically used to form plastics. This is why less than 1% of powder metal alloy tool steel sales are for knifemaking; most of the powder metal technology tool steels are used in plastic injection molding dies. In reality, only a fraction of a percentage of steel is used for knives.

This is why no steel foundry is going to design steel exclusively for knives and cutlery. They are after a much larger, much more substantial market of the industrial, military, and manufacturing tooling fields.

This concept goes hand-in-hand with the concept that if there really were a far superior steel for tooling uses, all other steels would be replaced, and never made again. Any steel choice for any application is one of a consideration of many factors: wear resistance, toughness, corrosion resistance, strength, and cost. Here's a section on my "Blades" page that details some of the many different factors and properties that determine a steel choice for knife blade use.

Though there is a tendency to throw out steel data gleaned from advertising white papers (specification sheets and data sheets) supplied by steel sales companies, the best information about knives is not just limited to steel. Knives are also about geometry, force application, handle design, dedicated uses, exposures, longevity, and value overall. They are also about sheaths, wearing, mounting, and interfacing with gear and the environment they occupy. None of these factors are presented in the "best" knife information website recommendations, but you will see them described in detail here.

Best Knife Information, or Factory Buying Guide?

When you look for the best knife information, you are confronted with pages and pages of "buying guides." These are directed toward consumers—consumers who are in a hurry to have someone else quickly identify the "best knife." After all, they are not knife experts, knife makers, machinists, or tool and die makers—they are consumers. So they look for guidance in the oldest craft known to man, making cutting tools.

The sad thing is that the place they are looking for the best knife information is written by novice website developers and advertising departments, or put together by knife dealers, or written by career "writers" who write for a living, and have never actually made a single knife. These are all factory knife buying guides and not valid knife information, much less the Best Knife Information available. Because they pay search engine companies and internet promotion companies plenty for search engine optimization and placement, their sites are pushed to the front pages of search engine results. After a few pages of this advertising ("click here to win this Badass Knife of the Week") and you'll realize that very little intelligent, worthwhile information is available. But then, factory knives are cheap and common, so there isn't a lot to know about a very low-end product.

This is why I've written and offered so much on this very site. I can't possibly make and sell every person a knife, so this is not a factory advertising website. Since the beginning of this website in 1996, I've written hundreds of pages about real knives the very best knives available, about who uses them and why, about all the components, materials, and history, and about all the details that dealers, manufacturers, and other knifemakers don't bother to present and don't want you to know. I do this as a service to my community, as a source of facts and reason in a world flooded with advertising hyperbole.

I promise that if you read this website, you'll know more than any of them. And it's all free, 24/7, on any device that can display simple, clear, HTML code. Bookmark it as one of your favorites, come back often; new information is continually presented.

For those who seek specific, detailed, or expansive information and knowledge about their particular knife-related project, direction, or research, know that I offer Expert Professional Knife Consultation. This is how important clear, accurate, and directly related information and knowledge is available in my field.

Page Topics

"Arctica" obverse side view in CPM154CM powder metal technology tool steel blade, 304 stainless steel bolsters, Coyote/Black G10 fiberglass/epoxy composite laminate handle, locking kydex, anodized aluminum, stainless steel sheath
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There is an incredible, mind-numbing amount of misinformation, confusion, and outright lies about knives on the internet. Take a look at any discussion forum with educated eyes, and you'll see these mistakes and misconceptions on every single page. Take a look at any chef's or cooking forum, combat knives forum, and even general knifemaking forums and you'll see the same kind of unending errors, falsehoods, and uncertainty. Even successful knife-using professionals are confused about what a fine knife is, where they come from who makes them, and why they make them the way they do.

Where does all this confusion come from? In knifemaking forums and on many knifemaker's websites, it may help to understand who the people commenting are, and what their level of experience is. Most of them are simply hobbyists, hoping to sell their knives for a couple hundred dollars. This means that they do not make knives professionally, do not have their knives used by other professionals, and simply are participating for the camaraderie, fellowship, and limited scope of the venue. In doing so, the same type of information is passed around over and over, and, in being repeated so many times, takes on the appearance of proof, endorsement, and sometimes truth, though much of it is plainly incorrect.

This is because real learning takes time, effort, experience, and a reliable source, and most people are plainly lazy, not wanting to invest the time to educate themselves in what interests them. It's much easier to search out a quick and pat answer than to read, learn, and experiment through trial and error or through application and research. With the overwhelming amount of information available online, it's easy to get confused, and research skills are then essential.

Because nearly everyone has access to the internet, anyone can put out videos of their erroneous processes, claiming they are teaching others "how to." The worst one of these I've ever seen (now removed from YouTube) was the guy explaining how to mirror polish a factory knife blade. He had a high speed (3600 RPM) bench grinder motor fitted with a buffing wheel sitting on a work bench. The motor was not secured to the bench; it was held there by the weight of a 10 lb. dumbbell—yes a dumbbell—with one of the ends resting on the top of the motor and the other end on the bench. He had attached a 6" diameter stitched cotton buffing wheel to the shaft of the machine, and he had it spinning upwards, that is, with the closest part to him spinning up and toward his face. As he explained his setup, he apologized for the lack of mounting of the machine to the bench; he went on to casually lay the knife against the wheel. I can think of nothing more ignorant, dangerous, and stupid than this man presented, and he presented it as if this was what everyone did in order to polish a knife! One slip, and the knife blade becomes a 100 mile per hour missile headed for his face. One vibration and the motor dances out from under the dumbbell and off the bench, and travels around the garage mincing and pummeling everything in its path until it loses momentum. Ghastly, just stupid ghastly.

Perhaps you think that an accident can't happen with a spinning disc of stitched cloths (a buffing wheel), so let me enlighten you. I know of three serious accidents that knifemakers have had with buffing wheels, and in two cases, they were fatal. The last one sent a knife, high speed, into the knifemaker's heart. This was a long-term knifemaker, not some novice, so this shows how dangerous these operations can be.

Though not all information presented on the internet by non-professionals is this foolhardy and dangerous, there is plenty of it to go around. Missed process steps, misidentification of metals, incorrect use of metal types, lousy grinding and machining, horrible profiles and arrangements, total lack of realistic sheaths, lack of all accessories, and regurgitation of factory knife claims, beliefs from a century ago, and beliefs made popular by Hollywood movies and video games permeate the conversations. If examined closely, it would take years to just identify them, and many more years to educate one's path through the mess. For one simple case, please take a few minutes and read the topic "Example of Bad Outside Heat Treating" for clarity.

This is why it's not typically productive for professionals to post on such venues and to argue with people who clearly have limited knowledge and no experience in the field. While I've become involved from time to time when the ridiculous commenters about me or my own knives need a sturdy dose of reality, it's better to present these ideas here, where truly interested and intelligent people can learn facts based on experience and success, and make up their own minds. And they do. I have continual testimonials of thanks from people who are searching for reason, knowledge, and the education that this incredibly important part of my tradecraft and art offers, and this is why I continue this service aspect, defined here. There is such a great need for information, that I provide Professional Knife Consultation for people, organizations, and entities that absolutely need to know more.

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"Vulpecula" obverse side view in hot-blued O1 high carbon tungsten vanadium tool steel alloy, hand-engraved 304 stainless steel bolsters, Silver Leaf Serpentine gemstone handle, Frog skin inlaid in hand-carved leather sheath

Curious Resistance to Learning

Why some people won't take the time to learn about knives—with so much information available—saddens me. I wonder who they are, and why they should have a desire to learn about knives. For example, I question why an accomplished chef knows next to nothing about the number one tool in his toolkit. Do you?

I remember seeing a television show highlighting a very successful chef who had started several restaurants. In a shot of his kitchen, the chef was using a knife typical of most cheap and common chef's knife styles, with three rivets through the handle. This knife was different—it had several rubber bands wrapped around the middle of the handle—rubber bands! I can only assume they were there to either help him grip the handle, or to hold the handle scales onto the knife as they were coming off. Either way, I can only cringe at the sight of it, thinking of all the bacteria and contamination that the rubber bands could harbor—and rubber stinks. What happens to the rubber bands and the knife parts when they fall off or come apart? It was very hard to consider this man the professional he claimed to be under the circumstances.

I suppose the same scenario could be applied to a warehouseman who handles and opens boxes all day. His knife is probably the cheapest, weakest, and most commonly available box cutter sold at any hardware store. So what is wrong with the picture when applied to the chef?

The warehouseman is not a highly accomplished professional preparing expensive meals for others; he's a warehouseman. The chef is supposed to be far and above others in his craft: an artist, a skilled, highly ordered specialist, in tune with all of his implements. The same chef may cook on a one hundred and twenty thousand dollar stove, use the best copper-bottomed stainless steel pans, and serve on the finest artistic china plates with elegant and scratch-free cutlery. But he uses a cheap, three rivet handled knife from China made of 420 stainless steel? Why, Lord, oh why?

This is my complaint. Does he not know of the fine knives that are available? After all, money is no object to the true pro. I can only conclude that he does not know. He simply is not aware of better, finer, and excellent tools that are available.

This has been a problem I've seen in this career from beginning it. People simply don't know that fine knives exist. And what they consider fine is actually based on concepts from the beginning of the 20th century or before!

When I regularly did knife shows and juried art shows, I was in continuous contact with thousands of people, the public, who were looking for knives, gifts, art, and tools. This meant (in one in one particular venue) seeing the faces of over 80,000 people in three days. The most often made remark was, "I can't believe knives like this exist!" The truth is most of the public has no idea that fine, handmade, artistic, tactical, hunting, and chef's knives exist in the world. They simply don't know.

Early on, I realized that part of my responsibility was to educate. The public, the soldier, the chef, the investor, and anyone who has even a slight interest in knives should know that guys like me are out here, available to make the knife that they may never have dreamed possible. I educated. I talked myself hoarse at knife and art shows, going over and over the same comments, questions, concerns, and explanations. I spoke to people on the phone, in person, in any venue I could. It was a very difficult way to educate because it is clearly one-on-one, and every conversation supplied information to only one person.

Then the internet came about. Here, I can write it down once, and post it for the public to see, any time they want, for free, in the comfort of their home, work, vehicle, or waiting room, or anywhere they have access to the web. They can read as much as they like, absorb or discard what they read, knowing that these words come from a very successful knifemaker who has a decades-long string of experience to back those words up. There are tens of thousands of new readers every month, millions of accesses to this website monthly, and I know that most people appreciate the plain, clear, and very detailed information presented here. I know that this helps me, my collaborative and family knifemakers, and other knifemakers in general.

This means that knifemaking and fine custom and handmade knives are in a rapidly growing world, striking out as the art form that is first a tool, and then a legacy creation. A lot has changed since I made my first knife in 1979, and it's exciting to see where this is all going. You can get a good picture of the growth and potential in looking over my Patterns page, where there are over 450 of my patterns, presented roughly in chronological order. If you are intuitive, you can see spurts and periods of certain types of knives that have been made and interest my knife community, and roughly gauge the direction of knives in general.

Page Topics

"Regulus" obverse side view in 440C high chromium stainless steel blade, hand-engraved 304 stainless steel bolsters, Spiderweb Obsidian gemstone  handle, Frog skin inlaid in hand-carved leather sheath
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Information is Key to Understanding

Because knives are so personal and because they are ingrained in our humanity longer than any other tool, instrument, or device, we have a special relationship with them. The foundation of that relationship comes from our family and our upbringing. There is a lot of focus on personal family ancestry, relationships, and origins, and this continues to be fascinating and formative in our own psyche. Knives play a pivotal role because every family must have knives to survive, if it's just to butter toast or cut up a vegetable. Boys and girls are often brought up to use and appreciate knives, and these knives ordinarily come from a parent, oftentimes a father or grandfather, mother or grandmother—from elders comes the knowledge about the knife and its use, materials, safety, and value. These important points are typically passed down verbally, and this is where the confusion starts.

No one wants to hear that their dad, grandfather, or mom was wrong in what they shared about knives, but nearly all of the misunderstandings originate this way. My own father swore that carbon steel knives were the best, simply because he had never seen a high alloy stainless tool steel knife blade. I can't help but think that he never fully appreciated the modern and highly superior properties of these steels simply because he had no access to them in his youth. He learned what he knew about knives from his dad, who learned from his.

This would be like your granddad telling you about the cars of the 1960's: how great they were, how nothing could approach them for power, style, and mechanistic efficiency. Then, reality seeps in and you realize that modern vehicles are more efficient, better built, more comfortable, safer, and some even have more power than the muscle cars of the past. You don't have to replace starters, alternators, coils, and plugs every 30,000 miles, and the drive trains last two to three times as long. Because we respect our ancestors and elders, we honor them by holding those past values in regard, reviving and promoting them if possible, and remembering only the good of them. This is an honorable thing to do, we are all deeply connected to our past, and to our loved ones.

Make your ancestors proud.

It's a great thought, but so many times, our information is flawed. Just like the old, heavy, hulking, fuel-hogging and maintenance-sponging vehicles of the past, early knives, carbon steel knives, three rivet handles, weak and flimsy sheaths and constant sharpening are also of the past. Our grandfathers never heard of a locking sheath, they never saw high vanadium content in steels. Powder metal technology was unknown, gemstone handles were simply a dream. They never heard of steels being sharpened by diamond hones. They never knew about mirror polishes, and the only hollow grinds they saw were on their straight razors. They were happy with aluminum fittings, rough wood handles, and constant scrubbing and oiling of blades. They would be amazed at what is available today.

I feel my ancestors would be honored to know that I've continued on the path they started, that my education was based upon their original interest and passion, particularly for knives. They wouldn't want me to cling to outdated, antiquated concepts of the old ways of my profession, and would want me to learn, grow, and improve upon the foundation they set. In my life and in my profession, this means continual education, study, and practice. This is how we evolve and this is how we excel.

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"Arctica" tactical, combat, rescue, survival knife, obverse side view in CPMS30V high vanadium powder metal technology tool steel blade, 304 stainless steel bolsters, Thunderstorm kevlar with brass handle, locking kydex, aluminum, stainless steel sheath with ultimate belt loop extender and all accessories
More about this "Arctica"

Selling the Lie

Probably the worst part about my profession is the incredible amount of lies, misunderstanding, and hype created by companies who advertise knives for sale. There are numerous places on this website where you can read and understand this, from my Business of Knifemaking page to my Tactical Knives page, from my Factory vs. Handmade Knives page to my Funny Emails pages: all of these have direct and specific misstatements, fabrications, and ridiculous notions originating from knife sales companies. You'll notice I said knife sales companies, not only knife manufacturing companies, and this is because so many businesses are selling something that they didn't manufacture, that they didn't make, and that they didn't even assemble. They, then, are sales companies, not manufacturers. And they will use any means they deem necessary to sell their products. This includes lying about performance, steel durability and hardness, and even handle materials. They carefully craft their words to infer things (like the American manufacturer who calls stabilized and laminated birch "cherrywood." It is not cherry, and not even really wood, but mostly polymer with a birch wood base (Dymondwood made by Rutland Plywood Corporation). They hope that by putting the words "cherry" and "wood" together, you won't notice that the wood is not cherry, but their neologism (new word) infers that it is.

Why don't they simply tell the truth? Because the truth is not so flattering to their product, that's why. It's a continuous game of misleading, misrepresenting, tweaking the words, omitting the limitations, and pushing the dream instead of clearly describing the exact knife.

What then, are the specific causes of misunderstanding about knives, generally?

  • Most people know very little about fine, modern, and handmade knives.
  • Most people will never see a fine, modern, handmade knife, either in photograph or physical form.
  • Most people know only what their family members have told them about knives
  • Most people know only what friends, hobbyists, and internet posters tell them about knives
  • Manufacturers and knife sellers constantly bombard the public with misinformation and lies.

So what is the problem here? It's simple. It's ignorance. And the only way to combat that is with information, with actively learning about knives and everything knife related.

Where does one go to learn about knives? The books that are in print are woefully dated, lacking in structure, lacking in historical references or modern applications. The DVDs and offerings on the internet are only for self-training, and are often published by people and makers who are not actually making the finest, most modern, most sophisticated knives available today. The people who are making these knives are far too busy to peddle how-to instructional videos.

Because you are reading this, you already know the answer; and a lot of it is right here. In addition, I encourage the purchase and study of historical texts for their historical value, for knives have been made a very long time. What was once considered a simple craft tool is now a sophisticated instrument, made of finest materials and costing thousands of dollars.

This is also the reason I'm writing a lengthy and long-term treatise on my particular journey to share what I have learned. The more I write, the more there is to write, and it may be an unfinished work when it's offered to the public, simply because of new advances made in materials, technology, and processes. So if you want to get a leg up on this subject, I recommend learning all you can from this very website; it has more to offer on the subject than any other singular professional knifemaker's website in the world.

If you are a person, organization, or entity that absolutely requires the very best current and specific information about modern knives, and it is necessary for safety, mission, or specific use requirements, I provide Professional Knife Consultation services. Take a look at the page, and contact me with specifics so I can help you make the critical decisions and choose the very best possible options for the very best possible results.

And thanks for being here!

Page Topics

"Achelous" in ATS-34 high molybdenum stainless steel blade, hand-engraved 304 stainless steel bolsters, Indian Green Moss Agate gemstone handle, hand-carved leather sheath inlaid with frog skin
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The Comparagraph
Gross Advertising Uncovered

The relationship of iron, carbon, and the alloy set is synergistic, with the performance of the whole being greater than the individual elements, in strength, hardness, wear resistance, heat resistance, corrosion resistance, and toughness, when properly processed.

The Graph

Graphs are great things, and in our eyes, we can quickly determine which item being graphed ranks the highest. Since the internet is all about finding information as fast as possible, why not just glance at a graph and instantly know which choice is best? The truth is, these are low-information, cleverly constructed, misleading and suspicious techniques to sell you an idea. Comparagraphs are advertising graphics and pictures, not meaningful, representative and scientific modes of information and presentation.

Are you surprised to read this? I'm going to make this very clear and once you read this section, you'll be able to instantly spot these advertising tricks, clearly distinguish advertising hyperbole from facts, and be able to associate the actual item being measured with its place in the cosmos. You'll understand why these tricks are used to get your belief, your support, and your dollar.

A real graph can be a great thing. A graph typically displayed in the knife and blade steel world is a called a bar chart, bar graph, or sometimes line graph. It uses horizontal or vertical bars to show comparisons among categories, types, or items. By the way, this is where the "compare" part of the made-up word "comparagraph" comes from.

In a real bar chart (not a comparagraph), the horizontal (X-axis) and vertical (y-axis) actually measure specific values. For instance, a valid graph comparing the carbon content of various steels will often have the steel types along the horizontal x-axis of the chart with the specific percentage by weight of carbon content on the vertical y-axis.

Limited  Bar Chart Graph comparing carbon content of various steel types

In this graph, you can see some concrete numbers along the Y-axis. The numbers are identified as the "Percentage of Carbon by Weight," and it's a pretty clear comparison. The various steel types are listed below the graph on the X-axis, as 1095, 440C, O1, D2, and ATS-34. It all seems pretty straightforward.

This is actually a horribly limited representation of the various steel properties, and here's why:

  1. The graph is designed to only represent one element in the chemical composition. There are many elements in most tool steels, and the steel in this chart with the lowest amount of beneficial alloy elements is 1095, which is significantly inferior to O1 in every single way! Yet looking at this graph in the setting of an advertisement (which is where you find most of these graphs) would lead the reader to quickly assume that O1 is inferior to 1095, and nothing is farther from the truth! 1095 is inferior to O1 in every single way but one, cost.
  2. The chart is spread out so that only a 1.0% spread is shown. In the actual makeup of steel, there is only a tiny little amount of carbon, and if you were to look at a full 100% Y-axis on the chart, you would quickly see that carbon varies little (about 1/100th of the chart) in the overall alloy makeup of various steels. In other words, this chart is meant to graphically display a visual key to convince you that there is a substantial difference in carbon content. While carbon means a lot in steel, all of these steels are hypereutectoid, all are high in carbon.
  3. The graph does nothing to illustrate how carbon works in each alloy. For instance, In ATS-34, a significant and beneficial amount of very hard molybdenum carbides are formed, dramatically increasing wear resistance and toughness. ATS-34 is tougher than D2, but you wouldn't know that from the chart. 440C is more corrosion resistant than all of the other steels listed, but you wouldn't know that from the chart. O1 is an outstanding performer, superior in every way to 1095 carbon steel, because it has beneficial tungsten, vanadium, and chromium, and 1095 has none of these. This is why O1 is actually classified as a tool steel, and 1095 is simply a carbon steel.
  4. The supplier is not identified, and foundries vary the actual carbon content of their steels somewhat. So a generalized chart like this does not help if the steel foundry or distributer is offering 440C that is 1.25% carbon, or a D2 supplier that is offering 1.4% carbon instead of 1.7% carbon. This is simply plain, basic information that is not carved in stone, and steels differ from various sources.
  5. Carbon content is not the measure of performance or value. Performance is the measure of performance, and that can't be quantified, measured, or rated, but only in an elementary, limited, and incomplete way. In the same idea, knives are not simply the type of blade steel; they consist of treatment and condition of the steel, grind geometry, fittings, balance, fit, finish, handles, sheaths and accessories. How do you chart that?
  6. Carbon content is not the measure of value. A 1095 blade pattern welded with nickel and hot blued can be striking and beautiful, and of higher value in a finished knife than a media-blasted ATS-34 blade. A fully engraved blade of 440C can be higher in value than all of the other steels if they are not engraved. Charts like this can not quantify value in any sense of the word.

From this, you can see by only looking at one singular component (percentage of carbon by weight), an overall determination cannot be made with a simple bar graph. Yet, over and over, this is how people rate things. Could it be that they are so limited in their mind that they can only consider one singular aspect at a time? This is not how steels are measured, rated, or gauged on performance criteria. Clearly put, the relationship of iron, carbon, and the alloy set is synergistic, with the performance of the whole being greater than the individual elements, in strength, hardness, wear resistance, heat resistance, corrosion resistance, and toughness, when properly processed. And the geometry and processing is completely ignored. Remember, I'm only detailing the steel, and there is so, so much more to every knife!

The Comparagraph

If the simple bar chart is not the determinant factor of knife performance, usefulness, or value, what does this mean for the "comparagraph?" Hold onto your hat, because the comparagraph is the worst, most ridiculous, most deceiving, corrupt, and disgusting advertising and sales vehicle devised by man. Wow!

"Really, Jay?" you ask, "Isn't this a simple device to make basic comparisons?"

No. This is a contrivance created for one purpose only: to paint a particular item in a good light for the purpose of sales. It's directed at low-information readers, people who can't be bothered with actual numbers that mean things. Let's get into this, because it's clear that we not only need to stop limited graphs in our discussions of knives and steels, but we also need to call out the comparagraph for what it is, and force companies to stop using this deceiving contrivance to try to sell something. There are much better ways to describe steels, performance, and knives than a vague, deceptive, and made-up graphic. Read on, and you'll see what I mean.

The made-up, false, contrived and deceptive advertising vehicle, the Comparagraph

If you look up the word "comparagraph," you'll find that there is no such thing, apart from documents using them and detailed advertising and promotional textbooks describing how to manipulate the minds of buyers by using a comparagraph ("Competitive Intelligence Review in Business Management and Advertising"). Seriously, these are atrocious things and using them screams out "advertising ploy based on constructed deception." In a way, they're worse than lies. At least lies are outright untruths, and may exist because of ignorance. A comparagraph is constructed solely for the purpose of directed deception, by omission, arrangement, selection, and visual drama.

A comparagraph has all of the faults and shortcomings that a bar graph has listed above: lack of wide specific representation, exaggerated spread of range for more dramatic display, no information on specific properties and their interactions in the entire alloy, no actual performance data, and no actual value data. This is bad enough, but it gets much worse:

How to identify a comparagraph and its fallacies
  1. Some companies actually use the word, "comparagraph," as if it's a logical, scientific device, when no scientific or research agency or source uses these, ever! Yes, it's a big, official-sounding word, and they actually title them "comparagraph." When you see this, you need to immediately know that this is amateur advertising 101, meant to lure you into thinking that Steel 5 is superior to all the other steels listed, and amazingly, this is the very steel that they are selling! Some of these actually use the phrase "relative value." You'll also see "wear resistance," "corrosion resistance," and even comparagraphs that combine several factors to direct your thinking in wider, more convincing persuasions.
  2. The comparagraph does not have any numbers on the Y-axis, like a graph does. It's not measuring anything, it's just comparing. If it's not measuring anything, then what it represents is entirely subjective, existing in the minds of whoever designed the fake graph in the drawing program. Why chart something that is not actually measured? Why not then, chart something like love, since that isn't numerically measured either? I love Steel 5 because it has the highest bar in the chart. I'm very suspicious of Steel 1; it lacks love.
  3. The comparagraph often does not have an actual grid, like I've included on this example. It's just a white space in the background, because, since there are no numerical values, an actual grid is not necessary, since nothing is actually being measured! Just remember that the grid on a comparagraph is optional, and the heights of the bars are arbitrary and subjective. Otherwise, the grid would be accompanied by numerical values.
  4. Like the graph above, the condition of the various steels are not identified. I've seen this a lot, particularly in comparisons of 440C to vanadium-bearing powder metal steels. The chart will compare corrosion resistance and claim that their steel is superior to 440C. But what they don't tell you (either in a actual graph, accompanying text, or the fake graph called a comparagraph) is that their steels can not be mirror polished, so they will never be as corrosion-resistant as a mirror polished 440C stainless steel blade. They also never detail the condition of the steels or the heat treatment used. Did you know that deep and sophisticated cryogenic treatment of 440C can dramatically increase the corrosion resistance and asperity? So you have to wonder, are the various steels in annealed and spheroidized condition, conventionally heat-treated, or cryogenically heat-treated? What process was used for this subjective and limited determination of "comparison?" You'll never know, and they'll hope you just assume that everything is treated the same, even though vastly different treatment regimes are required for different types of steels!
  5. The person creating the comparagraph is the one who is responsible for the false contrivance document that uses them. Since they are the person giving their subjective opinion on the graph, that person should be clearly and completely identified by their name, their standing in the industry, and follow with a complete curriculum vitae of their education, their experience, and their profession. They are not just graphics people working in the advertising department, are they?
  6. The chart or graph may be called something else, but this does not excuse the purpose or misleading, non-informative nature of the thing. Here's a section from an email I received from a guy who called one of these a "semiquantitive summary," from my Funny Emails Page 5.

By now you should be able to clearly see and identify the problem and issues with both incomplete graphs and subjective, made-up fake comparagraphs. Now that you have this distinction, you'll realize that the reason they are created is that someone is trying to sell an idea or product. That's it; that's all they are.

You'll never be taken in by them again, and others who read this and are educated will also know the folly of singular an subjective comparisons. You'll be able to laugh together at the steel companies, advertisers, dealers, and sales companies that use them; you'll be able to dismiss buying guide writers, forum posters, or posers who claim that these documents are of some value, when clearly they are not.

So where do you go to get the real information? Who is it that has the scoop on steel performance? I mention steel performance because these are mainly where both types of advertising presentation occurs. And there is so much more to knives than just the blade steel.

The best places to get information on various steel performance, use, and value are:

  1. For steels: texts on metallurgy, engineering, steel alloys, and use. These are books and they are not free; they are not printed in complete and available on the internet. Modern steel alloys can be quite complicated, and metallurgists and engineers have written many books on the subjects, available though steel knowledge sources, like the AISI, ASTM, and ASM. You will pay for these texts; few of them cost less than $100.00 US each, and many cost more than $1,000.00 per read. This is because the people who write them are professionals, and they need to be paid for their knowledge. They support entire machining tool trades and metals industries, and these are the journals and documents that professionals use in steel determinations.
  2. For steels: organizational presentations and research: these, like the texts above, are available for a subscriber fee for professionals. If you put in your search engine the words: "Steel Related Trade Associations Links" you will see hundreds of these, and they are where professionals go to research, learn the latest trades and science, use and applications. Organizations like the American Iron and Steel Institute, the American Foundrymen's Society, the Civil Engineering Research Foundation, the Metal Powder Industries Federation, the National Society for Professional Engineers, the Precision Metalforming Association, and countless others are evolving sources of information, contacts, and knowledge.
  3. For Steels: Academic research is the cutting edge of facts. You'll have to learn how to navigate through the truly advanced scientific data, but much of it is available, for free, on the web. Scholars publish dissertations, theses, documents, research, and results online. When they do use actual graphs, they detail the context, treatment, position, result, and conclusions with peer-reviewed details. Some of the best, most complete and analytical information presented is here, but you'll have to dig to find it.
  4. Other knifemakers and fraternal organizations: There are knife organizations: the Professional Knifemakers Association, the Knifemaker's Guild, and the American Bladesmith Society, but none of them is a research organization. Instead, they are fraternal organizations mostly based in craft and knife shows. The American Bladesmith Society does try to educate, and lists education as one of it's main goals, however, they promote hand-forging, which is time-honored craft practice. It is not the state of the art in high alloy steels and high performance knives, due to the limitations of the process. They claim that their goal is to "revive the hand-forged knife." This comment alone should tell you that the hand-forging of knives is an antiquated craft, since it needs "reviving," and is not the state of the art in performance and professional-grade knives. Remember, knives are tools first, and works of art second. The highest evolution of the tooling trade exists in advanced materials, alloys, treatment and application. The very top critical users of knives in the world who depend on them for their safety do not rely upon pattern welded damascus or differentially hardened or tempered steels. They also don't use knives with fish-skin handles wrapped with silk cord, knives with a hammered and scarred finish, and knives with soft bamboo (grass) or porous deer-horn handles.
  5. For knives overall: There are actually very few bona fide, logical resources for knife design, performance, value, use, and applications that are not sales-directed. This is why I've published so much on this website. I don't need to sell everyone a knife; what you are reading is not a sales ploy; it's an educational effort. It's a service to my knife community to bring professional ideas and concepts to our trade. Feel free to learn as much as you can here, for free. Read also what other knifemakers have written, to get an idea of who is making what and why. The internet continues to grow, and more and more people are discovering and uncovering the information and science of knives: from blade to fittings, from handle to sheath, from art to performance.

Just don't be hoodwinked by ridiculous, limited, and fake graphs designed to sell a product.

Page Topics

A Professional Counterterrorism Knife and Assembly:
"Hooded Warrior" (Shadow Line) reverse side view in 440C high chromium stainless steel blade, 304 stainless steel bolsters, black G10 fiberglass/epoxy composite handle, locking kydex, anodized aluminum, stainless steel sheath
More about this "Hooded Warrior"

Knife Lobbying Organization Sites

It's not surprising to find this type of site in searching for the best knife information, and for the most part, the people who operate these sites have good intentions. However, when claiming to be a source of legal, authoritative information, one needs to be very careful about what is presented as "fact," particularly when it's easy enough to determine laws as each state has them posted, by statute, publically on the internet.

I'm not trying to be difficult, nor am I trying to be a source of trouble and discontent. What I am doing is making sure that laws, statutes, and what constitutes criminal behavior is clearly and accurately represented. When an organization claims that it is the source of official trade information, and claims its goal is to educate, the general idea is that information presented there is correct. My point in exposing this is that this particular organization was not only misrepresenting the law, but they initially refused to consider that they were wrong, sending me a response that seemed to try to discourage the truth!

Thanks for taking the time to read this; it's a bit lengthy, but illustrates why this type of non-profit knife lobbying organization is clearly not the source of the best knife information.

Here's a copy of an email I sent to the "American Knife and Tool Institute" (AKTI). This is a a non-profit 501 (C)(6). C6 non-profits are classified in the IRS code as "business leagues, chambers of commerce, boards of trade, and similar organizations."

The IRS goes on to define in the 501 (C) (6) regulations:

"Reg. 1.501(c)(6)-l defines a business league as an association of persons having a common business interest, whose purpose is to promote the common business interest and not to engage in a regular business of a kind ordinarily carried on for profit. Its activities are directed to the improvement of business conditions of one or more lines of business rather than the performance of particular services for individual persons."

The AKTI claims to "Educate, Promote, and Inform." They receive their money through donations, auctions, and memberships, and they do not pay taxes as they are a non-profit. they are a lobbying organization, and the 501 (C) (6) status allows them unlimited spending on lobbying efforts.

It's probably important to know that nearly every one of their "Board of Regents" is a President, CEO, or manager of a factory knife company. With that, one might suspect that the individual knifemaker who makes handmade and custom knives is not their source of concern or focus. Simply put, factory knives are not the best knives, and this organization is made up of factory knife interests. By the time you're done reading this section, you might wonder how these companies could be participants selling prohibited knives, at least in the state of New Mexico. Are they breaking the law outright? Are they just innocent manufacturers whose products are distributed and sold illegally in New Mexico? Interesting, isn't it?

It's great to read that Improvement of business conditions in the field of knives is a positive goal, so imagine my surprise when I found misrepresentations on the AKTI website. In the interest of clarity, and as a professional, I wrote them:

To the AKTI, from Jay Fisher:

On your definitions page, you claim:

"Comments on Daggers"
"A substantial numberof
[sic] American jurisdictions prohibit the possession or carrying of daggers. Among those states are Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico and Iowa. However, there is no rational explanation as to why governments should prohibit daggers. Moreover, typically there is no guidance as to whether any given object is or is not a dagger. The California statutory definition is illustrative."

Just so you know, New Mexico is an open carry state, and there are absolutely NO laws prohibiting the possession or carrying of daggers. In fact, anyone can carry any type of edged weapon they please, in public places as long as one condition is met: it is not concealed.

New Mexico prohibits carry of any knife capable of injury from being carried concealed. If you have it in the open, firearms, knives, clubs, pipes, baseball bats: whatever one pleases can be openly carried on public property. And there is NO specific prohibition of daggers anywhere in our state. If you know of some law that has come up specifically about daggers, please do cite the actual statute. In fact, since your effort seems to be knife laws, it would be reasonable to cite every statute number in every place where comments like this are made. Then, there will be no confusion.

I can only guess that New Mexico's Criminal Code definition of "Deadly Weapon" may have been what was considered by whoever wrote this a "Prohibition." But please be clear. A definition of a deadly weapon is NOT a prohibition.

It's entirely normal and regular to see hikers, walkers, and runners armed in New Mexico with deadly weapons (including firearms) because we are an open carry state. You might ask why they are armed, and you'll get a lot of answers, but in my small town neighborhood, it's usually because of Pit Bull Terriers running loose that have been known to attack people.

The reason that I'm writing you is that I'm a professional knife-maker, and well-aware of statutes and limitations in our state, New Mexico. I'm not familiar with every other state's laws. If you make the claim that daggers are prohibited, you may open yourself up for some liability, as businesses like mine sell daggers regularly. This misinformation could be seen to prevent dagger sales, as people who read it may think it is the truth, and shop elsewhere, which hurts local businesses.

Since this is important, you may want to revisit the comments that are made about other states. Misrepresentation is a serious legal concern. You claim your goal is to educate, but by making a false claim, people who wish to purchase specific types of knives in states that do not actually have any kind of prohibition on ownership and carry (like New Mexico) are discouraged from buying these knives, hurting knife businesses of every kind.

Again, if there is some new restrictive law I don't know about, please do cite the statute. The police, military, counter-terrorism, and legal professionals who I make daggers for deserve the truth!

Thank you for your attention to this matter,

Jay Fisher

It took a while to hear back from this organization. Here is their response, from their Executive Director:

Mr. Fisher,
Thank you for taking the time and effort to express your concern with the information provided on our website.

I have asked two additional knife knowledgeable attorneys to review the New Mexico law and they concur that:

The introduction to the "dagger" definition does list states where there is statutory mention which restricts daggers, and New Mexico is one of them. It has a deadly weapon statute, 30-1-12, that provides among other things that daggers are a deadly weapon. NM statute 30-7-2 restricts how daggers may be carried.

The set of knife laws regarding New Mexico are spelled out on our website at https://www.akti.org/state-knife-laws/new-mexico/ and lists both of those statutes.

While common practice may differ, our effort is to present the knife law.

This is absolutely incorrect, and parses out two separate and distinct statutes in our state. One is about prohibitions and another is about deadly weapons, and the two are not the same. There is no "restriction" on daggers, and the information they listed on their site was not the truth. Why the Executive Director at the AKTI decided to respond by throwing in "additional knife knowledgeable attorneys," is a guess, since no actual attorney would use such a vague term as a "statutory mention." This is not legal language and not the law.

You can clearly see the issue in my response:

Hello; thanks for responding.

My legal authorities have agreed that your website statement is incorrect. Please remember, New Mexico is an “Open Carry” state, with no prohibitions on carrying any weapon on nearly all public property, as long as it is not CONCEALED.

Please read this carefully; while the wording may seem a bit ambiguous, carefully examining the sentence of the actual statute §30-7-2 will make it very clear. If you read it very fast, you may miss the word, or not apply it to the second phrase in the sentence. Here is the first part of the statute:

§30-7-2, Part A. Unlawful carrying of a deadly weapon consists of carrying a concealed loaded firearm or any other type of deadly weapon anywhere, except in the following cases:

The statute goes on to list the exceptions, but that is not the issue; the sentence  in part A is the issue. Please look carefully at the word “concealed.” The word “concealed” applies to everything that follows it, in proper grammatical form. That means that the carrying of a deadly weapon is unlawful if it is CONCEALED. It’s really very simple. Whoever you have consulted has skimmed over this and not read it, or perhaps missed that bit of adjective placement that frankly, makes it clear that we are an open carry state! I assume your reference person is not from New Mexico and does not practice in New Mexico. Ask any New Mexico lawyer, law enforcement officer, attorney, or judge, and you’ll know instantly we are and always have been an open carry state.

For further clarity, this is from our New Mexico State Constitution, Bill of Rights, Article II, Section 6:

“No law shall abridge the right of the citizen to keep and bear arms for security and defense, for lawful hunting and recreational use and for other lawful purposes, but nothing herein shall be held to permit the carrying of concealed weapons.”

Note again the use and placement of the word, “concealed.” And knives are currently considered arms. Clearly, we even have a bill of rights in place ensuring that we can carry arms for security and defense, as long as they are not concealed. This is very clear.

Even if you insist (incorrectly) that open carry does not exist in New Mexico, you have ignored the first part of your comment on your website:

"Comments on Daggers"
"A substantial numberof
[sic] American jurisdictions prohibit the possession or carrying of daggers. Among those states are Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico and Iowa.

In this statement the AKTI website claims that daggers are prohibited from possession! This is incorrect. Our statute is very clear on what is prohibited from possession, and that is all spring, gravity, auto, or assisted opening knives including Balisongs and butterfly knives. Daggers are not, nor have ever been prohibited from possession. They are not mentioned in the prohibition law which is:

NM §30-7-8. Unlawful possession of switchblades.

Unlawful possession of switchblades consists of any person, either manufacturing, causing to be manufactured, possessing, displaying, offering, selling, lending, giving away or purchasing any knife which has a blade which opens automatically by hand pressure applied to a button, spring or other device in the handle of the knife, or any knife having a blade which opens or falls or is ejected into position by the force of gravity or by any outward or centrifugal thrust or movement.

For the AKTI, this is a more concerning law. In our state, you can find auto knives for sale everywhere, including in Wal-Mart! This is a strange, unusual practice, and I would think that the AKTI resources would be better served correctly reporting that laws that are overly restrictive to knives are the problem, and this one is ignored, statewide. This is the real issue here in New Mexico; laws are created and not enforced. Presenting this on your website might illustrate how convoluted and confused our treatment of knives is (by type of pivot). I do agree that knife laws need close examination and modernizing; I hope that this is our goal from the standpoint of a professional knifemaker and knife law organization.

I’ll add once more that I believe it’s extremely important to clarify the comment on the AKTI website. Incorrectly claiming that daggers are prohibited from possession or carry could be seen as a litigious claim. People who read the AKTI website would think that daggers could not be made, purchased, possessed or carried in New Mexico, and this would directly impact the few knifemakers here in our state that rely upon dagger creation and sales as part of our business. It’s bad enough that we have an actual restriction on auto, gravity, and butterfly knives; please do not make this worse than it already is! I would like to recommend the AKTI for knife-related information, but currently, making misstatements shows a lack of integrity.

Thanks again,

Jay Fisher

The laws in New Mexico are very clear, and fairly simple. All I've really done here is to cite our actual laws, followed by why misrepresenting them is damaging to the very businesses (knifemakers) that the AKTI claims to support! Of course, there is not one actual knifemaker sitting on their board of regents, they are all knife manufacturer CEOs. The head of a knife manufacturing company is not a knifemaker; he is a CEO or manager.

After a bit of a delay, this was their response:


I asked for an additional review and we have made some changes to the introduction regarding daggers and also change to the discussion on dirks that we had been working on.

Thank you

The entire definition string for daggers was replaced on the AKTI website with a long string of text citing California laws, restrictions, cases, and applications. There is no mention of New Mexico, or the other states they listed in the original claim. Truly, California laws can be restricting and confusing, but they have nothing to do with New Mexico. Thankfully, the AKTI had removed the misleading and incorrect comments from their website. I have no idea if what the AKTI website claims about California laws or any other state's laws is correct, or if it is just as wrong as what they claimed about New Mexico. I am not in the business of going through their website line by line, but I am concerned when my own state's laws are misrepresented, since it affects my business, profession, and career.

If you are a knife maker, knife seller, or knife owner, beware of this website. The AKTI is not the source of the best knife information. After this episode, I discovered they made the same incorrect claim about stilettos in New Mexico on their website...sigh. I wrote them again; they simply pulled the New Mexico name from their string of text.

Check out your own state laws, by statute, in your own state's website or legal websites that simply cite existing state laws. Laws do change periodically, but for the most part, it's very easy to find out what laws apply in every location in our country. That's the best knife information I can offer!

Page Topics

Not spring or gravity operated, therefore legal in New Mexico:
"Sadr" linerlock folding knife, obverse side view in 440c high chromium cryogenically treated stainless steel blade, hand-engraved 304 stainless steel bolsters, anodized 6AL4V titanium liners, Biggs Jasper Gemstone handle scales, leather pouch sheath with stainless steel snap
More about this "Sadr" folding knife

Why me, and why now?

You are reading the largest and most detailed website by any living knifemaker in the world.

I've often asked myself why I'm compelled to write so much about knives, and even more curious is my desire to make them! This is something that my Maker built into me, and sharing all of it seems important. If there were other sources that I could simply refer to, and a place I could send you, the person who is reading this, I would, but there is not any central source or clearinghouse for detailed, concise, and truly descriptive information about modern handmade knives, anywhere. Consequently, you are reading the largest and most detailed website by any living knifemaker in the world, and it's taken two decades on the internet to build it. If you know of any other singular knifemaker who offers so much information about modern handmade knives, please do contact me and let me know; he and I will have lots to talk about!

Like you, I'm interested in knives, intensely so, and I try to picture what you as a reader might value, the questions you may have, through my own eyes. Some of these are easily seen in the search engine metrics where I can actually read the query that Google uses to send people to my web site. When I started this profession, I had many of the same questions, not specifically related to the making of a knife, but details about knives in general. While there is a lot of information about knives today, most of it is piecemeal, biased, based on hearsay or myths, is anecdotal, or is flatly incorrect. To find answers, you'll have to do a lot of research, and then sift out the chaff to come to a clear understanding of the subject. What do I mean?

If you study knives, you'll quickly find out that most of the modern conversation about knives is centered on the blade. Not the blade shape, style, function, finish, or longevity, but on the steel type alone. Forums, bulletin boards, discussion topics, and advertising for knife sales is heavily slanted towards the steel type, and little else. The steel is the focus, the center, the be-all, end-all to knife value, it seems. Would it surprise you to know that this is simply not true, not even close? Many steels cut extremely well, and make great knife blades; I use over a dozen types myself. Each one has its own advantages and limitations, each one has a place in our modern world of metals. Sadly, when I read some of this commentary about blade steels, it is flatly incorrect. Sadder still is the practice of repeating misinformation to others, particularly new makers, young makers, and the public interested in knives.

The number one bit of misinformation or misguidance in discussing blade steels is the belief that the best performing and most highly valued knife blade steels are forged on an anvil in the open air. This is a practice that is many centuries old, is antiquated and, by necessity, uses low alloy, lower performing steels. The public, and worse, media (television and video) prefers the highly visual appearance of hot metal and sparks flying. I suppose this hearkens back to our prehistory, when staring into the fascinating light of a warm fire after a meal made us feel satisfied and fulfilled. Fire and sparks have a warm appeal; work is being done, heat is positive and reassuring. The visual experience of striking and heat together is powerful. Not so fascinating is an electronically controlled metal box, with a regulated and specific atmosphere, accurately applying heat in strictly managed circumstances, ordered and precise, hotter than any glowing steel on an anvil, doing the job, out of sight. Yet this is how the very, very best blades are made in our industrial, technological world.

The reality lies in the question; would you rather have a nice-looking campfire warming your home or a high-efficiency modern furnace? Sure the burning wood looks nice, but the smoke, the heat going up the chimney, the ashes, the draft... yet there is still a desire for home fireplaces. This is how I see hand-forged knife blades. It's a satisfying endeavor; I've done it myself in the past, but it makes a hugely inferior knife blade, particularly when measured against high alloy hypereutectoid and stainless tool steels, not to mention steels made and refined using vacuum induction melting, electro slag re-melting under pressure, and powder metal technology. You'll read on this website over and over that there are no blacksmiths in any machine shop, no one is hand-forging tool parts, pieces, and components, and you wouldn't want a hand-forged knee replacement, scalpel, or medical instrument that is not corrosion resistant or stainless steel. You wouldn't want a hand-forged turbine shaft on the aircraft you are flying, and you wouldn't want a hand-forged crankshaft in your car's engine. Yet, year after year, I'm contacted by media and production representatives hoping for a new knifemaking show, based on a guy hammering metal and sparks flying, with a lot of conflict, argument, hopeless competition, and embarrassment. The media and production firms are not interested in seeing modern, controlled atmosphere furnaces, cryogenic processers, and machine grinding techniques, even if all done by hand, because, like fireworks on the fourth of July, it's all about the visual appeal and the quick optic bite.

The true conflict with reality is brought to light when a professional knife user or collector of the finest handmade knives simply wants the best blade possible. If he reads and studies and researches his tools, he quickly finds out that the very best steels made today are available to him, but they are not easily and simply forged, ground, and finished. This is direct contradiction with the popular image of knives and knifemaking, particularly when fueled with the mystical entertainment media that fantasizes knives, swords, daggers, and cutting tools and weapons. This direct conflict is one of the reasons I am determined to share these truths, so that people who want the very best are educated as to what is available.

That's just the blade, and there is so much more to every single knife! What about handles, fittings, sheaths, and accessories?

This is why I'm compelled to share what my clients, what the truly interested person wants and needs to know about modern handmade knives. The people who read these pages don't need to buy from me (chances are that they won't, since I'm limiting my work and am years in backorders), but they do deserve to know some clear realities about knives from the perspective of someone who is and has been in the field for decades. They can choose to ignore it, follow up with research, or embrace any part of it; the important thing is that it's available to read, and that is something that didn't exist when I started in this field, and doesn't exist in most other knife domains. You deserve the right to consider it, and I thank you for your interest in the field I love.

Now the question of why me.. Please understand that I've been making and selling knives for a very long time. I made my first knife in 1979, sold my first in 1980, made knives as a part time knifemaker until 1988, when I went full time into knifemaking as a professional knifemaker. This is and has been my sole source of income for decades, and I've made and sold thousands of knives in my career. Many of these were made with the direct input of the professional knife user, for the most serious of knife use (in combat, rescue, and counterterrorism). Many were made for professional knife users, restaurant chefs, game outfitters, ranchers, horsemen, and guides. Many were made for collection and use, and all have maintained or increased their value over time. Every single knife I made was made by hand, one part at a time, and nothing has been farmed out, outsourced, or premade, in any way. I've made every knife to the best of my ability, using the best processes and highest potential my clients could afford.

You could say that my experience has been the same as other full time professional knifemakers, though you would be hard-pressed to find very many of them. It's a rare art, trade, craft, and science, no matter how many hobbyists try it on. One thing that I try to excel in is constant improvement of my work, skills, knowledge, and application in my field. Most established makers simply reach a certain level and make repetitive works. I'm constantly researching, learning, growing, and presenting, like the very text you are reading now.

This is why I believe I am obligated, am determined, and am compelled to share with you what I know about my field. I know of no one else who is driven to educate and explain this way, so if I don't do it, who will?

Page Topics

"Pallene" khukri, obverse side view in CPM154CM High molybdenum powder metal technology stainless tool steel blade, hand engraved, with hand-engraved 304 stainless steel bolsters, Brecciated Jasper gemstone  handle, hand-carved leather sheath inlaid with rayskin, hand-cast silicon bronze and Imbuya hardwood stand and Paradiso Classico Granite base
More about Pallene

Facts, Farce, and Fun

I love facts. Distinguishing the truth when there is so much misinformation, so many ridiculous claims and farcical knife presentation can be difficult, because we live in a world that generally knows very little about knives. This is silly, because we live in the greatest age of information and record that has ever existed in mankind, and the knife has been made longer than any other instrument in history!

For some reason, people get hoodwinked, confused, or buy the myth and mystical perceptions of the science of materials. They've seen references to the magical power of stones, so it must be true, right? They've seen red-hot knife blades hammered in some crude television contest of forging that was state of the art in the early 1800s, so this must be the way the best knives are made, right? How sad. By the way, where is the contest for the best hand-forged turbine blade? The best hand-forged ball bearing, the best hand-forged valve seat or helicopter gear? Why is there no blacksmith in any machine shop?

Simply put, the very best modern knives are a product of modern materials, modern machining, modern processing, and modern outfitting and accessory creation.

In previous sections on this page, I mentioned that the search for the best knife information is mainly about people and businesses selling things. In order to prove my assertion that much of what is presented is biased, incorrect, misunderstanding or simply lies, in this section I'll actually present their very comments, followed by some clarity so that you can judge for yourself the absurdity and the very funny statements. You might wonder why these entities (mostly knife dealers) can't or won't offer viable, coherent, and logical modern information about knives, when I, as a single knifemaker, can offer you hundreds of pages of just such information. Could it be that they really don't care about the truth in knives, but only about the minimum information to paint their offerings in a positive light and make the sale?

One more important point: as I've stated before on this site, there is a propensity to focus on the steel type as the end-all, be-all center of knife performance, use, and value. This can be humorous because most of these writers (yes, for what it's worth, they are advertisement writers) know next to nothing about metallurgy and the highly specialized field of tool and die steels. They do this for several reasons, and they can cherry-pick the best properties presented by steel sales companies in their data sheets to repeat. No one is an expert on handles, fittings are rarely mentioned, sheaths are a final and uncomfortable subject, and accessories are never mentioned at all. From my "Blades" page:

Some wisdom:
Look, there are many good knife steels out there. When sites and discussions go on and on about steel types and properties, ad nauseam, they are often ignoring balance, fit, finish, geometry, accessories, service, and design. Don't get distracted by steel property details! The steel is just the start of the knife, not the whole. If it were, every knife maker in the world would be out of business, not buried in orders and very expensive projects. When you see this type of site, ask to see their knives. That will tell you a lot!

I rarley use any of their names; you don't need that, and I won't contribute to this shame. Above all, please keep your sense of humor, otherwise you might cry when you realize that people actually believe unreasonable and sometimes bizarre things.

Claim: "Hardness in knife steels is often referred to as strength"
No, wrong. Harness is hardness, or the resistance to penetration, measured by a hardness testing device. Strength is a generalized concept, consisting of many different engineering and metallurgical factors. Something may be very strong and very hard, or it may be very strong and not hard. Strength is often referred to when discussing toughness, and its relationship to ductility. More about strength, hardness, toughness, and ductility at this bookmark on the "Blades" page.
Claim: "What we do know is the harder the steel the less tough it’s likely to be."
This is a clear educational moment that demonstrates the ignorance of the person who wrote this. Modern steels can be both hard and tough, and this very statement is a gross generalization based on limited information. The key word here is "likely." This shows that the writer is trying to assign the concept that "hard blades are brittle blades" which is a persistent concept based in the fact that early and low alloy steels (carbon steels) can't be both hard and tough, so must be tough so they don't break. It would surprise this writer to know that modern, high alloy, hypereutectoid steels can be both hard and tough. It might also surprise him to know that early steels, the steels made in 17th century India, and in 16th century Japan were both hard and tough, or they wouldn't have been used to make swords!
Claim: "Note that a high resistance to corrosion does involve a sacrifice in the overall edge performance."
This is an outright lie. The inclusion of chromium in high alloy stainless steels improves the steel completely: it improves wear resistance, toughness, corrosion resistance and strength overall. Otherwise high alloy steels wouldn't be used to make corrosion resistant forming dies, cutting tools, and machining metals. The person who wrote this is living in the 1920s, when stainless steels were at their infancy, and he persistently sticks to his false claim. It's repeated a lot in the world of ignorant knife writers. Why do you think that the very best, highest performing tool and die alloys are also corrosion resistant? High alloy stainless steels outperform carbon steels (non-stainless) in every conceivable way! Maybe he means low alloy stainless steels used to make knives by foreign knife manufacturers, but that is not the claim. Read more about this stubborn, foolish idea on the section "Carbon steel vs. Stainless Steel" on the Blades page.
Claim: "Steels that are capable of forming Martensite are called martensitic steels"
No, not correct. All steels that contain carbon (uhh, all steels contain carbon; that is what distinguishes them from iron), can form martensite if the conditions are right. Even materials that are not steel have martensitic conversion properties! If any steel has enough carbon and can be heated to its austenitizing temperature, and quenched fast enough at the correct rate, it can form martensite. There is only one group of steels that are "called" or identified as "martensitic." This is Martensitic Stainless Steel, a classification of stainless steel that differs from Austenitic Stainless Steel or Ferritic Stainless Steel. By the way, there is no classification of any steel that is simply "Martensitic Steel." More about martensite formation and steel allotropes on my "Heat Treating and Cryogenic Processing of Knife Blade Steels" page.
Claim: "It’s worthwhile to consider investing in a ‘steel’, a rod for straightening the blade."
If your blade is bent, you need to throw it in the trash. No knife blade should be so soft that it can bend! This is one of the most persistent failures in modern knife manufacture and use. A weak, soft, wobbly blade, (often made with low alloy 420 stainless steel) has come to the chef from, well, say, China. The chef uses it and the edge (and entire knife) is so soft that it bends and dulls. So he keeps on hand a metal or ceramic rod to whip along the edge, tuning it up. It makes him look like a chef, but what it says to the professional knifemaker is that his knife is a piece of junk! Read more about steels, chef's knives, and this persistent failure of knives on my "Chef's Knives" page.
Claim: "Real combat knives sold to real military types tend to have blade lengths of between four and six inches or are smaller, more quickly deployed karambits."
Sorry, this guy has read too many knife forums postings and "fighting knife" descriptions from mall ninjas. If you want to know what real combat knives are, I encourage you to look over real combat knives on my "Tactical Combat Knives" page and my "Counterterrorism Knives" page. Very few people have access to knives that are actually used for real combat nowadays, so guys make claims based on their own exposure to television, movies, and media. Guys who write like this know nothing of actual knife defensive and tactical use. For clarity, what size of knives are used for combat? Whatever the counterterrorism, military, law enforcement, or PSD and tactical team wants, that's what, and it's rarely, if ever, a karambit. And the sizes are all over the map. It would surprise this fellow to know that I've actually made combat swords that have seen action in the theatre of real knife use...war.
Claim: "The tank should protrude from the rear of the handle, creating a striking surface."
A little careful proofreading here would be beneficial, especially since this is from the search result of the inquiry "Best Knife Information." I'm guessing he meant to write "tang," which is the metal part of the knife blade that extends under the handle. It's important to know that a knife is not a hammer, but guys like this also use knives to split wood, like an axe. If you're going to baton or process firewood with your knife, I'd suggest a cheap machete or even better, a hatchet. These will do a much better job because, quite simply, they are designed to process brush and wood... sigh. There is a persistent belief among "outdoorsmen" that a knife used outdoors should be large enough to chop wood. If you need to start a fire, it's easier to simply gather twigs and small branches in a survival situation. You can get these nice and dry even in a rainstorm by snapping them off from the underside of trees where they are protected. Pile them up in a carefully constructed fire, and use forest floor litter, leaves, or even conifer needles for the initial source. When you need to go really, really big with a bonfire, you should not be in the forest. You should be at a homecoming game with a huge pile of pallets, the drill team waving flags, and cheerleaders leaping into the sky. Seriously, I know of no outfitter, professional or experienced hunter, hiker, or knowledgeable outdoorsman who insists on whacking on logs and big branches and building a towering inferno. A huge campfire is a danger and a sign of an inexperienced person. But then, where would you use your huge, overbearing, colossal honking knife? And really, how much of a man are you with a little knife? This goes hand-in-hand with childish "cutting competitions" where a line of plastic water bottles is hacked and chopped, a two-by-four is clubbed in half, or an oversize hawser of a rope is whaled in two by a machete-sized "knife." I don't know how many campers or outdoorsmen come across a row of plastic bottles that are blocking their path, or discover a pine two-by-four aggressively lurking behind a tree. And really, where do you actually find a rope anywhere with a two-inch diameter? Only on large ships, so maybe it's the job of the hacking machete knife to set them free from the dock. Back to the claim; the knife butt is not a hammer. It's not designed as a hammer, a hammer has a substantial weight in the head and is supported by a strong, resilient handle (like the back part of a hatchet head). A full tang knife will have a tapered or milled tang that reduces the strength of the tang overall, and a hidden tang knife will have a small, threaded rod holding on the pommel. Neither of these geometries is designed as a hammer. More about knife anatomy on the Best Knife Anatomy Page on the Internet.
Claim: "B****R******.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com."
This is an actual statement on one of the sites. Is there any doubt that these are merely advertising vehicles? The site is constructed by a man who does not use his whole name, and is, in effect, anonymous. He has no experience in making knives, knows nothing of knife design, construction, history, or application, yet claims to "review" knives. The site is clearly created to steer people to Amazon, and the site builder gets a kickback from this.
Claim: "Stainless steel is an alloy of iron, approximately 10–15% chromium, possibly nickel, and molybdenum, with only a small amount of carbon"
Boy, oh boy. This is from a description of kitchen knives in Wikipedia, and it's wrong, wrong, wrong. Stainless steel is any steel that has aqueous corrosion resistance due to the inclusion of chromium greater than 12%. This is metallurgical science. Chromium amount does not stop at 15%, and whoever wrote this has never heard of 440A, 440B, 440C, CTS-XHP, N360, or many other stainless steels that all have significantly more chromium than 15%! All of these steels I identified make great kitchen knives, some of the very best. And the phrase, "with only a small amount of carbon" is also a foolish comment. Most of these alloys have huge amounts of carbon, in the hypereutectoid range of more than 0.8%. In effect they all have high carbon. To generalize stainless tool steels this way is why Wikipedia is NOT the source of viable information, as whoever wrote this continues the myth of "stainless steel is all bad," started in the early 20th century and promoted by carbon steel enthusiasts. Wiki is NOT your friend; it's written in open source, anonymous format, non-professional, non-peer reviewed casual beliefs.
Claim: "D2 ... though technically not a stainless steel (the threshold for that designation requires 14% chromium, and D2 usually has 12%),
Again, a foolish mistake. Scientific classification of stainless steels is any steel that has aqueous corrosion resistance at 12%. D2 is a stainless steel; it has aqueous corrosion resistance. This is defined in all steel references by ASM, ANSI, AISI, ASTM, and all engineering and metallurgical sources. D2 is not as corrosion-resistant as 440C (which has 17 percent chromium), and will stain if you leave orange juice or blood on it. But getting it wet does not make it rust like carbon steel or non-stainless steels. The "threshold" comment is simply wrong. More about this at "D2: Stainless or Not?"
Claim: "Need a blade that is almost guaranteed never to rust? Then use S30V steel."
Simpletons commenting on complexities: Wrong. There is no knife blade steel that is "almost" guaranteed never to rust. This is the first mistake. There are some extremely corrosion resistant steels, and N360, a nitrogen stainless steel is about the most corrosion-resistant you can get. Read more about N360 here. Second, the person who wrote this recommends S30V. By the way, I'm guessing he means CPMS30V a particle metal steel manufactured by Crucible Steel®. CPMS30V is a great steel, and with 14% chromium is a stainless steel. This is far and apart from the 17% chromium that is in 440C. Worse, CPMS30V can not be mirror polished, and this is what is never mentioned in the advertising pages that are called "data sheets." The surface of the steel plays an incredible role in corrosion resistance, and CPMS30V can not be mirror polished due to vanadium. By the way, always be wary of "comparagraphs" included in these documents. Note that these are strictly sales competition documents, and are actually studied and presented as sales vehicles (Competitive Intelligence Review in Business Management and Advertising)! They conveniently leave out significant factors (like the surface finish, hardness, heat treating procedure, and overall condition of the steel that their product is compared to. You are correct to wonder about this; in real scientific testing, every single factor is presented, and presented for a reason. Broad, generalized statements like this have no bearing on scientific comparisons and real world use.
"Is 420c good knife steel?"
"It offers good ductility in its annealed state and excellent corrosion resistance properties when the metal is polished, surface grounded or hardened. This grade has the highest hardness - 50HRC - among all the stainless steel grades with 12% chromium."
Absolutely, incredibly, and over-the-top lie! This is a Google response that pops up coming from AZO materials when you put in a request for "Best Knife Information." AZO claims to be the "leading online publication for the Materials Science community." Really? If so, they shouldn't be lying about 420 stainless steel. I don't' know who writes this, but they are not the source of truth! What actually is AZO? If you dig a bit, you'll find they are an "online content marketing platform." Yep, this is content sales, with advertising, presented as some official entity. But back to the claim. The reality is that 420 stainless steel is a very, very poor knife steel and is the main reason that people hate stainless steels used in knives today. First, let's clarify the comment by looking at each part individually:
  1. "It offers good ductility in its annealed state" Yes, when it's soft, it's ductile. But no knife anywhere, no tool of any kind that has to perform is kept in it's annealed state. This is like saying high alloy steel is soft and ductile in its softest, untreated, unhardened and untempered state, therefore let's never harden and temper our blades, because they have good ductility when they are soft! Misleading at best, and useless information.
  2. "...excellent corrosion resistance properties when the metal is polished." This one is correct. In fact, this is the only advantage to the owner of a 420 series stainless steel. However, it's important to know that no factory or anyone else who uses 420 stainless steel ever polishes it! They satin-finish the steel (to about 200-800 grit) and then stop. No factory anywhere ever polishes steel; it's too difficult and costly.
  3. "surface grounded or hardened" What the hell is surface grounded? Metals are surface ground, not grounded like an electrical circuit. Grounded is not the right word here and it absolutely has nothing to do (surface grinding) with the corrosion resistance. It simply means that a grinding wheel or belt has ground or sanded the flat part flat. It means nothing else, and has no effect on the corrosion resistance. Hardening does has an effect but not much since this steel is so low in carbon anyway.
  4. "This grade has the highest hardness - 50HRC - among all the stainless steel grades with 12% chromium." Okay, here is the biggest, boldest, most blatant lie on the planet! There are lots and lots of stainless steels that have 12% chromium that have incredibly better hardness than 420 stainless steel. Let's just look at one, D2. D2 has 12 percent chromium; it is a tremendously hard and wear resistant die steel, typically hardening at up over 64 HRC, and tempered and used at 58 to 62 on most knives. This is an awful lie, and Google puts it up there (via AZO) as the "Best Knife Information!" AZO fail, Google fail.
More about 420 series stainless steel here.

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"Argyre" obverse side view in 440C high chromium stainless steel blade, 304 stainless steel bolsters, Tigereye quartz gemstone handle, python skin inlaid in hand-carved leather sheath
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