Jay Fisher - World Class Knifemaker
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"Sirara" Tactical Combat Knife
Thanks for coming here! It is my desire to present you with a positive internet experience on my site. You are in my domain, and I appreciate it. Your time, like mine is valuable, and I'm honored that you've decided to invest your time learning about my life's work. Please bookmark this site as one of your favorites, and come back often, as this site is constantly updated.
Whether you are picking one or two topics on this page, or whether you read the entire page, I am certain that you will learn something of value here. If you are an interested knife patron, client, or enthusiast, this page will give you clear, reasonable, and definitive insight into the world of the modern custom knife maker, artist, and craftsman. If you are a knife maker, you'll understand and relate with some of the issues you may face that I write about here. If you are new to the world of individual knife artists, the internet, and the knife making world, I'm certain that this page will open your eyes.
Though you'll see other sites by makers on the internet that claim mystical energy, the importance of breathing (which I consider absolutely critical to survival) or certain physical stretching exercises to allow one to access the spirit of knife maker magic available through supernatural symbols and chants, please know that this is not that kind of website, and I'm not that ridiculous or juvenile. I take my patrons seriously, respect my tradecraft, and honor my art. This is a very grown-up website, and I make real knives, the best knives, the finest knives I can possibly make with the finest materials, modern methods, and craftsmanship. I will, however, strive to keep a great sense of humor and hope you cherish yours, too!
The e-mail pages are hilarious and are my end of day giggle. Love your comments and the eloquence of your written words add a great deal of spice your website. Do you have elves make your knives at night? Either that or you are working on a 36 hr. day what with knife design and production, site maintenance, e-mail answering, writing, photography and all the rest you do for your business, Your site is truly a stupendous piece of work.
Dear Mr. Fisher,
I happened on your website today and have been enthralled with it for 4 hours now. I feel I have to write and tell you how beautiful I think your work is.
It is wonderful that you can produce such extraordinary knives. Not to mention your website, swords, sheaths, and novels too? You must never sleep! The integration of steel, minerals, and wood is fantastic. I found myself staring at some of the gemstone handles gently turning into the mirror finish of the steel. Wow!
You are a credit to this country and to artists everywhere. I have never seen such wonderful creations. Sorry to gush and I'm sure you know all this but I needed to compliment you and encourage you. Please keep your vision and continue to share these wonderful products with the world. No need to respond to this if you haven't the time.
Please, get some sleep!
With much respect and admiration,
From time to time, I get questions, comments, and criticism about my website. Most of it is very encouraging, supportive, and inspiring. People like what I do here, or they wouldn't be keeping me in orders, and I am very thankful and honored by their time and interest.
Not all comments are positive. Some of the rude commentary falls to the level of name-calling. Always inspiring a chuckle, I usually delete or ignore this type of input, but sometimes I'll post the funnier ones on some special pages. Please enjoy them for yourself.
Some people get downright confused as to what this site is about. This site is about my clients. That's past clients, present clients, and future clients. So, of course, it's about my work, creations, directions, and ideas. My name is Jay Fisher, the site is named "jayfisher.com" and the site is about my career and life interest making knives professionally for all those clients who have supported me for decades.
If you could post your life's work on one website, how would that look? These days, a curriculum vitae is commonplace for all modern artists, and this is mine. In the future, most professionals' life's work will be able to be seen, cataloged, and verified on the internet and copyrighted in the Library of Congress, our world's top library and source of record. Many professional jobs today require a related web site for details of that professional's work, his achievements, history, education, and even his attitude and beliefs. It simply is the new medium of information and exchange.
The site is about selling my knives, too. You'll see that I don't have many knives available at any given time, because when I post them for sale, they may not last long before being purchased. Why? Because I do my best to make very fine knives, the best knives available, and offer a great product. Evidently, a lot of people want the knives,; because they just don't last long. Since the site gets about 100,000 hits a day, and over 95% of the visitors add it to their favorites list in their browsers, they keep a pretty good eye on what is new. I derive all my income from this website and its referrals. As a professional, this is my full time job and I love it.
The site is not just about selling my knives. I've tried to share some of what I know and think about knives, craftsmanship, art, and other related information. That's why I have over 12,000 pictures and over 400 pages of information here. If a person comes to the site and they stay a while, it's because they've found something useful or interesting. I'm constantly adding to the site, updating the pictures and information, clarifying and editing, and writing the code, words, pictures, and ideas.Back to topics
Mr. Jay Fisher,
I really love all that you do and what you have put into your website. I am not asking for anything nor have questions for you. I just want to say "THANK YOU!" and that I highly admire your skills, knives, and information that you have put out there. I recently starting knife making (as a new hobby), and came upon your web page as part of my research. I know my opinion doesn't mean much, but I see you are the benchmark and gold standard of the field. I just want to thank you for all of your information on your website. I have spent hours reading and admiring your artistry and craftsmanship. Someday, I would love to own one of your pieces. Thanks again for everything (even the emails page, for a laugh).
No response requested. I hope you have read to this point to know that people appreciate you for you, as well as your standards and dedication of your trade.
Thank you and God Bless,
Your site is the best of its kind on the web. Just when I thought I was developing some skill at engraving, leatherwork and knife making, I saw your stuff. You're quite an artisan with brilliant creativity. Thanks for putting you work in public view.
Most people don't have any trouble negotiating this site, but occasionally I get a comment about the layout. Currently, I'm not using frames. Frames are the arrangement that allows you to have a permanent list of links usually on the left side of the page. Supposedly, this allows a faster hop to the page of interest, but it does cost, too. First, it costs screen width. Frames force the rest of the screen to be narrowed, which, in my opinion, makes a narrow, list-like page, accompanied with a narrow, list-like frame. It is proven that people scan these type of layouts rather quickly, and I don't want you to quickly scan, I want you to take your time. Also, because of the amount of pages (over 400), frame use would make a long, scrolling list by itself, constantly begging your attention away from the page. I don't want you to be distracted. Thirdly, why be like everybody else on the net? The interesting thing about the internet is that there is no standard format, no requirement that all pages look alike.
I had a laugh when one internet professional web builder insisted that large pictures are bad, and never should you even consider having a hundred thumbnail photos on a page. This person may be big on creating quick loading, fast, short, single page web sites, but she has absolutely no knowledge or experience running a professional web-based business. With today's fast computers, huge ISP memories, and large monitors, it is necessary to have plenty of large photos and full pages. When was the last time you visited another knife maker's site and saw only a handful of small pictures of his work and very little information? Did it leave you wondering, wanting more? When you go to a large knife manufacturer's website, note how small and vague the photos of the knives are. What can you actually see in a picture that is only two inches across? Are they hiding something?
When I go shopping and learning on the net, I like to see lots of information and lots of large, clear pictures. I don't want to see a little picture that quickly downloads on a telephone modem. Who's using these modems nowadays anyway, and why would we adjust our presentation to the slowest, smallest common denominator?
Sure, there will be those who view the internet on their cell phones, PDAs, Blackberries, IPADs, and other small gizmos, but they, too can usually be enlarged for a much closer, more detailed view of the item. No matter the type of device, it's all about the resolution and detail in fine handmade and custom knives, not the speed at which you can scroll through them and exit the site!
Jay, some feedback on your site. I love your “Feature of the Day.” Great idea. I’ve been coming back regularly just to see that. And then I always check out the knives for sale at the same time. I’m sure others do the same.
“The Chase”…it is absolutely mind blowing. The display! …and the knife itself! You always blow me away.
Another consideration is that most internet business websites are catalog-based. When you go to these sites, you are looking for a specific product, the info, price, and a picture of that specific product. This is not that kind of site. This site is a reference, contact, and descriptive illustration and detailing of the life's work of an artist, craftsman, photographer, and writer. I've designed the site to be interesting, informative, illustrative, coherent, thoughtful, and entertaining. It is not a manufacturer's catalog.
Take your time, look around; the highlights are at the top of every page, and when you get done with the page, a large group of links is at the footer. If you ever get lost, go to the Table of Contents page linked at the bottom of every page with every single link to every single page on this web site.
Are their restricted pages on the site? Yes, there are. These are pages I'm still developing or for projects that are not for public view. More on that as time goes on, as web development is a continuing affair.
I was reviewing your website after pulling my hair out reviewing “factory” sites and web forums, and it was with great relief that I read your information on your weapons, and knives generally.
Mostly, people come to this site via a search engine. I keep detailed stats on my traffic, so I know how, when, and from what area they are coming. I know what page they go to first, how long they stay, when they leave, and how many visits they have. They might come in because they entered a search phrase like "fine daggers." They enter, then, on my Daggers page. They immediately want to know what a dagger costs. There is no price scale anywhere on the site, because there are over 65 factors that determine the final price of a custom dagger or knife. They may get frustrated, because they just want to know how much a dagger costs! Ah, if it were that simple. If I only had six designs, six prices, six available models, then life would be easy...
Mr. Fisher: I'm glad I happened upon your website. Your work is impressive, and I appreciate the wealth of info you have placed on your site. I have never owned a custom made knife, but I recently had the pleasure of handling one of yours in North Carolina, where I decided to someday purchase a nice hunter from you when funds allow. That experience has also led me to decide to never buy another factory made knife, and to learn the art of knife making myself. With your permission, I hope it's OK if use your site as a source of learning and inspiration.
Sincerely, David W., Altavista, VA
Because I'm a true custom maker, making exactly what a client wants, there are as many arrangements, feature sets, and types of knives as there are clients. The truth is, in all the knives I've made (over two thousand so far) I've only made a handful of knives that have the same blades, finish, fittings, and handle material in my nearly thirty years in this business. And while I may make them similar, they are never exactly alike, because I vary the filework or engraving, unless they are working grade tactical and combat knife styles. So, most clients of mine are assured a one-of-a-kind original, never repeated again. So, there is no chart, no specific price that you can get if you just say "I want a dagger." You might be surprised at how many such inquiries I get like that.
Hello Jay, I am just starting out in knife making, and I would just like to say thanks for the inspiration. Every knife maker should visit your site to see what real craftsmanship and damn good knives look like.
My website is undergoing continuous reconstruction, in order to meet standards compliance with the new World Wide Web consortium guidelines. To the programming savvy, this means that the site has been upgraded to dynamic web templates and cascading style sheets, in XHTML STRICT language. This is a pretty tough change, I've got to go through many pages of code, making corrections, cleaning it up, and leaning it down. I'll spare you the nitty-gritty, but this represents years of changes, all taking place in 2008-2011. It's a neater, cleaner template, and the rewritten pages loading faster and looking better.
Hello Jay: I just wanted to let you know that I think your website is great. Very, very informative and you have a way to cut through the B.S. and tell it like it is!
Best wishes: Dan W.
In the older site, I had adjusted the site to open separate windows when most of the page links and picture links are selected. I did this for several reasons. It seemed to make it easier to have more than one window open if you're comparing knives by pictures or patterns. But this old way could quickly clutter up your browser and slow your system down with a bunch of open windows. Following common internet practice, I'm upgrading these rebuilt pages to simply move you forward, and to not open any new windows. That way, you can simply use your back button to return to your previous place.
It's curious to me that what people generally believe is a modern template for web sites typically consists of lots of clutter, dozens of links, distracting images, videos, graphics, and advertisements, advertisements, advertisements. I'm sure you've visited this type of site and been frustrated as the loading, onslaught, and bombardment of continually revolving advertisements try to shove themselves in your eyes and jiggle, flash, and bounce, screaming for your attention. You may be startled suddenly by music (or noise) that you did not ask for, continually adjusting page sizes, or links that do not take you where you want to go.
You'll have none of that here. I do my best to keep my site clean, clear and simple, with predictable links, a steady tempo, and clear directions. You may choose your own music while you peruse, research, or dance through the pages, and all that I ask is that you give it a look. It won't cost you a fee, membership, or commitment, just whatever time you offer. In return, I promise to be honest, clear, and forthright, while sharing some of the best parts of living as a knife maker, artist, photographer, and writer. I promise that on you will learn something on every page; this is my service commitment to my tradecraft and art.
Howdy Jay, I wanted to drop you a quick line for several reasons. First and foremost, your website is by far one of the finest custom knife sites I've been to. Unlike every other website out there now, yours actually has a warm organic tone to it. Not only is it full of great art, info, and patterns, I (a horrifically computer illiterate newbie) can easily find my way around the whole site.
The interesting thing about this site is the variety. That is why I settled on knife making and art, because I get to work with a variety of materials, shapes, processes, and designs. You get to see a lot of them here. Please do take your time, bookmark this site as a favorite, and come back often. There is no hurry to acquire your custom knife, I want you to take your time, think about your investment, learn about this world of fine custom knife making. Then, when you're ready, we'll nail down the specifics of your project, and you'll have a valuable investment in a one of a kind work of art that fits you perfectly.
Occasionally, I get letters (emails) of inquiry where the writer has offered up some sage internet advice. I do consider each comment and request, but some are humorous. People who've learned how to insert personally designed graphics into each email are sometimes so proud of their savvy and computer-based achievements, that they want to offer their critiques of my site. Most people realize that in email, short, quick, to-the-point text is king, and the rest is just fluff. Here's an example with my response:
Here's the email I received. "Signature" graphic included with this email submission, a face with some background and some post modern text, all in rather ugly shade of brown. Probably something created in a community college graphics design class. Email is as spelled.
I was just wondering what it would cost for a dagger and a stand for it that was completely custom? I don't know much about daggers, but am looking at getting one for symbolic purposes. If I presented an artisit design, could you do it? Is your skill level able to pull off something from paper?
Thanks in advance,
Great website and very informative. I would consider a resign though for display. The average person wouldn't have strained so much to find what they are looking for on the site. The content is good.
Hello, S. Thanks for writing.
The price of an art dagger completely depends on the components of the dagger. Also, the finish must be considered, and embellishment, tooling, stand, case, or sheath. There are a lot of options when one chooses a complete custom knife. You can read about these individually on my Custom knife Quote and order page here. I can and do work with clients’ designs, but because this entails a lot of drawing, tuning, consideration for geometry, steel types, and general design work, it still requires the design deposit. You can read about the details of the design fee here.
Thank you for your comments about my site. The site is complex; it’s a very complex field of artistry that I’m in. I’m not worried about the average person finding their way through my site, my site is geared toward knife aficionados and professionals, and they are very happy with the content and layout. Ah, if this field were only simple enough to have a simple site, with a couple pictures, and about three prices for knives… (smile).
May I be so bold as to offer you some advice, in kind? When you include your graphic with your email, nearly every firewall and modern email program stops your email cold, because of the possibility of the graphic containing malicious code. I had to retrieve your email from beyond my firewall. I almost deleted it… just a head’s up.
Thanks for your interest, and I’d love to see your design.
I must have upset them, because I never heard from them again! Oh, well...
Just like any modern source, you have to have a strong B.S. filter when you browse the internet. There is a huge amount of useless information, misleading data and commentary, and outright lies behind the facade of an internet presence. Not only are large and meaty web sites coated with the stuff, even the small players are getting in on the act. Now, with video sites, the fluff is exploding into a hopeless mess. People are even throwing out instructional videos like chum to sharks, hoping to catch an eye for their drivel, filled with bad information, lousy techniques and amateur process. Some of these are shockingly unsafe! I remember one (now removed) on YouTube where a guy was using a high speed buffer on a sharp knife. The buffer motor was held to a table by a dumbbell weight, and the guy was working on the wrong side of the wheel with no safety gear whatever. This is a horrible disaster just waiting to happen, and that would have been a great video, indeed!
Why do these people do this? It's either pure egotism or they're hoping to ultimately cash in on the information exchange, but they never will. If it were all only about information, this business would be rife with process and knife construction techniques, data, and clarity. It is not. There is a bad way to make a knife, sheath, and accessories, and a simple comparison of what a professional makes with the products of novices and factories will yield plenty of particulars to detail the divide. It's not just information, it's technique, skill, and the eye of an artist, which is becoming a rare commodity indeed.
If you really want to know more about just what a poorly made knife is, take a look at my Factory Knives vs. Handmade Custom Knives page.
To get an idea of some of the misconceptions, drivel, and fluff sent my way, take a look at my pages of humorous clips, emails, and funny stories.Back to topics
As of yet no premonition has revealed the mystical powers bestowed to her but Wayland himself must have placed his hands upon your shoulders as he smiled with delight. Beautiful she is and trusted companion she'll become one truly for the ages. From the first and I hope not the last email to you your customer service and attentiveness has been nothing less than first class, something retail and Big Box stores no longer offer. Another reason too buy a Jay Fisher knife! Thank you for accepting the commission of my first custom knife, I now know I made the right choice.
I am an amateur blacksmith and engineering student hoping to break into knife making. Your website has provided me with more truly useful information than not only any other source, but ALL other sources that I have researched. I just wanted to say thank you; thank you for taking the time to get to the real point and cutting out the fluff. Thank you for putting your reputation on the line in a world where the vast majority of people don't take responsibility for their actions. Thank you.
There is no easy answer for those who wish to learn knife making, as there is no official recognized organizational reference for knifemakers, and no official license requirement for making knives. There is also no complete and thorough text of information to detail all the facets of this skill. Read every book you can find on the subject, apprentice under someone if you desire, and start making. Feel free to read the information on this site, though, as you will surely become more knowledgeable about custom knives from this site than any other single knife maker's site on the internet!
There is no such thing as a certified knife maker. Some organizations have made attempts to endorse or proclaim a knife maker's status in their organization, but no official entity exists for custom knife makers to certify or guarantee that they are qualified to make knives professionally. With the growth of government entities and regulations in our litigious society, I imagine that someday this will come. Knife makers will be certified, regulated, and watched over by entities that do the same for the firearms or tools industry. At that point, knife making may be much harder to get into as an established maker.Back to topics
I've seen your website and it is amazing. I've used a knife for the whole of my working life. To me they are a tool, like a wrench or a screwdriver. It's difficult to get good ones designed for what you need. They mostly let you down. I work with rope and must have a sharp knife. I also need a marlin spike to splice. I must carry both a sharp knife and a marlin to do the job. Marlins are hard to come by these days but a decent knife is almost impossible now.
I was looking for a quality knife then I saw your website. I want to say that in a world where I thought that nobody cared about quality or craft anymore, you've proved me wrong. Thanks for doing so.
Yours Sincerely, M. B.
Where is this all going? What is the history, and why does it matter?
There used to be only a couple of ways to buy a fine custom knife. You could buy a knife magazine like "Blade," "Knives Illustrated," "The Knives Annual" (Knives 2009, 2010, 2011, etc.), "Tactical Knives," or others, and thumb through the articles and ads to look for something interesting. You could go to a local knife and gun show to see what you might find locally. You could travel to a big city knife show. You could postal mail a request for a list from a knife maker's organization, then call or write the individual makers. You could call every maker you could find and ask him if he would make your knife. With travel expenses, snail mail, far too few pictures, and the limited choices in print, buying the very knife you're interested in was tough!
Everything has changed. Internet technology is the present and future media of custom knife sales. It’s almost instantaneous, almost free, and a tremendous way to interact with custom sales and products. Companies (or individual craftsmen) who do not utilize this medium will be left in the dust. Knife shows are on the decline, dealers are turning to the web, and clients would rather spend their time in a comfortable chair browsing a good website than traveling to an expensive show. When you want to buy something like laundry soap or socks, nothing beats a local store. But when you want a custom piece of investment art, fine utility, or a combat weapon, and you want it just the way you like it, the internet is the only way to go.
Thanks for the CD. Over the last three days I've spent about eight-nine hours reading your website. I've thoroughly enjoyed the technical content, your wry sense of humor, and your artistic talent.
For example, before the net, if I wanted a unique ball bearing set for a machine or power tool, I had to locate the manufacturer (either by subscribing to a business and professional register, visiting a local dealer or writing letters and making phone calls), detail the part (several conversations), send the money and wait, and hope it's the right part. Nowadays, I just punch in the info on a search engine, find several suppliers of my part, confirm it’s the right one (usually a photograph does that), and purchase it online. If I'm not sure of the supplier, I use a credit card, which allows me a good deal of protection from scams, as a charge can be reversed. It’s incredibly easy and very fast, as the shipment usually occurs within the same day.
In the old days, if you were selling widgets, you had to go door to door, business to business, and give just enough information to close the sale. Then, you had to return for the next sales pitch. Nowadays, the web requires all the information you can provide, the clients seek out the seller, and the seller has time to work on his business and be more productive.
There will be a time in the near future when all unique businesses like mine can only be located on the net. There will be a generation (probably my grandchildren’s) which will have the internet as their first contact and information tool. It is truly an amazing thing!
Hi Jay, no answer expected, just wanted to say what a great knifemaking site you have. I make knives for fun, and am a competent amateur. It's nice to see how far a single individual can go in mastering all of the diverse disciplines of fine custom knifemaking, and I wanted to tell you so. Thanks for the work you spent in making your website.
--Jim Frank, CBRE, Chief Engineer, Cherry Creek Radio, Montrose, CO
The other amazing part of this experience is that information is the key to success. In the old days (before the internet), clients stumbled along, knowing just enough to make their purchases, listening and looking for recognized names and popular brands, and took their place in line to receive the product. Now, they want as much information as possible to educate themselves on the product and purchase, to see testimonials from professionals using and buying the product. As time goes on, the hyperbole on the web will be identified, weeded out, or easily ignored, as this is a truly educational medium. More knowledge about the product will allow them insight into unwarranted claims and hype, to help them make an educated purchase. I've always said that 50 percent of this business is education, and the internet allows that at a free cost to the consumer, client, user, or collector.
Dear Mr. Fisher,
I have perused your website several times and I see and read something new every time. That's not hard for me as I'm a pre-newbie bladesmith wanna-be. I am amazed at the breadth and quality of your bladesmithing skills, this is an inspiration to me. I am researching the skills, the tools, the business, the education, and the attitude necessary to become a bladesmith. I was referred to your site by the forum posting of your Gemini Twin folders, and those Jay, are simply breathtaking. One of the skills that I will learn is mirror polishing a blade; what you wrote in regards to that makes sense. For so many reasons, that facet of bladesmithing is crucial to finishing a blade. I know that others have also applauded your methods and skill, and so I am another fan of yours in a long line of admirers.
Sincerely, T. D.
Hello, T. Thanks for taking the time to write your thoughts. The neat thing about the internet is that it IS available for a person to educate himself on just about any subject. I think that competition is great, and with the net it forces us to look at other’s work for comparisons, something that just wasn’t available before the mid-1990s. So, overall, it should improve the level of workmanship in the tradecraft and art.
You are right about blade finishing, or finishing all materials and surfaces on the knife, for that matter. This is, sadly, a neglected area of many knife makers and all factories or production knives. I think it’s because it takes a lot of time and effort and attention to detail to properly finish any hard material. There is an old saying in the lapidary arts that “the finish is made in the sanding.” Sanding with successively finer and finer grits is sometimes a boring, tedious task, and many craftsmen are too rushed and impatient to take the time to properly finish any material. So, they sand along the blade length, or use a sanding flapper wheel to finish, or spend way too much time on the buffer and round over their grind lines. No matter the skills at the anvil, the customer, client, or knife aficionado will notice the finish first and foremost. Interestingly, I think the use of damascus (pattern welded) steels actually allows poor finishing practices. Since the blade is etched anyway, poor finishing is not noticed in the etched and patterned surface.
Thanks for your interest and support,
As an artist, I reserve the right to create unique works.
When I design or work with a customer's input to design a custom knife, that knife profile is reflected in a pattern. You can see all my patterns (over 400) on the patterns page. That pattern is simply a guide to the layout of the knife, and I often am asked to mix patterns, that is, match the blade from one with a handle from another. This may be bold enough of a change to dictate creating a wholly new pattern, or it may just be a hybrid knife. No pattern in my inventory of patterns is exempt from use on any project. There will, however, be differences in the final knives, making nearly every knife unique and valuable.
I rarely, if ever, use the same handle material on two knives of the same pattern style. If I do, I usually change the filework, the finish, the embellishment, the bolster materials, or the sheath, block, case, or stand. If a knife is marked with a specific name, commemoration, or design, that also makes it unique. And there are subtle differences that accompany each handmade knife adding to its unique property. If the knife has a gemstone handle, it simply can not be repeated the same exact way, as gemstone is different in every slice, even within the same rock. The knife client or patron expects an original, unique work of art, and repeating that would devalue his investment.
The only knives I make by sole authorship that resemble each other closely are the basic tactical models that are bead-blasted, with bead-blasted Micarta or manmade material handles. These are all very similar in construction and execution.
Once, I had a client protest because he bought a knife, and then saw on my site that I had listed a picture of the knife style with the text "taking orders." He claimed that his knife pattern was supposed to be one-of-a-kind, and that I wasn't supposed to make that knife ever again! I told him that I would never put the type of handle material used on his knife on another of the same pattern, or finish it in the same way, so his knife was unique. I've got so many materials to choose from, why would I? I guess he thought that I would never design the blade shape and handle profile ever again. How ridiculous is that?
Here's the thing: if the knife style is a popular one, I will get more requests for the knife. This is nearly always followed by requests for a change in handle material, embellishment, or sheath construction. If it's a popular shape, I will create the pattern profile again, though I won't outfit the knife with the same materials. It is my business to create unique works that clients want. Also, if a client works up the pattern design, I let him know up front that if I make the knife, I'll add his design to the pattern inventory. This is my way of honoring his (and my) effort, and improving my range of knives.
Another part of the custom knife making process that is always different is the sheath, stand, block, or case. At the time of this writing, I have never repeated these and do not offer copies of them on new knives. As an artist, I reserve the right to create unique works.
All my knives that have been cared for have appreciated over time, and should continue to do so no matter what happens to me, my career, or my work. I've created enough pieces, put out enough artwork that my reputation is well established. The hard part for me is to realize that the value of a client's investment will continue to increase, long after I (and he) have turned to dust... as the knives will still be around. I won't benefit from that appreciation, but he and his heirs will!Back to topics
I would like to thank you for all the info on your site, its a good one and you knives are a work of art.
Thanks again, T.
From my FAQ page:
"If I submit a design, will you make my knife?"
Perhaps I will, but maybe I will not or can not make your knife. I'm limited by the amount of knives I make, and I reserve the right to refuse to make a particular knife. There may be many reasons for this. If my order list is long, I may not be able to accommodate your needs in a timely fashion. The knife design may be unworkable, or not in my design style. Not every maker makes the same type of knife, and though I make a lot of types, I do not make them all. The materials requested may not be available. The budget for the knife may be unworkable. A specific request for materials used, geometry, mechanical fittings, or finish may not be something I would recommend, so I wouldn't make a knife in that fashion. No worry though, you are on the internet, and there are many other fine knife makers who may accept your commission.
Now and then, I get an inquiry about a client's own design. He usually states that he has worked long and hard on his design, maybe he even has a host of designs (I even met a guy that had a book with hundreds of pages of knife drawings), and he wants one or two of them made. Usually, these guys are very protective of their work, sometimes copyrighting it, but always convinced of the high value of their knife drawings. They're certain that the shape, contours, or features of their design are worth a great deal of money, and they don't want the designs to fall into the wrong hands, where their hard labor and investment of time is "stolen" by a factory or self-serving knifemaker. They want me to make their dream come to reality, never to be seen again.
Usually, they have not considered the labor, skill, and machine techniques that must go into their idea. The value of a fine custom knife is not in the drawing or design, it's in the execution. Sadly, their designs, though lovingly created, are not worth much. So they hop around from knife maker to knife maker, searching for one who will keep their secret and make their knife for cheap.
I usually steer clear of these types. They are sad to learn that their drawings are usually not unique; in the millions of years man has been making knives, nearly everything has been considered at one time or another. They also are distraught when the find that true design patenting is a long, expensive process, and even it a design patent is granted, they must have plenty of money to defend it in court, proving their ownership of the design, proving that it has never before been designed in the history of man, and proving damages to themselves by the defendant. This is no small court matter, and unless the design revolutionizes the knife world, not much damage can be proven.
If a knife is truly a great design, why not honor that, name the design for the designer, and share it with the world where it can be appreciated? This is not the case with most of these guys, they think they will somehow get rich off their drawings. I know of no one in human history that has gotten rich from knife drawings. If the person is exceptional at drawing, perhaps he should become a fine artist. That will get him rich, if he's very good!
Just found your website – New item on my bucket list – to one day have you create a knife for me!
Beautiful knives, website and very informative; I just spent the last couple of hours (maybe it was more like 4 hours) reading some of the most straight forward and insightful knowledge on knives. My head is spinning !
Wow and wow – thanks for all of the hard work on creating your website and one day . . . a knife of yours will be mine!
Once in a while, I get questioned on my knife prices and pricing structure. An interested person thinks his quote is high, and wonders why he would have to pay what I charge for his knife. I try to answer most reasonable questions clearly; perhaps he desires engraving or a complicated custom filework that takes many hours to complete. Maybe the handle material is rare and expensive, or the sheath work is time consuming and the materials exotic and hard to acquire. If his question is valid, I'm obligated as a business professional to answer his inquiry logically. Sometimes, this is not enough for him, and the urge to justify what I charge seeps into the conversation.
Justification is explaining every detail of the cost of a knife. When you justify, it degrades each creation or work of art into a list of costs and returns, a line by line breakdown of knife making steps, costs of materials, utilities, time spent on each process, and the costs of each expendable. It demeans the whole process into a work order; the making of a piece of fine craftsmanship becomes an accounting of regimented steps. It is a glorious waste of precious time.
Sometimes, a client will ask this because he's seen my "My Knife Prices" page and thinks that the knife he's described should be at the bottom of my pricing structure. He's gone with a bead blasted finish and a Micarta handle with a plain sheath, so shouldn't that be the cheapest knife Jay makes? What he may not have accounted for is the size of the pattern chosen, the materials used, or the difficulty of construction. My least expensive knives are mainly skeletonized, that is, they do not have ANY handle or bolster material, and only rudimentary milling. Everything that is done to the plain bar of steel in knife construction adds to the cost. A person who tries to make even a seemingly simple knife of good quality is shocked at how much work is involved.
I wonder if he would question one of the big knife manufacturers as to why they charge what they do for a knife? Would he go to a hardware store and ask them to justify why they set their prices where they do? Of course not, so why would he ask me that? People often see an individual artist and craftsman as a person, not a company. But this is a business, I am a company, and needing to justify prices is a slippery slope that is best avoided. Justification in any business is a drain of resources and time, and a sign of uncertain value. No one asks why an NBA player takes in millions every year, it's simply understood that the product he delivers is paid the going rate. If the rate is high, and he's still employed, that must be what the market has set for him. The same is true for custom knives. My prices are set, I have many orders and commitments, so the value must be in line with the market, or I'd be out of business.
The price of a knife is what it is. It's determined by features that go into the knife, the materials the knife is made of, the difficulty of executing each feature, the level of quality (intricacy and finish), embellishment and its difficulty, and all of the previously mentioned attributes applied to the accessories such as the sheath, case, or stand. The price is also set based on the marketable value of the knife and the workmanship.
When an interested person questions the price and insists on justification, it means that he can't afford the knife, and he should probably rethink his knife purchase.Back to topics
My knife came yesterday and all I can say is Wow. This is easily the nicest knife that I have ever held. The design is well thought out down to the smallest details and is exactly what I was looking for. Very ergonomic, capable of just about anything I would need a knife for and a formidable weapon for self defense. The craftsmanship is Incredible. The symmetry of the blade and the fineness of the edge are magnificent. The mirror polish is just like looking in the mirror. And it has the kind of balance that makes it want to be in your hand. I really like both sheaths and your tactical sheaths is far nicer than any that I have seen. I could go on and on. I'm moving to 30 acres In Colorado in about 4 months so I wanted a nice knife to carry out there and this one got the job. I plan on keeping this knife until I'm old and giving it to a younger person in my family.
I feel like I got a very good deal from you as far as pricing, it could have cost much more and I would still have been happy. It is a privilege and honor to own this knife and I am deeply grateful to have been allowed to get it.
You will probably hear from me in a year or so and I will order a investment/display knife so that I have a mint condition piece from you as I am now a big fan of your work.
I happened to get wind of a website where a guy had cut, copied, and pasted my comments about the steels I use on his own site, and followed them with his own abrasive and insulting opinions. He was careful to take every comment out of the context of my original paragraphs. He called it an "evaluation" and "review" of articles on my site.
I have no articles on my site. I do not get paid for what I write here, all I try to do is explain my way of thinking, my experience of making fine, high quality custom and handmade knives for three decades. I guess I must have some public punch with my opinions and presence on the Internet, otherwise why would he have felt the need to attack me? Perhaps he was only trying to draw attention to his web site. By the way, as far as I can tell, the guy has never made one knife.
I took the time to respond to him directly, offering that it would be considerate if he would have contacted me first if he had concerns about statements on my site. It would give me a chance to correct them if needed. I also mentioned legal issues. He was kind enough to respond and claim that he would act professionally in the future. We shall see.
This episode brings up some huge legal issues about this digital medium that are currently being studied, discussed among lawmakers, and flooding into the justice system. There is, first, the legal issue of copyright and intellectual property law. Every part of a web page, all software, patents, books, photographs, trademarks, videos, and even the fictional characters in stories are intellectual property. And don't be fooled, copyright protection applies immediately upon creation of the work, so don't look for a copyright statement (there is one at the bottom of every page of this website). If you and your business or personal pursuit is on the Internet and displays copyrighted property belonging to someone else, and you have not obtained their specific written permission to distribute or display that work, you are liable for damages. Even if you just use a small part of that work, just a few phrases or sentences from a page, the copyright protection still holds true. One MUST obtain written permission first. This is routinely done, and I've granted several entities permission to use my words on their own web sites, so it's not some unattainable goal.
If you use copyrighted material for a business pursuit or to make money in any way, THIS IS A FEDERAL CRIME. This is much more serious than a civil crime which all copyright infringement is. Want to face some time in a federal penitentiary? Copy some copyrighted site's knives and sell them on your website. Cut and paste comments from one website without permission for your own financial gain.
How could this guy have done his attack better? Well, for one thing, ideas, opinions, and modes of operation or technique are not copyright protected. He could take some serious lessons from this very web site. If you've arrived at this page, you've probably noticed that I do NOT list any specific company, other knifemaker, factory, or entity directly anywhere on this site, particularly in the realm of criticism. I do not directly quote any of them. Yes, I have plenty of my own opinions, but I will never make a direct reference to an entity or person. I'm very careful to paraphrase words in strings of ideas, and never cut, copy, and paste from other sites or sources without their written permission. By the way, please think about all those valid and real testimonials that you've read on my site now.
Another, perhaps more volatile and litigious concern, is the nature of those direct criticisms. It's one thing to criticize a largely public figure or celebrity, and quite another to libelously attack a small businessman, one running a one-man show and deriving all his income off contacts and business from his Internet web site (that's me). It would be easy to prove damages done by those comments, because (little known to the attacker) web site traffic, connections, IP addresses, server locations and site ownership are all easily traceable with modern web analysis software. It amazes me how many people entirely overlook this fact. Lawsuit time. We may complain about our litigious society, but when it starts to hurt my business, I won't hesitate to protect my income, which supports me and my family, my business, and my home. This is how it is done in our society and judicial system.
What does this have to do with dogs barking? There is a proverb that states, "Dogs don't bark at parked cars." On one hand, it means to me that this guy was just a little dog yapping as I sped by, and it doesn't mean that much. On the other hand, it means that me barking at him is foolish, because he's just a parked car, going nowhere.Back to topics
I just received the Tribal Helhor and unpackaged it. I'm at a loss of words. I absolutely love it with all my heart. The knife is gorgeous, it feels so good in my hands. I love the tribal engraving and the Pilbara Picasso Jasper compliments the wood tones of the stand and sheath. The sheath and stand are a work of art alone, but all three put the entire piece together as a whole.
It's better then I could have ever imagined. I love it, love it, love it.
I'm going to cherish it for the rest of my life.
Sincerely, R. S.
Introduction: I've divided this subject into parts to offer a better, wide ranging view of this topic. It's a prevalent topic in the best fine handmade and custom knives because it is true: fine handmade and custom knives are expensive. It's important to note that it's not simply the materials that make up the piece that contribute to their high price. Many people are shocked to hear that, yet cling to their belief that the materials alone make a valuable handmade knife. Fine knives are expensive for many reasons. They're better made, better finished, and are highly desirable. If any of these were not true, the artist and craftsman who makes them would be out of business in a hurry! The artist and craftsperson who does create these works must have a lot to offer, particularly if he's been doing it for over thirty years and has a substantial backlog that continues to grow and bring in new business. It's simple really; if your work is popular, it sells. If your work continues to be sought-after, and you continue to sell, year after year, decade after decade, you must have something people want. This simple logic, one that runs every business there is, seems somehow lost on some folks, which always surprises me. Below, in this section are distinctive points that detail my own experiences with this curiosity, and how some people react. I'm certain that I'll continue to add to this, as it's a common occurrence. I'll do this as I continue to be successful, making and selling fine handmade and custom knives.
I have been reading your site with great interest for several days. I am convinced that you may indeed be the best knife maker in the world. I have tried through Google and internet searches to find another knife maker who thinks they are your equal. I have found none. There are many people on the internet who seem intent on bringing you down. My opinion of you remains unchanged. I have decided to begin saving for a Jay Fisher knife because I feel that in the future it will be an historically significant piece of American history.
"Pick a little, talk a little, pick a little, talk a little, cheep, cheep, cheep, talk a lot, pick a little more-"
Robert Meredith Wilson
-The Music Man
I spotted some traffic coming from a forum where a guy had downloaded a picture of one of my PJLT combat knives and proceeded to claim and complain that the knife (supposedly belonging to one of his "friends") had been purchased for $2300.00. The cackling hen's banter went back and forth, ad nauseum, with misstatements, ignorant claims, exaggerations, outright lies. For instance, the knife pictured and claimed to have been sold for $2300.00 was actually sold for considerably less than half that. Yes, these are lies, and the guy who wrote this is a liar, plain and simple.
"Cheep, cheep, cheep-"
Still, they just couldn't see how a knife could be worth more than 300 or 400 bucks, no matter how it was made or by who. They kept coming back to the materials, namely the blade steel, over and over, as if the blade steel was the determinant factor of a knife's value. I write about these ridiculous notions and misconceptions on numerous sections on my Blades page. It didn't matter to them that my PJLT pattern has a very long history and high performance reputation among United States Air Force Pararescuemen who actually use this knife; all that seemed to matter to them was the blade steel.
"Pick a little, talk a little-"
These hens go on to claim knowledge and experience with other steels, with other makers, and clearly try again and again to compare handmade custom knives to factory knives. No one even considered the grind geometry, the fit, the finish, the balance, the design, or the service of the knife in its potential use in the field. The knife they pictured has a 42 component locking stainless steel, corrosion resistant aluminum alloy welt frame, and double thickness stainless screwed waterproof knife sheath, clearly the finest combat knife sheath made in the world today, but all they could say was that the steel was 440 (actually 440C, if that matters). Did they even stop to consider the cost of that sheath? It is significant. The knife has bolsters. None of the common factory or boutique shop knives they compared the PJLT to had any bolsters, and the bolsters on the PJLT are made of 304 high nickel, high chromium austenitic stainless steel. Hardly anybody makes bolstered knives; that's just too much trouble to make a knife that strong. If other makers of combat knives do (rarely) step out and use stainless steel for fittings, they use the softer, less corrosion-resistant 400 series of austenitic steels, or (worse) brass or nickel silver. Did they consider the cost of that personalization, custom digitizing, or accessories? Did they consider any of the dozens of other factors that are detailed in significant facts and illustrations on my huge Tactical Combat Knives page? Nope, it's just about the steel type, which they would know well, being all trained machinists, and metallurgists, and knife makers themselves... whoops; they are none of those.
"Stop! I'll tell all-"
And by God, no one considered my professional track record, experience, longevity, history, and the actual value of my work, a value that keeps me 4-5 years continually in backorders making some of the finest knives in the world. Just how does that work, anyway? How could I continue to stay in business, continue to have new and numerous clients, continue to have the reputation of making some the best knives in the world?
"Cheep, cheep, cheep, talk a lot, pick a little more-"
They tried to demean the knife and the client's purchase and claim that the knife was made by one of my sons, as a collaborative piece, and that somehow it was a lesser knife for that. This is another outright lie, as the knife they detailed was made by my own hands alone, and is a sole authorship piece. Even if it was a collaborative knife, it would be made to the same extremely high standards as if my own hands had made it; all of our collaboratives are made this way. This is why there is a waiting list for both my sole authorship knives and our collaborative works in the studio, and the demand shows no sign of letting up.
"--brazen overtures with a gilt-edged guarantee-"
This demonstrates how ignorance festers and steams on the web. Not a one of these clucking hens owns one of my knives, and clearly, they never will. It's like the owner of a cheap automobile complaining that an extremely fine, hand-made vehicle could not be worth the price because they are both made of steel and rubber. Is the determining factor of any object's value based solely on economy? Because if it is, these guys would have the Pararescueman who owns the knife turn it in for a cheap piece of plastic handled junk from China, simply because they, as finely feathered authorities posting anonymously on the internet, can't afford it, so nobody else should.
"--you'll reveal a lump of lead as cold as steel where his heart should be-"
This illustrates, unfortunately, an attitude that currently seems to dominate conversations, media, and even politics, the attitude of "Haves vs. Have-nots." Those who do not have, and may not desire some item, lifestyle, location, or view take it upon themselves to tell others how they should live, what they should buy, how much it should cost, and, in effect, how much I should make for what I do. Would they do the same for an NBA basketball player, a Hollywood celebrity, or even their doctor? How about the mechanic that lives down the street, the health care worker in their family, or the teacher who teaches their child? Where does this stop? The only way, perhaps, for them to see the jealous, shallow, and vain attitude that they display so willingly to others is to have them be the recipient of such judgment. Tell these guys how much they should earn, no matter how good of work, how much experience, how much value they instill in the fruits of their labor, and the conversation would quickly change. Also be sure to tell them that they can not buy an expensive tactical knife, ever, because their compadres on some anonymous forum get to decide what they have and how they spend their money.
This is why I quoted "Pick a little, Talk a little" from the Music Man (1962) in this section. Please do take a minute to review the song from the musical available through youtube or other free internet sources. You'll get a great picture of who these fellows are, strutting around their little forum in their chicken-feather hats, cackling, clucking, cheeping, and complaining from the anonymous perch and safety of their like-minded brood.
I force no one to purchase the fruits of my creation, the yield of my labor and efforts. People buy my knives because they want to. To have someone else, usually a stranger, tell you what to buy and what not to buy is surrendering your own freedom to decide. Conversely, I do not go clucking and pecking on forums trying to run down their choices for what they purchase. Obviously, a cheaper knife is simply that, and there are many specific reason for this, detailed in clear and voluminous detail on this very site. If this is all a person can afford, and it is what he wants, I will not fault him or try to decry how he spends his money. Since the sales of cheap tactical-style knives is a billion dollar a year industry, they have many friends who can claim that their cheap knife is just as good as a fine handmade custom knife, while they ignore the clear distinctions and differences.
Yet, I believe, time and with information, clarity and reason will prevail. If only people would educate themselves about knives the way that they can rattle off sports figures' stats, dates, scores, and game plays, maybe they would actually know something about the world of fine handmade custom knives.
"Goodnight, ladies, Goodnight ladies, Goodnight ladies, we're going to leave you now..."
The jealous poison their own banquet, then eat it.
Ignorance deprives men of freedom because they do not know what alternatives there are.
--Ralph Barton Perry
I was tracking the package eagerly and was happy to find it arrived a day early. The knife is simply beautiful. Without being prone to hyperbole- it is the best knife I have ever held by far. I am so, so impressed. The balance is absolutely perfect. This is a beast of a knife, but it fits my hand like it was made for it- feels like an extension of my arm. The geometry of the blade is so perfectly symmetrical and the the cutting edge is surgical.
I remember reading your website where it says that you "make the real thing." I believed that statement when I read it, but now I feel what you mean. This is no factory production knife. I know our men in combat who carry your knives have confidence that the knife will stand up to any challenge. The kydex sheath is awesome and it locks the blade without even a slight jiggle. The accessories are such a nice touch and I greatly appreciated that you put that much thought into the components that would compliment the knife/sheath.
Jay, this is the finest object I have ever purchased. Thank you for being the professional that you are.
Though this site is about knives, my knives in particular, please allow me to apply some transitional, translational, and parallel logic to make this topic... about steel. Here is the struggling knife maker:
"Steel is just too expensive. Everybody knows that steel is not worth what the foundries charge, what the distributors get, and how much we have to pay for it. The price of steel just keeps going up and up... and who can afford it, particularly in this economy? Sure, I know that there are cheap steels, but I don't want to buy them. I want to buy the very finest steel, but I don't want to pay any more for it than for the cheapest, low end, mass produced, junk steel that is peddled through the factories of China. It just isn't fair that I don't have enough money, enough income, enough resources to buy the good stuff, the very good stuff, for cheap. How dare those companies sell these steels for such outlandish prices! Who do they think they are? And why in the world do you have to wait for the very best stuff, pay more, jump through hoops to get it, while other people can just buy it with their chump change? I want the best too, and frankly, I can't afford it. I think that what I will do is to go on forums, bulletin boards, blogs, and anywhere I can to post my opinion, anywhere any one at all will listen to what I say, and complain about how high the prices are. That'll fix 'em! That will make those mean old companies change their way of doing business!"
If you don't see the unique and sarcastic parallel that I'm drawing in the previous paragraph, please let me explain, but from the steel producer's point of view:
"Steel ores and alloys are expensive. Research is expensive, production can be a nightmare. My steel company may have worked for years, some of them very lean and tough, faced financial peril, hardship, and sacrifice to reach the place my steel company has today. Sure, we make the best steels on the market, with exciting and unique processes that are unmatched by others. Many of the attributes we employ in our product are not even visible to the naked eye, the are built into the structure and design of the bar. We have to pay for transportation, machinery, and energy costs. We have to pay for increased regulation, local, state, and federal government requirements and guidelines for our business, and everybody wanting another piece of our profit pie. We have huge advertising expenses and risks, and face a continuous onslaught of critics who really don't know the value, details, and intricacy of our product, critics who post anonymously on blogs, the internet, and on forums about the price of our steel. Gosh, they want us to produce the finest steels out there, and we're trying, yet they somehow think that these should be cheap and easily accessible, particularly to them. I know that the real truth is that they can't afford our steels, so must try to convince themselves and others that our steels are overpriced. This somehow will foster agreement with other already like-minded individuals who can't afford the best and finest steels, and they will somehow feel better. I feel for them, but the truth is our steel is in high demand, and people are honoring us with their money, and are literally lining up to purchase our products. So, though some may complain, what this means is that because we are able to sell our steels continually at the prices we require, we are right in line with the market."
Surely you see the parallels in this conversation. If you don't, please indulge me. Go back and read both comments again, and instead of the word steel, please insert fine handmade knives.
It is true that my knives are expensive when you compare them with plain, manufactured, or knives by beginning or unskilled makers. I was less skilled too, and back then, my knives sold for under $100.00 US, because the quality was markedly less. Though I'm doing well now, I'm continuing to improve my work on every batch. This is how it should be, and the value of even the oldest of my works continues to appreciate.
One thing I don't do is go and publicly complain about the price of steel (or someone else's price of knife). Though I do so in the parody above, it would be foolish and unreasonable to waste my time doing so in a public forum. Would the complainer above do the same and write the maker of a fine automobile? No, he would never think that he should be able to afford only the very best, and nothing less, but only pay a budget price for it. He wouldn't be so ridiculous to post that Rolls-Royce should lower their prices so he can afford their cars. He wouldn't think of comparing those fine handmade autos with his F150, because there are certain to be some things that Rolls-Royce knows and builds into their cars that Ford simply does not. Yet the maker of fine knives is fair game for these notions. This is a peculiar part of the tradecraft and art that I hope to change by these very words, my own work and effort in this field, and the book I'm working on.
This conversation and topic is further defined on my Factory Knives vs. Handmade Custom Knives page.Back to topics
Dear Mr. Fisher,
I wanted to take a moment and send a word of thanks to you and your organization for having such an informative website. I was trolling the web for grinding ideas when I happened upon your site, and I have to say, wow. I am a hobbyist maker on my best day, but, I do have a set of successes that I take pride in. I have a severe aversion to making "crap," so when I get solid advice on making a better product by veterans, I am all ears.
When I first started in on your site I thought, gee, this guy is full of himself. However, even if you are a cutlery steel sales rep with tons of book smarts behind you, I think there is no better schooling than listening to those who have trod where you are now treading. Your site should be sold as hokum repellant.
Seriously, thank you for giving of your knowledge and time to those of us who need a good tuning up occasionally.
My knives were the subject of a forum topic, with one guy baiting the forum with a flaming statement suggesting my knives were "overpriced works of art." I noticed this, and I also noticed the upstanding gentlemen who called the guy on his inflammatory statement, and all agreed it could be better worded. I'm grateful that there are plenty of intelligent people in these groups that notice ploys like this and call the poster to the matt.
The discussion went on between members, suggesting that unless they had personally owned one of my knives, they didn't know of the quality (or lack thereof), and really could not comment on whether or not the knives were any good. This is, of course, ridiculous. It was then clarified by several members, the quality is clearly visible on this very website with over 13,000 pictures and 500 pages at the time of this writing. A member went on to decry that anyone without experiencing the product for themselves can not know the quality. Really?
Let's follow this logic a bit. I have never owned a Weatherby Vanguard rifle, but it's easy to see that these are some of the finest rifles in the world. How do I know this? Well, I learn this by educating myself. Here, on the internet, not only can you see a sales brochure, but also you can read testimonials, detailed descriptions, see many logical and plainly presented points, and experience high quality photographs and graphic representations from many sources. This applies to not only rifles, but also just about any item for sale by any person, group, company, or manufacturer. If you can read, and you continue your reading off the internet, in books, you can even deepen your understanding of these products and creations. The more you read, the more you can see through the hype, false claims, and misrepresentations, because, typically, those who read become educated on the subject that they read about. This is the wonderful thing about the net.
Of course, some are attracted to the drama, strife, and conflict created by gross and inappropriate claims, taunts, and jibes, like the kid in hopes of seeing a fistfight after school. Appropriately, the person who is spending their money acquires a different kind of education. His education is for the good of his own dollar, one he has sweated and worked for. When I say my clients are by best critics and they vote with their money, I'm not kidding. This is real, this is my livelihood and my passion, this is my career and my dedication that will feed, house, and clothe my family. It's also the future of those in my family that I teach, share with, and bring into the world of handmade knives. It is beyond important to me, and it is substantially important to my clients who commission or purchase my works and the collaborative works we offer. Just read a few dozen pages on this site, look over the knives and testimonials, and you can quickly see the level of dedication and devotion to my trade.
The point is, you don't have to own one of my works (and other people's works) to understand the quality. However, it was great to see that about a year after the subject had gone cold, a person who bought a Jay Fisher knife stepped up and posted this:
Well I own a Jay Fisher knife, its what most people would call a
"tactical knife", simply put it's the best knife I own, I paid 1800 for
it in 2010, the former owner who said the knife was never used and that
was the truth I had the blade inspected with a scope, today I'm told the
knife is worth 3000 and have been offered 2500 for the knife, so as an
investment the return is very good for a "passion" investment. In fact I
can't think of many funds that deliver returns like that. I like simple,
elegant knives that are made to be used, I don't buy "art" knives or
jeweled pieces, I want the highest quality "functional" knives known to
I use this knife whenever I can and have brought it underwater with me diving, in fact I killed a MONK FISH with it off of Long Island in 195' of water while wreck diving then removed the piece of the monk fish that you can eat....the "loin" on the surface with the knife. It's fair to say that I beat the hell out of this knife.
Overpriced? Not when you consider all of the facts, they are very expensive but I don't think you will loose money on the knife if you were to buy one, very few knife makers can say that, in fact most if not all of his knives appreciate in value.
Art Knifes? You're WAY off here, Jay does make some incredibly beautiful "works of art" BUT EVERYTHING he makes is 100% functional and will out last everyone on this forum, the stone handles are in fact more durable then anything you'll see on "tactical" knives.
Steel: I've seen Jay criticized for his steel selection from time to time, what I can say is this, my knife is made out of a readily available steel, its nothing exotic but my Fisher holds a better edge then any knife I own made from the exotic or super steels priced from 400 to 1000 USD.
Fisher Knives are in the category of "Best of the Best" but his knives are certainly not for everyone and that's one of the reasons they have value.
Though I had not personally benefitted from the purchase of this knife by the buyer who owned it, this speaks volumes. The only thing replied that was questionable was that the subject was a year old, as if that somehow discounted what he wrote.... sigh.
My knives will outlast the members of this forum; they'll outlast me, and you, and our children, possibly their grandchildren if they are simply taken care of. And when I'm long dust, the knives will continue to be of value, more value than I'll have benefitted, simply because I've made them the very best way I can. Perhaps, in the future, there will be discussion that this long-dead knife maker's knives are still of high value, even overpriced by those who don't own them.
Dear Mr. Fisher,
I am in utter awe of your work. I'm a 17 year old aspiring knife maker in northern VA. I stumbled across your site and immediately was hooked on the pictures. It was all I could do to pull myself away from the knives and see if you offered training or anything of the like. I quickly found you didn't, and even though a bit disappointed, I very much understand why.
I wanted to simply let you know that you have quickly become a hero in knife making for me. If one day I can become close to making a knife half as beautiful as the worst of yours, I would be extremely proud. Perhaps one day I can order a knife from you.
I read the "Please, Serious knife purchase inquiries only" but I thought, that perhaps after a long hard days work, the knowledge that your work is truly appreciated and an utterly amazing inspiration to someone could lighten your day. I do not wish to waste your time any longer. Forgive me for taking this much. I hope you and your family have wonderful days, and that your business prospers.
I reserve the right to decide what I do and what I don't do. Thank you for your interest.
You might be surprised to read some of the hate mail I get over my Services Offered page. This page is a high-hitter in the web statistics, because people are constantly looking for knife related services and information. Frequently, the hate mail is from aspiring knifemakers who insist on me helping them make it in this business. Funny thing, they wouldn't ask another professional like an electrician, surgeon, or web site developer to give them some points, answer a few questions, or help them to sell some of what they make, but they demand that of knife makers. After all, it's only one question, why wouldn't Jay Fisher answer? Isn't this site about making knives?
This site is my professional business storefront, not an information source or how-to reference. My profession is making knives, but my focus is not on being a teacher, instructor, or resource for anything knife-related, other than my knives. Even though, there is a tremendous amount of information available at jayfisher.com, and all you have to do is read it. This very page has invaluable details about the art, tradecraft, and business of making knives, yet rather than read what is available here, some emailers growl, rant, spew, and then push send.
I go into more detail about this topic in my upcoming book, but here's the boiled-down version: most people treat knife making as a hobby, not a profession, so they think other knife makers are just like them. I suggest they go to one of the big knife manufacturers and ask them to answer their questions for a few hours... what? They wouldn't do that? Then why do they attack me for not helping them out? Because I'm a single individual, therefore must only be a hobbyist, like them. Add to that they think they can make their cause by writing insulting emails to a singular person. But they are wrong. This is not a hobbyist's site, this is a professional business, and my delete button and email rules prohibit them from any further contact.
In my upcoming book, I detail this phenomenon and the reasons for it. It is one of the troubling spots of this new information technology we call the internet, and one of the costs of having an intensive, information-rich web site. Many people are new to this medium and don't know just what this kind of web site is for.
Though there are many types of site out there, and they may ask their questions on a bulletin board or post, why not circumvent that process and ask someone who is a professional in their field? Would they be willing to pay for the professional advice, like the advice of a doctor, and appraiser, or a mechanic after he's evaluated an engine? Of course they would pay them, but a knifemaker... no. After all, he's only a knife maker-Back to topics
I just want to thank you for writing an excellent treatise on knives. I mostly deal with Nihonto (Japanese swords) these days, but still have a great Damascus knife collection. I'll be looking into buying one from you sometime soon.
Ken Goldstein, Ph.D., P.E.
President, Japanese Sword Society of Hawaii
There are an abundance of people in the world who know better than you do how to run your own business... for their benefit.
Once in a while, I get an email or request to change how I do business. Most of the time, it's things like payment plans, layaways, or delivery periods that the potential client is not comfortable with. Since I'm a singular businessman, they figure I'll be happy to go with what they want. After all, the customer is always right... right?
There can be a big difference between working with someone to their singular benefit and being fair to everyone. Working with an individual client by bending the rules, methods, and way that I do business says a lot about the client and about me, too.
The client may think that he is somehow special, more important than other clients who don't get a special break, service, or offer. He may think that I am like most knife makers and artists, desperate to make a sale, and will jump at the chance to do anything that the client desires. This type of person often thinks that businesses like mine will cater to their individual needs and wants, with just a little nudging. Usually, that nudging takes place with dollar bills, and even occasionally unsolicited gifts, promises, or manipulative methods that may have worked in the past on some other artist or craftsman. This same client would not even consider offering a large chain store, his grocer, his mechanic, or his physician the same types of hints, suggestions, or bribes. He wouldn't offer it to his banker or his employer. But I am fair game, because I'm just a one man show and surely, he can bend me to his personal wants.
This type of person couldn't be more mistaken. I operate my business with integrity. That means being fair to everyone. Though you may see some artists and craftsmen jump at a dollar bill dragged under their nose, I don't. Yes, I work for money, but I do it in a way that I expect to be treated, and I'm not desperate to make a sale. This is my business, but you would be surprised at how others think they know better than I do just how it should be operated... for their personal benefit.
I want it to be clear that 99% of my clients are respectful, patient, and understanding. It is because of them that I'm in business and have been blessed with the journey and successes I've known over the decades. They receive the same respect, patience, and understanding that they have offered me. You know if you are one of these fine people. My humble thanks to you!
I'll go into more detail in my book, under the heading of "Things they didn't tell me about when I started this outfit." Some of the details will be priceless.Back to topics
You would be right in guessing that I receive a lot of correspondence about making knives specifically designed for concealed carry. Whether it's military or law enforcement, urban or rural knife enthusiasts, everyone would like to have a little edge on what they perceive is a potential threat in our modern world.
In some states, knives of a certain blade length can not be carried in any concealed fashion. In other states (like mine) any knife that is capable of injury is illegal to carry concealed, unless it's on one's private property, within your automobile (which is also your private property), or in any official capacity (rather vague designation). So in truth, New Mexico actually has some very strict prohibitions on concealed knife carry. This is a bit stunning, because we are a fairly rural state, with every rancher, cowboy, and young man having at least a small pocket knife at his hand, though many of these now are carried in belt pouches, thus rendering them not concealed. Every state varies. I recommend highly that you get a clear picture of your own state's laws and the laws of any state you're travelling in by clicking on Bernard Levine's FREE links to state knife laws here.
Please remember that new laws are in the works at all times. Knives fit into concealed carry permit laws for some states, so knife carry may be considered under those statutes. Be sure and check your own state's permit options and requirements, which differ from standard state knife laws.
When looking over your state's knife laws, you can also get an idea just what they might be used for, as laws are refined during cases where specific knife carry laws may apply. In our state, for instance, if you are convicted of carrying a concealed knife (remember, in New Mexico, that is any blade capable of injury), it is a petty misdemeanor. So, as you can imagine, this law is only loosely enforced, and I think it's there more for the capability of law enforcement to detain and help convict suspects of violent crimes where the knife or blade plays a roll. Our state does not routinely arrest and charge people with carrying a knife in their pocket, in public, though they could... and every state is different.
The technical issues surrounding the mechanics of concealed carry knives are often more of a determining factor than the legal ones. I write about those on my Sheaths page here. For more detailed discussion of concealed carry of knives, please read my dedicated page on Concealed Carry of Knives.Back to topics
I get them; every website with hefty traffic does. The complainers. The guys trying to offer constructive criticism. They're just trying to help, or they have a beef, or they're just unhappy about the way a particular view, idea, or concept is presented on this site. Sometimes, they're actually disturbed by how I've constructed the site, what I've included, and how it's structured in the markup. Even though before emailing me they read that I only answer emails about serious knife inquiries, they insist on giving me their two cents. Mostly, what I see from them is that they have some preconceived notion about what they think this site should say, what it should be about, and even how it is presented. Since the reality is different than they think it should be, they protest to me, perhaps thinking that I'll change it to suit their philosophy or design ideas.
I also get plenty of email with positive support and encouragement for what you see posted on this site, and the positive comments outweigh the negative by many, many times, so I know I'm doing something right. I've even had positive comments from dealers who market the factory knives that I've described on these very pages. Other makers have gleaned much information here, and I hope that I've inspired others and caused them to think about their knives, their businesses, their internet future.
With both types of comments, I try to be pragmatic. If I get enough requests for a change, and the change makes sense, I might consider it. Take, for instance, my Knife Anatomy page. I built this page because a lot of guys were trying to identify parts on a modern custom knife, but had no clear frameset to discuss those parts, areas, or components. Rather than type a detailed description in every email, the potential knife client can go to the knife anatomy page and identify the exact component. From there, we can have a conversation about his knife interest. Now, the page has taken on a life of its own, and is one of the top hitters on my site, with plenty of outside links to it, and new ones every week.
If you're reading this, you have more than a passing interest in knives. To you, I want to make this point crystal clear. This site is about my knives. It's all about the knives. In my focus on writing, photography, publication, presentation, web site development, marketing, education, growth, and business, one thing must and does take precedence over all the others ... the knives. I am here because of the business of pieces of steel sculpted into blades, wood and rock carved into handles, and skins and plastics formed into sheaths. The embellishment, the presentation, the promotion, the representations are all about the knives I make. Thanks for being here!Back to topics
It is rather refreshing to come across inspired and inspiring people like you. Many thanks for sharing your thoughts, knowledge, and expertise.
This question comes up more and more. Dealers, knife collectors, makers, and enthusiasts are trying to figure out if the net is the place to shop, if shows are the place to be, and if they have focused their dollars in the right place. The truth is, no one knows what volume of internet sales exists, who's buying how many knives, and how that may compare with knife or craft show knife sales.
The show sales would be a more reasonable venue from which to draw data. Most guys know if a show is a good show; makers are pretty straightforward about the show's success, and often share this data with other makers and show promoters. If it's a successful show, the maker will probably return, and that's another good indicator. But those are only spot indicators, and are controlled by the venue, the advertising, the local economy in the show area, the type of knives brought to the show, the price ranges, and many other more minor factors. For example, a simple problem with hotel room booking requirements, or carrier-wide airline cancellations can make or break a show for a maker or client. The cost of travel, the limited time and availability of show merchandise, and the troublesome process of carrying knives to and from the show will only worsen.
The Internet is an altogether different medium. One can not claim to have any serious data on overall knife sales, but it is generally agreed that Internet knife sales have crushed show sales years ago. Specialty items like custom handmade knives will continue to soar in sales over the net, and shows will continue to decline. On the Internet, a client can take his time, learn to get to know the maker through the maker's website, see many more pictures of his work, testimonials, and much more information on his maker than he can in the short time they could meet at a knife show. Though many say this face time is important, makers can encourage clients to stop by their place of business when they travel (I do!), and the client can get to know the maker in his studio, at his storefront (he does have a professional business storefront, doesn't he?), and one on one. At the studio, the client can handle each pattern he's seen on the website, look over the various projects and materials, and get a clear picture of how a professional knife maker works in his real place of business. That will give him much more information than a quick meet and greet at a distracting knife show.
The horizon is bleak for shows, and though I believe they will continue, they will never have the grandeur of the late 1980s and early 1990s. More and more makers (like me!) are realizing their time is better spent in the shop, creating beautiful pieces, and maintaining a worthwhile website that their clients can comfortably peruse in their own pace. The backlog of orders is testimony to the success of an Internet-based custom and handmade knife business.
Do you absolutely need some face time? Nowadays, this is an option with Skype's and Teleconferencing, and I do that too!Back to topics
When a knife dealer claims to know trends and directions of the vast field of custom knives, he is only talking about of the types, styles, and price range of knives that he has experience with. For instance, he may not even know that there are hundreds of fine gemstone handled knives that will never make it into the secondary market to be resold, simply because the knife client or collector wishes to keep his knives, and is not interested in reselling them. The dealer may be completely unaware of this price range and type of fine knives, as his clients and acquisitions may be limited to the interest of his own clients, and their ability to buy. The most limiting factor is that a dealer will never have access to knives that are bought directly from the maker if the maker refuses to sell to dealers (I do, and so do many other makers of fine knives). If the knives are rarely resold, the dealer may not even know they exist. So, if a knife client purchases from a dealer, the client may not acquire the best of knives from the dealer, because the best knives usually never make it into a dealer's hands. Where to get the best of knives? Directly from the maker, that's where.
As the internet grows and continues to be a direct source of purchase, this narrowing of knife dealer's access to high end knives will accelerate. I believe that dealers will continue to thrive, selling what I consider to be middle market knives, but more and more specialty knives will be purchased directly from the maker.
You might ask why a maker would sell to a dealer in the first place? There are many reasons; a new maker might want to get established through a dealer who has access to a large client base. The maker may not wish to trouble himself with the ongoing effort of a website. The maker may not be a good salesman and is uncomfortable dealing with this aspect of the knife business. More about that in the section immediately below: Knives sold only through dealers.
Most dealers nowadays require a percentage of the sale price of a knife. So it is generally expected that the maker should drop his price for the dealer by that percentage, so the dealer can benefit from the price difference, and sell the knife for what the maker ordinarily would. Though this may be acceptable to some knife makers, I believe this is unethical. How ethical is it to say that a dealer who has the ability to buy multiple knives at one time should get a discount over a soldier who puts his life on the line defending our country every day? Take the occupation out of the equation. How ethical is it to set prices differently for different clients for the same knife? No matter how you try to justify it, it won't wash. It is unethical to vary the price of a knife depending on who is buying it.
I know this goes on in the knife and art markets, but it's a dirty little secret that no one mentions to the final client. How would you feel if you found out that if you only purchased directly from the knife maker, you would have saved 20 percent? And makers who would try to sell you the knife at the same price as the dealer are saying to their clients: "you don't buy enough knives from me, so you have to pay more." What? Maybe this goes on across the nation in large volume stores and with massive purchases and acquisitions between companies, but knife making is a one-on-one personal purchase, and this is not Wal-Mart.
The ultimate limitation of purchasing from a dealer is that the knife will NEVER be custom. Custom knives are made to the client's requirements, and eliminating that contact, conversation, and interaction between clients, patrons, and the knife maker eliminates the possibility of a true custom knife. So any time you see the word "custom" mentioned in a conversation about a knife purchase from a dealer, it is in error.Back to topics
You're looking for a knife, and you know that the maker is an individual, and he is engaged in professional knife making, but find out that his knives are only sold through dealers. Is this a good thing? Can you trust him; is this a viable business? Though you can buy a knife anywhere, some basic distinctions will help you understand the differences between buying from a dealer and ordering directly through the knifemaker.
You have the right to know who you are purchasing from. A good idea would be to ask why the maker sells this way, since the ultimate purpose of any professional business interest is to reach and satisfy its clients. Here are some of the reasons this type of separation between the knifemaker and client occurs:
If you are a prospective knife buyer or client, and you are on the internet looking for handmade knives from a knifemaker, why wouldn't you have the option of a conversation (through email or inquiry) about the very knife you are interested in? If you are ordering a custom knife, this conversation is absolutely essential to have the knife made to your specifications. If you are ordering a knife from a maker's inventory or his creative works, you should be able to ask questions and receive detailed answers about the design, materials, finish, embellishment, and accessories available for the knife.
Ultimately, as a knife buyer or client, it is your money and your choice in how you spend it. While a secondary knife market such as a dealer may be the most financially attractive option, you might be surprised at the cost of a knife ordered directly through the knife maker, since the dealer certainly has to take a cut of the maker's profit. A dealer (with the seller's or maker's permission) may mark up the price to get his cut. In this case, you are paying for the dealer to display the knife on his website, and operate his business, which is selling the knives from many makers in addition to his profit. If other makers' knives aren't selling, are you paying for the dealer to maintain, advertise, and store his inventory with the cost of your purchase?
Why not go directly to the maker for your knife needs? Of course, I, like most makers, would prefer this and it is certainly something for a knife client to think about. If you purchase directly through the maker, you do not pay for additional markup that a dealer may add to the price. You can get all of your questions answered directly from the original source of the knife: the guy who made the knife. Why wouldn't you want to buy this way?Back to topics
Dear Mr. Fisher,
I want to say thank you for sharing your vast knowledge of knife making. I've been reading your website on and off for the past couple of months and I really appreciate you putting the information out there. It has been extremely helpful for a beginner such as myself and I am sure it will continue to be a valuable resource as I hone my skills at this wonderful craft. Again, thank you.
Every good knife eventually sells.
I don’t offer discounts. It wouldn’t be fair to other clients.
This is an odd curiosity about this business that I elaborate on in my upcoming book. It seems that knife makers appear a desperate lot to some buyers, like fruit salesmen at at common market. Who would think of going to an art show and trying to get a couple of paintings at a discount? Who might go to the hardware store and offer to pay a lower price if he bought two hammers instead of one? You wouldn't do this to your tailor, your auto mechanic, or your grocer.
If these comparisons seem a little off the mark because the fields are so different than knife making, let's look at some that are very similar. Would you go to the jewelry store and ask for a discount if you bought two rings instead of one? Think this is still different than the knife maker? How's this: go to the hardware store or the mall, to the section where they sell... knives. Take two up to the counter and request a discount if you buy both of them. See what the sales person tells you. What? You wouldn't do that? Then why would someone try this with a knife maker?
It's simple really. Knife makers are often, sadly, considered mere hobbyists in our culture, not craftsmen, not artists, and not deserving of the respect that most people give other artists and craftsmen in metals or other media. Perhaps some of them think that knife makers are desperate to make a sale and will do anything to move knives. Others may think that it is simply good business practice to ask, because heck, you never know what kind of deal you'll get. I understand the desire to pay less than everyone else because more than one item is moving. But volume discounts are for large chain stores or business to business ventures and typically deal with hundreds if not thousands of units, not one-of-a-kind works of art.
This request may originate in the buyer's idea that pricing is fluid. For you other makers who entertain this belief, please note that the practice of ever-changing prices will hurt your business long-term, and drastically affect the investment value of your knives. I'll go into more details in my book, but here are some of my own experiences with people who think prices are fluid instead of calculated.
I encountered a man who didn't have enough money to purchase the knife he wanted, so he asked me to change the price. He said, "The price is just a number you put on the knife! Just change the number!" I told him I would never sell him a knife.
I follow a strict pricing structure, a program that accounts for every effort, every ounce and inch of steel, every expendable, the overhead, electricity, and utilities it takes to make a knife as well as the current market value. See "How much do your knives cost?" on the FAQ page. This structure defines my exact cost to make the knife, and thus the exact price to sell it. With so many modifications in the features and options of a knife, I take into account over 65 variations in the pricing breakdown. Tool steel, gemstones, and exotics are very expensive, more so every year, as are abrasives, electricity, shipping, materials, and supplies. These costs are all figured into the quoted price.
Another time, at a custom knife show, a woman desperately wanted a knife for her husband, and had gone over all the show tables and returned to mine three times. She had her eye on a knife with a mosaic gemstone handle, one with clear areas of agate in the matrix of the stone. It was obvious that she wanted it badly. She asked first if I would drop the price for her, and I politely said no.
Then she looked at the agate and said, "This area here, it looks like epoxy. You should discount it for me."
I took the knife from her hand and told her that it was agate, not epoxy, and if she thought the knife had a flaw there was no way I would sell her a piece she thought was defective. She left my table in a huff. It was a couple months before the piece went to a collector who knew what he was looking at.
Besides being unfair, for me to discount any knife would suggest that the knife is not worth what the structure has assigned, or that I can’t sell within that structure framework, or that the knife has some flaw or defect. This degrades the piece, its value, my craftsmanship, the client, and all other clients who purchase my custom knives. It degrades the long term investment value of the piece, as well as the whole process. Experienced collectors or knife aficionados and professionals who depend on tactical knives, chef's knives, and working knives don't haggle about price. In some cultures haggling is expected, but this is not a produce market, and I'm not desperate to make a sale.
Incidentally, how would you feel if you worked for a company and every payday, someone from the accounting department came by to negotiate your salary in a downward direction? What if they told you that because they are paying for multiple paydays over the period of months or years that they deserved a break on what they would pay you. Even if you are desperate, once you open the door to this type of thinking, do you think that it would then remain fixed or would it continue to spiral downward, making your attitude spoil and your work less than... optimum?
What about knives that sit on my site for a long time unsold? Sometimes, a knife might sit on my site for three years before it is purchased. There are so many types of knives, styles, and options that it takes the particular individual who that style satisfies to meet his knife on my website and purchase the knife. Sooner or later, every knife sells. I have my own 30+ year history in this trade and business to attest to that. And if a knife doesn't sell for the calculated price, then I'd just as soon keep it for my very own, because I love knives! I just can't seem to keep any-Back to topics
I've read here on the internet that I'm hard on factory knives. Is it being too harsh to reveal the truth? Perhaps people who defend factory knives have spent their own hard-earned money on them and feel the need to defend their purchases. Maybe they hope that the value of their dollars are well-applied, and they won't be seen as mere consumers of a mass-marketed manufactured product. But when you openly compare factory knives to knives made by well known established knife makers, you open the conversation to reveal the differences in glaring reality. The most important thing to realize is that:
Factory or manufactured knives depreciate from the moment of purchase.
Fine handmade custom knives from well-known makers appreciate from the moment of purchase.
While there may be many complaints about design, materials, construction, fit, finish, presentation, service, and accessories in factory or manufactured knives, there are usually only two complaints about fine handmade custom knives by a well-known professional knife maker:
The same people who complain about those two realities will never attack the maker's knives, their design, their fit and finish, the maker's reputation, the service, or the accessories. They will usually agree that the knives are worth the price, particularly since the value and cost of the knives increases year after year. I've seen this continually in my own work. It's a stunning fact that the knife value is increasing while the knife is on order and waiting to be made! If you order a knife for $1x and wait three years for it to be delivered, it may well be worth $2x by the time it reaches your hand! Do you then wonder why then, even if a maker has a long backlog of orders, someone would order from him? The investment value of fine custom knives by well known makers is substantial and the savvy knife client knows his money is growing even before he has the knife in his hand. Show me a factory or manufactured knife that does the same thing!Back to topics
Mr. Fisher: I'm glad I happened upon your website. Your work is impressive, and I appreciate the wealth of info you have placed on your site. I have never owned a custom made knife, but I recently had the pleasure of handling one of yours in North Carolina, where I decided to someday purchase a nice hunter from you when funds allow. That experience has also led me to decide to never buy another factory made knife, and to learn the art of knife making myself. With your permission, I hope it's OK if use your site as a source of learning and inspiration.
Sincerely, David W., Altavista, VA
I've often heard or read of makers calling their knives "Custom." What does this mean and why do they do it? A custom knife is a knife made to order, with specific details and instructions from the knife client on how the knife is constructed, it's materials, its design, its finish, its accessories, and its embellishment. Making a custom knife entails an involved conversation between the knife client and the knife maker. It may be as simple as specifying a profile pattern and handle material (see over 400 I've made on my Patterns Page here), or may involve the client's own drawings, ideas, design, embellished artwork, and sheath, stand, or case.
The most important thing to realize is that:
Custom knives are made to order knives.
Knives not made to order are not custom knives.
Why do makers specify that they make custom knives? The word custom in the handmade knife world is very important. It signifies the maker is highly skilled, or he wouldn't be able to accommodate individual client's needs and directives. It means he is a direct participant in the conversation between client and maker. It means he can make the knife a client wants, not only the knives the maker wants to make. Incidentally, I never call the knives that are available in my inventory on my site custom. So when you do see the word custom or custom made on one of my knife pictures, descriptions, or featured pages, know that my client had direct, involved input in the design, components, arrangement, and accessories of the entire knife package.
Unfortunately, there is a lot of misuse of the word custom by knife makers, enthusiasts, and knife buyers and owners. Knifemakers will try to gather their work under the classification of custom by claiming that the specifications the knife was made to are the maker's, therefore the knives are custom. This is just foolish, and demonstrates to any knowledgeable knife client that the maker is desperate to make a sale, and probably is an unscrupulous businessman to be avoided. If the knife is not specifically made to order by the client who purchases the knife, it is not a custom knife.
Sometimes, a knife that is made to order is resold. The seller might try to sell the knife as a custom knife. If a knife is resold, it is no longer a custom knife. It can be reasonably stated in the description that the knife was originally made as a custom knife for John Doe, but if a name is not specified, and the original owner is not known, it is not a custom knife and should not be sold as such. To sell a knife on the open market and call it custom raises red flags about the maker, dealer, or seller and they should be avoided.
The same holds for any knife claimed to be a custom knife. The maker or seller should disclose who's specifications it was made for. If I tried to foolishly claim one of my inventory or creative knives as custom, I would then state, "This is a custom knife made to Jay Fisher's specifications by Jay Fisher." See how ridiculous that sounds?
How do you know if a maker is a true custom knife maker? The answer is (as always) right here on the internet. The maker's web site should have plenty of pictures, descriptions, and details about the custom knives he's made, and who he has made them for. He should have many profiles and designs, because if he's a true custom maker, many designs will be presented and created over the years. If he only has a handful of designs, and they are similar, the chances are good that he is not a custom maker willing to consider many and varied client's ideas.
Want to know a lot more about custom knives? Here's special page on custom knives I created just to detail this classification.Back to topics
Occasionally, you'll hear a knife called semi-custom, or you'll hear of a knife making company or endeavor called a semi-custom shop or a semi-custom maker, pre-production, semi-production factory. These are terms that sprouted up a few years ago, and along with Boutique Shop, they are used to describe knives that come from a small factory or manufacturer. This is a business that uses the name of the original maker, though the knives are made by a group of people (workers) who perform various jobs in the knife making process. Sometimes, all of the knife work is done in this establishment, and sometimes parts, pieces, and components are farmed out. Some parts may be imported from overseas suppliers, and often, parts are made by automated machinery. Knives are made and sold by volume, and there is no individual creation, no single maker creating the pieces, and no knifemaker whose name appears on the blade as the actual maker of the knife. Instead, the maker's name is simply a brand name or a trademark. In an effort to describe this type of knife and business operation, someone came up with the term semi-custom and others.
You are probably now thinking, "Why would they call these knives semi-custom, when what Jay is describing is a small factory?"
You head is certainly screwed on straight. This is an attempt to claim some advantage over a larger factory's production knives and claim some relationship to an individually hand-crafted knife. Incidentally, notice how the phrase hand-crafted has now found itself into submarine sandwiches, burgers, and food products made at fast food restaurants? Think that they are trying to cash in on some perception of fine craftsmanship? Hmm?
These terms are used to make you think that these are more than a small knife factory, or small knife manufacturer. Perhaps the original maker whose name appears on the blade is looking over each knife, but you can be assured that he is not making the knives. These are factory knives, pure and simple.
The use of the word custom is key here. Just like in the previous topic (What is a Custom Knife?), and the special page dedicated to defining and clarifying custom knives, the idea that a knife can be custom made or have custom features is valued in this tradecraft and field, and manufacturers know that people are often sold on words alone. So, just like using the terms bench and tech and tactical in their product lines and descriptions, they are hoping that you will be sold on the knife as being more than it really is, which is a knife that is manufactured, with many hands (sometimes from many countries) doing the work.
Sometimes, you'll see options that you may request on these manufactured knives and thus, the manufacturer claims that the knives are customized, or customizable. You may be able to request a pattern, a particular CNC engraving, or perhaps maybe a certain handle material that is in a pre-designated list of options. This is like picking a color on your new truck. Your truck is not a custom work, it is not made to order, and neither are these knives. If you doubt this, just ask for a handle design from one of their knives combined with blade design from another, and a handle material from yet another, and be sure to ask for a certain type of sheath that will fit your tactical webbing or gear with specific mounting options or orientations. Then, ask to have your name etched on the blade or perhaps some personal or stylized engraving on the bolsters. While you're at it, ask for a certain type of serrations, a modified blade length, or a finish that differs from what they offer. Of course, you can now see why you will be turned down flat, and convinced that these are NOT CUSTOM KNIVES.
So, what would be a good word that would describe these smaller manufacturing firms? How about the John Doe Knife Company? How about using the name of the family that started the process, like Buck® knives? This has seemed to work well for these other standard and very popular knife manufacturers. But these smaller firms don't want to do that, because they will be lumped in the same category, and will have to compete with other manufactured knives in price. After all, that is exactly what they are: manufactured knives made in a factory by many hands. They are not custom, semi-, pre-, or otherwise, and this is just a cheap advertising ploy. Contrast this with other small knife firms that have not used this tactic, and yet are doing quite well in the field. You can probably name several of them right off the top of your head. They didn't mislead their knife customers into thinking that the knives are made by the hands of some singular individual. They don't claim that their works are somehow custom. They simply have options. Perhaps a good name for these companies is Knife Manufacturers with Options. Not very glamorous, but accurate.
Look, I have nothing against any factory knife, if it is presented in truth without smoke an mirrors and hype and snake oil. A good, cheap knife is simply a good cheap knife for a cheap price. What bothers me is when cheap knives are claimed to be somehow superior while they lack fit, are poorly ground, poorly finished, presented without details on the steel type, alloy composition, or characteristics, have weak or poorly mounted handles, and have useless or even non-existent sheaths or accessories. Then, because they have someone's name on them, they're supposed to be worth more! Just how is that a service to a knife customer?Back to topics
Hello sir. I am a big fan of you and your knives. I feel that you are a true professional craftsman. Not just in metal, but also in wood and leather. I’m afraid for the time being I do not have the kind of money for one of your knives. But someday, you will hear from me, and the knife you will make will be extraordinary! You’ll be hearing from me again. Until then,
If you've read the knife descriptions on my knives for sale pages, you'll see quite a write up about each knife. I take a lot of time to describe why I've made the knife, what its purpose is, how it's constructed and why, the materials, the properties and reasons for the materials choices, the ideas behind the accoutrements, the embellishment, and the overall artwork.
On one bulletin board, years ago, when I posted a particular knife's description, I was accused of having "professional advertising copy" and was snubbed by the members of the site for describing my own work! I removed all my postings and am not nor will ever be associated with that group again. It hasn't hurt my business one tiny bit.
It's a funny thing; I guess some people consider knife makers as backwoods hicks and want them to come across that way. "Yup, I just stuck together some steel and wood and leather and made this here knife."
Truly, there are some makers who come across that way, but the successful ones are professionals, with professional attitudes and methods. Do I pay a professional to write up the advertising copy for my knives? You bet I do, and that guy is me. Who would know more about the knife I've made than I would? Why wouldn't a potential buyer or client who invests his hard-earned cash in a knife purchase want to know all the details and passion that is the foundation of the particular knife creation? If it were me, I'd want to know everything, every small detail about the piece of artwork. My clients appreciate this, and I've never had one knife client tell me the he knew too much about his knife!Back to topics
Occasionally, I get asked to supply my artwork, craftwork, or knife projects to entities that are organizing art displays, museum exhibitions, or craft shows. They are looking for well-made products, cleanly and finely executed, to fill their roster and area for their shows. These take on several formats.
The first format is the donation. They claim that if I just donate a knife, I'll get plenty of exposure, publicity, and this will benefit my work, business, and art. That may be true, but at 4-5 years in backorders, I'm not sure I could survive any more exposure! Making and supplying a knife or knife project for no reward other than exposure is not very reasonable. After all, at about 100,000 hits a day and 3 million hits a month on this site, just how much more exposure can I handle? And there is that pesky responsibility to my family, business, and self that requires me to pay my bills. Exposure and publicity aside, how responsible is it for me to postpone orders by paying clients to make an elaborate donation piece? The show organizers are always on a deadline, and never want something simple, after all...
Other donations take the form of gift donations, for causes or persons. I actually do make donations to certain military groups and individuals who I choose to, but I am at my maximum quota of donation, meaning I can't give any more. You would be surprised how many requests (dozens a year) I receive for free knives, free sheaths, free services, an any thing else that I might be able to provide for free to individuals, groups, organizations, and causes. There is usually no way to determine if these individuals or organizations are real, much less worthy of free handouts. Also, I simply don't have the resources to ferret out the specifics and validate the sources due to so many requests. Another consideration is that a donation implies my support and endorsement, and I have to be careful that these are real causes. The requests may be simple and clear, or they may arise from a complicated and detailed story about the hard times the person has suffered. Surely, some of these are scams, perhaps most of them, and I have to be very careful, as most artists, craftsmen, and businesses do. It's not that I don't have empathy for causes and events, it's that I choose how I donate, and it is not a choice made from a pleading email from an unknown person claiming to represent an unknown group or organization. Good grief, I even get donation requests from large companies!
The second format is the temporary custody. This can occur in exhibitions or during consignment. How this works is that I submit my piece(s) to them for their display or exhibition, and after their event is finished, they are returned to me. Sounds good at first, but if you've ever worked with anyone who is not a knife maker, and who does not have an investment in your work, the care factor can be severely limited; after all, it's not their bank account that will take a hit if something happens to my pieces. Knives and sheaths can be left cooking under intense, high heat lamps, may be subjected to mishandling and misuse, and can come back scratched, faded, and in some cases, ruined. While they are on display, who is responsible for them? Who is responsible for crating, boxing shipping and insuring that shipment? Will they insure your work against damage and theft while it is in their possession? Most will not, and knives are very attractive items and objects for thieves. I've had gallery owners tell me that knives are an "attractive nuisance," and they will not display them. And when your knives are "lost," how long will it take and through what immense red tape fiasco will I have to submit to get reimbursed? How is the value determined: by the value of the raw stock, the resale price, the appraised value, or the price I sell it for?
I don't want to sound negative, but this is not my first rodeo, and I've gone through every one of these scenarios I described myself at some point in my career; most well-known makers have. The outcomes have been, unfortunately, less than desirous, and I've yet to walk away from this and claim, "Now, that was a great experience!"
Everybody wants the work; I'm grateful and honored by that. I must consider, first, my responsibilities in this endeavor: to myself, my family, my business, and my clients, and my overall professional future. When the show is over, and the confetti is swept up, I still have to run my own show, complete my orders with diligence, and pay my bills.Back to topics
This site is about my work, but I've also included a generous amount of my opinions about knives, steels, blade geometry, handles, bolsters, guards, sheaths, stands, and cases. I've described at great length the materials and techniques used to build a modern custom knife, and I've made it clear that these are my opinions based on over thirty years making knives, over twenty five years as a full time professional knifemaker (this is my real job!). Most of the people reading this are interested in knives, some are enthusiasts, and some are a bit obsessive. Some of the obsessive types are not obsessive in a constructive way, and they are what I term: "obsessive-defensive."
What this usually means in the knife world is that they've spend a good deal of their money on a knife that is manufactured and then they've read somewhere on this site that a particular feature, material, process, or presentation of their factory knife is poor or cheap, and they feel the need to obsessively defend their purchase. Sadly, this will not make their money go any farther, no matter how many times they recite how great their knife is, how well made, how valuable, or how unique. They will often go on all the knife forums and bulletin boards posting over and again to anyone who might read that their knife is superior, better than other knives, made of better materials, of higher value, or any number of details to justify the dollars they've spent. They may even claim that their purchases are an investment, but this is foolish, as no factory knife sells for more than it is purchased for, unless it is very, very old. They won't convince the masses of their opinion, they won't increase the value of their factory or poorly made knife, but they will spend countless hours trying.
I get emails from these types. Not very often, but they do come in. Usually, the emails are in the form of constructive criticism about some comment I've made that might directly apply to their knife purchase or collection. They simply want me to change what I've written, to reflect their opinion, and because this site gets so much traffic, it might change many more minds in the handmade knife world. Stubborn me, I won't cooperate, and don't even answer their email. So they go on to the next venue, bulletin board, posting, web site, or comment box until they reach agreement and find themselves a happy home.
You'll see this type post often on knife forums, usually anonymously. This allows them their rant, they may even find sympathetic voices, but it does not relieve them of the buyers remorse they have for a cheap knife.
What is the answer? It's simple really, and I've repeated it countless times on this website. A fine knife worthy of investment will appreciate in monetary value over time, a knife that is not worthy will depreciate. I'm not saying that a factory knife or poorly made knife does not have its place in the world; it does. In the utility arena, where knives are abused, uncared for, and eventually discarded, this type of knife reigns. But to compare them to fine handmade collector's or investment knives is ridiculous.
For those who are obsessive-defensive, I'll offer this: Trying to change the value or opinions of the entire world by writing to individual websites or ranting on bulletin boards and forums is as rational as trying to push a rope up a wall.Back to topics
The best critics are my clients; they speak with their money.
Long time no talk. I thought it was long overdue to give you some feedback on the Anzu knife you were kind enough to sell me 7-8 months ago.
First off, wow. What an unbelievable weapon. From its razor's edge to the perfectly formed handle, it's the most impressive and useful tool I have ever bought...because before the Anzu I didn't even know what a real combat knife was. But now I can guarantee, it will be on my gear anytime I go overseas.
Second, I got some serious use out of it in the field just recently and that edge just keeps on cutting. It's still as keen as the day I unopened it. Every time I take it out of its sheath, there are always a few who look at it and ask where in the hell I got a knife like that. Actually seeing the difference between a real combat knife and those bendy POS knives from cold steel puts it into perspective.
Anyway, I am extremely happy with the knife and I apologize for not writing sooner. Take care Jay, and the best to you and yours.
P.S. I will be contacting you in the near future with a custom knife order if you are accepting them right now.
We speak a language of words. Words are used to describe physical objects, processes and techniques, and even skill sets and training. I do my best to choose the words that are applicable in this trade, but invariably, differences occur followed by sometimes heated discussion. At the time of this writing, I'm mainly referring to a conflict that arose on a major knife bulletin board forum posting. A guy self-claiming to be a "Master" of his trade took issue with my description of how I carve a sheath. Argued about a term I used: the word: "carving."
When I use a term, it is not off the top of my head. This particular term was taken from a published text by Al Stohlman, with input from A. D. Patten and J. A. Wilson, arguably the fathers of American leather crafting. The term was referred to describing the technique I used in several of these published works, which sit in the Library of Congress. These are real books by real masters.
The point is that when I use a term, I'm very careful about its source. Sometimes, a word is gleaned from the current language of the arts. For instance, the word "filework" can not be found in any dictionary, though the word is common among knife aficionados. Words are often misused, such as the welt of a sheath being called a gusset. I try to clarify some of these terms on my knife anatomy page.
When we have a source for terms used, that gives them weight, punch, and a recognition. Creating or using terms just for the sake of ego is another matter. Take the term: "Master." When one proclaims to be a master of his trade, that declares that he is experienced, knowledgeable, and proven in his field. But to put the word "Master" in front of his professional job title requires that he be officially recognized by a professional entity. You might allow me to say that I'm a master of gemstone handled knives, merely by virtue of having made more than any other single knifemaker in history. But if I put in front of my name: "Master Lapidarist Jay Fisher," this would imply that some official entity would have recognized me with a published certificate or a sanctioned recognition of that title. Frankly, you may master an art (or many arts) but you can not proclaim yourself a "Master." Someone else, some official entity, must do that for you.
You may be thinking that such discussion is frivolous, but in order to present yourself and your works to others, particularly people who will send you money for your product and artwork, you should be absolutely clear about what constitutes the basis of your description. Bloating your job description might be seen as a disingenuous, even dishonest act.
People who read are not stupid. People who read the web, understand the value and direction of fine art and craft, and invest thousands of dollars to pursue their artistic collection or interest are not fools, and they have my respect. If it weren't for them, I wouldn't have a job or career in this exciting field. I respect them enough to be forthright.
In other countries, there are classifications, such as "Master Harness Maker," or "Master Saddler" that are titles bestowed by trade groups and training schools on accomplished and educated tradesmen. In the United States, there is no such official title for leather workers or leather craftsmen. So one could say, "He is a master at leatherwork," but he could not rightfully use the term to describe himself, "Master Leatherworker: John Doe."
The only official title I know of in this field is that bestowed by the American Bladesmith Society, where qualifications for hand-forging knives must be met. This appears to be loosely based upon the European system of formal trade titles. This system has been traditional in Europe, classifying workers as laborer, tradesman, or professional, with sub-classifications of apprentice, journeyman, and master.
A title I do use frequently is "Professional." This indicates that what I do here is my profession; this is how I derive my income and support myself and my family. The term is accurate and descriptive as well as trade-oriented.Back to topics
My name came up in an internet posting of a craftsman's worry about comparison to my gemstone handled knives. I took a look at this guy's work and process. It was clear that the man invested a lot of time, effort, materials, process, and skill in making his gemstone handles to apply (glued) to factory knives. There really is no comparison.
Unfortunately, retrofit knives of any kind are not a good investment for the knife client, not because of the craftsman who makes and applies the handle, but because they are applied to cheap, common, and mundane factory knives. No matter how complicated, well-executed, and magnificent a piece of rock or other material is made into a handle, it does it no justice to apply it to a common factory knife. This retrofit does not make it an investment knife, a knife worthy of collection, or worthy of note in any way.
It's kind of sad, because as the guy in this case has the skill to make gemstone handles, he's probably got the skill to make the knives: the blades, the bolsters and fittings, the designs, the sheaths or stands, too. If he would apply that same dedication to the complete knife, it might surprise him how well he does.
Tying an individual maker's name to a factory refit doesn't do a maker any good, either. There are dozens of guys who have attached gemstone and other unusual materials to factory made knives, and there is a huge company here in the southwest that regularly offers this service. The knives are, and will continue to be cheaply made and of little value.
Look, there's nothing wrong with buying a factory retrofit, but please don't try to make a valid comparison to a handmade or custom knife of sole authorship by an established maker, and don't pay a substantial price for the piece. It was a cheap knife when it left the factory, and does not become better designed, finished, or of better quality in materials and workmanship simply by gussying it up with a piece of rock or other material. It's still a cheap knife, just with a nicer handle.Back to topics
People ask from time to time if I will refinish a knife. I make knives; I don't refinish them. I state so on my "Services Offered" page at this bookmark. I get questioned as to why I won't do this so here is the section giving the details.
Thankfully, this request rarely comes about for knives I've made. I can count on one hand the requests to refinish my own knives that has come in my 30+ years making knives. This is mostly due to the final knife owner, who has valued and cared for his purchase and investment.
This topic usually comes up because knives are made of steel, and steel can corrode. Though modern stainless tool steels inhibit corrosion, they are not "corrosion proof." Steel can and does rust. Stainless steels do not rust or corrode as easily as carbon steels that have significantly lower chromium, but they can and will show signs of rust and pitting if not cared for. The capability for a steel blade or fittings to rust depends on the type of steel, the finish, the heat treating (most high carbon stainless steels do not reach their full corrosion resistant potential until heat treated), and the exposures. See the details of knife care and corrosion resistance on my "Knife Care" page and my "FAQ" page at this bookmark.
Knife handles need their own specific care regime, service, and maintenance. Some have substantial potential stability and longevity problems. Horn, shell, bone, wood, stabilized woods, phenolics, epoxies, and other manmade and natural materials can and will all change over time. Probably the only handle material that does not is gemstone. Of course, any material can be abraded, blemished, and damaged.It takes a lot of effort and skill to refinish an old knife. If the knife is a manufactured or factory knife, it makes no sense to go to the effort of grinding, sanding, and polishing an old blade. The cost incurred in labor, materials and supplies, electricity, and time far outweigh the value of a factory knife. If the manufactured or factory knife has significant value, it is almost always because it is very old, and old knives, like antique furniture, should never be refinished as this would effect their value.
Custom and handmade knives do have significant intrinsic value, so the question of refinishing them has some basis. If the knife has noticeable corrosion damage, moisture exposure, or signs of abuse or neglect, the desire of the owner is to simply have the knife "cleaned up," and restored to its original appearance and value. Though it does not seem like much to ask, this is a serious, often unreasonable remedy.
Sometimes, the knife owner thinks that the best place to have a custom or handmade knife refinished is through the original maker. After all, he made the knife, surely he can "fix" it. This seems innocuous enough, and it seems reasonable from the owner's perspective. There may be other makers who refinish the knives they've made, but I don't.
There is a tendency by some owners to think that because a maker's name is on the knife, that maker becomes responsible for the maintenance, upkeep, refinishing, and repair of the knife for as long as he is alive. What other tradecraft does this? Does a furniture maker own all the responsibility of refinishing his creations after they've suffered neglect, abuse, or simple aging? Does a car maker own all the duty of removing scratches from the paint of a car that has his emblem on it for as long as that car exists? How many artists regularly take in their own paintings to repair damage by neglect? Does a gun maker own all the responsibility for re-bluing and refinishing barrels and stocks for as long as the gun is valued by an owner? Of course not, so why does this occur in this tradecraft? It's another unusual trait of knife making that I'll go into in greater depth in my book. Just because a maker's name is on the blade, it does not mean he owns the knife.
The knife is owned by someone else. Having the maker's name on the knife and taking the knife in to refinish it does not negate the fact that the knife is someone else's property. Extreme care and diligence must be taken while someone else's knife is in possession, and that includes protecting it from theft, damage, or unforeseen events, including responsibility for shipping, handling, and storage. Like many busy knife makers, I'm years in backorders, so the refinishing job should take a place in line, just as custom orders do. That means that if I have a three year waiting list, I will not push back the client who's waiting on his order to be filled so I can refinish a knife. Meanwhile, the knife waiting to be refinished sits and waits for years and I'm responsible for its safety, preservation, storage, and care during those years. Like most makers, I have too much to care for in my own business without taking on added responsibility of someone else's knives.
The knife may not be able to be refinished, no matter the skill, dedication, or determination of the maker or refinisher. Knife blades that are thinly ground as most of mine are should not and perhaps can not be ground thinner without compromising the strength and integrity of the blade. Grinding, sanding, and finishing any material will lead to thinner material. This has an affect not only on strength, but balance, weight, feel, and the way a knife fits into the sheath, stand, case, or hand.
Certain parts of the knife (like the blade) are actually finished before handle attachment. This means that the knife would have to be taken apart to properly regrind the blade. On most of my knives, the handle would be destroyed in order to be removed. The filework, which is preserved during the first grinding and finishing process, would not survive regrinding, as the profile of the blade overall would be reduced, changing the edgework drastically, perhaps erasing it altogether. Bolsters, which are permanent attachments, would have to be removed and replaced with new ones. The handle material, the bolsters, and the filework would all be changed, the knife would have to be brought down to a bare, roughed-in blade. This would bring it to the stage I call on my "Where's my Knife, Jay?" page as step 5 out of 25. This is very close to hand-making a new knife. So the price quote for doing so would be almost the same as making a new knife from scratch. If the knife is several years old, the owner might be surprised to learn that that cost will be several times what he paid for the knife originally!
Once a knife refinishing job is taken on, the responsibility rests with the refinisher, and the knife owner may claim the right to replacement if the job is not or can not be done to his satisfaction. This is a lot to ask of a busy knife maker, and the specter of furnishing a new knife as a replacement is always present. A replacement in this business means a knife at several times the cost of the original knife's price, at a complete loss to the maker.
What is the answer? The answer is the same as every other durable product, investment, or work of art purchased in this world. Care must be taken to maintain long-term value. It's really that simple!Back to topics
"If you've lived to 29 and you have no enemies, you're a failure."
I read a comment on a forum that Jay Fisher is pretentious. I like this; at least they spelled my name correctly.
Pretentious is characterized by pretension: making usually unjustified or excessive claims: expressive of affected, unwarranted, or exaggerated importance, worth, or stature: making demands on one's skill, ability, or means: ambitious: showy. So let's tear this apart a little and examine it.
Unjustified or excessive claims? Just what would those be? The only claim I make on my site is that I make knives, and I express my opinion about those knives. Many claims or statements about my knives on this website are not made by me, but by my clients, in the testimonials spread throughout the site. I don't claim any knife I make to have any kind of unjustified or excessive power, ability, or value. A knife is only a knife, and any knife can be damaged, devalued, or destroyed. I only give my opinion based on my experience. And value? The value of my work (as all others') is bedded in the market. If a knife is not worth what it's sold for, it simply won't sell. Try repeatedly to sell knives for higher than the market requires, and the market will leave you with accumulating inventory. I don't have much inventory, usually less than a few knives, so I must be in line with the market.
How about that exaggerated importance? Just where has old Jay claimed he's important? I'm a knife maker; I'm not president of the clan, speaker of the house, or holder of the throne. I'm satisfied that when I'm gone, the knives will stay around, but the memory of me will quickly fade, just as every knife maker's name will over time. I don't claim any importance on my site, only my preferences and ideas. Any honors given or recognition has come from someone else. And worth or stature? My worth in my tradecraft is only to those who purchase the art, tools, and weapons I make. They honor me with their hard-earned money, and I'm deeply grateful to them. They make it possible for me to do what I do.
How about making claims on one's skill, ability, or means? Well, scratch the means off right away, because I'm not making knives to get rich, no one is, and no one will be who chooses this profession. Ability? You can see what that ability is right here on the site. I've included several thousand pictures of knives I've made, so that illustrates just what that ability might be. The skill I have is hard earned, too, and as I've said repeatedly, I'm learning on every batch of knives I make.
So that leaves us with "ambitious" and "showy." Well, yeah. Of course I'm ambitious. I'm ambitious enough to get up every day, spend 9 - 11 hours in the shop, take no days off for months on end, beat up my hands, strain muscles, write XHTML code, burn my fingers, repair and maintain machinery, defend my writing and knives, add constantly to this site, and make knives for decades on end, as do many of my brother knife makers. You bet I'm going to show off my work, because that is my profession.
What would these insulting commentators have me do? Live a silent life, not comment about my work or my field, not have a thought that makes a wave unless they approve...? Would they have me make plain, boring, or inferior knives so that I may inspire comfort and familiarity with their traditional concepts? To them I say: show me your knives, the knives you've made and spilled your blood on. Show me what you can do, so that I may comment (anonymously) from another place, often another country about how your website, your work, and your attitude is pretentious. Good grief!
Does it follow that I reject all authority? Perish the thought. In the matter of boots, I defer to the authority of the boot-maker.
-- Mikhail Bakunin
Attacks of successful knifemakers on forums and bulletin boards are commonplace; anonymous posters love to flame, incite, and foment anger. One guy just had to keep declaring that on my site I claim to be the best knifemaker, and (of course) that attracts a lot of negative comment.
I want this to be very clear: I do not claim to be the best. I only claim that it is my absolute determination and focus to make what I consider to be the best knives possible. This means making the best knives possible that fit within my client's budget, scope, and desires for each project: that's all I claim. What that means is that I'm not determined to make the cheapest, the fastest, the most embellished, or the most expensive. It means that in every knife project, I strive to do my very best for the client, my best within my capabilities (which, hopefully, improve every year!)
Just who, then, is the best knifemaker making the best knives? Well, this is ridiculous, just an inflammatory comment made to incite discussion. Ask anyone what they think is the best car, the best truck, the best watch, the best jewelry. Ask which is the best hamburger, the best doctor, the best mortgage plan, the best hairdo. What happens when you do this? Why, endless and often pointless discussion, that's what! And that is what many of these guys want, someone to talk to, some discussion, some points of argument or contention. That way, their juices get flowing and they feel more... alive. Do they actually know what they are talking about? Well, let's look at this a bit closer, just for fun.
Let's not talk about knives; let's talk about vehicles. Let's simply ask which is best. Please take a few moments to think about that...
Thinking some more.
Have you come up with an answer? Chances are you probably haven't. That's because there is no best, no general best for everyone that suits the broadest range possible. Do you even know if you're considering a truck or a car? If you have to carry a load frequently, a car, no matter how well it's made, no matter what value, is not going to be of the best use to you. I you have a four wheel drive, yet never leave the city pavement, would that be the best vehicle for you? What about dependability, cost, mileage, range, and style? What about speed? What about maneuverability? What about service, warranty, and dependability?
If you go by sales, then the best vehicles are the ones that are sold the most. For the most recent year, that would be the Ford F150 pickup truck. Yep, it's now clear that the very best vehicle in the world is the plain Ford truck. So, you might as well just junk the other types of vehicles; this one obviously has outclassed, out done, and is far superior to all other vehicles. If you agree with this, know that the very best selling knives are clearly the cheapest imports from China. They sell the best, so are obviously the most desirable, and why would any one want anything else? Just forget all other knife types, companies, styles, products, and suppliers, we've found the answer. Don't you agree?
This is why there is no ultimate best for everyone, and it's the same for knives. That's why even I have over 400 different designs of knife I make, because each person sees or needs something differently in their own knife. That's why custom work is so important; each person gets what he wants.
On one forum, one of my knives was attacked by being uncomfortable or even impossible to use, because of the design of the guard. The posters claimed that I didn't know what I was doing (really?) to design a knife like that; that the design could not be used in combat. Little did they know that the design was actually designed by a Principle Security Detail officer, a highly trained, highly skilled, and highly experienced professional, designed for his use in protecting some of the most desirable high focus targets in the active field of a real war. Gees, how much more direct input can a knifemaker get? And yes, if you're wondering, he loved it, used it, and uses it still. Other military professionals ordered copies of the same knife, and not a one brought up the guard as being in any way detrimental to the design; quite the opposite. This shows that in all commentary and criticism, consider the source, anonymous or not. I do wonder if the veil was lifted, and if the names of these flamers were attached to every post, if their attitude would adjust...
This, these anonymous posters never consider that someone may be different from them, that the client requires a different knife (or vehicle) than they do, that the structure, design, materials, finish, embellishment, and even the maker is the client's choice. It's their money, after all, not the anonymous poster on some discussion forum. This set of decisions about a knife's features may not even originate in the maker, the knife maker is making what the client wants.
Hopefully, the maker is doing his best, like I'm doing my best, to create the best knife I can for that individual client. Others may want to create the cheapest, fastest to deliver, most units sold, or largest client base. Others (and all factories) want to create the lowest cost items, that is they want to get the most they can for the least expense. That's not trying to make the best; that's trying to make the cheapest and sell the most units, and make the most profit overall. That's the difference.Back to topics
No maker or individual can make every style of knife, and as each artist grows, he should endeavor to make the style that pleases him and his clients. Often, the clients themselves will let him know what style they like, simply by spending their hard-earned money. Styles that appeal are quickly snatched up, custom ordered, or requested, whereas styles that do not appeal to his clients are simply not mentioned.
A maker (or any artist) can make a big mistake looking to his contemporaries for a viable stylistic version. This happens a lot because we are living in an age of information, and access to other knives, their descriptions, photographs, and information about specific styles may dominate a particular medium. For instance, there is a large following on bulletin board forums for the style of knife that has a fairly straight carbon steel damascus blade and a stag or mammoth ivory handle. Guys who prefer this type of knife call themselves "collectors" because nothing can be really done with a knife that easily rusts, often has carbon steel fittings that can also rust, and more importantly has fragile handle material like stag or ivory. Though I make this kind of knife occasionally, the relative fragility of the materials limits use, longevity, and functionality of this kind of knife.
Often, these guys will comment on the postings of gemstone handled knives, usually complimenting the knife, but throwing in the comment that it's "not my style." What they might not realize is that it is the style of hundreds of paying clients, who are on a four year wait for just such a style of knife. Fortunately, the style the commenter prefers can be purchased at literally hundreds of other makers' sites, as it is fairly common. It's a safe bet that he will find like-minded stylistic contemporaries who also agree their style is the preferred one...
"Art exists not in objects, but in a way of seeing."
With Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, LinkedIn, Yahoo, Xanga, bulletin boards, forums, and other social or related networking sites, there is always a drive and desire to add a name to a list. If you have submitted my name, email, or related URL, chances are I've received the request, but did not respond.
I'm sorry; I simply do not have time to address or involve my name, site, or work in these social networking sites or lists. Being on any list will only add to the emails received, requests, and responses needed and I simply don't have the time to add another task or responsibility to my already overwhelming list.
Please understand, I get lots and lots of these. I realize that the submissions are complimentary, and I'm honored that you would consider me in your list. But opening the door only publicizes that I respond, and invites even more email. The email contact that is inserted is often the subject of intense spam submissions, as dedicated spiders and robots search and scour these lists for destinations to send their junk. Please consider this for all of your friends that you post links to!
The addition can also suggest endorsement, and invite controversy, as associations that are, in reality, superficial and from a business standpoint are taken as collaboration or even assistance for one person and not for another. I write about this at greater length in the book I'm working on, but for this website and my business it comes down to this: I try to limit my responsibilities, email, and contacts to viable professionally-related communication or contacts, which means strictly the marketing and selling of my knives. Otherwise, I'd never get away from the keyboard and monitor and into the shop where I need to be!
Thanks for understanding.Back to topics
"My passionate sense of social justice and social responsibility has always contrasted oddly with my pronounced lack of need for direct contact with other human beings and human communities."
I came across a posting on a forum that included a link to my site. The forum topic was clearly a wannabe combat, tactical knife pursuit, with the appropriate types chiming in, offering their ideas about real knives. One of them offered a link to my Pararescue Knives page, with the caveat that he wasn't sure the site was real.
With a couple hundred pages and thousands of pictures of knife making, my career, and every conceivable bit of information and direction that I have time to write about, photograph, and offer on JayFisher.com, this guy was still not quite certain that this site was valid. Perhaps Jay Fisher is not real, perhaps he is someone who is in some strange and backward foreign land, camped in front of a computer, generating these images and details with a beaten 486 and Windows ME, along with a twenty year old copy of Photoshop. Sure, he makes the knives look real, but animation is so advanced these days, and the writing, well, it could all be just made up. The location of this "Jay Fisher" character is probably some fabricated address; after all, who actually has visited New Mexico, much less lived there? You have to have a passport just to go there, right?
This occurrence brings up a good point: that some unscrupulous entities can create mirror websites that are designed to fish for information, credit card numbers, identity details, and separate the unsuspecting browser (the person, not the program) from their dough. If a site looks like your bank, but does not have the bank's correct URL, this is a significant hint that your password should probably not extend from the tips of your fingers to the keyboard. But can I assure you that I am, in fact, Jay Fisher and that I do operate this web site, make these knives for the military, users, and collectors, and the names, details, and information on all the testimonials is real?
If the depth of this site alone does not convince you, and you are still uncertain when you plug my name into your favorite search engine (along with the word knives, if you please), and you have visited a significant number of sites that might mention me or my works, then you are quite a crafty, careful, suspicious, and wiley character indeed! Hurrah for you. You may be safely assured that I will not fleece your accounts. Be sure not to use your real name or your Internet Service Provider's email address, that you may remain careful, secret, and protected in your shell of isolation. Like an anonymous clam in the unknown area of the vast ocean, you are secure in your brief and unnoticed stay in this world. No one will perceive that you have been, nor will they know when you cease to be. It's... comfortable that way.
For the rest of you, thanks for indulging me with this topic. I bet you know someone like this. No, wait. you've already forgotten them.Back to topics
"Ignorance is the mother of suspicion."
--W. R. Alger
You are on the internet. You are reading this. How would it be if I simply removed most of the links, the photos, the text, the structure, and the content of this site? How would that look?
You're smiling now; I can feel it. "How ridiculous!" you mutter, "What would be the point of that?"
Yet there are a notable number of web sites, made for, by, and about knife makers (and other artists and craftsmen), that are lacking content, lacking photos, and lacking functionality. Worse, they have dates signifying when the last word was written into the coding of the site. You might be surprised to find out that some of those dates are literally years old.
If one expects to have a viable business presence on the internet, it is beyond discussion that he must have a working website. Otherwise, what does this say about his entire business practice? Having a page or two under construction is one thing, but dozens of pages missing content, cloned black and white profiles of knives instead of real knife photographs, and promises of a "website coming soon" do not inspire, but simply paint the web developer as incompetent, and the web owner as uncaring and uncommitted.
The number one tool of an internet-based business is the web site. It's not complicated, really, just text and photos. Sure, some sites have cute little scripts and applets that interact with your computer or display device, or frustrate your anti-virus software, and some sites embed video files and sound files. But when very little of the basics (text and pictures) exist, how does this look to a knife client?
I remember going to an artist's site I knew, and was shocked to discover that the site had not been upgraded, not changed, not developed, not altered in any way whatever since 1995. Yes, it's true! The site was over 16 years old and still had the same photos, the same text, the same layout, and the same resolution that it did over a dozen years ago, and the site owner only complained that the internet just wasn't working for her business! It is beyond comprehension to me why; after all, the 1995 Chevy Lumina Minivan is still a good looking and desirable automobile, right?
How about the maker who puts up a 1" wide photo of his knife for sale on his site, and reveals the blade steel type, handle material type, and price (and nothing else)? He wonders why he has never sold a knife on the internet and how guys like me do it. Has he even looked at my site?
How about the maker of combat knives that has had his site under construction for over three years, and leaves the date up there with an intense amount of pages that have no content, only titles, photo templates with no photos, and a request to come back soon? Since he hasn't got the site up and running in over three years, how long should a client wait before coming back? Another three? Six? Ten?
The lesson is clear. If you don't have enough content, structure or capability to put together even a simple web site, don't hurry and put up a failure; that will paint you the same color as your site: incomplete, ineffectual, and pretty much useless.Back to topics
"If it were easy, everybody would be doing it."
Often, I get asked about the career of knife making. Here's a typical email:
I have always loved knives and the idea of making and creating knives. I am in entering a career change @ 48 yrs., and am not sure of the direction that my life will take me. I've been working in (location deleted) since mid-july as a flooring installer. Before that, I owned a flooring (sub contractor) business that I left in June of "08".. Needless to say, Flooring is not my style and realistically, not my Talent. Business has been slow and B. Pass, impassable. I had to go across S. pas, and in doing so, I drove by a "Custom Knife Maker" (Name Deleted) and promptly turned around to check him out. I've never met one before. He offers 3 day classes for $750.00 and said that the knife business isn't affected by the current recession because the clientele has the money to purchase thing that they want not the thing that they can only afford. BRAINSTORM.. He also mentioned that there is virtually no competition amongst custom knife makers. I am going to look into Gov. Grants for small businesses to see if this is feasible.. Do you have any thoughts or advice?
Sorry for the long letter.. I'm just a little excited..
Hello, S. Thanks for asking for my opinion.
Please note that this is only my opinion, after having made knives for over 30 years, and professionally for the last 20. I like the phrase: “If it were easy, everybody would be doing it.” Knife making is a hard business. If you’re talking about making a few dozen knives a year in a garage, that’s one thing, but taking knife making on as a profession is an entirely different matter, particularly if you’re trying to feed and house yourself and your family. Knife makers are extremely competitive. To know just how much, please go to a fine handmade or custom knife show and take a good hard look around. Outwardly, knife makers are a gregarious bunch, and wear their “best hat” when interacting, but make no misjudgments: these guys are competitors, clearly and simply. For a very inexpensive view, please take a look at the knife forums and bulletin boards on the internet. This can also give you a very good idea how knives are priced, and who is selling them. The internet is a great source of information, but please read between and behind the lines to get to the reality.
Buyers of low end knives are the first hit hard by the economy. Beginners and newcomers are hurting from the current economic situation because they can only make and sell low end knives. That is because it takes years to develop the skills necessary to create a fine, elaborate, and expensive knife, and there is no shortcut. No one “breaks” into this business, it is built year after year, one knife at a time. As skill level increases, the knives get better, and the price can go up. Along with this, it takes about ten years of making before your name gets some recognition. There are literally thousands of first time makers who may be recognized and labeled “best new maker” in shows and periodicals, and then fade into obscurity because they can’t make a living at it.
Please realize that this is a real business that requires a very substantial investment of tools and machinery, workspace, materials and supplies, and most of all, labor. Though you may be able to start with some simple tools, to be productive will require much more.
S., I don’t want to discourage you from learning and making. If you truly love knife making, you will get there. I would
suggest some serious research, right here on the internet is the best place to start, and look for some professional instruction.
Professional instruction is that which is done by well-established makers who have a significant presence on the market and
on the internet. Most of these guys have large, powerful web sites, and some are affiliated with knife networks and forums
that sponsor their instruction. There are a lot of good DVDs that are reasonably priced that offer detailed ideas and
techniques, and with DVDs, you can have them ready to review at any time. Please take the time to research the person who
offers the instruction. As a professional, I cannot recommend any particular source, but if you take a good, serious look
around, you’ll figure out who’s selling the dream, and who’s selling the meat and potatoes of instruction.
Good luck on your search.
There is a lot to read between the lines. I did some simple research on the guy who was selling the $750/3 day lessons, and the guy is not a well-known established maker. He didn't even have a web site. The knives he was making (and instructing about) were distinctly low-end, and that is the very market that will be hurting in an economic downturn. Add to that the new guy who wants to make a career out of it does not have the experience necessary to make a very good knife, simply by nature of his individual time behind the grinder.
Another issue is that only a limited amount of this business is in the production (the making). In my book, I'm going into the meat and potatoes of this career field, the marketing, advertising, research, accounting, and all of those pesky attributes necessary to making a small business fly.
I don't want to discourage anyone who might want to consider fine custom or handmade knife making as a career. Anyone who is considering it needs to go in with some serious adult information about the trade, the workings, the potential and the pitfalls of the field, particularly if he is intending on supporting his family, and paying his mortgage with the profits. It's not wrong to spend hundreds of dollars a day to get instruction; just know the source and their track record.
Of course, I could be way off here; maybe the instructor dedicates half the time to study business practices and techniques...
"Haste in every business brings failures."
--Herodotus, 450 B.C.
Hello Mr. Fisher.
I just wanted to say how wonderful and valuable your site has been to me. Your works of art are true inspirations-not just as knives but as sculptures, beauty and functionality combined into one elegant piece, not just once but countless times over. It is as if your canvas on which you work is as plentiful as your imagination-which seems to be endless; blending every aspect of a project together and creating a uniform and whole piece of art. Your site has been the most educational site I have come across. In my opinion, without the detailed instruction of every process allows you to work on the philosophy behind the work-the dedication, reasoning, science and the means to creating something beautiful and timeless. And what is a learning experience if someone hands you all the information and solves your problems for you? So far as "instruction" goes, your site can not be beat... I am sixteen years old and have my own, and even successful business- thanks to you. I have learned a great deal, such as proper grinds, heat treating, sole authorship, the use of materials and even working with customers, just from the methodology behind every skillfully crafted knife and valuable insight on the many pages of your website. Your work has kept me going on pieces which I did not think I could finish, when I'm in the dumps because something has gone wrong-a quick browse on your site gives me the fervor and dedication to keep going. Not that I am even close to your skills or knowledge, but I hope someday I might be half as good. One day, If I am lucky enough I will own a Jay Fisher knife- and treasure it forever. I thought that if I never wrote this I would feel guilty... just thank you.
Please keep up the amazing and inspiring work.
It happens. You've invested in a knife of mine, maybe a while back, and you're wondering what it might be worth. The reasons are endless. The knife may have been given to you. You may wish to upgrade. You may need an appraisal for an insurance policy or claim. You might have lost your job or fallen on hard economic times and you need to sell. Someone may have willed the knife to you when they passed away. You may have a need for money for another investment. Someone in the family is sick, someone needs help, or your business is faltering and you need to liquidate. For whatever reason, you need to sell your knife or collection of knives. Why not just go to Jay and ask him how much the knife is worth?
This sounds simple enough. After all wouldn't the maker know what his old knives are worth? It might be surprising to find out that the answer is no. The hard truth is, I sell knives I make now, not my old knives, because I'm not a dealer or a reseller, I'm a maker. I don't buy and sell my older knives; simply, I've got too many years of backorders and commitments to pile on another task.
Sometimes, people are outright angry that I can't give them a value price quote for a knife that I made years ago. I was surprised to find out that on someone's blog I was called "user-unfriendly" by a guy who was given a knife of mine someone else had purchased over 15 years ago. He made sure to say that that person and I had "argued." Yes, the guy who argued wanted to buy the knife for much less than he paid for it. He wanted to barter and banter like a tourist at a fruit market, when I gave him a fixed price. He did end up purchasing the knife, but then gave it away to this other fellow. The other fellow fell upon some hard times and wanted to turn the knife for a quick buck. But rather than pay the measly $15 for a real appraisal by a professional, he wanted the knife evaluated by me for free. He wrote to me and was upset that I wouldn't offer him another professional's free service. Yep, I'm a bad guy for not apprising a fifteen year old gift in unknown condition from unknown materials from someone else, simply because I originally made it! Did he bother to look up the original knife owner to ask him how much he paid for it? Nope. He just slammed me and in the same posting, tries to sell the knife. How's that working for him?
If you just need to know the value for insurance purposes, a professional appraisal is the way to go. There are a handful of guys that can do this for you, just do an internet search and check them out. Be sure to do your own background work on them, determining if they are indeed who they claim to be. They should have plenty of info and connections to the knife world in their background. If they do not, they probably won't be able to give you a viable appraisal.
If selling is your goal, there are many places on the internet where knives may be sold. Some good research would be in order, and perhaps contact with a dealer who regularly deals in handmade or custom knives by big name makers would be a great place to start. Whatever you do, don't try to sell fine custom knives on Ebay or Craig's list, because they are distinctly low end, bottom markets, usually dealing in knives worth less than $200 US. You simply won't find people who buy fine custom knives lurking on these bottom of the market sites anxious to snap up a fine collector's grade knife. Knife forums and bulletin boards are also not good candidates for locations to sell fine custom and handmade knives, as they, too, can cater to the lower end markets, although there are some exceptions. The employ of a professional dealer may also add gravitas, significance, dignity, experience, and class to the ordeal of having to part with some or all of your collection.
A professional dealer may also be able to guide you in establishing what the knife is worth. The things to consider are the same as with any knife. The knife overall, the maker, the materials, the finish, the condition, the age, and the original purchase price are all considerations that a professional dealer should take into account when giving you a value for your knife. Expect to pay a dealer a portion of the sale, of course, because he has to make a living too! The dealer may suggest appraisal of the knife, but do not expect to receive the appraised value in the sale. This is because anyone who wants to purchase the knife will want to do so at a lower price than the appraisal, so that he, too, can get a deal.Back to topics
I believe it's important to put plenty of information on my site about my knives and knife making career. A web site is a curriculum vitae, a resource where the client can learn about the philosophy of the knife maker, his directions, his goals and achievements, and his reputation from his own perspective. The knife enthusiast or client can then determine whether the maker knows what he is talking about by defending and describing his methods and directions, and whether or not a knife from the maker is worth the client's hard-earned money.
If you spend enough time on the internet, you'll come across other makers' sites, and you (like I) will probably make a comparison to this site, which is a healthy and reasonable thing to do. It's good for me to know my competition in this giant world of a marketplace. When I see sites that cover pages with a bunch of mythical fluff, I cringe and then reflect on my own web site and development, making sure not to make the same mistakes.
This knife maker's site is about knives, the knives I make, the materials, direction, inspiration, and creativity that fires it all up and gets my wheels turning. While I may delve into facets of this tradecraft that may not directly relate to every individual piece, I try to stay clear of mythology, fantasy, or mystical topics. The only time you'll read about these things on JayFisher.com is when I explain my creative reasoning behind the inspiration for the piece.
When a knife maker or artist claims more than a creative and casual relationship with a mystical, mythical, or fantasy origin for his knives or work, he can appear ungrounded at best, and bizarrely unbalanced at worst. Someone who carries the notion that a knife, steel, handle material, or design has otherworldly powers or relationships is just silly. This is a folly because the reasonable knife client, user, or collector might have some suspicions about a method of construction that has as its basis a ridiculous or eccentric notion. While I do let myth inspire my creative ideas, I rely on my technical knowledge to create a durable, valuable, beautiful, and desirable knife with long-term value. There are no elves waving wands over my creations, just good, solid, and practiced techniques applied by my own hands.
As I've mentioned before on this site, there are no magical secrets to steel ingredients, to heat treating, to knife or blade shape, geometry, or materials. There is no enigma in the blade, no mystical materials; we don't quench in the blood of our enemies, there is no romance to the cutting edge, only artistic interpretation. No sword or crystal has supernatural powers, steel can't cleave stone, and a suitable dagger will not allow you to fly. Fine knives come from trained and practiced hands, not from a hidden tomb in a mountain. They are tools and sometimes works of art made by people like me who love to make them.
At least that's what I tell the creepy Golem that has assembled itself from my metal scraps, wood cutoffs, and stone chips and lives in the darkest corner of my studio... be quiet! He watches my every move-Back to topics
If you are in the business of making and selling knives, your knives are legally and continuously held to the highest professional standards. If you make and sell knives as a hobby or sideline, you are not a professional.
If you've read a hunk of this web site, you'll read the word professional plenty of times when I refer to my own participation, involvement, history, and direction of fine handmade knives. There is a big difference in this trade (as in most) when a person claims to participate, and when they claim to be a professional.
People expect a professional to know his business. If a guy hangs out a shingle and claims he is a physician, lawyer, or accountant, he presents himself as a seasoned veteran of his particular trade or profession. He is, then, held to a higher standard of practice than a volunteer, intern, hobbyist, beginner, or even a part-time participant of his trade.
In this field, since there really are very few professional knife makers, a lot of substandard work is tolerated and even accepted as of some significant quality. Couple that with the huge misconceptions, advertising hyperbole, corner-cutting practices, and limited information about knives, and this field has plenty of downright shoddy work. The truth is, very few people have ever actually seen a fine knife, much less owned one.
Why aren't there more specific comparisons among knives, just as one would compare art, tools, machines, forms, investments, collections, whether historic or contemporary?
There are many more reasons that few actual valid and structured comparisons do not exist, and I'm not talking about the ability of a knife to chop a pine two by four or slice through a hanging rope, something that many factory knives or five dollar machetes can be made to do. As the internet develops, I hope that knife enthusiasts, professionals, collectors, and users become more educated about the distinctly different styles of knives, the makers and people who use the knives, and the direction and nature of the knife in our modern world. This very medium, the Internet, is making that happen.Back to topics
Have you heard of this new thing called the internet? It's giving people new expectations. It's allowing them to become their own expert. Knowledge lies anxious at their fingertips. Gloss over the truth in your advertising and you'll quickly be dismissed as a poser.
--Roy H. Williams
Once in a while, an interested person asks why I don't accept layaways, payments over time, or any other holding plans for any knife purchase, either custom ordered or knives in my inventory. There are quite a few reasons for this.
Ultimately, I have been using this same payment process for thirty years. In three decades, I've made and sold several thousand knives using these methods, and they have worked and are working very well. For custom orders, the low deposit and balance due on completion method allows clients to plan for, save, and set aside their final payment. For inventory knives, the simple pay and ship method allows a fast, simple, and efficient process for the client and knifemaker alike!Back to topics
Every artist has to start somewhere, and knife makers are no different. As we evolve, learn, and improve, we leave behind poor grinds, bad finishes, crude geometries, and beginner's work. Most of us are downright embarrassed by our early works. When I've shown some of my early pieces to friends and family, they laugh out loud. Having someone laugh at your early work is a humbling experience. You might try to describe what you were thinking when you made the piece, why you were limited in your endeavor, and how you have learned. No matter the explanation and reasoning behind the response, it is still painful to have the result of your efforts laughed at.
Would they have laughed at the early work when you originally presented it? No, most people would not, as it is simply understood that the current work you are presenting is the best you can do at the time. But when you compare early crude works to contemporary ones, the difference is so glaring and the success of the current creations makes comparisons ridiculous. I think that people are laughing more at the ridiculous comparison than the work.
Just about every knife maker would like to have his early works forgotten or destroyed. I've even heard of makers buying up their early works just to spare themselves embarrassment. After all, you want your name only on the best of creations. This is a waste of precious time, time you could be building, growing, or improving your skills, instead of chasing old ghosts. The early knives are a proud testament to your longevity in the trade. They signify the journey through your years or decades of making, they are the foundation for what a maker builds. Consequently, many of the early works of knife makers are sought after, and fetch high prices when resold, perhaps many times their original value!
I've decided to include more photographs of my early knives on the website. I think they are important too, and after thirty years of making, they deserve their historic place in this archive. To me, they are like photos of us when we were kids: simple, innocent, maybe even... cute.Back to topics
People can be passionate about their knives. It is just such passion that drives me to get up every day to make them, and drives clients who appreciate my creations to keep an eye on the site, read, learn, and build their on private and very personal collections. I appreciate the passion, and live with it every day.
I'm also occasionally confronted with another's passions about a topic, a particular knife style, or type and application of a preferred knife. First, they may claim that they've spent a good deal of time reading the content on my site. This is the first alert, as my site does not have content, but it has my opinions. These are opinions and my personal and professional beliefs after having made knives for over three decades, professionally for over 20 years. I'm thankful to have my knives used by the military, professionals, law enforcement, survival specialists, and hunters, outfitters, and every kind of knife user you might imagine in that time. My combat and working knife models and ideas are based on input from the users and owners, as their money and support is worth more than any other outside evaluation. It's a simple business model really; I make what they like, they help me tune, adjust and create more types, styles, and features, and I make what they like again, hopefully, even better.
If others write who don't purchase my works, that's fine, but the opinions have to be taken with their own limitations. These are the guys that will sometimes gloss over the site content, find something they disagree with, and then offer their own two cents worth. In internet speak, they sign off with the comment, "just my .02." The comment is similar to the comment, "no disrespect intended, but..." which translated can mean: "I assign myself permission to disrespect you." The .02 sarcastic implication is that the importance of their comment is worth much more, profoundly more, and they are not to be ignored.
While I understand the passion of these individuals, their beliefs are not often based in historic traditions, knowledge or reference, but often based in contemporary knife culture, which is often a self-supporting business of writing and publishing, based on evaluation by individuals who may or may not have any professional experience apart from looking at knives made by others, and taking the knives out back for a few whacks at a tree or some beer cans filled with water (the beer being first properly disposed of in the traditional manner). These writers and self-proclaimed experts in knives and knife use often demand free knives to be given to them for evaluation, and then proceed to give reviews about how the knife can chop two by fours as a valid reason for the knife's worth. They may saw through cardboard, cut a hanging rope, or whip the knife through the air at a row of cans, plastic bottles, or milk cartons as a test of the knife's usability. This is fairly common knowledge in the established knife making community, though rarely talked about, so as not to step on anyone's toes. Incidentally, any five dollar machete can be made to perform just as well with a little bit of whetstone and elbow grease.
There was a time, briefly, in my early career when I considered that I would have to part with my hard-made knives to give to these guys so they could be evaluated, and then published about in some magazine or periodical for the advantage I would have of publicity. I go into more detail about this practice in my book, but as you can imagine, I think the whole affair is distasteful. The internet is destroying this practice because publication by individuals (like what you are reading) is available to the millions and millions of readers without any cost, kickback, stipend. You, the reader, can evaluate Jay Fisher's own .02 and decide for yourself if it's worth considering, and if not, simply move on by closing your browser window.
Am I here to promote my own knives and artwork? Of course I am, what would you expect from a site named jayfisher.com? Every site is promoting something, the differences are in the way the data, information, context, and facts are presented and by who. This evaluation is up to the reader to assess. I give the reader full credit for interpreting what he sees on my site, with detailed explanation and descriptions. I trust the reader's intelligence completely.
The difference between me and some anonymous poster offering their own .02 is this: I make knives professionally, and you can see a couple thousand pictures of them and the associated 400 pages of information right here. This is not the fleeting, vague, brief comment of an impassioned poster on some discussion forum. Both have their merit, and both have their significance. You add up the pennies; you know how.Back to topics
"Fools with bookish knowledge, are children with edged weapons, they hurt themselves, and put others in pain. The half-learned is more dangerous than the simpleton."
--Johann Georg Zimmerman,
While looking over my website traffic stats, I came across a forum posting string from a forum sponsored by a factory knife company. While the sites are not uncommon, the amount of traffic coming from this site was, as factory knives rarely dive into the discussion realm of handmade and custom works. The guys posting in the forum were obvious fans of the factory products (mostly made in China) and were incensed that I had written so many negative comments about manufactured knives in general, knives just like they had spent their money on, knives like they owned and were fans of. Even though I never mention brand names, they were cognizant enough to know that the manufactured knives they owned were what I was talking about. What they got from my site was my desire to have them buy from me, and not buy from their favorite factory. How dare I try to coax away the giant factory's business with my modest website. How dare I make and sell knives and illustrate the exact differences that distinguish well made custom and handmade knives from their precious and revered factory knives.
How dare I try to make and sell a superior knife while disclosing how and why it is better!
Yes, that's me, a singular knife maker and businessman, trying to ruin a multi-million dollar knife manufacturer by telling some simple truths. Yeah, I'm certain my one-man show (two men with the new Rusty Russom program) is going to make a real dent in the factory's market share. Yes, I'm sure that the factory is worried...
What really happened here is that they got a bit of education, and it tasted bad in their mouths. The forum participants kept repeating how information rich my site was, how much knowledge and data was given to them to read and study, and how reasonable and correct it sounded to them, at the same time berating my direction as a businessman to offer to make a product that someone would want to buy. Just what did they expect from a site named jayfisher.com, designed to illustrate, educate, and sell my knives? Would they make the same demands of their large and faceless manufacturer? Why, of course not. The forum the manufacturer provides is all just one big advertisement, meant to spur sales by envious owners of the cheap knives, knives that will never appreciate one cent, knives that are distinctly low end.
This anonymous drivel is, unfortunately, a product of the internet revolution. Their knife company has tiny little pictures of plastic-handled knives for cheap, with bad finishes, poor design, and second-rate materials, and they chat up how great the knives are. When a really well-made knife and decent information drops in their lap for free, they scurry back to their forum hole where they can find like-minded robots to sing the company song, and rally round the manufacturer who really couldn't care less about the whole discussion. This is part of the game, and the bottom line is this: they don't realize how much traffic they have driven to this single knife maker's site, and how much that, overall, helps guys like me in the internet marketplace. All traffic helps drive search engine placement and optimization, and I thank them for the new clients that will now find my site a little easier in this great, big, beautiful internet world!Back to topics
I was reviewing your website after pulling my hair out reviewing “factory” sites and web forums, and it was with great relief that I read your information on your weapons, and knives generally.
Universal and traditional web site design considers the lowest common denominator first. Web site professionals who design sites for a living regularly recommend that web sites are constructed for the smallest, narrowest, slowest, and oldest computer, host, browser, and user known. This is like in third grade, where we painstakingly suffered while the slowest kid struggled with every word when asked to read aloud for the class. Look, I feel for the need for the child to learn, but he deserves individual time and dedicated tutoring, and not by punishing the rest of the class into torturous boredom; that won't help him a bit!
Web development is kind of like that. Most developers (like some teachers) do not have any real world sales experience, much less business development experience. This web site (like most that have the ".com" generic top level domain) signifies a company, and in this case a company means a business. My business caters to serious knife buyers, collectors, and users, not to students, researchers, or guys that are using a cell phone to surf the internet for cool pics for their MySpace page. I use large photographs, knowing that my clients are using monitors over 1200 pixels wide. It's not that I don't care if you're using a smaller monitor, I care about showing the knives and artwork in the highest detail. Since the internet only displays at 72 dots per inch, this means big, and sometimes wide, photographs are necessary. If you're going to drop $1k, $3k, or $10k on a fine custom, handmade, or combat tactical knife, I want you to see every detail. Contrast this method with knife factories, who traditionally offer a final photograph only 2.5" wide on your screen, and you'll wonder what they are hiding!
Though I'm currently going through a website upgrade to make the site current and compliant with code and W3C recommendations, I'm not going to smaller images. In fact, I'm enlarging most of them to display more detail, resolution, and size. Site data, tables, text, and arrangements will flow and resize better after the upgrade, so thanks for your patience while I move through this tedious process.
If you're one of the guys with a 480 by 640 monitor from the early '90s that has to scroll around to see the pictures, and you're not going to invest in one of those newfangled LCD 20" monitors, it's probably unlikely you'll be dropping $2k on a fine knife, isn't it? There are plenty of cheap factory knife sites with the little photos and limited descriptions of their knives, and their web pages will fit nicely on your twenty year old system...Back to topics
"Our praises are our wages"
I've heard it before. They are too nice. Too well-made. Too expensive. Too shiny. Too out-of-the-mainstream for real combat and tactical use. These are just "show" knives, right?
It doesn't surprise me to read some of the commentary on the internet and in publications about knives in general, and my tactical knives in particular, as I've seen this for decades. This is an evolution of "That knife is too pretty to use!" on my FAQ page. Guys who portray themselves as great warriors from the safe and anonymous perch of a forum or bulletin board will often decry that I present my knives as tactical. After all, if it's not a 1945 model Ka-bar with a leather washer handle, or a modern plastic, black paint-covered factory knife in a cheap camo print nylon sheath, it simply can not be a tactical knife, suitable for any real use...right? They've spent $160 on a knife made in China and it's the best they've seen so why would you have a tactical knife for over $2000.00? Often times, these guys will even claim that they are soldiers, professionals, or cops to try to bolster their argument about their great and wide ranging knowledge about knives (without any proof of who they are). It's frustrating for me to see, as ignorance, no matter how many times it is repeated and by how many, is still an ugly thing.
To illuminate those dark areas of misunderstanding, typified stylistic boring and common wives' tales, cliché's, and outright lies, I've spent considerable time and effort to light up the darkness with real, solid, concrete, and and even illustrated facts on the many pages of this site. Rather than gloss over the truth with some statement like "a real marine would never have a knife like that," I actually detail the knife, its features, why it's constructed the way it is, the geometry, the finish, the grip potential, the materials, the sheath, and the accessories. Everything is thoroughly explained in explicit detail, but guys like this have one major stumbling block that will keep them forever from being or understanding what a professional is or does, and why that marine is actually using and carrying my knife in combat. That block is their inability or unwillingness to read, learn, comprehend, or understand what is written right here, right on this website. The guys who do matter are, in fact, professionals: soldiers, marines, Pararescuemen, special forces, rangers, and law enforcement and tactical pros who do understand, care, have a need for, and use my knives. If you are one of those, you have my deepest admiration and respect, and my promise that for you, I will supply the finest combat tactical knives made. You know the difference, have commissioned me with your hard-earned money, and can trust your combat weapon and tool.
As with all these comments, the first thing to do is consider the source. Consider their country, their level of expertise, their employment, and their level of involvement in the real knife world, not the manufactured knife world. It is when you take a close look at who is making the comment, that the comment loses (or gains) credibility. You can see on this site who I am, what I've done in my career, and why I make knives like I do. Wouldn't it be nice if everyone who claimed to have a thought on the subject and posted it would also have to post their own verifiable curriculum vitae alongside? More about that in my upcoming book.
I do understand if these posters and posers can't afford my knives; that's fine. For them there are plenty of throwaway knives out there to carry while riding their motorcycle around, sporting patches of military units they admire but have never been or will never be a part of. I do wish they would speak to a real owner of one of my knives for some perspective, to see if they regret any part of their knife purchase. Why is it also that those $160 Chinese knives have not run me out of business? Why am I years in backorders with no end in sight, even in these "troubled" times? Could it be that I really do make a very good knife, one of the best knives in the world? Could it be that those exact and specific details are posted on this very web site on my Tactical and Combat Knives page and Factory vs. Handmade Knives page as well as my Top Reasons page and the Six Differences page? Ahh, but they would have to actually read them... sigh.Back to topics
"It is ridiculous for any man to criticize the works of another if he has not distinguished himself by his own performances.
--Joseph Addison, 1672-1719, English essayist
At the end of 2010 and beginning of 2011, I had to face the reality that my page names were causing some grief in navigating and arranging the web site. Many of the names of older and early pages were done on the fly, and the nomenclature structure was hard to navigate, even for me! What I'm talking about is the html page name that is in the URL (Uniform Resource Locator) and is the actual address of the page on the internet. Writing page names with spaces in them caused the "%20" character to be inserted, I didn't have a reliable and quick naming process and convention, and this was slowing everything down. Please remember, I started naming my pages and building my website when you could only have eight characters in a file name! My page names needed to be straightened out, once and forever. Add to that the addition of collaborative knives by Rusty Russom and James Beauchamp (my stepson and son-in-law) and the sheer volume of pages (about 400) and the site was becoming un-navigable. So as part of the upgrade, I had to rename pages with a system that can grow as the site continues to grow.
If a link to a renamed page existed in someone's email, and they click on it, their browser will deliver a "Page Not Found" error, because it is now the wrong name. The same goes for people who are trying to access the site through a link on another site. The only page that will never change is the home page, but just about every other page name had to be changed. So, I've included this comment on several appropriate pages of the site:
This is actually a good thing. With my eye on the positive growth and expansion of the web site and service to my clients and customers, current and future, as well as expansion of my collaborative programs and tradecraft in general, I am determined to keep this the best individual Professional Knife Maker's site on the internet! If you are reading this, I thank you for being here!Back to topics
I am exceedingly grateful for those clients and patrons who have supported my work, my art, my creativity over the years. These are a great bunch of people. You might be surprised to find out just who they are. The range of knife enthusiasts is very large indeed!
They may be soldiers, tactical officers, or in law enforcement. They may be veterans, retired, or young and still in college. They may be physicians, dentists, or bankers. They may be authors, artists, celebrities, or professional hunting guides. There are chefs, furniture makers, managers, and guys that work at the Pentagon, all ordering custom knives or purchasing knives from my inventory.
I cannot express how grateful to them that I am. They have made my business over the decades, and kept me in steel, stone, and abrasives. They have patiently waited for their knives, worked through the conversations from design idea to finished prototype. They have invested as patrons in my artwork, and warriors who carry my edged weapons and tools into battle. They've brought me new ideas that I would have never considered, new opportunities I would have never known.
There are many more people who you might not consider who make a knife maker's life and process work. These are the suppliers. There are large companies that make the fine tool steels I use. They may be huge, faceless entities, but it is usually one person I talk to who understands my needs. There are the tool suppliers who give me a discount just because I'm a regular customer. There are the suppliers of exotic leathers who send out swatches just for the asking. There are the suppliers who I've purchased from for decades, guys who know me from back in '83, or '88, or "the '90s." There are local businessmen who have helped me acquire tools and materials that improve my skills and products. There are even people I will never know, in foreign countries, who do not speak my language sending raw rocks halfway around the world so that I make turn them into knife handles.
Another group of people who are important to recognize are those supporters who view this site and who offer support by recommending the site to others, posting links, and even writing emails of encouragement. Many of these people do not expect a reply, are kind and supportive, and do not expect any return or acknowledgement of their input. They only want to say thanks for my work, input, and website. I'm grateful for every email I get, and honored that they would take the time to write.
And then there are those who are close to me. My family has always, unfalteringly been supportive of what I do. I could not ask for more, and I could not do any of this if it were not for them. They understand, offer support, advise, and believe in what I do, even when I might not. God has blessed me by surrounding me with people in a country of freedom that nourish what I do. Who could ask for more?Back to topics
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|Who Is Jay Fisher?||My Shipping Method||Serrations||Skeletonized Knives||Site Table of Contents|
|Top 21 Reasons to Buy||Concealed Carry and Knives||Handles, Bolsters, Guards|
|Collaborative Knives||Knife Handles: Gemstone|
|James Beauchamp Collaboratives||Gemstone Alphabetic List|
|Etienne Beauchamp Collaboratives||Knife Handles: Woods|
|Rusty Russom Collaboratives||Knife Handles: Horn, Bone, Ivory|
|My Family||Knife Handles: Manmade Materials|
|What I Do And Don't Do||Knife Sheaths|
|CD ROM Archive||Knife Stands and Cases|
|My Knifemaking History||Knife Embellishment|
|Publications, Publicity||Knife Maker's Marks|
|Letters and Emails||How to Care for Custom Knives|
|Funny Letters and Emails, Pg. 1||Knife Making Instruction|
|Funny Letters and Emails, Pg. 2||Larger Monitors and Knife Photos|
|Funny Letters and Emails, Pg. 3||Copyright and Knives|
|Funny Letters and Emails, Pg. 4|