Jay Fisher - World Class Knifemaker
Quality Without Compromise
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This page is dedicated to knives used for hunting and fishing. Hunting knives are used to cut, slice, gut, pierce, skin game, field dress, dress out, cape, trim, quarter, manage, clean game, de-bone, and process game animals. Fishing knives are used to dress, gut, fillet, trim, chop, skin, scale, and process fish. This page also features bird and trout knives, multi-function knives, and utility knives that may be used in survival, expedition, and outdoor tasks and chores. Every knife you see on this page was made by me, and I've included some of my early knives for illustration. There are 117 pictures of hunting, fishing, and related field knives on this page.
Hunting knives have probably the most recognizable shapes in the cutlery industry. The blades are usually curved, and often feature fine and accurately ground thin points. This is because they are used for specific chores like skinning and piercing skin with a high degree of control. Any hunter knows the cost of bad knife work when field dressing game or caping a trophy buck. After what a good hunt may cost, a poor knife or bad job here can leave a sad memory. On this page are some of the uses, descriptions, and details about hunting knives specifically, their limitations and uses, methods of carry, storage, and sharpening. You'll also see quite a few thumbnail images of hunting knives I've made over the decades. Though some of them are not only for hunting and can be applied to other uses, such as survival and typical work that a knife blade may see, I've inlcuded them here if they have a design that is applicable for hunting, fishing, or game handling tasks.
A fine knife is a pleasure to use. Unsheathing your fine custom knife after a successful kill is more than history, it honors the entire hunting process. It isn't hard to imagine the men of the past, all feeling the same kind of thrill as we do today: planning for the hunt, embarking to territories unknown, enduring the hardships and fascination of the land, detecting and stalking the prey, and the satisfaction of supplying the family or tribe with fresh game. The moment continues as the game is then gutted, cooled, dressed, and quartered for the trip home. True, the tool of the kill is essential. But so is a fine hunting knife, or the kill is just target practice.
In my life, I've seen many styles and grades of knife used for hunting. I grew up using a fairly straight, simple light trailing point my father gave me (as many fathers do). It was a decent piece of steel, and I still have it around in a box somewhere. Why do I keep this old plain knife? It's not because it has any monetary value, it's because my father gave it to me, and I carried it on our hunts together, and on camping trips, and in the Boy Scouts. It evokes special memories of our times together, unique to only a father and son. So there is more than just the good use of a fine tool for the hunting sport or game. If you have children, your hunting knife may well be destined to become an heirloom.
I've seen a lot of bad knives in my time; all of us have. We've heard stories about having to carry a sharpening stone to the field. We've heard of knife blades bending, rolling over, dulling, or chipping. We've heard about knives unsuited to the task, with the wrong shape or profile, with a blade too thick, too dull, too soft, or too uncomfortable to use. It's my desire to try to clarify some points from a professional knifemaker about hunting and fishing knives on this page.
Modern tool steels are a wonder. They can be hard, wear resisting, and tough at the same time. They can also be stainless and corrosion resistant. There is no super steel (see these topics on my FAQ page and Blades page for details about steel hype), and your fine hunting, fishing or field knife must be selected carefully. Let's look at the steels from a hunter's and fisher's standpoint individually.
You often hear that fine custom and handmade knives are just too pretty to use. Here's an example of how beauty and function work together on one of the most demanding skinning knife chores, skinning an American Bison (Buffalo). This huge beast has one of the thickest, toughest hides of any animal, and the Nunavut skinning knife (440C mirror polished blade, hand-engraved stainless steel bolsters, and gemstone handle) makes short and elegant work of the process. Pretty? Yes, and highly functional!
Thanks, S. H. and P. S.!
Blade geometry is more than important on hunting knives: it's critical. How thin a custom knife is ground depends upon the intended use, the cross-sectional thickness supporting the edge, the profile (shape) of the blade, and the steel type, hardness, and temper. No where is this so apparent as in hunting and fishing knives, as so much is usually asked of them. They must usually be thin and sharp enough to open tough hides and skins without snagging or ripping, and that might mean cutting through dirty and abrasive hair, mud, and scales. These materials are abrasive on a cutting edge, so high hardness and a medium temper is usually required. The blade must be thin enough to have a low sharpening angle for the finest cut. See more about these angles on my Blades page.
The shape of the blade has a lot to do with how a hunting knife is used, carried, and whether or not it's successful and reliable. Below are some of my most popular hunting knives. If you're familiar with hunting or game and field knives, you'll recognize trailing point skinners, drop point skinners, field dressing knives, gut hooks, line cutters, sweeping bellies, capers, and field pairs. Many of these knives double as survival knives, some even serve double duty as tactical knives. There is no rigid classification of a knife by its shape, indeed a kitchen knife could make a hunting tool. What I've included here are knives that are generally used in hunting, field dressing, survival, game preparation, and fishing, to give a broad perspective of what is a useful and valuable tool.
Many of these knives are of collector's or investment potential. There is no reason a knife carried to the field has to have a plain, flat blade and a simple wood or antler handle. I make those too, but I encourage you to enjoy the same lines, form, finish, and beauty as I do when I look at fine custom and handmade hunting knives. Some of the knives feature gemstone handles and hand-engraving. Even these fine investment grade knives may find their way to the field or in useful chores.
I've included quite a few pictures of my older knives. Please forgive the low quality of the photographs and my early workmanship, they were scanned in from chemical photos from back in the 1980's. I've been making knives a long time!
...for being here. Please check back periodically; I'll add new knives as they are completed and information as time allows!
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