Jay Fisher - World Class Knifemaker

Quality Without Compromise

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Knife Points: Six distinctions that make a fine custom or handmade knife:
Fit, Finish, Balance, Design, Accessories, Service

"Bulldog" fine tactical, art knife, obverse side view in 440C high chromium stainless steel blade, hand-engraved 304 stainless steel bolsters, Indian Paint Rock gemstone handle, ostrich leg skin inlaid in hand-carved leather sheath
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Hi, Jay.
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.
Thank you.
Sincerely,

M. D.


Six distinctions that define quality in a fine handmade or custom knife

If you've read through the Frequently Asked Questions Page and the Blades page , you'll find references to differences between a fine knife and a merely good knife. If you've looked over the Factory Knives vs. Handmade Custom Knives page, you'll easily see distinctions and features that make a fine handmade or custom knife more valuable than production knives. If you're reading this, you're probably an educated knife collector or user, or want to know in plain language, what the specific differences are between fine knives and merely good knives, and between my knives and many other makers.

While there are other finely handmade knives in the world, I can only speak to my own personal professional business and artistic practices in the art and career of knife making. After many years, I've realized that though my materials are wide ranging (fine steels, gemstones, exotic woods, leathers, manmade materials, and organics) it is not the materials alone that  have allowed my successes, both for me and for my clients, it is these six distinctions listed below that are too often neglected by other makers, factories, and knife dealers. These are distinctions I incorporate into every project, and sometimes (as many artists do) obsess about. It's not just the materials, the fine grinds and finishes, the filework, engraving, embellishment, or sheaths and stands that determine my success, nor is it the designs and interpretation of geometry, line, and form that ultimately sets the value and success of your investment. It is the six distinctions listed below, in combination with the practices and materials above that separate my creations from others.

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

Fit

Fit is a small word with big meaning. In this trade, it means that components put together and assembled must be so with very close, even tight tolerances. No gaps should be seen between bolsters and blades, between handles and guards, between sheath inlays and leather body. Everything is tight, fused, rigid, and solid. Fit can be felt while the hand runs over the bolsters and handle material, over the exotic inlays and the sheath's leather. The look, even with close inspection must be (as Tom Clancy says in his quote about my work) "seamless."

Poor fit is the number two offender in factory and amateur knives. Anyone can notice it; fine fit it is difficult to produce, and it sets fine knives, swords, and art apart from inferior knives. It contributes to the overall strength and rigidity of the knife, sheath, stand and artwork, and also prevents infiltration of moisture, fluids, or even atmospheric contamination. It can mean the difference between a knife lasting a few years or three generations. It is very important.

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"Cygnus-Horrocks Magnum" custom knife, obverse side view in 440C high chromium stainless steel blade, nickel silver bolsters, Picasso Marble gemstone handle, hand-tooled and stamped leather sheath
More about this Cygnus-Horrocks Magnum

Finish

Finish refers to the final treatment of the material. Since many materials are used in fine knife making, knowledge of the process of finishing and control of the final appearance of these is first learned through research, then many years of practice in various techniques. Each material usually requires a different process to finish, and there are a handful of finishes that look good. Fine finish is appealing, professional looking, and enhances the individual material as well as the value of the overall investment. High chromium and high carbon tool steels look fantastic when mirror finished, but it takes ten steps of grinding with controlled skill and clean, practiced technique to bring that out while still maintaining a crisp clean geometry and preserving grind lines and contours.

Most makers simply don't have the patience to execute a fine finish. Factories and manufacturers never properly finish a blade or metal fittings and components of the knife, ever.

Because properly finishing gemstone takes longer than finishing metals, I believe this is why there are very few gemstone handled knives. Gemstones almost always look best when highly polished; their true internal color, luminosity, and character are revealed thus. But every gem is different, so it takes a whole group of practiced techniques to master the finish.

Sheaths, stands, cases: all these require specialized labor and skill-intensive processes to finish correctly. A great deal of value of a knife, sword, or art project is placed on the finish. In addition to the final appearance, it demonstrates that the maker cares enough about his client to offer the very pinnacle of material's condition. Like fit, it is extremely important.

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"Aegir" knife sculpture in mirror polished, hot blued O1 high carbon tungsten-vanadium alloy tool steel blade, blued steel bolsters, 14kt gold bezels, peridot gemstones, Nebula stone gemstone handle, stand of cast bronze, white Carribean coral, Venetian gold granite with garnets
More about this Aegir

Balance

Balance is not an easy term to strictly define. It does not mean that a knife should literally balance on the forefinger with the weight of the blade exactly opposing that of the handle. Knives are all different, and must be balanced accordingly. The maker alone is responsible for that; it takes years of practice to develop one's own style of balance. Some makers build knives with voluminous, lightweight handles, some with large overbearing blades and tiny stick handles. Some makers build blocky chunks, some build weak and thin anemic lacy knives. Each maker has his own style.

This is a characteristic that cannot always be interpreted from a photograph or from the internet. You can, however, get a good idea of a knife's balance from the photo. Does it look handle-heavy? Does the blade overlord the handle with too much weight and little grind? Does it look comfortable and inviting to pick it up? Will it easily conform to the hand going in, yet be smooth and easy going out of the hand? Hands are not straight and square; they are a complexity of curved forms. Some knives look rudimentary, some look refined; this is a balance characteristic.

Bad balance character is the number one offense of factories and makers. It translates to a knife that has abrupt, even uncomfortable lack of appeal. It separates a novice from a professional, and is the cause of many ugly and uncomfortable knives. Also, do the accoutrements: sheath, stand, case, etc. balance the knife in style, function, materials, fit, and finish? Does the knife balance with its purpose? Is a tactical knife balanced with tactical style, function, design, and accoutrements; is a chef's knife designed for the kitchen? Is the hunting knife suited to the chores; is a collector's knife balanced to its artistic design and theme, and balanced to the client himself? Is the counterterrorism knife balanced in aggressive design, with useable and functional adjuncts and accessories that are critical to a variety of missions? The balance issue is the foundation of value.

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"Orion" obverse side view in 440C high chromium stainless steel blade, hand-engraved 304 stainless steel bolsters, Rio Grande Agate gemstone  handle, hand-carved leather sheath inlaid with frog skin
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Design

Knife design is a complicated process. If you've ever tried to design a knife on paper, you'll realize that just 1/30th of an inch difference in a line changes the profile profoundly. The world is full of badly designed knives. Even if a design looks good on paper, that doesn't mean that in the three dimensional world it will be appealing, much less comfortable, functional, and balanced.

Design is a skill that is continually evolving as the artist grows. A good deal of time must be invested in knife design as an independent skill, and those designs must be brought to full form, and then refined. Insert a client's own design ideas, and the design conversation blossoms into one of creative evolution, blending of ideas and forms, and representation of function. The maker should be able to illustrate what is good about the design, and what will not work and why. The blade style must match the handle, for example, you wouldn't want a straight, stick handle on a knife used in combat, because combat knives must have improved grips. You wouldn't want a knife with a curvaceous handle to mount to a straight blade, because movement is translated in the use of the knife, and a knife is not a saw designed for reciprocating motion.

There are a vast amount of bad designs out there, and many designs that appeal to one individual are rejected by others. There is also a huge history of man's relationship with knives that enhances design appeal, and a maker can apply this knowledge only if he is versed in the history of blades. These points are why I have a pattern inventory of over 450 knife patterns on this site, and I add new ones every batch. Design is the center of a knife's appeal, and is often indefinable yet substantial. The accessories, sheath, stand, and embellishment must also work to enhance that original design, not fracture it or detract from it. This is often why works involving many different hands do not have visceral punch or appeal.

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"Nunavut" obverse side view in 440C high chromium stainless steel blade, hand-engraved 304 stainless steel bolsters, agatized, jasper petrified wood gemstone handle, hand-carved, hand-dyed leather sheath
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Accessories

Accessories are sheaths, scabbards, cases, stands, display components, and other fittings like accessory blades and marlinspikes. Other accessories in the tactical, rescue, military and law enforcement field may include flashlights, fire starters and sharpeners, additional sheaths, multi-component mounting systems, belt loops, clamps, and straps. Accessories also include webbing adjuncts to mount the knife on the thigh below the belt, across the sternum or even behind the spine.

This is a horribly neglected facet of this tradecraft, art, and industry, and has been in the 40 years I've been making knives. I believe that the sheath is just as important as the knife, and it amazes me how many makers are lackadaisical about this part of our trade. Unfortunately, some makers of very expensive knives include a sheath that has the quality of a high school hobbyist's project. There are small boutique shop (AKA semi-production) so-called tactical knife companies that offer knives, and then list separate sheath makers the client has to contact to have a sheath made for the knife! What good is any knife if it's in a lousy, cheap, weak, non-existent or non-functional sheath? Most manufacturers of tactical style knives opt for thin, single thickness kydex with puny, hollow rivets or eyelets holding it together. Another technique manufacturers use is nylon textile covering, a poor, dirty way to cover a knife sheath that attracts debris and can tear, melt, or snag.

I design my sheaths to last as long as the knife. Leather sheaths are heavy, thick 9 -10 oz. shoulder from mature cows, and my kydex sheaths are double thickness kydex, thermoformed over corrosion resistant, high strength aluminum alloys, often anodized for color and high durability. My locking sheaths and hybrid tension-locking sheaths are the best made, with all stainless steel locking mechanisms suitable for marine grade environments. You can read more details on my Sheaths page.

A fine art knife should also have a fine display, not just a sliced-off antler fork stuck in a slab of wood. The form of the display should sculpturally blend the knife into a complete complex, compound work of art that intensifies the value as well as the appeal. A display case should have distinctive and fine joinery, not simply be a box with a lid or piece of glass. This is a part of this trade that separates the artists from the craftsmen. It is instantly clear from the accessories whether you are talking about an average knife or a fine piece of investment grade knife art. More critical, the accessories of tactical, combat, and counterterrorism knives mean the difference between actually wearing the gear into the mission or leaving it at the base or home.

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"Kairos" combat, counterterrorism knife in 440C high chromium stainless steel blade, 304 stainless steel bolsters, G10 fiberglass/epoxy composite handle, hybrid tension-locking sheath in kydex, anodized aluminum, stainless steel with HULA, LIMA, and UBLX
More about this Kairos

Service

Service is the action in the many facets of knife making that creates, fosters, grows, and deepens the knife maker to knife client experience. Services allow me to keep my clients up to date, foster new client relationships, develop new markets, designs, and ideas, and help increase the long term investment value of knives that are long out of my hands. Service may be subtle but powerful, and is frequently overlooked, like what you're reading right now.

This massive website was created not just as a sales tool, but as a service to my clients, and ultimately to my tradecraft and industry. I've invested thousands of hours in this work, typed every single word (except the testimonials), taken nearly every single picture, annotated, clarified, described, and illustrated everything on this site.

I also maintain a massive archive of my finished work , current and available for my clients and the public on this website, and in the Library of Congress. Knives offered for sale are presented with highly detailed descriptions and multiple photographs illustrating all angles and characteristics of the piece and accessories. Many photos are enlargements, something most in my trade refuse to do.

I treat my clients with respect and high regard, whether you're purchasing your first knife with your hard-saved dollars, or are in the field of combat defending your country, or are prosperous collector of fine art. I answer emails promptly, keep my clients posted on their projects, take photos available for their records, provide brochures, and provide free archival engraved acrylic nameplates along with regular documentation with each knife. These are all service aspects. I offer various payment methods based on a low deposit. I design with clients, offer completed designs with annotations of features while including the design fee in the cost of the knife. I offer a pattern inventory of over 450 knives, for free, the largest in the world. I research new materials, hunt down rare woods, gems and minerals, and try new techniques. I write about and photograph everything pertaining to my business and it's right here, available on this site, to access any time, from anywhere in the world, for free. I constantly write and explain, helping educate much of the public and many internet artists and craftsmen. I constantly strive to improve my products, tools, and skills as a service to my clients, to be the best artist and craftsman I can be. It is the most important thing I can do!

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"You know, I never believed in decorous weapons until I met Jay Fisher. Where does one draw the line between a fighting knife and a work of art?

Jay Fisher is a throwback to the age when craftsmen were *all* artists, not mere producers of products, when every item that went out the door had a story and a purpose all its own, and when you went to a craftsman not because of what you wanted but because of who he was.

Jay is a guy who knows how to use the modern to serve the past. We really do make better steel today than we did a hundred years ago - the idea of cutting an ancient Samurai sword in two with a modern American knife does have its attractions - and the blend of old and new in his work is totally seamless. A knight Templar would not have hesitated a moment to take Fisher's steel on his Holy Quest. In fact, he would have thought the technological edge a gift from an especially attentive God.

I suppose that says it all. Jay Fisher is one of a kind, a man who knows the riddle of steel, and that the difference between a good weapon and a bad one is the combination of how you make it and to whom you give it."

--Worldwide best selling author Tom Clancy, 1994

"Duhovni Ratnik" in case view. Case interior is Cherry hardwood and Ebonized Poplar, varnished and sealed, with Engraved brass and lacquered aluminum nameplate.
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Gratitude

This is not specifically listed as one of the six distinctions of fine knives. This is what I offer to those who have supported me through the decades of designing, creating, and selling fine handmade custom knives and accessories. I know I could not do any of this without you, my client and knife enthusiast. There are many ways a client or patron could spend his time and money, and I'm humbled and grateful to be honored by their patronage. Thank God and those who have sacrificed to build and keep our country free, and our allies free, and thanks to my family for their support and belief in my vision.

Thank you for being here!

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"Furud" obverse side view: 440C high chromium stainless steel blade, hand-engraved 304 stainless steel bolsters, Spiderweb Obsidian gemstone handle, Shark skin inlaid in hand-carved leather sheath
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Funny Letters and Emails, Pg. 3 D2: Wear Resistance King
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