Jay Fisher - World Class Knifemaker
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"Sirara" Tactical Combat Knife
There are cultures where edged weapons and tools are held in high regard, even cherished. I remember hearing about a modern Pueblo people who have a stone axe resting in a prominent spot in their place of worship. This is because it hearkens to an earlier time when they used stone axes and they honor their ancestors with the display, even though today they use chain saws and hydraulic wood splitters to process timber.
I try to honor the history of edged weapons and tools with my own work. I often look to the past for inspiration and ideas and for design continuity and guidance. I believe this honors the history of man's first and oldest tool and its place in our culture and modern times.
The knife, sword, tool, or weapon is the main focus of attention (as it should be), but because knives and edged weapons can be dangerous forms, we are usually conscious of their potential for injury, and often have them stored away, sheathed, and secured. High value can also mean that a fine custom or handmade knife is a substantial investment and should be protected.
High value investment grade works in knives, daggers, swords, and edged weapons and tools are also art. When the inspiration, design, execution, craftsmanship, and artistic effort is applied, knives become works of art and are deserving of a complete display. This display is a stand, case, or cohesive sculptural work that completes the piece.
When a knife transcends a simple sheath and requires a more elaborate and artistic method of display, the display stand or case is created. My display stands or cases must hold the knife at a flattering angle, must compliment yet not detract from the knife's artistic style, must complete the entire ensemble to become a solid and independent piece of art, commensurate with the quality of the knife.
Like most beginning makers, early on I started with display stands of deer antler attached to wooden bases. While that may be suitable for early works and for hunting knives where the antler is a point of appropriate interest, it was just the beginning. I quickly moved to stone components, metal fittings, hardwoods carved and finished, and complimentary arrangements. In my display cases I realized that fine joinery was appropriate, with fine woods, carving, milling, and variety that would compliment the knife and be heavy, substantial, and offer worthwhile and long-term protection, display, and value to my clients.
Some of my stands and display cases incorporate both the knife and sheath, and some just the knife. My stand or case designs are one-of-a-kind and may range from simple to elaborate, utilitarian to fantasy, all complimenting the knife, dagger, sword, or weapon, and suited to the purpose of the piece. The stands or cases may represent the image of the knife, often echoing curves and stylistic accents on the knife or handle. Some incorporate the same materials that are used in the construction of the knife. Some are animate and recognizable, some are abstract or geometric.
They feature finely finished or polished pieces with accurate fittings and mounts solidly designed with stable bases or heavy and solid hangers. Sometimes, an etched or engraved (by machine or hand) nameplate identifies the piece, occasionally it details the components, and occasionally an illuminating poem follows to complete the artistic idea.
Though you'll see some beautiful stands and cases on this page, you'll notice that no two are alike. Occasionally, I get requests to copy my own stands for new knives. I don't do this, because it would devalue the existing stand that is in the hands of a client, and I'm committed to make each stand an individual artistic endeavor.
Blocks, stands and cases can add great value to the overall knife or knives. Unlikely to appear in any manufactured works and original to each maker or artist, stands, blocks, and cases become significant parts of each work of art. They may represent many hours, weeks, or even months of effort on the part of the artist. High value components like cast bronze, precious gemstone, and high detail engravings may be part of the knife art display. The creation and execution of the construction of these stands is the complete province of the maker, and speaks to his skills and practice in the field.
Making fine stands and cases is a challenging artistic skill in itself, matching the right woods, horn, bone, ivory, or gemstone to the knife, displaying the knife and complimenting it, adding to the piece rather than pulling the eye away from the knife. As the knives become more elaborate, so do my stands and cases, until it is impossible to separate the two and they are a total sculptural art piece.
Many people do not realize what goes in to a fine sculptural stand, case, block, or presentation device. Carving, shaping, finishing and mechanics are all parts of the knife sculptural experience. Welding, carving in wax, casting metals, fitting stone, and other necessary skills are employed in the creation of the idea. A great deal of hand work and finishing is applied to bring the potential out of the rough materials used in the custom stand, case, or block. All of this takes a great deal of time.
Fine chef's knives that will occupy a prominent space on the counter need custom blocks. Below you will see some fine blocks I've made in hardwoods. These are multi-component, heavy, and substantial pieces made with hardwoods and gemstone, with plenty of mass for stable protection of the knives and owner. Some of them are accompanied by nested chopping bowls and spice blocks that match the curvature of the specialized blades.
I do not generally accept client's blueprints or designs for knife stands, cases, and blocks. I reserve the right as an artist to creatively apply what is in my idea set for the piece or pieces. So far, this has worked very well for me; no client has been disappointed with what I have created for their knife, sword, or artwork.
As an artist, ideas of display and accompaniment may come to me while I create the knife, ideas and designs that are not available to the client. If a client has given a price range for me to work in, I'll offer him the best value for his investment I can create, but this is usually the singular limitation I have.
There is an immense potential to learn and grow in this field, and I hope to continue that as long as possible in my life. Knife display and sculpture is a rewarding experience and I hope you have enjoyed these photographs of my work. Thanks for being here!
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