Jay Fisher - World Class Knifemaker
Quality Without Compromise
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Thanks for being here. I believe that one of the most important things I can do as an artist, craftsman, and knife making professional is to educate. Here, on this website, you can learn more than on any other website in the world how a professional, full time custom knifemaker works, what making fine handmade and custom knives is about, what are some of the issues and solutions to hand knives in general, and what the most advanced knife users in the world are using. I promise that if you read the entire website (this may take months), you will know more than the average person, more than the average knife owner, and even more than the average knife maker about fine handmade and custom knives.
I live in an unusual world: the world of fine handmade knives. There are very few professional full time makers; it is a fairly rare profession. While there are many people who try their hand at making knives, or make knives as a hobby, there are only a relatively few of us who make knives for a living, and fewer yet who have done this for as long as I have (decades). You would be correct in thinking I'm very proud of this; it's not a vocation for the timid. It's a very physical, tactile, and full contact profession filled with noisy high speed machinery, incredible heat, chemical exposures, and an insane amount of dust, sparks, and motion. It's brutally gripping and grinding rocks under the spray of cold water, it's accurately cutting tiny bits of metal under a microscope.
It's also about web development, publicity, accounting, travel, and materials acquisition. It's about research into the deepest recesses of our past, historical uses and styles, embellishment arts and emotion. It's about survival in the most basic of emergencies; it's about fulfilling the most extreme critical needs of the most advanced counterterrorism units. It's about accomplished restaurant chefs; it's about investment collectors.
Most of all, it's about sharing what I know and do with others. They are the reason I'm successful, and the reason I have what I consider to be the greatest job in the world.
This website is available, for free, to anyone who will take the time to read it. While there are some parts that are restricted, most of the important information is here, 24/7, for anyone to indulge in. While it's not legal to copy and paste or use my writing without permission, the ideas I put forth, and all ideas, for that matter, are free to use, free to understand, free to share. Ideas are not protected intellectual property, only the presentation (writing and photos) of them is protected. I invite anyone to learn as much as they can about fine handmade and custom knives here, and share this resource with others.
There is an incredible, mind-numbing amount of misinformation, confusion, and outright lies about knives on the internet. Take a look at any discussion forum with educated eyes, and you'll see these mistakes and misconceptions on every single page. Take a look at any chef's or cooking forum, combat knives forum, and even general knifemaking forums and you'll see the same kind of unending errors, falsehoods, and uncertainty. Even successful professionals are confused about what a fine knife is, where they come from who makes them, and why they make them the way they do.
Where does all this confusion come from? In knifemaking forums and on many knifemaker's websites, it may help to understand who the people commenting are, and what their level of experience is. Most of them are simply hobbyists, hoping to sell their knives for a couple hundred dollars. This means that they do not make knives professionally, do not have their knives used by other professionals, and simply are participating for the camaraderie, fellowship, and limited scope of the venue. In doing so, the same type of information is passed around over and over, and, in being repeated so many times, takes on the appearance of proof, endorsement, and sometimes truth, though much of it is plainly incorrect.
This is because real learning takes time, effort, experience, and a reliable source, and people are plainly lazy, not wanting to invest the time to educate themselves in what interests them. It's much easier to search out a quick and pat answer than to read, learn, and experiment through trial and error or through application and research. With the overwhelming amount of information available online, it's easy to get confused, and research skills are then essential.
Because nearly everyone has access to the internet, anyone can put out videos of their erroneous processes, claiming they are teaching others "how to." The worst one of these I've ever seen (now removed from YouTube) was the guy explaining how to mirror polish any factory knife blade. He had a high speed (3600 RPM) bench grinder motor fitted with a buffing wheel sitting on a work bench. The motor was not secured to the bench; it was held there by the weight of a 10 lb. dumbbell (yes a dumbbell) with one of the ends resting on the top of the motor and the other end on the bench. He had attached a 6" diameter buffing wheel to the shaft of the machine, and he had it spinning upwards, that is, with the closest part to him spinning up and toward his face. As he explained his setup, he apologized for the lack of mounting of the machine to the bench; he went on to casually lay the knife against the wheel. I can think of nothing more ignorant, dangerous, and stupid than this man presented, and he presented it as if this was what everyone did in order to polish a knife! One slip, and the knife blade becomes a 100 mile per hour missile headed for his face. One vibration and the motor dances off the bench out from under the dumbbell, and travels around the garage mincing and pummeling everything in its path until it loses momentum. Ghastly, just stupid ghastly.
Perhaps you think that an accident can't happen with a spinning disc of stitched cloths (a buffing wheel), so let me enlighten you. I know of three serious accidents that knifemakers have had with buffing wheels, and in two cases, they were fatal. The last one sent a knife into the knifemaker's heart. This was a long-term knifemaker, not some novice, so this shows how dangerous these operations can be.
Though not all information presented on the internet by non-professionals is this foolhardy and dangerous, there is plenty of it to go around. Missed process steps, misidentification of metals, incorrect use of metal types, lousy grinding and machining, horrible profiles and arrangements, total lack of realistic sheaths, lack of all accessories, and regurgitation of factory knife claims, beliefs from a century ago, and beliefs made popular by Hollywood movies and video games permeate the conversations. If examined closely, it would take years to just identify them, and many more years to educate one's path through the mess.
This is why it's not typically productive for professionals to post on such venues and to argue with people who clearly have limited knowledge and no experience as a professional. While I've become involved from time to time, when the ridiculous claims about me or my own knives need a sturdy dose of reality, it's better to present these ideas here, where truly interested people can come, learn facts based on experience and success, and let them make up their own minds. And they do. I have continual testimonials of thanks from people who are searching for reason, knowledge, and the education that this incredibly important part of my tradecraft and art offers, and this is why I continue this service aspect, as defined here.
Why some people won't learn about knives with so much viable information saddens me. The first question to ask is: who are they, and what is their desire to learn based on? For instance, you might wonder why an accomplished chef knows next to nothing about the number one tool in his toolkit. I often wonder this myself.
I remember seeing a show highlighting a very successful chef who had started several restaurants and in the shot of his kitchen, the chef was using a knife typical of most cheap and common chef's knife styles, with three rivets through the handle. This knife was different; it had several rubber bands wrapped around the middle of the handle. Yes, rubber bands! I can only assume they were there to either help him grip the handle, or to hold the handle scales on as they were coming off. Either way, I can only cringe at the sight of it, thinking of all the bacteria and contamination that the rubber bands could harbor. And rubber stinks. What happens to the rubber bands and the knife parts when they fall off or come apart? It was very hard to consider this man the professional he claimed to be under the circumstances.
I suppose the same scenario could be applied to a warehouseman who handles and opens boxes all day. His knife is probably the cheapest, weakest, and most commonly available box cutter sold at any hardware store. So what is wrong with the picture when applied to the chef?
The warehouseman is not a highly accomplished professional, he's a warehouseman. The chef is supposed to be far and above others in his craft: an artist, a skilled, highly ordered specialist, in tune with all of his implements. The same chef may cook on a one hundred and twenty thousand dollar stove, use the best copper-bottomed stainless steel pans, and serve on the finest artistic china plates with elegant and scratch-free cutlery. But he uses a cheap, three rivet handled knife from China made of 420 stainless steel? Why, Lord, oh why?
This is my complaint. Does he not know of the fine knives that are available? After all, money is no object to the true pro. I can only conclude that he does not know. He simply is not aware of better, finer, and excellent tools that are available. This has been a problem I've seen in this career from beginning it. People simply don't know that fine knives exist. And what they consider fine is actually based on concepts from the beginning of the 20th century or before!
When I regularly did knife shows and juried art shows, I was in continuous contact with thousands of people, the public, who were looking for knives, gifts, art, and tools. This meant (in one in one particular venue) seeing the faces of over 80,000 people in three days. The most often made remark was, "I can't believe knives like this exist!" The truth is most of the public has no idea that fine, handmade, artistic, tactical, hunting, and chef's knives exist in the world. They simply don't know.
Early on, I realized that part of my responsibility was to educate. The public, the soldier, the chef, the investor, and anyone who has even a slight interest in knives should know that guys like me are out here, available to make the knife that they may never have dreamed possible. I educated. I talked myself hoarse at these shows, going over and over the same comments, questions, concerns, and explanations. I spoke to people on the phone, in person, in any venue I could. It was a very difficult way to educate, because it is clearly one-on-one, and every conversation supplied information to only one person.
Then the internet came about. Here, I can write it down once, and post it for the public to see, any time they want, for free, in the comfort of their home, work, vehicle, or waiting room, or anywhere they have access to the internet. They can read as much as they like, absorb or discard what they read, knowing that these words come from a very successful knifemaker who has a decades long string of experience to back those words up. There are tens of thousands of new readers every month, millions of accesses to this website monthly, and I know that most people appreciate the plain, clear, and very detailed information presented here. I know that this helps me, my collaborative and family knifemakers, and other knifemakers in general.
This means that knifemaking and fine custom and handmade knives are in a rapidly growing world, striking out as the art form that is first a tool, and then a legacy creation. A lot has changed since I made my first knife in 1979, and it's exciting to see where this is all going. You can get a good picture of the growth and potential in looking over my Patterns page, where there are over 450 of my patterns, presented roughly in chronological order. If you are intuitive, you can see spurts and periods of certain types of knives that have been made and interest my knife community, and roughly gauge the direction of knives in general.
Because knives are so personal, and because they are ingrained in our humanity longer than any other tool, instrument, or device, we have a special relationship with them. In the foundation of that relationship comes from our family and our upbringing. There is a lot of focus on personal family ancestry, relationships, and origins currently, and this will continue to be fascinating and formative in our own psyche. Knives play a pivotal role because every family must have knives to survive, if it's just to butter toast or cut up a vegetable. Boys are often brought up to use and appreciate knives, and these knives ordinarily come from a parent, oftentimes a father or grandfather. From that father figure (nowadays also filled by some women) comes the knowledge about the knife, knives in general, their use, their materials, safety, and value. These important points are typically passed down verbally, and this is where the confusion starts.
No one wants to hear that their dad, grandfather, or mom was wrong in what they shared about knives, but nearly all of the misunderstandings originate this way. My own father swore that carbon steel knives were the best, simply because he had never seen a high alloy stainless tool steel knife blade. I can't help but think he never fully appreciated the modern and highly superior nature of these steels, simply because he had no access to them in his youth. He learned what he knew about knives from his dad, who learned from his.
This would be like your granddad telling you about the cars of the 1960's, how great they were, how nothing could approach them for power, style, and mechanistic efficiency. Then, reality seeps in and you realize that modern vehicles are more efficient, better built, more comfortable, safer, and some even have more power than the muscle cars of the past. You don't have to replace starters, alternators, coils, and plugs every 30,000 miles, and the drive trains last two to three times as long. Because we respect our ancestors, we honor them by holding those past values in regard, reviving them if possible, and remembering only the good of them. This is an honorable thing to do, we are all deeply connected to our past, and to our loved ones.
Make your ancestors proud.
But, so many times, our information is flawed. Just like the old, heavy, hulking, fuel-hogging and maintenance-sponging vehicles of the past, early knives, carbon steel knives, three rivet handles, weak and flimsy sheaths and constant sharpening are also of the past. Our grandfathers never heard of a locking sheath, they never saw high vanadium content in steels. Powder metal technology was unknown, gemstone handles were simply a dream. They never heard of steels being sharpened by diamond hones. They never knew about mirror polishes, and the only hollow grinds they saw were on their straight razors. They were happy with aluminum fittings, rough wood handles, and constant scrubbing and oiling of blades. They would be amazed at what is available today.
I feel my ancestors would be honored to know that I've continued on the path they started, that my education was based upon their original interest and passion, particularly for knives. They wouldn't want me to cling to outdated, antiquated concepts of the old ways of my profession, and would want me to learn, grow, and improve upon the foundation they set. In my life and in my profession, this means continual education, study, and practice. This is how we evolve and this is how we excel.
Probably the worst part about my profession is the incredible amount of lies, misunderstanding, and hype created by companies who advertise knives for sale. There are numerous places on this website where you can read and understand this, from my Business of Knifemaking page to my Tactical Knives page, from my Factory vs. Handmade Knives page to my Funny Emails pages: all of these have direct and specific misstatements, fabrications, and ridiculous notions originating from knife sales companies. You'll notice I said knife sales companies, not only knife manufacturing companies, and this is because so many businesses are selling something that they didn't manufacture, that they didn't make, and that they didn't even assemble. They, then, are sales companies, not manufacturers. And they will use any means they deem necessary to sell their products. This includes lying about performance, steel durability and hardness, and even handle materials. They carefully craft their words to infer things (like the American manufacturer who calls stabilized and laminated birch "cherrywood." It is not cherry, and not even really wood, but mostly polymer with a birch wood base (Dymondwood made by Rutland Plywood Corporation). They hope that by putting the words "cherry" and "wood" together, you won't notice that the wood is not cherry, but their neologism (new word) infers that it is.
Why don't they simply tell the truth? Because the truth is not so flattering to their product, that's why. It's a continuous game of misleading, misrepresenting, tweaking the words, omitting the limitations, and pushing the dream instead of clearly describing the exact knife.
What then, are the specific causes of misunderstanding about knives, generally?
So what is the problem here? It's simple. It's ignorance. And the only way to combat that is with information, with actively learning about knives and everything knife related.
Where does one go to learn about knives? The books that are in print are woefully dated, lacking in structure, lacking in historical references or modern applications. The DVDs and offerings on the internet are only for self-training, and are often published by people and makers who are not actually making the finest, most modern, most sophisticated knives available today. The people who are making these knives are far too busy to peddle how-to instructional videos.
Because you are reading this, you already know the answer; and a lot of it is right here. In addition, I encourage the purchase and study of historical texts for their historical value, for knives have been made a very long time. What was once considered a simple craft tool is now a sophisticated instrument, made of finest materials and costing thousands of dollars.
This is also the reason I'm writing a lengthy and long-term treatise on my particular journey to share what I have learned. The more I write, the more there is to write, and it may be an unfinished work when it's offered to the public, simply because of new advances made in materials, technology, and processes. So if you want to get a leg up on this subject, I recommend learning all you can from this very website; it has more to offer on the subject than any other singular professional knifemaker's website in the world.
And thanks for being here!
You are reading the largest and most detailed website by any living knifemaker in the world.
I've often asked myself why I'm compelled to write so much about knives, and even more curious is my desire to make them! This is something that my Maker built into me, and sharing all of it seems important. If there were other sources that I could simply refer to, and a place I could send you, the person who is reading this, I would, but there is not any central source or clearinghouse for detailed, concise, and truly descriptive information about modern handmade knives, anywhere. Consequently, you are reading the largest and most detailed website by any living knifemaker in the world, and it's taken two decades on the internet to build it. If you know of any other singular knifemaker who offers so much information about modern handmade knives, please do contact me and let me know; he and I will have lots to talk about!
Like you, I'm interested in knives, intensely so, and I try to picture what you as a reader might value, the questions you may have, through my own eyes. Some of these are easily seen in the search engine metrics where I can actually read the query that Google uses to send people to my web site. When I started this profession, I had many of the same questions, not specifically related to the making of a knife, but details about knives in general. While there is a lot of information about knives today, most of it is piecemeal, biased, based on hearsay, myths, anecdotal, or flatly incorrect. To find answers, you'll have to do a lot of research, and then sift out the chaff to come to a clear understanding of the subject. What do I mean?
If you study knives, you'll quickly find out that most of the modern conversation about knives is centered on the blade. Not the blade shape, style, function, finish, or longevity, but on the steel type alone. Forums, bulletin boards, discussion topics, and advertising for knife sales is heavily slanted towards the steel type, and little else. The steel is the focus, the center, the be-all, end-all to knife value, it seems. Would it surprise you to know that this is simply not true, not even close? Many steels cut extremely well, and make great knife blades; I use over a dozen types myself. Each one has its own advantages and limitations, each one has a place in our modern world of metals. Sadly, when I read some of this commentary about blade steels, it is flatly incorrect. Sadder still is the practice of repeating misinformation to others, particularly new makers, young makers, and the public interested in knives.
The number one bit of misinformation or misguidance in discussing blade steels is the belief that the best performing and most highly valued knife blade steels are forged on an anvil in the open air. This is a practice that is many centuries old, is antiquated and, by necessity, uses low alloy, lower performing steels. The public, and worse, media (television and video) prefers the highly visual appearance of hot metal and sparks flying. I suppose this hearkens back to our prehistory, when staring into the fascinating light of a warm fire after a meal made us feel satisfied and fulfilled. Fire and sparks have a warm appeal; work is being done, heat is positive and reassuring. The visual experience of striking and heat together is powerful. Not so fascinating is an electronically controlled metal box, with a regulated and specific atmosphere, accurately applying heat in strictly managed circumstances, ordered and precise, hotter than any glowing steel on an anvil, doing the job, out of sight. Yet this is how the very, very best blades are made in our industrial, technological world.
The reality lies in the question; would you rather have a nice-looking campfire warming your home or a high-efficiency modern furnace? Sure the burning wood looks nice, but the smoke, the heat going up the chimney, the ashes, the draft... yet there is still a desire for home fireplaces. This is how I see hand-forged knife blades. It's a satisfying endeavor; I've done it myself in the past, but it makes a hugely inferior knife blade, particularly when measured against high alloy hypereutectoid and stainless tool steels, not to mention steels made and refined using vacuum induction melting, electro slag re-melting under pressure, and powder metal technology. You'll read on this website over and over that there are no blacksmiths in any machine shop, no one is hand-forging tool parts, pieces, and components, and you wouldn't want a hand-forged knee replacement, scalpel, or medical instrument that is not corrosion resistant or stainless steel. You wouldn't want a hand-forged turbine shaft on the aircraft you are flying, and you wouldn't want a hand-forged crankshaft in your car's engine. Yet, year after year, I'm contacted by media and production representatives hoping for a new knifemaking show, based on a guy hammering metal and sparks flying, with a lot of conflict, argument, hopeless competition, and embarrassment. The media and production firms are not interested in seeing modern, controlled atmosphere furnaces, cryogenic processers, and machine grinding techniques, even if all done by hand, because, like fireworks on the fourth of July, it's all about the visual appeal and the quick optic bite.
The true conflict with reality is brought to light when a professional knife user or collector of the finest handmade knives simply wants the best blade possible. If he reads and studies and researches his tools, he quickly finds out that the very best steels made today are available to him, but they are not easily and simply forged, ground, and finished. This is direct contradiction with the popular image of knives and knifemaking, particularly when fueled with the mystical entertainment media that fantasizes knives, swords, daggers, and cutting tools and weapons. This direct conflict is one of the reasons I am determined to share these truths, so that people who want the very best are educated as to what is available.
That's just the blade, and there is so much more to every single knife! What about handles, fittings, sheaths, and accessories?
This is why I'm compelled to share what my clients, what the truly interested person wants and needs to know about modern handmade knives. The people who read these pages don't need to buy from me (chances are that they won't, since I'm limiting my work and am years in backorders), but they do deserve to know some clear realities about knives from the perspective of someone who is and has been in the field for decades. They can choose to ignore it, follow up with research, or embrace any part of it; the important thing is that it's available to read, and that is something that didn't exist when I started in this field, and doesn't exist in most other knife domains. You deserve the right to consider it, and I thank you for your interest in the field I love.
Now the question of why me. Know that first, I've been making and selling knives for a very long time. I made my first knife in 1979, sold my first in 1980, made knives as a part time knifemaker until 1988, when I went full time into knifemaking as a professional knifemaker. This is and has been my sole source of income for decades, and I've made and sold thousands of knives in my career. Many of these were made with the direct input of the professional knife user, for the most serious of knife use (in combat, rescue, and counterterrorism). Many were made for professional knife users, restaurant chefs, game outfitters, ranchers, horsemen, and guides. Many were made for collection and use, and all have maintained or increased their value over time. Every single knife I made was made by hand, one part at a time, and nothing has been farmed out, outsourced, or premade, in any way. I've made every knife to the best of my ability, using the best processes and highest potential my clients could afford.
You could say that my experience has been the same as other full time professional knifemakers, though you would be hard-pressed to find very many of them. It's a rare art, trade, craft, and science, no matter how many hobbyists try it on. One thing that I try to excel in is constant improvement of my work, skills, knowledge, and application in my field. Most established makers simply reach a certain level and make repetitive works. I'm constantly researching, learning, growing, and presenting, like the very text you are reading now.
This is why I believe I am obligated, am determined, and am compelled to share with you what I know about my field. I know of no one else who is driven to educate and explain this way, so if I don't do it, who will?
|More about:||Link to Page|
|Modern knife patterns by Jay Fisher||Patterns|
|Modern knife anatomy and hundreds of definitions||Knife Anatomy|
|Modern handmade knife blades||Blades|
|Modern steels and knife blade treatments||Heat Treating and Cryogenic Processing of Knife Blade Steels|
|Modern handmade knife handles||Handles, Bolsters, Guards and Fittings|
|Modern handmade knife sheaths||Knife Sheaths|
|Modern handmade tactical and combat knives||Tactical Knife Page|
|Modern counterterrorism and PSD knives||Counterterrorism Knives|
|Modern handmade chef's and culinary knives||Chef's Knives|
|Modern handmade working and hunting knives||Working and Hunting Knives|
|Modern handmade investor's knives||Investor's Knives|
|Modern handmade knives vs. factory knives||Factory vs. Handmade Knives|
|The business of modern handmade knives||The Business of Knifemaking|
There are many, many more pages to learn from available here. You can get to all of the available pages from my Table of Contents. Enjoy your stay, and feel free to indulge yourself on my offering about my profession! Thanks again for being here.
|Home Page||Where's My Knife, Jay?||Current Tactical Knives for Sale||The Awe of the Blade||Blades||My Photography|
|Website Overview||Current Knives for Sale||Tactical, Combat Knife Portal||Museum Pieces||Knife Anatomy||Photographic Services|
|My Mission||My Knife Prices||All Tactical, Combat Knives||Investment, Collector's Knives||Custom Knives||Photographic Images|
|The Finest Knives and You||How To Order||Counterterrorism Knives||Daggers||Modern Knifemaking Technology|
|Featured Knives: Page One||Purchase Finished Knives||Professional, Military Commemoratives||Swords||Knife Patterns|
|Featured Knives: Page Two||Order Custom Knives||USAF Pararescue Knives||Folding Knives||Knife Pattern Alphabetic List||My Writing|
|Featured Knives: Page Three||Knife Sales Policy||USAF Pararescue "PJ- Light"||Chef's Knives||New Materials||First Novel|
|Featured Knives: Older/Early||Bank Transfers||27th Air Force Special Operations||Hunting Knives||Factory vs. Handmade Knives||Second Novel|
|Email Jay Fisher||Custom Knife Design Fee||Khukris: Combat, Survival, Art||Working Knives||Six Distinctions of Fine Knives||Knife Book|
|Contact, Locate Jay Fisher||Delivery Times||The Best Combat Locking Sheath||Khukris||Knife Styles|
|FAQs||My Shipping Method||Grip Styles, Hand Sizing||Skeletonized Knives||Business of Knifemaking||Videos|
|Current, Recent Works, Events||Tactical Knife Sheath Accessories||Serrations||Jay's Internet Stats|
|Client's News and Info||Military Knife Care||Knife Sheaths||The 3000th Term||Links|
|Who Is Jay Fisher?||Serrations||Knife Stands and Cases||Learning About Knives|
|Top 22 Reasons to Buy||Concealed Carry and Knives||Handles, Bolsters, Guards||Knife Blade Testing||Site Table of Contents|
|My Knifemaking History||Knife Handles: Gemstone||Knife Embellishment|
|My Family||Gemstone Alphabetic List||Knife Maker's Marks|
|What I Do And Don't Do||Knife Handles: Woods||How to Care for Custom Knives|
|CD ROM Archive||Knife Handles: Horn, Bone, Ivory||Knife Making Instruction|
|Publications, Publicity||Knife Handles: Manmade Materials||Larger Monitors and Knife Photos|
|Testimonials, Letters and Emails||Copyright and Knives|
|Funny Letters and Emails, Pg. 1||440C: A Love/Hate Affair|
|Funny Letters and Emails, Pg. 2||ATS-34: Chrome/Moly Tough|
|Funny Letters and Emails, Pg. 3||D2: Wear Resistance King|
|Funny Letters and Emails, Pg. 4||O1: Oil Hardened Blued Beauty|
|Funny Letters and Emails, Pg. 5||
Heat Treating and
Cryogenic Processing of
Knife Blade Steels
|Funny Letters and Emails, Pg. 6||Cities of the Knife|
|Knife Shop/Studio, Page 1|
|Knife Shop/Studio, Page 2|