Jay Fisher - World Class Knifemaker

Quality Without Compromise

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Knife Maker's Mark for Jay Fisher Knives

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Professional Counterterrorism Knives:
"Ari B' Lilah" Custom Counterterrorism Tactical Combat Knife, obverse side view in ATS-34 high molybdenum-chromium martensitic stainless steel blade, 304 stainless steel bolsters, black G10 composite handle, hybrid tension-locking sheath in kydex, anodized black aluminum alloy, titanium, blackened stainless steel fasteners, anodized hardware and mounts, HULA with MagTac flashlight, LIMA with Maglite LED Solitaire, Ultimate belt loop extender with diamond pad sharpener
"Ari B'lilah"

Custom Knives

"Duhovni Ratnik" Knife in hand-engraved 440C high chromium stainless steel blade, hand-engraved 304 stainless steel bolsters, handle of Black Nephrite Jade gemstone inlaid with a mosaic of Red River Jasper and White Geodic Quartz. Sheath is hand-carved, hand-dyed leather shoulder
More about this Duhovni Ratnik

Real Custom Knives

cus′tom (kŭs′tŭm), adj.
  1. Made or done to order; as custom clothes.
  2. Dealing in things made to order, or doing work only when it is ordered; as, a custom shoemaker, a custom mill.
Source: Webster's International Dictionary, 1828-present

"Vesta" Dagger, obverse side view in hot-blued O1 high carbon tungsten-vanadium tool steel blade, hand-engraved 304 stainless steel bolsters, Australian Black Jade and Apache Gold (chrysopyrite and slate) gemstone handle, hand-carved leather sheath inlaid with stingray skin
More about this Vesta

Mr. Fisher,
I am a new knife maker but my family and I have been metal crafters for generations. I do customer order knives as your definition states. I also do ready made, for sale, one-off knife designs. Not custom but no exact copies.
I use 1095, Damascus 1095 15N20, and 440C almost exclusively. I want to thank you for the clear description you have given on the use of custom named products. It is very gratifying to build a knife for a client after you have sat with them and designed the knife to their needs. This is a hobby for me now as I hone my skills and acquire more equipment. One day I hope to be as good as you in presentation however I believe my quality is high even though my finishing skills are developing.
Thank you for posting so much great information. I will continue to search your site and others who share your views to refine my craft.
...Please feel free to publish my comments and name. I believe you are one of the premier knife builders of our times and look for more great information from your site.

Kindest Regards,
Bill Anderson

"Tribal" in hand-engraved 440C high chromium stainless steel blade, hand-engraved 304 stainless steel bolsters, Pilbara Picasso Jasper gemstone handle, sheath of hand-carved, hand-dyed leather shoulder, stand of 304 stainless steel, American black walnut, mesquite, lauan hardwoods, engraved black lacquered brass
More about this Tribal

Why this page about custom knives?

Custom knives deserve their own special page on my site; if you are reading this, you probably want to learn more. Part of my service commitment to my trade and art is to clearly and plainly illustrate all of the facets of what I do, and custom knives are a very large and substantial part of my service. I believe there needs to be some plain and clear talk about custom knives: what they are, how they are made, what role they play, and their importance in the fine handmade custom knife world.

There is plenty of misinformation on the internet and in publications about what custom knives are, where they come from, and who makes them. As with all of the pages on my site, when you are done reading this page, you will know more than the average person about custom knives, more than most knife collectors, and even more than most knife makers about custom knives. I won't dance around the details of this topic; I believe that it is extremely important to know just what custom knives are, what they are not, and how the term became a generic and somewhat non-specific catch-all phrase that does a large disservice to our knife community. Then, armed with this information, you will be able to distinguish who is selling a phrase, who is making the real thing, and who is hiding under the umbrella of true custom works and why. If you are a knife maker, you will be able to understand the important role of custom knife making, and why you should be crystal clear to your clients in your knife construction, origin, provenance, and record keeping. If you are a knife dealer, you'll be able to clearly distinguish what a custom knife is and what is not a custom knife, and why you should be honest and forthright with your clients. If you are a knife user, collector, or enthusiast, you'll be better able to invest your money.

Read on, brother, this is information you need to know!

Custom Knife Topics

"Thuban" obverse side view in ATS-34 high molybdenum stainless steel blade, hand-engraved 304 stainless steel bolsters, brecciated jasper gemstone handle, lizard skin inlaid in hand-carved leather sheath
More about this Thuban

What are custom knives?
cus′tom (kŭs′tŭm), adj.
  1. Made or done to order; as custom clothes.
  2. Dealing in things made to order, or doing work only when it is ordered; as, a custom shoemaker, a custom mill.
Source: Webster's International Dictionary, 1828-present

You might think that this is a fairly straightforward and simple question, but it is frequently overlooked not only by people unfamiliar with knives, but also by people who ought to know better. People who call themselves professionals in this field, makers, dealers, buyers, and manufacturers commonly misuse the term custom knives in describing their own work, products, and knives, as well as the works of others. Just to be absolutely clear, this section will define a custom knife.

Custom knives are knives made to order.

  • The adjective custom specifically modifies and describes the noun knife when it is used as the phrase custom knife.
  • The adjective custom means specifically and exactly: made or done to order.
  •  A custom knife is a knife made to order, specifically and exactly.
  • The word custom also means: doing work only when it is ordered.

Seems simple enough. A custom knife is a knife made to order for who ever is ordering it. For example, if a client orders a specific knife to be made a specific way, and I then accept his deposit, and make the knife just to suit him as he ordered, this is a custom knife.

This is like many other products, works, or creations, if a client or patron orders it and it is then made to fill his specific order, it is custom. There are custom suits, custom cakes, custom homes, and custom guns. There are custom T-shirts, custom wheels, custom hats, and custom saddles. There are custom security systems, custom guitars, custom safaris, and custom weddings. There are custom data solutions, custom business evaluations, custom software development, and custom paint colors for your home. Every one of these activities defined as custom is made specifically to order, and the person who orders them is the buyer, client, patron, or customer.

How could this be unclear?

Custom Knife Topics

"Treatymaker LT" obverse side view in CPMS60V high vanadium tool steel blade, 304 stainless steel bolsters, Australian Black Jade gemstone handle, black basketweave leather sheath
More about this Treatymaker LT

What about Bespoke?

Occasionally, you'll read about bespoke projects, items, or work. The word bespoke is the past tense or past participle of the word bespeak, and it means custom made, custom ordered, as vs. ready made or off-the-shelf items. In essence, then, it means the same as custom.

This is not typically used nowadays in our American English language; this is more a British term originating in the Oxford dictionary. It dates back to a time when items were custom made (yep, custom) to order by the spoken word of the buyer or client. It's interesting because bespeak means to speak or arrange beforehand, which is just how custom works are commissioned. This term is more distinctly anchored by the conversation, and as you read deeper into this page, you'll see how important the conversation is in custom or bespoken works, arrangements, and endeavors.

Custom Knife Topics

"Antheia" custom knife sculpture; chef's knife set in 440C high chromium stainless steel blades, hand-engraved 304 stainless steel bolsters, handles of Thulite, Blue Willow Sodalite, California Nephrite Jade, Australian Black Jade gemstones, stand of hand-cast bronze, pecan hardwood, Black Midnight granite
More about "Antheia"

What knives are not custom knives?

Just like the description above as to what constitutes a custom knife (or custom anything), it is very simple to determine what is not a custom knife.

If it is not made to order, it is not custom.

In the knife world, there are, literally, billions of knives. How many and what knives are custom are fairly limited, but if you read advertiser's copy, you might think that these billions of knives are all made to order! Since this is impossible (and a gross misrepresentation or lie), it may help to define what is and never will be a custom knife. That way, you can separate out the exaggerations, advertising hyperbole, and scams. These descriptions may seem harsh and rigid, but words mean things, and our existence depends on clear communication.

Here are knives that are not custom:

  • All manufactured knives offered for sale to the public
  • All boutique shop knives offered for sale to the public
  • All pre-production shop knives offered for sale to the public
  • All semi-production shop knives offered for sale to the public
  • All knives from knife dealers offered for sale to the public
  • All knives from knife clubs, organizations, or groups offered for sale to the public
  • All knives made by individual or collaborative knife makers offered for sale to the public

You'll see a clear trend in the list above. It seems that any knife that is offered for sale to the public is not a custom knife! Yes, you've got it!

Any knife offered for sale to the public is not a custom knife.

Clearly, custom knives are knives made to order, so they would not, by definition, be offered for sale to the public. Any knife offered for sale to the public is made with only the input and direction of the person or business that makes it, and is not made to order.

Do I make knives that are not custom? Of course I do, and they are what I call inventory or creative works. They are made using my patterns, designs, and of the materials I choose the way I want to make them. I offer these for sale on the public part of this website. I try to make one creative or inventory knife for each custom knife I make, so that anyone visiting the web site may purchase the knife, and so that my own creative ideas flourish and grow, as well as the custom and individual ideas of my clients who order custom knives.

The important thing is that I never misidentify, misrepresent, or lie about the knife. If it is custom ordered, it says so on the description of the knife, If it is not a custom order, I do not claim it to be.

If a knife is claimed to be custom, and the word custom appears in the advertising for the knife, knife dealer, knife show, knife maker, or manufacturer, and it is for sale to the public, this is a gross misrepresentation; a lie.

Yes, shocking but true, and it happens all the time in the knife world. For example, I read on a knifemaker's site: "I have custom knives for sale." Does this mean that he sells knives that were made as custom for some other client and then offers them for sale? Does this mean that he accepts commissions for custom knives? Clearly, the statement is ambiguous at best, and deceptive at worst.

Custom Knife Topics

"Sirona" chef's knife, in 440C high chromium stainless steel blade, 304 stainless steel bolsters, Bronzite Hypersthene gemstone handle, stand of American Black Walnut, Red Oak Padauk hardwood
More about this Sirona

Why are so many knives called custom when they are not?

This, I believe, is the most troublesome and misleading thing any knife maker, boutique shop, semi-production shop, small or large manufacturer, supplier, show sponsor, club, or knife owner can do. Misrepresenting knives as custom when they are not does a great disservice to our community, trade, art, craft, and insults every one who is interested in knives, and it happens all the time. All you need to do is put the words "custom knives" into any search engine, and you'll immediately see dozens and dozens of sites misrepresenting their knives as custom. Thankfully, you'll also see true custom works offered by knife makers, but these are actually in a minority! Why would so many sources, sites, merchants, makers, and manufacturers misrepresent (lie) about the knives they sell?

When something is claimed to be custom, that means that the maker has an extremely high level of participation in the process. When you buy something "ready made," or "off the shelf," you simply take what is offered to everyone else. There is nothing wrong with that; most knife sales throughout history are completed as "off the shelf" purchases.

A custom work means that there is communication between the maker and the client, that the client or patron gets just what he wants, just as he wants it, with his ideas and guidance in the creation of the piece. Custom work can only be accomplished by a maker who has an extremely wide range and array of talents and skills, as each knife is different, and each project must receive dedicated and specific attention suited to just the one client who orders it. Custom work also indicates that the work is typically one-of-a-kind, an original and unique piece that may be of higher value than mass-produced works.

Because the word "custom" has such power and influence in our language, this is precisely why the word is stolen and misused to describe mass-produced or publicly offered knives. In no other trade is this word so badly misapplied, and it has been shocking to see it continue over the decades I've been a professional knife maker. It is a very peculiar aspect of this trade that I believe is not often discussed for several reasons:

  • Knifemakers do not want to step on anyone's toes. You can see this all the time on forums, in public discussions,  blogs, posts, videos, and other media-driven sources. Poorly made and badly executed knives are abundant and common throughout these sources, and guys driven by kindness, supportiveness, and good intentions offer their support for these poor works as inspiration to makers who could be making much better knives. So they ignore it when knives are claimed to be custom that are clearly not.
  • Knife makers and knife interests do not want any negative suggestions about any knives, as they may perceive that this could affect their own business.
  • The practice of lying about custom knives has gone on so long, it's commonly tolerated.
  • The practice of lying about custom knives is done by so many entities, that many people may think this is how fine knives or handmade knives are described.
  • Nearly everyone who lies about custom knives does this to better their own position.
  • People who lie about custom knives may simply be ignorant of what a custom knife is. I wonder why anyone would purchase a knife from someone who is ignorant of their own description of their product. This is, unfortunately, quite common in the knife world.

Lying about custom knives is more about greed than anything else. Throwing in a word like custom is seen as just another insignificant little fudge of the facts, something done "because everyone else is doing it," something done to better the advertising copy to nudge a potential buyer their way.

Let's look at how this distinction plays out in different knife interests:

  • Knife shows commonly do this to hint at exceptional offerings, though there is not one custom knife made during the show. The public does not go to a "Custom Knife Show" to order a knife made to their specifications. In the decades I attended shows, it's clear that the public goes to a knife show to purchase a knife that is offered for sale to the public on a 6 or 8 foot long table from the maker, manufacturer, or dealer who sells knives. The only rare exception would be a potential client who goes looking for a maker who can make him a custom knife, but making a knife happens after the show is over and not at the show. No maker brings his grinder, forge, or tools to the show to make the client the knife on the spot to his specifications; that's just ridiculous. So, by description of over 99% of the transactions, knife shows are about sales over the table, and the knives offered there are presented to the public. This means that these are not custom knife shows. Why do show promoters use this word? They want to make the show look better, pure and simple. Which is a better term? "Knife Show" or "Custom Knife Show?" Which is actually the truth about the show? This has gone on for decades, and makers don't discuss it much, because they need to be attending the show and don't want to get on the bad side of the show promoter. Thankfully, the internet is changing all of that!
  • Knife dealers frequently claim that their site, business, store front, or internet auction site sells custom knives, yet there is not one knife they sell that is made to order. If it were made to order, it wouldn't be offered for sale to the public. Over and again you can find this common practice among knife dealers who are either lying about their knives to better their own position in the market, or they are simply ignorant of what a custom knife is. I've seen it argued that a knife was originally custom ordered by someone and then is resold, so it's technically a custom knife. NO. A knife that is custom ordered and is then resold is a USED knife. But who wants to buy a used knife? The word used sounds pedestrian and low-rent. The word used is one that all sales people avoid, no matter what they are selling. How many used cars are program cars? How many used products are second hand? What about homes? You never see a home advertised as used yet that is what every home is that is not built brand new! No one likes the word used, so they avoid it. The best way for dealers to do this is to use a term to describe a knife that makes it look... well, better. So they lie. The only way the word custom can be truthfully applied is to claim "this knife was originally made as a custom knife for old so-and-so, and now it is being offered for sale." Old so-and-so's name must be used, so the provenance and origin of the knife is clearly and honestly represented.
  • Small knife manufacturers (boutique shops, pre-production shops, semi-production shops) like to use the term custom as well, even though they sell the same knife, over and over, to the public as the mainstay of their business. Sometimes, they make attempts to customize a knife by offering options available on their standard line, just so they can use the word custom in their advertising. Take, for instance, a well-known boutique shop (small manufacturer) of knives who will apply a Computer Numerically Controlled (CNC) pattern of cuts on the liners of a folding knife they manufacture. You can choose from one of a handful of cut patterns and selective anodizing enhances the color. They call this custom. Okay, let's get this clear. I chose a specific color for my truck, and an interior set with a suspension package that the manufacturer offers. In no way is this a custom truck. It's simply a manufactured truck with options, and that is exactly what the knife made this way is: a manufactured knife with options. Ask this (or any other) manufacturer to make you a new pattern, with different handle materials, and different steel, different sheath, different hand-embellishment, and watch them laugh at you. Their work is not custom; it is manufactured with options.
  • Large knife manufacturers can be the worst offenders (liars) in the knife world. One popular American company even goes  so far as to stamp the word "Custom" on it's knives sold in large production runs! They must think their clients are idiots, to buy into this scheme. If the knife is made and offered to the public for sale, and is not original and made to order by an individual customer, it is not custom, no matter what you stamp on the blade to claim superiority. This is a lame, humorous, and insulting advertising ploy, simply directed to lie about what is clearly a factory knife. Unfortunately, there are no laws to prevent stamping or marking anything on a blade except gold and silver karat markings. Please now consider that when you read what is marked on the blade, including the steel alloy!
  • Knife owners can be guilty of misrepresenting knives as well. They may claim a knife is custom to simply bolster their collection status, to make their knives look better. This doesn't occur too frequently, however, unless the goal is to resell a knife. But, as I stated above, when a knife is originally made as a custom order for a specific client and is resold, it is a USED knife, not a custom knife. The only way the word custom can be truthfully applied is to claim "this knife was originally made as a custom knife for old so-and-so, and now it is being offered for sale." Old so-and-so's name must be used, so the provenance and origin of the knife is clearly represented.
  • Knife makers, too, frequently claim a knife is custom when it is clearly not. I've seen guys argue this on forums, bulletin boards, and discussions to no avail. I remember one genius claiming that because he was the maker, and he designed the knife to his own custom specifications, that he then custom made it, and then sold it, it was a custom knife made by his own custom order. WHAT? This is one of the most ridiculous things I've ever heard and it was all done because he wanted to claim he was a custom knife maker, when he was not. Where I come from, we call that a lie. This was done to make himself look better in the eyes of his clients. His business was floundering; it never will do well, simply because people who buy knives are not stupid; they usually know when they are being lied to. This happens  particularly with new makers, because of ignorance of what constitutes a custom knife, and because they are fighting to establish sales competing with well-established and successful knife makers. To do this, they may think they need an angle, a leg up on the competition who is clearly making a better knife. Rather than concentrate on the knife itself as the answer to their sales lag, they concentrate on misrepresentation to make themselves look better in the eyes of who they see as a potential client. New knife makers come and go (like the wind) and since it takes at least a decade of making to become established, these claims end up costing them business. Incidentally, if you look at well-established knife makers (big name makers), you'll be hard-pressed to find any one of them claiming a knife is custom that is not. They know the importance of clarity and honesty. Here are some interesting claims that uneducated knife enthusiasts have publicly made (embarrassing themselves in the process):
    • "To me, a custom knifemaker is anyone that makes and sells (or gives away) knives."
      The person who wrote this ought to know better. A custom knife is a knife made to order; that is in every dictionary. What he is describing is specifically a knife maker.
    • "Many hobbyists are able to sell the knives they make, and to me they are custom knife makers."
      Well, you are badly misinformed. Again, you are describing a knife maker. A custom knife maker makes and sells knives made to order. Good grief.
    • "...adding titles such as custom maker really just depends on what the maker wants to call him/her self."
      No; I can call myself a doctor if I want to; this does not make it so. This shows how lackadaisical and lazy people who ought to know better are about clear definitions about the tradecraft they are supposedly dedicated to.
    • "ALL makers who make handmade knives are custom makers."
      What? This is just stupid. If you make handmade knives, you make handmade knives. This does not mean you make knives to order. Sigh...
    • "Why is it that this industry has a difficulty with a common English word?"
      I put this one in there to show you that I'm not the only one who notices this disturbing trend.
    • "To me, there is no distinction between a custom (or handmade) knifemaker and a knife making hobbyist, at least in terms of quality of output."
      Sadly, this is another profound misconception. A well-practiced custom maker can work with an extremely wide variety of designs, patterns, materials, features, and accessories, learned by practicing making knives to order for a wide variety of clients. This is a huge distinction, and people know this, and this is why the use of the word custom is so desirous that people will lie about being custom makers to better their position.
    • "The word custom is evolving into another meaning."
      No, it's not, and you are illiterate. Read, study, learn; the adjective custom has a very specific meaning. Don't claim definitions change because they are used sloppily, or misleadingly for some business or personal advantage.
    • "Jay Fisher is only describing the difference in custom in sole authorship knives."
      No, custom means made to order. Sole authorship means made by one person. The two are not even in the same context or idea; how can the person that writes this be so wrong?
    • "If a guy makes a bowie knife for someone, an it's like other bowie knife, since the two bowies are alike there is no sense calling it custom, so the word then means nothing."
      This is the argument of similar pieces, and it's a lame and weak try at diminishing the word, so the word can be more loosely applied. This is perhaps the most twisted bit of logic I've seen. I made dozens of knives for a counterterrorism unit. Each one is very similar to the other. They are all custom knives, because they were made to order. If you follow the ignorant poster of this idea, then only one particular knife pattern, handle, arrangement ever to exist in history can be made to order, then, after that, all others are just another knife, and even if they are custom ordered by some one, they can't be called custom! What the world is this guy thinking? He's not.

"Custom" means "made to order."

"Custom" means "made to order."

"Custom" means "made to order."

These comments illustrate to what ridiculous extremes people will go to claim that their work is custom. This needs to stop in our tradecraft and industry. Everybody wants to try to claim their work, their choice, their selection, and their knife is somehow better than others, and they use the word custom to do this. It's sloppy, it's lazy, it's illiterate, and it's wrong. Above all, unless a knife is made to order, calling it custom is a clear and purposeful lie.

Don't do it. If you are a maker, DO NOT LIE about  the origin and creation of your work. Our trade is small enough that lying about important things like this is bound to catch up with you. Words mean things, and on the internet, what you write or say will live forever.

Just to review:

cus′tom (kŭs′tŭm), adj.
  1. Made or done to order; as custom clothes.
  2. Dealing in things made to order, or doing work only when it is ordered; as, a custom shoemaker, a custom mill.
Source: Webster's International Dictionary, 1828-present

It's easy to see why the word custom has such importance in the knife making world. It is a powerful word, and people notice it. Misuse of the word will continue, mostly because those who use it incorrectly want to paint an improved image of the knives they are describing.

How you (who are reading this) use this adjective is your choice. You know the definition, you know why the word is mischaracterized and misused, and you know how to distinguish who is doing this and what their objective is. It's up to you.

Me? I'm just a dedicated semninumerologistical psycoevalutative statistician. Really! Doesn't that make me look better? After all, it's just a word, or two...

Custom Knife Topics

"Phlegra" custom combat, tactical knife, obverse side view in blued O1 high carbon tungsten-vanadium tool steel blade, 304 stainless steel bolsters, canvas Micarta phenolic handle, kydex, aluminum, blued steel sheath with engraved flashplate
More about this Phlegra

Who makes custom knives and who does not?
...and how to tell

By now, you realize that since the word custom is so often misused, it may be hard to distinguish who makes custom knives and who is selling the word as an advertising and sales gimmick. Some simple understanding of how the custom knife process works should clarify that.

There are many individual knife makers who make and sell custom knives. If you are a client, knife user, knife buyer, or collector, you need to know who to contact so you don't waste your own precious time and get hoodwinked into buying a knife that is clearly not what you wanted. People who seek out specific custom knives have their reasons. They need something special, often unique, to suit a particular need or desire they have for the knife. For instance, a soldier in combat may need a piercing blade point, with aggressive serrations, in a particularly tough and hard stainless tool steel, with a handle that fits his hand while he wears gloves, and a sheath that can be worn in a variety of positions. A chef may need an elegant and thin blade, one for a special task in the kitchen, one that will not corrode, is razor keen, with a special shape and handle suited to his grip style. A collector may be looking for a cultural heritage piece suited to his ancestry, or he may want a knife that he has designed made of premium or extremely rare and valuable materials. All of these scenarios are common in my custom knife world.

Perhaps it would be best to first rule out where he will not find his custom knife.

  • He will not find it for sale to the public on the internet, in publications, or through stores, outlets, or available shows and venues. He has already looked there; that is why he needs a custom knife.
  • He will not find it at a manufacturer. No manufacturer makes custom knives, no matter what they claim. They will not use a material you request; they will not shape a handle to fit your hand.
  • He will not find it at a pre-production, semi-production, boutique shop, or small manufacturer, no matter what they claim. They do not take custom orders; they will not create a new design for you, they will not use the materials you request.
  • He will not find it through a dealer. Dealers sell what they have on consignment or commission, or what they have purchased for their inventory. They will not look for something they don't have; they are only interested in getting rid of what they do have, because that is how they make their money.

Here's a simple test to see if a knife purveyor of any kind will make a custom knife for you: ask if you can have the handle shaped to your hand. Yep, that's it. Ask about any design they offer, and ask if they will contour, shape, size, arrange, and design a handle just to fit your own hand. When they tell you no, when they offer some universal design they are sure will work for you, it should be crystal clear that the are not a custom knife maker or supplier.

Ask any knife source if they will make a unique handle to fit your own hand. If they don't, they are not custom makers or suppliers.

From this, it's pretty clear that there really is only one source for a custom knife, and that is from the individual knife maker. Factories, large or small don't do it, dealers don't do it, shows and venues don't do it. The singular knife maker (or small collaborative shop) is the only place you can obtain a true custom knife, not a manufactured knife with options or a used knife that was someone else's custom work.

Now, how to tell if an individual knife maker can make your custom knife.

Ask any knife maker if they will make a unique handle to fit your own hand. If they don't, they are not a custom knife maker.

Yep, the same question; will you make a handle to fit my hand on any of your blades? When you ask this, you clear the path for your custom knife quest. If the maker tries to steer you to an existing design, pattern, or style, particularly one he has available for immediate sale, he is not a custom maker. This does not mean that you may not find the knife you're looking for currently available, but I'm assuming you've already looked those over. You need a custom knife, made to order. If he is a custom maker, he will be glad to consider your project.

Custom Knife Topics

"Patriot" handmade custom knife, obverse side view in ATS-34 high molybdenum stainless steel blade, 304 stainless steel bolsters, Snowflake Obsidian gemstone handle, emu skin inlaid in hand-carved leather sheath
More about this Patriot

Why make custom knives?

We know why knife interests claim to make custom knives, and we know how to tell if a maker will make a custom knife project for your specific needs. This topic touches on the real reasons, goals, objectives, and limitations of making custom knives.

When I started making knives, I made some simple, crude, and really cheap knives. This is how a new maker bridges the gap in sales between him and other knife makers. He knows his work is rough; after all, he's a beginner. In order to sell the knives, he has to keep in mind their limitations and the market for the knives. If he sells them for cheap, he'll have enough sales to keep him going until he establishes his own momentum. In this trade, it takes about ten solid years before momentum is noticeable. If you are a new maker reading this, it's probably not what you want to hear, but it is a reality.

My first knife sold was a custom knife. Though I'd made some knives, gave away some knives, kept others, threw others in the trash, my first actual sale of a knife was a commission, a custom knife made for the karateka Master who ran the dojo I practiced in. He wanted it made a special way, with a special shape, in a certain size. This I did for him, and sold it for $30.00.

The experience of taking a custom order is unique. It requires a communication between someone who has a different idea than the knife maker, someone who has an entirely unique life, view, experience, and desires than the maker. This man was a wonder; he could do dozens of push ups in handstands and knock a 150 pound sand-core heavy bag to the ceiling with one kick. No, I wasn't scared into making a knife for him (not much, anyway!). I was deeply honored.

When you make a custom knife, you take in the ideas and experiences of the person who will hold the knife in their hand for decades after it leaves the maker. I look at it this way: since I cannot ever use, carry, and understand knives the way my clients do, I honor their contribution by listening to their ideas and input into their custom knives. This not only allows my creativity and skill to flourish and grow, it absolutely forces me to grow as an artist and craftsman.

If I limited myself to only the knives I'm comfortable making, there is a likelihood that my creative potential would stagnate. My business would be based on only the experiences I've had with knives which, while substantial, is not boundless. There may come a day when I will create only my own ideas, and many makers stubbornly cling to this creed. They claim to know best what knives a client needs, and are narrowly focused on their own ideas as to what constitutes a desirable knife. They may do well; they may not.

I do best with a focus that is broader: I make my creative works that allows my own ideas and execution to grow, while actively considering what my clients want as an exciting new challenge. Though they are the benefactor of the knife itself, I am enjoying the growth of creating and executing their projects. I then add their patterns, styles, material set, finishes, embellishment, and accessories to my record and website, offering their ideas to others, so that their options and creativity can also grow. Talk about win-win (and win)!

A successful man is he who receives a great deal from his fellowmen, usually incomparably more than corresponds to his service to them. The value of a man, however, should be seen in what he gives and not what he is able to receive.

--Albert Einstein

Custom Knife Topics

"Horus"  in ATS-34 high molydenum stainless steel blade, 304 stainless steel bolsters, engraved, Micarta phenolic handle, locking kydex, aluminum, stainless steel sheath with black lacquered brass engraved flashplate.
More about this Horus

What makes custom knives better?

For my own work, whether my creative and inventory pieces or my custom knives, the technical building of knives, is the same. I use the same great steels, the same accurate and superior grinds, the same finishes, fittings, and handle materials. I build the best knives possible no matter who they are built for, understanding that the final owner will cherish the piece and its workmanship for many decades. Simply put, there is no difference in quality between my creative works and my custom pieces. All are handmade; all are excellent.

The differences between creative, inventory, and custom knives that each custom knife maker performs depends on the maker, the client, and the project. Here are some things that makes a custom knife different, and potentially better than what may be currently available:

  • Availability: This is probably not a frequently considered thought, but when a client orders a fine handmade custom knife, it is because what he desires is currently not available. This seems obvious, but few consider that this is one of the foremost advantages of a custom knife. A certain style, finish, embellishment, or materials set is not available, and may not be available any time soon in the maker's queue. By custom ordering the knife, the client is assured he will have the knife that he wants available to purchase.
  • Design pattern: This is a big one. The knife client may have a special design that he wants to provide, he may have one that he wants the maker to help him tune up to make a viable knife. He may have ideas from existing knives either in the maker's own inventory and record, or the ideas may come from other knife sources. The maker has to be very careful if the knife design is not his own, and must obey copyright laws by not copying any protected works. Frequently, my clients have ideas gleaned from my 400 custom knife patterns and the thousands of photographs on this site. In their eye, they envision the knife they want. Consequently, many of my new knife patterns are the result of this fusion of ideas from custom knife clients.
  • Blade steel: Many clients want to choose their blade steel for their particular application, finish, or use. This can mean a highly corrosion resistant steel for high moisture environments or cooking, It can mean a very tough steel for flexion resistance. It can mean a very wear resistant steel for intense cutting and edge holding reliability, it can mean a steel capable of being blued for a certain subdued or artistic effect. Since there is not one steel that excels in all areas (no matter what you may read on the internet), steel choice is a careful consideration in a custom knife.
  • Fittings: Seldom considered by many makers and factories, fittings play an extremely important role in the knife, whether custom or creative works. The trends of fittings is toward zero-care, extremely tough and durable materials, not the soft and high maintenance early fittings like brass and carbon steel. The custom maker should be able to provide the fitting material the client requests, for his own custom needs and desires. The fitting placement, strength, and mechanical integrity of the knife as a whole must be considered as well; this is paramount to custom works.
  • Handles: Custom knife handles are not just a choice of material, though that is the first consideration. They are also a choice of durability, finish, shape, and integrity. Since the handle is the link with the human hand that will grip the knife for decades (perhaps generations), custom knife handles are a very personal choice. Handles offer the widest variety of of choices of any part of a custom knife, and sometimes it is difficult just to decide on one!
  • Sheaths, stands, cases, blocks, and accessories: A huge part of the custom knife making process is the seldom considered accessories. The reason these are frequently overlooked is because this is the largest failure of the knife making industry as a whole. There, simply, are no options offered to the knife client, and the accessories alone may constitute the reason why a knife maker is commissioned for a custom knife. I know my clients appreciate these many and variable options for the knife they order, and it is my duty to provide the services and skills they need for these critical parts of the modern custom knife.
  • Embellishment: This is a huge consideration. From the filework to a special commemorative dedication, from hand-engraved blade and bolsters to machine-engraving a sheath or stand nameplate, embellishment plays a significant role in the custom knife. Only a custom knife maker can embellish a knife in the flavor the client specifically intends, adding to the personal nature and overall value of the project.
  • Cost: Since purchasing any knife requires expense, the cost of each project is a special concern. The custom maker should be able to make a knife in the range of his other works, with the final cost known and available to the client before every work starts. In custom works, the client should know what he is getting, what it costs, and why.
  • Value: Since many of the custom knives I make are for collectors, value is a prime consideration for the custom knife project. Unlike cost (above) the word value describes the long-term investment potential of the knife after it leaves the studio and takes residence in a collection. For instance, a tactical combat knife may see immediate use, and is not purchased for long-term value, but for saving lives. A custom collector's knife may never cut a thing, but must be made to the highest standards possible so the quality speaks to its value generations to come. The totality of the custom choices determine the long term value of the knife project.

From this, it's easy to see why a custom knife may be the better option for the knife client, user, or collector.

Custom Knife Topics

"Manaya" hatchet sculpture in hand-engraved ATS-34 high molybdenum stainless steel blade, 304 stainless steel bolsters, Nephrite Jade, Green Goldstone gemstone handle, stand of Walnut, Oak, Tulipwood, Jade, Migmatite Granite
More about this Manaya

What are the limitations of the custom knife?

Like every choice in life, the choice of a commissioning and making a custom knife has its limitations as well as its benefits. Otherwise, all knives would be custom. Here are some of the considerations:

  • Time: This is typically the most significant consideration in commissioning a fine handmade custom knife. If the maker is good, very good, he will have a significant waiting period. This is a telling factor, because if a maker has a very short waiting period, this means he does not have a lot of work. While it sounds good initially, please think carefully about this. If a maker's work is in high demand, it is in high demand for a reason, and that reason is that he makes a very desirable knife. This speaks to the value of his creations, both initially and long term. If a maker has a very short wait time, you might consider why his works are not in as high of a demand. Usually, a long waiting period accompanies extremely fine custom work. In my own works, my clients are usually prepared to wait for the finest knives. Those potential clients who are not have creative or inventory knives immediately available. Both are good!
  • Price: Commissioning a custom work may cost more than what is available, because the custom order typically requires materials, finish, embellishment, or accessories that are not available in inventory or creative works. A special rig, a special dedication, a special handle material, a wide and unusual shape: all of these contribute to the overall quote for the project.
  • Style: This is a hard word to define in this context; I'll do my best. If a potential client requests a knife that is not in the style that I make, I will thank him for his interest and decline his offer. Like most makers, I have a particular style, and while I make an extremely wide variety of knives, I do not make them all. The custom knife project must be in the style of the maker, his skill set and level, his interest and business scope. I make only knives that interest me, as most custom makers do. For instance, if a client approaches me with a potential custom project to make a miniature knife, a reproduction Japanese sword, or throwing knife, I will decline as these are not what I do. I may decline specific parts of a project (such as obscene or inappropriate imagery) or mechanical assemblies I consider inadequate or unworkable. So, just because the maker is a custom maker, he may not make what a client wants. The only way to know is through direct communication.

These are the main limitations of the custom knife agreement and process. If a client and maker can overcome the time factor, the cost, and the style, the custom knife may be the only viable way for the client to get the knife he wants to own, and for the maker to make the knife (or knives) he wants to make.

Custom Knife Topics

"Chef's Set" Concordia, Conditor, Consus, obverse side view in CPM154CM stainless steel blades, 304 stainless steel bolsters, Petrified Palm Wood gemstone handles
More about this Chef's Set

What kind of custom knives do you make?

Getting an overall scope of a maker's work and style is the key indicator here. I make a large variety of custom knives, from tactical combat models to working knives, from chef's sets to fine investment grade museum pieces. The best way to know what kind of custom knives I make is to look over this very web site and the thousands of photos I've included. If you like what you see, if you find yourself looking closer at particular models, styles, patterns, or materials, chances are good that I can make the custom knife you want. I often consider new and elaborate ideas; these make up some of the most exciting new projects. Take your time; the internet and this site is free and will be here as long as I am, perhaps longer!

Don't be too uncertain of your ideas about your custom knife project; contact the makers whose works interest you. I want you to get the knife you want, no matter who you commission for your project. Thankfully, you're on the internet, so you have more options for a custom knife than has ever existed in the history of mankind! Isn't that cool?

If you do commission a custom knife from me, I thank you in advance for your patience. You can see on my queue how many very fine people have done so and are patiently waiting for their custom knife projects. With each one, I take great attention to detail and the highest quality process and execution to provide them with exactly the knife they ordered and often more than they expect!

Every knife photo featured on this page was a custom knife order. About half of the knives you see posted on this site are also custom orders; I've been doing this a very long time. If you are interested in a fine handmade custom knife, email me and we'll discuss it!

Finally, if you've read this whole page, you now know more than most people alive about custom knives. I trust you won't be fooled by the hype, suckered into a hasty purchase, or confused about who actually makes custom knives. I trust you'll be able to get the knife you want, the way you want it. After all, a custom knife is made to order, just for you! Thanks for being here.

Custom Knife Topics

"Aries" folding knife, obverse side view in damascus stainless steel blade and bolsters, anodized titanium liners, New Zealand Jade gemstone handle, Black Galaxy Granite gemstone case
More about this Aries

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