Monday, January 4, 2010

Knifemaker Interviews: Jason Burgin

How did you get into Knifemaking?
My father gave me my first Swiss Army Knife as a kid and since then I was amazed at the quality and functionality of such a small package. Since then I was always searching for the perfect knife; a goal I will never realise, I think.

One day in 1992 I thought "I will have to make my own knife..."
I picked up the yellow pages and searched for knifemaking/knife kits and anything else that might help me find my goal.
It was here I found a small ad "Keith Fludder, custom knifemaker"
I rang him and said “can I come and buy a kit knife from you?”
The next day was the start of my journey as a knifemaker.

A lot of newer Knifemakers have the advantage of the wealth of information provided by online forums & tutorials to help them get started. Did you have it so easy?
I was so keen to make knives - it just seemed natural to start grinding and shaping something, but it was only with the benefit of Keith’s experience, his guidance, resources and friendship that I was going in the right direction. These early days were paved with far more pitfalls than now, but I still managed to save money for equipment and scavenge steel for blades and find suppliers of woods and other materials that are just a tap of the keyboard away nowadays.

What's your design process? Sketch, Cad, or do you just get straight to work? Where do you source your inspiration for your designs?
for a stock removal knife, I will draw a profile on a piece of steel, I will keep changing the shapes and curves until I feel it looks right, then I start cutting the profile and make the shapes flow together as I grind the profile on the linisher.
For folding knives, I will start with a size and style in mind and choose the materials suitable for that type, then I develop the shapes as I configure the geometry of the locking mechanism and go from there.

Do your knives say anything about where you're from?
I try to demonstrate an un-bounded freedom that the canvas of steel can allow but still retain total useability; kind of a form meets function approach.

What's your preferred style of knife to make?
I like to make small liner lock folders and small pocket-able fixed blades, quite often hollow grind but also flat grinds.

How long typically, will a knife take for you to build?
Small fixed blades take me 6-12 hrs.
Folders take 25-40 hrs but I am a hobby knifemaker so time is very hard to judge.

What's your favourite material/s to use in your handles and blades? Preferred finishes?
I really like using stainless damascus for blades.
Mokume and carbon fibre for folder handles, stag horn and burl woods for fixed blades.

Have you had any strange requests for knife/kit design?
I've been asked to make a bowler hat with a sharp rim, À la James Bond style, which I declined.

What's the greatest challenge you've had in Knifemaking? Any regrets?
Every step of the way there are new challenges and higher goals to reach for. Sometimes I have to temper my enthusiasm with the reality of time, cost and space restraints. I wish my job was more closely related to metalwork/machining.

Do you make anything aside from knives?
I make small carved skull beads from mokume, damascus and other materials and small jewellery/art trinkets and miniature oddities from scrap materials.

Where do you see your Knifemaking going in the next few years?
Make more folders and streamline the process. I would like to do a large scale, high end, damascus fantasy piece.

What knife do you carry?
I have my 2" keychain linerlock with damasteel and carbon fibre made by myself about 6 yrs ago and my latest folder, a 4 1/4" linerlock with damasteel twist blade, carbon fibre scales and titanium liners.

Photos courtesy of Jason Burgin

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