I did a Q&A with Jerry Holden to give you some idea of the things a knifemaker thinks about when making a knife.
That’s an unusual logo So explain your design
For my logo, I wanted something simple and had some meaning to it for me. With a full-time job and balancing a family, I knew finding time to make knives would be challenging so I settled for the logo that represents that and I decided to use the Inguz.
Inguz: Viking symbol for where there’s a will, there’s a way.
Knifemaker Jerry Holden is a good guy with a feel for Knives and knife design. At age 53 he has begun the journey into knifemaking with a watchful eye on his favorite TV show Forged in Fire.
I saw Jerry’s work on Instagram and was impressed with his willingness to explore new ideas and with a definitive idea of color. We chatted about the idea of reviewing a knife. Well Jerry sent me the knife much quicker than I could get anything done as I’ve moved back into the country on a very wooded property, a great workshop and plenty of wildlife.
But here is the remainder of our interview:
What do you currently do for a living?
My full–time job is a senior scrum master at a retail electricity company, so I usually have limited time to work on knives, like most who work full-time. Scrum Master is an agile term for the team leader. Our team has 12 people on it.
Besides knifemaking do you enjoy any hobbies?
Photography, Art, Racquetball. I’ve gone through a variety of hobbies, but racquetball has stuck around for me… I played in college for the University of North Texas and just recently played a reunion tournament with my college doubles partner in a Texas State tournament, placing 2cd in the ‘A’ doubles division.
Tell me about your family.
Married with one daughter – I’m lucky to have both of them in my life. My wife is a court coordinator, basically the judge’s right hand ‘woman’ and my daughter is attending Texas A&M studying Engineering in her 3rd year.
So specifically what knifemakers influenced your thinking?
There’s several makers that I’ve been influenced by, but the top 3 that come to mind are Mike SNody, Aaron Gough and Adam Simha. All of which are all 3 very different in their approaches, but each are awesome in what they do and I found Aaron and Adam in particular, to be very helpful when I would reach out to them with questions.
Why did you start making knives?
The reason why I became a knife maker is hard to pin–point, but it likely has to do with me growing up around knives. I had my first switchblade at 5 years old that I found at the beach. I have had a knife for as long as I remember. Another reason, is that I like to paint but I would make a bit of a mess in my office, and my wife isn’t happy with messes so it occurred to me that I could still ‘create’ and have a little more freedom of my messes if I confined it to the garage/shop.
I got my start about 5 years ago when I purchased a $40 Harbour Freight 1” belt sander/grinder. It wasn’t much but I was able to turn a dull knife to scalpel sharp in short order and it took off from there. It was on that grinder I made my first two knives and gifting them to 2 of my uncles. I soon made the leap and took a dive right into knife making… I purchased the Beaumont-KMG 2”x72” workhorse – It’s a 2-HP beast using 220. But one of the more compelling reasons for starting to make knives, is it allowed me to have some ‘alone time’ in the garage that I really need to process all the things bouncing around in my head. I get pulled into other people’s world so much during the day… and evening… that I need that time for myself.
Have you settled on a particular steel?
I started off like most, using High Carbon 1095. It’s very forgiving and it’s easy to sharpen. When you get a good edge on it, that steel is an incredible cutter. I live in Houston and it didn’t take long for me to realize that High Carbon was great and all, but not the best choice for an area known for high heat and high humidity. That’s where one of my influencer makers by the name of Adam Simha came in. He’s out of Boston and he puts out some great pieces… you should really check him out, such a great guy and his work is top tier stuff. It was through conversations with him, I decided to move into using stainless steel. More specifically, I started to use AEB-L. So far I’ve been happy with it. You can get a good edge on it, and it’s more resilient against the humidity around here. That steel was the primary steel used for making razors.
What about handle material? Any favorites?
The handle material I use has changed over time… Initially I used whatever wood was available, or even Para cord… but I moved on into the stabilized burl woods. The Burl woods are so much more appealing and interesting to look at.
What is your overall approach to making knives.?
I still have a long way to go as I’m learning all the time, but I spend more time on the details than I did initially. The devil is in the details and the more I learn to overcome the multitude of issues within the details, the better the results will be. I also spend more to buy the best materials I can afford. When I first started out, I would make do with the less expensive materials but it didn’t take long to realize that you get a better product by using better materials.
I think it’s also important to note, that like most knife makers… I didn’t start for the money. Yes, most of us like money…. But many of us make knives because it’s satisfying. I’m still learning about pricing and may make a little, but it often just pays for materials with a ‘little’ extra. I doubt I make $8.00 an hour if I was to really break it down.
So how about heat treating?
I started out heat treating my knives on my own… that was a great learning experience, but to get better results, I’ve started using Peter’s Heat Treat as they have top of the line equipment and can provide consistent and predictable results.
Where is your shop today?
My 2-car garage. I often pull my wife’s car out to get enough room to move around as I have the walls lined with tools and storage. In my shop, I have a small wood Ryobi bandsaw, a DeWalt portable bandsaw affixed to a small table, Ryobi drill press and Beaumont grinder as well as a grizzly sharpening system.
So you get on your shop, your ready to go, how do you approach making the knife?
I’m moving further away from the ‘custom’ knife approach and more of making what I feel like making. The process that I used to make knives is called the ‘stock removal’ process. That’s in contrast to forging a knife as those two processes are your main choices in approach.
Stock removal is where you start with a stock bar of steel of your choosing, and a design of your choosing, then you apply that design to the bar stock. You can draw a template of a knife (or profile) and glue it onto the bar stock. I would then cut around the template for my piece that I would then start working with. From there, I would clean up the profile on the grinder, drill my holes for the handles and send off to Peter’s Heat Treat. Once returned, I’ll start the grinding process being careful not to overheat and ruin the temper. Once I have what I’m going for, I would add the scales (handle material) and start grinding that out to the shape I want. I would make sure that the blade was taped up nicely to help protect it as it’s proximity to the grinder could cause an occasional bump into the belt which you don’t want, but if it happens… it’s protected. Once I have the general shape I want, I would go to hand sanding and then putting high-gloss Tung oil on the handle material. Once that’s dry, I’d add another coat and continue that process until I have about 5 coats of oil on the handle.
And thus concludes our Q&A. Stay tuned for our review of the knife he made for me.