James Connolly Knives


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I have always been fascinated with knives, the outdoors and handmade one of a kind items. Before my serious knife making years, I was interested in making equipment for my hawks.

As a teenager, I met a very talented artist who was a falconer and leatherworker. He showed me how to make leashes, jesses and other hawking paraphernalia.

My family also inspired my desire to be an artisan. Both my parents made things, and I still have many of the treasures my grandfather carved from black walnut.

Beginning in 1980, I had some basic equipment to make knives. I progressed from using old saw blades to 440-C at the urging of Bill Holt who heat-treated my blades.

To be truthful, I imagine that not being able to afford custom knives led me to learn how to make them. I’ve only bought one knife by another maker in all these years.

Working in a machine shop, I’ve been exposed to high production equipment and CNC processes. I’m still using my old Wilton Square Wheel and making a single knife at a time.

To make a using knife, I start with tag-board templates. After tracing and cutting out a few variations of the pattern, I settle on the best one before it is made in steel. My “tool” knives are typically semi-hollow ground and finished on a cork belt loaded with polishing compound. Antique Bowie designs are finished with a block and wet and dry sandpaper.

I tend towards natural handle materials, and, of course, I use leather for sheaths. It is unusual for me to have more than two of one kind of knife on my finishing bench at a time.
To date, I have made a short sword in a leaf bladed shape, and one long sword – a scimitar.

Many of my knives have similar blade and handle shapes but I don’t even know what my shop will give birth to next. This and the incredible selection of “designer steels” is what makes knife making an adventure to me.