About Me and My Materials

JB Nilson - Artist

My Background

My ARTISTIC Custom Knifes

I love the art of making knives.  I am passionate about high quality workmanship, and I am always excited to see the wood handles and the Damascus blades come to life as I hone and polish them.  It gives me great pleasure to see my satisfied customers as they admire and hold thier knives for the first time.  

I have valued high quality knives and collected them for over 30 years, so I consider myself a qualified knife expert.  My knives are collectible usable art.

I craft and sell my art from my home in Los Gatos, California,  as well as at Art Festivals in California and throughout the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.  I also have my knives for sale in several retail outlets in Aspen, Breckenridge,  and Boulder, Colorado and in Park City, Utah.

​See my online store for the knives that are currently available for sale, and check back often for new listings.
My artistic, collectible knives are fully functional and can be used in your every day activities.    Each of my knives is hand crafted with high quality materials, and my commitment to fine craftsmanship can be seen by my strict attention to fine details in every knife.   The perfect knife requires excellent balance between the handle and the blade, and I make sure that each knife is perfectly balanced.   

I specialize in Damascus blades; both Japanese San Mai Damascus and European Forge Welded Damascus.  I buy completed or partially completed knife blade blanks, and add an exotic wood, horn, antler, or other custom handle.   My knives are very unique and hand crafted. 

Unique Design - Quality Materials

Blade Materials

Handle Materials

European Forge Welded Damascus

​Exotic Wood

Exotic Wood, Deer Horn, Elk Horn, Buffalo Horn, Buffalo & Camel Bone, Micarta 

Japanese San Mai Damascus

​Wood Characteristics​​​

The numbers after the wood type represent the wood  Hardness and wood Density.  Example 3800 is very very hard and 80 is very very dense.
For soft woods under 2000, and burl woods, I will often "stabalize" them, which means I will impregnate them with "stabalizing hardner", and they will then sand and appear like ebony and some of the other hard woods.  Effectively "stabalization" takes all the air out of the wood and replaces the voids with a hard epoxy.

For a hardness example, Snakewood at 3800 / 81 is the hardest & most dense wood that I use.  It was the wood of choise for the Strativarious Violin strobe material, and for use on the cheek rest.  Seemed to never break or wear out.

Damascus Multilayer Steel Blades​​​

Damascus - "Forge Welded" or "Pattern Welded" multi layered steel knife blades.

Damascus Steel (Wikipedia Definition) - Damascus steel is a type of steel that was used in Middle Eastern sword making, starting in the 3rd century.  These Damascus Steel swords are characterized by distinctive patterns of banding and mottling reminiscent of flowing water. Such blades were reputed to be tough, resistant to shattering and capable of being honed to a sharp, resilient edge. Damascus steel is superplastic, and very hard at the same time.

The Blades are made by hammering and folding several layers of hot molten steel, usually from 256 to 512 layers, into a single ingot.  This gives the blade a destintive artistic "designers" look.

Damascus steel was originally made from wootz steel, a steel developed in India before the Common Era. The original method of producing Damascus steel is not known. Because of differences in raw materials and manufacturing techniques, modern attempts to duplicate the metal exactly have not been entirely successful. Despite this, several individuals in modern times have claimed that they have rediscovered the methods in which the original Damascus steel was produced.​

​During the smelting process to obtain Wootz steel ingots, woody biomass and leaves are known to have been used as carburizing additives along with certain specific types of iron rich in microalloying elements. These ingots would then be further forged and worked into Damascus steel blades, and research now shows that carbon nanotubes can be derived from plant fibers, suggesting how the nanotubes were formed in the steel.

​History -  The original damascus was likely produced from ingots of wootz steel, imported from India and Sri Lanka and later Persia.  Archaeological evidence suggests that the crucible steel process started in the present-day Tamil Nadu before the start of Common Era. The Arabs introduced the Indian wootz steel to Damascus, where a weapons industry thrived.   From the 3rd century to the 17th century, India was shipping Damascus steel ingots to the Middle East.

San Mai Damascus
San Mai "Damascus"is a variation of forge welding that refers to knives with the hard steel hagane forming the blade's edge and the iron/stainless forming a jacket on both sides. San Mai in Japanese means 3 layers.   In stainless versions, this offers a practical and visible advantage of a superb cutting edge of with a corrosion resistant exterior. San Mai steel is three layers forge welded together. The two outer layers are multi layered ingots of the same type and often referred to as the jacket (bread) and the middle layer is referred to as the core (meat).  Overall, most high quality San Mai ingots consist of 128-256 layers.

The San Mai Damascus blades that I use are stainless steel:    Japenese VG10 super steel or 440C core - 440 and 420 damascus outer layers, hardened to RC 58-60. Outside billits range 64-128 layers, totaling, complete blade 129 to 257 layers.
Stainless Steel Alloys include VG10, 440c, AU10 and CR17 .

Some of the woods that I use often
is a very hard & dense wood, most commonly yielded by several different species.  Ebony is dense enough to sink in water. ​​​

African Gabon Ebony Black; 3220-68
Brazilian Ebony Black; 3692-74
          SE Asia Ebony - Black & White - Rare -  3600-68
Indonesian Makassar; 3220-68  (Prized for its luxuriant, multi-colored wood grain.) 
          India Ebony - Brown - Ceylon; 3220-68
African Blackwood - Oboe; 1720-75
African Paduk; 2219-47 (Keys on marimba)
Snakewood - Violin strobe; 3800-81
Zebra Wood; 1658-47
Zirconite - Dark & Light Brown
Belize & Mexico; 2200-53
Cocobola; 1136-63
Purple Heart - Central & South America; 2713-57
Bocote; 2200-58
Red Heart;
Maple Burl;
Brazilian Cherry; 2350
Rosewood Burl;
Bloodwood; 2900
Olive Wood - Europe; 3700
Brazilian Walnut - IPE; 3692-59
Bubinga - West Africa; 2628-55
Red Oak - California; 1290-44
American Black Walnut; 1010-34
Pine; 647-34 - for reference only 
Wenge; 2235-54
Buckeye Burl - California - Always Stabalized

Familiar Polished Steel blades​​​​​​

Stainless  Steel – 440 c
Typical 440 C Stainless blades - Hardened to RC 55-60 is considered a high end stainless steel. It is very resistant to corrosion and is one of the most common stainless alloys used for knife making.   The once ubiquitous American Buck Model 110 Folding Hunter was made of 440C before 1981. 440C has the highest carbon content in the 440 group. 
Stainless Steel Alloys VG10, AU10 and CR17 are often used as substitutes for 440C

Stainless Steel - 420
Type 420 is a martensitic stainless steel that provides corrosion resistance similar to Type 440 , however, it has less strength and hardness but higher flexibility.. It is magnetic in both the annealed and hardened conditions. Maximum corrosion resistance is attained in the fully hardened condition.   Type 420 is  softer than 440 however it is "tougher."