Story by Joshua Swanagon – Photos by Dirk Loots
I am a sucker for a dramatic hamon. There is just something about the stark contrast that really gets my attention.
The other day, while scrolling through Instagram I spotted some knives that had amazing hamons, beautiful handle scales and very clean profiles. The maker? Forged in Fire, season 7, episode 1 winner, Jarred Ball of JBall Knives. After clicking on his profile and scrolling through his work it was not only clearly obvious why he won his episode of Forged in Fire, but also clear that I really had to share his work with all of you.
One thing that impressed me, while scrolling through Jarrod’s photos is his collection of eclectic designs – offering something for everyone. From tactical and field knives to choppers, kitchen and fillet knives, all of his designs stand on their own. Not only are the exotic handle materials gorgeous, but his handles demonstrate all the hallmarks of comfort and ergonomics.
If you are looking for a knife in any style, JBall Knives would be a great place to start your search – because, there is a good chance he may have exactly what you are looking for and it will look amazing.
1 – A Random Start
Most knife makers get into the craft intentionally, but for Jarred it was a complete chance occurrence. After watching some random videos on YouTube – of someone melting aluminum cans and casting different items from the melted aluminum – Jarred decided that it looked like fun and built a foundry of his own.
However, after a short time of casting he found that it was a little more boring than he anticipated. But it was not a complete loss, because from it developed his love for heating up steel and beating it into the shape of a knife. 4 years later and we are all the benefactors of this accidental new career.
2 – The Challenges of Being Found
Although Jarred won his episode of Forged in Fire, it has not been an easy breezy road to notoriety. Jarred still has the same struggle that most newer knife makers suffer from, of people seeing his work. I am sure you will agree with me that his work holds its own when it comes to amazing craftsmanship, but Jarred is victim of the same double edged sword as many other great makers – if he is promoting he isn’t making, if he is making he isn’t promoting.
Unfortunately, in today’s social media climate, people are judged by the amount of followers they have, more so than the quality of their work. This is one case where that has been a great disservice to the knife community at large.
3 – Finding Inspiration
As with many before him – I am sure – Jarred finds inspiration from Dan Winkler, appreciating the rough style of his knives. He is also drawn to and inspired by the attention to detail present in the work of Nick Wheeler.
4 – The Creative Process
As I mentioned in the opening of this column, Jarred has some amazing hamon lines – that is not by accident. When coming up with a design for a custom order, Jarred puts a lot of emphasis in a design that has room to accentuate the beautiful hamons his clients want most.
5 – The Build
As I am sure you can guess – from his win on Forged in Fire – Jarred forges all of the knives he makes. Although he feels that he could probably save a lot of time by using stock removal, forging is his favorite part of the knife making process.
6 – It’s in the Materials
When I asked Jarred about his favorite materials to work with, he only mentioned one type of steel – W2. His love for working with W2 comes from the incredible hamons he is able to achieve.
Fortunately, when it comes to his handle scales, Jarred likes to work with natural materials, such as wood, bone and antler. When you look at his work it is clear that his choice of materials is spot on and help to draw out and enhance the beauty of the blade itself.
7 – Ordering
Although Jarred has a few designs that seem to get ordered frequently, everything he does is custom. But, he would like to get to the point that he is making what he wants and placing them on the web for sale. As it stands if you would like to get a custom knife from Jarred there will be a 1-year wait – which is pretty standard for this kind of quality – so you might want to order yours now, if you would like it by next Christmas. The timing couldn’t be better.
Instagram: @JBall_KnivesFacebook: @JBallKnives
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Joshua Swanagon has studied survival in both urban and wilderness environments in Colorado and Michigan for most of his life, while also adding experience in harsher terrains abroad. He utilizes his experience and years of diverse martial arts and combatives training and real world application as a self-defense/combatives instructor, published freelance writer and Field Editor for various magazines in the fields of knives, survival, self-defense and tactical subject matters. Joshua also brings with him his years of experience as Editor of, and Subject Matter Expert for, Knives Illustrated Magazine.
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