Foundations

Back to Blog April 8, 2015

Student Interview: Jacob Kevra

Author: Yen Dinh
A sketch of a knife Jacob made

1. Tell me about yourself.

My name is Jacob Kevra, and I like to make jewelry, work with metal and leather, and most importantly make knives. I have some prior experience towards the origins of certain blade shapes and handle shapes and have been mostly self-taught in metalsmithing.

I am currently a freshman at Tyler School of Art going for a degree in Metalsmithing CAD/CAM; and have past experience in martial arts and metalsmithing. My passion for knife making was a slow adaptation of skill sets. I was first interested in the design concept when I was teaching martial arts and knife combative/defense training. I had ideas in how to form a reliable knife that could be used in all aspects of life. I had personal experience with this from being in regions like Haiti where the climate is extremely humid and causes a lot of hand tools to rust, and from experience as an electrician in how a blade needs to be available in times where it is inconvenient to withdraw a blade with two hands, and what steels are susceptible to breaking or dulling from constant daily use. My concept is usually to make a blade that is aesthetically pleasing, durable, and built to serve all functions.

 

2. What had gotten you into knife-making?

As I have mentioned I have some experience in martial arts. I actually got a job working with my instructor a couple years ago teaching the adult class. In that class we taught knife defense that originated in the Philippines as well as kuem-bo and kali. I would sometime make trainers out of wood and aluminum and experimented with lengths and handle shapes to see what worked best. I have also owned cheap knives that would dull by the end of the week, or the blade would snap off if I were to use it for prying open paint cans or just dropping them. In my opinion a knife should be more than just an edge, it should be able to pry, hammer, and screw. There are better steels that can be just as thin as a cheap knife, but not shatter; however most knives use 440 carbon steel or aus4/aus6 steel (low to mid-grade steels) and most are made by mass casting. Casting causes the less dense chromium to settle on the outside, so that the blade ends up both very brittle, and very susceptible to rust once scratched. It seemed like a simple fix, so I tried it.

 

3. How do you manage between your education and your business?

Making knives can be time consuming. I find making the design between classes helps, and making templates help. I rarely make customized knives for the reason being that the time to make it can't be determined accurately. Right now I am drawing a series of knives that after enough Linda tutorials, I will be able to program them on CAD and sell them on a commercial scale. Marketing only by word of mouth seems to provide enough work, but the feedback has been slowly growing, so I have been upgrading tools and methods to speed manufacturing.

 

4. What advice would you give other students on how to balance between school and outside activities?

Being in Tyler helps for me because some projects I can integrate towards knife making. I have used ideas for projects as excuses to learn how to shape leather, or make micarta. I suggest that if someone were to create a small hobby or business outside of school, to at first limit the number of people to tell until you are experienced enough to handle the demand. Even if it is not demand in sales, people will always want to see your work. Also make jigs, use reliable tools, and make a sturdy template if you are going to make pieces that are similar. A lot of the knives I make have a ring on the pommel (fancy term for the metal on the end of the handle) and have a contoured grip on the handle meant to form to hand, so I have an aluminum template.