Here at KnifeInformer.com we’re always keen to share interesting knife related discoveries with our readers. One discovery I made recently was the stunning custom knife work of Garett Finney over at FinneyKnives.com. Eager to learn more I asked Garett for an interview and he graciously agreed to share his story with us. So, if you’re interested to learn more about the wonderful art of customizing knives, read on.
Hey Garett, thanks so much for taking the time to do this interview. To start off, please tell us a little about yourself and what Finney Knives is all about.
I just recently turned 40. I am married with two beautiful girls, 7 and 3 years old. I live in Loomis, California which is in the Sacramento Area near Auburn, where they first discovered gold in California.
Finney Knives is all about innovation in knife customization. I start by searching for unique and natural materials that normally couldn’t be used in knives in their present natural form. Then I decide how to cast them into specially formulated resins, sometimes with a mixture of colors, and sometimes without. For example, sea-urchin spines. They are not able to be directly inlaid into knives in their natural state. I stabilize, and then cast them into colored resin. Then they can be cut and shaped to form.
Some of the artifacts I have put into knives include: natural un-cut meteorites, WWII artifacts, Indian arrowheads, starfish, alder cones, pine cones, skeleton keys, shark spine, watch parts, and the list goes on and on. I have also developed my own specialized engraving techniques that give my knives a unique look and feel. I many times add color into some of the lines to add definition to my work. I have my own patterns that I work into the spine and back of the blades on my knives as well. This is what Finney Knives is all about.
When did you decide to start customizing pocket knives? What inspired you to do this?
Back in 2004 I ran a retail online knife store. My very first customer and I became friends. One day he sent me a pocket knife that he customized. I really liked it a lot and he tried to explain to me how it was done. I couldn’t begin to comprehend what he was saying. He drove all the way from Colorado to California just to show me how to do multiple piece inlay on pocket knives and fixed blades. That was it!
After my first project I was hooked and it felt absolutely natural. After completing a few projects on my own I felt like there was something missing. The knife, inspite of its handle beauty, still looked too plain to me. Then I started trying to figure out what else I could do to further enhance my knives. Although my knives now look to have a full complete look to them, I know there are many new and exciting things that can be done. All Glory to God the father through Jesus Christ for sending me instruction and guiding me on everything I do. Every step of the way I grow in his hands.
Tell us a little more about the early days. What kind of tools did you use? Did you have any previous experience at this?
Although I now have a few new tools, most of what I use now is the same as before. Band saw, drill press, belt sander, sand paper and buffer. That’s pretty much what I started out with. People are amazed when I tell them that even now, I can hardly screw in a light bulb. My wife does a lot of the handy work around the house. My hands are kind of big and clumsy but God has made what I do with knives completely natural.
What knife brands and/or specific models do you spend most of your time customizing?
Personally I like to work on a large variety of knives from imports to completely custom knives. I work a lot on the Buck 110 which has lots of room for materials and also the Buck 501, 503, 500, and other Buck knives. I also work on Case XX Knives which is a big NO NO for most people. Case and Sons doesn’t allow people to customize their knives without a special license. Only a few people in the world have it. They do however tolerate and know me. I am trying to get a license from them. I do have a special license to work on Santa Fe Stoneworks Knives. They give me their knives without handles. Queen Cutlery, Kissing Crane Stilettos, SOG, CRKT, Benchmade, Spyderco are other brands I work on. Pretty much anything with a handle.
How do you manage to get such a high polish on these knives? Do you have a special technique for ensuring a long-lasting finish that won’t tarnish?
It took me a long time to learn how to get the best shine on my knives. I start with a tougher wheel with pink scratchless compound to pound out the larger scratches then I move to a soft wheel with ZAM compound. When the knife in the light literally hurts my eyes from the shine then its done. You can over buff materials however. If you aren’t carefull you can smear the material. I do have a special spray I use to protect the brass on my knives. It does cut down the shine a little but totally worth it to prevent that awful tarnish.
What’s your favorite part about customizing a knife?
MY favorite part of customizing the knife is to see it after buffing it. Even though many times the knife isn’t done, you get to see it really shine. It gives you a feeling of completing a project and a job well done.
Is there a particular custom job that you are most proud of?
That’s a tough one. There isn’t one but a few knives that really stand out in my mind. The Buck 110 with arrowheads is one of my favorites. Not just because of the arrowheads or any one thing. It’s the combination of color and bolster work that shows a complete work. Ironically it’s a black and white knife with the added gold color of the bolsters. Another one is the exact same color. Black, white and gold but with the anasazi pottery shards as a center piece.
My baby butterbeans have a very complete look to them as I embed mosaic pins into the bolsters. Purple Mohave turquoise and white mother of pearl has got to be one of the most mesmerizing combinations I’ve seen. I have done it on a Case XX Trapper and on a baby butterbean before, and also on a Santa Fe San Mai Damascus Knife. It just never gets old. I think my sea urchin spines cast into resin is one of my favorite materials also.
So what EDC sits in your pocket these days, Garett?
For my 40th birthday I just got my very first Finney Knife! I decided it was time for me to own one of my own knives. I started out with a small san mai damascus lockback and made a special yellow and white opal matrix with small slivers of blue turquoise. Thats the center piece. Then I surrounded that with a turquoise blue and green mammoth tooth with some yellows in it. I wear this knife around my neck and I don’t even want to use it. I really like it alot. It doubles as a money clip and the material is only on one side.
What’s up next for Finney Knives? Any exciting new projects to tell us about?
I’ve got a few ideas! I am going to cast some 24K Gold dust I panned from my backyard in the creek into a clear acrylic with black background as a centerpiece and mix it with some other materials. Also I am going to put civil war bullets into a knife for the anniversary of the civil war. I already have a buyer for that one.
Thanks for the interview Garett. All the best for the future!
You can check out more of Garett’s work at FinneyKnives.com.