MATCHED PAIR
Knives Illustrated|March-April 2021
JB KNIFE WORKS LAYMAN KNIFE AND GAMBIT HATCHET COMBO: ONE PICKS UP WHERE THE OTHER LEAVES OFF
KEVIN ESTELA

“I BELIEVE IN OPTIONS, AND WHEN A MAKER OFFERS UP A COMBO SET OF TOOLS MY EARS PERK UP.”

A true outdoorsman carries the correct tools for the job at hand. In terms of cutting tools, this may include a pocketknife, belt knife, and saw. Or, the outdoorsman could carry a chopping tool, a multitool, and a game-processing knife. I believe in options, and when a maker offers up a combo set of tools my ears perk up. I like to see what the combo contains and why the maker pairs one tool with another. Recently, Joey Berry, a graduate of the Fiddleback Forge apprentice program, released a knife and hatchet set I just had to take to the woods and put through an evaluation.

ABOUT THE MAKER

Understanding a maker’s background helps explain the “why” behind their designs. Joey Berry is a man with a unique background and set of skills that set him up for an excellent run as a knifemaker. Berry spent part of his life as a butcher, and if you’ve ever seen a butcher use a blade, you know they know how to handle a knife. They also know what works in terms of a knife design for slicing and separating tasks and how one should feel and function.

Berry also spent time in his previous life as a gunsmith, which taught him how to work with wood and steel. It seemed natural he would combine his past work experience along with his lifelong interest as an outdoorsman to follow a deeper path into knifemaking. Eventually, Berry sought out a mentor and found one in Andy Roy of Fiddleback Forge.

“After I made a few knives and started selling them pretty quickly, I decided to step my game up,” said Berry. “I went through the apprentice program with Andy Roy at Fiddleback Forge. I wanted to learn the techniques to speed up and improve my knifemaking and work more efficiently. After graduation from the Fiddleback Forge apprentice program, I stayed on as the shop foreman to manage shop operations.”

Berry went on to create JB Knifeworks and make a name for himself in the industry.

THE “LAYMAN” KNIFE

The word “layman” can be taken a couple different ways. It can mean “non-expert” or “unspecialized,” which sounds somewhat derogatory. Or, when applied to a knife, it can be viewed as “general purpose” and complementary in nature. Some knives easily give away their purpose by their contours, shape, and construction. Other knives are easily placed in a metaphorical box for tasks like filleting fish, chopping wood, or cutting rope. Knives such as the Layman are more difficult to define.

“I wanted this knife to be for the everyday knife user, the layman, not the butcher or the fisherman or the chef,” said Berry. “It still has a full height, very thin convex grind, and it’s in 8670. So, it’ll take anything you throw at it and keep asking for more.”

I fell in love with the non-descript design of this blade and the initial feel it has in hand. When I first picked up this knife, I didn’t conclude it was “unspecialized” but rather that it would work really well for so many different tasks in the great outdoors given the drop point blade and handle size. Given the practical-sized blade, handle, and overall length, this knife could be carried as an everyday carry piece and accompany the user unobtrusively. This knife lives in a world where terms such as “presentation grade” and “fancy” exist, but it can be found where “tough” and “rugged” also are used.

THE GAMBIT HATCHET

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