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Interview with Lucas Burnley

Lucas Burnley from Massachusetts is a full-time knifemaker and designer. His unmistakable knives combine clear, modern lines with tactical ones. His designs are playful and refined at the same time and often contain subtle neo-Japanese elements. It is particularly important to him that his knives are both useful and aesthetic. In addition to pocket knives and handy travel knives, he also designs his own accessories.

What was your first contact with knives?

I’ve been interested in knives for as long as I can remember. Growing up, I spent a lot of time in the woods and I always had a knife with me from the time that I was about 5-years-old. My father remembers me saying that I wanted to make knives when I was still a little kid. We’re not sure where the idea came from.

When did you make the first knife by your own?

I modified one of my mom’s kitchen knives when I was 12. From there, I bought my first belt-grinder (a Bader B3 that I still use daily) when I was 17, but I didn’t have a work space at that point. I made my first knife when I was about 20 years old and haven’t stopped.

How long do you work as a custom knifemaker?

I’ve been making knives since I was 20, and sold my first the following year. So, I’m going on 16 years as a working knifemaker.

Is there anyone you would call your mentor?

The first knifemaker I met was Joe Cordova of Bosque Farms, NM (epic in his own right, he studied with legendary makers Bill Moran and Bob Loveless). Joe was making knives ranging from historical reproductions to modern designs using both forging and stock removal techniques. His broad-ranging skill set and eclectic design style had a strong influence on my early work because it opened my eyes to what’s possible when you’re not locked into a single genre or method.

Where do you see your biggest talents as a knifemaker?

Personally, I feel my strength as a knifemaker comes from my desire to learn. Not focusing on a single genre, and my broad-ranging interest in design allows for a lot of flexibility in my day to day work, and keeps things interesting for me (and hopefully, my customers).

Where from do you get your inspirations?

I draw inspiration from my day-to-day life and my interest in the larger world of design. I primarily make what I consider “post-tactical” knives, which means that for both my fixed and folding knives, I focus on modern materials with clean functional designs and tactical origins. That said, I have pretty broad tastes, and over the years I’ve also made a lot of traditional models including kitchen pieces, straight razors, swords, hunting knives--you name it.

What is the biggest fun for you in your profession?

Coming up with a concept and taking it through the prototype phase is where I have the most fun--it’s incredibly fulfilling to develop something from an idea to its physical embodiment.

Can anyone just order a custom knife from you?

My custom order book has been closed since 2012. However, we do release knives via online lotteries as well as at the knifeshows we attend.

I stopped taking new orders in 2012, and I am estimating I will be finished with the current list in approximately 3 years KST (Knifemaker Standard Time). However, I do try to make a few pieces available throughout the year via my mailing list and social media, in addition to my annual show schedule.

Please tell us how a typical work day of yours goes?

I start my day at 4:45am. I like to have time to work before anyone else is awake and I find this to be some of my best creative time. At 6:30am I will either go surfing, cycling, or to the gym--it’s important for me to stay active because knifemaking can be very hard on the body. These activities also help greatly with my creativity because they let me clear my mind. By 9:00am I’m on the shop floor. I try to focus on knifemaking for 6 hours, but as any business owner will tell you, there are many other day-to-day tasks that I must attend to. I allow myself a few minutes respite after lunch to enjoy a cappuccino (caffeine is essential) and then I will generally shift to design work or some other type of creative or administrative work. I have a tendency to get stuck on minute details, and I’ve found that it works much better for me to break up my day with a range of tasks in order to keep my mind fresh. I try to be home with my family by 6:00pm.

If you have free time, what is important for you, and what do you do for relaxing/recreation?

Being a business owner and a new dad, I do my best to make time for the things that are important to me and my family. We try to spend as much time outdoors as possible. We like to cook at home and spend a lot of time reading. Hiking, bicycling, surfing, and motorcycling are some of the things that I enjoy most. We live in a coastal town and I would very much like to add fishing to that list.

Is there anything else you want to tell our customers?

I’m incredibly fortunate to have great customers for my handmade work, and feel the same way for our Boker customers. I want them to feel that they are investing in something special when they buy one of my knives or designs.

I’ve always believed that the best brands are the ones that you become a part of, and my partnership with Boker has helped further that concept by making my work more accessible to a larger audience. It’s really fun to be at a show and have customers come up and show me their well-loved Kwaikens.

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