Featured Artist: J.L. Gill (Photos at bottom of page)
JL Gill might well be the world's greatest custom knife maker and blade artist alive today-- he certainly is the most innovative! With over 40 years of steel working experience, in the past 5 years JL has become increasingly recognized for quality, innovation, rarity and beauty. Consistently winning best of category and best of show whenever he exhibits, his bowies, short swords, skinners and fighters have become legendary eye poppers. Jim has been called "a modern day William Scagel." See some examples below.
A student of D'Holder, JL has personally created two of the most innovative and sought after new bladesmithing techniques on the planet.
The GILL GRIND is named after JL. A never before accomplished new blade grind combination of convex compound taper, but without the use of a slack belt, gives a never before accomplished razor sharp edge, axe-like power and durability, and edge holding ability only previously seen in far less durable and hefty hollows. This ideal balance has been long sought after, but never achieved until now. A dedication to perfection, extremely slow, tedious and even dangerous processes, and over 40 years of development in steel have given JL an "edge" that other artists wouldn't even attempt, let alone perfect. The heft, power, sheer amount of steel, balance, and razor sharp edge, are truly breakthrough designs.
The GILL TANG is another innovation that complements this unique grind. Even if you could accomplish the legendary heft and feel of one of JL's bowies, or even smaller skinners or fighting knives, the axe-like heft and incredible amount of 440C Steel would likely unbalance the knife, and lose the renowned "amazing feel" of JL's knives. The Gill Tang overcomes another traditional compromise-- the use of a full tang with Trophy quality handle materials instead of scales, creating perfect balance. In the past, full tangs guaranteed strength and a functioning pommel, but required delicate attachment of vulnerable scales, and did not permit the use of strong and rare solids like Gill's rare trophy size Elkhorns.
When hefty, palm fitting and practical yet comfortable and beautiful bone was used in the past, the resulting rat tail compromised both strength and balance in larger blades. The Gill Tang begins with a proprietary straight tang, adds an extremely high temperature joint weld stronger than the 440C blade itself to a pommel bolt, and fastens the pommel cap with heat, epoxy and threading, to give a working "windshield" quality pommel that is as continuous as a full tang, with the heft, beauty, durability and resulting balance against huge steel blades only possible with a full bone handle.
In addition to the combination of world class art and workhorse toughness and durability of blade and handle, the Gill Tang and Gill Grind allow both blade lengths and heft in the bowies, and blade hefts in the smaller fighters and skinners that approach small swords in heft, axes in strength and power, and hollow grind fighters in sharpness!
After the breathtaking wonder of JL's hand selected trophy materials, meticulous and uncompromising attention to detail, power and beauty of design and flawless execution, Gill's rare completed knives get a single most-consistent comment: "WOW, this feels REALLY GOOD in my hand." This comment comes from the generous use of spacers, religious attention to detail in component fits, natural soft warm yet solid feel of rare trophy elkhorn, and an obsession with balance and heft rarely seen beyond medium tactical fighers, and NEVER felt with this level of heft. The proprietary Gill Tang and Gill Grind allow pommel and horn counterbalance in larger bowies, hunters and fighters, and perfect weight distribution in high weight smaller skinners and fighters, that would consistently make other designs blade or handle heavy without compromizing heft, grind or balance. This balance has been achieved by other artists, but not with this weight and heft. JL rejects 2 blades for every one he passes to achieve this obsession with balance!
Blade Fighters naturally hold an index finger behind the guard to test balance at the crucial guard fulcrum. Too forward requires awkward grip balancing toward the pommel, and too rearward compromises grip and all three motions-- thrust, chop and slash. All three meet their ultimate perfection in a Gill knife! Perfect balance gives the "feels awesome" intuition, even with great size or heft, and Gill's unique designs add the power, warmth and natural palm countours of centuries proven full bone.
Gill's handle horns are all trophy size, hand selected, rare quality, texture and stunning natural pattern featured, which is extremely rare today, even as it was in the days of Scagel himself. Hunters do not want to sell the best part of their Trophy Elk, so Bladesmiths either make very few, or compromise quality with composites, simulants, joints, or vulnerable and delicate piecework. JL travels extensively through Elk Country to secure his award winning, world class horns, and uses only the most stunning examples of bark, patterns, natural hues and astonishing size, heft and beauty from each full rack, sacrificing complete antler sets to use only the best piece for each completed knife. Rare desert ironwood, Burl and other exotic and strong, gorgeously patterned woods complement the Elk, and his Nickle Silver and Brass spacers have received numerous awards for micrometer fit and perfect seals, adding to the wonderful feel of each knife.
Unlike artists who use gem scales and spacers that make knives beautiful but so delicate that they are permanently relegated to a display case, or artists who make one knife for beauty and another for utility, Gill's knives are workhorses with solid and durable Elk, and gem spacers made of steel-hard woods and a proprietary bakelite/Poly not used since Scagel, with the beauty of an Emerald and the durability of a bowling ball! Dropping a gem knife is a disaster; JL's don't show a scuff! This combination of beauty and utility is extremely rare today-- Gill's knives are BUILT TO BE HANDLED AND ENJOYED, without the need for an armed escort to be sure they aren't dropped!
The downside of all these features is rarity. Very few will ever feel the wonder in hand of a Gill, let alone own one, as JL only produces a handful each year. Resisting (so far) the temptation to lend his name to production knock offs, a JL Gill signed knife is truly one of a kind, to be enjoyed and passed down to generations. Being an "old guy" like many of us means the physical limitations of age limit JL's speed and production, along with his relentless refusal to speed up at the cost of quality.
This combination means a lifetime appreciation of your investment in a Gill knife-- in both senses of the word. Tangibles like steel are always a hedge against inflation, and the value is compounded by JL's exclusive use of 100% high weight 440C High Chromium Steel hardened and tempered to RC60-63, with 304 brass/nickle silver, nickle or practically indestructible polycarb, vulcanized fabric, or ebony spacers in EVERY knife. No investment has held and increased it's value like a rare art knife, and the best of breed have auctioned off in 6 figures. An investment that can be literally held, enjoyed, shared with friends and family and appreciated every day is simply no comparison to worthless and risky paper held "for you" by some bank or broker, or even in your mattress! And if push comes to shove, what other investment can also put meat on your table and defend your family?! Check 'em out... (Click any smaller image to enlarge it).