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April 2013

Chase Axinn

Long Lake's edgiest guy

Photograph by Carl Rubino

CHASE AXINN’S INTEREST IN KNIVES began at age seven, when he used them while hunting with his father and fantasizing over the Bowie knives of Jim Bowie, Davey Crockett and other frontiersmen. By 13 he was regrinding existing knives to change their characteristics to match his vision of what a knife should be.

After years of running his own construction company, Axinn wanted to find a career with a connection truer to his roots. One day, while carving a piece of wood, it became obvious—knives!

In his shop near Buttermilk Falls in Long Lake, he started by making custom handles for folding knives. In 1999 he began fashioning high-quality blades from steel bars. Be­fore long the self-taught craftsman was de­signing and making fixed-blade knives by hand, using basic tools such as a chop saw, belt grinder and drill press.

Be­lieving form should follow function, Axinn says he designs each knife for its intended use, customer preferences and aesthetics. “I take a piece of steel and try to find the magic in it,” he says. Blades are created from various high-quality steels with handles of traditional materials such as bone or horn, or from synthetics for a non-slip grip even when wet.

The process typically takes about 20 hours and sometimes longer, and in­volves cutting the steel bar, grinding a rough blade profile, drilling weight-re­lieving holes, repeated edge grinding, numerous applications of heat and cold, shaping the tang and handle for  a fit, attaching the handle, polishing, final edging, sharpening and etching his logo on the blade. Axinn stops periodically and studies his work with a fine eye. Like any other artist, he continues to work until he gets a feel for each knife’s comfort, balance, appearance and functionality.

Today his collection includes dozens of styles: small “neck knives,” kitchen knives, a large variety of hunting and tactical knives and his Chaxet, a combination knife and ax with the heft to chop, the strength to pry, and the edge and proper blade length to clean and skin game or shave tinder. Prices range from about $135 to $500 and up. All of Axinn’s knives come with a handcrafted Kydex sheath; a custom loop allows users to attach the sheath to their belts at any angle.

Axinn’s customers are from all over the world; he says about half of them are repeat buyers. The Department of Environmental Conservation recently commissioned Axinn to make 62 Mini Thunderbolt fixed-blade knives for its forest rangers. And I’m eagerly waiting for my Chaxet with carbon-fiber handle to come in the mail.

Find Chax Handmade Knives (518-624-3889, www.chaxknives.com) at 385 North Point Road, in Long Lake.

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