My Masterpiece Custom Dagger | Jonas Blade

My Masterpiece Custom Dagger

For centuries and more, elevated craft has been the domain of apprentices, journeymen, and masters. Over time, many craftsmen organized themselves into guilds or associations, with formalized structures for how to advance in rank. An apprentice could become a journeyman when his master deemed that he had sufficient skill to journey around and ply his trade beyond the master’s direct control. When a journeyman was ready to become a master himself, he had to submit work to demonstrate his worthiness. This often came in the form of a single piece, and this is where the term “masterpiece” comes from. My own masterpiece was a custom dagger that I submitted to the American Bladesmith Society in 2019 for judgment. This is how I became a Master Smith.

My masterpiece custom Hessian Quillon dagger, features a 10” blade in shimmering, highly refined damascus steel with a symmetrically flat-ground cross section and a reinforced point. The handle is made from damascus steel and pure silver, with a grip of stabilized Hawaiian curly koa that is fluted and inlaid with twisted silver wire. 

I customized this dagger, specifically for the Master Smith presentation test required by the American Bladesmith Society. The requirements state that the blade must be at least 10”, the guard must feature “quillons,” which are the extensions to either side of the handle, and the handle must be fluted with the wire inlay. The rest of the design was up to me, and I found inspiration in the arms and armor of the Hessian Landsknecht knights of the 15th, 16th, and 17th Centuries. 

As an artist, each piece I make is a part of my creative identity. However, this custom dagger, more than any other work I did previously, was an opportunity to show who I am as a maker. I aimed for quiet, almost minimalist lines rather than loud flourishes and dancing curves; I wanted to seek the essence of form as best I could. 

I knew about the custom requirements for this dagger very early on as an apprentice bladesmith, and I knew that one day I would want to earn the rank of Master Smith. Before I embarked on the project itself though, I had a feeling that the requirements were arbitrary and just difficult for the sake of being difficult. To some extent, I resented the fact that a custom dagger was required at all; what if I had no interest in daggers — wouldn’t it be a better test for me to make the best masterpiece I could, and submit that for judging? But the test is the test.

About halfway into the project, I realized that the requirements for a custom dagger are arbitrary, and difficult for the sake of being difficult. And that’s the point. Could the test feature a different knife, with different features? Sure, it could be anything. But the point of the test as it exists is that it requires extremely careful planning and execution at a very high level in order to make a piece of this stature that is a convincing measure of mastery. The conformity aspect—everyone has to make the same type of knife—is beside the point, or perhaps it makes the judges’ work easier. The point is that it takes mastery to make something like this.

I love my Master Smith presentation set, and I am extremely proud of my dagger being customized at the heart of it. I look forward to making more such projects in the future. And now that I am a Master, my next set of daggers will be truly built with my own expression. 

Contact Jonas Blade to have your own customized dagger!

About The Author

Zack Jonas was born and raised in Massachusetts in the 1980’s and is still a New Englander today. With his growing love for art over the years, he took an introductory bladesmithing class at MASSart. It was there that he learned one of his most valuable lessons, which is that everyone has some insight worth learning. Today, he is a full-time bladesmith and feels incredibly fortunate to have found his calling.