Essential Knife Design


Murad Sayen

Class runs: September 20-22

Tuition: $425

Material Fee: $40

Skill level: Seasoned beginner and up


Course Goal:  “…To Get a Handle on It”, literally, and develop an understanding of how to design a handle that both compliments and enhances a blade.  Participants will draw one design and model a second one. The emphasis is on design, as opposed to methods of construction.  Students need be at least ‘Seasoned Beginners’, and should bring photographic samples representative of their previous work and one piece they feel proud of.

Intro: An extraordinary blade deserves an equally outstanding handle. After decades of making both using and art-knives, Murad has found that visual and physical balance are inter-woven. The skillful marriage of the two results in a beautiful and complete piece of functional art. There will be an ongoing discussion of what makes a knife beautiful…or lacking in beauty.

We will start by drawing a design on architectural Mylar, using a blade template, and designing a handle to suit it. The Mylar allows infinite erasing and the opportunity to evolve the design without starting over each time.

Then we will form a design in polymer clay, again using a template for the blade, and be able to add, subtract, bend and sculpt.  Baking the polymer clay creates a durable model that can then be filed, sanded and finished as desired. Each participant will have coaching and feedback that allows them to evolve their creations as they work.

The ultimate take-away will be for each participant to develop a feeling for what a beautiful and functional handle must have, and to have created two designs that incorporate these qualities.  It’s important to realize that learning to create an excellent knife design also has an impact on every area of creative effort.  Once a person learns to both recognize and to create beauty they have a skill that will impact all they do.

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Murad Saÿen b. 1945, grew-up in Princeton NJ, spent 3 years in the U.S. Army (infantry), and received a BA in the philosophy of ethics from Penn State in 1970. He started making knives in 1977, as a youth worker who needed a craft that would develop both job and social skills in his juvenile clients.  He created Black Oak Knives and his shop was in the Ithaca Youth Bureau’s headquarters.  When his CETA grant expired, he moved to Maine and set up a knife-shop in an empty cow-barn. In 1978 he had met Don Fogg at a Bill Moran workshop and shortly thereafter they entered into a collaboration known as Kemal Knives.  In the years following, they won many awards and became world renowned for their unique and beautiful art-knives. Over the years, Murad also made handles on blades by some of the top master-smiths in the ABS, including Rob Hudson, Steve Schwarzer and Jim Crowell.

In 2005, Murad made his last knife. ‘La Bastogne’ was featured in Blade Magazine and was made from shrapnel excavated by his son, Sam, on the former battlefield of the Battle of the Bulge. The University Press of New England (Dartmouth College) published a coffee-table photo book “Maine, the Home Place” featuring Murad’s photography of rural Maine in 2003.  Since 2005 Murad has been painting and teaching painting. His work has received national recognition and can be seen at:


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