by Joe Keeslar
Silver wire inlay is one of several forms of embellishment—along with scrimshaw, decorative filework, metal engraving and carving—used on knife handles. For me, none of these decorative enhancements should replace what the basic knife should be: a well-designed, functional, well-made tool using the best materials and workmanship possible. Take a knife with these criteria and add some form of embellishment and you have a piece that a collector, user or aficionado of fine cutlery would drool over and want to own.
Simply put, silver wire inlay serves no functional purpose, but it sure makes a knife look pretty if it is done well—with a good, artistic design and well-executed technical application.
My introduction to wire inlay was some years ago while building Golden Age flintlock rifles. Many rifles of the period were relief carved with silver wire accents. The transition from wirework on rifles to knives was a short step.
In this two-part series on wire inlay you will be introduced to the tools used in the process, pattern/design development, the procedure for inlaying silver wire and final finishing of the handle.
So often in undertaking a new aspect of knifemaking, a large financial outlay is required up front to get started. This is not so with silver wire inlay. You can make nearly all the basic tools you need on a modest budget.