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MiVT: J W Bensinger Bladesmith

Published: Sep. 7, 2020 at 2:28 PM EDT
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CABOT, Vt. (WCAX) - The custom knife market is saturated in Vermont, forcing bladesmiths to find an edge on the competition.

As our Elissa Borden shows you this week on Made in Vermont, there’s one bladesmith in the woods of Cabot who has got it figured out.

Jim Bensinger is a custom knifemaker. His days are spent out in a building in the woods of Cabot, making all types of blades.

“Everything from kitchen knives to little wood carving knives up to swords,” he said.

He makes them all by hand, one by one, with most forged from high carbon steel.

All are heat-treated to cut above their weight and ground to perfection.

“Yeah I make tools, like, I’m always sad, even when I do Damascus, I’m always sad when someone just puts it in the safe,” said Bensinger. “I’ve had guys bring them back and I saw the knife in his hand and I was like I’m gonna have to make him another knife, he’s like no you don’t you don’t know what I did with it.”

In fact, he’s never had to make a customer a new knife, despite his lifetime warranty.

That quality now comes with a lengthy wait. Currently, it takes about 3 months for new orders to be filled.

For a while, most of his business was coming from setting up at gun shows in the state.

“You know it’s a gun show but there are people who don’t care about guns and they will just come in to get a new knife, so I kind of feel like I owe it to them to keep doing shows and I do enjoy going,” he said.

His customers used to seek him out at the shows but with many canceled because of the pandemic, he’s relying heavily on the internet.

“After a while, I started to get kind of a reputation and really the internet is a huge thing for this. Most of my business is custom orders off the internet now,” he said.

It all began in 1979 when he saw a knife he really wanted at a Brookstone store as a child, but with a $30 price tag, he decided to take a stab at knife making himself.

“My dad was like no, we’re not spending 30 dollars on a knife,” said Bensinger. “And he didn’t say don’t grind up every file in the basement.”

Now, he’s made thousands since 2003, ranging from 100 bucks to thousands.

But the love of his craft is priceless.

“Chuck Bukowski said find what you love and let it kill you. It’s a thing that I never don’t want to do it, I never get up and say I wish I didn’t do this,” he said.

You can find Jim’s knives and blades here.

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