For this master craftsman, Karma makes for good knives

Jamaicans are known to be trailblazers, a people who not only think outside the box but also often discard the box in pursuit of our passion.

This is exemplified by Jabulani Johnson, an engineering student at the University of Technology (UTECH), who keeps his skills sharp — literally. This native of Spanish Town, St Catherine is a master knife-maker.

Jabulani Johnson putting the finishing touches on one of his pieces.

“Knife making is an art form from back in the days of the Japanese Samurai warriors. When the wars ended, the Samurai sword makers were soon out of business and so they started making knives instead,” Johnson told Buzz Jamaica.

Johnson is self-taught in the art of making knives. He shared that in his previous career as a cook he had difficulty finding a good knife.

“In 2017 I made my first knife. It was ugly but I loved it.”

“I began researching and learning for more than a year. I would watch videos and fine-tune my skills and I got better and better at it,” he said. “In 2017 I made my first knife. It was ugly but I loved it. A chef saw it and asked where I got it and I told him I made it and he bought it. So I started posting pictures and people gravitated towards it and Karma Knives was born.”

The name came about because, for him, it speaks to reaping what you put out in the universe. It takes an average of two weeks to finish a piece.

The response to his work has been good. “The first person to hold one of my knives was Chef Brian Lumley. I gave him two knives and he loved them so much that he bought two more and then spread the word. I started gaining clientele from both in Jamaica and overseas so I have clients in the United States, Germany and even as far away as Australia,” he said.

Chef Sasha Gordon also uses Karma Knives.

To possess a basic Karma Knife, you need to shell out a meagre US$150 for an 8-inch chef’s knife.

“Every additional inch is an additional US$15. The most expensive knife I have ever made went for US$500, which was a special customised piece. One of the last customised pieces I made was a Japanese sushi knife with red, green and gold in the handle. It was fun because it also allowed me to learn as I evolve.”

Johnson has plans to have a company with employees who can put Jamaica on the map for producing high-quality knives.

His work is already holding its own against other more established global brands.

A Karma knife being forged.

“My biggest challenge is getting some customers to appreciate what goes into making these knives. I need to start a YouTube channel so that they can see the intricate process and what exactly goes into making a Karma Knife,” he said.

— By C.W.