Burnley Nishi Bridges East and West Design

Lucas Burnley has just put the finishing touches on his latest custom fixed blade, the Nishi. The new knife is a fusion of an American-style blade shape and Japanese-style lines and handle.

The name ‘Nishi’ comes from the Japanese word for ‘West,’ which encapsulates the Nishi’s unique style. Burnley married a simple, traditional Japanese cord-wrapped handle to an American bowie-style clip blade. The blade goes for a broader profile than the slender Kwaiken, Burnley’s signature fixed blade hit. Its 4.25-inch cutting edge isn’t that much longer than a Kwaiken’s, but thicker, wider stock and a beefier aesthetic make for a noticeably scaled-up knife. “It just feels a lot more substantial all around,” Burnley notes.

Burnley says the familiar, utility-oriented aspects of both the Japanese and American fixed blades he took for inspiration unified the Nishi’s look and purpose. “Cord wrap knives play into my utility oriented background,” he explains. Because they need to accommodate the cord in a natural way, the handles of these knives can’t become too showy or complex. “And the clip point has that old-school Buck knife feel. It’s a very familiar blade shape for people.”

The first Nishi to come out of Burnley’s shop sports CPM-154 steel decked out with a ‘FauxMon’ finish, which emulates the look of a traditional Japanese hamon line. “It’s mimicking something that you can’t normally get working with stainless steels,” Burnley says. But he also says that one of the great things about fixed blades is how easily they adapt to different finishes and other steels. “I can put out different runs relatively quickly compared to custom folders.”

This release not only marks the first neo-Japanese fixed blade from Burnley in about five years, but it’s also among the first new custom projects he’s put out since moving his shop from New Mexico to Massachusetts last year. Things have been in flux, both for Burnley’s custom work and his BRNLY Brand sub-label, which he uses to sell a variety of non-custom knives as well as other products. “We’re still trying to figure out how we’re going to run things here,” he tells us.

The tentative plan is to translate all custom work into a “Signature Series” under the larger BRNLY label. The shift won’t affect his custom output but should help customers have a clearer picture of what they’re buying.

Burnley expects the first Nishis to be available in the coming months. He’s preparing a sizable run in AEB-L, and will play around with other materials and finishes after that. There’s also a chance we’ll see a production version of this knife some day. “The Nishi for now will be a custom. But it has been submitted to a company, so fingers crossed.”

Knife featured in image: Lucas Burnley Nishi