Monday, October 6, 2008
Jim Kibler is a humble man. He is always eager to point out how well done some other builder’s work is. He is not as eager to talk about his own work. Jim has probably not built twelve guns in his lifetime, yet if you examine one of his recent pieces you would swear that he is an old hand at it. His skills are unique. His attention to detail is remarkable. His finishes resemble a fine old period piece. The carving on his latest piece is masterful. It flows so well across and around the cheek piece. The carvings around the tang and around the rear entry thimble are well executed and tasteful.
We will eagerly anticipate his next piece. It will be truly interesting to see where inspiration takes him next.
Jim is a metallurgical engineer. He attended Ohio State University and graduated in 1997.
Q: Where are you from?
A: I grew up in the small town of Hanoverton Ohio. I now live on the outskirts of this same town.
Q: How did you get interested in muzzzleloading rifles?
A: My dad bought me a percussion rifle when I was a teenager. The rifle was made in Hanoverton by William Johnson, a local gunsmith.
Q: How did you get started building muzzzleloaders?
A: I have always liked working with my hands building things. The first gun I built was from a kit that I discovered at my Grandparents House. My interest increased after reading Foxfire 5. That book was my first real exposure to all the builders working at the time. In addition to my reading I also received a bit of direction from a local builder and collector. My next project was a pistol from a blank with parts from Dixie Gunworks and shortly thereafter I built a rifle from a blank. This was when I was around sixteen or so. I built a few more rifles before I went away to college, but during my college years I sort of drifted away from building. Over the last several years I've become involved again.
Q: Were your parents supportive of your efforts in building?
A: If I've had some success, then a great deal of the credit should go to my parents, especially my dad. They always supported my interests and encouraged me to find my own path. My dad in particular was a huge influence on me. He was the local historian of our little town, had a great love for history and had a good eye for form, style and beauty. I think he passed on quite a bit to me. Unfortunately he is not around anymore having passed away in 1996 from leukemia.
Q: Have you had any recent opportunities to increase your skills as a builder?
A: I've taken NMLRA gunsmithing courses at Western Kentucky University that were immensely helpful to me. I also find the internet helpful. There is so much information available to the builder online. In addition, Mel Hankla has helped with introductions to the gun building community and has provided me with a great deal of encouragement.
Q: What style guns are appealing to you?
A: There are so many styles of guns I find appealing. There are so many fantastic guns just waiting to be created.
Q: Do you have a direction in mind as far as what you would like to build?
A: I'm not really sure what direction I will go in. I hope to involve myself with projects that inspire me.
Editors Note: Jim’s latest rifle is a contemporary piece based on published French design motifs and motifs used by the late John Bivins. Jim had reservations about showing this piece since it was not totally inspired by existing schools of gun making. He felt that “although the final product is a compellation of my ideas and those from the sources mentioned above, I have reservations about receiving too much credit from work built in part from past efforts of another contemporary artist.” We assured him that he should not concern himself too much. That as a young builder, really just getting started, he should attempt whatever interests him and whatever helps him grow. There have been any number of builders, past and present, who have been influenced not only by the past but also by their peers. A.R.