One of the fun parts of making knives is the ability to go out and test them.
Strolling thru the grocery store I found an okay rib roll. I’d guess the middle of the road U.S.D.A Choice, not a Nebraska Star Beef quality but none-the-less a good cut. Thought, I would take a crack at possibly cutting some of my own steaks.
The challenge would be the size of the rib-roll. A standard kitchen knife is a touch on the small side as far at cutting edge so this would be a great test of one of my knives.
The size of the rib-roll was such that it would take a full forward cut and a full draw back. I figured , if the knife wasn’t sharp , or didn’t hold the edge the meat would have a jagged cut and very noticeable choppy face to the steak. Showing I had to use more than a forward and back motion to cut the steak.
I have used this knife several times. For the sake of the test I didn’t steel the blade or sharpen it. Kitchen Cutlery often goes from one task to another in the home kitchen, rarely getting the edge reset. I wanted the simulate such use.
The rib-roll was room temp, a little colder possibly. I could have slightly froze the steak to firm it up and make it easier to cut but again, most of us do not have the time to make sure our meat is perfect firmness to cut.. We thaw and cut.
The Damascus blade cut thru in just one push and pull for seven steaks and then 4 more roasts with no problems. I had some issue keeping my cuts perfectly uniform all the way thru , but that was a skill thing the local butcher probably spent years perfecting or there is a trick I don’t know? So the knife tested out well. I was happy with it.
If I were to continue to cut larger muscle groups, I would try to build a 10″ blade or longer. I would also make sure my blade is no thicker than 1/8th”. the thicker blade does help fold the meat over and out of the way, but at a cost of friction on the cheek of the knife. Its not a big deal but improvement is an improvement. The thinner blade in my opinion would be a sharper edge and a better slicer. Theory , yet to be tested!
Keeping in mind, this blade was intended as a general use knife. Initial design was to be master of none, but adequate at most. The above improvements will go towards a specialized blade down the road. Oh and yes, my cutting board needs some love. She’s seen better days.
My interest for knives drove me to attempt the crazy and get geared up with tools and materials to try my hand at building a few knives.
Before starting I did the usual research, read books, and browsed the discussions out there on the subject matter. I had a lot of help from Last Resort Blades … I believe I wore the guy out with my 100 questions a day. Jason was a good sport and guided me thru the trial by fire that were and still are my first knives.
Steve Johnson of Johnson Adventure Blades was also a big help! The man is an engineer when it comes to just about everything knives! Constantly reminding me to not over think it!
I believe it important to give credit were credit is due. I am just getting off the ground but I wouldn’t be were I am with out the help of the two mentioned above.
So I headed out to buy me some equipment. Going after the stock removal technique ” figured it would be the most DIY friendly ” I listed my needs in order of what I thought important.
Grinder – You can not remove with out a remover. I dug deep here. A professional grade grinder can be thousands of dollars. The last thing in wanted to do was go there and find out this wasn’t for me. I looked at all options. After all this was number one on the list.
What I learned . Grinders are a big electric motor with attachments . These motors can be single , double phase. Double phase means they can vary current and thus speed.
Precision– The upper end professional grade grinders are built to high tolerances. They are high and tight and it will show in the work . Symmetry in plunge lines, bevels, and handles are a mark of pride amongst the top knife makers. You really do get what you pay for in this area.
I settled for a Grizzly. Reason for that was the $699 price point and the fact that I noticed a lot of them sitting in back corners of knife makers shops on YouTube videos. Its not a bad starter grinder at all. No attachments that I know of and tracking is terrible out of the box but with a little tuning she does okay. I would recommend grinding the graphite off the platen. It wears uneven and causes waves to form in your bevels. A lot of guys weld some harden tool steel to the platen to make a better one. I have not gone down that road yet. The steel is too valuable to me right now . One could argue that logic.
Grinder Attachments – the more the better. You do not have to have all the bells and whistles to make a knife but the more intricate knives need the different drive wheels and fun stuff to achieve those angles and radiuses. Don’t fear for every attachment you do not have there is a hand tool to get you by.
Drill Press – I almost believe you have to have one. Especially after my first couple knives. If those holes don’t line up its a bad time getting everything on the knife. The good news is a drill press doesn’t have to be expensive. I bought a mini-drill press for 75 bucks. She is bare bones but gets the work done. I’ve actually found the rudimentary of the drill press an advantage at times.
Eyes– at the minimum wear safety glasses but a grinding shield is ideal in my opinion. it also helps blow the dust around your respirator .. speaking of that.
Respirator – metal dust and handle material dust are no joke. Some exotic woods can even be toxic. Protect your lungs. Some guys use the little cloth masks but I do not feel that is enough. Take it from a guy who’s wife treats cancer for a living.. don’t take chances with your lungs.
Files– Also a must have. If you had the time to burn even a bevel could be scratched in with a file. A chainsaw file works great for radius and tight spots. A set of files , different shapes and sizes only cost $15.00 or more depending on how precise you want to get. I started doing file work to the spines of my blades. I’ve had a lot of fun with trying new patterns. I screwed some things up but its all part of learning I suppose.
Abrasives – belts and sheets it is part of it and a costly one too. Get used to it, you are going to burn thru abrasives at a consistent pace. I started with 60,120,240 grit belts. I might have jumped down one more to a 30 looking back but I did okay starting my blades with 60. Sheets I went all the way up to 1000 for finishing handles. I go with the inexpensive aluminum oxide belts. They do not last as long but I can get a lot of them for a handful of bucks.
Forge– This one could be argued. The reason I list it ” for stock removal ” is I like the challenge of heat treating my knives. There are professional out there that will heat treat your knives and get the most out of them. So its not a must and really in the short term, you are better off. Me, I like the punishment of a warped blade from time to time. I’m getting better. Every knife I learn something new. Ultimately you want to get a heat treating oven with a digital control. Its the crockpot of the knife world set it and forget it! The forge will never be as consistent but way more fun!
* if you decide to heat treat your own blade it might be a good idea to find someone who has or buy a Rockwell tester. The file test are better than nothing but not as definitive as a Rockwell tester. I did end up buying a used one. Lucky for me it works. I tested it on a known RC from a production blade. “thanks for the idea Jason! ” but buying a calibrated piece of equipment like that is always a gamble.
* thermocouple — knowing your temp in knife making is always good. I picked one up for $60.00.
Clamps – buy one after another . You can never have too many. #thehardway
Epoxy– Liquid glass , Devcon… and on and on. Everyone has their favorite. I used what had high reviews on Amazon. The Devcon is a two part Epoxy as most are, has worked well for me. I’m sure there is better out there but for right now I keep my variables to a minimum. It works, and when I get a few things mastered I will do some experimenting .
Steel – the 10X steels are great starters, but I highly recommend O1 for anyone starting out. O1 is easy to heat treat and fun to grind in my opinion. Its performance is exceptional for what it is and holds an impressive edge in my opinion. If you are going to send your knives off to heat treat, then I wouldn’t much worry about what steel you are going to use but do consider what the knives intended use is and do your homework. There isn’t one steel that can do it all from all the makers I’ve talked with. I’m sticking with O1 right now. As I mentioned , until I master a few things , keeping variables to a minimum helps keep frustration levels down. I learned this on a square of D2..
Handle material– again, purpose should a considered first. There are all kinds of materials out there but one thing I would stress is start out with the least expensive woods and work your way up. Unless you are an experienced wood worker then a few scales will end up in the trash. Don’t go out and buy mammoth tooth and drill a bad hole.
Pin material – Brass, Copper, Mosaic and all sizes. I started out using the small stuff but learned quickly the larger pin stock has its advantages. Mosaic pins always bring up your knife a notch or two but like anything can be over done on some knives. Do what makes sense , a tactical knife doesn’t like panties.. it wants combat boots.
Liner material. Not necessary but I find a nice touch and helps bond wood to metal by having a fibrous medium between the two. Liners also help with uneven handle material or cupped metal on the handle. Both should be removed with a little sand paper and elbow grease but that does not always happen. I went with a multi pack of colored sheets but next round I will order the colors I want individually. I bought colors in the multi-pack that just flat out suck and I will not use.
The number one resource I cannot stress enough is finding someone with a little experience making knives of blacksmithing. I know I mentioned it early on in this post but seriously, its a time and money saver. If you do not find or know anyone get on the forums or even take a class. They are not cheap but consider reinventing the wheel is going to cost you twice as much time and money as paying for the class. Unless your a natural .. then why are you reading this anyways you lucky bastard you!
Day 2) ” this if figurative if you have not picked up on that yet”
Be ready to fail forward!
So I was all excited , my equipment started coming in and the world was good. I will give myself credit for listening to the pros on all the YouTube videos and started with a very simple design.
My fist observation was new belts blow a lot of abrasive into your face. Second observation… the pros make plunge lines look easy. Its actually not easy , not at all. There is also no trick to doing it , you just have to practice. The grinder comes into play here too. My grinder isn’t a precision machine so I have to learn its limits and capabilities.
I have yet to do a laser straight plunge line . Very close but not perfect. That is okay because I realized I can make that up with a file and some sandpaper. Still not as good as the pros but some day dammit! I am committed to learning to grind my blades by hand but I judge nobody who choses to do bevels with a jig.
I mean, it is really kick ass if an artist can draw a straight line free hand but who turns their nose up at a guy who throws a rule down and draws a perfectly straight line with ease?
All that said I actually did well with grinding profiles and bevels. I have always liked working with metal and found it fun. I have yet to make one perfect but have received some compliments, even accused of buying blanks and putting handles on. Pissed me off at the time but thinking back on it, what a compliment. Just one way you can turn an A$$ hole into a hero. ha haa. Do not get me wrong, I’ve a long ways to go to be where I want to but one day at a time!
Handles and Scales !
This is where the struggle gets real for me. I probably have set a record for most scales thrown in the trash by a rookie. I still struggle with them. I know a lot of guys that think this is the easy part , but for me … not so much.
Really the struggle is what keeps me going and a lot of the fun for me. I could care less how good or how fast others learned the craft. I’m on my own journey and having a blast doing it.
Just when I thought I had the handle thing licked I was humbled once more. I drilled my pins too close to the edge of the blade and so in sanding my scales to profile , exposed the pins to the world. Dohh !
No big deal, it wasn’t the end of the world, the blade and handle were still good and structurally sound. I did not expose all the pin just more than I wanted. Really, I might use this down the road as something different on a knife in a more exaggerated and intentional manner. My point is , look for the upsides on your mistakes.
For the Love of YouTube
In all the hours of video I watched the rule of ego still stands. Some need fed , others feed. Making a knife is an intimidating process but once you get the hang of it, it is not that bad. I have noticed that the Knife community has a lot of guys more than willing to help a rookie out. This is more the norm than the exception.
There are also those that want to make knife making sound so complicated that you or I in, our limited capacity, could never achieve such levels of skill. This level of douchebaggery is exceptional and self-serving. Keep scrolling thru until you find a video with a guy who’s goal is to teach and not preach.
I swam thru the endless sea of advice and used what would work best for me. For example heat treating- there are all kinds or recipes out there for heat treating O1 . So I created a spreadsheet and found all the commonalties. That would be my starting point. Over the next several blades I refined my recipe based on my equipment and observations. I’m still experimenting with the end goal being to be as consistent as I can be given the variables I can control with a gas forge and some quench oil. Sure, a digitally controlled heat treat oven would get me there quick but what’s the fun in that? That and I’ve spent enough on the first round of tool best let my pocket book heal.
My first blade.. didn’t harden.
I thought it did but comparing it to my last blade, is far from where my blades are now. I would much rather prove myself wrong because I know that improvements have been made and the process is going down the right path. I call this an easy win and you need those to keep the train going. It was easy because only small adjustments were needed to drastically improve the hardness of the metal. The hardness tester proves or disproves my progress. I was very lucky to find one as inexpensive as I did.
I did run into warping issues. I first observed my little gas forge was tight and thus creating hot spots on the blades. Without even heat I learned the metal would deform in the area of the excessive heat. So I pushed the blades further into the forge past the burner. This heated the blades more evenly and faster.
Still , I was getting some warping. Not as bad as previous but enough to cause problems. I started heating my blades up to color change and letting them cool off 3X , the last time I didn’t let the blade cool completely and started the knife on the way to critical temp. Results were better but not perfect. In talking with a friend , he mentioned making sure I put the blade in the oil- tip straight down. Any angle other than straight down could cause problems. So the last blade took the plunge nose first and bingo.. straight blade.
I probably could have attended a workshop or two and saved myself some heartache. However, I feel like in the end, it was a greater accomplishment and I know why the knife will do what it does because I have seen it first hand! Sure there are probably better ways to build a knife than what I’ve shared. Eventually I will discover those techniques or maybe even find a better way.
Damascus Kitchen Knife
The start of the previouse knfie
O1 Kitchen Knife
Second Knife- 10″ blade made from a twisted damascus pattern
Japanese style knife made for slicing big cuts of meat. I sent to my brother so hopefully he test it out soon.
I hunt so this knife was made to take meat off the bone or a de-boning knife as its called in the field. The sweep in the blade helps catch tissue and cut connective tissue
7.5″ Over all length
This is where the pins were placed too close to the edge of the scales. Expsoing the sides of the tops of the pin.
First try with D2 profile looked good
Handles warped decided to break it just to see what the crystal formation . Per gusy that know better it was a hot spot in the handle that created the warp.
So to put this post to bed I want to discuss knife making as I see it. For one, yes you can make a knife from files , saws, and sandpaper. We have all watched the videos. Its possible, but not practical. The truth of the matter is if you are serious and want to make a knife faster than one a month , then expect to spend a couple grand on mid-tier equipment. The next thing is , its going to take a lot of time and practice to make great knives. its all muscle memory, experience, and skill. You cannot pay for any of those three. You will have to become a student of the craft.
You have to be okay with never knowing it all. I have talked with a lot of guys who say every blade offers something in the form of experience.
Make what you like. If you are a hunter and love hunting knives , make hunting knives. Every knife will take a good number of hours from start to finish. You might as well be enjoying the knife you are making. If not I believe the hobby becomes a job and will show in your work.
These are just my observations of my limited experience making knives. Nothing I say here is the bible. If you know better let me know on anything in this post. If you have anything to add, every suggestion is welcome!
Every now and again I am lucky enough to be found by a friend across the big pond called the Atlantic. Cruzados Blades located out of Portugal.
For those that do not know, Portugal is that country bordering Spain right here.
Here is a little site I found with interesting facts on Portugal , also where I found this map of Portugal.
Most of what you need to know about knife maker can be found in his or her logo. After all its a visual version of your business statement. Well, in my mind it is anyway. If done right , it stirs up more questions than it answers opening up the maker to his customer into something more than just a transaction.
Cruzados- meaning Crusaders also known as the Knights Templars lasted two centuries fighting battles in the Holy Lands and one could argue the point that the war still seems to be going on today. Just turn on the news. Wait, don’t turn on the news that’s depressing.
Without making this too much of a history lesson, what is known about the Templars is/are they were a fierce creed of warrior with many a legend amongst them. To this day there is a lot of speculation to their secrets and what happened to them when their strongest supporter turned on them. The Templars disbanded and some would say the most interesting part of their history started.
So as always my first question starts on the very name of his brand :
You talk about the Portuguese Templars, what about them drives you to honor them in your work? What do you do with your knives that pays tribute to these men?
Bruno – My tribute to them is remember them and put the cross of Templars as a symbol in my knifes as logo .
There is a lot of Historians that say the Templars left Europe to North America and Africa when the Pope turned on them. What are your thoughts on such theory?
Bruno-that is true because the pope made the Templars because they need a special force to conquest Jerusalem the holy city to the Islam. and the pope when don’t need them anymore banned then. and they go to the North America and Other part of the world and they protect and hide their treasures, brought from India like gold and precious stones, ivory, etc…
When come across your knives, what would identify them from others?
Bruno-My knifes are made with high quality steels and materials and tested in different situations, for the customer to have a knife that will never fail. that’s why my knifes have life time warranty.
What is the knife culture like in Portugal ? What would be the difference between what you see in your own country and the U.S. if any?
Bruno- the Portuguese like functional knifes. make different tasks with the same knifes, like in US I think ( I tend to agree, knife guys are knife guys no matter what part of the world they are in)
What is your favorite knife to carry?
Bruno- I love carry my neck knife all days with her i can do a lot of things. but when go to woods I always care my axe “fury”, one “explore2” and my neck knife usually the tanto model
Tell me about the woods / outdoors you frequent? What draws you to the outdoors?
Bruno- I love outdoors activity’s like make shelters hunting , camping explore the woods. I feel free in the woods.
You mentioned making knives is your calling, at what age did you start making knives?
Bruno– I start making knifes with 16 years i have 24 so i do knifes at 8 years.
Do you have any tips for the beginner knife makers of the world?
Bruno- If you really like it don’t give up. Start with simple knifes and materials, don’t try make any swords at the first =)
What’s your favorite knife steel and why?
Bruno – I love the higth carbon steels like the 1095, O1 and D2 but my favorite is the stainless N690 . ( he didn’t say why but its safe to say we all know why these classic steels would be his favorite ! )
This story is as fun as it gets for me. Part of making knives seems to be the ability to share that experience with anyone and everyone. Too often I see the greats teaching the next generation the trade. Sometimes for a fee, usually cheaper than any college course, and if used and perfected a hell of a lot more profitable. Other times, they teach for just the enjoyment of passing along the knowledge.
Many of us learned to be men from our dads and grandpas. I’m sure many a lady learned something from their dads they never expected to be useful but ended up being a life saver. My point is looking back we find that the value is in the moment as much as the knowledge.
We see the images of a family sitting around a table buried in technology and information. All contained in those little boxes we used to use to connect with each other now they drive us apart. No family escapes todays immediate satisfaction the smartphone offers. Statistics show that our attention span is but a spark compared to what it once was. We cannot get enough of it.. scroll , scroll , scroll.
Social Media and technology are going nowhere soon. We can’t walk away from it but we can teach ourselves to let it work for us and show some control. Instead of watching everyone else have a life , we can go out and make moments of our own and share them, and let people know we disconnect to connect.
Steve Johnson and I have known each other for a few years. Starting way back when we sat across a table , him selling knives, me buying them. From there we ended up working on the same side of the table on a small little start up company. The little company has nothing to do with knives by the way. We do the knife thing as a moonlight job. Well I write about knife makers and he is a knife maker.
So as you would expect I get to hear of Johnson Adventure Blades new projects in a text or from his Instagram. It was on such occasion I was witness to a buzz saw or sawmill- saw that had several distinctive cuts across the face. They were a very “I am home kind of feel. ”
Instant flash backs of going up the mountain in our 80’s Suburban , opening and closing dads hunting knife from its sheath. The smell of the leather stands out the most. It was a mix of leather and gun oil. We all had the cheap plastic orange vests with the elastic bands on the sides that lasted maybe the first 5 minutes of hunting. Nobody had any camo on. Not that it would have made any difference. The camo back then was terrible. It was so bad It is kind of cool too.
Okay.. I am rambling again.
As I said, the missing blades from the now recycled saw blade peaked my interest, more because I knew Steve wasn’t the kind to just do what others have done just to get it over with. He would twist it somehow.
Over the next few months I watched the social media feeds. Patiently waiting on the finished product. Excited for the day I would get to write this vary post! Slowly the knife started to take shape.
The part of the story that gets fun is seeing Steve’s family take part in building something more than just a knife. Steve’s little boy decided it was time for him to take up knife making and help his dad in the shop. As you can expect he was allowed to participate on everything but the actual knife as Giles is not old enough for sharp metal but his enthusiasm would not be denied his part in the project.
The story goes , the Giles Bowie started out as the Hunters Bowie. Steve asked Giles- “what do you think about the name ?” since he helped make them. Giles replied ” Ahh No, let’s call it the Giles Bowie.” Steve thought it had a pretty good ring to it. So that is how the Giles Bowie came to be.
I would expect Steve was able to get very little done that night but had the best time going nowhere fast. Those little people with their broken English and short attention span can be a hoot. Dad’s tools might as well be King Arthurs Sword. You can bet they will disappear as fast as they found them. When you finally buy a new one , you will find the old one..
Little Giles wasn’t the only one who helped in the making of the Bowie. The Giles Bowie was a family project. Amelia ( Steve’s daughter ) can find her way to the shop from time to time.
More than likely these experiences set the tone for a good story on a winter night when one of them walks thru dads shop. Telling their own kids ” when dad and I made this knife.”
As I said earlier, its not “if” they remember how to make a knife. It is “if” they remember the time dad and I made a knife. N.H.
“A sharp edge will get someone to comply very quickly… thus the name Compliance Edge.”
Q1– I was scrolling thru your current product mix. Very cool stuff! Would you consider yourself a small batch production company or do you open your doors to guys who might want something outside of your current assortment?
A1 -I would definitely consider myself more of a small batch company. It tends to be easier to just do a run of one model at a time, however often times I just grab a handful of different blanks based off of what I feel like making at the moment.
It is good to have a variety of different things to work on at once, and that way customers have more choices as well. But I definitely do not make anything outside of my current assortment.
My design process takes up to 6 months from conception to final product, so for someone to send me a sketch, it would be very difficult to make that knife and have it turn out well without doing several prototypes, etc.
Q2– I noticed the price range on your current models. Starting a $240.00 up to $800.00 can you tell us the difference between the $240.00 and the $800.00 knives?
A2– the $240 range knives are both handle-less fixed blades. Just one solid piece of steel ground and textured into a knife, with a full flat grind. This process is a lot faster than making one with nice straight bevels and handles.
Most of my designs with handles are in the $350-$450 range, being that the grinds and handle work take a lot of extra time and materials.
Then they jump from $450-$800, because the $800 is a folder, which is crazy expensive to make, and requires VERY tedious and time consuming work.
Q3 Is there a knife or a knife smith that influenced your work or pushed you to knife making? If not, what did?
A3– I was mainly inspired by Mick Strider. I loved the overall look of his fixed blades, and decided to use similar materials, but with my own designs.
Q4– Has your experience in martial arts influenced your knife designs?
Cutting Edge Length: 3″ •Overall Length: 7.18″ •1.2″ Width •Blade Steel: .20″ Thick CPM 3V at 60HRC •Handles: None •Black Kydex Sheath •The Featherweight is a minimalist design that is great for a variety of tasks.
Cutting Edge Length: 3.37″ •Overall Length: 7.93″ •1.21″ Width •Blade Steel: .27″ Thick S35VN Stainless •Handles: .25″ Thick G10 •The Copperhead is a thicker mid-sized knife, that is useful as both a utility knife, and a defensive tool.
Cutting Edge Length: 3.37″ •Overall Length: 7.93″ •1.21″ Width •Blade Steel: .27″ Thick S35VN Stainless •Handles: .25″ Thick G10 •The Copperhead is a thicker mid-sized knife, that is useful as both a utility knife, and a defensive tool.
A4– Absolutely! I was lucky enough to train nearly my whole life in BJJ and Judo. Both of those arts are amazing because you can go 100% without getting hurt or hurting your opponent. They teach you how to control another human against their will.
Because of my prior training, I was luck enough to get drawn into the combative training world as well, and that’s what helped get me started with knives.
I would show some of the people we were training my designs, and they would give me feedback based off of their real world experience.
The two biggest features in all of my current designs are a round butt, and a huge finger guard. That way you can slam the knife down into a target without your hand sliding up the blade, and then use your other hand to push down on the round butt end of the knife.
Much more effective than a cool looking “skull crusher” which would just slice your assisting hand wide open if you pushed down on it. The guys that are in the know get it and love it, and the guys that watch a lot of movies say “you should add a skull crusher and lanyard hole to that one”.
Q4– What is your favorite knife you make and why?
A4– My favorite is the FBK. It is the only knife of mine that I can look at and say “it needs no improvement”. I could honestly just make only those for the next few years and be happy.
Q5– Where do you see the handmade knife market going in the next 10 years? Where does Compliance Edge fit into that market?
A5- I am a little too new to the industry to know where it is going. As an Economics grad I can look at the general market and make speculations, but it’s hard to say how much they will affect knives.
I think that even if markets in general start to tank, the supply of quality custom knives is so low compared to the current demand, if anything the two may start to equal out. And if the knife market does take a huge hit, I can strive to be the best/rise above the competition.
Q6– Knife laws too strict or not strict enough?
A6– Too strict! It’s a felony in CA to conceal a blade, but felons will still do it! If you aren’t a convict, you should be allowed to carry a concealed fixed blade. We can open carry them, but you get lots of funny looks, so being able to do so concealed for the law abiding citizens would be nice. ” note *I agree with this 100% the modern trend is to blame and punish the guy following the law , not stop the persons breaking it! ” *
Q7– Handmade knife market a saturated market and if so what do you do to set your business apart from others out there?
A7– I think there is always room for more makers, but there are a lot of people making very similar products.
I think what sets me apart is my attention to detail. The straight grinds, clean lines and blended edges. My knives are similar in style to many other makers, and in photos they can look very close, but in person the fit and finish is often times noticeably different.
Q8– How did you come up with the name Compliance Edge?
A8– A sharp edge will get someone to comply very quickly… thus the name Compliance Edge.
Q9– What is your favorite materials both handle / blade to work with and why?
A9– I love G10 for handles. It is easy to work with, looks great, and is virtually indestructible. Even Micarta will fade out over time, but G10 will remain the same for years. For blades I love CPM S35VN. It is very strong, takes and holds a great edge, and is stainless.
Q10– You spend a lot of time on each knife. Can you describe the process you use in coming up with a new design?
A10– Everything starts with a hand sketch. I usually tweak elements of the sketch multiple times so when I’m drawing, I usually set it aside and look at it several times a month.
Once I am happy with that I will either hand-cut it out, or create a CAD file and have it water jet cut. It just depends on how excited I am to work on it!
From there I will make the prototype, and see how I like the balance, ergonomics, and functionality. If it needs adjustments they are made, until I get it right.
I am constantly tweaking old designs as well. After making hundreds of Vendettas I decided to slightly change up the blade shape the other day. So the designs are constantly evolving alongside my knowledge and skills.
Q12– What are your expectations for every knife you make in terms of quality? What quality checks do you use to make sure each knife holds up to your demanding standards?
A12– Every knife should be more or less free of blemishes, and should look like the picture on the website. If they don’t look like what the customer expects, they will be disappointed right when they open the box.
My goal is to create the same knife every time. When you make them by hand, this is not an easy task, so consistency/skill are key. In terms of a function check, each knife is heat-treated the same exact way, and the Rockwell hardness is tested multiple times.
This way you only need to beat on a knife here and there, rather than smacking every single one around to ensure it won’t break, or chip.
They say, the difference between those that can and those that can’t is doing what others won’t.
We all know that guy who works a little longer in the night when others sleep. Then get up before light just to get that extra bit of work in before they hit the day job.
Working on a skill , trade, or whatever they strive to master trying to be the difference between the average and the exception. It has to be something you love to do or you would never justify what it takes to be exceptional in a crowded hobby/industry.
Daniel Pica speaks of his early years making knives. Spending the few late hours he had, crafting what would become Screech Owl Knives. Starting very young it was about getting a knife sharp, later in life it was about making the best knife he could make.
Daniel gave a few minutes of his time answering some question I often have, scrolling thru images and reading websites on custom knives. I am not the best at formatting so hang with me while I try to type out a question and answer!
Q&A with Screech Owl Knives :
Q1) -Hunting and fishing were an important part of life as you grew up. How does that influence the style of knives you make?
A1) I design and build all my knives based on what I like to do outdoors. Some of my knives excel at processing game or fish and some are more suited for camping or wood working.
Q2) Is functionality more important than the way the knife looks or can a knife look good and work well too?
A2) Functionality and practicality are the biggest considerations for my outdoor and tactical blades. I believe the craftsmanship and attention to detail make them beautiful. As you know, form follows function. This holds true with my tactical blades also but those knives offer me more creative flexibility.
Q3) What knife do you take into the field or do you use several? If so what are those and what do you use them for?
A3) In the field I will carry my Thicket Buster for camping/bushcraft, and for hunting I will carry my Fish N Fowl, Oak Bottom Hunter or Cottontail depending on the game. If I am stalking game I carry a Critter, a very compact and versatile knife.
Q4) What is your dream hunt? Sure this is supposed to be about knives but I’m a hunter too.
A4) My dream hunt would be a Colorado archery hunt for bull Elk or a trophy white tail deer hunt in Iowa.
Q5) You talked a little about why you started making knives. If it had not been for a little extra income for the family, do you still think knife making would have found its way in your life?
A5) Definitely. I have always had an interest in knives and caught the sharpening bug at a young age. In the beginning it was more than making extra money; it was about making a knife that would be perfect companion for me on my adventures.
Q6) What tools did you start out with or recommend folks looking to get into knife making should start with?
A6) I started with a Kalamazoo 1×42 inch belt grinder and recommend this to beginners because it is a bombproof American made machine for only $275.
Q7) If a guy had a limited budget, what tool for knife making do you suggest he spend the most on?
A7) I would suggest bars of 01 tool steel for blade material and some good files.
Q8) Do you have a favorite knife you have made? Why is it your favorite?
A8) My favorite knife I have made myself would be my Thicket Buster. It is the first knife I made and has served me well on several trips outdoors. It is a very tough, extremely sharp blade that excels in wood working and bush craft. You could say we have some great memories together!
Q9)Before knife making did you have any other experience with metal / fabrication?
A9) I had limited experience with sheet metal work in the construction field. I do have many years experience in carpentry and residential construction. Construction is my background where I have specialized in tile, trim carpentry, flooring and various other kinds of finish work.
Q10)Where did you get the name for your brand?
A10) When I first started this I had a full time job and only made knives at night. I live off the beaten path and it was only the owls and me up at that point. The owls would be making noise all night long. My son would wake up the next morning and tell me about “the owls at night” he had heard.. So I started out as Night Owl Knives. Turns out a man used this name a few years back so I had to switch to the current name.
Q11) What are your thoughts on today’s production knives?
A11) There are many great designs available today. However, I feel as though the factories still do not do a good job with getting the most out of their steels. There are exceptions here though. It is still hard to find a good production fillet knife!
Q12)If a customer were to be looking to buy a custom knife , what would you suggest they do to make sure they are getting what they paid for?
A 12) Buy a knife based on an intended task. Do the research to find exactly what kind of knife you need based on what you use knives for most.
Q13)What knife steel is your favorite to work with and why?
A13) I like CPM154 for its fine grain structure and the great edge it takes. This steel polishes great, has good corrosion resistance and is pretty tough. This steel makes a great skinner, edc or fillet knife!
Q14)Damascus – for show or is it usable too?
A14) Damascus is usable but is mostly for show in my opinion. I do think a good high performance stainless Damascus folder is a great choice to carry but comes at a price.
I will invite you to take a look at Screech Owl Knives’ -Facebook, Instagram, and Website below. Great advice about really giving a lot of thought into what you intend to do with the knife and working from there! These are not dollar store knives, they are high end tools made just for you. Take the time to make it a great experience!
Everyone remembers their first knife. Usually given to him by his dad or grandpa. A first knife can be a big step in a little man’s life. The moment represents more than just getting a knife. A knife is a tool that demands respect. Its a cutting instrument, that can be useful but treat her wrong or carless she will bite you back.
The element of danger represents passing over a threshold of maturity and responsibility. The first knife becomes a symbol of personal growth in the eyes of those around you.
The age at which we get the knife isn’t as important as having the maturity and skill it takes to handle one properly. Sure, most of us fell in the 8-12 years old and had no issues owning a knife. Then there are those that even at 30 years shouldn’t be within 20 yards of any cutting implement. Let me give you a hint , if every time you pick up a knife you end up putting on a Band-Aid… you are that guy. Please remove head from Click.
I had this little gem built for my son.
overall length – 7″
Handle material – plum tree cut off my property
Blade Length – 2 7/8 “
Sheath – Leather
He is only 5 and will not have the opportunity to fly solo with this knife for sometime. I do feel it important to show him the knife, let him know a knife is not a toy and can hurt someone or himself if not used properly.
Explain how that a knife is something to be respected, and used with caution when he is ready. Until then, dad can carry it on our fishing / hunting adventures. Giving him the ability to visually observe how the knife works on a bluegill or a dove. Explaining the basics like.. never cut towards yourself, make sure nobody is in front of the blade, and so on.
I read a snip-it just this last week on how so many young adults do not even know how to make a doctors appointment, call an electrician, or basic life skills needed to function in the world. To me this is what happens when we expect the world to raise our kids. Time to jump in and view raising kids as an experience worth of a lifetime of work even during the hard times.
Oh, and don’t buy your kids a made in B.F.E knife. That’s dangerous and not worthy of him passing on to his son/daughter ( ladies are hunting and fishing like crazy these days ! I get it not trying to leave the ladies out but this post was a father /son point of view because that is what I know from personal experience so … is what it is ) .. Get him/her a quality Made in the U.S.A knife.. production or custom but quality. They do make a smaller handle for the ladies and a custom knife smith will make to spec. N.H.
Special thanks to Last Resort Blades . ( yes I do use this company a lot- get over it… like a good play in football .. if it works run it until it doesn’t )
Lark Custom Knives – ” Specializing in traditional straight knives, art knives, and folders.“
David Lark-specializes in engraving amazing works of art on steel. Engraving was very popular as printing presses became common place. Engraving as you would guess is a difficult skill to learn and a lifetime to perfect. As different methods of printing came about Engraving has been kept alive by guns smiths , jewelers, and knife smiths.
The process involves a harden steel, tool called burins or gravers. I will not get into the details of such tools but I will say they come in a variety of sizes and shapes to fit the needs of the engraver. Click here for more info on engraving. Better get a cup of coffee or a beer or two . This is a long read.
What you need to know about engraving is that its an incredibly hard skill to learn and know the difference between a laser etch and a true engraving. Look close, a laser will burn the image into the steel, while an engraver removes material from the blade. Also evident by touching the knife. Laser etching will happen when price point is a concern. An engraved knife is like a hand made car it’s only going to go up in price and you have to pay to play.
Check out some of David’s Work and give him a ring if interested in a piece of his art. Pricing varies based on how involved the project is.
Stovall Custom Knives- Specializing in fixed hunters and Every day carry!
They say it takes around 10,000 hours to master a skill. Sometimes we have to split our time with work, family, and other so those 10,000 hours don’t stack up as nice as we would like. Stovall Custom Knives work around the ” part time” ( disclaimer – I have a hunch part time has been going on for a long time because this stuff is solid ) is to adopt the focus method. Instead of trying to learn it all at once, Anthony has focused most if not all his efforts in hunters and E.D.C’s.
Such focus in my opinion multiplies one’s efforts and allows a part time knife maker to work thru and perfect technique and skill at a faster pace than say.. learning to forge a sword, dagger, and bowie within a few months. You might get all those cutting implements built but how good will they be? My money is on the guy who narrows his focus to up his odds at winning . One knife at a time, the next better than the one before it. Enough with the words, lets look at some of A.W. Stovall Custom Knives.
Folders are hard enough to do , but doing folders really well is an art. Like anything, the more moving parts, the increased chances of something going wrong.
Above that, learning folders can be intimidating. So much can go wrong with the geometry, fit, usability of a folder that many knife makers tend to take on the folder when there are no more mountains to climb in the fixed blade category. I wouldn’t go as far as saying just because you don’t make a folder you are not as good as someone who does, but fixed to folder seems to be the natural progression of a knife maker.
I did a quick search and it seems the first folding knives ” known” were made in Austria around 600-500 BC. The next group of individuals to take on the folder were the good old Romans. So people have been losing pocket knives forever!
Ty does an amazing job and his attention to detail is awesome. I won’t go on and on about it. Rather, I would just like to show you some images he has on his Facebook.