Wachtman Knife and Tool – The Knife Junkie Podcast (Episode 383)
Wachtman Knife and Tool’s Alec Wachtman joins Bob “The Knife Junkie” DeMarco on Episode 383 of The Knife Junkie Podcast.
Alec started journey into metal at age 6, loving the blacksmith at Boy Scout outings and scenes of sword forging in the Hobbit movie. His first project was smithing a knife out of aluminum in his grandpa’s fireplace.
Wachtman got his first forge at 13 years old. After many YouTube videos and hours of trial and error, Alec made his first knife out of steel. His mother got him an apprenticeship with a local living history museum blacksmith named John King who taught him much in the coming years.
After a fateful trip to Tennessee, a $200 investment, and a class at Tom and Rick Mohr’s knife shop, Alec’s knife making took a turn for the better. He sold his first knife at 15 and founded Wachtman Knife and Tool in 2019 at 18 years old. Alec’s knives are 100% U.S. made using U.S. material.
Be sure to support The Knife Junkie and get in on the perks of being a Patron — including early access to the podcast and exclusive bonus content. You also can support the Knife Junkie channel with your next knife purchase. Find our affiliate links at theknifejunkie.com/knives.Alec Wachtman of Wachtman Knife and Tool, who started his journey into metal at age 6, is my guest this week on episode 383 of #theknifejunkie #podcast. Alec got his first forge at 13 and hasn't looked back. Click To Tweet
Alec Wachtman, Wachtman Knife And Tool - The Knife Junkie Podcast (Episode 383)
©2023, Bob Demarco
The Knife Junkie Podcast
[0:00] Welcome to the Knife Junkie Podcast, your weekly dose of knife news and information about knives and knife collecting.
Here's your host, Bob the Knife Junkie DeMarco. Welcome to the Knife Junkie Podcast. I'm Bob DeMarco. On this edition of the show, I'm speaking with Alec Wachtman of Wachtman Knife and Tool.
I first got wind of Wachtman in 2021, when as a fixed blade lover in a very folder heavy corner of the knife community, I was thrilled to see Alec emerge with fixed blade knives that were modern and ranged from camp to combat.
[0:40] With panache and purpose.
I got a chance to check out the Wachman knives at Blade Show 2022 and was struck by their easy ergonomics, stylish good looks and wickedly sharp blades.
Alec and his company are young but already making a huge splash. We'll find out how it all began and where it's headed in a minute.
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Alec, welcome to the show.
[1:53] Hey, thanks Bob. Good to be here. That's my pleasure. One thing we were just talking about right before we started rolling is the Ohio in your logo. It warms my heart to see that because I grew up in the state.
So you're one of those Ohio knife makers that more and more popping up and I've spoken to a few here. What is it? Something in the water?
I have no idea. It seems like Ohio, Idaho, and North Carolina are like kind of the three big states for knives and there's more and more popping up in Ohio and I don't know what it is.
Yeah, I love it. Well, okay, so you kind of like I mentioned earlier just kind of appeared to me out of nowhere and with a very strong sort of body of work already.
Tell me how this all started. When did you start making knives and when did this fascination begin?
[2:46] So I decided at around age 13 that I wanted to, the original idea was to, sorry my earbud, The original idea was to make swords for a living.
And at the time I really didn't know anything about metalworking. So I started, you know, picking up every book I could find.
I spent thousands and thousands of hours on YouTube trying to learn more and more about the craft. I ran across some people who to this day are great heroes of mine, like Gabko.
[3:19] Jeremy from Simple Little Life up in Canada.
He's a really great one to watch.
Walter Sorrels, of course, shout out to him.
[3:26] He's like everyone's knife dad. I don't think any of us would be here without his resources. So I basically was raised by knife makers on YouTube.
I'm a product of sort of this information spike that we've had. And so at a very young age, I was practicing skills out in the garage.
I started grinding railroad spike knives with a bench grinder for several years. And it became more and more of an all-consuming obsession.
And I knew that I wanted to do it for a living. And I was kind of sort of learning about marketing and really figuring out like, okay, how am I going to launch my blades as a brand and whatever?
And I was doing that at around maybe 17 or 18. And I was trying a couple things.
I had posted on Instagram and not much was happening. And so finally, in a sort of last act of frustration, I had heard about a platform called Reddit, which everyone here knows what Reddit is.
And for those of you that don't, it's sort of a forum platform, similar to Blade forums, but for more general interest.
And I posted a couple of my blades on there and they exploded. And at the time being like 15 or 16, or no, I'm sorry, I would have been around 18 at the time.
[4:48] No real experience with like having a presence on social media or anything and the response was overwhelming. So there was a couple months there where I was just getting so many requests on Reddit.
[5:02] For my blades and everything and then I sort of had to take a step back actually from my Reddit posting because there were so many people asking me for different blades. I just couldn't
handle them all. So I sort of spent a while away from Reddit, working on all the custom commissions that I got with my time there and sort of honing my skills. And then from there,
I started launching out onto more platforms like I went heavier on Instagram, posted more on Reddit.
And essentially, I've just built the entire brand off of social media. At this point, we haven't and then to a whole ton of shows, really just blade show once or twice.
And I guess I'm getting better because people are starting to take notice of my work, which is nice.
Well, what were those first knives like? ones you first posted on Reddit that got such attention.
So, they were a lot of earlier versions of some of my more current designs. So the ED-E2, this is a current generation or well, 2023 ED-E2 that will be coming out.
This is in crew wear at 63, 64 Rockwell somewhere in there with an orange G10 handle. The text drawn here is our Van Halen frag that we're releasing at the end of January with our next restock.
[6:26] So it was an earlier iteration of that that I posted a couple older variations of our Raptor pattern. Here's a blade.
This is an older Raptor blade. So it's got sort of a Persian style blade shape. This one's stone textured and it's got a finger ring.
So this was meant sort of for plate carriers. I have a lot of guys in law enforcement who have them on belts and vests and such. So there was stuff like that. the Eddie 2, I had a couple of customs, there was a Tonto model I posted.
And for whatever reason, I'm honestly not sure why, maybe it was because of my design work, because at the time my fit and finish was really not, not up to snuff, they kind of looked ugly.
So I hope that it was just off the basis of my designs. I'd like to think that maybe my designs were that attractive.
[7:17] Um, but yeah, and then the rest is kind of history and I've sort of just built it up from there and now I'm here.
So it seems like you have a love for business too. It seems like that's, if not a love, you pay a close and special attention to it.
Seemingly, I have a feeling that in the sort of creative fields like knife making, it can be easy to get lost in your work and not want to deal with the business growing side of things.
But obviously that's essential or you won't be a knife maker for long.
So you basically had an interest in marketing at age 17. Did this just spawn organically out of being someone who grew up with the internet and all of that?
[8:02] Well, so I've always been pretty entrepreneurial minded and I was homeschooled, so my parents started fostering sort of those passions at a very young age.
So I did get involved in like classes and such related to marketing. I took like college credit plus classes on marketing. So I was going to even going to school for that at like, yeah, 17 or 18.
[8:29] And then from there, I sort of just put it into practice a little bit. I've spent pretty much half of my life now studying knife makers, their careers, the pitfalls that they have had in the past.
And so I've spent a very long time trying to educate myself on how things work in this world that I'm so interested in. And I've always wanted to be a success in this sphere.
So I've really thrown everything I have at it. That's like talking about young chess masters who have, who are arguably better than the
chess masters that came before them because they had the benefit of all of their games to study to become better, greater earlier. Yeah, I always thought that was kind of an interesting concept, but that's what you've got. Well, that's what we all have. But this.
[9:24] Day and age, you can actually tap into their stories somewhat easily and you already have the self-education instinct baked in.
So you're good to go seemingly. Okay, so it came from an early love desire to make swords for a living.
That is interesting because you don't hear that from too many kids. What do you want to be when you want to be an astronaut, race car driver, you know, businessman if it gets me rich.
But you rarely hear professional sword maker. Where did that come from? I blame the Lord of the Rings and just being young and impressionable.
Like really, that's kind of what it is around that time.
The Hobbit films were coming out and I was just sort of entranced by those Dwarven forges in the really big scenes where they felt like the two hammers smashing into their work pieces or whatever it was.
[10:19] I also at even younger, maybe like five or six, there was a local Maple Surfer Festival
that we had at a Boy Scout camp, and there was a blacksmith there who would make nails. So I was always fascinated by that. And then we had the stuff with the Tolkien series coming out. And from there, my mom was like, Oh, you have an interest in this. Let's,
see where this goes. And she actually found me apprenticeships at places like the Ohio village.
I've done stuff with several historical societies in the past. I was basically an apprentice blacksmith for several years wearing like, I think it was at the time they're portraying 1890s,
living. So I had like these trousers and the slouched hat and the button down and suspenders.
And I was blacksmithing at this huge like coal forge. It was built into the building. It was all historical extant pieces that we were using. So it was really cool. And I got a lot of education
there in the blacksmithing realm. And then I started to get more educated in actual metallurgy and machining and precision with my investigation into YouTube and.
[11:36] Laid forums was pretty helpful, obviously. Lots of stuff on there.
If you go to wachmanknifentool.com, you can see a picture of you in that forage, in that outfit. It's actually pretty funny.
Looking exhausted, yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah, looking totally, totally wrung out. So this is an interesting question, because I always wondered and then sort of learned over time, but the difference between a blacksmith,
and a bladesmith, you said you were apprenticing with a blacksmith and doing blacksmith stuff for a long time. That is making tools, right? Making horseshoes and that kind of thing. How does that differ from bladesmithing? Yeah, so I mean, bladesmithing is just essentially a very, very,
very specialized form of blacksmithing is all it is. Blacksmithing for centuries has just been,
and the art of beating heated metal into a shape that you need at the time.
And so bladesmithing is sort of a...
[12:33] Specialized discipline of that. So when I do say when I say I was blacksmithing, I really was blacksmithing I was doing things like making s hooks and.
[12:44] Like decorative Christmas ornaments and key chains and stuff like that And then I started to dabble a little bit in making knives So I would do things like beat up barriers rasps until they resemble the knife like object Or I, again, I did stuff with railroad spikes.
I think I mentioned that earlier. Rebar knives was definitely something I did.
Lawnmower blades. I started reading the $50 Knife Shop by Wayne Goddard around that time. And so I got a lot of ideas about that sort of, I think he called it neo-tribal bladesmithing,
which is basically just taking high carbon junk steel and turning it into a knife, which is super cool. And I think it's great for recycling purposes. But as I got more obsessed
with performance, and I started looking at all these guys who were making like custom folders, like, like I mentioned, gap co, there was Grimm's Mo, of course. And they were talking
about like edge geometry and precision and surface grinding and all this heat treating protocol and everything. And so naturally, my curiosity just kept going. And I learned more and more and more. And now I'm playing with CPM steals all day rather than bars of 1084.
[14:06] Right. It seems like, you know, if you get to a point where you're, you know, adept at making blades. Blacksmithing, though, a very much a specialized skill and craft that's important
and was certainly really important and key central at one point in time. It's a lot more primitive in a way than what you're doing, dealing with fine steels and going for high,
performance and high precision. Do you forge today? How does that work into where you've taken,
knife making now? So right now, with the age that I'm at, I'm sort of at a stage where I need to think about, you know, I still live at home too. I'm still with my parents. I'm 21. So I need to
start thinking about, you know, moving out and starting sort of my own independent life. And I I would like to do that by way of knife making and right now one of the most effective ways,
to do that.
[15:13] Is this sort of precision stock removal knife making. I do have plans to get back into bladesmithing.
I would like to get my ABS Master Smith certification at some point. That's definitely a goal of mine down the road. But for now, I'm definitely focused more on the machine and manufacturing side.
[15:32] Right, right. That's the viable business way of going about knife making. And then to have that skill and to have that knowledge and background in forging makes you a double threat.
You know, like the actors are triple threats who can dance, sing and act, I guess.
And to me, that sets up someone who has a knife company to be in a great spot because down the road, maybe you hire people to be working on some of the things that are, whose processes are kind of well grooved in,
like making these kind of stock removal precision knives.
And then you get to do some foraging and make some sort of higher value collector pieces and that kind of thing.
That's, I think the beauty of having that flexibility.
[16:21] Yeah, yeah, that's absolutely the plan. We are actually expanding our shop capacity by about four times what it is right now.
We have, currently we're in like one of like an eight or nine day garage complex.
So we have this one day that we've been working out of and we're planning on expanding into all the next phase.
And then we're actually going to start thinking about hiring, uh, just for simple manufacturing jobs as we've progressed and as our processes have gotten more refined, a lot of the stuff for the stock removal is getting a lot more automated and it's a lot easier to show other people who might not have.
[17:02] Come from this sort of world how to perform adequately in a workshop environment.
[17:09] It's interesting from the way you've presented the company over the past two years and from the look of your knives and the feel of them the one time I experienced them at Blade Show.
[17:20] It seems as if you're working with a bigger operation frankly and that's a compliment because the work is very refined and it seems like your, I don't know, your whole company and everything seems to be humming nicely.
At least that's how you presented yourself at Blade Show.
I was pretty impressed. So let me ask you about the knives themselves now, the ones you're making, the ones that you can see on the website. site.
Overall, before we get to specific models, what are your goals with the knives you're making? Does each one have a different purpose and how does that work when you design?
Yeah, so normally when I'm designing a knife, if it's for WKT specifically, I'll usually have a use case in mind.
So we have stuff that's more EDC oriented. We have stuff that I did a lot of bush crafting when I was younger.
So I've always had a certain passion for camp knives. So we have some of that. We even have a chopper. We've got some tactical knives.
[18:35] So we try and do a little bit of everything to sort of reach as many people in the market as possible. But if I'm doing customs, because custom commissions is another really big part of our business that we do,
is like these high-end, very industry standard type custom commissions,
it's always use case oriented and it's usually very, very specific to one or two different applications.
So I even ask people for like hand and digit measurements to size specifically to their hands.
So we do try and create knives for a purpose. Not a whole lot around here is necessarily always done just for artistic appeal.
Sure, so when you do these customs that you're talking about, my imagination of course went to, you know, military specialists and, or hunters, you know,
but really I'm thinking military law enforcement.
It seems like...
[19:41] Seems like there are a lot of applications that you might want to have some some of your own. I've been out there and X Y & Z works for me. Can you do this? Is that the kind of thing you get those kind of design parameters?
I need something that can stab really well or I need something that can cut through a Seatbelt very well or that kind of thing. So some of it is that I think at this point though
A lot of it is I have a bit of a following now and people have been watching my knives for so long They're sort of just enthusiasts and they're like, oh, it would be really cool if you made
X blade but make the handle two inches longer. So it's a lot of stuff like that, more than it is necessarily like a special forces operative coming to me for like a deployment knife. Although I have had that happen before. And that's been the impetus for a lot of really great designs.
For example, the Raptor profile was actually incited by an officer coming to me and he asked for a karambit, I think, but I reversed the blade because at the time I A, didn't want to grind
recurves and B, if you have a karambit and you're slashing at clothing rather than soft flesh,
I thought it could have a tendency to get caught. So I experimented with this sort of Persian profile. And it's worked really well. And now I do grind a recurve version of it, but.
[21:07] It's a reverse edge. This is my re-curve model. And this is kind of only available through our Signature Series line. We don't offer a production one of these at this time. This This is an AEBL at 60 to 61 Rockwell.
It's got like a sub.
[21:25] Five thou? No, no, no. Sub-thou edge. So it's extremely thin and very slicey. Wow. I am a real sucker for Piccol knives. I have a small but growing collection.
And when I saw recently, I feel like it was recently, I saw you grinding that inner edge.
Oh, he's turning it into a karambit. Has that been out of any sort of popular demand? or is that just something you were experimenting with, wanted to check out?
[21:55] So the original reverse edge knife that I made was kind of just for fun.
I had seen other people doing it before and I was like, oh, this is interesting. Let me see what I can do to sort of match this.
And it sort of evolved from there. And now I'm actually quite fond of them. I enjoy carrying reverse edge around sort of as an EDC.
They're quite handy in unconventional ways that you wouldn't think.
Like you wouldn't think having a blade on the spine, like where you should have your thumb would be a good idea.
But as somebody who spent their entire life around knives, I know my way around a sharpened edge. So having it on the back is kind of helpful for things like cutting cordage, or maybe if you have a box and have it upside down and pull towards yourself, stuff like that.
Yeah, I mean, I find Picall knives, if you just reorient them with the edge, how you would normally have it, They work great, like exactly. Yeah.
You know, they actually, that odd curve and angle braces nicely against your palm in that posture.
Before you mentioned that you have begun to introduce some elements that are, of your process, that are more automated. Is that in handle production? And what did you mean by that?
[23:14] Yeah, so I mean, starting out, We did everything handmade start to finish.
So I would order like a chunk of ADCRV2 from Alpha Knife Supplier, wherever. It would come in and then I would trace out all of my designs on that sheet and cut them all by hand with an angle grinder.
[23:35] And then I would profile the blanks on the grinder, of course, very, very traditional, what you would expect from like a knife YouTube build video.
But as I got more and more orders, that quickly became not cost effective at all.
So I've always been passionate about knives, but I've always wanted to do knives specifically as a business. So the business side has always been.
[24:01] Part of my focus. So like I said, it just wasn't like efficient or really working out well at all to cut them all by hand. And I was getting frustrated with precision because
they weren't all coming out the same size. And there were just a lot of obstacles. So I switched to water jetting for that is one example. And then I started getting frustrated
with how much dust there was because I had to grind all of these handles. So I had a lot of help from people in the community, basically gave me a crash course in CAD, CAM.
[24:38] Machining. And I bought my first CNC router and I started CNCing handles. And now I've upgraded to a much larger model and I'm doing all kinds of pattern variations. And CNC handles
has kind of become the standard for the way we do things here. It's a lot faster and it's a lot more precise. So usually we're doing either a CNC handle and just screwing it onto the tang,
or a CNC handle and there's some hand contouring after the fact. Right, just to get the spine,
to match up with the top part of the scale and get it all smooth and I would imagine that's what you're talking about. But I think that that's really great because as soon as you get the,
ergonomics dialed in and exactly how you want it, that is definitely something you might not want to spend time on, you want to spend as much time on the blade as possible, making sure that blade,
is as high performance as possible. So if you can have that other part, I've spoken with one other maker who does it that way, and I love it. I think it makes an incredible amount of sense because,
because it can allow you to,
make a lot more knives in a shorter period of time, but they're all still handmade. They're all, they've all got your, you know, it's.
Yeah, yeah. Just out of curiosity, who are you talking to? I might know them.
[25:56] Strupe, Chris Strupe. Oh, yeah. Chris and I are good friends. He taught me a lot about the business side, actually, when they were getting started. They really blew up very quickly.
And so I, of course, had a lot of questions as somebody who spent most of my life studying other makers and their success stories, I naturally wanted to know how they were doing what they were doing. So Chris and I have talked quite a bit.
[26:22] Yeah, he's a really great guy and also like you has a very robust entrepreneurial spirit.
And it's very interesting because he's not just all about the knives. And that's, you know, that's the reality of it. You can't just be all about the knives.
And actually, I would go so far as to say, creativity and marketing and figuring out how to continually improve your product is what's going to make you more interesting,
more valuable in the long run. Yeah, absolutely.
[26:56] I wanted to ask you, I wanted to back up to something that you mentioned, like, as this is a business and you want it to succeed and you've always approached knives from a business perspective, you want to make knives a successful business, does,
that mean you have to or you personally have to keep up with the trends?
Do you have to kind of keep your eye on what people like and try and bend your style to that or are you trying to bring people to you or is it meeting the audience halfway?
[27:27] So I honestly don't pay a ton of attention to trends. In my mind, there is sort of an ideal for knives. There exists somewhere out there sort of a perfect knife.
And the closer and closer you can get to that, the more people will show up. You can see that with a lot of makers, guys like Peter Rosenti or Gavko or whatever.
They have very, very finely tuned designs, and that's what makes them attractive.
So that's always been my aim rather than keeping up with the latest trend. Although I do a little bit of that with steels, for example, I have a lot of MagnaCut on the way. MagnaCut is a huge deal all of a sudden.
So I have had to do a little bit of that just to stay relevant, but it's really only been in materials rather than design.
That actually seems like a great way to do it. That seems like the best of both worlds.
Because you get to have the cache of having the latest and greatest steel and the coolest materials. but you're sticking to your style and people like you for your style.
[28:48] I've been into knives for many, many years and I've seen many different trends come and go. Some of them stick and become embedded and then others kind of just fade away. So,
I think it's wise to keep your eye on the trend, but never to chase after them. If it works into, like I was mentioning before, Picol-style knives have been a trend for the past two years.
It came organically to your model Reaper model by just sharpening the other side. Right. Yeah. And I was honestly surprised at how natural an extension it was. I mean,
all I really did was this used to be rounded. And so I carved a little saddle into it. And I mean, that was really it. And it adapted fairly well. So yeah, that's sort of always been my philosophy.
I guess you could call it like the spider co-effect. Maybe they have a PM2 for literally every steel out there so that's kind of been more my goal is I.
[29:50] Have designs that I like and I think that if I like them and I like to use them Other people will like them and want to use them as well as always Michael,
With some companies that this this act this topic comes up a bit in conversations I have, but there are companies like Chris Reed knives that very rarely comes out the new model and when they do, they keep improving it for 20 years.
And then there are companies like Tops knives, for instance, who's got a very deep catalog and many, many, many of those knives are available at any given time at a lot of different places.
[30:29] Two very different models. I love both company and I love the products of both companies.
[30:35] Which would you align Wachtman with if you were forced to?
[30:40] So I am very creative and I always have new design ideas, but that doesn't necessarily mean that I'm going to introduce them to our production line. I have had sort of a bit of a struggle in the past with that kind of thing, where I don't want to dilute the brand by having a massive catalog of models and then we become unrecognizable.
But I also don't want to only do one thing.
I want there to still be some level of novelty. I want there to always be something new, something exciting that we can bring to the table.
So the way I've sort of done that has been with our split between we now have a production line and we have our signature series blades.
So the signature series blades are usually very high levels of fit and finish. what you would expect from some higher end custom makers out there.
Um, and, and they usually involve more experimental elements that we might.
Not be fully ready to release, or we might not want to release them at all. And we might want to just keep it to that one piece.
So that signature series line has really been my creative outlet to let all of those new ideas out there.
And then sometimes I'll find something in there that I enjoy and I will pick that sort of out of the mix if you will and maybe add it later down the road.
[32:10] That's also a great R&D resource because you can find out which, oh man, that, by the way, that Desert Striker is just so cool. My eye keeps coming back to that with that little sub tip at the front. You're welcome.
But it seems like a great R&D resource because you can have these things, you know, express yourself as the knife making artist and the ideas that you have. Well, what about this nightmare grind on this tanto?
Like, let's see how that would be.
And people go bonkers for it. you might know, oh, well, this is something that people like and are willing to spend that extra money for to get that grind, because I'm sure that grind is not named Nightmare for no reason.
[32:51] So, you know, you could discover new models from that pool, new production models. Oh yeah, absolutely.
Well, and there's been a couple things, like that's definitely already starting to happen.
This split that we've done, we've only had for maybe the past four to six months. It's been fairly recently, because again, we've only been like online with a presence for maybe the past two years.
[33:18] So I'm sorry, what was I saying? I lost my train of thought. That happens to me all the time. We were talking, you were talking about how you just made the split to Signature.
Right, so we have had that happen already where we have, I've done a variation of something and then I have so many people clamoring for it that I've considered doing a couple now as like full on production runs.
I don't wanna say anything about what they are yet, not to reveal any secrets too early. Most of that will probably be debuting at Blade Show.
But there have been a couple things that we've noticed like, oh, people are surprisingly really into this idea that we didn't know would work.
But yeah, basically if I put out a knife and I have over a certain number of requests to make another one, I will usually at least try and make one or two more on a custom basis. And then from there I might consider production at some point.
[34:15] So just to be clear, when you're talking about custom orders you're talking about custom orders of your models.
Correct? You're not, someone says, oh, I want you to make me a and they send you a picture. You're not making those knives.
You're making custom versions of your knives. Is that right? So I do both.
So I do both. So I have custom versions of my knives, which is sort of like that micro tech model, you might say where they have their production stuff and then they've got their Marfium custom.
So I'm not trying to do like a thousand dollar upcharge for putting my signature on a blade, but it is gonna be a little more expensive because I've spent some more time on it it's usually in better materials.
[34:56] But yet we also do the custom commissions, like I said. So occasionally there are people that come to me and they say, hey, I have this dream knife and I think that you can produce it.
And here's the picture.
Or sometimes they just want me to make them something unique that I haven't made before.
It's not always about they have a design in their head that they want to get out. Sometimes it's about just the connection to the maker.
I've talked to a lot of people in the community where they're talking about these custom makers like they're their best friends, which is so cool to see.
And there's so many awesome relationships that spring out of that. So I want to keep that channel open just to make connections, if nothing else.
It's also a really great way for me to kind of stretch my skills. I'm always looking for the next thing and how I can get better.
I have generations of very well-honed knife makers to look up to and sort of compete with.
I mean, I'm sort of really just competing with myself, but I always have these lofty goals like, oh, I'm gonna be better at free handing than John Sorensen or whatever. Yeah.
[36:10] The ideal is the greatest judge, you know? And actually, you mentioned your ideal knife before or the concept of the ideal knife before the perfect knife.
And I meant to ask you when you were talking about that, what you meant by that and how you would lay that out? How would you define the ideal knife?
[36:31] Yeah, so the whole philosophy of sort of that idealistic blade came into my mind.
[36:39] A couple months ago, I was studying sort of, you know what the golden ratio is, right? The sort of ratio that makes up the human body and it's mirrored in other elements of nature. That rule also applies to design and it's used more commonly, I think, in industrial design than it is for.
[36:58] Pedestrian applications like knife making. So, my goal is to sort of bring that element to my designs, bring a sort of hint of that platonically ideal nature to my designs. And I think that there are other designers that have done it before, they just don't know it.
A lot of the most popular designs out there, some of the most legendary and revered blades do include elements of those golden ratios. And so that's what I'm always chasing after is that ideal.
I have to say that as you're talking about that, one of your knife models popped into my mind and I thought like, if I would associate that concept to any of your knives,
this is the first one that popped into my head and it's, I think you call it the cliff,
but it's a worn cliff that's got a swale for your thumb and it is a really, I don't know, to my eye, it's like one of those designs that's like, okay, that's a perfect design for what it is,
a Warncliffe EDC fixed blade.
[38:04] Yeah, thank you very much. And I mean, that spine does include elements of those sort of, I think they're called the nautilus spirals. So if you take the arcs, you can probably match them up
to some degree on the cliff. I play with those rules rather fast and loose because not everything is going to always rigidly translate to knife making. But even some of my earlier designs before
I was even considering the golden ratio, I went back and I looked at the CAD files of some of my earlier designs just because I was curious to see like, I wonder what makes
this design so special. And I've divided the proportions and they do actually approximately match that idealistic golden ratio. So I thought that was kind of cool.
[38:50] Yeah, that is that is very cool. Actually, I was speaking of it less less specifically about the golden ratio itself and just more like looking at something that is perfectly designed or sometimes you read something that's perfectly written or you know, oh man, I wish I did that.
I wish I drew that. I wish I designed that because it looks perfect to my eye and that's one of those that is one of those knives and that and to me that's what the concept, the abstract concept
of what you're talking about is. Like it might not exactly fit that nautilus spiral at all but something about it is just perfect. Yeah, thank you very much. Well, and that's sort of the
philosophy that I was talking about is I do have a very firm belief that the more a design of any kind adheres to those ratios, the more attractive it's going to be to us as human beings. So what What is your design process?
Do you sit down with a sketchbook or is it all in CAD now? What do you do?
[39:48] So I started out doing sketches on like whatever the spiral bound notebooks are. I did a lot on there when I was younger. And then I went to a trade school and started learning solid works.
I got my CSWA, my Certified Solid Works Associates degree there. So I started doing a lot of designing in CAD once I figured out like, oh, this is a lot easier to create like perfect tangent arcs
on CAD software than it is with my ship's curves and pen and paper and my shaky hands and erasers and everything. That was garbage. So I started doing it in CAD and then I realized, oh hey, CAD isn't just for design. You can make stuff off,
of the software too. And so that's kind of where my foray into feature-based cam and machining came from was that that SOLIDWORKS degree.
Wait, are you saying that you got so bogged down learning how to represent it in the computer world that it dawned on you, oh, and I'm also going to be making knives. It's also going to be spitting out knives on the other end.
Oh, no, not at all. I was just, originally I had approached SOLIDWORKS with very much like, this is a design software. All I do in here is create pictures.
And then I started to learn more about the software. Have you ever used SOLIDWORKS? No, I haven't.
[41:11] No. Oh, okay. So, both SolidWorks and Fusion 360 are sort of the forefront CAD platforms that we have in the industry right now for more pedestrian usage.
[41:25] Within that, you have your design elements, and then you can also go into your manufacturing space, and you can program off of your model. Like, this is where I want my CNC tool path to be,
or I want to clear out this pocket here, or I'm going to do a parallel to create this long, continuous, rounded arc. Stuff like that. So I started to learn feature-based cams out of my,
education in the cat world. Man, that's cool. Well, first of all, are you a draftsman at all?
Do you ever express yourself by drawing just for pleasure? Was that something? And the reason I ask is, I know a number of people who design first with pencil because they can get some sort of
expressive body representation out and then they import it into that world. Is that anything that that you can relate to?
[42:21] So I've done that before and initially, I had a lot of issues with, like I would design something in CAD and I would think it was a different size than it actually was in real life.
And that became a problem. I had a lot of parts where I got it back from WaterJet and I thought, oh, this is supposed to be three times as big as it is in my hand right now.
And then I go back and check the measurements And I'm like, no, that actually is correct. I just wasn't thinking about it correctly.
[42:51] So after a while, I started to develop a formula for sort of rip width across the knuckles here, rip width across the knuckles here, the width from digit to digit, taking average widths.
And I sort of developed a mathematical formula for how to create sort of that ideal handle that's gonna fit in most people's hands.
[43:14] So what I was getting at, we were talking about, you were talking about how you have a mathematical.
[43:22] Equation set up for kind of the perfect handle size. And I was telling you that I think it's pretty interesting because when I get a new knife,
especially what I'm excited about, I have a couple of people at work that I show it off to, A, because they like knives, but B, because a couple of them have immense hands.
And oftentimes I'm convinced that the ergonomics are great, but I'm like, what about larger hands? because my hands just fit.
[43:45] And it is amazing, there are some knives where I'm convinced this is gonna be uncomfortable for this guy, and yet to them, you know, it works. So I'm interested in this formula you've come up with.
That's a cool way to operate.
[43:59] Yeah, so unfortunately the formula is for a much more average hand size, and I've started to realize that in the knife community, we have a surplus of guys with massive hands.
So I've considered updating it and there is a possibility that we might release like an extra large version of some of the more popular models at some point down the road.
I have no idea when that would happen. We have a lot of other projects in the queue right now, but I have been thinking about it because we occasionally have complaints,
especially with knives like the Raptor where it fits my hand perfectly,
exactly how I would want this knife to fit my hand, but it doesn't fit, say the guy down the street's hand, his fingers might be a little larger than mine.
So that has been a consideration. Most of the time we usually handle stuff like that through our customs department.
And we just ask people for hand measurements and ring size and whatever, and then we can make something completely to your spec specifically.
There has been a growing trend that I'm sure you're aware of and your knives, some of them seem to fit in that,
but it's the EDC and even more than EDC because I carry a fixed blade every day, but in my waistband, I'm talking about in the pocket.
[45:24] Fixed blades.
What do you feel about those? What uh...
What knives do you have that might fit in that realm? Yeah, so I mean, I think pocket carry is a great way to carry a smaller fixed blade, and we have a plethora of blades that work for pockets.
Personally, I carry an Eddy II in my pocket every once in a while. I also carry Raptors and Cliffs. They're all very pocketable sizes,
And normally when I have them in my pocket, I kind of forget they're there.
They're kind of long and thin and they disappear pretty easily, especially if you're wearing a larger pocket size like jeans or something.
It has definitely made it interesting that that pocket carry trend I've thought about creating. Actually, I have one or two designs that are even smaller than what we've got currently to,
to cater even more to that demographic, those people just wanting to shove something in their pocket and be on their way.
[46:31] Yeah, yeah, it's interesting. I think it's a gateway drug, basically, because a lot of people really want to love fixed blades, but they don't see how it can integrate into their lifestyle on their belt or.
Yeah, getting them comfortable with it a little at the time. Yeah.
Increasing the blade length by increments. Exactly, yes, yes, yes, yes.
That's how we're gonna do it, to get this revolution going. The utility knife you just had out in your hand, let's talk about this for a second.
You've shown it a couple of times, and I know this one is in a new dress that we can talk about, but I'm very interested in the blade, the Eddy II. looks like it's a hollow ground, Hello ground drop point just,
basic universal blade. Let's talk about this thing. Yeah. So like you said, this is our Eddie to model.
So it's about eight inches overall. The blade is just a tad under three inches to make it legal in those pesky places where for some reason you can't carry longer than a three inch blade.
[47:36] This particular one is in crew where I think I mentioned that before it around 60, 64 Rockwell.
And this particular one is hollow ground with a what I call a weighted edge. I don't know if you guys can see that there.
[47:50] So this one, this one I did some testing on it hit the hardened face of my anvil here. So it's got some edge deformation as is expected with extremely thin hard crew wear.
But this has what I call weighted edge. So down at the bottom here, it's roughly 15 thou behind the edge and then going up towards the tip, it's a little more robust at around 25. And I do that because when I use knives, I have
to abuse them a little bit. And so there's been this growing trend of where people want these super hard, super thin knives. But for what I use a knife for, that's not going to work. Sometimes I need to beat ups on something. I might need to do a little bit of prying. I might need to,
cut through something maybe a knife isn't supposed to cut through. So I try and strike a good balance between having that cutting performance but also a little more edge durability than what you might
see from the more prominent people doing like 940 degree blades these days. Yeah, yeah the the the super thin super high hardness blades they're exciting yeah in the way a straight razor is
exciting or a Lamborghini but as your daily driver it might be difficult you know to have it do everything you need it to do and you know you can probably get something a little bit more robust that will take care of your all of your daily needs there but there is something to be said for that.
[49:19] That super, super thin blade, but I just drop them all. I drop those knives always on the tip. Yeah.
So. And did this happen half because they're like 69 Rockwell and fully hard? Yeah. Yeah. Yep. Basically.
[49:35] Testing. I want to talk about testing. I love that you just showed off on that Eddie two, the deformation, because when you held it up, I was like, I just, I guess I naturally saw it because when you brought my attention to it, I said, Oh yeah, yeah, I can see that.
[49:49] I love this. So you took this beautiful knife and you whacked it against your anvil. How do you test these and make sure that they live up to your performance standards?
Oh yeah, I beat the snot out of pretty much everything.
[50:03] So I hadn't done a whole ton of crew wear and it was just kind of curious to see how it would perform.
So I had that 82 blank and I ground it solely for testing. That's actually kind of our test blank for 2023.
Later, it's gonna be sent off to a DLC provider I'm working with to see about getting some blades coated that's going in for sort of a test finish just to see what it's like.
I really apologize to anybody there if my grinds were slightly unparalleled in the grit lines. That was a very rough pass that I did with like a 160 Trizac.
That's getting a sandblast finish. So we won't see any of those grit marks after that. But in terms of testing...
[50:49] You want the specifics of what I do? Yeah, I'm curious what always curious what people go through to make sure that what they're sending out is worthy of their name. Okay, yeah. So growing up, I was always a fan of those really wild testing videos that like Miller Brothers blades put out or tactical pterodactyl where he destroyed the Nokia phone.
There's others too, Swamp Rat or well, the Bussie. How do you pronounce that? Bussie?
Bussie. Bussie? All right. I always heard Bussie, not Bussie.
[51:25] It's Bussin'. The Bussie Knife Company. However you say that, I feel really bad for them as a company. I'm sure they've gotten some mean remarks.
But anyway, they've posted a lot of stuff with Swamp Rat knife works back in the early 2000s, I believe. So that's sort of what I do actually in the shop.
I'm cutting through a lot of copper, aluminum, some like conduit tubing.
I used to back in the old shop, I used to chop through bricks. I was doing for ADCRB2 testing just to see how it would hold up.
I've done some pry testing a couple days ago. I was stabbing through a toaster oven,
just to test my penetration, like the edge geometry for Tontos, just to see like how thin of a tip I could get away with before it started to break.
So it's a lot of stuff like that, like testing your knives to failure. I'm less interested in.
[52:28] I'm less interested in spending a crap load of time to create that perfect burr on the edge to like split hairs in half as much as I am figuring out when a knife is going to break.
Yeah, and it seems like the responsible thing to do if you're making camp knives and you're making, you know, Well, certainly if you're making tactical knives.
Well, yeah, of course, we have we have people that are out there that could possibly be betting their lives on our blades. So it's definitely up to me to make sure that a lot of that.
Well, all of what's coming out of here is up to our quality standards.
[53:09] And that's been a really big source of, quite frankly, anxiety for me over the past couple of years is like hoping that everything performs the way it's supposed to getting sent off, because you don't always know what that blade's it's gonna encounter.
[53:23] Yep, yep, but like you mentioned before, so much of this, well, knife community, especially people who are getting your knives, it's about the maker and really trusting and liking the maker.
So I'm sure people have an understanding that if they have one of your knives and it fails in one way or another, you're gonna back it up.
Oh yeah, of course. That's how companies like yours succeed. As you consider the future, I know you have a couple of fish to fry,
before you consider this, but as you consider the future and growing, what would it take for an individual to be brought into the fold and be entrusted making a Wok Moon knife?
[54:10] So it would depend pretty greatly in what capacity they were making blades.
Are you talking about taking a class here making knives for our shop. Making knives for your shop. Oh, oh. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Now I'm going to trust this guy to make my knives. Yeah, so nobody's grinding any of my blades other than me. I'm very,
very passionate about freehand grinding specifically. That's what I've grown up doing.
I have a great respect for people who are excellent at it and I strive to be as good, if not better than them every single day I'm in the shop. So no one will ever be touching a blade to the grinder,
for Wachsman knife and tool unless it's me. But we are starting to investigate more.
[55:01] Standard methods of producing our production knives such as CNC manufacturing. So stuff like that is pretty easy to hire somebody teach them how to screw knives into a jig and then push a,
button is really all they have to do. So something like that wouldn't have a very long onboarding session, maybe four weeks, but for somebody to be grinding blades, I mean...
[55:26] Years thousands and thousands of blades they wouldn't it would be kind of like an apprentice thing Where like you live with me for 15 years and then if I think you're good enough you can.
[55:39] Grind blades But yeah, it's it's not gonna happen anytime soon Okay, okay. All right. So that then then that that definitely shapes my last question is What do you want to see Wachtman knife and tool grow into?
To, you know, when you're ready to hang up your hat, what do you want it to have been?
[55:58] Yeah, so I mean, part of my design for Wachtman Knife & Tool is partly shaped by what I've always wanted it to be, which is a larger, successful knife manufacturer, that my end goal is for it
it to run on its own. One day I will be in a much lesser capacity at the company. There will be somebody managing more of the production line. And then my dream is to kind of just
walk into the shop every couple of days and make a knife for, I don't know, the signature series line will become very, very small and selective from there on out. But yeah, my
My end goal is to have sort of a larger manufacturing company, both for my stuff and then one day I want to become one of the first US OEM people that are sort of coming out of the woodwork
now that China has become so prevalent with, you know, like Riat and Best Tech and all those designs getting over there.
Now becoming a market for these high quality, high end CNC manufactured knives coming out of the US as well.
So my aim is to be one of them. That right there, a US OEM is so hugely in demand, especially one that can actually make it work.
It's a very difficult thing to compete with a Chinese OEM and everyone's looking forward to it.
[57:27] Have been excited recently about some recent drops. And then it's just, man, we're waiting.
[57:35] Come along Alec and make that happen because that'll be awesome. I can't wait to buy everything from the United States. But as my name says, being a junkie does not allow that.
Exactly. Sort of a slave to the addiction.
Yeah. Yeah, sort of. But this is how I justify it. Right. Alec, I want to thank you for coming on. I really appreciate your time and learning about your knives. I've been admiring them from afar. That's got to change for sure.
I really appreciate you coming on, sir.
Yeah, thank you so much. And I'd be happy to ship you one at some point. Awesome, man.
All right. Thank you very much. And we'll talk to you soon. Of course, we'll see ya.
[58:18] Visit the Knife Junkie online at thenifejunkie.com. There he goes, ladies and gentlemen, Alec Wachtman of Wachtman Knife and Tool, working on the ideal knife out there, and it looks like he's got a great start on a good many of them.
I have some more questions to ask him, actually, and we're going to get to that in the Patreon exclusive section here in a minute. Go over to thenifejunkie.com slash Patreon if you want to check out the other things I've been asking.
Alright, for Jim working his magic behind the switcher, I'm Bob DeMarco saying be sure to tune in Wednesday, Thursday, and of course, every Sunday right here.
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