American Blade Works – The Knife Junkie Podcast (Episode 436)
Michael Martin of American Blade Works (ABW) joins Bob “The Knife Junkie” DeMarco on Episode 436 of The Knife Junkie Podcast.
Michael started American Blade Works at his home in North Carolina and is devoted to constant quality improvement in design and build. A quintessential small business, American Blade Works is a one-man shop, though his wife plays an important role in the business.
American Blade Works makes some of the most refined and respected CNC-made small-batch knives in the U.S.
The ABW Model 1 went through six design and prototype phases, each one sent out for critique, before finalizing the design. The ABW Model 1 V6 is a regular production model for the company, offering a drop point or wharncliffe blade with G10, Micarta and Ultem handle scales.
The ABW Model 2 is a full titanium liner lock with aesthetic and utilitarian milling, amazing action and an astoundingly sharp Magnacut Sheepsfoot blade. ABW also now offers a fixed blade called Fixed Blade, an 8.0″ overall Magnacut drop point with micarta handles and leather sheath.
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.Michael Martin of American Blade Works (ABW) joins The Knife Junkie on Episode 436 of #theknifejunkie #podcast to talk about his ABW Model 1, Model 2, and the ABW Fixed Blade. Click To Tweet
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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.
Bob DeMarco [00:00:16]:
Welcome to the Knife Junkie Podcast. I'm your host, Bob DeMarco. On this edition of the show, I'm speaking with no stranger to the show, michael Martin of American Bladeworks. American Bladeworks is known for making small batches of CNC assisted handmade knives that go through painstaking R and D to come to fruition. For example, the American Bladeworks model one went through five design iterations before Michael was happy to call the design finished on version six. Similarly, his model two saw a number of versions before it hit the market. American Bladeworks is a respected favorite of knife lovers, not only for its dedication to constant quality improvement, but for its no nonsense knives that look good, feel good in hand, and perform spectacularly. We'll find out what's new with American Blade works. But first, be sure to like, comment, subscribe and share the show. That's a great way to help the show. Share it with a friend that you think might be interested. And as always, you can check out what we have to offer on Patreon. Quickest way to do that is to head over to theknifejunkie.com Slash Patreon. Again. That's theknifejunkie.com slash patreon.
Discover how you can run your own six, seven, or even eight figure business entirely on this one simple platform, theknifejunkie.com/demo. Subscribe to the Knife Junkies YouTube firstname.lastname@example.org/YouTube.
Bob DeMarco [00:01:37]:
Michael welcome back to the Knife Junkie podcast. Great to see you, sir.
Michael Martin [00:01:40]:
Great to see you. Thank you.
Bob DeMarco [00:01:42]:
It's my pleasure. So last time I saw you was kind of the annual blade show time. I get to see you shake your hand and find out what's new. How was your blade show this year?
Michael Martin [00:01:54]:
It was great. We did very well at the blade show. We introduced a couple of new items. We haven't made the model two in a little while, so we started those up again and then also did a new Warren Cliff model one as well as a fixed blade.
Bob DeMarco [00:02:11]:
Yeah, I was loving the fixed blade. Well, it's very edcable, let me put it that way. It's right up my alley in terms of size three and a half inch and eight inch overall, I believe.
Michael Martin [00:02:27]:
Yes, I have one.
Bob DeMarco [00:02:28]:
Oh, let's see it. Yes. I am loving this. Well, let's jump right into it. Tell me about this fixed blade. I mean, we're going to talk all about the model one and the model two, because I recently acquired a model two that you gave me. Thank you so much. And it is so amazing, and I will wax poetic about it in a while. But since you were just holding up the fixed blade, hold it up again. You're really known for your folders. What inspired this?
Michael Martin [00:03:04]:
Well, we wanted to do something a little different for the blade show. I've had a couple of people reach out and ask about a fixed blade. And you can kind of see from the little tab, it's real similar to the drop point on the bottom one. So we just decided to do a little something different for the knife show. I've made a couple of dozen of these, and people seem to like them a lot. They have a leather sheath or a kidex sheath as well. And so it's just something new for the lineup.
Bob DeMarco [00:03:39]:
Well, as someone who spends his time making folders, which are relatively complex pieces of cutlery, you've got to dial everything about that design into the very smallest degree. And I'm not saying you wouldn't approach fixed blades the same way, but does working on a fixed blade kind of free you up a little bit?
Michael Martin [00:04:02]:
It actually does. The fixed blade is very easy to manufacture, so it does free us up to do other things. And again, it's just something that we'll probably do a couple of dozen a month and see how people like them. So far, the feedback has been great.
Bob DeMarco [00:04:22]:
What have you been hearing about them?
Michael Martin [00:04:26]:
We sold, I think, a few on our website. Most of them, the sales come from The Blade Show and everyone that I mean, I brought a dozen for The Blade Show and sold out at The Blade Show, and so everybody seemed to like it. We offer it in a black macarta as well as a brown macarta handle on it, and people seem to like it. It is magna cut. And so that's a big plus. I know Magna Cut is very popular now, so we definitely like to get that out there for everybody.
Bob DeMarco [00:04:57]:
Okay, well, you brought it up, sir. Magna Cut. This is my model, too. I'm in love with this knife. This is my first knife in Magna Cut, which is, I don't know, seems kind of strange because it's been out for a while and I do tend to acquire a lot of knives. But this is the first one in Magna Cut, and I'm very excited about this because you have a reputation for doing Magna Cut. Right. Tell me about how your heat treat, because a lot of people were a little squeamish about bringing it up to where it belongs. Tell me about your magna cut experience.
Michael Martin [00:05:41]:
Well, the Magna Cut, we usually do all of our heat treat in house. But with the Magna Cut, it's to get it on up there people like it to be. And we try to get it to a Rockwell 64. So these we actually sent out to Peter's heat Treat. And he does such a great job with these, and he gets that spot on. We've gotten so busy that it's real hard to keep up with the heat treating in the house. And with the Magnaca, it does benefit to be a vacuum heat treat process. And so that's something we cannot do in house. And so we had to send those out. But we get all the blades that we get sent back, we have them double checked and they are at 64 Rockwell.
Bob DeMarco [00:06:26]:
So different process in the vacuum heat treat, but also capacity. Capacity is an issue. Is that what I was getting from what you were saying?
Michael Martin [00:06:36]:
Yes, it takes me basically all day to heat treat about 25 blades. And so we're actually increased production quite a bit. And so now we're doing 100 and 5200 knives a month and I just can't keep up with the capacity. So we had to send those out.
Bob DeMarco [00:06:55]:
Wow, that's a great problem to have a and B, a great solution. Peter's heat treat is well respected and know throughout the knife world for the great work they do. And I guess I can see why companies might be squeamish about taking Magna Cut up really high. It might get brittle, who knows? Everyone was at the time pretty new to it. And also I would imagine you go through expendables like belts and stuff like that a lot more. What's that like working with Magna Cut steel?
Michael Martin [00:07:32]:
The Magna Cut is actually a whole lot easier to machine and manufacture. I actually get about 20% more on the CNC side as far as tooling on cutting tools, end mills and things like that. So it's actually machines a whole lot better than the 20 CV and stuff I've used in the past.
Bob DeMarco [00:07:54]:
Wait, I'm sorry, I don't understand. What do you mean you get 20% more? What do you mean?
Michael Martin [00:07:59]:
As far as consumables cutting tools, the magnetic cut, I end up getting about 20% more knives done per end mill or per cutter. And so it's a whole lot easier. The machine and the tools last longer, so I get more knives per cutter.
Bob DeMarco [00:08:16]:
Okay, I'm getting you. So the fact that it's at 64 doesn't matter? Or are you doing all of the grinding of the Magna Cut first?
Michael Martin [00:08:26]:
We do all the grinding and all the machine work first and then we'll send it out and have it heat treated and then we'll do a finished grind when it comes back.
Bob DeMarco [00:08:35]:
Okay, so I want to talk again, I want to talk about the two in particular, but I want to catch people up. Maybe they didn't hear episode 148 when you first came on, or maybe they weren't with us during the town hall that you were on, but tell us a little bit about how you got here. You haven't always been a knife maker. Tell us how you became a knife maker and what it was like kind of crossing over into making this your life.
Michael Martin [00:09:03]:
Well, I've been a machinist my entire life. I've been in manufacturing for over it's probably been 27, 28 years now. And so I worked at a large manufacturing company that made parts for just about everybody. It was just a large contract manufacturer. So I have a lot of experience in machining and then I bought my first small CNC machine. It's actually the one that you can see behind me. I bought it five years ago and mainly started making knives as a hobby. The first year I had the machine, I only made twelve. The second year I made 40. Wow. Then the third year, it kind of blowed up and I made 80 in the spring. And a knife reviewer on YouTube got a hold of one and he didn't like it, so he suggested a bunch of changes. And in about two weeks, I sent him a new knife and he absolutely loved it. Did a great update on the review, and I give him a date as to when the knives that I made would be on the website and I sold them out in about 90 seconds. Wow. The rest has kind of been history. It's just been booming ever since. We were doing 50 knives a month and it was just mainly myself. And then my daughter was in college. She helped me a lot and so we did that for a while. And now my wife, she's been a financial advisor for over 16 years. She left her full time job to help me full time. And so we've added machines, we've expanded. So now we're doing anywhere between 150 to 200 per month, and we're actually looking into expanding into a bigger building. It's always growing.
Bob DeMarco [00:10:57]:
Wow. That is great. That's the dream right there. It's sort of a seamless. I don't want to say seamless, I can't assume that, but it's a really nice transition to the point where the whole family is invested. That's really exciting. But you just jumped straight into folders.
Michael Martin [00:11:17]:
Yes. My original model one was the very first folder I ever made, and we just kind of improved everything on that. I mean, right now we're up to the version six and I think that's going to be my final version. I got it. So we're always constantly improving, but no major changes on the V sixes.
Bob DeMarco [00:11:40]:
It's unusual. This is a version five. I love it. I'm not exactly at this point, to me, it's picking knits between this and the six. This is such an amazing knife. I love it. But what I was going to say is that's been part of your sort of brand identity, is your flexibility, your nimbleness, your willingness to listen. Six versions to get to the perfect design of this, that's impressive. It also shows a real lack of ego and desire to just make the best knife. What's it like receiving criticism time and time again?
Michael Martin [00:12:21]:
I actually like the criticism. I take it very well. Just because I think something's good doesn't mean that the mass population thinks it's good. So I love hearing from customers, I love getting feedback, and if there's ever a problem, I address it. And so we're always changing and always taking in feedback. And even at the knife shows, when I talk to people if they have suggestions, I'm always willing to listen and implement them if I have to. I'm always trying to make a better product.
Bob DeMarco [00:12:51]:
So the model one, this is version five. So you went from this to a version six. What were the changes that perfected this design from here to there?
Michael Martin [00:13:02]:
The version six? Mostly, all the changes are internal. I redesigned all the lock angles and the lock bar, moved the D Ten ball around. Try to stiffen up the D Ten a little bit. But most of it, from the V Six to the V seven is all internal work.
Bob DeMarco [00:13:20]:
Okay. You mean the v five to the.
Michael Martin [00:13:22]:
V five to v six.
Bob DeMarco [00:13:23]:
Okay. And then you've also added and so you very graciously gifted me this knife. You loaned it to me from Blade Show to check out, and I checked it out, and I fell in love with it. And I asked you how much, and you said it was a gift, and I'm very grateful. And I immediately said, okay, put me on the books for one of these. I want to buy another model one, but I want a version six. And you have a new blade shape. Tell us about that.
Michael Martin [00:13:49]:
Yes, I actually did. Everybody seems to like it. I did a model one with a warm cliff blade. And this one, you can see, is an Ultim. That's something new we did for the knife Show. And people really enjoy this new. And you can see you can see in the video a little bit this arc along the spine. It just flows right across, and so everything looks really nice on it. So I tried to really pay attention to the lines and how everything flowed together.
Bob DeMarco [00:14:30]:
It is beautiful. It's a very nice warren cliff blade. That's one of my favorite blade shapes. Then again, every blade shape is my favorite. But Warn cliffs especially warm the cockles of my heart. But I like the way you took that slope very gradually, and it comes to a bit more of a thrusting point, say, than a sheep's foot like this. And I love this sheep's foot blade, by the way. Also, the next batch you make of the model ones with the Warncliffe, I'm going to be adding that to my collection. I really look forward to checking out the differences. I did see in the one you were just holding up the Ultim that you can swap the clip from side to side on the new one. Yes. So tell me about Ultim and what's the deal with that material? Everyone's, like, going nuts over it. I like it. I like the amber shade of it, but what's the benefit?
Michael Martin [00:15:28]:
Actually, everybody kind of jumped on board with it, to be honest with you. I don't know a lot about the material. It got suggested to me that I should make some of them. When I originally made it, I really didn't like it. It is transparent. You can see through it, you can see the internals. But the more I messed with it, the more it growed on me. Yeah, it was just kind of what the market says. Everybody kind of wanted it, and I had a couple of people suggest it. And so I was like, yeah, sure. So I made some for the blade show, and that was actually the first time I sold all of the Hulk them out the very first day.
Bob DeMarco [00:16:08]:
That's interesting. So, I mean, it pays to pay attention to the trends. If bending to the trends doesn't in any way compromise your work, and if it's a material choice like Ultim, which is attractive and it's cool to show off the internals too, I would imagine there's a bit of pride. In showing off the guts of this knife, because you spend a lot of time on designing that and perfecting that. In a way, you get to show it off there.
Michael Martin [00:16:38]:
Yeah. Again, when I first machined it and first did it, I was kind of like, yeah, it's something different. And then seeing the internals is kind of cool, and so it growed on me a lot. Like I said before, when I first bent it, I wasn't sure if I was going to like it. But after I finished up some knives, it really looks great.
Bob DeMarco [00:17:01]:
And so how do you feel about the warm clip? You said people were asking for that. Do you like that blade shape?
Michael Martin [00:17:07]:
Yes, it's actually a little easier to make. It is just a straight edge, and so it is a little easier to make. And a lot of people are asking for the model two and the long cliff, and I keep getting people reaching out for the model two and the wrong cliff. And so I was like, I can make a long cliff and a model one as well. And so that's what I did.
Bob DeMarco [00:17:32]:
I like it. We're all very happy you did. So the model two, let's talk about this. I'm going to tell you my impressions of this knife. First of all, visually, I think it's really beautiful. This is one of those knives that looks really nice closed. I talk about that a lot. To me, this has the I don't know, it touches something in me that reminds me of, like, the 1930s. It's a little Art Deco. It reminds me a bit of a 1930s car or maybe the Chrysler Building in New York City. That horizontal milling and the shape of the handle and even the pocket clip adds to the beauty of this. And it also has a forward locomotive kind of feel to it, too. Now, maybe I'm just going a little bit too deep in my own head, but to me, it's a very beautiful knife. In a way, that the model one I really like, and I think it's also a very handsome knife. But something about this is striking in looks. Tell me about the design inspirations that went into that.
Michael Martin [00:18:47]:
I like clean lines, clean design. I like that the milling, like you were showing it is raised and so it gives you some nice grip when the knife is closed. I made the front of this so that it would line up with the backside of the scales here. And so that transition kind of comes straight along. But it turned out real nice. I really like the milling, and like I say, I like clean lines. And like all my knives, you can see the comparison here. The model one and the model two. Still simple, clean lines, straightforward, nothing too fancy, but I really like them.
Bob DeMarco [00:19:40]:
Oh, yeah, but that's what here. I'm doing the same thing. I'm American blade works stacking for a while, goofy knife guys did this thing called knife stacking, and they would take pictures of knives all stacked up. That's something we don't want to remember. The blade of this knife is one of the sharpest I have. And the funny thing is, when I first got this knife, or when I first used it on cardboard, I thought it was unusually sharp. And I immediately thought, wow, magna cut's. Pretty awesome. And then I thought for a second I was like, wait a second, that's not the Magna Cut. The Magna cut I will say is awesome. When it's cutting 30 days from now, I'll say, wow, Magna Cut is awesome. But right now I'm talking about your geometry and I'm talking about your edge. Tell me about making these blade. What is your process and how do you get them so damn sharp? That's kind of a silly question, but it is astoundingly sharp.
Michael Martin [00:20:48]:
I actually learned over the years to make my behind the edge very thin. And so I do try to start before I even sharpen these. That when they come off the machine. They're about ten thousandths of an inch behind the edge before I even sharpen them. And believe it or not, I sharpen every single one of these by hand on a two x 72 belt grinder. I do it all freehand.
Bob DeMarco [00:21:15]:
It's amazing. I mean, you can see sort of striations going down the blade horizontally. And I assume that that's mill lines.
Michael Martin [00:21:28]:
Yes, that is mill lines. You can see on some of the like, I have a model one that has the step, the step milling. Yes, that knife actually has the same the warm cliff on the model one. And the model two has the same lines, but they're a whole lot closer. So you can see them, but you can't fail them. And so it's a whole lot tighter on the mill pattern. But yeah, these blades are all built.
Bob DeMarco [00:21:58]:
And I like the way those lines, how you kind of retain them. You can still see them. They're very faint, but they follow the lines that are already milled into the handle.
Michael Martin [00:22:10]:
Yeah, I actually could have stonewashed those kind of out. But I felt like that I wanted people to see all the work that I put into it, and so I wanted to kind of leave that. So I did a lot stonewash on it. So you could still see those mill lines.
Bob DeMarco [00:22:24]:
So you're sitting in your shop right now, and we can see a giant machine behind you and then a smaller CNC behind you. Tell us about your process. I set up front CNC assisted handmade. I don't know I don't know if that's the right definition, but that's kind of how you machine your own parts and then you put the knives together. Right. Tell us about your process.
Michael Martin [00:22:48]:
Yes, we machine everything in house except for the screws and the actual bearings and the detain ball. I buy those, but everything else, the pivots, the pivot screws, all the handles, the blades. I surface grind the blades, mill all the blades, mill the handles from just raw materials. Everything, every part on the knife, the back spacers, the pocket clips, everything is machined in house.
Bob DeMarco [00:23:16]:
And then you just assemble them. It's just you, right?
Michael Martin [00:23:20]:
Yes, it's just me and my wife. I sit several days a week. I literally sit at my kitchen table and assemble knives.
Bob DeMarco [00:23:27]:
Okay, so the first time you were here on episode 148, you mentioned that sometimes you and your wife sit at the kitchen table assembling knives. Sometimes it's just but the point is, you touch every single one of these. You don't just touch them. I mean, you make them from scratch. And it's pretty amazing to me. I know a lot of people who are listening to this probably have or might have one of your knives. And it's hard to believe that it's just a one and a half, two person band making these. I say one and a half because I know your wife does other duties, other things with the business. Um, yeah. So how did you so you had the experience of being a machinist. I assume that took care of all the knife building stuff. But how did you learn about building a business?
Michael Martin [00:24:25]:
It's really just trial and error. I don't really know that much about building a business. It's just been the grace of God and we've been successful and a lot of hard work, and it's just mostly just trial and error.
Bob DeMarco [00:24:43]:
Well, I think it was really smart and a very good strategy to get the model one in the hands of I'm not sure who the knife reviewer is you were talking about, but I could probably guess within five people or something like that. But my point is, it was a very good idea to get that in the hands of someone and get your work in the hands of people who are absolute enthusiasts, because you are and you're making these things all by hand. It seems like you had a pretty good idea of how you were going to market these?
Michael Martin [00:25:17]:
Yes. The knife reviewer played a very big role in getting my name out there and actually getting probably you can look up American Blade works on YouTube and find literally dozens and dozens of knife reviews over the past couple of years. And these are experts that handle a lot of knives, and so their expertise is great, especially when they have feedback. Like I say, I love feedback. And so when they tell me, you might want to change this or improve on that, I'll jump right on it. Usually I'll send them an updated version if I've improved on what they've suggested. But, yeah, the YouTube reviewers have made a tremendous amount of difference.
Bob DeMarco [00:26:03]:
So when you handle another company's knives or another person's knives, what are the kind of things you're looking for? I know what you think makes a good knife in your knives, but what do you look for in other people's knives?
Michael Martin [00:26:17]:
Actually, when I look most of the time, being a machinist, the first thing I look for is the machine quality and how much time and effort they put into fit and finish and things like that, because it does go a long ways.
Bob DeMarco [00:26:31]:
Well, what about when you start adding people to the recipe, say, in a couple of years or I don't know, whenever. I don't know what your timeline is, but there comes a time where people just want your knives more than you can just do with what your current setup is, and you bring other people in. How do you control what ends up happening? I guess you really have to train someone. Like an apprentice?
Michael Martin [00:26:59]:
Yes. Right now, I'm working out of a 700 square foot shop that's right behind my house. Me and my wife do everything. She runs all of the machines. She makes parts and helps out tremendously. And we're hoping to grow into a we're looking at a larger building to have built on some property we own, so we're always expanding. I added another couple of machines this year, and hopefully we'll add another machine or two. And then when the time comes to have to hire somebody, I will still be right there in the shop every day and have everything on hand and make sure everything's up to par.
Bob DeMarco [00:27:46]:
Well, forgive me. I misspoke when I said one and a half people making the knives. It sounds like your wife is solidly into the making part also.
Michael Martin [00:27:55]:
Yes. She originally was helping me kind of part time, but all this year, she quit her full time job, helped me full time, and so it's been a tremendous sale, and I keep the machines running, and she runs them, so she knows how to run every machine in our shop.
Bob DeMarco [00:28:15]:
That's awesome. So does your wife have her own design? Any aspirations for making a design herself?
Michael Martin [00:28:24]:
No, we talked about that. She hasn't come up with anything, but I'm sure she could.
Bob DeMarco [00:28:29]:
That's cool. Well, that's great then. That is the ultimate partnership right there. You got someone who's equally invested and who you trust. I always ask people about how do you bring another person? Because there has to be in a lot of companies lives, there's a time where you grow to the point where you're bringing someone in and you got to show them the ropes. And you have to expect some attrition some loss of through just teaching. You're going to burn through some materials while this person is getting ready. But ultimately it's your name that goes on those knives. So they have to live up to that standard. So I would imagine that is another difficult jumping off point. Like when you decided to jump off and become a knife maker.
Michael Martin [00:29:21]:
Yeah, it's definitely going to be when we expand, it'll be a trial and error thing. It's always a learning experience and it's just something that we'll have to adapt to. And so as we grow and expand and end up having employees, I don't think I'll ever expand enough where I have dozens of people working for me, even probably one or two more in a couple of years. Right now, at the point we're at, we're happy with the rate of groups that we're going. And when we expand, we'll deal with employees and get them trained up. And I'm sure we'll have a lot of scrap and a lot of training, so we'll see how that goes.
Bob DeMarco [00:30:07]:
Well, I think people would be happy to see American Bladeworks expand. Just to put it in perspective, you're making an American made knife that is really well considered, well researched and designed and perfected through the process we were talking about before. And you have a couple of three models plus another tool or two, and they're affordable. I mean, they're not cheap, certainly, but they're not exorbitant in price. They're something that the average guy or gal can save up for and get. How can you manage that? I don't know. I don't think that there are too many American outfits like that. I think basically what I'm saying is I think people would love to see you expanding.
Michael Martin [00:31:02]:
Yeah. When I originally started doing this, there's a lot of great custom knife makers out there that have phenomenal products and they sell them for what they feel is fair. I always wanted to make an affordable knife that just anybody could buy without a little easier on their wallet. So I keep my overhead low and everything that I buy as far as equipment, new CNC machines I pay cash for and so I have nothing financed and so I don't have any overhead really. It's just I try to make it as cheap and affordable and make a product a good product and we try my best to get American made materials and obviously it's American made, so I try to keep my price point. I've had a lot of people reach out. And be like, how do you sell these so cheap? Well, I works for free, so I don't necessarily have to pay myself, but it does. Well, I'm real happy with our price point. I'm glad I can offer it that.
Bob DeMarco [00:32:16]:
Well, something that was very exciting to me was in the model too, was that it's an all titanium model. It's got a liner lock. First of all, I love titanium liner locks. I love frame locks as well. But something about a liner lock, especially on a flipper titanium, it's luxurious. But seeing a model that was all titanium was very exciting. Was that a market pressure or was that a material you were dying to work with?
Michael Martin [00:32:49]:
Well, on the model two, the original, I only made twelve originally and they were titanium and so I kind of stuck with it. But the original one was a frame lock and I've gotten the model one dialed in so good. As far as being a liner lock, I just carried over the liner lock into the new model two. But people love, they do custom anodizing and so you can do a lot of stuff with five medium. With the liner, I can also change out the scales. So I'm hoping to do some maybe some carbon fibers, some different scale materials.
Bob DeMarco [00:33:28]:
So what do you love to work with the most? What are your favorite materials?
Michael Martin [00:33:35]:
G Ten is very easy to machine. I've got the hang of making a lot of titanium stuff, really. As far as ease of production, it's probably GTN and Cartas are the easiest to works know titanium has its problems. Titanium naturally is a little sticky material, so you got to kind of work with that and so it's a little more difficult, but it's not a problem.
Bob DeMarco [00:34:04]:
Okay, so you started off doing folders and you have the six versions of the model one. You've got the model two. What kind of things do you want to tackle in future designs in terms of folders? There are a lot of different innovations out there, different things. We all kind of like on our knives in terms of locks and in terms of deployment methods, what kind of trends or things that you haven't touched are you looking forward to kind of investigating?
Michael Martin [00:34:43]:
Well, I've actually ran a prototype button lock, and so I'm excited to bring that to the market as well as I'm going to do some autos and then actually have a model three and a model four that I have not debuted as well as a smaller version of the model, one that's going to be about 30, 40% smaller because they are fairly I'm not going to say it's a large, large knife, but it is a little bigger. And so I think a model one mini would, I think people would like that a lot.
Bob DeMarco [00:35:21]:
That's a great idea because this design could easily, this handle design could easily shrink down and basically be just as, ergonomic, the way you designed it. A model three and a model four. I know you're not going to show them here, but what are some of your design goals for these other knives?
Michael Martin [00:35:45]:
I haven't worked on them that much. I kind of did some rough sketches and I'm actually even looking into maybe making a slip joint. Probably the next thing that I do will be a model one or a model two and a button lock or an auto.
Bob DeMarco [00:36:05]:
So a button lock and an auto. I mean, basically the research you do on the button lock is basically like figuring out most of the auto, right?
Michael Martin [00:36:15]:
Yes. It's basically a button lock as a springless auto. So it'll be real easy to switch to the automatic if I do that route.
Bob DeMarco [00:36:24]:
So with the automatic, do you have concerns about selling? There are still, I think, just slightly less than 20 states that you can't buy autos in. I think that's correct. Is that even a thought or is it just kind of whoever can get them, can get them?
Michael Martin [00:36:45]:
It's probably whoever can get them can get them. There is a handful of states that don't allow them, but we'll just leave that by ear and see how it works.
Bob DeMarco [00:37:00]:
Got. We got Doug Ritter out there fighting for our knife, right. Love that guy. But so who are the designers, who are your peers, fellow knife makers out there who are doing it right or in your eyes you admire?
Michael Martin [00:37:22]:
Ever since he started, I have always watched. He used to have knife making Tuesdays and Grimms mode, john Grims mode. His brother Eric. Great guys. I've talked to him a bunch. They even checked out my model two here a while back and give me some pointers on it. Super nice guys. I've watched him make knives out of his garage and grow into a very large business. And I've always looked up to him because he started his knife making Tuesdays out of a one day garage. And I've watched him I've probably watched every video he's ever did and watched him progress over the years. And he's grown into a multi million dollar company. And then North Arms and Three Rivers knives do a lot of stuff similar to mine. They make absolutely great products. I've talked to both of them, even their design side. They've helped me in the past a little bit, so that's probably my top three. And then I've talked to Hulk Bladeworks. He makes super nice stuff and so great respect for him as well.
Bob DeMarco [00:38:35]:
These are all makers that it makes total sense. Like, I would put you on the same shelf with them if I owned any of their knives. Yeah, that makes sense. These are people who are like you not just pumping out models, but there's kind of a searching. There's like a searching the whole time. And this goes back to your constant improvement sort of thing. Yeah, it makes sense that you would feel a kinship with them.
Michael Martin [00:39:07]:
Yeah, they're all great knife makers and I've learned over the years that being in knife shows and just reaching out to people I've actually never met through instagram that are other knife makers and asking them like, hey, how do you do this? Or how do you overcome this problem? And everybody in the knife industry is so helpful and so easy to work with. It surprised me a lot that a lot of these guys that make way better knives than me will take the time to give me advice and tips and strategies. The knife community is really awesome.
Bob DeMarco [00:39:45]:
So when you're at Blade Show and you're there I know I've met your family a couple of times, you've got really nice family. When you're there with them, do you get a chance to move around and see what else is happening on the floor or are you constantly there?
Michael Martin [00:40:00]:
No, I actually get to move around. I usually make me a list of people I want to see at the knife show and I try to make my rounds and try to talk to people and I love talking to people. I can carry a conversation on with just about anybody and so I always make my rounds usually at the knife show. Friday, Saturdays kind of busy, Sundays kind of slows down and I make more of my rounds. Or then Friday morning, with people setting up, I kind of cruise through and see what everybody's up to.
Bob DeMarco [00:40:36]:
Do you collect knives yourself?
Michael Martin [00:40:38]:
I do not. I probably have two dozen knives that I've bought from various manufacturers. That mainly for just to disassemble and see how if I'm doing things like everybody else is doing. So mainly we'll say research.
Bob DeMarco [00:41:01]:
Yeah, I get you. It's like back engineering, like what we do with UFOs. But it's interesting to see in the area of tables in Blade Show. And forgive me if listeners or viewers haven't been to Blade Show, but you'll follow me, it's table after table and it's not separated by style at all or curated by style at all. So you'll have this retro futuristic beauty that's what I'm calling it, next to a table. I don't remember who you were next to, but in that same area there will be some sort of old dagger made in Damascus in a totally different style of knife making, a totally different cutting tool, but they have the same DNA at the very base. What is that like? Because you're making these things and there are people that are making axes and Damascus and just very different things, but you're all under that same roof.
Michael Martin [00:42:06]:
Yeah, a folded knife and a fixed blade is completely opposite end of the spectrum. These guys that make their own Damascus and they're out there sweating it and making this stuff and they make some really nice knives. And then on my end, some of the internals a little more technical. There's a lot more things you have to kind of get dialed in to make a folder actually work. But yeah, it's a huge mix up. I mean, the guys that were right next to me, we got forged fire champions and small guys that do their own Damascus, and they'll bring ten knives to the show, and that's all they're doing. This past show, I brought 124 knives yeah. And sold out all but twelve. I brought twelve home, but then the following Monday, I sold them. So it was kind of the people that initially at the show bought my leftovers.
Bob DeMarco [00:43:06]:
That's awesome. Yeah. I mean, no matter I tell my daughters, no matter what you do, you can't escape hard work. Whether it's the hard work of the Ford or the hard work of making multiples with machines, I see. Either way, it's hard work. And you're moving, you're scrambling, you're slogging, and you're making it work. Two different, very different kinds of things coming out of that. But me personally, I could have both. I want both. I want it all. Anyway, that's my knife collecting philosophy. What are some of the recent innovations that you're not taking advantage of? That's not what I mean. And I kind of asked this question, and you were talking about the button lock, but what are the things you're seeing out there that are making you scratch your head? For me, I'll tell you. For me, it was the front flipper, and now I've kind of adopted it and gotten used to it. But anything out there that seems gratuitous to you?
Michael Martin [00:44:12]:
Well, the front flipper I've never got the hang of. I just simply can't do it. I get fat fingers. I guess I just can't seem to do it. I have a couple of front flippers that I cannot operate, but not really everything. I mean, the liner locks has been around, the autos, the push buttons. There's some stuff that some knife makers do that they may have a patent on, but yeah, most of the stuff I've seen has kind of been around for a little while.
Bob DeMarco [00:44:47]:
Right. Okay. So all that said, and with now your experience with making fixed blade knives, what are you calling that fixed blade knife? It says just fixed blade on your website.
Michael Martin [00:45:02]:
I'm terrible with names. That's why I have a model one and a model two. I haven't come up with a name for the fixed blade, so I've just been calling it the fixed blade. So maybe somebody out there can suggest a good name. Because other than model one, model two, model three, there's nothing I can really come up with.
Bob DeMarco [00:45:24]:
I like that. To me, it's evocative of Rolls Royce or I don't know if Rolls Royce, but of classic automobiles, classic cars. The mark one. The mark two. I think that naming convention is pretty cool. But did that wet your appetite for fixed blades? Are you going to make more I'll.
Michael Martin [00:45:45]:
Make more of the same style of this one. I may make something else in the future, but more likely I'll stick with this for a little while. I would probably love to make some type of tactical axe maybe in the future. So we'll see about that stuff.
Bob DeMarco [00:46:07]:
If you need someone to send the tactical axe to, to see if it's tactical enough, you can send it to me. What I was going to say about the fixed blade is that there is a real trend for EDC fixed blades right now, and I'm always talking about them. And I know that a lot of other YouTubers are talking about fixed blade knives and how to incorporate them into daily carry. And it seems like your fixed blade is kind of just the right size. It could fit in one of those pocket sheaths using the kidex and the discrete carry clip. I think it's a great thing to offer in addition to the model one and two because a lot of people are craving this kind of thing.
Michael Martin [00:46:54]:
Bob DeMarco [00:46:54]:
Can you hold it up again since you have it close to the head?
Michael Martin [00:46:57]:
Yeah, you can kind of see the model one versus the fixed blade. You can see the flipper tab on the model one. The blade is a little longer, but not much longer. But I really wanted my fixed blade to be real similar to the model one. And it's kind of close on the blade design a little bit, but it's not much bigger than in fact, if I can get one thing that photo you see, really, the fixed blade is almost the same size as far as overall length as the model one.
Bob DeMarco [00:47:39]:
The fixed blade has something that I love in EDC fixed blades, which is a relatively small handle, smaller than the model one and rounded off at the top. Because I like to carry it in the waistband, whether on the side or up front. I've been carrying it up front appendix a lot recently. And the rounded it might sound funny, but the rounded pommel is just comfortable up against the love handles when you sit down and against the ribs when you're in the car. Sometimes a fixed blade handle will stick you in the ribs. So I think that rounded off and then there's a very gentle curve to the whole spine of the whole blade. And I think that it looks really nice. Are the leather sheaths yours or do you have those made?
Michael Martin [00:48:30]:
I actually had this set, the set I sold at the blade show. I had them made. But actually while I was at the blade show, I bought a very large leather sewing machine. So we will be doing some leather work in house and I have a couple of little ideas, maybe some EDC stuff for some leather work as well. So we're happy to offer that.
Bob DeMarco [00:48:55]:
Is that's great news. I love leather when possible, and I've seen. Well, dylan Grace. A knife maker. He does his leather sheaves, almost like kidex blades just kind of lock in there. So I love leather as a material, and I would love to see it more and more used. Like kidex is used not just for dangling on the belt, but for tucking in. I'm in the waistband user, so that kind of thing, or the way the sheath for your fixed blade kind of rides real snug horizontally to the belt, that's also a big appeal to me.
Michael Martin [00:49:34]:
Yeah, I'm a lot old school. I like leather. I like the feel of it. I like the sound of leather, the smell of it. And a lot of people, it goes either way. Some people definitely prefer the cadets, but I'm still more old school. Would take leather over Cadex any day for me.
Bob DeMarco [00:49:55]:
Yeah, no doubt. You can do a lot. You can make low profile leather sheaths that fit in your front pocket, that accommodate the knife and also a flashlight or pen. You can make it work. Yeah, this is a beautiful knife. I'm digging this for those listening. Jim just put it up on screen. So are these all sold out? When I was on the website, it looked like they were.
Michael Martin [00:50:23]:
Yes, everything at the moment is sold. Actually, I have blades coming. They'll probably be here Friday from the heat treaty. And so my next batch, hopefully will be next week. And I'll start having more. I'll have more model ones and drop Point, the long cliff and more model two. And then the fixed blades will probably be in two weeks. I should have more fixed blades.
Bob DeMarco [00:50:49]:
Nice. So I saw something else at the top. It looked like a razor tool of some sort. What is that?
Michael Martin [00:50:56]:
That was something I made. It was about three years ago, just for the knife show. And it takes an exacto knife blade, and it's kind of an opposite. It's not really an out the front. It has a little slider, but you push it and the blade comes out. And then when you let go, the blade automatically retracts. I made probably 50 of them about two years ago, and so I kind of had hit and miss. A lot of people liked them, some people didn't. And so I kind of got busy with everything else and haven't made them since. But that's definitely something I'm going to start producing. I made them in stainless and brass the last time, so it's kind of like just a small little keychain. It's got a blade in it, so it's kind of the opposite of it out the front. It actually shoots in instead of out. It's kind of an opposite the way I made it. You push the slider, the blade comes out, but as soon as you let go of the slider and the spring will suck it back in. So it keeps the blade secure.
Bob DeMarco [00:52:04]:
Yeah, that's right. Okay. I remember that now.
Michael Martin [00:52:07]:
Yeah. So you can push the slider. The blade comes out when you let it go. It's spring loaded and it retracts back in.
Bob DeMarco [00:52:13]:
Yeah. That's actually perfect for a keychain because I've had numerous keychain knives, and from time to time, they open up on you and you kind of wish you didn't have that keychain knife on your keychain. But to have that so that begs the question, if you weren't making knives but you were not in your old job as a machinist, what kind of things would you be making with all those cool machines behind you if it weren't knives? And you couldn't do knives.
Michael Martin [00:52:41]:
Never really thought about it. Maybe gun parts.
Bob DeMarco [00:52:46]:
Michael Martin [00:52:47]:
I thought that was coming, but, yeah, I haven't really thought about it, really. With CNC, you can make just about anything.
Bob DeMarco [00:52:57]:
Well, yeah. I mean, you're a very valued person. In the apocalypse heaven forbidden I'm just kind of being making a joke. But that's what I mean. You have the skill, basically, to fabricate the skill in the machinery to basically fabricate anything out of metal and many, many other materials.
Michael Martin [00:53:16]:
Bob DeMarco [00:53:16]:
I mean, you can put wooden CNC, you can put anything in there, right?
Michael Martin [00:53:19]:
Yes. I actually have the bigger machine that's directly behind me. I did a little side job and I made electric guitar bodies and aluminum necks for the same guitars. I did probably 25 or 30 of those before I started making knives on the big machine. I bought the machine. The guitar contract kind of helped pay for the machine. You can make just about anything.
Bob DeMarco [00:53:52]:
Aluminum necks are extremely rare and unusual in the guitar and bass world. I'm constantly kind of trolling online looking at old guitars just for fun. Not that I'm going to spend the money on them, but there is one company, I can't remember who it is now. They had a sort of V shaped headstock and they had aluminum. They made fully aluminum necks. So that is pretty cool. You can count yourself among a very elite crowd of Luthers or at least guitar part makers.
Michael Martin [00:54:28]:
Bob DeMarco [00:54:29]:
Is that a company whose name you could divulge?
Michael Martin [00:54:32]:
Yeah, sure. It was illuminati guitars. They make some very nice stuff. They're right here. They're about 15 miles from me, so it's right here in Asheville, North Carolina. So, yeah, way to go. Check them out. They make some high end, very nice guitars.
Bob DeMarco [00:54:53]:
I will definitely it's just fun to look at gawk at guitars and imagine a room full of them right next to the knife room. Michael so tell me, before I let you go, I want to find out what your dream project is. That's the thing that before you hang up your spurs, you want to make sure that you make this one knife. Do you have any idea what that might be?
Michael Martin [00:55:17]:
Actually, I don't. I just kind of go with the flow. Like I say, I have several knife designs that I haven't even prototyped. But as far as one that stands above the rest, I don't have any.
Bob DeMarco [00:55:32]:
Well, whatever you end up making, I think I'm going to love it because I love this and I absolutely love my model one. And these are really excellent knives. I highly urge everyone listening. What's the best way for people who want to get one of your knives? What's the best way to find out when you're making a drop and that kind of thing?
Michael Martin [00:55:55]:
Usually I make knives. I start a new batch at the beginning of the month and so once we get towards the end of the month is when I have knives available. I will always post updates on Instagram, so that's the easiest way to see updates. And then once I get knives, they'll be loaded onto the have. I do updates on Facebook as well.
Bob DeMarco [00:56:20]:
All right, well, Michael Martin of American Blade Works, thank you so much for coming back on the Knife Junkie podcast. It's great to talk to you and catch up with you again for a longer period of time than just the five minutes at Blade show. So man, it's great seeing you and hi to the family.
Michael Martin [00:56:37]:
Thank you so much. Thank you for having me.
Bob DeMarco [00:56:39]:
My pleasure. Take care, sir.
Michael Martin [00:56:41]:
Thank you. You too.
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Bob DeMarco [00:57:30]:
There he goes. Ladies and gentlemen, michael Martin of American Bladeworks. You'll have to excuse my waxing poetic about this being a zephyr like train from the past and all that. These are things that probably I should keep to myself, but I just think it's such a beautiful design. Be sure to check American Bladeworks out on Instagram to find out when those new worn cliffs. That's what I'll be getting and maybe I'll get ultim. I don't have any know a couple of firsts with American Bladeworks like Magna Cut and who knows, maybe ultimate is in my future. Anyway, be sure to join us again next Sunday for another great conversation with a knife luminary, as well as Wednesday for the midweek supplemental. And then, of course, Thursday for Thursday Night Knives. 10:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. Right here on YouTube. Facebook and twitch. For Jim working his magic behind the switcher, I'm Bob DeMarco saying until next time. Don't take dull for an answer.
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