C. Risner Cutlery: Austin Jackson — The Knife Junkie Podcast (Episode 459)
Austin Jackson, grandson of C. Risner Cutlery founder Clarence Risner, joins Bob “The Knife Junkie” DeMarco on Episode 459 of The Knife Junkie Podcast.
Clarence Risner founded C. Risner Cutlery in 1974. Risner founded the business through his hobby of collecting, selling, and trading traditional pocket knives. During the late 1980’s to early 2010’s, Clarence was the sole importer for German Eye Brand knives.
Clarence was also the main dealer for Queen Cutlery / Schatts & Morgan Cutlery during this time and served as President of the National Knife Collectors Association (NKCA) from 2000–2007.
Clarence and Austin shared the same passion for buying, selling, and trading quality traditional pocket knives. Austin was sharpening and handling knives at an early age.
Growing up, Austin attended knife shows with his grandpa in Cincinnati, Louisville, Pigeon Forge, Sevierville, and many other locations. Austin also began getting involved with the National Knife Collectors Association (NKCA) Youth Club.
Austin enlisted and served in the U.S. Marine Corps after graduating high school. During this time, he obtained a bachelor’s degree in political science with a minor in American Sign Language.
Austin grew into helping Clarence full time with the knife business before eventually taking over when Clarence passed away in 2016.
* Use the discount code “TKJ10” for 10% off Ohio River Jacks and “TPKTKJ” for $5 off any exclusive knives at Traditional Pocket Knives (www.traditionalpocketknives.com).
Find C. Risner Cutlery online at www.traditionalpocketknives.com, as well as on Instagram at www.instagram.com/traditionalpocketknives, Facebook at www.facebook.com/C.RisnerCutleryCompany, and on YouTube at firstname.lastname@example.org,
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.Austin Jackson, grandson of C. Risner Cutlery founder Clarence Risner, is my guest this week on episode 459 of #theknifejunkie #podcast. I'm loving my new knives from Traditional Pocket Knives. Be sure to check 'em out! Click To Tweet
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[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 knife purveyor, designer and lifer, Austin Jackson of C. Risner Cutlery.
[0:28] Like so many of us, Austin's grandpa was the one who sparked and stoked his love of pocket, knives, but in his case, that spark launched him into a lifetime pursuit of buying, selling, trading, and ultimately designing great pocket knives.
I've recently gone down a C. Risner cutlery rabbit hole with the Ohio Ripper Jack and the new Lake Champlain Barlow, two traditional slip joint knives of modern construction, and I think it's the beginning of a very fruitful obsession.
We'll talk all about traditional pocket knives and Austin's life in knives.
But first, be sure to like, comment, subscribe, hit the notification bell, and share the show with like-minded individuals, fellow travelers, as the communists would say.
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[1:31] If you search Google for the best knife podcast, the answer is the Knife Junkie Podcast.
Austin, welcome to the Knife Junkie Podcast, sir.
Yeah, thank you so much. Thank you for having me. Oh, it's a pleasure.
When I was learning about you and reading on the About section of the website, I saw that you are a former U.S. Marine. marine. And first of all, thank you for your service.
Thank you. I appreciate that. Thank you.
And in this family, we have a number of Marines on my wife's side. And yeah, so I have a special affinity for y'all. And also, I have found that on this show, we have so many former Marines making knives. It's huge.
There's a bunch.
So why do you think that is? I don't know. I don't know. Maybe just having knives in the military and once they got out, the passion is still there and they love it and they just make their own now, I guess.
You know, I've come to the idea that, well, Marines will frequently, you know, it's sort of a humble brag that they're like sort of down in the dirt and a little bit MacGyvers, You know, so you can do anything with a knife.
I could see that being there.
[2:53] Being a cause. Well, something kind of interesting. There's the Marine Corps and the Navy connection, obviously. And your grandfather, who I mentioned in the intro, is the guy who got you, into knives. And he was now famously in the Navy. Tell me about Clarence Reisner and who he was and, how he led to where you are. Yes. Oh, yeah. So, my grandpa, So he was born in Kentucky, just grew up in a small family.
He was the oldest sibling of, I think, seven.
And he was always the person that he had to be involved in something.
He had to either whittle, he had to have a hobby.
And then, of course, when he began whittling, he found his love for pocket knives.
And then from there, it just exploded.
And he first started dealing with case, let's see, German eye brand, which moved into Chattanooga.
[3:53] Queen Cutlery, Queen City, all that. And he just found extreme love and passion for it.
And he started making my own collection before I was even born. So I still have those knives over here in the corner here. And I love them. It's just something that obviously I eventually grew into, have a strong passion for and love for. And of course, the bond I had with my grandfather was absolutely incredible. And unfortunately, he passed in 2016. But what he left me is absolutely incredible. And I'm just so thankful.
I was lucky enough to know all four of my grandparents into my 20s. And yeah, that is a connection to the past, not only just to the past, but to your past.
Yes. If you can get it, it's invaluable.
[4:47] So, man, a lot of questions. But so he served in the Navy.
And your newest design, the Lake Champlain Barlow, is named after the ship he served on.
Tell us about that.
Yeah. So, Grandpa, like I said, grew up in Eastern or Middle to Eastern Kentucky.
So, he didn't have a lot of money. His family didn't have a lot of money. So, upon graduating high school, he enrolled in or enlisted in the Navy to earn a college education.
So, he served his four years in the United States Navy. And during those four years, he served on, USS Lake Champlain CB-39. And during that time, he served in the Korean War.
So he visited just multiple different countries and oceans and just hearing his stories growing up.
It was just so fascinating to me. So I thought, you know, what a perfect example for, me to design a larger style Barlow and to name it after the Lake Champlain CB-39.
Barlow makes sense because it's a working knife. 100%. 100% and that's the purpose of that long bolster there.
[6:04] And you have the. I got the saw cut sheep's foot. So this is something I've never seen.
I have never seen on a knife this titanium saw cut, obviously mimicking the saw cut of a bone handle.
Oh man, that is nice. All right, all right, we're gonna get to this.
We're gonna talk more about your own designs, but I need to get a little more background here.
With C. Reisner cutlery and your grandfather's love, it started, as you said, out of whittling, which is pretty cool.
Yeah. Well, what was he whittling? What kind of stuff? I have no idea.
I mean, that's probably a great question for mom. I think he was whittling just little wooden animals.
[6:49] I'm sure, knowing him.
And like I said, that just turned into a love he found for pocket knives and he started going to knife shows. There was a big knife show, here. I live in Dayton, Ohio, and it's called Washington Courthouse. And that was like perfect for anybody from Kentucky, Indiana, obviously Ohio. And that's where he kind of established himself as a knife dealer and just took it from there. That's pretty cool. My parents incidentally live halfway between you and Cleveland. That's right. Yeah, I remember you saying that.
And I grew up there. And so really, the when the Ohio River jack came out, I was like, it perked up my ears. Great, great state. I love Ohio. Yes, yes, I love it. So this, obviously, the whittling kind of went by the wayside, it really became about the knives, and he's going to knife shows. And, Trading and buying and selling like is that is that how this company starts? I would say so hundred percent. Yeah He I say he started dealing with case knives, Bulldog knives fight rooster kissing crane some of the very old-school German knives and then he started making, his Indian head knives with German eye brands and.
[8:10] Really? Like I said German eye brand led into him getting Being familiar with like Chattanooga knives, Queen Cutlery, Queen City, which I'm not sure how much you know about Queen Cutlery in Titusville, Pennsylvania, where obviously GC is now.
But yeah, he just fell in love with everything up there and just took it.
I want to find out more about Queen Cutlery. I have one Queen knife.
But first, so your grandpa was kind of doing what you're doing, OEMing knives.
Very much so, yes, yeah. Oh my God, I didn't know that. So do you have examples of those old knives that he made and designed? I do, they're on the website. They're in the other room.
I should probably have got them, but yeah, they're on the website.
If you just go to the website, look up Indian Head Knives.
Most of them are like four bladed, small Congresses, three and a quarter, three and a half inch, closed.
But I'm trying to think what else. He had some trappers that he had made in the Indian Head pattern.
Let's see, I think that was about it. Now, the Indian head, is that referring to the shield on the handle? Yes, correct, yep.
Yeah, just like the kissing crane, those two kissing cranes, bulldog, trying to think what else. There's one that's called an owl head.
[9:27] Yeah, just like I said, those old school German trademarks. Okay, so that's connecting some dots that are, I don't know, even more interesting to me that, because I guess in this, in the slip joint, they call it a special factory run, but it's basically like having, you know, sort of this very current, I'm gonna say trend, but that might sound like it's impermanent.
I think it's a permanent thing. We have a whole community of knife lovers, who have discovered if they can raise the funds, they can have knives that they wanna make made.
And that's very exciting to me. And doesn't mean that everyone's a great designer, but it means that you have a chance to see something that you design, you know, come to fruition. But it's interesting to think that it's been happening for a long time.
Yeah, yeah. If you think back to the 1900s, even like the late 1800s, the factories designed their own barlows, their own little, I mean, you look at a.
[10:32] Old queen Barlow compared to a case Barlow or something else.
What I'm trying to say is factories have their own little touch they put like they like to put on their designs.
And it really just makes that design stand out and obviously from if they make a Barlow they can make a trapper and then they can make.
They can just continue on with their own little designs and that's how you make a nice stand out from other brands.
So, from the designs that I know of you, and then the designs that you have chosen to do exclusives of on your website, traditionalpocketknives.com, which is now like, yeah, I open up my browser and it's kind of like, is this where we're going?
Yeah, let's go.
But anyway, the knives that you've chosen, like the Hedgehog, which you just dropped in the mail for me, the exclusive titanium jig, and then looking at the late Champlain Barlow and the really amazing, I love this knife so much, ORJ.
[11:35] Yeah, the walk and talk, obviously QSP's the OEM on that, but walk and talk is, honestly in my opinion, is near perfect.
It's so good. And so from these, those exclusives and these two knives, I'm getting, I'm getting that you like Burley work knives. So tell me what what the knives you were loving and collecting before you even thought to design and have your own made?
[12:02] The Shatton Morgan Mountain Man, just a large folding knife, just has that large, I would say 3.75, maybe somewhere four inches closed.
It's just a knife that you can fully grip. And let's say you're cutting wood, cardboard.
Let's say you're even meal prepping.
It's a knife that even if you get the texture wet or the handle wet, or it becomes oily, it's not gonna slip out of the hand because you have a firm grip on the handle.
And like I said, it's a larger knife, 3.75, four, even four and a quarter closed.
And it has that large blade. So it's usually like a clip point blade or a sheepsfoot blade.
It makes you really want to use that knife.
So, okay, with larger knives and larger work knives that are slip joints, there comes the thought, well, if it's this large and I'm gonna be using it for work, like hard work, should it have a lock?
[12:58] So where do you stand on that? And I'm gonna preface this by saying I have some viewers, you know, it's a very polarizing issue and I have some viewers who are like, if I can have a lock, why wouldn't I?
But so how do you, if you had to, how would you defend the large working knife without a lock?
I would say if you love that traditional old vintage style of just lifestyle and like shaving razors, just something that pops up to mind or just that old school look, but you want modern technology, modern blade material, modern screws and back springs. I mean, this is ultimately.
[13:43] It's a style that grew in the early 1900s to now where you can pretty much get a beefed up version of a traditional slip joint, very much so like what a GEC is.
GEC is very old school.
They make traditional pocket knives the old school way.
[14:02] But now you look at these modern slip joints like Jack Wolf, Evan Nicolaides, Evan Nicolaides.
[14:08] With ethnics, obviously my designs, and you got titanium, you know, full titanium handles, m 390, just a super strong steel. It's really just incredible where pocket knives, you know, start out from and then obviously where they are now. And even with GC so Creighton pocket knives the old school way. To answer your question, I would say if you like it, like I said, if you love that old school vintage style, and there's a something about, you know, opening a knife without a thumb stud, without flicking it open, just old-school way of grabbing it by the nail nick, hearing that walk, and then hearing the talk, and it's just, I don't know, it's a passion for mine. Yeah, yeah, I agree with you. There's a great, you know, people talk a lot about the fidget factor and flippers and bearings and that's, you know, I'm all on board with that for for sure. But I love the two handed fidget too. And that feeling of Jared Neves says grip it and rip it, you know, that feeling is like pulling it open. It Yeah, I remember being at knife shows and I don't have a stag knife with me. But like the of course each stag handled knife is different. And I just remember like grandpa, like just feeling the stag. I'm like, Why are you doing that? I was probably like 11 or 12 at a knife show with them. He just told me, you know, each stag knife is different. So you'll have people that.
[15:36] Will come by the table at a knife show and see, you know, maybe that's not the blade they want.
Maybe that's not the handle they want, or I'm sorry, the design they want, but they see that beautiful stag and it just stands out. And that's just something that, you know, guys fall in love with. And that just goes back to my answer of why people carry vintage knives. They see that wood, or they see that stag and you just don't see, you know, beautiful jigged stag on a modern knife these days, unless it's coming from GC. Sometimes Case can make a pretty good stag version of a knife, but it's just very rare these days. When they pay attention, they can make a good, like I think all of their CV knives tend to be nice. They have a smaller line of them and they and they tend to pay more attention to them.
[16:24] Oh, yeah. Also, in defense of slip joints to the modern locking knife lever, it's like.
How are you using your knife? First of all, are you using it that hard that when you use it properly, in the proper direction, against that sharp edge, that it's still trying to fold on you?
And if not, I would also say, are you turning it around and using the spine?
Which is not advised for that tool.
So mostly, there's not too much that, if you're gonna use a folding knife for it, there's not too much that a slip joint can't handle.
I mean, there's been a few times where, uh, you know, I pull back on the knife and.
[17:09] So I pull back on the knife and the knife, you know, the blade will bend a little bit.
And, you know, obviously if you're used to a lock and knife, it will kind of surprise you and if you're not careful, um, you know, the blade will come back to the half stop, but some knives don't have half stops, but I believe this one doesn't.
Yeah. So this one doesn't have a half stop. It just keeps folding until it closes.
So, when you have the half stop, it's kind of like a safety design.
So that way, let's say you're cutting something, you pull back on it and it comes to half stop, then obviously that saves you the pain from the blade closing on a finger, a knuckle, etc.
Yeah. That GEC-66 that you keep picking up, I have that very same model in the green Minecarta. I love it too.
That's what this is, yeah. Oh, God. And so I was inspired by Apostle P who had that and Gavin Ebony back in the day, I was like, oh my god. I love that.
I love that. Excuse the rust on that.
No, no, no, no, that's authenticity. So what do you think of GEC?
You're making these really stout work knives in a very modern paradigm.
[18:17] They are making pretty stout slip joints in a very old school style.
What do you think of them?
They're on top of the game right now. You think of a traditional pocket knife, I mean, you have to think of GC. But I understand Case. Case used to be the brand back in the day, I would say late 70s, early 80s. But I think they've focused more on quantity over quality. And you have GC that began in 06. And they focus on quality over quantity. And obviously, because of the popularity, Low supply, high demand.
I mean, they're on the game. They're the best out there.
I love their, well, really, they tap into something.
[19:03] That modern traditionals, say like the ORJ, or the jackwolf knives don't quite tap into. I mean, you guys have the designs, but they have the feel of an old tool made in an old way.
And I know they used to use old machines. I don't know if they still do.
I don't know if that's tenable.
I would say I was just up there last or this summer, I would say about 75% of their machines are newer, but they still have that old school way of making a knife. It's just up to date machine.
Yeah, I love their knives for that. Like I almost put them on a different shelf than these just because they tap into a like where I put my bark rivers, they tap into a nostalgia, you know, that I really like, and something.
[19:57] Another brand that's coming out that I'm very interested in, and I don't have any, and I will get one from your website for sure, but that's Rosecraft.
Yeah, I figured you were gonna say that. They seem to be doing some pretty good stuff. What's your feeling?
Now, I'm asking you, and you're a purveyor, and I'm asking you from the purveyor's point of view, but you're also a designer, and I don't mean to, you know, ask you to dish on your quote-unquote competition, But so where do you, where do you, what do you feel about Rosecraft?
Yeah, I love Rosecraft. Rosecraft is the perfect example of, I would say, good to high quality and still at a reasonable price.
You have them for, I think $42.99 is my cheapest one. And the most expensive, I think is $54.99, the new Clinch River Swayback.
So, I mean, the fact that you can get, I would say, a modern, traditional knife, and bonehandled. I mean, I love it. It's been a great brand. I started carrying, Rosecraft, I think, in February, and obviously it's moved up to one of my best brands.
So it's, I love it. I've been eyeing up that French broad, Jack.
I just like saying French broad. That's right. There you go.
[21:14] No, that's a beauty. And I think something that really distinguishes them, I'm not, I gotta be totally honest, I'm not very fond, or I should say I'm not compelled by their flippers and their modern knives.
Yeah, I'm not either.
Their slip joints just, oh man. The thing I like about some of their work, like especially the, I'm not sure what it's called, it's this little knife with an offset blade.
It looks like it's built by.
[21:44] It was designed ergonomically first. It's kind of an awkward looking knife.
And that's something I like.
I've never seen that pattern before. But also, that they used the natural materials.
I'm a sucker for bone covers and the dyeing that you can get and the beautiful colors.
That's one reason that I like Case, is that, like you said, they went from quality to collectability in my, and that means quantity.
But in that recipe, they have really nailed dying bone and getting beautiful results with that.
But you don't have to get a case to get beautifully dyed bone, and you don't have to get a GEC and try and do that competition.
I feel like Rosecraft has that.
Yeah, and that's kind of what I, so Andy Armstrong is obviously, he's not the owner, He's the main guy behind Rosecraft and in talking with him that that was part of his strategy was to just offer a high-quality, Traditional like I said modern slip joint, but in you know natural materials as far as dyed bone, I think he had a maybe he hasn't had a wood version yet.
[22:57] But I'm pretty sure that's in route or you know on the on the on the way so, So, yeah, like what he's doing with Rosecraft is good, and it's an affordable option if you can't get your hands on a GC, or you don't want to mess around with case, and like a Bearson quality.
It's just like, you know, the case, the quality of the case, the quality of Bearson, it's just not as good as what, obviously, a GC, or what these new Rosecrafts are.
Bearson, you don't hear much about them. Yeah, they're very quiet.
They're in Alabama and they produce their knives there and I wish they weren't so quiet because oftentimes you'll hear people lament that there's nothing happening in America, no manufacturing.
Well there is, you know, maybe.
Maybe to please the knife community, they have to make some changes, but I hope they do because I'm rooting for them.
Anyone and sons, I like that. Just like you're a family business.
So for you and for C. Reisner Cutlery knives and knife designs, do you have any aim.
[24:07] Towards using natural materials like wood and bone and are there special challenges in using those materials?
Yeah, I would say so. So, obviously, I listened to your conversation with Ben, a good friend of mine, obviously a good friend of yours with Jack Wolf and I, with Ben Belkin. And like he summed it up perfectly. With the humidity going from, let's say, the West Coast to the East Coast, going from Arizona to Ohio, let's say, during the summer, you just don't know how like gab and ebony wood would do or coca bola. You just don't know how if it's going to shrink, if it's going to expand. And some of these rose crafts, I shipped them to a guy in, I think he's in Arizona or Utah. And he let his Clinch River orange bone, the first version release of that. He let his Clinch River sway back, sit in the car during the day. And it was It was obviously pretty hot out there, 110, I don't know.
And by the end of the day, that bone had swelled so much that you could see in between the bone and the liner.
So that's a perfect example of what heat or what weather can do to a natural handle material.
[25:25] You know, I think of, well, I think of diamond wood or whatever that stabilized particle board is that they use on buck.
Yeah, I know exactly what you're talking about. And you imagine the woods, stabilized woods, or particle wood or whatever, all of those kind of things being infused, going into the vacuum and having.
[25:47] Epoxy drawn through all the pores, and that's gonna turn it basically into a piece of plastic.
But it's not so, because in the spaces in between, you still have natural cells.
And who knows, it sounds like there's still moisture trapped in those cells and you leave it in an oven, which is what a car in Arizona is, and it's going to expand.
That's amazing, because I've only seen scale material contract and kind of wither.
So that's pretty amazing.
Yeah, I'd like to at least.
Try a few. I would like to try Gab and Ebony, I think that's how you say it, maybe it's Gab and Ebony.
And then definitely Kokobolo here in the future on a knife, but.
[26:33] Like I said, it's just, I don't know, I don't want to take that risk of making 150, 200 versions and then, they start shrinking or they start cracking at the pins and, it's just a big risk and I'm not sure if I'm ready to make that move yet.
All right, well, speaking of big risks, let's talk about your jumping into the actual designing and OEMing of an item. We'll talk about the Ohio Riverjack, and you came out with three single-bladed versions and I think, what, two double-bladed versions? Is that right?
Yes. Or one? Yes.
Okay. That's correct, Jim. So there's a big risk, first of all, in the multi-bladed. That's an interesting... But, But just to lay out the money and make a knife.
[27:22] And so tell us about the decision to go into doing that and then what designing it was like.
So I sell Finch Knives, Finch Knife Company. They're based in Kansas.
And they got me started talking with QSP.
And QSP said they were absolutely interested in making some OEM knives for me.
And so I sat down, kind of went over my few patterns of Shatton Morgan knives that I really like.
And I kind of just drew out this Ohio Riverjack. It's kind of like a coffin, squared, bolstered ends.
And I designed the two-blade version first.
And the two-blade version was the Spearpoint and Wharncliffe.
And the more I got to thinking about it, I was like, well, how about I go ahead and just make single-blade versions?
Obviously with the spear point with the wharncliffe there you go with the sheep's foot and.
[28:16] I'll tell you what it was one heck of a learning experience First of all talking to to or commuting communicating back and forth with QSP, But not only just communicating but making sure they understand, what people look for in slip joints in modern or traditional, pocket knives, the walk and talk, the flushness between the handle materials, the transitions from handle materials to the bolsters, to the liners. I mean, it was quite a learning experience, I'd say, for me and QSP.
That flat spring on the half stop, which is totally ceremonial, but it's not structural.
It's just there to know that they care.
Right. Yep, pretty much. Yeah. Yeah. So I mean, it took me from, I think the beginning is near the end of 2020. And I didn't release the or Jays until September of 2022. So that tells you just how much or how long that took, because they sent a few prototypes to begin with, and I did not like and there was miscommunication. And I had to take pictures of what.
[29:37] I wanted to I wanted them to make because I obviously wasn't explaining it clearly or it was just a miscommunication.
[29:46] Because QSP makes flippers. They make, Thumbstud knives all that they obviously didn't make, subjoints, so It took like a year and a half just to finally get some prototypes that I really felt comfortable with and then And that third prototype, I was like, all right, these are good to go.
Let's go ahead and make some micarta, make some jigged titanium handles, and let this be my first run.
And so far, everybody's, from what I've seen, everybody loves the Ohio Riverjack.
Very few complaints, and it's been an awesome first release.
So you mentioned that QSP hadn't made slip joints. So did you, I just mentioned before that I ordered your exclusive titanium jig, Hedgehog.
Hedgehog, yep, got it right here. Did your conversations, oh God, I can't wait to get that thing. It's so cool, I've watched so many videos about that.
But anyway. It feels so good in the hand, hollow grind, full hollow grind blade.
[30:51] Super thin. Yeah, it's like a straight razor pretty much. So did your conversations with QSP about the Ohio River Jack inspire them to do designs, their own designs like the Hedgehog?
Yeah, I mean, not officially, right? I mean, they didn't like ask my permission or anything.
Of course, they don't have to.
But I think, let me hold the Ohio River Jack up and let me hold the, like you can obviously see, the similarity of these two knives, right? I mean, let's just be honest.
[31:21] Which, you know, I'm glad, you know, if they want to start making their own designs and, you know, use everything I taught them, then, you know, more power to them. And as long as they're making quality, quality slip joints and have at it, go for it. Yeah, they do make some damn good knives.
They do. The Penguin, that's just a winner. I know that was a, that's an exclusive you do with the, with the Jig Titanium and, yeah, that's a, that's a great knife. As a matter of fact, my mom and dad were just visiting here from Ohio. And every time my dad comes, I give him a knife. Because he's I've turned him into a knife junkie, you know. And he, he wanted something small this time. And I gave him that mini QSP penguin.
He loves that thing. So with the Ohio River Jack, tell me about the double bladed versions. And what I mean by that is what inspired it, inspired them, because you see them less in modern productions. I think Lion Steel does a couple, and they're usually alcohol-based. Like, here's a way to crack into a beer. So, tell me about the design process and your decision going into making the 00J.
[32:37] So when Grandpa carried German I-brand knives, they had a large sodbuster, and Grandpa sold, just thousands and thousands of them monthly. And I asked grandpa, I was like, well, you know, why are these knives selling so well other than, or better than the others?
And he said, you know, farmers out in Texas, out west, down in the south, they love using that big style, large sodbuster blade. So I was creating the Ohio River Jack and I'm like, you know.
[33:04] I want that same effect. I want people to hold this knife, use it out on the farm, use it in the shops and just feel confident without the knife, you know, like feeling light or cheap, or like it's going to break in their hand.
And so that was part of my design. I wanted to absolutely like just build a tank of a knife and have two full length blades, obviously the spear point blade and the wharncliffe blade, something that you have with the spear point, you have that fat belly and with that wharncliffe, you can make your precision cuts.
And it's just been an absolute incredible knife.
The only complaint I've had is obviously the knife is thick. I think it's very much close to an inch, thick, but people also have loved that because they can get a full grip on it and they don't have to worry about the knife slipping in their hands if they're out on the farm.
[33:53] You know, oil or water or whatever kind of liquid that gets on the knife.
Yeah, especially with the micarta you use on the Ohio River Jack. I really like the micarta on this one. Yes, me too.
But yeah, that's the feeling I get. You pick up that double-bladed Ohio River Jack, and it is a jack, so you're not attempting to nestle them in a weird way, not in a weird way, but in a thinning way. So when you grip that in your hand, it feels really good.
And you just want to start cutting stuff with it.
Yeah, yeah, even even with the added contour of the secondary blade, you know, sometimes that can feel weird, but it doesn't in this case. And I think it's because the the width, like I said, you know, you've got two distinct blade wells there, and they're separated by a liner, right? I do have one over here on loan. I should have brought it over. But yeah, The whole, I knew it immediately.
I was like, okay, so a big bellied spear point and paired perfectly with a precision point straight edge wharncliffe.
[35:05] To me, that knife is a belt carry knife. That's like a, get a little pouch.
Yeah, I wish, thinking back now, I wish I would have like either developed some kind of slip with that, either with like a pocket clip or something.
But yeah, maybe here in the future.
Yeah, but you do offer other, other, um...
You do have leather goods, leather slips and stuff on your site.
I actually, I'm going to give a shout out to Kevin Doody.
I love his leather. Yes. He just made this for me. That's awesome.
Yeah, he's getting into the leather game, and I think he's doing a good job.
He's on to something. Yeah, no doubt. So yeah, I look to expand my leather goods here.
You can see a number of different slip options. I love that.
I think that's part of what people love. Oh, also leather, leather, just EDC trays.
[36:00] Yeah, River Lovick, the owner of Sage Grouse Leather. Oh, that's 100% handmade, hand dyed, hand tooled.
And obviously he's very artistic because his work is just purely beautiful.
I want to talk about another exclusive because Jim had it up on screen and I know that these are coming out this week.
And well, when this plays, they will already have been up for a few days, but you have a new exclusive hedgehog coming out.
Yeah, let's talk about that.
Yeah, sure. Yeah, obviously the Jigtai hedgehog has sold very well.
Let me go ahead and show it again.
And so I met Andy, the owner of Camo Carbon. He lives out in California.
I met him at the Blade Show two Blade Shows ago, and I was like, just talking with him, and then I could just kind of had the idea of, Well, you know, how about I just make a large run of these camo carbon full hollow ground hollow ground hedgehogs and we'll see we'll see if they sell.
I don't know. You never know.
[37:04] But yeah, it's 145, you know, free shipping. So I think with that price point in 390 hollow grind, you know, some beautiful color options.
I think they'll sell pretty well.
Yeah, it looks like you got a bunch of color options here. nine ten, Wow. I think I'll have to go for that purple camo carbon. There you go. That's my favorite. That and Halloween night. I love it.
That must be black and orange, right?
Yep. Black, orange, and white. There's some white in there.
[37:36] How long does it take? So once you get the thought, we're going to do this exclusively.
I know it sounds like you met the gentleman from camo carbon two years ago. So it took that long.
But in terms of, say, you decide that you want to do a knife and exclusive of an existing design like the Hedgehog, obviously you have a relationship with QSP, but how does that work?
So, if QSP's design, I should say.
[38:10] And I want to throw different handles on it, like fat carbon, camo carbon, or jig tie micarta, It takes maybe three, four months because they already have that cut out for that design.
They already have that design in CAD and everything.
Now, if it's a design that I made and I made in CAD, I shipped it or I emailed over, they have to look at it, obviously make it to where their machines can make the product.
And then they have to send it back to me. Why I have to review the changes they made and make sure it's still in line with what the product of which I want.
And that's where it takes, like I said, anywhere from six months to a year, to a year and a half.
But if it's exclusively QSP's design, then it just takes maybe three, four months at the max.
Oh, wow, that's pretty cool.
You just basically send them the materials if it's something particular like this, and I guess probably having a working relationship.
Like that's an interesting thing to observe with other friends of mine who have started knife companies through OEM.
And you can see them pick up steam. You can see some of them picking up steam.
They have a regular relationship. It seems like, oh, Ben's a perfect example with his monthly release.
And no one knows who OEMs his stuff, but which is great. I love that.
[39:36] I'm always guessing someone new. So I'm like, well, maybe. I have an idea, but I'll keep it to myself.
I have an idea, too, but it's just that.
It's just an idea.
But that idea of getting on someone's.
[39:54] Regular production schedule almost seems like the way to go.
It's like success breeding success. What have you found in running a, a knife website selling knives and then kind of crossing over into the designing and selling your own knives. What has that been like?
Stress. A lot of stress. So I made Grandpa his websites. There was three different websites that Grandpa had back in 2012, 2013. When he passed, I told him I was going to combine these three websites into one, which is now traditionalpocketknives.com.
And you know, I started selling maybe three, four brands over the net over the last five years. I picked up Another seven or eight brands all quality brands. I mean my followers know me They know I carry high quality knives and they trust me. But um, Yeah, it's been obviously running, ecommerce website a.
[40:56] Business and Now the fact that I'm designing my knives. It's just an added added stress or added level to it, but also I love the challenge. I wasn't getting bored with selling knives, but it's just very routine-like. You get a new brand in, you market it, you, sell it. New brand in, you market it, you sell it. And with Designing Knives, it's a whole new ballgame and I love the challenge. And it's been stressful, it's been aggravating, but it's been all obviously I'm super proud of the work I've done. And I just I love it.
And it's, like I said, it's a challenge and it's awesome.
Well, you have, obviously, when you look at the companies you deal, you have an exclusive roster, which is nice to see. Look at that.
Yeah. And I mean, I love my Smoky Mountain Knife Works. Yes.
Definitely. Oh, yes. The mall of knife shopping. But I also like going to a place like Traditional Pocket Knives and seeing an exclusive lineup because it's obvious you've vetted each company.
And now, basically, the work you do has to stand up to those companies you've vetted, you know?
For sure, yeah.
What goes into choosing a brand? How do you pursue that?
[42:15] Are you always on the hunt for a new brand, or is it someone that comes along that you're like, this is right for this company?
I would say 50-50. First of all, the person behind the brand.
Who's the person or who are the people behind the brand?
If I like them, that's already, you know, a big step in the doorway.
Uh, if I don't like them, well, then obviously I don't care how good the quality is, if they don't treat their customers, right, their dealers, right.
You know, I move on.
But first of all, uh, you know, like I said, person people behind the brand and quality, are they making their knives?
Uh, with good quality, good materials. Do they understand fit and finish walk and talk or not just walk and talk?
That's obviously a subjoint related, but.
[42:56] Then I look at, do they love their own brand? Do they love marketing for their own brand?
Because a lot of these knives, and you guys, I'm sure you can probably think of two or three, they're great at making knives. They're either not great at marketing, or they just don't want to.
And to me, somebody like Ben Belkin with Jackworth Knives, I mean, I fell in love with his designs from when he first made those 10 Instagram posts of those CAD or 3D drawings.
And you can just tell Ben has that passion with his brand. And boom, right there, him and I just clicked. And I was like, You know what? I 100% want to be a dealer for you. I love traditional knives. You love traditional knives. You love what you're doing. You love your brand. And I'm all for that. So.
[43:45] Yeah. Something like that.
Yeah, that's pretty cool. Yeah, that that makes a huge difference. And I've noticed.
[43:52] Well, in what I do here, meeting people who make knives and who have their brands, you can really tell and most people I mean, this is not an easy road to hoe. It's not something that people go into for a quick buck. So most people involved are pretty into it anyway. Or I've noticed that if they're not, you know, when I talk to Greg Medford, for instance, who I know you represent, he was kinda like, I'm not a knife guy, and I was like, huh?
And then I realized, yeah, but he's a tool and machining, and he's a that guy, so basically, he's a knife guy, it's just not.
No, I listen to his live videos or whatever. He's very intelligent.
He knows, he understands business, and well, obviously, now he understands his knives, he understands the knife market, And he's doing good.
He understands quality, and he holds his employees to that very...
[44:49] Call it high standard, high standard. There we go. Yeah. And obviously it shows what is his products.
Yeah, yeah. And, you know, he was one of the first people where I was like, oh, he didn't start as a total knife nerd. Like, I just can't do anything unless I'm making that, you know, very interesting dude and a very interesting background. And that is, you know, is a very interesting field. A lot of people coming out of all these different, the service, yes, and aerospace, a lot of people. So in terms of what you've seen, you've been in this knife community, this knife world your whole life, how have you seen things change and grow?
[45:34] Yeah, I would say, obviously, very heavily, I've been involved with slip joints growing up. So I I didn't really get into the modern flippers and, and all that, um, design, all the designs until about 2016.
But just growing up the slip joint community from, I would say late nineties to about 2010 was super strong.
The, the sub joint game was, was on and everybody seemed to carry a slip joint, at least obviously in my world.
And it kind of fell off, uh, 2011, 2012, 13. I'm not really sure why I think I think the the flippers were getting better and more interesting and they're easier to use You can just flip open the knife, you know, a lot of people don't want three blades on a on a you know, GC 66, Stockman and.
[46:26] You're seeing within the last three to four years with Evan Nicolaitis, with Esnik, Ben, with Jack Wolf Knives, myself, a few others, we're keeping, like what we were talking about earlier, we're keeping that vintage, old school style of pattern or pocket knives, but we're throwing in modern materials and it really seems to be hitting and people love them.
So from your perspective as someone who likes slip joints in the old style. What do you think of like the Civivis and these very slick looking things.
[47:01] Or double detent that these whippersnappers are carrying?
Yeah, it's not my thing. It's not my thing. I carry a few Civivi. Honestly, I was just kind of testing it out on the website just to see what they would do. They've sold fairly well for me, but Rosecraft obviously is one of my top brands. GC is one of my top brands. I know my customers, they want the traditional slip joint, modern slip joint style. But within the last few years, I've been carrying Finch knives, GSP's, flipper versions, and starting to build a little road down that world. But I still love my slip joints. And that's obviously my best selling knives.
Finch is a great fit for traditional pocket knives. If you want to bring the flipper into it, a it's it's that all of their designs are so inspired by traditional knives and then USP quality.
There's a story behind every knife and they relate it to either where they grew up at or, or, you know, something a hobby that they're passionate for, like fishing or something. And yeah, they're, they're great guys behind the bench.
And that's very smart marketing, like Ben, too, kind of coming up with a whole package, a whole story.
You know, that's how you sell organic milk. You know, our cows are, you know, listen to Mozart.
[48:26] The history, from my perspective, what you were just talking about, slip joints falling off around 2012.
Now I'm trying to remember, to me, they came, They came, like when GEC became big.
[48:43] And I think that was probably for me, like 2010. I know they had been around a little bit before that.
So for me, that was like, that was when I started paying attention.
You know, I had slip joints from my grandpa when I was little, but I got way into survival knives, and commando knives and tactical folders and stuff.
And stuff, that when, for me, when people that I watch.
[49:10] On YouTube started getting GECs, like Apostle P back in the day, when he was a kid, I was like, whoa, these are great, and they remind me of my grandpa in this time that I didn't live in that I wish I did, or that strange nostalgia you can have for a period you didn't experience, and for me, that's when it happened.
And so it's kind of an inverse. For you, it was very strong in the nine, you know, when you saw it drop off because there was this more introduction, of this other kind of knife.
Yeah, well, I think a lot of it had to do with Shat Morgan, they kind of closed their doors.
Around 2011, 2012, another family bought Shat Morgan or Queen Cutlery at the time, and they tried to make their run at it.
And so I think that had probably a lot to play with how I felt the knife market was going.
But like you said, GC, he started, Bill Howard, the owner of GC, started in 06, left Chattanooga or Queen Cutlery, just moved right down the road, opened his own factory with GC.
And yeah, I'd say you're right as far as 2010, 11, 12, that's when the GC game really started to appear heavily on the market.
And the quality was there, and a lot of people just fell in love with it.
[50:30] In terms of your collection, tell me about it. It sounds like it's gotta be sprawling, man.
Yes. Oh, gosh. A ton of German I-brand knives. Like I said, I got Indian head knives, Kissing Crane, Bulldogs.
[50:50] Lot of shat morgan knives all of grandpa's sfo so special factory orders or special factory runs with queen and shat morgan i have an answer those those those are the knives that that mean the most to me but yeah a ton of shat morgan's queens i start my own collection of gcs now honestly my own designs.
Trying to think what else.
Well, let me ask you this. Before you had your own designs, because I presume you carry them, you have to, make sure, you know, or if you're in a prototyping phase, I'm sure you always have something of yours, whether it's an exclusive or your own design, but before you were doing that, or when you're not carrying your own thing, what is the first knife you reach for?
Right on. Boy, that's That's an endorsement, man, especially with such a huge collection.
Yeah. I mean, a QSP Penguin, the Penguin Plus is one I've been carrying the last year or so.
If I had to pick one knife for the rest of my life, probably this GC66.
I love it. You got three different blades on it, clip points to each foot, and like a spade blade, and all those three blades can be used for different kind of cutting and all that.
So then, well, knowing that and loving that knife so much, does that inspire you to make a.
[52:20] That's not a dog leg, it's sort of a, or make a Stockman or do something like that?
I know we were talking about the double-bladed knives, but triple-bladed is different.
Triple, three blades on one spring, or two springs. Two springs, yes.
Yeah, I mean, right now I'm working with QSP on something very similar.
I don't wanna spoil it, but it's, You know, the ORJ, the two-bladed ORJ was simple compared to what I'm trying to work on now.
[52:48] Trying to get three blades in there and letting QSP know like, obviously, we can't have blade rub, the blades can't hit each other, but you only have so much space that you can fit those three blades on or in. And it's, like I said, going back to, you know, it takes a while, communication, prototyping and all that. Yeah, we'll get there. We'll get there.
Well, like once you do get there, since it's all existing in the digital world and then being produced through machinery, once it's finally all the, because I am making assumptions that it's about nestling all the blades in a small spot, and how you're gonna figure that.
Once it's figured out, though, it'll be replicable more easily than GEC, for instance.
EC, for instance, which I bet is a maddening process. That's why you don't see too many triple-bladed Stockmans coming up.
No, I mean, think of the last time that GC made a three blade.
Um, well, I guess they, they just made one, but prior to that, I mean, they hadn't made one, I think until or since, uh.
[53:59] Gosh, I would say early summer of 2022. So I think, you know, this is just me, me thinking, but honestly, they're, they're fairly difficult to make. And I think Bill Howard just likes making his one blade, two bladed knives. And obviously, they sell really well. And yeah, they're quick to make and they sell, they sell quick. I would say the single bladed knives are probably, I mean, those are always the ones that are hardest to get from my perspective.
Especially a 15, single bladed 15, forget about it. So how do you feel about, since you're a traditional guy.
[54:38] How do you feel about fixed blade knives?
Any interest or any? Yeah, I've been following Montana Knife Company.
I don't know if you're familiar with them or not.
I've been following them the last four or five months. And it's interesting, more so I've been following them because they also have their website on Shopify.
They hold releases very similar to how I do it with a date, time release, a countdown, email marketing, all that.
And slowly I've just found a respect for not only fixed blades, but the designs to where they can be utilized for like hunting or for on the farm.
And obviously if you go to Montana Knife Company, you can just see that his designs are made to be used and he has the experience, how should I put this.
[55:30] He has the experience behind the designs to where he knows that they'll be used and they will sell out pretty quick.
Right, right. Now is that a, I'm not necessarily saying that company, I don't want to put your feet to the fire, but is that a sort of company that you would expand traditional pocket knives with? Or is that going against brand?
[55:55] Yeah, yeah, probably, probably not. Yeah, I just, no, I can't see it.
Okay, cool. Well, you know, it is called traditional pocket knives. Right. Yes.
I can see. But I do find it interesting, because Ben, on the release of, I think it was the second run of the Viper or the laid-back yeah he challenged people to only carry a slip joint and I love fixed blades so I was like can I carry a fixed blade to me he's like yeah that's like old-school enough yeah you can do that.
I sell very few but I released GC fixed blades yesterday and they were sold out so So obviously they're popular and people love them.
Yeah, those are rare birds, too, those fixed blades. So I'm not surprised.
And I think they did a run of steak knives not too long ago.
I thought that was kind of interesting, too. Two years ago, they had a whole bunch of steak knives just at the factory.
And I told Joan May, a worker out there, I'll take them all.
And so for the last three years, I bought, I would say, close to 500 or 600 of those little steak knives.
And I mean, they've been selling really well. They just kind of trickle out the door every month.
And it's just been one of those knives where 30, 40, $50 knife and people love them.
[57:24] As we wrap here, here's a question I have just in terms of the business model of traditional pocket knives.
And that is, you know, I follow a bunch and I've spoken to a number of custom slip joint makers.
[57:42] Are those people that you would represent? And I'm just curious if you have any interest in going down that realm, or if you're more of a, or down that road, if you're more of a production.
Yeah. Anything really. Production knives are obviously a thing of mine, but I've talked to Mike Moran, Evan Nikolaitis, they're all custom makers.
And I'm talking about the designs they make, the quality is just absolutely beautiful.
And yeah, I would love to sell one of their knives, but I'm always 100% honest with them.
[58:17] So they've offered, Evans offered to sell me a knife or two. And it's like, man, just sell it yourself. You're going to make more profit. And you put in all that work.
I want you to enjoy the profit from that knife. Not me. It's just...
I don't know, I thought it was a good example. Yes, yes, right, that makes more sense for him and probably more sense for you. If you were to say, and I love bird-ness knives, I think they're just.
Yes, I talked to him just through Instagram a year ago, but his designs are beautiful.
I reached out, I'm like, hey, I'd love to sell a few patterns of yours, but he kind of said the same thing, like I can just kind of sell them myself and make more from it, I'm like, go for it.
So, the reason I brought him up is I was just thinking of, he was the person I was thinking of when I asked the question initially, but what I was thinking was like, it would almost make more sense for you to link up with someone like that to do an OEM collaboration than it would to sell a custom.
[59:22] Well, okay, so one last question then. What is the knife that you want to design that's kind of your grail that you're not ready for?
Oh, that's a great question. Wow. I have a third OEM right now, uh, prototypes are coming that I'm pretty excited for that. That was kind of hitting it, but I really want to, I think this answers your questions. I really want to continue on the double blade path or J double blade was nice. It's like, so it was a thicker knife, um, two full length blades, but I really, really want to get into like your secondary that's your secondary blade that's a smaller blade you know like a you know cap lifter or a small pin blade, small spade blade with like a large clip blade so I really want to start moving away from doing these one bladed you know ORJ Lake Champlain designs to go into two blades, and really just create my own path because like you mentioned, line steel is one of them and my Ohio Riverjack, I think that's really as far as modern slip joints, the two blade versions, where the blades at the same end, I think it's just line steel myself.
So I really want to move down that path and see where it takes me.
[1:00:43] Well, no doubt people will follow you down it. Everyone, myself included, seems to love the Ohio Riverjack and everyone's in awe of the of the Lake Champlain Barlow.
Big, incredible knife. And, you know, just because I want to mention it and talk about it again, I can't wait to get my exclusive Hedgehog. I'm excited to see what you think of it.
I, I'm, I'm very excited for this. If you like the Orge, you like the Lake Champlain, you're gonna love the Hedgehog. Yeah, that's super hollow grind. I'm excited. And I'm excited you put a hollow grind on this one. Yes.
[1:01:17] Anyway, Austin, so nice to have you on the podcast. Very nice to meet you at long last.
Austin Jackson of C. Reisner Cutlery. Thank you so much, sir.
Thank you. And seriously, thank you for what you do for the knife community. We really appreciate it. And thank you very much.
Oh, it's my pleasure. Take care, sir.
Do you carry multiple knives, then overthink which one to use when an actual cutting chore pops up? You're a knife junkie of the first order.
Yep, that's pretty much me.
So imagine me with a multi-bladed knife. It's like, what blade do I use when I choose which knife to use?
Anyway, there he goes, Austin Jackson of C. Risner Cutlery.
Love what he's doing at Traditional Pocket Knives.
If you love Traditional Pocket Knives, that is a website that has to be in your favorites because he's selling some of the coolest stuff, including his own designs.
All right, be sure to join us on Wednesday for the Midweek Supplemental, and then tomorrow night, Thursday Night Knives.
[1:02:17] Actually, tomorrow night, I will be in Tejas. I will be on my way to the Custom Texas Knife Show, so that Thursday Night Knives is up in the air.
But thanks for joining us on the Knife Junkie Podcast. 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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