Ben Belkin, Jack Wolf Knives – The Knife Junkie Podcast (Episode 444)
Ben Belkin, founder/creator of Jack Wolf Knives, joins Bob “The Knife Junkie” DeMarco on Episode 444 of The Knife Junkie Podcast. Ben got his first knife from his grandfather, after whom he’d later name his knife company, Jack Wolf Knives. Ben’s design philosophy is not to reinvent the wheel, rather deliver an awesome and enhanced wheel.
Ben has been collecting knives, traditional folders and others, since childhood. Over years of high-end custom slip joint collecting, Ben developed a friendship with knife maker Enrique Pena, who provided mentorship in a number of ways, including assisting in his first production knife venture.
He showed off prototypes of the Jack Wolf Knives starting lineup at Blade Show 2021, and less than a year later, he officially launched the wide sale of his knives. With the Gunslinger Jack, his first locking knife, Ben embarked on the second pass of the Jack Wolf Knives lineup, utilizing familiar profiles for reinterpretation.
Each Jack Wolf knife comes in elaborate packaging—Ben teamed up with an acclaimed comic book artist to create characters around each knife. Since his first release, the Sharpshooter Jack, Ben has expanded the roster of JWK authorized dealers to 33 and counting.
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.Ben Belkin, founder/creator of Jack Wolf Knives, is my special guest this week on episode 444 of #theknifejunkie #podcast. We chat about the success of his knives, the latest Jack Wolf knives, and what's ahead for the brand. Click To Tweet
The Knife Junkie Podcast is the place for knife newbies and knife junkies to learn about knives and knife collecting. Twice per week Bob DeMarco talks knives. Call the Listener Line at 724-466-4487; Visit https://theknifejunkie.com.
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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 Bob DeMarco. On this edition of the show, I'm speaking with Ben Belkin, the man behind Jack Wolf Knives. By now, you all know Jack Wolf Knives, and if you watch a lot of knife live shows, you might know Ben, too. Now, just a year and a half after starting the company, jack Wolf has 14 modernized slip joints and one bolster lock folder to its name. Ben and the brand have breathed a new life into an already humming slip joint market and has won over collectors not normally drawn to non locking knives. And to me, that's quite an accomplishment. We'll talk about the new locking knife and the latest version of the Laidback Jack right here. But first, be sure to, like, comment, subscribe, share the show, and hit the notification bell. And if you want to listen on the go, download it to your favorite podcast app. And as always, if you'd like to help support the show, you can do so by going over to theknifejunkie.com Slash Patreon. That's theknifejunkie.com slash patreon.
If you search Google for the best knife podcast, the answer is the Knife Junkie podcast.
Bob DeMarco [00:01:27]:
Ben, good to have you back, sir.
Ben Belkin [00:01:30]:
Good to be back, Bob. I like that Google search thing you got there. That's cool.
Bob DeMarco [00:01:36]:
Yeah. That's the work of Jim Jim, the magic man behind the switcher. I like that, too. I also like the tapestry you're in front of. You look like a medieval kind of lord.
Ben Belkin [00:01:48]:
Yeah, I don't know much about it. When I bought this house, I bought it furnished because I didn't have anywhere near the furniture for this place. And the guy I bought it from was downsizing. And so the tapestry came with the house.
Bob DeMarco [00:02:04]:
I like it. It's very regal.
Ben Belkin [00:02:07]:
Yeah, I dig it.
Bob DeMarco [00:02:08]:
Yeah. Well, I want to congratulate you on the success of the new Laid Jack. Jack I have been so thrilled with this. I'm going to put this up here because I don't have the knife cam, and just how excited and happy. And thank you in person for the wood version of this. I think you read the room properly or correctly, and you knew that not only would I be really interested in the wood version, but also my audience. Tell us about this new Laidback Jack release.
Ben Belkin [00:02:44]:
Well, that's exactly right. And I'll just throw up this kieranite with DLC. So this release represented a lot of firsts. It was our first rerelease. It was our first time implementing some new materials, and more than one, certainly. And it was our first introduction of a new artist. So kind of a milestone release for us. And looking back on it, it's pretty cool.
Bob DeMarco [00:03:21]:
Well, it seemed to be. And here's a word I hate, but it's perfect for this seemed to be kind of a seamless thing. Yeah, you have a lot of firsts here, but they all seem natural and they all feel right. Just having spoken with you over the past year and a half about your ideas about slip joint knives, having them manufactured, brought over here, natural materials, even Kiranite, I remember we talked about kiranite too, and some concerns about that and how it would deal with different humidities and travel and all that. You seem to overcome those challenges with this release. What were some of those challenges?
Ben Belkin [00:03:59]:
Yeah, I don't like to take the approach of I'll never do something or blindly, let's do it. So things have to be tested and not rushed in. As much of that effort was undertaken. As you said, we ran into some challenges. Now, the one that was unforeseen to me was what's the best way to finish the material? And you just take for granted that an OEM would just know given a certain material. But that's not the case, at least in my situation. And so initial batches that came back to me were puzzlingly bad in circumstances. Why would someone send this? This is not good, this is not acceptable, like, not even close. And that's okay because as long as you're not committing yourself to large orders before you hash it out, you take the time to hash it out. And in some cases that was just, hey, let's try polishing it. In some cases it was we need to involve the manufacturer of the materials and get not only their recommendations for finishing, but also the machining process. So what steps are taken on the machine, the CNC machine, to transition from off the machine to whatever final process is being undertaken. So the biggest challenge was just dialing them in and how long it took. I've been working on these materials since Blade Show 2022.
Bob DeMarco [00:05:48]:
You mean in terms of perfecting them and perfecting the finishes and learning how best to well, I would say it.
Ben Belkin [00:05:57]:
Was at Blade Show 2022 I started buying some of this material. So like, I picked up a few sheets at Blade Show and shortly thereafter I sent it over and said, okay, make me this knife, this knife and this knife and try I didn't specify finishes. That was the learning lesson. So if anybody here is listening, just don't assume that the finish you want is the finish you're going to get. The best thing you can do is shoot. Some videos are always better than pictures. You might have to beg, borrow and steal to get a couple of knives that look the way you want them. So I did lose some time with just the assumption that they were going to come back. Okay. The other thing too, now that I'm sitting here thinking about it is the fitment. So not all the materials I sent over there allowed for the corners of the scale material to be tightly fit where it meets the titanium. Sometimes you would get corner lifting or sometimes they experience chipping and breaking. So it's just not easy to do things that are unlike you were doing.
Bob DeMarco [00:07:01]:
Before was the currenite, it seems to me when you were talking about things came back puzzlingly bad, like, why would they do this? First thing I thought of was the kiranite. That's not something I think of necessarily on too many knives, except for older slip joints, american made slip joints. And so I thought maybe unfamiliarity with the material. But no, they make plenty of wood knives and also titanium knives.
Ben Belkin [00:07:31]:
Yeah, I think some of it was just a reluctance to essentially they're having to polish these by hand. So there was probably a reluctance to do that because of the time consumption. So they probably I don't know if cutting corners is the right word, but they probably tried to use methods that required less time in the hope that I would find them acceptable. And that was just not the case. They sent me some that were, from what I could tell, bead blasted look terrible. It's like, no, it's not what we want out of this. And the lesson from I'm always learning the lesson for me was like, be very clear about your expectations, very specific.
Bob DeMarco [00:08:16]:
About how you want the end product to look, I would imagine, because this is also the first time you're using kiranite. It's the first time you're using wood. It's the first time you're using full titanium handles, one of which is jigged, I guess you would call that. Is that jigging? And then lastly, it's the first time you're doing this hand rub satin. And it's also the first time you're doing DLC. Like you said, lots of firsts. Was it those scale materials that were the biggest hitch?
Ben Belkin [00:08:52]:
It was a little bit of everything. Like, first they started with PVD, and PVD looks good, but they were like, we'll have better Durability with DLC. And I'm not going to sit here and I'm not a technical expert on the difference between these things. I know DLC is more costly and is supposed to be a higher quality. So if you're in the audience, just take that with a grain of salt. Because it's not my expertise, these coatings. But I just said, if you want to switch to DLC, that's fine, but now you got to send me a DLC. It's not good enough for you to just tell me they're both black because I know they're not going to look exactly the same. And so I think the PVD is actually more true black and the DLC is like a little bit more maybe in the you know, I just wanted to make sure there's a balance between performance and aesthetics that we're always striving to strike. So I felt the DLC got that done.
Bob DeMarco [00:09:54]:
I'm not sure if it's true or not, but my feeling about it is that the DLC is a smoother finish than.
Ben Belkin [00:10:03]:
Bob DeMarco [00:10:04]:
PVD? Yeah. I don't know if that's true or.
Ben Belkin [00:10:07]:
Not, but I think they both employ like PVD is particle vapor deposition. So there's like a process where the coating is essentially a gas and then the particles are deposited in a vacuum under pressure heat or something. And again, like I said, someone's probably shouting at me right now, telling me I don't know what I'm talking about. I'll be the first to admit it's not my expertise coating, but I wanted to make sure the coating was durable, looked good, evenly applied, all that. So we basically went back to the drawing board when they upgraded the coating to DLC. It's like, now I got to do all these cut tests. Now I got to see what happens if I cut paper, if I cut food, if I cut through cardboard, if I whittle on some wood. I just wanted to make sure it was going to work. Now in regards to the titanium, I'd say the thing that went the smoothest was the smooth titanium because it's essentially just an extension of the bolster. And so the familiarity was there. But with the jigging, we ended up having to refine that. And it was things I didn't contemplate, like the edge condition around the jigging, it's like, okay, if you can't create an uncomfortable edge, can you pull one of those out? And I knew you're going to ask. I only have the rosewood and the purple here today, unfortunately.
Bob DeMarco [00:11:32]:
But it's online. People can look it up.
Ben Belkin [00:11:37]:
And so just some refinement there. And anytime you want to experience a change in the design or prototype process, there's a significant time cycle. So what I was hoping was that before Blade show, I would have been able to reveal some of these things, but it just wasn't in the cards. And it didn't really bother me because I kind of had two parallel new initiatives going on. I had the gunslinger and then I had the revisions to the yeah, I had the revisions to the slip joints that I was working on. I knew one would come out in the wash before the other.
Bob DeMarco [00:12:21]:
Yeah. And at that point, the feel good was still feeling fresh and the gunslinger was, oh my God, brand new, right?
Ben Belkin [00:12:29]:
Bob DeMarco [00:12:30]:
Those were opportune to be there if you couldn't be there with the ones that you were aiming for. Let's talk about this rosewood for a second. Now, something I keep mentioning when I talk about this is how I love the material because it's used in guitar fretboards. Mine is a beautiful, beautiful example of the wood. Perfect coloration and everything, but it's used in guitars. It's a durable wood, but also beautiful and I would imagine somewhat easy to work with if it's something that's going to be mass produced or small batch mass produced. How did you go about choosing this wood in particular?
Ben Belkin [00:13:13]:
So part of it was just availability. They didn't have a lot to choose from in the beginning. I've been after them to source more stuff in the event this is well received. So part of it was availability. Part of it was of the ones I had available to me, I wanted something that just presented classic. And this rosewood to me does that. It just looks like classic. And there's other things we could talk about the rosewood, but it was the availability and the presentation and kind of how it all color fits together with the various finishes and colors on the knife.
Bob DeMarco [00:13:53]:
It just looked good. Those three colors right here, they go so nicely together.
Ben Belkin [00:14:02]:
Bob DeMarco [00:14:03]:
Especially that horizontal finish on the hand satin.
Ben Belkin [00:14:10]:
Bob DeMarco [00:14:11]:
Okay, let's talk about the blade for a second here. A noticeably larger, sharpening notch on this one. And then again, like we were just mentioning, the horizontal finish hand rub. Is that hand rub finish. Tell us about this a little bit.
Ben Belkin [00:14:26]:
Yes. So hand rub finish cost me more to implement. And it's the kind of thing where if you're going to do it, it better look good. Right? Because I already have a really beautiful belt satin finish that people are accustomed to. And you can screw up a hand rub finish, like, make it look like it's poorly done. And so I gave them feedback on the first few that came through to me. I leaned on some of the guys I know that make custom knives who do hand rub finishes, and it's like, okay, I showed them those. What could I do to improve this? What feedback should I give them? This and that. But once I got a sample that met my expectations, I was like, man, this looks really good. And once I kind of paired it with the wood, I was like, well, if that doesn't appeal to the more traditional slip joint guy, I don't know what will.
Bob DeMarco [00:15:22]:
Yeah, those three colors, that blasted titanium. That gray is so beautiful. And then next to the finish and the wood. But what boggles my mind is that it's actually hand finished. There are actual people doing this.
Ben Belkin [00:15:40]:
It's in there, it's in a little vice, and they're just.
Bob DeMarco [00:15:47]:
Obviously it's something they do. But this is not something that we think of when we think of the modern knife building context in a factory, super modern factory making highly precise instruments like this. We don't think of people hand rubbing anything.
Ben Belkin [00:16:06]:
I think we would be surprised to find out that these places are a mixture of old world craftsmanship and modern manufacturing. Because I don't think you can execute these knives with just the machines when they grind these things as a unit. Someone with skilled hands has to do that. At a minimum, you've got a station where people are screwing these things together and inspecting them. And if they fancy themselves knife makers and can make a variety of styles of knives. They're going to have to have that institutional knowledge, those tools, those skills to produce whatever the customer wants, and having some sandpaper and the right fixture to hold the things and someone with enough hours in the process to do it as quickly as possible, but make it look good. I was pleased it was there. I was pleased they did a good job because I've gotten a lot of really good feedback on it and honestly, I'm starting to get really partial to it. I was, like, gung ho about the Lsatin, of course, because I was using a lot of it and I wasn't, like, chomping at the bit to have something like this, but I was like, Maybe we should check it out. And I was like, oh, gosh, that looks really good.
Bob DeMarco [00:17:31]:
It looks really good. I mean, I can't see any evidence of misstep or anything. I've looked it's so good. It's so well done. But I'm not here to just gush over how much I love this knife, but I do love it. I'm ready to gush about something else. No, something I've been talking about a lot is the gunslinger Jack. And if this were not a Jack Wolf knife, I would think, wow, this is a really unique and cool knife. This fits into the Jack Wolf knife lineup perfectly. But the thing that boggles the mind is that you turned your talents towards a totally different kind of knife designing and you knocked it out of the park on your first outing. What was it like learning how to design a different kind of knife?
Ben Belkin [00:18:23]:
Well, I really enjoyed it. I enjoyed all of it. Let's see here. The first prototypes need a lot of work, but I wasn't discouraged because you don't feel the same amount of pressure as I did when the first slip joint came out. Because I guess in the back of my mind, I knew if I can't make this work the way I want it to, I can crumple it up and throw it in the trash and start all over and I don't have everything riding on it. So there was a sense of less pressure, which was kind of nice, takes the stress off a little bit. So it really, I guess, freed up some of that emotional energy to focus on the creative side of it. And a lot of this, frankly, is a result of my intention, my design philosophy and what I wanted out of this project. And then I sort of worked within that box because when you're starting with something new, it could be anything. But I knew I wanted it to look like a Jack Wolf knife. I knew I wanted it to have traditional knife feel and aesthetic. And then the other thing that I was really keen on was obviously I participate in a lot of these podcasts, but I listened to ten times as many and I listen very carefully to what everybody's talking about pretty much every single day. And 90% of the chatter is about locking knives. That's just the way it is. So you listen to what guys are excited about, you listen to what they complain about and what their expectations are, and it's like, I'm just copiously taking notes in my mind. Multiple deployments over travel stops, lock bar inserts. No one can be happy with any given pocket clip, stuff like that. Talk about probably the most controversial thing ever, I think, is pocket clips. But I digress. So I just really took that all in and said, this is what I want out of this. And then, fortunately, I had designs where I could bring them over so I don't have to redesign the frame and I don't have to redesign the blade profile. Let's see if we can make work what we've already done. Now, when it came to laying out the geometry and understanding the mechanism, I was like, okay, I don't know this. I could take a bunch of knives apart and look and learn some things, which I definitely did. I pretty much took apart every locking knife I have in my collection. And you start to see all kinds of similarities when you do that. It's like, okay, I'm not reinventing the wheel. I just need to understand the right right. And then a friend of mine, Chris Ortiz, from Cerberus Knives, he's probably most well known for his replacement scales for Spider Cos, but he also does, like, boutique small fixed blades with boutique steels and really premium heat treatments and stuff. But we've made friends, like, well over a year ago, and we help each other out with stuff. He's younger, he's mid 20s, so I kind of lean on him for what's cool, because you and I both too old to be really cool anymore. So you got to let the younger guys tell you what's cool. But he's also, like, super talented, designer and really good at 3D rendering. He designed the Arian, which is what's it called. What's the name of the company that released that? I can't think off top of my head, but nonetheless so we kind of trade information. He helps me with design. I help him with kind of the business and the mentoring side, like how to think through problems, how to make a plan, how to set up your spreadsheets to keep track of the information you're gathering. I help him with the formula for running the business. He helps me with the formula for design. So it's like, really good relationship we have. So with his help and a lot of hours, we kind of hashed out the first gunslinger and came back. And I knew I had to make, like, ten substantive changes, but you could see it at that point, like, if you're making something out of clay, it's not perfectly chiseled yet with all the cuts just right, but it's like, oh, it's in there and we know how to get there now. And so I think we had at least three, maybe four prototype iterations. And when the last one came back and I was just like, I can't do any better. Not without feedback. Not saying it's perfect, but for my first offering to the market, I have the confidence that this is the best I can do right now without learning from it, from the market.
Bob DeMarco [00:23:35]:
Did you consciously go back to the very first design to do this or was it just coincidental? Because obviously it seems like you're going back through the cycle now because this is like the very first one. And of course, the laid back is the second version of your second release. Are you kind of going through the knives that way or is it sort of coincidental?
Ben Belkin [00:24:00]:
Well, what I will say to that is, if not all my slip joints are going to translate perfectly to a locking knife without some kind of modification. Like, I didn't want to do thumb studs. I wanted to have middle finger flick versus thumb flip. And so, of course, you want to start with the first knife again, but if it wasn't conducive, I would have picked another design. But coincidentally, when you look at the Sharpshooter, it's like, I don't think it could be any better because you have this area here to get your middle finger in and the long pull just looks super appropriate on this clip point blade.
Bob DeMarco [00:24:38]:
And the full height hollow grind is great for purchase, for just putting the fat of your thumb there and flicking it out exactly. So the size you're kind of in that EDC sweet spot. Was the blade choice have to do with the locking? The fact that it was locking, yeah.
Ben Belkin [00:24:59]:
So that was one of the things I kind of gained listening to the community, because I'm a slip joint guy. To me, a big knife has a four inch handle, right? But I also own a small Sabenza and a large sebenza. And you hear a lot of people say, like, small Sabenza is too small for me. Well, it has a four inch handle, more or less. And I've always thought the largebenja I mean, it's a beautiful knife. It's just a big knife. It's by no means small. And so I'm like I think the Goldilocks Zone is kind of right in between, and I think that I've got plenty of offerings with a four inch handle. Like, if you want kind of a gentleman size pocket knife, I encourage you to try one of my slip joints. But if I'm going for the pocket knife guy, he's not the majority of that market. So, first of all, these can't even go to the UK. So I really can't concern myself with what they have available to them. Not that I don't, but it's not as heavy as a consideration. And so it's like, man, that three and a quarter inch blade. I think it's a sweet spot. It's not too big, it's not too small. It's goldilocks. And once I got the first prototype, I was like and I have big hands. And I'm like, if I can manipulate this knife in all these ways, I think it's spot on.
Bob DeMarco [00:26:18]:
So you said a big controversial part of this was that pocket clip. I think the pocket clip is very well designed. I think it's not understated. It's stated just enough. There's just enough angularity on it. It's got a little fluting. It's got hidden hardware. And I love it. I've been carrying this all summer. This ordinarily has been shorts. Shorts wear. And as we go into winter, it'll probably migrate to the back pocket. And incidentally, I am getting snail trails, which is kind of exciting on this knife, but not on any of my slip tongues. But anyway, the pocket clip is excellent. People freaked. Some people freaked. Is that right?
Ben Belkin [00:27:09]:
Yeah. Well, and I just think I guess what I meant earlier is there is no one pocket clip that pleases all people. Some guys, they want to have a wire clip, and they give you the ten reasons they think it's the best. And then some people would rather have a milled clip, and they'll give you ten reasons they think it's the best. And the same thing with a spring style clip. So it's like, what clip do I want? I know this clip is not going to please everybody. And some of those clips tend more towards, more utility, less aesthetic. But I like the aesthetic of a milled clip. And I think the utility is sufficient. And I think it's more premium looking.
Bob DeMarco [00:27:57]:
Excuse my interruption. You would hear no end of it if you put anything but a milled titanium pocket clip on it, you would hear no end of shit. And I got to say, excuse the French, but I also have to say I'm very happy it's got hidden hardware because I just think it needs to be hidden hardware in this case. It's so sleek, so classy looking. I don't want to see a hole with a six pointed star at the bottom of it.
Ben Belkin [00:28:28]:
That was all me. I looked at all kinds of knives and I was like, I do not want to see that screw there. I do not want to see it. This thing is bordering on jewelry. Beautiful. And it's unnecessary. Now, I understood that it means to remove it, you're going to have to take the knife apart. But I also understand that guys love taking these knives apart. And if someone's hesitant to do it, you know what, mail it to me. I'll do it for you, no problem. Happy to help you out. And also, that's all coupled with this concept, which I had to have. Like, this was as much for anybody else, for me.
Bob DeMarco [00:29:14]:
Now you're talking about the filler tab. The filler tab, the plug yeah. In case anyone's just listening, if you remove the pocket clip on the gunslinger jack the bolster lock knife here, you can fill that gap with an anodized titanium fill tab that looks exactly the same.
Ben Belkin [00:29:35]:
Yes, it matches the color match to the back spacer and the pocket clip. And so for me, I don't carry pocket clip knives, so I'm like, I'm not going to produce a knife that I will be loathe to carry. And I said, so I've got to have an insert. And if you think it's going to look bad with the screw showing through the pocket clip, it's going to look really bad with the screw showing through this insert. So, yeah, there's all these really careful chamfers and bevels around the insert and around the well, that the insert and the pocket clip goes. If you get your pocket clip under like a magnifying glass, every edge is beveled or chamfered. The Backspacer and the frame, all edges are beveled and chamfered. I was going for like a different look than the slip joints, but I wanted it to have an overall look and form factor and leather slip carryability of a slip joint. So at first glance, you might think it's a slip joint, get up real close to it and inspect it. It's like, OOH, that's something different.
Bob DeMarco [00:30:45]:
Yeah, when you're talking about you wanted the back to look different, I'm going to hold it up next to the well, here's the gunslinger and here's the Sharpshooter. And of course the Sharpshooter is a slip joint. And so it's all hafted really smooth and everything is totally uniform. But here everything on the Backspacer and the titanium slabs on the back of the gunslinger. Everything has these micro chamfers, so everything is defined really nicely and crisply.
Ben Belkin [00:31:20]:
Yeah, I just felt like it's got a little bit more touch of modern. It's like we're kind of taking it through the ages. We went, we took a traditional slip joint and then we brought it to today. And then we took the modern slip joint and modernized it further with a more modern mechanism and more modern angular touches. And there's a lot of little design fundamentals in there, or I should say, cues that I'm glad people enjoyed because I wasn't sure what they would think. So I did a full length Backspacer as long as I could take it, because I wanted it to resemble the back of a slip joint. Now, you inspect most locking knives these days. They do not have full length backspacers. They are few and far between. I was kind of surprised and even when you open it, how they essentially almost touch to give you that continuous surface. And then I had a lot of people kind of ding me for this, but it's just not what I wanted. A lot of people would say, oh, I wish it had better lock bar access. It's like you're only saying that because you. Want to play with it easier. By no means does this knife you struggle whatsoever to disengage the log bar. It's like you don't come at it from the side, you just come at it from the blade. Well, there's a nice thumb scoop. It works great. I've never once failed to disengage.
Bob DeMarco [00:32:50]:
Yeah, and it doesn't pinch either. Sometimes you'll get a pinch between a liner lock or a bolster lock and the scale material. But I've never pinched myself on this.
Ben Belkin [00:33:02]:
Well, yeah, bob and that's because in Prototyping, we cut a relief.
Bob DeMarco [00:33:07]:
Right know, I sort of noticed that, but I didn't know why I was.
Ben Belkin [00:33:13]:
Getting pinched in Prototyping. And as a lefty, my thumb is right over that spot where you're coming at it from the other side, so you don't get there as bad. But me, my whole thumb hovers over that area. So we designed a relief in there to create some skin space.
Bob DeMarco [00:33:32]:
That was very thoughtful, man. I had seen that. I had noticed that. But I didn't put two and two together. That that's the reason why I don't get that pinch. And again, we get the awesome ergonomics of a gunstock Jack, which, with a single bladed knife, is truly something you can access there. This is the first one you came out with. Oh, no, that's not right. So you had already stopped with the micarta at that point. And now with the Laid Jack Jack, version two. What are you calling it? Laid jack.
Ben Belkin [00:34:11]:
Bob DeMarco [00:34:11]:
Ben Belkin [00:34:13]:
I've thought a lot about that. I just call it the Laid Back.
Bob DeMarco [00:34:16]:
Ben Belkin [00:34:20]:
God willing, we have versions seven and 1215, and it's like eventually it's going to become like UFC 175.
Bob DeMarco [00:34:29]:
Yeah, right? Or it'll be like, if you don't mind the parallel, great eastern Cutlery number 15. We're coming back with this again a couple of years after the last time we made it because we want to do another iteration of this night. Yeah, I see what you mean.
Ben Belkin [00:34:48]:
Yeah. I just want it to be the laid back jack. You have a laid jack jack in my cart. You have a laid back jack in Rosewood. If people want to nerd out on it and call it whatever they want, generation two, version two, I don't care. But officially, we're just calling it The Laid. Jack. Jack. I'm not publishing it as sequential.
Bob DeMarco [00:35:07]:
Gotcha. I'm going to nerd out. I'll call it something no, but right here, I'm coming back to the new Laid Back. Before I ask you a couple of other questions here, this has a bolster that is like a Barlow. This is something we didn't talk about before. That was a huge design change from the one before, from the first Laid Back Jack. Look, it's about twice the size, and a traditional Barlow has a bolster that's about a third of the size of the handle or so. And so tell us why you went to that bolster. I'm sure part of it is aesthetic, but there's a whole other reason.
Ben Belkin [00:35:51]:
But yeah, so I try to do what I say I'm going to do. And from the very beginning I've said my intention is to tweak the design if it makes sense, with subsequent releases. And almost all of the initial releases had typical sized Barlows with a single flute. And when I put that triple flute on the midnight jack, everybody loved it, including me. So one design change I've rolled in is the implementation of triple flutes. And I might just let that stick around until otherwise I desire to change it because it's becoming a signature. Now, as far as enlarging the bolster, well, you do have to enlarge the bolster to some degree to get the triple flute. This design in its initial iteration did not have a bottom bolster. So when I started playing with the CAD and I started laying out how I want the new bolster to be, I was like kind of just hit me upside the head. Like, why has there never been, at least I know of a swayback Barlow? It's like perfect to have a barlow size bolster on a swayback. The shoe just fits. So when I catted it out, I was like, oh yeah. Because initially I had kind of thought, like, oh, maybe I just extend it a little bit, add the triple flutes. But the balance just didn't look right to me and I was like, well, we got to pioneer the swayback bolster right here.
Bob DeMarco [00:37:26]:
Well, I think it's a good thing you did. In your testing of this, you mentioned how you get up prototypes and you test them. You run them through cutting cardboard, paper, doing whittling and that kind of thing. Did you notice a difference in side to side stability with the blade, with the larger bolster?
Ben Belkin [00:37:49]:
No. Honestly, I don't know to what degree to answer that question. I think you'd have to be pretty abusive with this thing to find out if one would take more force before it broke. I know back in the day they used those bolsters to bolster the joint. But with three millimeter stock and the tight tolerances on these things, I don't think you're going to break the joint before you actually snap the blade or bend the tip. You know what I mean, with how finely ground these things are. So does it provide strength in the joint? Maybe. But I think more than anything, it's just an aesthetic that people really appreciate.
Bob DeMarco [00:38:41]:
Okay, so let me ask you with this release, god, that kiranite is beautiful. That purple and black is really beautiful. And they all are. And this is the first release where you have one carbon fiber. So you have two titaniums, a wood, a kiranite and a carbon fiber. What of these so far has been the most popular handle material.
Ben Belkin [00:39:11]:
So this knife essentially sold out immediately. The purple with the black, it just worked for people. And as I was taking people's temperature, making knives, black blades especially, was very hit or miss with people. All people don't like black blades. They scuff up and then they won't buy them. They always sell ass. I heard that more than once. But when I prototyped this and I got this configuration and prototyping, I looked at this and I was like, holy crap, this looks really good. And I don't care what anybody says, that looks really good. And then you listen to, I don't want to say naysayers, but then you hear commentary that would suggest otherwise. And then you start second guessing yourself. Like, oh, people are going to say it's plastic. They don't want a black knife. They're not going to get it. They're going to think it's cheap. Meanwhile, cure Knight is not cheap. I'll tell you right now, it is expensive. It's as expensive as the carbon fiber. So anyway, I just rolled the dice on it because I knew inside that I was impressed. And it translated, man. And then second place, the rosewood came out strong.
Bob DeMarco [00:40:31]:
I was going to say, well, a couple of things. I'll put a bookmark in the second one, but with the kiranite, it's a balance of materials. If you had the black blade, the black bolster, and pupli G ten or some sort of or even green micarta or something, suddenly it'd be like, this is a little Militaristic looking. And guys like me would love it, but a whole group would not. But something about that kiranite, which is a classic slip joint material and so swirly and beautiful. And then purple. People like purple, especially on knives next to that black. It's really nice to look at, but it's a little bit of cognitive dissonance too. It's like you got the black and the purple. It's not a black knife in the tactical sense. It's a black knife in the tuxedo sense.
Ben Belkin [00:41:27]:
Exactly. That's exactly right. Something I've been learning and that I'm really starting to focus my attention on is all these finishes, materials, textures, everything. Think about them as like ingredients. They all taste good on their own. There might be some ingredients you don't like. You don't even consider them. But the ones you're working with, you're like, man, I really like every one of these. That does not mean you put these ingredients together to make a dish and people are going to like the dish. They might all like these ingredients. So what's really hard to do is pick the ingredients, pair them together and pick ones that people are wanting to spend their money on. It's really hard.
Bob DeMarco [00:42:14]:
Ben Belkin [00:42:15]:
Bob DeMarco [00:42:15]:
That's a great way of putting it. That's a great analogy. This is your plate of pasta. And off the top, I love nutella and I love grapes and I love seltzer water and I love pretzels. And we're going to put that all in the pasta. Like, no thank you.
Ben Belkin [00:42:35]:
Bob DeMarco [00:42:36]:
That's a great way of putting it. I never thought of it that way.
Ben Belkin [00:42:39]:
I used to not think about it that way either. I thought of things very compartmentalized, like, oh, if we've got one that's blue and we've got one that's red, then maybe we should have one that's green. And it's like it's not it just think about each offering and put as much thought into each individual offering you can and make it the best dish you possibly can. And you don't know, so you have to test that. But it's worth spending the time to really think about. And it's not just thinking about it truthfully. What you want to do is see it. You want to have man, I tell you what. If there's one thing that would help me more than anything, is if I was a knife maker and I had a shop and I could make these things before I ordered a certain percentage of them, like, hey, we want to try this new material. Let's buy a sheet. Let's cut a scale out. Okay, we've got some jack blades in the drawer. Let's pull those out. Let's slap one together. I don't really have that. And boy, it would be nice.
Bob DeMarco [00:43:43]:
Is that something you could accomplish in the future, just from your OEM, say, give me half a dozen of these, or give me 18 of these blades and some of these handles, and you just have them on hand and just kind of put knives together at will. Is that something you could do?
Ben Belkin [00:44:06]:
Well, yeah, I suppose you could. You'd have to kind of think through what that looks like. I'm to the point now where it's not quite as important because I've had so many releases and I have a lot of prototypes, so I kind of amassed that collection over the past couple of years. But if I was starting over and if anybody's listening to this, trying to take a similar journey, take advantage of the fact that when you're ordering prototypes, maybe you want them to make you some extra sets of scales. Maybe you want them to make you some extra blades with different finishes. And don't just pick whatever because you just want to make sure it functions right. Don't miss the opportunity to specify combinations that you may want to sell, because you might be looking at that prototype just to make sure it's the right size and the edges feel good and the action is right. But don't miss the opportunity to put the right clothes on it to make sure it dresses up right.
Bob DeMarco [00:45:07]:
Yeah, that's a great way of putting it, too. Yeah, that seems like a valuable bit of advice. And anyone having a knife OEM could do that. It seems like something that could easily be done and you could cut down on your time. I was thinking this would look cool with jade micarta, but since it's sort of a polarizing material and it doesn't quite look right to me. I'll skip it this time. And then you could save yourself tens, if not hundreds of dollars.
Ben Belkin [00:45:37]:
Yeah, absolutely. And it might cost more upfront to get those extra parts and pieces made, but the time you will save, because you might say to yourself, like you just said, oh, I was going to use JG Ten with a hand rub. Oh, that's going to look great. Then you get it and you're like, I immediately knew deep down that wasn't great. I can't lie to myself. I know. Well, wouldn't it have been smart to maybe have them? Okay, make me one in natural micarta and make me one in cross cut carbon fiber and make me one in this. Make me some extra scales. Let me swap parts when this thing comes in and see with my own two eyes. Because just like trying to shop for knives online, we do it all the time. First thing you find out when you go to a knife show is how different the thing is in person than you thought it was when you looked at it. The same thing happens with your material specs and finishes.
Bob DeMarco [00:46:31]:
Okay, well, I want to talk a little bit about this here. The little bro, which I got to experience, but many did not because of a manufacturing issue when it came out. I was wondering, is this a knife you're planning on rereleasing circling back to at some point?
Ben Belkin [00:46:54]:
Oh, 100%. The little bro has had some growing pains, our little bro. So he was supposed to come out in well, so it was Blade Show 2022. I distributed some to the content creators like yourself. That's how you got one. I sold a fistful of them at the Blade Show, and then I distributed them to the dealers. And then because, fortunately, before those got sold to the public, the units that I had given to the content creators and the 20 to 30 people who bought them from me at the Blade Show, I started getting the reports of the blade wrap. And I never saw it in quality control because I would inspect the knives, close it sometimes open it and close it again. But then I put them aside and so I never saw the blade wrap. So I just dodged a huge bullet. It was a huge what's the word I'm looking for? It was a bump in the road because I had to recall all of them and reschedule that production, which we did. We rescheduled it. They were supposed to be in July, just a couple of months ago. And when those knives were in production, the manufacturer ran the wrong CNC computer program and cut the blanks for all the scales too narrow. They ran the CNC computer program for blanking scales for the feel good jack, which, if you know, Israel is narrower than a little bro up at the so, you know, had they only cut them too big, then maybe we would have lost a week or two's time. But once you blow through an entire giant stack of carbon fiber sheets and cut them all too small, there's nothing you can do. And so we had to postpone the Little Bro. Now, I have shared publicly because I want people to know what to expect with this one, that we're releasing that one in November. So it is coming back in November.
Bob DeMarco [00:49:02]:
I love this knife. It is a great size. Mine did have a little bit of blade wrap. I was able to sharpen it out and wasn't a huge deal on my end. But I remember thinking like when this came out, that this was going to be I will say when you do come out with this, this will be another interesting way to see how it's received because I think it'll be a hit. I remember saying that at the time, just because of the size. Some of these might be a little large for some non slip joint people who are trying to get behind the wheel of one, but this just takes it down ever so slightly. I mean, it's not that much smaller, but it does have a smaller feel.
Ben Belkin [00:49:44]:
Yeah. And a lot of our guys buying these things who are not just diehard slip joint guys, they're carrying it as a secondary. So honestly, it's hard to have a better secondary knife than the Little Bro. I mean, it's basically perfect for that role.
Bob DeMarco [00:50:03]:
Yeah. Boys knife. Beautiful old school boys knife. Okay, so I wanted to tell you this. I have my first Jack Wolf knife that I think I'm going to mod, and it's very not severe. I think I'm just going to dye the scales on my Benny's clip. I'm going to go for burgundy because it's my favorite color, that sort of deep red wine color. And this one is black Micarta. And I think it's just when I clean it with alcohol, it's ready, it can take it and I don't know, I'm excited to do it. Have you had many people modding these or customizing your.
Ben Belkin [00:50:47]:
A small it's a minority, but there's guys who love to do it. So Stephen Patty's potato peelers, he RIT dyed his Midnight Jack red, so you can talk to him about how that came out. The good thing about this Micarta is it takes dye like a yeah. And then I've had a couple guys do EO notches on low drags. I've got one guy on my Facebook group.
Bob DeMarco [00:51:15]:
Is that an easy out notch? Like on this? Like a little easy open?
Ben Belkin [00:51:20]:
Yeah, I guess it could be easy out. I'm not exactly sure. But yeah, there's one guy who will put all kinds of different scales on his. He won't do it for anybody else. He's not for hire. So don't send me a message asking me to connect you with him. But it's really cool. There's guys that will send them to the knife modders, and they do amazing work.
Bob DeMarco [00:51:42]:
Ben Belkin [00:51:44]:
So, yeah, I mean, it's a good template for some of that stuff.
Bob DeMarco [00:51:48]:
So are there other slip joint patterns? I know there must be, but I can't really think of what they are without going double bladed or multi blade. So are there any other patterns of slip joints that are kind of out there that you've always kind of wanted to touch on and haven't yet?
Ben Belkin [00:52:07]:
Well, without being too specific, because you guys know me, I don't like to give anything away, but there are some what's the word I'm looking for? Like, undiscovered. We got some more wells to tap, so in due time, I would like to focus my design effort on converting more of these slip joint designs to locking knife designs, because I think it would be good to diversify my catalog at this point and try to serve that market. I mean, from the business side of things, it only makes sense. It's a much larger market. So the business side of me says, you know, that's a good idea, so you need to be working on that. And I've developed a lot of slip joints already, so I'm not saying I'm not going to do any more, but the ones I want to do, most of them are done at this point. There's a few I want to tackle, but as much as I want to tackle something new, I'd be equally as interested in the revisions to these, like the version two of these, that stuff has to be worked on. And trying to figure out a double blade, trying to figure out a bottle opener, like figuring some of that stuff out, because I've been really short on design and engineering time pretty much all of this calendar year, which is stressful. But I recently hired my first full time employee, and I have his wife working with me, too, as a part time employee. So I'm like watching every day as I come closer to the surface and starting to see where I'm going to get that time jack to start design and engineering again, which is nice.
Bob DeMarco [00:53:47]:
Yeah, that is excellent. And I'm sure that people are thrilled to hear that you're looking forward to designing more locking knives. Yeah, you're right. It is a much bigger part of the market, and it does make sense to, I don't know, to sort of immerse yourself in, but this group of slip joints right here in front of me are very fertile ground to go into that realm while maintaining your aesthetics. Obviously. I mean, all of these I was thinking of these two would be great candidates for locking knives. The cyborg and the venom. I'm sure everyone has their own thoughts.
Ben Belkin [00:54:32]:
Yeah, I hear from people a lot, and I won't say what's going to come when or what I'm going to do, but what I will say with confidence is that expect more of the locking knife, like the gunslinger, based off my existing slip joint designs. It's going to happen. And as soon as I can make it happen, it will happen.
Bob DeMarco [00:54:54]:
Man, that's awesome. So any sort of white whale out there in terms of knife making, in terms of Jack Wolf knives, things you want to achieve, knives you want to build that you could reveal because they're so far in the future that you could do.
Ben Belkin [00:55:13]:
So what I'll say to that, Bob, is I want to diversify my catalog into other areas that knife collectors know, like styles or types. So use your imagination. If there's something you guys who are listening or watching want to see from me, let me like, I want to see what the OEM is capable of. So I'm not afraid to throw projects at them. If they don't work out, they don't work out, but if they do, that's pretty cool. The other thing I'm interested in is price. Like having different servicing different price segments in the market. Now, that's a way easier said than done, because you have to have logical price segmentation. You're competing with different products in those price segments. You don't want your products in different price segments to conflict. You want them to be complementary. So that's going to require a lot of thought. But long term, I know for a fact, because it's probably one of the requests I get the most is, we love what you're doing. We just wish you had something more affordable. And I get that. I'm sympathetic to that. So I can't sell you the $300 knife for $200. It doesn't work that way, but hopefully I can come up with something that is suitable in that price point that doesn't jeopardize on our values of quality. Quality doesn't have to be expensive. You can have quality that costs less than something else of quality. But when the budget is tighter, it's harder to in other words, if there's no expense spared, sure, we can make something beautiful, but like, okay, make something of high quality and beautiful that people are satisfied at 50% of the price.
Bob DeMarco [00:57:24]:
That'S a challenge, right? But if the last ten, if not five years have shown us that challenge, seems to be, at least from the consumer's point of view, seems to be getting easier and easier to achieve. So as you keep growing the company, I bet that that will come closer into reach. As you're getting closer, it will come closer to you, too, if you know what I mean. I would like to say that I want to see an autowolf at some point, and I think that would be pretty cool to see some sort of automatic Jack Wolf Knives knife. I'm just putting it out there. Never thought about it until tonight, but you put it out there. You said, what do you think people be, I want a kukri, I want all this stuff, but I want an auto.
Ben Belkin [00:58:16]:
You know, there's challenges with importation from China. You can't import autos. You can import the parts and then assemble them stateside. Well, I'm not exactly set up for a because think about how many there would be on the market right now if you could do that.
Bob DeMarco [00:58:35]:
Yeah. With all of the changing laws. Yeah, you're right.
Ben Belkin [00:58:38]:
Yeah. And it's just it's an import restriction, so I'm sure guys have done it, but it's not a long term feasible thing to have big batches of knives that could get seized because you're importing something that's illegal. So the way to make an auto is make it in the states or import the parts and assemble it's. It's not as low hanging fruit as some other things, let's just say.
Bob DeMarco [00:59:04]:
I see what you mean. Yeah, definitely. Considering how they're manufactured, this would be the one that I would go automatic, just so you know.
Ben Belkin [00:59:11]:
I think we'd have damn near a consensus that that would be the best.
Bob DeMarco [00:59:15]:
Design for an auto, wouldn't it? And make it just a slight bit bigger.
Ben Belkin [00:59:20]:
Yeah, I'm on the same page as you right there. Yeah.
Bob DeMarco [00:59:24]:
That's nice. Well, Ben, I want to say I'm really impressed with how everything has grown. I mean, we've known, or I have known from the first time I spoke with you, that you're already an accomplished entrepreneur coming into this. So you have a lot of business knowledge you can bring to this, and your openness to help other people and talk openly about this in so many different platforms is also very generous. I'm sure a lot of people have gotten ideas about how to start their own efforts, so I appreciate that greatly. But most of all, I appreciate these beautiful things you keep designing and releasing to the world. So thanks a lot, and thanks again for coming on the show and talking about your foray into locking knives.
Ben Belkin [01:00:11]:
Well, thank you, Bob. You're the first one to give me a voice. I'll never forget it.
Bob DeMarco [01:00:14]:
Oh, man. It will always be my pleasure, sir. Thanks for coming.
Don't take dull for an answer. It's the knife junkie's favorite sign off phrase. And now you can get that tagline on a variety of merchandise, like a T shirt, sweatshirt, hoodie, long sleeve tee, and more, even on coasters tote bags a coffee mug, water bottle, and stickers. Let everyone know that you're a knife junkie and that you don't take dull for an answer. Get email@example.com slash dull and shop for all of your knife junkies firstname.lastname@example.org slash shop.
There he goes. Ladies and gentlemen, Ben Belkin of Jack Wolf knives. That was a great conversation. I'm really looking forward to seeing how these knives that we've all come to know and love, these Jack Wolf knives, will be translated into locking knives in the future. We've gotten a taste, a sweet, sweet taste, as Lou Reed would say, with this gunslinger jack.
And I can't wait to see what else happens in the future? All right, we will check back in with Ben another time in the future. Be sure to check in with us next Sunday for another conversation with a great knife person. And also don't forget Wednesday for the midweek supplemental and then Thursday for Thursday Night Knives, 10:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, right here on YouTube. Facebook and twitch. Okay, 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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