Bob Terzuola: The Knife Junkie Podcast (Episode 479)
Bob Terzuola, the “Godfather of the Tactical Folder,” joins Bob “The Knife Junkie” DeMarco on Episode 479 of The Knife Junkie Podcast.
Terzuola’s first knives were fixed-blade combat knife designs made for soldiers, CIA operatives, and security personnel working in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua.
In 1984, Terzuola moved to New Mexico and began making folding knives. Seeing a need for a knife that could be carried discreetly, he developed a model using black micarta for scales and a bead-blasted titanium frame and coined the term “tactical knife.”.
Terzuola’s Spyderco C-15 model was historic. It was the first liner lock made by a commercial factory, the first production knife with G-10 handles, and the first to have parts laser cut.
He wrote the definitive book on making tactical folders called “The Tactical Folding Knife,” which was most recently updated in 2019.
Terzuola has collaborated with other knifemakers and production companies, including Spyderco, Strider Knives, WE/Civivi, Microtech Knives, and others. His latest production collaboration is a version of the ATCF with FOX Knives Italy.
Terzuola is releasing A Sharp Life, a video series Masterclass on knifemaking. He also offers ShopTalk, a subscription service for knifemakers.
In June 2023, Terzuola was inducted into the “Cutlery Hall of Fame” at Blade Show in Atlanta, Georgia.
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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 a man that needs no introduction, but we'll get a quick one anyway. The godfather of the tactical folder, Bob Terzuola. I had the honor of interviewing Bob 5 years ago before the show even had video and have always looked forward to having him back on. In those 5 years, Bob has greatly expanded his reach, making access to his legendary designs more doable for the average knife junkie, With production runs made by some of the world's top manufacturers and some other very exciting things that are happening now and in the offing. We'll find out about, what's going on and how it all started. But first, be sure to like, comment, subscribe, and hit the notification bell.
Bob DeMarco [00:01:03]:
Download us to your favorite podcast app so you can listen on the go. And, if you wanna help support the show, you know where to go. Go to Patreon. Quickest way to do that is the knife junkie.com/patreon. Again, it is the knife junkie.com/patreon.
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Bob DeMarco [00:01:27]:
Bob, welcome back to the Knife Junkie podcast, sir. Hey, Bob. To have you.
Bob Terzuola [00:01:31]:
Great to be here. Thank you. 2 Bobs, no waiting.
Bob DeMarco [00:01:34]:
2 Bobs, no wait. Yeah. As I said before, 2 Bob talking knives. Like, what could be finer? I wanted to congratulate you on the Fox ATCF, as we get rolling, I I just saw that article and featured it on our last, Wednesday show, and I'm really excited because, that is a design that I've always admired greatly and, maybe not the easiest thing to get my hands on. So, now I have this opportunity, especially in a size range that I prefer. So congratulations.
Bob Terzuola [00:02:10]:
Thank you very much. I've got one here. Do you wanna see it?
Bob DeMarco [00:02:13]:
I would love to see it.
Bob Terzuola [00:02:15]:
Okay. We've got this really nice, pouch with Terzuola and Fox. And, this is right now, they're making a titanium version, Which is this one. And they're doing a beautiful job.
Bob DeMarco [00:02:35]:
Man alive. That is gorgeous, I gotta say that this this is, man, blasted titanium. What what kind of steel are they?
Bob Terzuola [00:02:48]:
This is MagnaCut.
Bob DeMarco [00:02:50]:
Of course. How
Bob Terzuola [00:02:52]:
awesome. They're made in Italy, and they actually got a whole shipment of MagnaCut Delivered to Italy. So that's what, that was one of my requirements that I really wanted a MagnaCut blade, and they said okay. They weren't happy about it, but they did all come.
Bob DeMarco [00:03:06]:
Okay. Alright. So for those who don't know, this this knife, this Particular design is pretty much the one that started tactical folding knives. I mean, that's pretty much it. That's if you If you, trace the family tree all the way back, it's gonna land on this knife. It's a classic, clean, beautiful design. Thank you for bringing it to us in a way that we can, that we can mostly get. You know?
Bob Terzuola [00:03:33]:
It is gonna be affordable, yeah, both in the, With the thumb disc opener, and it is also a flipper. So they've got a double action knife, very nicely made.
Bob DeMarco [00:03:47]:
So tell us where this knife came from, I mean, the the the birth of it, the story of this knife.
Bob Terzuola [00:03:53]:
I was Mainly making fixed blades back in the early eighties when I started. Moved up from Guatemala in 84, And after a couple years, I started, looking into making folding knives. And I got a lot of, help From Michael Walker, who lived up in Taos. I was living in Santa Fe at the time. And, Michael had been developing the liner lock, And I thought that was the way to go. I didn't like the lock back type or the slip joint type. Never trusted them very much. But the liner lock, I really liked a lot.
Bob Terzuola [00:04:36]:
So I made, a couple of models. I made What I call the utility model, model number 1, TTF was what I call them, terza vola titanium soldiers. And, the 2nd model was a Mariner with a sheep's foot blade, very utilitarian. And I was making them, basically just, as this knife you see here with, titanium handles. Three pieces, actually, 2 side pieces and the, spring plate in the middle. And, Michael Walker was using titanium. I like titanium. It's a very exotic material.
Bob Terzuola [00:05:19]:
And the first 2 knives, the, model number 1 and the model number 2, utilitarian and the, mariner, Went very well at shows. People really liked them a lot, and I decided that I really wanted to make something that was that could be used for defense, As well as, utility. And I started thinking about what later became, known as the tactical fold. Tactical meaning I mean, my definition is a tool for survival. And it could be survival, on the city streets, it could be survival out in the woods, in the jungle, working, packers, shippers. I wanted, a a knife that was big enough to be a good defensive tool, As well as, utilitarian, just about any kind of project, And, small enough to be able to be carried. I really like the Spyderco clip concept That was developed by, Sal Glesser. And, he very graciously let me use his clips.
Bob Terzuola [00:06:41]:
In fact, I asked him. I said, Tal, can I can I buy some of your clips? I'd like to put them on on, my folding knives. And, he didn't take any money for them. He just sent me a a box full of them, some of which I still have as a matter of fact.
Bob DeMarco [00:06:55]:
Oh my god.
Bob Terzuola [00:06:56]:
Yeah. I still have some. They were the old, bent clips with, 3 screws, And, that was the original, first of a kind pocket knife, clip. And I liked them, and they were okay, but I decided to change the design myself, so I made some other types of, bent clips and then machined clips. But that was the genesis, basically, of the ATCF. I wanted a a knife that was good for defense And good for, working working people. As I said, truckers, Packers, shippers, people who do a lot of cardboard cutting, and so forth. So it was, it was an interesting journey.
Bob Terzuola [00:07:47]:
And I finally came up with the ATCF, which I called, Because of materials, titanium, and I was using a fairly advanced steel at the time, which was 154 centimeters, back in the early eighties, that was, developed it wasn't really developed by Bob Lovelace, but he was the 1st one to actually use it In, knife blades. So because of the titanium, because of the advanced steel, I decided to call it, the Advanced Technology Combat Folder, ATCF, and that's where that came. It was also called, right at the beginning, The TTF 3 because it was the 3rd folding knife model that I had made. But I like the ATCF better. I like advanced technology much
Bob DeMarco [00:08:37]:
I I like, also your meaning of the word tactical because, in this day and age, in the knife community, tactical is It is almost synonymous with fighting, fighting knife.
Bob Terzuola [00:08:49]:
Bob DeMarco [00:08:49]:
Is this a tactical knife? Is this for killing? And, you know, that is one aspect of what you're talking about. You're talking about tactical like, taking care of any tactical situation. That doesn't always mean combat. It could mean whatever whatever situation it's gonna be you have to handle. Your car car breaks down. You're in the middle of the Pine Barrens. What am I gonna do tonight? You have that folder on you as of as well as I'm in this dark alley. And what who are those people? You know? Both of those thing.
Bob DeMarco [00:09:23]:
So what about the liner lock was it that, convinced you over I could see why you wouldn't go for a slip joint from over, say, the back lock.
Bob Terzuola [00:09:32]:
I'd backlogs, first of all, are a lot more, complicated to make. I believe they're they're more difficult. They They take a lot of careful either filing or machining, either one. You can make it both ways. They're fairly reliable, but after a while, I always felt that that lug That fits into the slot the the lug that fits into the slot of the blade up at the top that holds it could slip. I've I've seen it happen a couple of times. With most really good makers, it was it was reliable. But some people, it it didn't always, and sometimes it didn't always catch very well.
Bob Terzuola [00:10:20]:
The liner lock I saw Actually, the thing I liked about it was that it blocks the blade. It doesn't hold the blade back like a top lock. The top lock holds
Bob DeMarco [00:10:33]:
Bob Terzuola [00:10:33]:
Holding the blade, you know. You of course. Yeah. But the liner lock actually blocks the blade. It it prevents it from moving. And if it's properly made, The lock won't slip off the blade. And if you put an incredible amount of pressure on the blade, You can deform the lock. It can actually bend, but it won't fail.
Bob Terzuola [00:11:02]:
Yeah. It won't fail It's still gonna be there
Bob DeMarco [00:11:03]:
in the path.
Bob Terzuola [00:11:04]:
That's what we call it, a failure that would, you know, would cut you or chop a finger or something like that would be a catastrophic Rather than a slow, slippage type of thing.
Bob DeMarco [00:11:18]:
Well, okay. So, one of your Here's, I guess I would say, in the business, Chris Reeve, came up with the frame lock or the integral Lock, as he called it, Reed and a girl lock. It's sort of based on the same concept, but is also reinforced by your hand. Is that is that Is that kind of the same? I mean
Bob Terzuola [00:11:41]:
Yeah. Do you put them on the bottom? They're both liner locks in that A a a flat spring passes behind the blade, Slides onto a, basically, a wedge, which we call the lock face, and prevents the blade from closing by blocking the downward motion. Now, Chris, I remember, I think it was you know, I can't remember which Show it was, but it was at a guild show. Chris came over to me and asked me to step out into the hallway, And he wanted to show me something, and he showed me his very first frame lock, prototype that he had made Just literally days before the the Gilles show. This was in Orlando, Florida. I'm not I'm sorry. I just don't remember the the the year. And I looked at it, and I said, Chris, I think you've really got something here.
Bob Terzuola [00:12:39]:
It's it's, it's it's a powerful knife in that The frame part, the part that has the spring with the lock, is much thicker than a liner lock. A liner lock has a has a much thinner piece, Which is quite sufficient to to to hold it, especially if it's titanium. But he had the entire side with the spring Made of much thicker material. And, when we make those now, we use, about a 100 125,000. It's about an eighth of an inch sometimes. I've seen people, make them even thicker than that. And it's a it's a good, very strong, strong lock because it's exactly the same. It works on exactly the same principle as the liner lock.
Bob DeMarco [00:13:28]:
Well, where did the inspiration come for you originally to to make the folder in the 1st place? I mean, I know you said, You know, practicality and all that, but but but for you personally, what were the circumstances that led to? Jeez. Maybe I need to start working on folders.
Bob Terzuola [00:13:49]:
Okay. Well, I'm going to be perfectly honest with you. At the time, Mid eighties, 85, 86, I was making fixed blades, and fixed blades are pretty big and heavy. Yes. And I was taking maybe 7, tend to a show. I was doing a lot of shows in those days, probably, 5 to 6 shows a year. And the fixed blades were heavy, took up a lot of space, and I really couldn't carry that many of them. And I said to myself, you know, There are more pockets than there are belts.
Bob Terzuola [00:14:35]:
Why don't I go in to start making Folders. I can carry more of them. It won't take as much space in the in the suitcase, and I can take my bathing suit along with me. I said, you know, let's do that. And, then the the whole thing started to snowball. I got a hold of, Michael Walker. He said, yes, I'd be happy to show you how how to do that. I studied his knives.
Bob Terzuola [00:15:02]:
I studied, Several leathermakers, Mel Pardue, Ron Lake. I was pretty close to Ron Lake and, and, Joe Cais at the time. And they were making, you know, really beautiful take it away from them. They were making absolutely gorgeous knives that I probably Probably would not have been able to make, and even today probably would not be able to make, the the kind of, Detail and fine jewelry quality that they put into their knives Was was really not something that I aspired to. That that wasn't that wasn't what I was looking for.
Bob DeMarco [00:15:43]:
Bob Terzuola [00:15:44]:
I was looking for more utilitarian, More protection, lightweight, and a little bit bigger than most of those guys were making. Most of them were making, Between 2 a quarter, 2 and a half inch blades up to maybe up to maybe 3, 3 and a quarter. So I I wanted to make a a a bigger knife, But not so big that it wouldn't be, comfortable to carry. So I I stayed with the ATCF, which was about 4 inches. Porn. Okay.
Bob DeMarco [00:16:15]:
So I I had this romantic nose. Well, I shouldn't even put it that way. Let let's let's get to where you were, you know, how this all happened. You moved down to Guatemala, when you were a young man after after school. I understand. I remember you telling me. Mhmm. And, you joined the Peace Corps, which is an interesting, detail given, say, your fixed blade knives, which are which are beautiful and combative and all that.
Bob DeMarco [00:16:45]:
Tell us about How you how you actually got started in the knife business and, and how you went forward from there.
Bob Terzuola [00:16:53]:
Well, I was working at at, I I did, I I had several careers down in Central America. I had been in Panama and Puerto Rico as a Peace Corps trainer, and I managed a became a manager of a jade jewelry factory in Guatemala, in Antigua, because I was carving jade also in my spare time. And, Our next door neighbor from the the jade shop, his name was, colonel, Jim Atwood. He, he got me involved in knives. He had written the definitive work on, the Third Reich knives. I think I think the name of the book was The Ed Gweppens of the Third Reich. I've got a picture of his book In my book, because it was quite influential. And, he got me started, and I started making knives, basically for fun, because the machinery that I used for jade carving, some of the some of the machinery, I could use for grinding knives also.
Bob Terzuola [00:18:04]:
And then I kind of got into that was that was for about a year maybe. I was making, Hunting knives, field knives, nothing really in the way of combat knives or stuff like that. And I met a bunch of people down there, marine security guards at the embassy, some Some commandos working with, Argentine forces and so forth that had come up to El Salvador. There was a lot of turmoil going on in Central America at the time. And, they were asking me to make knives for them and different kinds of knives, and, I developed the, The, Model 30 Battle Guard and the Model 18 Combatmaster, those 2 were the basic, military knives that I first started out with.
Bob DeMarco [00:18:57]:
Do you have any do you have any of those to show, just so we have an idea of what you're talking No. Uh-huh. Okay. Well, actually Not
Bob Terzuola [00:19:05]:
at the moment. Not here.
Bob DeMarco [00:19:07]:
Then hold up Sousa's fixed blade that you showed me before we started rolling so people have an idea of the Not for sale.
Bob Terzuola [00:19:15]:
Not for sale. Yes. This is not for sale. The, the Model 30, Battle Guard was similar to this. This is the BattleMate, which is, which has, metal bolsters. The Battle Guard did not. It had protection of finger, top and bottom, but it was incorporated into my Carta handle. And it had a 6 inch blade as opposed to a 7 inch blade, which is what this is.
Bob Terzuola [00:19:42]:
And, pretty much matte finish. And the first ones I designed at the request of, a captain in the special forces, they wanted a, prize to be given to the, sergeant of the year, the noncomm of the year, and the soldier of the year at Fort Gregg for the special forces. That's where the first 2 Model 30 battle guards went. And I got some letters back from, the sergeant and the, soldier thanking me for the, for the knife.
Bob DeMarco [00:20:20]:
That has got to be the coolest honor and the, the greatest build to to to make a, Not commemorative knife, but a, you know, graduation knife or that kind of thing for, the the brave men and women that that, You know, defend us. To to have your knife be a, a prize or a a symbol of your Of your what what you earned is pretty cool. I I just wanna say before
Bob Terzuola [00:20:50]:
we get to made, quite a few knives for for military people. And if if you can if you can just, talk there for just 30 seconds, I'm going to get a special knife to show you. It's just I didn't think of it. I've got it in a drawer right over here. Can you, just give me 30 seconds?
Bob DeMarco [00:21:08]:
This is perfect, because I I just wanna tell viewers and listeners, who Maybe they're new to knife collecting and looking into knives. Bob Terzuola designed the, recent release, the 2022 release or I'm sorry, 23 release, Civivi Tomashi And it's this beautiful sort of traditional, Japanese quaken blade on a Kurzuola style Handle, and he was talking before about the battle guard having integral sort of guards, finger guards here That were incorporated into the micarta handle, and the same thing is happening here in, in this knife. So if you're If you're familiar with, more familiar with more, I don't know, knives because you just got started in this hobby, and wonder where you heard that name. You've heard it here, and you've heard it plenty of other places, but I'm always talking about this knife. It's so nice.
Bob Terzuola [00:22:09]:
Anyway, sir, so I I brought this knife back. I made this for a marine sergeant, And it's a Model 30 Battle Guard, 6 inch blade, all my car to handle. And I was one of the people that developed the Kydex sheath. Okay? He was wearing this During a military exercise, I think it was Iraq, but I'm not really exactly sure, and there was, A mine blew up near him, and a piece of shrapnel came flying at him And destroyed the sheath and took a chunk out of the knife. Woah. Right there.
Bob DeMarco [00:23:03]:
Took a little chunk out of that micarta.
Bob Terzuola [00:23:06]:
Out of the micarta and and the, Sheath. Wow. Here we go. And he sent me a very nice little note. And there's his picture. He sent me the Marine Corps emblems there. He said, when the accident, in quotes, occurred, The knife was secured to my butt pack. So in a sense, you can say that this tool Literally saved my ass.
Bob DeMarco [00:23:40]:
Yes. I love it. God, how cool. And he sent it back to you. That's amazing too.
Bob Terzuola [00:23:47]:
He sent it back, and I I made him another one. And I said, I wanna keep this one. He said, Please do. He says I no longer wanna see it.
Bob DeMarco [00:23:55]:
That's that's awesome. What a cool story.
Bob Terzuola [00:23:59]:
There's one other thing I did with the Model 30 Battle Guard. I had a I had a this is this is I know you wanna talk about folders,
Bob DeMarco [00:24:10]:
No. Talk about all
Bob Terzuola [00:24:10]:
of it. This was a Model 30 that I used as a table display, And it's a 6 inch blade, my Carta handle, and the tip, I drove through a piece of stainless steel just to show how
Bob DeMarco [00:24:32]:
Bob Terzuola [00:24:34]:
And then this is the table display that I had it on. I took the knife out to the range, Set up a shot, put it in a vise, and I shot it, a whole bunch of times. I actually shot 8 rounds of the blade and split the bullets. And you can see the halves of the bullets that we were able to recover. And, you probably can't see, but you might be able to see the scuff marks.
Bob DeMarco [00:25:04]:
Yeah. You sure can.
Bob Terzuola [00:25:06]:
Yes. You can. Just a little bit. Yep.
Bob DeMarco [00:25:09]:
So is that, is that ATS 34? What is that blade steel back then?
Bob Terzuola [00:25:15]:
This was, the, this is 154 c m
Bob DeMarco [00:25:18]:
Bob Terzuola [00:25:19]:
Which is basically ATS 34. It's it's the same seal. ATS 34 was made in Japan. CPM 154 was made in the United States. Okay. Okay. Well, 154 Centimeters, I should say, Which became CPM 154.
Bob DeMarco [00:25:35]:
Well okay. So you're down there. You're you're down in South America. You have a You've begun your business, making knives. How did you integrate back into the states and and and and You know, there's a fledgling knife, world happening. I mean, there was a knife world happening at the time, not like it is today with so many Different knives and, like, how did you get involved? Because I I understand Bob Loveless was one of your sponsors to get into the knife making deal. It sounds like you You got involved in the in the heaviest way. How did you do that?
Bob Terzuola [00:26:13]:
I just called him up, and I said, I've got a knife on order with you, and I've had it for several years, and I would like to join the guild. Would you examine my knives? And if you You like them? Would you sign me in? And he said, sure. So I flew up to Florida, actually, first to, Frank Sinofanti, Who, later became a president of the guild. And he looked at my knives, signed off on them, then I flew from Florida to California. And, from there, I went to the 1st guild my 1st guild show. I I think it was 1980 or 81 in Kansas City. And that started the journey, and that was it. Then I started, like I said, a couple years later, moved up to the States in 84 from Guatemala, Set up my, shop in, Santa Fe and, then started making folders in about 86 or 87, Somewhere around there.
Bob Terzuola [00:27:14]:
I was playing around with designs and so forth. The ATCF, came in in, I'm pretty sure it was 87. And I introduced it at the Guild show. We were still In Kansas City, I believe. Yeah. Probably.
Bob DeMarco [00:27:35]:
Yeah. So the, you're you're still making the ATCF, and and other knives by hand. I mean, custom knives. I wanna talk a lot about the OEM stuff you're doing and the production stuff and how you are, reaching a lot of knife fans and and design fans, but before we get there, I I wanna talk about the fact that you are still Making these by hand and, like, these exquisite pieces oftentimes with stag and and different exotic materials, Still making the customs.
Bob Terzuola [00:28:09]:
This is one that I finished today. It's an ATCF going to a friend, DEA agent, actually. This is all handmade. This was this was one of the made here in the shop, and I've got another one that I I finished today all 2 of them, I finished today. This one is an Eagle Rock. We call it a thin blue line, And this is for a friend of mine who's a SWAT commander, in the Southwest, And he wanted a thin blue line knife. I've made several of them, commemorating, our police forces. And this is the Eagle Rock with a double grind blade.
Bob Terzuola [00:28:50]:
Just finished it today, and I'll be shipping it off, probably Friday. So, yes, I am making, knives still by hand, the way I made them 40 years ago.
Bob DeMarco [00:29:05]:
So that Eagle Rock model is, in limited production, or small batch production with, custom knife factory. Is that right?
Bob Terzuola [00:29:14]:
The Eagle Rock? Yes. Yeah.
Bob DeMarco [00:29:15]:
Bob Terzuola [00:29:17]:
that it's it was being made, in Ukraine, I think it is. What what was that? Can't remember. Yeah.
Bob DeMarco [00:29:25]:
I think they're a Russian company.
Bob Terzuola [00:29:28]:
Yeah. It was an Eastern Eastern European country, and they did a beautiful job on it. It was a very, very well Made nice. They're working on a 2nd model now, which is a smaller one. I would say it's Eagle Rock, but smaller. They're calling it 2 point o, I believe. That should be coming out fairly soon.
Bob DeMarco [00:29:47]:
Okay. So over the years, you've done a lot of, collaborations, with the likes of, say, Spyderco, or Strider, Civivi. I think Maybe Microtech? Did you
Bob Terzuola [00:30:02]:
Yep. Microtech did an ATCF, bolster release Years ago. That sounds so cool.
Bob DeMarco [00:30:12]:
That sounds really cool. I I used to have one of their bolster, releases, that, that Greg Lightfoot design, that was a sweet knife too. An ATCF like that would just I'd never let that, though. But, anyway, what I wanna ask you is how what's it like working with companies? I know you have a you have relationships with some of the American companies, maybe some of the legacy companies that were coming up, adjacent to you. What's it like working with Those companies to bring out your designs, which up until that point are customs that you pour over yourself, you put yourself into. What's that like?
Bob Terzuola [00:30:53]:
It depends on the company. Some of them have been, very, very good, really wonderful to work with. ProTech, for example, ProTech, made and is still making this automatic ATCF. This happened to be is this a tech no. It's, all black, and they're still making them, and they're it's one of their most popular models. Dave Wattenberg, who runs ProTech, is a wonderful, wonderful person to work with. He keeps his word. He's followed through on, everything he's promised, and it's been a it's been a really wonderful relationship.
Bob Terzuola [00:31:35]:
Same thing with Spyderco. I had a lot of luck with, Spyderco and working with Sal Blesser, worked with, Camillus, And, several other companies that Fox, for example, in Italy, we we talked about the Fox knife, The, the ATCF that they're producing, they've made several of my knives. MKM, Which is another company in in Italy. We really like working with the Italian companies, mainly because we love visiting Italy and eating the food.
Bob DeMarco [00:32:12]:
Yeah. I was gonna say.
Bob Terzuola [00:32:13]:
Yeah. But we have We have a great time. It's a good excuse to go over to Italy.
Bob DeMarco [00:32:19]:
Yeah. And write it all off. It's all business.
Bob Terzuola [00:32:21]:
Yeah. And, You know, I've I've had there were there were 1 or 2, how shall I put it, not so happy, relationships with some companies, which I won't name. No need to do that. Not really bad, just not particularly, We're just gonna leave it like that. So your question, what's it like working with the companies? It depends on the company. Depends on who's running it And, depends on the people that are involved in it.
Bob DeMarco [00:32:56]:
And I would imagine the type of arrangement. You do something with Spyderco. You're I I don't know this for sure, but you're probably licensing that design to them and then they produce it under their shingle and put your name on it, but when you have something made under your name, you're just OEMing it like the, I saw Blade HQ has some of your, 3 inch ATCFs or used to, I should say. Those are knives that you had OEM for you, for your company, Terzuola Design. That's gotta be a different kind of relationship Because you're not trying to get your design to fit into anyone else's model line. You're just trying to get these guys to make it with some level of fidelity.
Bob Terzuola [00:33:43]:
Right. And, it it usually worked out very well. That particular knife that you're talking about, the the 3 inch ATCF, It was very successful. We also had a 3 inch star fighter, smaller star fighter. I call it the micro star, I think. That was a while back, and it worked out very well. And it's, like you said, OEM, they make them, and we sell them. Whereas, with Civivi, for example, they make them, they sell.
Bob Terzuola [00:34:16]:
We get a royalty on those knives that they sell with the OEM. They make them for us. We buy them from the company, whatever Company may be making them, and our profit comes from selling them to the public directly.
Bob DeMarco [00:34:34]:
So as a knifemaker, as a as a businessman and a knifemaker, what What what goes into the decision to do that?
Bob Terzuola [00:34:45]:
My wife. Let me let me put
Bob DeMarco [00:34:48]:
a finer point on my question because, as someone who hand builds these knives that are coveted worldwide by knife lovers such as myself, you know, you have high exacting standards. I'm sure you wanna get your your designs out there into As many hands as possible, but it's gotta be hard to to surrender that control.
Bob Terzuola [00:35:12]:
Well, we're we're we're very particular about quality Control, and about the way they look, the way they work, and the business practices of the people who who manufacture and and sell them. And I mentioned my wife. Now Susan is really the business brains here. I'm not. I'm the mechanical brain. Susan, has been doing a tremendous amount of work in promoting my work, in helping me with designs, been helping me with, selection of materials, and she's been absolutely major influence in our latest projects, which have been, filming and videos. And that's what we've been working on for the past, actually, since August, I guess.
Bob DeMarco [00:36:06]:
Well, let's let's talk about that. Shop Talk with Bob is one of them, and then A Sharp Life, the video series. What tell us about that.
Bob Terzuola [00:36:15]:
They're 2 separate 2 separate but related things. Both of them are me in front of a cat, which is not my favorite place to be. But, A Sharp Life is, basically a, an 11 part series Of my book, filming the manufacture by hand here in this shop of an ATCF From literally scratch, from drawing with a pencil the design To finishing the knife, and that's an 11 part series, and that's called A Sharp Life.
Bob DeMarco [00:36:57]:
So this, if if if people don't know, you have a very, very famous book. As a matter of fact, the the individual I I interviewed 2 evenings ago, I asked him how he got into making folders, and he he said your book, and that was it. That was basically his answer. So this is a a video version of that book.
Bob Terzuola [00:37:18]:
Exactly. In 11 11, episodes, They're about a half hour, 20 minutes, 35 minutes apiece. Here's the book. This is the one that we're that was that we, actually filmed. Here in the shop, we had a professional film crew come in, and we worked for 2 weeks, designing the entire program around the book in the 11 the 11 parts. And we had a song written just for just just for this.
Bob DeMarco [00:38:27]:
Oh, man. That's great.
Bob Terzuola [00:38:29]:
Yeah. We had that written for, by Nathan Barlow. He's a fairly famous songwriter, and he's Keith Urban's, keyboardist.
Bob DeMarco [00:38:38]:
Oh, nice. And a good name for writing a knife song, Barlow. I mean, come on. That's a little on the nose. Right?
Bob Terzuola [00:38:44]:
Yeah. I said very, very true. So that's Sharp Life. It's an 11 part series, took 2 weeks to film. It was, quite an adventure, let me tell you, especially having a film crew, here in my little old shop.
Bob DeMarco [00:39:02]:
You sank them. So you take them soup to nuts in this series building an ATCF, basically.
Bob Terzuola [00:39:08]:
This is soup to nuts. Yes. That's a very good way of putting it. So that's the Sharp Life series, And then we have a subscription series, which we call shop talk with Bob. And that's composed of Videos, we're gonna have, 2 videos a month, and we call them deep dives. In A Sharp Life, I went through a whole series of procedures and tools and methods, tapping and drilling and but I Because it was as part of an entire construction of a knife, I wasn't able to dwell on any specific technique or tool or procedure for any period of time. So the shop talk with Bob are, oh, 25, 30 minute videos. We're gonna have 2 a month, and what we call, deep dives into Specific procedures.
Bob Terzuola [00:40:09]:
For example, we've already filmed the first 2, 1 and 2. And the first one was, on, tapping, how to tap into titanium, how to do a blind tap, what taps are, basically making screw threads which is what holds the knife together. And the second1, had to do with clips, Making clips, applying clips, designing clips, different kinds of clips, pocket clips, and so forth. That was episode number 2. And we'll be working on more, every couple of weeks. In addition to the videos, We'll be doing a weekly Zoom call, kinda like what we're doing now, except the subscribers, those people who are who actually pay to subscribe to be part of this. We'll be able to be on the Zoom call with us. We'll give them a password or a code or some technology of some sort.
Bob Terzuola [00:41:10]:
And, they can ask questions. They can make critiques. They can, talk about their knives. They can talk about whatever they want that's related to knives and knife making in my shop. We'll also have for the subscribers, there's gonna be some swag involved with packages of interesting little devices and things. We've got, For example, a book, a notebook is gonna go for each of the subscribers, and Pencil is gonna go with special mechanical pencil, some other nice little things. And we're gonna have other surprises. Along the way, we'll be doing, video calls or phone calls with other knife makers or collectors or, maybe even show promoters.
Bob Terzuola [00:42:02]:
You you know, now people who are involved in the knife, knife community in one way or another.
Bob DeMarco [00:42:10]:
Well, this this is a huge opportune. I'm sorry I'm interrupting you here, Bob, but I don't this is a huge opportunity for knifemakers because Though, you know, you're a very affable guy and, very easy to talk to, you might not be, you might not have the schedule to talk to every knifemaker who might wanna ask you advice, but to be able to, you know, Ask you on a live Zoom meeting, when you were talking about carbonizing or when you were doing that thing there, can you can you that again. I wasn't getting it. To, like, actually get it from you, that's a pretty I mean, that's a great resource.
Bob Terzuola [00:42:48]:
Well, we're hoping so. That was, that was Susan's idea. This whole thing basically was Susan's idea, and she's produced it. And, she's ramrodding the whole thing and doing a a really great job, getting it out there. She she organized, The film crew who who she knew in, New Mexico, she used to work in the movies in New Mexico, when the when the movies started going out there from Hollywood. So we had a film crew here, and then, she got ahold of Nathan Barlow to get the, song done. This is this is basically, Susan's project, And I'm just a small Talent. Small part of
Bob DeMarco [00:43:32]:
the You're talent. Exactly. Talent.
Bob Terzuola [00:43:35]:
And I'm I'm the on screen talent is what they say. Yes.
Bob DeMarco [00:43:39]:
Yes. Yeah. On screen talent. And and and being so, you get get to be temperamental. You get to be moody. You get to hang out in your trailer and, like, not listen to the
Bob Terzuola [00:43:48]:
I don't do a good Bob. I wind up in the trailer. I'll be outside.
Bob DeMarco [00:43:53]:
Giving back, is this something like, you know, my father was a physician, and when he, When he retired, he did a lot of sort of Doctors Without Borders kinda stuff, and and even before he retired. But for him, he was like, you know, this has This has been good to me, and I need to be I need to pay it forward. I I don't like that expression, but is that is that kinda something that is is where this is coming from?
Bob Terzuola [00:44:21]:
Yes. I studied to be a teacher in college. I had a full scholarship to NYU for industrial arts education. And right at the very end of my time there, I decided I didn't wanna be a teacher. I didn't wanna it's not that I don't wanna be a teacher. I just didn't wanna spend 20 years doing the same thing. Ironically, I actually have spent 40 years doing the same thing, but been more pleasurable than standing up in front of a high school class. But as Susie likes to say, things have come full circle, and now I'm teaching.
Bob Terzuola [00:45:01]:
And I've always Really enjoyed teaching people basically anything. And sometimes I go off the deep end like Susie says. You know, somebody asked you a question, you start in the middle ages, start the way you look for it.
Bob DeMarco [00:45:14]:
Bob Terzuola [00:45:15]:
Yeah. Context. That's what I try to do. But, I've taught a number of people how to make knives. We're gonna have some testimonials from people. A surprising number of women. Actually, when we're looking back over this list of people that have actually come into my shop, not only here, but in, Albuquerque and Santa Fe, And, made knives with me, people who had never made a knife before, people who had no idea how to even begin, that actually walked out after, you know, 3, 4, 5 days with a knife in their hands. And a surprising number of women who actually have have have made knives with me in the shop.
Bob Terzuola [00:45:58]:
And, in fact, we're going to have a Very accomplished lady from England coming in, 2 weeks to spend, some time with us here. She's gonna make a knife. She's, one of the more renowned saddlers in English who hand makes English riding saddles. She's a she's a a super accomplished leather worker, And we're gonna we're gonna very much enjoy having her here. We we've had this relationship on Instagram. Never never met her, but we look forward to doing that. She's gonna stay here, and we're gonna work in the shop.
Bob DeMarco [00:46:41]:
You mentioned, Santa Fe, and Albuquerque, but Santa Fe in particular. And then, this just trip and then you were talking about Michael Walker. I know he's still I think he's in Tahoe, sir. I I follow him on Instagram, and and and he makes knives. You know, you you got your liner lock from him. But but as you indicated earlier, he makes very, very different kinds of knives, very artistic, jewel jewelry. Like, When you were in Santa Fe, I I happen to know that that's a very, very artsy place. Was your did that affect your knife making being in that artistic Environment?
Bob Terzuola [00:47:20]:
No. In a word, no. The art community in Santa Fe was very much removed from me and my shop. There were there were very few people who were interested In what I was doing in knives in general, and mechanical things. They were more interested in I won't say modern art, but, art that, contemporary. Thank you, Susan. Contemporary art. No.
Bob Terzuola [00:47:56]:
I wasn't really affected by or influenced by what they did or what either their work or Themselves as people.
Bob DeMarco [00:48:07]:
Bob Terzuola [00:48:08]:
Enjoyed going to some of the shows, the the, the openings and so forth with Etsy. There were like a 165 art galleries in Santa Fe when I was living there. I don't know if there were that many there now, but, it was, probably 2 or 3 openings a week, and they had free, wine and cheese. So
Bob DeMarco [00:48:28]:
Yeah. Go get your your weekly hummus, fix. Yeah. It's like this is like some some places some places at certain times are are just, like, creatively supercharged, and and Santa Fe seems to be one of those kind of places.
Bob Terzuola [00:48:45]:
Yeah. Yeah. It it it was in those days, that supercharge really didn't, affect me very much, but it was there, and you and you could feel it. There was a lot of, lot of excitement about the art, the art world. I got to know in fact, I had, you know, one of the very first, knife shows, I actually produced up in Santa Fe. It was a very small show, but we had fabulous people show up there. Michael Walker, Ron Lake, Fred Carter, A whole bunch of people. It was a it was a nice little show.
Bob Terzuola [00:49:22]:
It was the only one we had. But, Santa Fe was was an an interesting place. They say it's either the the geography or the gravity or something. There's a lot of Mystical quality that people put into some of the screens.
Bob DeMarco [00:49:39]:
That's all the limestone.
Bob Terzuola [00:49:40]:
Yeah. Yeah. A lot of crystallography and Google stuff. You know, I used to say that there were 3 cons there are 3 conservatives in Santa Fe, and I wasn't sure about the other 2. Yeah. Santa Fe really didn't affect me very much in terms of my work. I enjoyed being there. I enjoyed a lot of the people, But not as far as what I actually did.
Bob DeMarco [00:50:03]:
That sounds very much like, where we're coming from here in Northern Virginia. I wanna ask you. Okay. People, as I did up front, refer to you, and I don't know if this, noise you or not, but The godfather of the tactical fold. Really, you know, the the the guy that started this thing that, has evolved into a A collecting and using, enthusiast group that is gigantic and and you were one of the absolute key players at the Very stark, making locking folders like this in this in this, current sort of form. What do you see when you look out At the knife world today, with the trends and with the with how it's grown, what what what are your feelings on it?
Bob Terzuola [00:50:51]:
Yeah. Well, being called the godfather is better than being called the old man who still makes knives in his basement. It doesn't bother me at all. I look out at I've seen tremendous changes over the years, tremendous changes. When I started, Everybody who was making knives was making them by hand, period. All the grinding was done by hand. All the, The cutting out was all done on a band saw by hand, and then Things started to gradually change. I was I was actually the 1st knife maker to have parts cut out by laser.
Bob Terzuola [00:51:35]:
That's kind of a long story, but just suffice it to say that, yeah, in Probably, I think it was 19 1991. Could have been 1990. I can't remember. I got tired of cutting all the parts out by bandsaw, especially titanium, which is pretty hard. That's not it's not hard. It's just difficult. It's a difficult material to cut. And, I got a line on people in Phoenix who actually had a laser, several lasers, and they were doing, contract work.
Bob Terzuola [00:52:09]:
So I we didn't have any money at the time. It was a this was a time we didn't have enough money to go to the movies on dollar night, But I scraped up some money. We went to I went to Phoenix. I brought some titanium with me, and I talked to people out there. They said, yes, we can do it. And I actually started having ATCF parts cut out by laser. That doesn't mean that they were finished. They still had to be profile ground and polished, and the same thing with the blade parts.
Bob Terzuola [00:52:40]:
It was just it was fairly rough. Laser cutting has, what they call dross. It kinda drips a little bit and so forth. And I ran into a lot of trouble at the guilds because there were there were people in the guilds who believed that I was no longer making them by hand, and I shouldn't be in the gills, and they shouldn't be showing them, but I had all the parts. I had finished knives I would put on the table, but I also would have parts right off the laser, handle parts, couple of blade parts. People were absolutely fascinated with them. This has never been done before. Nobody had ever seen anything like this before.
Bob Terzuola [00:53:21]:
And they flocked over To pick the pieces up, to look at them, to handle them, they were absolutely amazed because at this time, Very, very few people had ever even heard of a metal cutting laser. This was, you know, For the young people out here out there, you know, watching this, there really was a time when, people didn't have cell phones, They didn't have computers, and nobody knew what a laser was. There really was a time. But I started making knives, and I was able to make a lot of knives because I didn't have to spend hours at a band saw making titanium dust. So, that was really an eye opener for a lot of people. And like I said, I was the first one, and it was it caused some difficulty with the guilds because everybody else is doing things by hand. Since then, there aren't many people who are making knives completely by hand anymore. There's a lot of people, I wouldn't say all, But there are many people, even people who are just starting out, who are Making parts on CNC milling machines, CNC lathes.
Bob Terzuola [00:54:45]:
They're not that expensive anymore because after the first, 2nd, 3rd, 4th generation, factories and and, companies are sloughing off the older and getting newer ones, and you can get you know, in in 10, 15 years ago, they were, like, 20, $25,000, which Apparently, it's not a whole whole lot of money. And you can make a lot of knives on a CNC mill, pretty fast. And so many people are doing it that way. So they have turned their garages, I won't say basement so much, But they're mainly their garages or small, sheds outside. They've turned them into mini factories. Then they're they're they are factories. And if you look at Instagram today, you can see Many knife makers will display piles and rows of the same knife, Dozens of the same knife. Exactly the same.
Bob Terzuola [00:55:56]:
I've always felt that that showing Everything that you make all in 1 lump sum really wasn't such a great idea, but some people some people do. It may be, you know, better than what I do. But nowadays, so much has, moved into into the realm of high technology. And, I think I'm one of the one of the last of the old dinosaurs, you know, one of the old dogs still doing it by hand. I don't have anything Automatic here. The most automatic thing I've got is my power feed on the mill that I still operate by hand, And that's about it, you know. So to answer your question, things have swung from handmade Now into high technology.
Bob DeMarco [00:56:50]:
Well, okay. So as we wrap here, Like, one must acknowledge that high technology levels the playing field. And I'm not saying that a level playing field is always a good idea, in terms of design, you know, because, if you can just design something and then just have it built and then just put it out into the world, not that I know anyone who's doing it callously like that. Like, everyone I know who are knife enthusiasts who have their own design and they're having them made, There's a lot of sick there are a lot of successful knives coming out of it, but it's interesting to see it not come out of years of making knives by hand. It's just a new, it's just a new way of looking, a new paradigm as as as you were saying. What advice would you give aspiring knife maker, new knife maker, people who want you know, they have designs that must be made. What would you tell them?
Bob Terzuola [00:57:47]:
Learn the basics. Start with the basic principles of working with your hands with tools. Learn how to file, learn how to tap by hand, learn how to use a hacksaw, learn how to solder if necessary. Don't don't rely a 100% on your CNC machine or technology or computers for design. I have never designed on a computer, basically, because I don't know how. It's not it's not something that I was ever able to learn, but I didn't want to. And I never felt it was necessary. Instead, what I what I had developed, and it but it's my analog CAD file.
Bob Terzuola [00:58:40]:
I don't know if that can be true.
Bob DeMarco [00:58:42]:
Yeah. We've seen that.
Bob Terzuola [00:58:43]:
CAD file, and this is basically Pages and pages of designs that I made with, cardboard, clear plastic Handles. Am I getting too much reflection?
Bob DeMarco [00:59:02]:
No. No. We can see that.
Bob Terzuola [00:59:04]:
This is over the year. This is, like, 40 years worth of, you know, designs and stuff, and I've got, you know, more all over the place.
Bob DeMarco [00:59:12]:
Look at that.
Bob Terzuola [00:59:13]:
I've got handles, and I'm in the handles, and I need some blades. I got some punches of blade shapes there and all sorts Basically, learn how to design. You you said, you know, what what would I advise people to do, young people. Learn how to design With a pencil and a piece of paper. You know, don't don't just rely on your computer. I found that that a pencil and a piece of paper gives you a tremendous amount of freedom. You can sketch. You can, you know, throw lines out there.
Bob Terzuola [00:59:47]:
You don't have to use them. They don't have to be, you know, they you don't have to be, so detailed that every little one is going to be, you know, a magnificent knife. You know, therefore, then you'll throw away. Doesn't matter. You know, just have fun doing it, and get the basics. Learn what mechanical work With your hands is all about. I had, some wonderful teachers, both in high school and in college, And they taught me assiduously how to do basic Hand operations with a file, with a hammer, with a hacksaw, whatever whatever was available. And that has served me to this day here in the shop.
Bob DeMarco [01:00:36]:
Yeah. Yeah. And and To me, that equals self reliance. What happens if you lose your ability to, run those computer programs? Yeah. You're still gonna be able to make a knife. I like that, the basics. Bob, thank you so much for coming back on the Knife Junkie podcast. It's been a real pleasure, And, man, I we could talk a lot more.
Bob DeMarco [01:00:59]:
We we will. For those of you who are patrons, you can hear a little bit extra from this conversation, but Thank you so much. It's been a pleasure.
Bob Terzuola [01:01:07]:
Great being here. Thank you, Bob. I appreciate it. See everybody on shop talk with Bob or, Sharp Life. I'm sorry?
Bob DeMarco [01:01:16]:
Bob Terzuola [01:01:18]:
Oh, at terziwala.net. That time, I just got my cue over there. See, I'm always forgetting things. .Net, that's where it's gonna be.
Bob DeMarco [01:01:27]:
Take care, Bob and Sue.
Bob Terzuola [01:01:28]:
Thank you. Right.
Visit the knife junkie at the knifejunkie.com to catch all of our podcast episodes, videos, photos, and more.
Bob DeMarco [01:01:37]:
There he goes, ladies and gentlemen. Bob Kurzweil. Like I said before, and I'm just gonna say it again because it's fun, 2 Bobs talking knives. Anyway, so thank you so much for joining us. If you wanna check out, Shop Talk with Bob and A Sharp Life, or just Look at some of his beautiful knives. Go to kirzwolle.net, and then also you can check them out on Instagram. Great, great account to follow there. Alright.
Bob DeMarco [01:02:07]:
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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