Brian Milinski, Milinski Knives: The Knife Junkie Podcast (Episode 461)
Brian Milinski of Milinski Knives joins Bob “The Knife Junkie” DeMarco on Episode 461 of The Knife Junkie Podcast.
A member of the Texas Knifemaker’s Guild and a winner at the Texas Custom Knife Show 2023, Brian is a custom knife maker of fine Damascus tools for outdoorsmen, everyday needs, kitchen cutlery, and unique designs for collectors. Working on just a couple of knives at a time ensures high quality and attention to detail.
Many of Brian’s knives have been published in Blade Magazine and Knife Magazine publications, as well as the Knives Annual Book. He strives for a unique fusion of artistry, craftsmanship, and functionality in his exceptional custom knives.
As a Christian craftsman, Brian can convey God’s goodness (when requested) through various design themes and file work.
Brian uses extremely high-quality metals, exotic woods from around the world, and fossilized materials like mammoth tusks, teeth, and fossilized corals. He is importing the materials and attention to detail from his fixed blade-making process to his newer, increasingly more complex folders.
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.Brian Milinski of Milinski Knives, a member of the Texas Knifemaker's Guild and a winner at the Texas Custom Knife Show 2023, joins Bob on Episode 461 of #theknifejunkie #podcast. Click To Tweet
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Welcome to the Knife Junkie podcast, your weekly dose of knife news and information about knives and knife collecting. Here's your host, Bob the knife junkie DeMarco.
Bob DeMarco [00:00:16]:
Welcome to the Knife Junkie podcast. I'm Bob DeMarco. On this edition of the show, I'm speaking with custom knife maker Brian Malinski. I met Brian at the Texas Custom Knife Show 2023 Just last week where he won best in show for the EDC category with an exquisite folder of Damascus, mammoth ivory, and skiff bearings. He says he's new to folder making, but you'd never know it from looking at his folders. Brian's fixed blades are also beautifully composed and detailed yet practical And I've earned earned him features in many a knife magazine and book. We'll find out about Brian's work and why so many people confused us at the knife show, but first, Be sure to like, comment, subscribe, hit the notification bell, and share the show with a friend. And as always, if you wanna help support the show, you can do so by going to Patreon.
Bob DeMarco [00:01:07]:
Quickest way to do that is go to the knife junkie.com/patreon. Again, that's the knife junkie.com/patreon.
If you search Google for the best knife podcast, the answer is the Knife Junkie podcast.
Bob DeMarco [00:01:23]:
Ryan, welcome to the Knife Junkie podcast.
Brian Milinski [00:01:26]:
Thanks, Bob. I appreciate it.
Bob DeMarco [00:01:28]:
Hey. It's a pleasure to see you again. That it was a really fun, weekend, at the Texas Custom Knife Show in Conroe, and, man, you and I just kept bumping into each other, so, it's really good to see you here.
Brian Milinski [00:01:41]:
News well. Yeah. That was that was something else.
Bob DeMarco [00:01:44]:
That was indeed. Well, congratulations on winning, best EDC At, at that show, it was man, I I can't imagine EDC ing that knife. It was something Exquisite. Tell us about that knife. It's it's a folder, but a little bit more than we're used to.
Brian Milinski [00:02:05]:
Yeah. No. Thank you. So it was a, stainless Damascus blade with a a, inlaid thumb stud with, ivory, mammoth ivory that matched the the handle materials well. So mammoth ivory handles and titanium fittings, titanium linings, And, those running skip bearings in that one.
Bob DeMarco [00:02:27]:
And you had all sorts of engraving in the bolster. Right? Not all sorts. You had engraving in the bolster. Right?
Brian Milinski [00:02:33]:
Yeah. That's right. I had Tyler Poor, do the engraving for the the bolster on that piece. Yeah.
Bob DeMarco [00:02:40]:
Okay. So so and when I introduced myself and we started talking, you know, you said that you were relatively new to folder making. That was a surprise to me just because looking at it, obviously, you have your chops from fixed blade making. Let's let's talk about That and how you got started in knife making. You're in you live in Texas. Right? I do. A, a knife friendly state, I found out, And, just a friendly state in general. But tell us how you got into knife making.
Brian Milinski [00:03:13]:
Yeah. You bet. So about 17 years ago, I had become interested in custom knives. I had always grown up using them and such just, with a family that enjoyed hunting, deer hunting, and And bird hunting as well. Eventually, I had come across my 1st custom knife that was just kind of enamoring, and I was curious to see if it was something that a buddy of mine and I could kinda replicate. And so that's kinda where it started. We started just fiddling around with some Scrap metal and and wood. And then, shortly after that, I met a family friend.
Brian Milinski [00:03:49]:
His name is Rendon Griffin, and He was very well known in the the folding knife community and made some beautiful, hidden automatics. And that's kinda where it started. There were other mentors I'd love to share here in a little bit, but that's kinda what kicked it off.
Bob DeMarco [00:04:05]:
So hidden automatic, so those are, like Scale release kinda things? Or
Brian Milinski [00:04:09]:
Yeah. Yeah. Bolster release. So you just touch the bolster and and the knife would come flying out. I just thought those were amazing. And so he helped me with fixed blades at first and then, passed away as we were getting ready to start, start exploring the kinda the world of automatics. So yeah.
Bob DeMarco [00:04:29]:
Well, did you, So you started with fixed blade. How did you go from scrap metal and pieces of wood, as you put it, to making some of those, fixed blades I saw on your table And, in the magazines.
Brian Milinski [00:04:43]:
Yeah. So jumped into fixed blades and just, Really got some great encouragement from Rendon and then, you know, just exploring some some different mentors out there and visiting with different knife makers, really helped a ton and had a chance to spend a little bit of time with Bob Mers, and he was just super encouraging. And then, The Texas Knifemakers Guild a couple years ago just got some really good feedback there that that helped and encouraged me to up my game and And can I explore some other venues as well?
Bob DeMarco [00:05:17]:
So I saw, they had quite a presence, at the show, the Texas Knifemakers Guild. Texas in general seems to be a a very proud place, and a lot of people who come out of Texas Seem to give the state credit for a lot of their own success, which I think is cool. I I like that sort of a be true to your school mentality, that I really like or, I guess, be true to your state in this case, obviously. But, Texas Knife Makers Guild, How how do you get involved with them, and what is the, you know, what does that do for you?
Brian Milinski [00:05:53]:
Sure. So you take 3 knives that you submit We're testing with 3 of the, 3 of the members, and then they review each one of those according to, different requirements, fit and finish, obviously, practically, I guess, as well. But then they give you good feedback and and you're either And kinda growing through different hammer ins that they offer or if you don't make it in, you know, they give you some very specific, things to focus on, and then they try to introduce you to some other folks in the guild as well that might come alongside you to To help you kinda tweak those things that that might need a little bit of working on. So yeah.
Bob DeMarco [00:06:37]:
Okay. So, obviously, before you got into the Texas Knifemakers Guild, There was a long period of time where you're figuring it out and, so tell us about that. How did you figure it out? How did you, Kind of make your way into the more exotic steels and materials and, And the finer prop pro processes.
Brian Milinski [00:07:00]:
Now that's good. So early on, I I think it was more ignorance than anything. I didn't know what I didn't know, and so I kinda Started with some materials that I probably shouldn't have spent as much money on and jumped right into Damascus, in the in the very beginning, Which is a little bit, longer process as far as etching and finishing and refinishing and refinishing, but, but it was a learning process. So a lot of it was kind of, you know, hit and miss in the very beginning and then asking questions and, talking to different makers. Didn't get on YouTube too much to explore that yet because when I first started, there weren't a lot of, Yeah. This is 17 years ago or so. This is before the Forged in Fire television series came out, which really kind of spurred on a lot of interest, and makers sharing how they do what they do via YouTube and what have you. So a lot of it was just kinda Explore and hope for the best.
Bob DeMarco [00:08:01]:
Well, you said you jumped right into Damascus. Let's talk about the process. Are we talking Stock removal here or are we talking about forging out billets and such?
Brian Milinski [00:08:11]:
Yeah. So stock removal stock removal and, You know, I I I never did get into forging my own Damascus. I didn't have a power hammer. I didn't have the shoulder to To bend and twist, you know, 300 times to to get that cranked out. And my shop is, Part of my garage where we're in a a pretty populated, subdivision. So Hammering is not really encouraged in our ear. So yeah. Yeah.
Bob DeMarco [00:08:42]:
Yeah. It it's it was an interesting, environment there at At the Texas Custom Knife Show, it was kind of, half and half. There was a very, strong representation of the Forgers. That Festival or that show is built around the Forged in Fire, model and and, kind of, Was started by alum of that show, alum alumnases alumni of the show, and, but but there was also a a strong contingent of stock removal, knife makers and people doing folders, and And, it was an interesting, variety, there. So you let's talk about how you developed the style of your 6 blade knives, the ones that I have seen, I did a little homework on you, saw numerous, in in installments, in magazines, and then in that annual book that comes out from is it Knife Magazine? I love that book. I have, 1 year of it here. So tell me how you developed your style. Was it through A, you said it came from a hunting family.
Bob DeMarco [00:09:57]:
Is that a practical need?
Brian Milinski [00:09:59]:
Yeah. It really did begin that way. So All the knives that I made for the 1st, goodness, I'd say 5 years were all, hunting style blades, you know, with just kind of a A typical drop point with a little belly and and practical for skinning and, some embellishments. Always enjoyed file work, so I kinda started with file work even early on and included that in many of, my knives. And then as as, time went on, I I kinda got involved in Couple of, I don't know if you go as far as call them art knives, but just more thematic Knives that I introduced, you know, a few a year. I got to do one for the, the owner of the Ferrari race team and Wow. They use some carbon fiber there and some, wheel caps to to embellish it with. So that was A lot of fun and did one recently that was for a honey bee company, and the scales look like honeycomb.
Brian Milinski [00:11:04]:
And That one seemed to be interesting to folks. So
Bob DeMarco [00:11:07]:
Is it that one right there on screen on the right?
Brian Milinski [00:11:09]:
That's it. Yeah. That one right. Yeah. That was a lot of fun.
Bob DeMarco [00:11:14]:
That's beautiful. So this is, this is what we're talking about, ladies and gentlemen, this sort of, intricate, very detailed, this is the kind of thing you have on your table and this is what drew me to your table. Also that file work that You mentioned before. I I got a couple of questions here. I'll I'll double back to this one. But, since we're talking about the file work, you mentioned somewhere on your website that you're a Christian. You're a Christian knife maker and if other people resonate with that and they want that Represented in their knife that they order from you, you have different ways you can represent, different biblical motifs. Tell us about that.
Brian Milinski [00:11:56]:
Yeah. Right. So that's just that's just been kind of the the fun on the artistic side of things is to be able to Create different patterns using different shaped, steel piles and and working that into it. So, just with a vine theme and then also some crosses that I'm able to file out, just on the top spines of some of the blades, and I've enjoyed that. It's been fun.
Bob DeMarco [00:12:22]:
Yeah. That's I I like that. If if that's a, You know, if religion is a meaningful thing in your life, I love that that is, something that you can have personalized into your blade. But, you mentioned Ferrari. You made a knife for the Ferrari race team. How did that come about, and how did you go about designing a knife, making a knife For that purpose.
Brian Milinski [00:12:47]:
Yeah. So it was it was kinda funny how that came about. I've done one for them and for Hennessy. And, the one with Ferrari, a good friend of mine is a a Ferrari supercar collector. And so he's good friends with the owner of the race team and, his name is Giuseppe, and he actually came over from Italy to Houston. He was sent over by Enzo Ferrari to bring Ferrari to North America. And so we got to have lunch and kinda talk about the movie as it came out a couple years ago with Ferrari versus Ford Report versus Ferrari, I guess, and kinda see, you know, what was what was true in the movie and and What what was maybe embellished for Hollywood, but it was all pretty accurate what it sounded like. And, so my friend, as a as a gift to him, it Had asked that I make that for him, and we styled it over the the silhouette of the LaFerrari car.
Brian Milinski [00:13:41]:
So it's kinda got that shape, the the top line of the the LaFerrari. Jeez.
Bob DeMarco [00:13:46]:
Nice work if you can get it. Here, go go to go to America and Bring them the Ferrari. Okay. I'll do it.
Brian Milinski [00:13:52]:
That's right. That's right. Yeah.
Bob DeMarco [00:13:55]:
So, is that is that the knife That has the thumb, thumb rest in the back that, is pretty, one of your biggest designs, that we've seen.
Brian Milinski [00:14:08]:
It's actually, kind of a unique design of its own. I think it's on the website there, but it's it's black Carbon fiber with some red racing stripes and I think g ten G10 bolsters and, and the tire caps are Inlaid and the handles on each end.
Bob DeMarco [00:14:26]:
That's I love that.
Brian Milinski [00:14:28]:
Bob DeMarco [00:14:28]:
So let's let's talk about your your continued development. You you begin, making knives. You're you're making fixed blades. You jump right into the the The, expensive, exotic materials. You get all these interesting collaborations. How does it happen? How does this fit into your life, you know, as as you go, I I presume you didn't start as a, full time knife maker.
Brian Milinski [00:14:58]:
No. That's right. And I'm I'm still not a full time knife maker or, well, you could I guess you could call it a a very full part time knife maker. So I I do about I spend anywhere from 20 to 30 hours in the shop each week. So it's a well, It's kind of a heavy schedule. Yeah. Yeah. But, I think in the next year to come as that kinda progresses, I'm looking at, You know, maintaining the fixed blades, but definitely adding maybe 50% of of my personal production in the form of These kind of finer folders, if you will, so looking forward to it.
Bob DeMarco [00:15:36]:
So do you have a structure where, you have books and people, man, that 1 in the center, was
Brian Milinski [00:15:46]:
Oh, that orange handled one right above there?
Bob DeMarco [00:15:48]:
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. That's so beautiful.
Brian Milinski [00:15:50]:
Yeah. That that folder just above that one, that one sold at the show there. Yeah.
Bob DeMarco [00:15:55]:
Brian Milinski [00:15:56]:
Yeah. That was the landmark one. Bag and The orange kinda popped on there, I thought.
Bob DeMarco [00:16:02]:
Yeah. Absolutely. Moving moving into the Folder realm must have been a little bit intimidating, because there's so much activity over there and People are so particular. So how did you approach, starting to make, folders?
Brian Milinski [00:16:21]:
Yeah. So that's been a that's been a big jump, honestly. With, you know, just having to kind of retool some of the shop To to prepare for that, it's it's a different style build. And, I had developed a friendship with Elliot Maldonado, he's a a boulder maker, just outside of San Antonio in Texas and lives in a community of oh, goodness, there's gotta be 7 or 10 really well known knife makers right there in that area within about 10 square miles of each other. And so as years have gone by, I did a little bit of leather work for him and his Boulders is that's just another area of the the knife making, part that I enjoy a lot. And, one day, he invited me out to his ranch to to come and learn how to make folders. And so we spent several days together and, you know, talked talked all things knives and theory and, You know, and design and, by the time we finished, we had made our first one together and I've I've actually got one of those here Oh, yeah. With me.
Brian Milinski [00:17:27]:
It's, I don't know how much you'll be able to see. I have my hands out of the way. But Yeah. So this was the first one and
Bob DeMarco [00:17:35]:
That was the first one?
Brian Milinski [00:17:36]:
This was the first one. Yeah. Yeah. So it's got blue titanium liners that we anodized with jewelry on the inside and then Damascus backspace with copper. It kinda runs down the middle there.
Bob DeMarco [00:17:50]:
And what is that, is that mammoth ivory?
Brian Milinski [00:17:53]:
Mammoth ivory. Yeah. Mammoth ivory with titanium pins and pivot. Wow.
Bob DeMarco [00:17:58]:
Brian Milinski [00:17:59]:
the the thumb stud is Mammoth ivory as well that matches the handle.
Bob DeMarco [00:18:04]:
And some sort of Damascus seen blade there.
Brian Milinski [00:18:07]:
Yeah. Yeah. It's a stainless Damascus blade with kind of a a darker edge.
Bob DeMarco [00:18:13]:
Man, that is gorgeous. Now and and let me see the, the Bolster, please. Yep. That engraving, so how did you get that done?
Brian Milinski [00:18:23]:
So Tyler Poor did did my engraving on this one as well. And, you know, we kinda talked through some general ideas, but, you know, pretty well let him run with it and he does beautiful work.
Bob DeMarco [00:18:34]:
Is that what is that? Like a pattern or something?
Brian Milinski [00:18:38]:
That's right. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. That was That was a lot of fun. He did a great job on that with the with the, engraving.
Bob DeMarco [00:18:47]:
Okay. So, yeah, you said that that's your first folder, and, of course, I believe you, but, that's really, like looks very, very, very polished and high end for a full 1st folder, and I I understand that that this was sort of a collaborative effort or at least someone was guiding you, through the process, but, have you always been handy or even artistic, in nature?
Brian Milinski [00:19:17]:
You know, I don't know that I could say that I was until I really started exploring knife making. I I think it was A side of me that I was always interested in, but had never explored the artistic side of things. And I was always kind of in the sports and business and And, didn't really have an outlet for it until I reached my forties and, or late thirties, I guess. And when I jumped into this, kinda realized that I really enjoyed some of the design side of a lot of this. And then, You know, once you've been making knives and you understand the the proper approaches to grinding and kinda natural curves of What appeals to most as far as shape,
Bob DeMarco [00:20:02]:
Brian Milinski [00:20:02]:
know, then you can kind of I feel like you can, you know, take it with good mentoring and be able to apply it If you have the, you know, some strong basics to to start with, and that was something just spending time with Elliot really helped with. You know, the the technicalities of the precision with what goes into one of these folders, Understanding that there's, you know, there's still tweaking here and there, but that's one thing. He and I have talked about a little bit more is he's got a passion and a heart for For sharing the trade, and that's part of what the guild's about as well. So he and I talked about down the road maybe working together on doing some classes, some Folder making classes for guys that are already making knives so they understand how to grind blades out and that sort of thing and go up from there.
Bob DeMarco [00:20:54]:
This is, the way of making a folder that is very different, than a lot of I mean, So I talk to people who design them, have them made. I talk to people who design them and then have machines, you know, in in their own, say, garage like you, that and and the art there is programming it and designing in this virtual space, and, so it's, and and they create amazing knives. And then you, this is like, do you remember in the early 2000s, late nineties, the Slow food thing. There was this whole concept of slow food, and I don't remember exactly what it was, but it was basically Eat slower, cook slower, be more mindful, and, that's That's great. And it seems like that is the way you're making folders. It's like, each folder is its own special case As opposed to figuring out a way to replicate them. Is is that is that accurate?
Brian Milinski [00:21:59]:
You know, it it is, right now, it I think it will move toward the point of having some really good templates and kinda sticking with Maybe 4 different designs, to be able to, you know, to be able to maintain the precision more than anything. Because once you start Tweaking folders and coming up with different designs, then you gotta kind of you how you've gotta make sure that everything fits together correctly. Right? Your is in the right place, the pivot's in the right place, your detent's in the right place. And so there's there's value in landing on Some designs that you prefer and I think, you know, our theme so far has been that keeping kind of, somewhat of a recognizable western feel to a lot of these, and that's Probably what we'll try to maintain kinda moving forward.
Bob DeMarco [00:22:56]:
With your fixed blades, how, accurate or not accurate. That's not the right word. How the same are they from one to another within the same model line? And is that something you know what I mean? Can you be more flexible there than you can with the engineering of a folder?
Brian Milinski [00:23:16]:
For sure. Yeah. You know, I might change a a finger swell a little bit on a fixed blade or a clip point, the belly on it, you know, some folks like a little pointier, some people like a little, a little deeper belly depending on how they're using it. So definitely a lot more flexibility, but if somebody says, hey, I want 10 of this particular one, they're gonna be real close. Yeah.
Bob DeMarco [00:23:43]:
Okay. So your folders, how do you envision them being used? Now we we talked about your fixed blades at your table, And as beautiful as they are and as, you know, just ornate kind of as they are, They're very practical. They're hunting knives, in in many cases, outdoors knives, but just very, very beautiful. How do you see your folders being used?
Brian Milinski [00:24:09]:
Yeah. That's a great question. I I think it's kind of relative to the person that's buying it. Right? If it's, For some, it's very much an investment, and they're gonna stick it away and collect them. And for someone else, they may Choose to use it every day as their go to knife, then it's, you know, I don't know. It kinda it kinda strikes me as unique Every time I I sell a knife, it's, you know, the, the awe is not lost on me that somebody has chosen something that you made with your hands to pay you for, and then it's it's a piece of their everyday lives. So I think each one of them is definitely special, and It's kinda tough to see each one go too after you finish them.
Bob DeMarco [00:24:55]:
Well, yeah, I bet. I bet, you know, I've asked people about Carrying their own knives and, you know, most people cannot afford to carry their own knives. You know? And I would imagine, in your case, that's especially the case because they're They're very valuable and they take a long time to make, relatively speaking.
Brian Milinski [00:25:14]:
Yeah. That's a good word. No. I I think this first one, I'll, You know, that we shared a 2nd ago, I'll I'll definitely hang on to that one. I I regret. I didn't hang on to my 1st fixed blade that I made years ago, and and I can't recall who bought it Either to kinda try to track it down, come across some from the earlier days, but but I I I'm not sure who has those those first 3 or
Bob DeMarco [00:25:38]:
4. So when you, started working on folders, what did you find is the biggest challenge? Whether it's in terms of your thinking, you know, how you think about the design, or or whether it's the making, the lockup, that kind of thing.
Brian Milinski [00:25:55]:
Yeah. Both of those are very, you know, both of them are big factors for sure. So the design, You've gotta make 1 or 2 to decide if you like that design, and is it really gonna hold up down the road to make more of those? But, yeah, I think part of it was kind of working with different materials. So I wasn't accustomed to using titanium, and the liners for these are made out of titanium. And so when you're when you're, grinding them to shape to begin with, for your your skeleton of the knife, You've gotta be careful not to, not to heat harden them because eventually, you're gonna have to drill holes in them, you're gonna have to thread those holes, and they've gotta be dead on. And, it's not necessarily something that you think about when you're using knife steels As much. So there's little nuances that I've bumped into that have been fun to explore and fun to start over, Not so much.
Bob DeMarco [00:26:55]:
Show us that knife again. You keep glancing over at it. Let's see.
Brian Milinski [00:26:58]:
Bob DeMarco [00:27:00]:
So is this one also, with Gift bearings and and, you know, I think that's a really cool and interesting thing is to have this sort of Old west themed, in a way, knife, with all of with the ancient material and some of the classical materials, and yet You have the the skiff bearings. Tell me about the the the thought behind that.
Brian Milinski [00:27:27]:
Yeah. Yeah. So this this first knife was actually with stainless bearings And, stainless steel bearings. And it's it's super smooth. I mean, it just It's got you know, it just it comes right out and then and catches and they feel great. But with the skip bearings, I think, I don't know. Maybe it's mind over matter type of thing, but it it feels just a hair smoother with the ceramic bearings and the the bronze phosphorus caging. They might be a the caging may be a little thicker, so you've gotta look at counter boring in the blade a little bit deeper.
Brian Milinski [00:28:06]:
But as long as you're not getting super deep and and, compromising the integrity of the the, the blade itself, and it's not an issue. So they they hold up really well. But yeah.
Bob DeMarco [00:28:18]:
Let's talk a let's talk a little bit about your, your process. You were talking about counter boring and the blade and all this, and I'm wondering, what does that all look like for you in your shop? Is it all hand tools? Tell me about it.
Brian Milinski [00:28:32]:
Sure. Sure. So several different drill presses that I like to kinda keep set up with with different drill bits or with, with different oh, what am I trying to say here? To But anyhow, several different drill presses. I can kinda go from 1 to the next without having to waste time with with untooling, retooling, and all that. And then I I haven't gotten a mill yet. I'm working on getting the mill in here in the next week or 2, which is really gonna help with some stuff that I've been doing on the drill press that is Not recommended to do with your drill press.
Bob DeMarco [00:29:16]:
Brian Milinski [00:29:17]:
They're counterboring the, the bolsters and such and, you know, you're kinda hanging out for dear life, because drill presses aren't just made for for that kind of, sturdiness. You know, it's going that quickly. So Yeah. It's, looking forward to some new tooling to add to the shop.
Bob DeMarco [00:29:34]:
So do you work in, any Any sort of, like, batch form, or are you really, like, 1 knife at a time? How how does that work for you?
Brian Milinski [00:29:43]:
Yeah. So, with folders, it's It's 1 at a time with with the folding knives. And then with fixed blades, I'll typically like to work on 2 or 3 at a time just because of, Yeah. You can be a a little more judicious with your heat treating and and, you know, running of electricity in the shop and that sort of thing. So, and then also just when you're grinding those blades, you can use the same same size wheels without changing out as much and the same Grit belts going from blade to blade and it just it helps to make the the time more efficient and your, just your shop Overall, a little more efficient as well. So
Bob DeMarco [00:30:24]:
So efficiency is a huge name of the game, especially for a small, knife making company, how did you decide when what was it like when you came to the point where you realized, I I guess I need to make a business out of this knife making, hobby that I keep doing.
Brian Milinski [00:30:45]:
Yeah. It it kind of crept up Outbound me pretty early on, just with friends and family at first, of course. You know, they just always wanna encourage you to support you. And so it was a A knife here and there, and then, a good friend of mine from college became a a knife collector And also purchased them as gifts for his clients. And, it just kinda continued to grow to a point where maybe 3 years in, I started keeping a little bit of a a waiting list, if you will, just a client list and building through that. So At that point, you know, it became a little more important to to plan ahead on the work and and make sure that you could deliver within reasonable amounts of time. And And now that things are getting to be a little more involved with materials and and just to work on these folders, it's, it's it's probably gonna move more towards where I'm making stuff that I enjoy making and just making that available, for purchase down the road. Yeah.
Bob DeMarco [00:31:48]:
That's, it it seems like that's when you know you've arrived. You know? People, it seems like knife makers in the beginning have to, kind of open up books, so to speak, and and have a list that they're going through. But it seems like there comes a time in every custom knife maker's, path where, if they're lucky enough, they can do that. Either they have a head of steam or, Or that's become their career, but or or I guess there's enough demand that they can just make the knife and there there's someone there who's gonna want it, and I think That's to me, from the outside, that seems like the ideal situation.
Brian Milinski [00:32:34]:
Yeah. No. I totally agree with you. It's, You know, and and but it is kind of a mixed blessing too. You you definitely have the core group of collectors that kinda follow you and and support you and so you wanna kinda be sure that, you know, if if they want something made that they know that they're gonna get it, you know. And, but at the same time, having the time and and the wherewithal to be able to make them out to provide them for open sale So that those that are looking for them can grab 1 and do all 1.
Bob DeMarco [00:33:06]:
Right. And you can, right, broaden your appeal to a a wider audience. And, well, what what becomes the goal for a knife company such as yours? Like, is it is it growth, or is it maintaining, or is it creative freedom?
Brian Milinski [00:33:31]:
Yeah. I think for me with it being, you know, truly handcrafted 1 person in the shop, right, I don't have a team of folks working with me, that it my goal is to to keep it at a certain number of knives per year to where I know that I'm not, I'm not pushing my personal boundaries with with work, which is my primary focus with my family. And, you know, allowing the time that I know I have available to be able to make x number of knives at a certain quality. So it's it's really Bringing in more of the time for creativity in the next year and, you know, maybe less less number of knives and higher quality creative, this and the knives.
Bob DeMarco [00:34:16]:
So what about the business, part of of Molinsky Knives came to you as a surprise, or what is your other background? And you said business and sports, so maybe it seems you already had a business head going into this. But, tell tell tell me a little bit about that, what what you were bringing into this, on the business side and what you found out about the knife world That may have been surprising.
Brian Milinski [00:34:42]:
Sure. Sure. So I've been in I serve as an associate minister at one of our churches here in Houston, and so I've been doing that for about 20 years and prior to getting into ministry, I had my own, oil and gas recruiting firm where we did executive search for Geosciences. And so that was my company. So I learned a lot about just, you know, kind of the ins and outs of running a small business From your own marketing to your own accounting, working a desk, sales. I I feel like that's helped Tremendously with this. Right? Because you're having to design your knives. You've got to show the public what you're doing and hope that they like it and Sure in the the right circles of influence that that you might have, based on, you know, your backgrounds and what you've done.
Brian Milinski [00:35:36]:
So That's been, it's been fun to to use the different, you know, different talents that you've acquired to experience. But yeah. In the latter part, what was the last thing that you asked?
Bob DeMarco [00:35:48]:
Well, I I think that that that's pretty much what what I was, getting that. I mean, Doug Markajda at the show, I don't know if you heard this. You were probably busy selling your knives, but He, was doing a q and a and he was, he was saying that it was very important to follow your passion, And, if your passion is knife making, very important to do that, but it's equally important to find out how to actually survive doing it, and that means Taking business courses and and figuring out how to market your stuff. I mean, he's a Cali martial artist. You wouldn't think that there's much of a career beyond Teaching Cali martial arts, but he has managed to make a nice career. Like, he's got his finger his hands in a lot of different things, and I thought his advice was pretty sage, in those terms, from your perspective, what would you say, to someone who's got a passion for knives, but but maybe, maybe not so much for business.
Brian Milinski [00:36:51]:
Yeah. And I think that's a great question for especially for this Industry, kind of the handcrafted knife side of the industry, right? Because you see a lot of craftsmen, a lot of artists that They enjoy being in the shop by themself and creating, you know, great knives, but maybe haven't really thought through, Oh, the business side of things or the interpersonal skills side of things. And I think it's super important. I, you know, I think back up was helped, gearing up to jump into this, you know, a little heavier than what I had initially planned. You know, in school, I went to the hotel restaurant Business school and, University of Houston. And so we had a lot of focus because of the restaurant industry, in financials, on the business side of things because of how many restaurants tend to open and fail within, Goodness. Within a year, really. And so I think that's that's been super helpful.
Brian Milinski [00:37:54]:
Just having studied the the different areas and then starting a A small business prior to this certainly didn't hurt.
Bob DeMarco [00:38:01]:
You know, at Blade Show and, and at this Show every knife show I've been to, but mostly, I guess I'd have to say, with with those 2 shows in particular, it really jumps out at me when you'll when you see someone who's obviously talented and you can tell from their work, but they're just not into engaging the public in any way, and, I understand that that that can be nerves, that can be, you know, But it's something you have to overcome. It it it absolutely is because, I can't tell you how many Custom knives I have and how many custom knife makers whose work I've fallen in love with after that initial conversation, where a good conversation leads to, well, I can't afford any of this, but I'll buy that little thing. I know I can afford that little knife, and it starts something for me. And it all starts with that Conversation. So you mentioned interpersonal skills. Like, you know, what do you what do you say about What do you say about that? How would you how would you mentor someone, going into their 1st knife show Who's, got great work, but maybe is a little tentative about reaching out to the public.
Brian Milinski [00:39:17]:
Yeah. I you know, that's a tough one. I haven't done a ton of shows, but I've I've done a handful. And, you know, the first thing that I think I noticed is just How many folks are sitting down behind their tables versus standing up ready to have a conversation with somebody or, you know, not being overly pushy, but being Available and and showing folks that you're interested in them being there for the, for the show and looking at your stuff. And, just being ready to to answer questions that that may come up as folks are coming by your table to to look and encouraging them to pick up their knives and, Yeah. See how they actually feel in your hand. I think that's, I think that's the biggest thing really is just, Yeah. Showing people that that you want to be there and you wanna interact with folks.
Brian Milinski [00:40:04]:
And and that for some some people that's, that's harder than others. But just finding common ground. Right? Finding common ground with folks quickly and and being able to have a conversation is just some of the basics.
Bob DeMarco [00:40:18]:
I think I think what you said there, just about standing up, is a huge part of it, because you might not be good with words, but if you're standing up, you're showing, yes, you know, I'm ready to engage, but if you're not good with words and you're sitting down, You know, it's gonna make it so easy for people to walk by, glance over and walk by, and and that makes me, I'm I'm the sort of guy who drives by the restaurant that's closed down that,
Brian Milinski [00:40:47]:
you know, just opened a
Bob DeMarco [00:40:48]:
year ago. And I'm like, I hate to see businesses fail. I hate to see that all of that personal passion, go to waste, but you gotta You gotta do the uncomfortable stuff too.
Brian Milinski [00:41:00]:
Most definitely. Right? And and there are some guys that, you know, they'll bring their their wives with them or wives will bring their husbands with They're the maker and or a good friend. And I think a lot of times that can help too just to stay, you know, stay out of their shell a little bit. Yeah. I've I've seen that work as a a little self motivating tactic for for some folks.
Bob DeMarco [00:41:23]:
So, have you, Well, have you compiled a list of the people that have inspired you and mentored you? Who who are some of the Who are some of the names, that have gotten you where you are?
Brian Milinski [00:41:37]:
Yeah. Yeah. No. I think going back to a couple I mentioned earlier with, Wounding Gripman and, especially Elliott Maldonado. He just he and I have developed such a great friendship over the past few years. And, You know, he's poured a lot of wisdom that came over a lot of years, and I'm super appreciative of that. His style, I think, is, something that I've been attracted to before, you know, before we met. It was just his his knife designs Seem to have appealed to me, so that's what I've kind of tried to lean towards.
Brian Milinski [00:42:12]:
Bob DeMarco [00:42:13]:
How would you describe them? I'm not familiar with his work.
Brian Milinski [00:42:16]:
Yeah. Yeah. So he, he's got a very kind of western feel to his. He grew up on a a horse ranch. His dad, trained and sold horses and, just, you know, hardworking family. And, I I think his knives kinda display that a little bit, you know. And that area around San Antonio too kind of encourages that. You got Johnny Stout just up the road from him and, oh, goodness.
Brian Milinski [00:42:44]:
I I can't they don't come to mind, but several others just right there, in the same area. But Versus, you know, you've got some slip joints and stuff that where you have some maybe common shapes. Right? And you can rebuild those. But taking these Line or locks, it just seems like, it's just a little more fun to come up with some new designs, but still have a little bit of a Maybe a western feel to them or gentleman's feel to them, but still having some some different shapes to them.
Bob DeMarco [00:43:16]:
Well, yeah, that's that's one of the things that I really like about your folders is that they're they're a, mix up, if you will, you know, with the the ancient materials and then the old treatment of the modern materials with the with the fleur de lis, engraving and the Titanium, and, I I really like that. I I love natural materials on modern folders, and and yours, They are modern folders. They're titanium liner locks, but, man, they're they're wearing, traditional Texas Dress, traditional western dress. What is it about Texas? I've talked to a lot of people already on this show from Texas, and now Having been to the show and meeting all these great other, knife makers in person, they'll they'll be coming on the show too. What is it about Texas and and knives? Yeah.
Brian Milinski [00:44:07]:
That's a great question. The only thing I can you know, I thought about this, and I I think it really goes back to just the the old ranching days. Right. You just had a a big use for a pocket knife or a fixed blade on you that was handy for either cutting rope or cutting bags and, You know, heavily used on ranches down here, and then you got, you know, Jim Bowie and and the history there and The Alamo and all the knives involved there. So, yeah. Yeah. I think there's just a lot of things that kinda point toward, the industry being pretty pretty heavy in the state for for knife making as well. Some of some of our neighbors too with, goodness.
Brian Milinski [00:44:51]:
Arkansas, Louisiana, and yeah. Yeah. It's funny.
Bob DeMarco [00:44:57]:
When I went down, before I went down there, my wife was like, you know, tell me tell me what your impressions are of Texas. You know? Is it as liberty minded as it seems? And And, I got there, and I texted her. I just passed by a town called Cut and Shoot. If that answers it, I was like, yeah. I love that.
Brian Milinski [00:45:15]:
Bob DeMarco [00:45:17]:
Yeah. And and and I always think of, well, your state in particular as, being a rugged individualist kind of place, self reliance kind of place. You gotta, like, I kinda put you on the same shelf with Alaska, that kinda, even though it's a totally different climb and a different history and everything, but, there's a certain ruggedness that goes into It and self reliance. And to me, that's, that's something that is always a knife has always been a symbol of to me since I was little even though I didn't really quite get it, But it's self reliance, being rugged, having that knife on your hip, and being able to do anything. What about knives, for you? Like, what is it that keeps you coming back. There's so many other things. You said business and sports, and those are normal things that normal people do, But you also do knives. Why?
Brian Milinski [00:46:07]:
Yeah. You know, I I think it it really goes back to the creativity and just Finding a fun way to use that for something that's applicable to, to a need and and to what a lot of guys Use and and enjoy, and women as well. There's lots of, lady collectors that come by the shows and, You know, there's so many different styles of knives that that you can play with and, jump into. But, you know, Kinda going back to what you had mentioned earlier with using some of the old materials with the new materials. And, you know, it is kinda fun to see What makes sense together or what is just so opposing that you may not want them together on a knife. You know, you see that sometimes as well. But yeah. And just all the the beautiful woods out there, you don't realize till you sand them down and shine them up that That the inside of a tree could look like, you know, the way that it might with different different woods that are out there.
Brian Milinski [00:47:07]:
So It's, it's always interesting to see. You know, you don't know exactly what it's gonna turn out to until you really fine sanded the material down and and maybe polish oiled it. It's always kind of a surprise at the end, and that's that's part of the fun.
Bob DeMarco [00:47:23]:
It's like you're uncovering it the whole way Hey. We're just discovering it the whole way.
Brian Milinski [00:47:28]:
Bob DeMarco [00:47:29]:
So what what, feedback do you get from your customers, and what what is the work that these beautiful knives have been, up to. I'm I'm sure they're not all safe, Queens like they would be, in my collection.
Brian Milinski [00:47:42]:
Right. Right. Now you see a little bit of both. I got a picture yesterday of somebody skinning an ax's deer with with one that I actually didn't think he was gonna use the knife much, but he did, so that was good. But that was a lot of fun. No. There was, I I think the surprise that a lot of folks have with custom knives is just the the quality of The work that they can do. Not not the knife maker, but the knife itself.
Brian Milinski [00:48:10]:
And, you know, having a a proper ground shape, geometry on the on the edge of the knife with a proper heat treat for that particular steel and the type of work that that knife should be able to do. So For instance, there was a, there's a guy that I did 2 knives for, last year. So he wanted a skinning knife and a boning knife. And I think they cleaned 13 or 14 deer with those knives, and he said he didn't have to sharpen them. And so he stropped them a little bit afterwards. You know, I told him, I said, well, that's that's really one of the major differences is, you know, having a quality edge on on the blade if it's done right. Yeah. I remember when I was a kid and the buck 110 that I had, right, that a lot of folks have had.
Brian Milinski [00:48:57]:
And This was maybe a 25 probably a 30 year old knife. And I started skinning a deer, and it was a great knife. And and I'm sure they're super high quality But I remember having to sharpen that knife 3 times for barthen at 1 animal. Oh, wow. And I thought that was normal. I didn't know any different. Right? And so every time I scanned a deer, it was like, okay, I'm gonna keep a stone right by me and some leather right by me, and I'm gonna sharpen and drop, sharpen, drop, sharpen, Wow. And, a quality edge should be able to hold up to a little bit more than that.
Brian Milinski [00:49:30]:
Bob DeMarco [00:49:32]:
Yeah. And it's not just the quality edge. You mentioned it before. Almost Almost more than that is the geometry.
Brian Milinski [00:49:39]:
Mhmm. Yep. The the geometry and the heat treat. And the combination of the 2, and and It's it's a different ballgame. So
Bob DeMarco [00:49:49]:
So how did you arrive at the geometry on your various knives? I I know just from looking at them in person that, between the folders and, say, the skinning or the folders and the fixed blade knives, There's a there's a bit of a difference.
Brian Milinski [00:50:05]:
Sure. Sure. So, you know, depending on the potential use of the blade determines how you Grind it right. And so on these folders and been talking with Elliott and and others too that, you know, we just really wanna get them ground down to almost a a zero grind on the edge. Oak Ford put the very final cutting edge on. And so, you know, versus having a a lot of more, backbone strength may be on, a heavy scanner that might be used where you're gonna be, you know, getting into some bone occasionally and And what have you. So just kind of the proper thickness, the proper, grind thickness right up towards the edge depending on what that use is.
Bob DeMarco [00:50:47]:
So you're saying zero edge, bring it to a, basically a sharp point, but then knock it off with a relief edge that is More oblique, so you're not basically breaking the edge when you use it.
Brian Milinski [00:51:02]:
That's right. That's right. Yep. Yep.
Bob DeMarco [00:51:05]:
So that's just gonna be wicked sharp right behind that edge.
Brian Milinski [00:51:09]:
Yeah. Especially with the, The folders, you know, they're gonna be they're gonna be coming to a almost to your your sharpened edge on the initial grind.
Bob DeMarco [00:51:19]:
So where do you see yourself taking Molinsky knives, in terms of a company? This is a 2 parter, And well, well, answer that first.
Brian Milinski [00:51:31]:
Yeah. I I think, you know, the the goal right now is to kinda maintain a certain quantity of build for this next year and the year after that. And then, you know, as I get older, kinda near retirement age is To really kinda take it into being, the full time income generator, if you will. And be able to spend more time out At various shows around the US and, you know, maybe go into some art art knife shows to mix it up a little bit, As well as, you know, some of the, you know, all the big blade shows. And that's something I'm looking forward to this year is doing blade Texas. I'm not I'm not gone to that one just yet, but Gonna make it out this year, so that should be a lot of fun. Taking some, some different folders. I've got another one here where we were talking about earlier before the show.
Brian Milinski [00:52:21]:
Just kind of traditional woods and different blades.
Bob DeMarco [00:52:26]:
That's beautiful. What kind of wood is that?
Brian Milinski [00:52:29]:
Desert iron wood. Oh my god. It's kinda hard in this lighting. I know to to see the the coloring in it, but That one's got a little more little more downturn for a little bit of a western feel to it than the the other.
Bob DeMarco [00:52:46]:
Yeah. You're gonna get accelerated cutting with that Yeah. The angled blade, that's sweet.
Brian Milinski [00:52:52]:
The backspacer is Damascus with some copper in the Damascus. It's kinda hard to make out. Yeah.
Bob DeMarco [00:53:00]:
So what what is do you think working into your plan, could you ever bring Other people into the operation, or is this strictly you and your work and and that's it?
Brian Milinski [00:53:14]:
Yeah. That's that's a really tough question. I I think, you know, my son and I have spent some time on this. He's a Teenager in high school, and he's enjoyed learning how to make knives. And the hope is not necessarily that he jumps into it, but he has The basic knowledge so that down the road, if it's something he chooses to do, that he's got that, you know, that tool in his belt, so to speak. But I think down the road, there could be a mixture. Right? There could be a mixture of kind of Malinski signature series to where they're handcrafted by me, and then Maybe rolling in another individual or 2 that does, more of a mid series, a mid tech, if you will, right, that They're kind of creating some of my designs and and, you know, obviously, I'm still putting eyes on each one before they go out And doing maybe a a blended business model if that makes that makes sense.
Bob DeMarco [00:54:09]:
Yeah. It does. That's kind of how Murray Carter and, Carter Custom Cutlery. That's how that's kinda how his business works. It's it's interesting. He brings on apprentices and they kind of work on designs that that he's created, and they put their English on it and they put their stamp on it as well as his. It's kind of a A way to feature the apprentice, but also get his knives made, you know. It's it's an interesting, it's very similar model to what you suggest.
Bob DeMarco [00:54:40]:
So what what now would be your dream build? What is the knife you wanna make that, at least right now seems out of reach, But you'd really love to make.
Brian Milinski [00:54:51]:
Oh, boy. That's a tough one. You know, I guess a, An automatic with inlays. So just kind of a a super high end, folder. And I don't know you know, again, that's a that's a dream build. I don't know How soon I wanna jump into automatics, but I think up the road, it could be a lot of fun to to play with at least.
Bob DeMarco [00:55:18]:
I was gonna say, so it sounds like that answer has 2 comp complications, the automatic part and then the inlays part. I understand The engineering of the automatic. But for you, what what is the challenge with the inlays?
Brian Milinski [00:55:34]:
Yeah. I I don't I don't know what I don't know.
Bob DeMarco [00:55:38]:
Brian Milinski [00:55:39]:
don't have a pantograph, so that would be one challenge. You know, I know now with with CNCs and water jets, there's a lot of different, approaches that folks are taking to do Inlays and what have you, but I think, I think front and rear bolsters with engraving and engraving down the back spine is probably my in between jump, before going that direction, and I just, I love the way those look and I I just think they're they're kinda special.
Bob DeMarco [00:56:11]:
You know, you mentioned the pantograph. I have, I I only have, I have 2 custom folders in my collection, and one of them was, Has a beautiful, beautiful inlay on both sides. It's a titanium frame lock, and it's In light on both sides so perfectly, and it was done, you know, for the pantograph. Just, you know, Really, no gapping. No. No. And so it's it's cool to see a totally analog machine make something so accurately.
Brian Milinski [00:56:45]:
Yeah. Totally agree. It's it's a craft of its own. And, you know, I mentioned earlier maybe that I had a a chance to go by Bob Marrs' shop Over in Katy, Texas this past year, and just a really neat guy, very interesting background, and, his his service in the the armed forces, I think, is what kinda drew his, interest in knife making. But, Yeah. He's got a couple of pantographs there where he does a lot of inlays in his his folders and they're just they're amazing. They're beautiful. The the fit and finish is It's wonderful.
Brian Milinski [00:57:20]:
And so, you know, something that Elliott worked with me on early on with the first one was just doing some rounded bolsters, right, to where you're having to get that fit and finish just perfectly Your handle material and, next, we're gonna start doing some s shaped bolsters and and kinda Jumping up the game a little bit if we can.
Bob DeMarco [00:57:39]:
1 last question. If if you could have a knife from any maker right now, Who would it be?
Brian Milinski [00:57:48]:
That's tough. You know, being that he hasn't made me one, I'd say Elliott.
Bob DeMarco [00:57:56]:
Alright. I'm gonna have him check out.
Brian Milinski [00:57:58]:
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, he's just got some beautiful blades out there.
Bob DeMarco [00:58:02]:
This is Elliott Maldonado. Right?
Brian Milinski [00:58:04]:
Bob DeMarco [00:58:05]:
So everyone go look him up.
Brian Milinski [00:58:08]:
Yeah. I mean, Johnny's doubts are beautiful too, but I just you know, having the friendship Rhythm and and seeing, you know, seeing some of his recent shows that won several awards, Yeah. Justifiably, I I think that'd be at the top of my list.
Bob DeMarco [00:58:23]:
Well, Brian of Malinski Custom Knives, Thank you so much for joining me on the Knife Junkie podcast. It was so cool to meet you at the Texas Custom Knife Show, and by the way, people kept mistaking us all weekend long. Are you guys bro no. It was, oh, you make knives too? And I'm like, no. And then they were asking you if you had a podcast and the whole thing. Yeah. It was pretty funny.
Brian Milinski [00:58:47]:
That was a blast. Now up up until the end, I was getting in my car. Someone said, hey, Bob. I'm looking forward to being on your show, and I said, yeah, that's not
Bob DeMarco [00:58:56]:
That's funny, man. Well, it's been a pleasure, Brian, and, I'll be talking to you soon, sir.
Brian Milinski [00:59:02]:
Oh, thanks so much, Bob. I enjoyed it.
Bob DeMarco [00:59:04]:
My pleasure. Take care.
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Bob DeMarco [00:59:32]:
There he goes, ladies and gentlemen. Brian Molinski of Molinski Custom Knives. Really great to have him on the show. It was very nice, meeting him. And, man, do yourself a favor. Go look him up on Instagram and check out his gorgeous work. I love that mix of the old west with the With the totally modern and the ancient materials. That really does float my boat.
Bob DeMarco [00:59:58]:
Be sure to join us next week for another great interview and, Wednesday for the midweek supplemental and Thursday, of course, for Thursday night knives. For Jim, working his magic behind his switcher, I'm Bob DeMarco saying, until next time. Don't take dull for an answer.
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