Dan Eastland, Dogwood Custom Knives – The Knife Junkie Podcast (Episode 336)
Dan Eastland of Dogwood Custom Knives joins Bob “The Knife Junkie” DeMarco on episode 336 of The Knife Junkie Podcast.
As a stay-at-home dad, a friend and Dan’s wife conspired to get him into woodworking to stave off madness. Years later, a blacksmith showed him how to make a Bowie knife and he was hooked.
Dan was invited to Fiddleback Forge by Andy Roy to sand, sweep and do whatever grunt work was required of an apprentice. When he graduated from his apprenticeship, Dan kept working with Fiddleback and Fletcher knives learning valuable lessons in knife making, customer service and running a small business.
Success as a knife maker according to Dan: “If one day a grandfather hands his grandson one of my knives and says, ‘My Dad gave me this knife when I was your age.’” He adds that knife making is his true calling, “I go to bed at night reading about knives and wake up in the morning thinking about knives.”
Find Dan and Dogwood Custom Knives online at www.dogwoodcustomknives.com and on Instagram. Dan is also co-host of the Knife Perspective Podcast — a link to it can be found on the Dogwood Custom Knives website.Talk about some sweet custom kitchen knives! Dan Eastland of Dogwood Custom Knives is the maker of some awesome custom kitchen knives. Hear all about it on episode 336 of #theknifejunkie #podcast. Click To Tweet
Dan Eastland of Dogwood Custom Knives
The Knife Junkie Podcast (Episode 336)
Welcome to the Knife Junkie podcast.
Your weekly dose of knife news and information about knives and knife collecting.
Here's your host Bob the knife junkie, DeMarco.
Welcome to the Knife Junkie podcast.
I'm your host, Bob DeMarco.
On this edition of the show, I'm speaking with custom Knife maker and knife perspective podcast co-host Dan Eastland.
I had the good fortune of meeting Dan at Blade Show 2022 where he was representing his Dogwood Custom kitchen and outdoors knives.
Last week Dan sent me a box of three of his personal custom kitchen knives to check out and man alive, Is there a difference between a high end production.
Get a knife, which is of course what I have and the custom Dogwood chefs knife, which is what I need to have from the sumptuously contoured handles made of exotic materials to the unique yet utilitarian blade profiles and grinds.
I use cooking knives all the time, but having these Dogwood custom knives hanging around this past week makes me feel like I have to up my game in the kitchen.
And by the way, that's in more ways than one.
We'll talk all about it with Dan, but first be sure to like, comment, subscribe, hit the notification Bell and download the show to your favorite.
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Hey Dan, welcome to the show.
How are you?
Thank you very much for having me on.
It's my pleasure.
It was it was really cool to meet you at Blade show, clay Alder of Knife magazine brought me by.
You have to meet him and that was cool.
You were there in your in your kilt and and you had some men, some just beautiful knives about and then once we were talking you also brought up your podcast.
I was like Oh yeah so anyway.
It's a pleasure to have you.
And I got to say thank you for your trust and generosity in sending these three beautiful kitchen knives.
My way to check out.
They have been a revelation of sorts.
When I when I heard you like to play in the kitchen.
Let me try that again.
I'm not used to being on this side of the microphone.
It may take me a minute to relax.
No, when I heard that you like to play in the kitchen as well.
I was really excited the opportunity to let you use them for a little while and get some feedback.
I I'm always trying to get trying to refine things from from knowledgeable users.
Everybody that I've worked with, I learned something from so it was a a great opportunity for me as well.
Oh, and I'm just a nice guy, so I mean, well, hey, yeah, I think getting that feedback from knowledgeable users is is a good thing.
And the great thing about kitchen knives.
Is pretty much everyone you know is a knowledgeable user.
That doesn't necessarily mean they got the technique from a kitchen from a from working in a kitchen or from a cooking Academy or something like that, but everyone uses kitchen knives and and we probably uses them every day, so it's it's cool to be able to get your knives in the hands of people.
How did you get started with kitchen knives?
Before we had kids, my wife and I lived in Atlanta and we had gotten really accustomed to going out to eat a lot.
Several of my buddies were coming up.
They were line cooks, sous chefs.
They were coming up through the ranks and the the Atlanta restaurant industry.
My first son was born premature and needed constant care.
I was back in college.
My wife was working and the easiest thing for us to do was for me to drop out of school and take care of him.
And we had gotten used to eating really well.
But now with the kid we were not going out anymore.
So I got down a copy of the joy of cooking and started at page one and just started working my way through.
And that got to be kind of my activity with with Jack is, we'd go to the farmers market.
We'd find produce whatever was available.
I'd come home.
Plan the menu.
So when I started my apprenticeship and got into knife making.
I realized how incredibly underserved the kitchen industry was.
You know steels that the outdoor industry have been using for 10 or 15 years still weren't being used in the kitchen industry.
Yeah, your options for handles were black plastic, white plastic or pay $1500 for a custom.
You know there was no.
There's no up-to-date quality products available for.
Home cooks line cooks really anyone that and most of us can't afford a $1500 kitchen knife, so it kind of got to be my passion to to fill that market.
You know my gosh, I haven't thought about that until this moment, but because you just put it in my head.
But the idea that, yeah, you're right.
I mean, I have like I mentioned before, I have a couple of loose Staffs and I have.
You know some shuns and some higher end production knives.
You know that we got for our wedding this and that black plastic handle.
And you're right, if you want if you want to change it up you can get white I believe but but there's nothing like the variety you see in the pocket knife industry for instance.
Yeah, and I mean my prized possession was a set of Hinkle S that we'd gotten for our wedding.
And it's an eighth of an inch of unknown stainless steel that constantly had to be tuned up.
And that was a really high end kitchen knife.
And that's that.
Frustrated me, yeah, that's funny.
An eighth of an inch.
You're right that that was one of the things that immediately struck me about your knives, and you couldn't even see that I was holding up because it's so damn thing.
But how thin these are?
I mean, you're starting off with thin stock, and two of them, this knife and this knife in particular.
I noticed Dan sent me a picture of these knives on his wall and said, you know, pick one to to use and I I, I guess I picked 3. Where he was generous enough to send three, but it's this right here that struck that that caught my eyes like that.
That bevel only goes up so high and I was wondering I asked you, is it a chisel grind and you said no, it's like that on both sides.
Explain as you explain to me why you do that.
You mean the height of the grind?
If you're four times thinner at the spine.
To have the same cutting angle, your bevel is going to be four times lower.
So because of that, stock starts out at 116th of an inch and sometimes I thin it out from there.
What can look like a scandi grind is actually a A6 degree, or in some cases a 3 degree grind, but because the spine is so thin, the grind just doesn't go that far up right?
That that's exactly what.
So when I got it I I realized I was like I was looking at it and I turn it.
Oh look, it's because it's so incredibly thin.
It's amazing, I mean it really amazes me how.
You can get a knife this thin on a machine with fast spinning abrasives and not go through the other side.
It is so thin.
OK, let's back up here.
How do you just explained how you got into the kitchen knife arena and why?
But tell me about how you got into knives in general.
What's your background?
I mean, it seemed to be quite varied.
It is, yeah my first.
My first knife was a little too blade Barlow pocket knife, brown handle.
I think my dad gave it to me when I was six, and I clutched that thing all through the woods of North Georgia, hunting and fishing with my dad.
So my first experience with knives was hunting.
I worked landscaping for a while.
I was in the infantry for a while.
I like to cook so I I used a broad spectrum of edge tools and lots of different ways.
And then when I was in school I was studying engineering so.
When I got into knife making, I actually didn't have a lot of industry background.
I mean, I was carrying old bucks.
I had a Gerber Mini mag that was my go to knife for dressing game.
But I wasn't.
I wasn't a collector.
I wasn't deep into the industry.
But I came from an engineering background so when I started making knives, I approached the blade as a double inclined plane.
And the Greeks proved a long time ago.
The lower the angle, the more efficient it is.
So I I just came at it from a little different direction.
OK, I'm I'm going to have to ask you.
So you're saying that the.
In in what the Greeks discovered or proved, that the lower the angle of the incline, the more efficient it is, say for whether you're Wheeling something up it as a ramp, or whether you're trying to cleave through a material pushing a wedge through a material is the same mechanism as pushing a heavy
You know, in one case you're dealing with one facet instead of two, but for all practical purposes it's it's the same formula.
And one of the one of the things I asked my clients sometimes when they're not sure about some of the angle stuff, is, you know, if you have a really heavy box, do you want to push it up a short steep ramp or a long low ramp?
And really, the what limits, that is, the structural ability of the steel.
As long as the steel can hold integrity and stand up to the use.
The lowest possible angle is what you need to go for.
And it's one of the reasons I've very early jumped on and fully drank the kool-aid on some of the particle steels.
Because they they let me work with really thin blades.
They were they were so tough and that grain structure locked together really well and gave you great edge retention.
But for me what I really loved is the toughness and that let me really start pushing the limits on on thin high grinds.
And in fact, some of the ones you've got now are early blades I've.
I've doubled the height of the grind on some of the 116th now.
OK, so this this is 116th and this one looks a little bit thicker and this one just but ever so slightly thicker.
This one is a fully flat ground and this one the one on your right is is 330 seconds and I'll take that all the way to the spine.
And the 116th.
I take it about half the distance up on a 2 inch wide kitchen knife.
Depending on well, I should say depending on the steel, the knowledge of the user, how they're going to be using it.
You know a well trained chef that is always going to use a soft cutting board and has proper technique.
Then yeah, man I'll.
I'll run that thing up razor thin somebody less experienced or somebody that has a heavier handed technique.
I might leave the grind a little lower so that the the edge is a little more robust so a little stouter so it can handle someone who's who goes out a little bit harder.
Or someone that you know.
A chef that just paid $1000 for a kitchen knife is not going to Nick a bone when he's breaking something down, he's going to be careful.
Other people might get a little careless and if they bang that edge on a bone, I want it to survive.
So what steel are we talking about?
Recently S 35 BN has really settled into.
That's kind of my sweet spot.
I'll take it up between 59 and 60. I really like 60 or a little over Rockwell, sorry.
And I like.
I like the balance between Edmonton and toughness.
Mean I've got some S 35 VN filet knives.
There are 60 Rockwell and I can put the tip in a clamp and bend it over 45 degrees and let it go and it'll come back true.
Especially with these thin blades, I want it to bend well before it breaks and I want it to to have lots of bends.
So you really know something's gone wrong.
That same toughness is also what?
In my experience is kept.
It keeps you from chipping edges out.
You know you can go with these really thin grinds and then.
My experience with S 35 VN is it doesn't chip out even though I've got it at 596061 Rockwell.
Yeah, I remember hearing that.
That was the whole purpose of S 35 when they made it was that S 30 was great, but in some cases chipped a little bit so they they they took out.
I guess a tiny bit of edge retention and replaced it with toughness.
I don't know what that looks like chemically, but.
In my experience, S 35 VN so outperforms what's been on the market in the kitchen industry.
That nobody knows that they lost a little bit of edge retention.
I mean most chefs keep steel in their knife roll and it stays close by on the counter because.
348 times a shift, they're out there touching up their edges.
Kind of the aha.
Moment for me was I was making a custom for a charcuterie.
A chef that specializes in smoking preserving meats.
And he broke down a hog a week and he wanted a boning knife and he called me back.
Amazed, he said I broke down an entire pig and I didn't have to sharpen my boning knife, so I've never heard of that before.
And that was that was the moment that I said, OK, this.
I've been playing with Magna cut.
I work with some other steels depending on what a customer works wants, but it's 35 is just it's delivered for me every time I needed it.
So you got to say to the chef.
Welcome to the World of Super Steel what So what are the steels?
I I worked the line on in in an Italian kitchen for two summers in a row so I have six months combined professional experience from college days, you know.
Yeah I do.
I do almost not at one point but.
I used to use the one butcher knife that no one ever touched to to decapitate boxes of salad, but anyway, my my my question is what is the steel that's in those Chicago cutlery?
Those kind of cheap knives that they bring and sharpen every week.
True, I truly don't know.
It's a simple carbon.
I don't know exactly which one it is.
I would suspect it's somewhere around 10841080, but I'm not sure.
And and on one hand, it's inexpensive and you got to sharpen it on all the time.
On the other hand, handle on one side blade on the other.
It takes a decent edge and yeah, you got to touch it up, but it's you know it's the VW bug of of knives.
Nobody's proud of it, but it always starts and it'll get you where you want to go even if it's slow and not whether or not style, right, right?
Yeah and and and now that it's really it's the style thing, So what what you're producing here and you also make outdoor knives which I have not experienced but I. I have looked at but.
But now you're getting in in the realm of luxury.
What you make are luxury goods and, and that's that's what we talk about on this show.
These knives that we collect, whether they're high end pocket knives or low end pocket knives.
It doesn't matter.
You don't need a $40 pocket knife.
In essence, you could have something less and do just fine.
So when I'm spending 100 plus on a knife, that's a luxury.
And you embrace that.
With with your knives here, I mean this.
These are very, very beautiful.
We've talked about how functional they are, but you put these beautifully sculpted handles on with exotic materials.
By the way, what is this material?
Jim and I were trying to figure that out that is stabilized wild rice.
I knew it it OK, I knew that I told him it's some kind of grain that's making me hungry.
I worked, that's my personal.
It was a prototype.
The material is phenomenal, but it didn't have the durability I wanted to go into a production.
Umm, there's a little finicky to maintain, so for at home and for loaners, it was fine.
But it wasn't a it wasn't a viable material to to take out to the market seems prone to voiding as the rice might disintegrate internally, or something like that.
What we learned.
It was the name of the company was Metal Co. They've they've gone out of business.
And it started off with like Rosemary and thyme leaves, which stabilized really well.
And of course the chefs loved the idea of having a food product as their handle.
And then we started with beer hops and that went really well.
We did coffee beans and that was kind of a mixed.
And then we really got crazy and started doing pasta and rice.
And what we learned was the really starchy materials.
As soon as the wet epoxy hit them, they would form a barrier and you just wouldn't get penetration, so like that handle from time to time I've got to take a dental pick and pick out the little bits of live rice that have gotten exposed and then fill it with the CA glue and buff it back out.
Interesting, yeah I can see where some of that has happened.
What a great idea to make handle scales of stabilized food for chefs knives.
That's that's a really good idea.
When he went out of business, I bought absolutely everything he had and have been been letting it out a little bit at a time.
I've got some stabilized hemp blossoms.
I've got a little bit of beer hops left.
I've got some coffee beans left.
And oddly enough, a buddy of mine's a state trooper and he swung by the shop for lunch.
And it turns out that beer hops when ground smells exactly like marijuana.
Oh, that's, uh, yeah, that makes sense.
That makes sense.
You get one of those skunky Ipas.
It's like, Oh yeah, I've been trying all day with my respirator on and he came in the shop.
Was like what are you doing?
Like you knew I was coming over here?
You're forcing me and I was like, well, no no.
It's just this beer hops handle.
He's like beer.
Hops, yeah, right.
And I had to actually go over to the grinder.
Stick it on there and hand it to him and he's like, well, damn, he's like, is that what the kids are calling it these days?
Man well and chefs, chefs, people that cook are really creative people and it's just part of what makes you good at it.
And the idea of having the choice between black plastic and white plastic.
As a creative person just really bothered me.
I mean, that's physics and physics and metallurgy determines what the blade shape is going to be and what it's made of, but the handle is somewhere where you can play.
You can get bright and colorful.
You can do.
I just got.
I don't know if you're familiar with it, but there's a restaurant out in California called the French Laundry.
I think there are four Michelin star, but they have their own aprons.
They're they're custom made just for them.
The every shift you throw it in the laundry bin you come back, you get one.
10 or 12 May have fallen off of a truck when one of my chefs left the laundry, so we just did a block of micarta with the GL Hanson of French laundry, aprons and chefs coats on a twisted rag micarta.
And that that's where that's where I get to have fun.
I get to be creative and find these funky ideas to do with handles.
That is brilliant.
So it's G Carter.
Basically it's GL Hanson and Sons G Carta made of French laundry, so the French laundry I I had always heard of it because I had friends in the San Francisco area who were into cooking and that kind of thing.
But then you know it blew up when when Governor Gavin Newsom was busted having dinner there.
After he told everyone else to stay home.
That is brilliant for those handles.
And Jill Hansen doesn't do customs like they've always said that and I just called them.
Just, you know, you've missed a you miss 100% of the shots you don't take and he's really patient.
He listened to me.
He's like you know what?
That's really cool.
I'm never doing this again.
Don't ask me again, but yeah, I got to be a part of this project and don't tell anyone.
Yeah yeah, then I'll do their project.
Yeah, that's good.
So what are you going to do?
Do you have a an entire project earmarked for that micarta or that Jakarta?
I have a handful of chefs that just.
They said when it's done, I want it.
I just let me know when it's finished.
So a fair amount of it is is spoken for.
Umm, and it's it.
It kind of it kind of puts itself in its own market.
It's the handle slabs are 500 bucks a set so that that tends to lend it towards it's going to be on Magna cut.
It's going to be on, you know, a fully hand ground blade that.
Typically he's going to somebody that is in a position that they want a Ferrari.
Yeah, they they drive fast figuratively and they do it.
You know, six days a week and they want.
And they want to push things as far as they can.
You know, it also seems the whole idea of customizing handles and making interesting handles on chefs knives.
Would be and I'm not just talking on like the $2000 customs.
I just mean on on, you know, even on production knives making interesting handles.
It could be a useful thing in the kitchen, you know you got.
You got five guys or guys and girls in a row.
They're all using knives.
They're all working at the speed of of the you know meal and picking up each other's knives.
I would, I would imagine.
Maybe that doesn't happen too often.
Maybe people are very territorial about it, but you would imagine to have different colored handles would would.
Would stop any of that.
People, chefs especially are extraordinarily territorial about their knives, but that does not stop.
Knives get misplaced all of a sudden you look over and that guy's using your favorite knife and after after dinner service there's going to be words and then again it's just the I mean.
This is the tool that you not only feed yourself and your family with but you feed other people with and this is.
Without getting too deep, I mean there's there is at some degree an emotional bond to this tool.
This is something that you use everyday and you feed yourself with and it's not uncommon for people they want to express themselves a little bit.
I mean, this is.
This keeps me alive.
This feeds me so you know Blues, my favorite color or you know, whatever it is they want, they want that tool that supports them and feeds them to reflect them.
And that's why on the mitex I do a lot of options and that's really, you know, the home cook, the line, cook that.
They can't spend a grand on a knife.
But they use it and it's a tool and they would appreciate some quality and that's why I've got the mid techs that are in the the three $400.00 range and they're still S 35 VN.
They're 330 seconds at the spine, but it's a stonewash finish.
The blades are done in batches of 200. I still do the handles by hand, but it's a. The same concept.
I don't put everything that goes on a custom may not go on a midtech because the handle can just price it out of the market, but I still let that three $400.00 range.
Try to to make it special.
I mean how did that happen?
How did the mid tech come about?
A combination of things.
One I was selling full customs vast majority of my market was executive chefs and at some point I realized a combination of for every one executive chef there was 15 or 20 line Cook Station cook sous chefs.
That all needed a quality tool and that that was a market that I that I wasn't serving.
And the other side was talking to, you know, as I got to hang out in the kitchens starting to talk to some of these guys that they had the skill and the knowledge of you know some of these guys are using these blades 60 hours a week.
They needed a better quality blade.
They needed something lighter.
They needed something that cut more efficiently.
So the the midtech was kind of a way to compromise.
Still significantly higher quality than the production knives, but at a price point that was more reasonable for them.
And depends sometimes you can strip one down and get it into the the high two hundreds, but typically they're three $400.00 knives, which is still an investment.
I mean, that's that's not nothing, but it was far more achievable than one of my full customs.
Oh sure people people spend thousands of dollars on work on tools they need for work.
Whether it's a computer or or a box of hand tools or or what have you, it seems like 400 bucks, you know, one shift or whatever it happens to be, I don't know.
But it seems like something you'd read readily pay, especially because people love knives.
Anyway, you you were afraid you were getting too spiritual over there about about this being a tool to feed you, but we we do that all the time.
Here we we wax poetic because there is something about knives that is in our genetics I believe, or our epigenetics, whatever that is, the you know the the genes of the whole of the whole human race share the love of knives.
You pull out a knife.
And it lights up the room.
People like that.
Yeah, it was.
It was the thing that separated us well.
It's the thing that turned us from prey to predator.
And then as you move forward, it speed up the food, processing it, speed up food gathering.
And even at a simpler level, it is the first dangerous weapon.
Generally speaking, it's the first dangerous weapon you were ever trusted with.
My little Barlow pocket knife.
When I go to enter a street fight with it, but no but little 6 year old me knew that if the bad guys broke into the house I could cut them with that knife, like somewhere in the back of your mind.
There's always that connection to.
It's the first dangerous thing you were trusted with.
It was your first step towards maturity.
I love that it, that's true.
That's the first dangerous thing I'm writing that down.
That's beautiful man.
It it is and I'm.
That's especially resonant to me because my daughter just turned 12. I gave her her first locking knife.
She she has.
She has already a slip joint and she has a Swiss army knife, but I got her a locking knife and she's been showing it off in pictures.
She can't bring it to camp and all that, but she's really proud of it and and a couple of days ago there was a short period of time where she was here alone.
My wife had to do something I had to do something.
I came back and she's like that.
I had my knife the whole time like.
Right on baby.
Like it, I bet that made you feel good but yes, the first dangerous thing that we're entrusted with well so tell me your process.
How do you go about making these?
And then I'm?
I'm also interested in the mid tech process too, but I know that's a whole different ball of wax.
How do you make these customs so?
I mean if you want to get philosophical, the customs starts with an idea.
I was trained that when you go to design A knife, the 1st and most important question you ask is what is the purpose of this knife?
And then anything that AIDS in that purpose you add.
Anything that takes away from that purpose you remove, and anything that's neutral becomes an aesthetic question.
So, you know, once I've got the pattern and all of my patterns were tested for at least six months in a commercial kitchen.
Because in hours those guys put enough put days worth of usage into it.
You know if I if one of those knives spends a month in a kitchen, a commercial kitchen that that could easily be a year and a household kitchen so.
Any balance issue, any hotspot?
Yeah, if sharpening is gonna wind up thickening the edge too fast, any of those issues show up very quickly in that environment, so it's a really fast way to R&D my blades.
But once I have my pattern decided once usage or the buyer has determined what the steel and the heat treat is going to be, I start with flat bar.
It's close to the finish thickness as possible, just for efficiency.
And then like most makers.
I use dicam layout fluid.
I set my pattern, I've got my CARTO patterns.
Set my pattern down and use a scribe.
Scribe out the line.
Cut that blade blank to length and then I go to the grinder.
I use a a tool rest at 90 degrees and typically a 36 grit ceramic belt.
And typically because of all the particle steel I use, I need a really aggressive.
And then I will grind the shape out.
And I can typically keep excuse me, I'm sorry.
I can typically keep about 3rd decimal place accuracy.
From one pattern to the next, doing it that way.
Depending on the thickness of the blade and the material.
I'll grind as much as I can and kneeled on the bevel.
Drill holes and then I've got a kiln in shop so I do all my heat treat in shop.
So I'll do, heat, treat, temper, come back, put final grind on sand handle materials.
I was a woodworker before I was a knife maker.
So I have what we call the wall of handle materials and I was.
I have the cheat of I have a really really good cabinet, so all leftover from my furniture days so I can mill my handle materials down on the cabinet stall and then it's epoxies and pins and shaping.
And I can when everything is going right and I'm not using Magna cut I can do about 3 chefs knife in a week or.
5 to 7 smaller either pairing or outdoor knives.
Why does magma cut change that?
Because it is an absolute, it takes easily twice as long to grind.
So typically, even on S 35 E, when after I heat treat when I go to set the bevels, I'll use an 80 grit belt.
And on S 35 EN.
It's about one belt per knife.
With Magna cut I set the bevels with 36 grit belts and it is typically.
Three to four belts per kitchen knife, whoa.
A I. I've been very fortunate that Ethan Becker took an interest in my career and I had done some thin blades for him.
Some of the kitchen knives.
And he he was visiting after Blade show and.
He didn't call me a liar, but he wasn't 100% that you that you really had to set a bevel on a a 116th inch blade with 36 grit Magna cut.
Annealed is great to work with.
Me works really easily, but once it's hardened I literally wouldn't using 36 grit ceramic belts to set the bevels.
OK, let me ask you something you said before or I was trying to follow your process.
Not that it's different.
No no, no no.
I just using applying the knowledge I already have.
You were talking about grinding and then heat treating and then and then the finish grinding after that.
So is there with a with a very thin blade steel like this 16th of an inch and then you've already ground it down a bit.
Is there worry about it warping in the process?
So 116th doesn't get.
I don't grind 116th at all as far as the bevel goes before heat treat.
Partially because the little bit of steel you could take off before the edge got so thin you'd have to worry about burning the edge out.
So you were talking about grinding out the profile profile dude by hand on a grinder?
OK no no no.
A thicker knife, an outdoor knife, or for some reason like an eighth of an inch, went into kneeled.
You know, I might take take the edge off, or put the bevel in until maybe it's 4050 thousandths of an inch thick at the edge, then heat treat and come back and take the rest off.
But with the thinner materials and also with chef knives.
Because typically there's such a high grind on it.
If you pre grind too much material, you really create each issues with your heat treat.
You'll get warpage or a lot of the particle steels I use are plate quenched.
And if you've already got a grind fairly high and you go to plate quench, you're not getting contact on those bevels, and you're not pulling the heat off fast enough, right?
So a plate quench is when you pull it out of the kiln.
It's in that foil wrapper and you put it between two very, very heavy plates of steel.
Presumably I've seen that.
Is that why you happening?
I use one inch or two inch aluminum plates and they're set in a vice.
So that I'll drop it in and then you get positive pressure which holds it tight.
Also helps keeping it true and up and then the the aluminum plates pull the heat out all right all right.
So if the bevels are already there and nothing is going to be exactly flat against the other thing and it's going to do what it does, yeah, you'll get an air pocket between the plate and that bevel so you may not be pulling this heat off fast enough.
On heat treat.
If you pull the heat off too slowly, you won't get the grain structure that you want.
So that air pocket may cause you to not have a consistent grain structure throughout the blade.
And you can get warpage.
OK, all right I get, hence the term quench.
You're not just putting it in there to straighten it, or to keep it straight.
You're putting it in there to quench it, cool it down as fast as possible.
And that's also why you're using aluminum I guess.
And traditionally a quench was in a liquid water oil, but with some of the modern steels.
Plate quenching became an option.
That's so cool.
So you get you get these.
The customs made in in the way that you just described it.
You don't get them made, you make them you.
You cut them out.
You grind the profiles, you heat, treat them, pull them back out.
You make the bevels.
You make the handles now.
Now tell me the process for mid tech and I'm presuming that frees you up to do more of these.
Not it could.
But really, what it does is rather than doing 3 customs in a week, I can do 12 mid techs in a week.
So I'm not really doing more customs and part of the way I can lower the price point in the mid tax is in a week.
I can do four times more.
And those I'll use a second party vendor.
They grind to my specs.
My heat, steel choice, I quality control it.
But the the blade blank comes to me as a a finished product.
If it's too much standards and passes my quality control, then I'll put the handles on by hand.
I do the shaping.
Andy Roy that I did my intern, my mentorship with or my apprenticeship with was really focused on handles.
I followed that up with.
I was really fortunate that there were a couple of surgeons, a hand surgeon in particular.
That I could sit down and and buy some beers and grill him on.
You know the shape of the hand fatiguing, and all of that goes into those contours in my handle.
And like those are designed so that.
If you pinch grip which most experienced chefs do, you know it's tapered to the front but it swells on the back of those fingers so you can get a lock if you you ice pick it or finger over like a lot of home chefs do that swell as you move your hand back to change that grip.
That swell fills the palm of your hand.
The taper on the sides gives you a mechanical lock against the palm of your hand and your fingers.
So the the swell is is less fatiguing.
It gives you better control with that mechanical lock on your hands.
It gives you.
It gives you very good control and it is also less fatiguing.
One of the things I don't like about a lot of the Japanese style handles is you're using a lot of friction to hold that blade, so you're squeezing harder.
And that means your hand is more fatiguing.
And as your hand gets fatigued, your grip loosens up and you lose control of the blade.
How interesting, yeah, as as opposed to pure ergonomics and shaping.
I another person that I worked with was of the opinion that you needed to be able to dip your hand in oil, grab the knife and use it safely.
That if your contours are right, it's a mechanical lock with your hand, not a friction lock.
And and even if you know you're even if you've been cleaning fish and you're covered in slime, you still should have complete control of that knife.
And that's a a safety issue, but it's also.
One of the chefs that I was working with had brutal carpal tunnel.
And they thought it was just repetitive stress and when he started using one of my 116th blades, you know they're.
2/3 lighter than the Heinkel He was using and it turned out that it was literal from Tigue.
A combination of squeezing that handle so hard and lifting that weight that it wasn't just repetitive stress, it was.
It was the weight and the the fatigue of squeezing so hard.
That when he went to a lighter knife that was easier to control the the carpal tunnel got better.
So the thinner blade steel and the enhanced or advanced contouring of the handle solved that problem.
Yeah, wow and it was just the.
The better grind geometry cut easier so it was less forced.
The blade weighed less.
The handle fit his hand better, so it was it was less taxing on on his body.
So what was it like working at Fiddleback Forge with Andy Roy?
It was a really intense process.
Learned an enormous amount from Andy and I was really fortunate at the time.
Dylan Fletcher was also in the shop, so I really got 2 mentors for the price of 1. And they had very different approaches and very different styles.
So it was great to work back and forth between the two of them.
And he's got a great reputation for his handles, and it's it's well deserved.
And it was the advantage of not just learning the process from him.
But learning the business side, getting some exposure, you know he helped get me into the market where.
If I was just Dan Eastland, yeah, I'm just one of a whole bunch of guys with a grinder.
Working with Andy, I got a little bit of a leg up that some of Andy's credibility transferred to me.
So it was.
It was a phenomenal situation.
He didn't burned by apprentices a couple of times.
Matter of fact, I think he averages 9 apprentices for every one that that graduates wow.
A lot of people want to be knife makers until it's time to do knife maker stuff.
And the first person that I had made a knife with was Mark Hopper and he is a master blacksmith in three different countries.
Phenomenal in in every sense of the word.
But he within a couple of weeks of me starting with him, he moved his shop to downtown Atlanta.
I was up in North Georgia.
My kids had just started elementary school, but it was going to be a four hour commute and the the math just didn't work.
So I managed to get a hold of the Georgia custom Knifemakers Guilds roster sheet with phone numbers.
And that is a phenomenal Guild by the way.
They have produced more knife makers than I think.
Any other more working knife makers.
I'm exaggerating, there's probably some national guilds that have done more, but.
The quality and the volume of skilled knife makers that have come out of that Guild is really impressive.
But I just started calling guys.
And Andy was near my house.
I had called him and he's just no I'm.
I'm not taking on apprentices.
I don't have time no.
I showed up at Guild meetings and was.
Was just hounding people, and now that I've a maker and I've had a couple of prentices come through the shop, I understand.
It's time, it's materials.
In a lot of ways, you're putting your heart and your soul into this person.
You're committing your time.
You're sharing really hard, warned, earned knowledge, and it can be really heartbreaking when they quit.
And I found out that Andy and I had a mutual friend and I just kept working and finally and he's like, alright enough.
You can come to work.
I'm not going to pay you.
It's August, it's in Georgia.
There's no insulation or air conditioning in the shop and you're going to send a car to all day except for when you're sweeping the floors.
And I said, OK. And after about three months of that three days a week, he sat me down.
I was like, OK, if you're not going to leave, I guess I'm going to have to teach you, he said.
But I need a minimum of 40 hours a week.
I'm still not going to pay you.
And you're going to work on my materials when the work on my stuff is done, then you can work on your own stuff.
And that worked out actually.
I mean, I was very fortunate to be in a situation where I could work 40 hours a week and not get paid.
But it was in Andy's interest to teach me as much as possible and make me as good as possible, because the more that I could do, the more work I could do on his blades, which increased his productivity, which gave me more experience, which made me better, and it was just a a growing cycle.
And it wasn't long before I could finish all at Andy's work in a couple of hours.
And then I could use any tool in the shop as long as I paid for the consumables.
You know, the materials, the belts, the bits.
And it was about four or five months before I was making knives that that I could sell.
There's some some $6080 Dogwood knives out there that I have desperately been trying to buy back.
Is that for the Dogwood Museum or just to get him out of people's hands out of the public?
It it, it makes my skin crawl that something that hideous has got my name on it.
One guy in particular has got one of my very first and every time I see him I'm like brand new knife of vastly better materials and skill, and 300 bucks, and he's like no.
He said that you might get really good.
And then you'll die.
And this might be worth something one day, that's awesome, you know, that's it.
I'm actually wearing the tattoo of someone who is an incredible tattoo artist, but when he did my tattoo, he was heavy-handed and every time I see him I haven't seen him for years now.
But he grabbed my arm, look at it, be like.
This is so terrible and I'm like I love it.
It's an original, you know.
Plus don't say you hate it.
There's nothing to do about it.
It's on my skin now.
You know you're talking about this apprentice system?
Uh, I'm sorry if I'm interrupting.
I know you talk about this apprentice system and your personal experience with Andy Roy and it just strikes me.
Especially as my as I have children entering or a child entering teenage dumb and then who knows about higher education and.
And really, who knows about higher education?
With everything I read in the news, I'm like my God like.
This is going into such massive debt for this kind of brainwashing.
At least the kind of stuff you hear in the news.
I'm not sure if I'm up for that or or what we're going to do when that time comes, but it just made me think apprenticeship is an age-old system and it works.
It works for everybody.
You became a master knife maker by training under a master knife maker and you have OK. I mean, you have mastered.
I appreciate the compliment, but master knife Maker has a very specific.
Right, I I. Well what I meant to say is you let you you reached a level of mastery doing that that allowed you to have your own career doing it, and while you were doing that, you were helping fiddleback forge too.
Also push ahead, you know that's a great and in time, time honored system.
And Andy, a lot of people don't know, but Andy was a licensed electrical engineer.
That got into knife making as a hobby, and then the hobby started getting successful enough that.
He could take a chance on leaving a career that he really wasn't enjoying, but I could always tell the day that his student loans were due at the shop because he would be in a foul temper 5 years, five years and hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Do you know how much better a knife maker I would be if I had started this five years sooner?
Yeah, and it's one of the I've always told my kids.
You're going to get an advanced education.
I don't care if it's college or trades, you want to go to tech school and become a master welder.
Outstanding, you want to go to college?
That's fine that you know you're going to get something useful out of it, but I have.
I was a product of that generation where it was.
Smart successful people go to college and losers don't, and my generation was really done a disservice.
I mean, I've.
I've got a buddy that's an electrician and another one that's a plumber that make more than the doctor that we hang out with.
Yeah, the and part of it is.
It's not you don't come out with a crippling debt, and part of it is.
Just as arguably more people need plumbers than they need doctors, and it's a it's a skill.
So I I'm sorry I was about to get on a soapbox and a soapbox and a. Rage but yeah, apprenticeships tech schools trade jobs.
These are all things that.
My generation and the one before so so darkened and put down is is that's what the the ignorant do.
And now we've got a bunch of people who, yeah, you've.
You've got a, you know, a masters in art appreciation, but your toilet's broken and you don't know how to fix it and you're about to pay somebody 6 grand to come out.
Well, that's an exaggeration.
You're about to pay somebody $1300 to come out and change a valve because.
You got an art appreciation degree that isn't marketable.
You talking directly to me because you could be well and it's funny because I I have interviewed 2 organizations to be my my alma mater and neither have have been up to my standard.
My wife is got a chemist degree from Duke and was going pre Med when she realized pharmaceuticals was going to be a a great opportunity.
So on one end I've got a senior executive wife.
Works in a very large company and has a chemistry degree from Duke and then you've got me.
College dropout woodworker knife maker.
So the the dynamic in our family is is pretty fascinating.
I like it.
I like it.
I think those those kind of.
They're not necessarily opposites, but those kind of contrast feed each other.
Somewhat similar in in my relationship as well, you know, and it it it.
It takes a couple of different charges to make things work.
You know if you're going to have a family, you have to have positive negative charge.
And I don't mean you know what I mean.
I just been kind of opposing charges.
And it our situation has worked really well because.
Things that I'm deficient at, things that I struggle at are things that Beth is really good at, and vice versa.
So we complement each other really well, even though on paper we look.
Yeah, that's my for instance.
I'm really good at taking out the trash you know and and so that's my job.
Now I'm just kidding.
I lift heavy things.
I can reach stuff real up high now, so all right I want to know a couple of things before we wrap here.
One of them is where do you?
Where do you hope to take the enterprise of Dogwood custom knives?
We're actually going in a couple of different directions.
We are working on a a full production line so.
We're towards the end of the process of under the Dogwood umbrella.
We'll have full customs, mid tax and production.
Right now it's all focused on the kitchen.
That's my passion.
I started out in Andy's shop.
I started out making outdoor knives.
The guys the outdoor knife community is what let me get started so I will always make outdoor knives.
I mean, that's just I owe it to the community, but kitchen knives are.
That's a passion that I'm really focused in.
One day you know pipe dream.
I would really like to have to maintain my my full custom shop.
As kind of a skunk works are indeed.
That then feeds the the mid tech and the production lines that that as I invent and perfect a new pattern on the custom side.
I can move that into midtech, see how it does it volume.
If it succeeds there then we move it over to the production side.
And I want to get quality knives in as many hands as I can.
And quality can be a Ferrari $1200 full custom knife.
It could be you saved up a week's pay for a midtech.
That is still really high performance.
Or it could be you're just getting started and it's you know a $60.00 production knife.
All I want to maintain that high standard handles are obviously really important to me on the on the production side.
We're looking at multi color materials, you know multilayer G10 micarta is stuff that is cost effective to machine and produce.
But it's got some style.
You know, a highly polished canvas micarta that's got some some texture to it.
Or you know, a black and red G10 because you know the contours I put in my hand.
It gives you that kind of topo feel to it.
And you can put some G10 handles and pins in there and give it a little pop, so there's there's still a lot of room.
To be expressive, to be something other you shouldn't have to hide your kitchen knives like they should be attractive.
You should be able to put them on the magnetic rack right out in the middle of the kitchen.
Absolutely and and and it.
And seeing how the pocket knife world has has exploded, not like it's done so recently.
It just continues to.
It's like The Big Bang, it's just continuing to expand in a glorious way.
And yet people use their pocket knives probably relatively less so than a kitchen knife.
So I think that this is an idea whose time is long overdue.
Actually bringing bringing knives with character to to to the production realm to the mid tech realm, but definitely to the production realm that goes beyond the kind of cheesy stuff you get, like the forged in fire package deals.
And like, yeah, those have color on them, but they're they're crap.
You know to I think to get really classy nice knives in the hands of people is the way to go.
One of the things that has really helped the kitchen industry.
From my perspective, one a lot of the big companies just didn't for whatever reason, they just haven't innervated, they haven't upgraded.
They just turned out the same old thing, which was a great opportunity for me.
But with the the explosion of the bushcraft community and the pocket knife community.
People started to learn what makes a really quality knife.
You know your your geometry, your balance, your materials, and that education carries over.
At some point somebody realizes.
For the same reason I bought a $400.00 bushcraft knife that I used two days out of the month.
All of those same reasons apply to the kitchen knife that I use every day, so as people are getting better educated people are starting to realize, hey, I don't have to use.
I don't have to use a piece of crap like I can get a good knife that is safer.
It's easier to use and when you have a good tool, chores are less of a chore.
The experience is nice.
It's nice cutting with a nice knife with a good knife.
One of the great things about the particle steels is so S 35 at about 60 Rockwell.
In a commercial kitchen, the chefs I was working with, they'll Strop their knife on Wednesday and sharpen on on Saturday.
Which when they were using their henkels and stuff, they kept their steel at their workstation.
They were touching it up several times a night and having to sharpen every other day.
And that carries over to you know, if you get a week's worth in an industrial kitchen, you're talking about months in a home kitchen.
And once a knife takes and keeps an edge, you know again, a good tool makes a job easier.
I have found that when the knife keeps the edge people, that's one of those aha moments of OK. This is why it's worth to pay a couple of 100 bucks rather than 60 at Walmart.
Exactly alright, so I saw I saw your definition of success as a knife maker and and it and it it occurred to me as this is, this could probably fit across the board you.
What is it?
If so, if a grandfather hands their grandkid, one of my knives and says I got this when I was your age, that's that's success to me.
That's that's how I got my first knife, and that's how so many people I've talked to here on this show have gotten their first knife and and I think that that's a beautiful notion.
Creating something that outlives yourself and and kind of goes on to do to do great things in your, you know, in in the beyond because it's feeding people now.
It's going to feed people in the future, and a quality tool should be generational.
Just like your grandfather's old woodworking tools, something that is.
Tools should be built to quality and that quality should last generations.
Thank you so much for coming on.
The knife junkie, podcaster.
It's been a great pleasure.
Thank you very much.
I was flattered.
Oh man, it's a pleasure.
I'll talk to you real soon.
Looking forward to it all right, take care, ever Strop a knife again even though it gets no real use.
Face up to what you are.
You're a knife junkie.
There he goes Dan Eastland of Dogwood custom knives.
I just love the idea of a this three tier idea custom MIDTECH and then production.
We don't hear about that in this realm of kitchen knives and we're hearing about it now.
And I think it's a. It's a great idea.
I'm on board.
Like I said before, I think I need to up my game in the kitchen.
Not only have I been lazy on the cooking front, but maybe I just haven't been inspired knife wise in the kitchen.
So maybe that will turn.
Everything around alright.
Well, thank you for watching.
Be sure to join us next Sunday for another conversation with another interesting knife, world individual.
And then of course join us on Wednesday for the midweek supplemental.
Thursday night is Thursday night knives at 10:00 PM Eastern Standard Time right here.
Live on YouTube, Facebook and Twitch for Jim working his magic behind the Switcher.
I'm Bob DeMarco, saying until next time don't take doll for an answer.
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