Dan Keffeler, Custom Knife and Sword Maker, Blade Sport Champion and Chiropractor – The Knife Junkie Podcast Episode 306
Custom knife and sword maker, Blade Sport champion and chiropractor Dan Keffeler joins Bob “The Knife Junkie” DeMarco on episode 306 of The Knife Junkie Podcast.
Dan Keffeler is a multi-time World Blade Sports Champion and maker of custom knives and swords. He also collaborates on a competition chopper, with knife making luminary Nathan Carothers of Carothers Performance Knives, called the Choppaaar.
Keffeler even appeared on the “Jimmy Kimmel Live” television show in May 2019 to run a comedic blade sports cutting course. See that video on YouTube.
You can find Keffeler on Instagram.Custom knife and sword maker, Blade Sport champion and chiropractor Dan Keffeler is my guest this week on episode 306 of #theknifejunkie #podcast. Loving me some Blade Sports! Click To Tweet
The Knife Junkie Podcast (#306)
Guest: Dan Keffeler, custom knife and sword maker, and Blade Sport Champion
Announcer - 00:05
Welcome to the Knife Junkie podcast.
Your weekly dose of knife news and information about knives and knife collecting.
Here's your host Bob the knife junkie DeMarco.
Welcome to the Knife Junkie podcast.
I'm Bob DeMarco.
On this edition of the show, I'm speaking with custom knife and sword maker Dan Keffeler.
Dan is a man of many talents, balancing his knife and sword making career with his chiropractic practice.
And don't forget the many championship belts he's earned in his years as a star Blade sports competitor.
So renowned in is Dan in the Blade sports circle that he got to show off his considerable talents with a blade.
On late night TV, but to me the draw is keplers exquisite swords from the Japanese inspired super assassin love that name to the absolute favorite of my of mine.
The K 18 double edged 3 handed short sword.
I need this particular sword in my life and that is a need, not a want anyway.
We're gonna find out what inspired its creation and how he makes this beast.
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Dan, welcome to the show.
Thanks for having me ohh man it's my pleasure and so as I hinted in the in the intro, we'll just get right to that little tidbit so people aren't wondering too long.
Tell me about this late night TV sojourn.
So we I, I'm affiliated with an organization called Blade Sports International and I've been gosh, I started in 2009. So shoot it's been about 12 years covid's kind of made the time frame weird but so going into our national championships we hold a national championships in the World Championships
You qualify for nationals by attending so many cuts and then they accumulate points and how you score and your ranked and then you get put into nationals.
So, uh, going into nationals, we, UM, we were informed that, uh, Jimmy Kimmel had uh reached out to Blade Sports and have a little trouble with that sandwich there.
That he'd reached out to his, you know, his team had reached out to Blade Sports and.
Uh, we're interested.
They'd seen some of our videos on YouTube, and so they were interested in, you know, having somebody on and so we made it so that the person that won the national championships that year was the person that got to go, and so that was actually like an extra incentive to win so that you could go do
cool stuff like this.
Like choppa squawking goose's head and stuff so.
That that actual cut on Jimmy Kimmel was, you know, it was just meant to be comedy and goofy, and everything like that it it wasn't particularly.
You know skill oriented, but yeah, you know they they made TV out of it.
So for those who aren't watching you were on Jimmy Kimmel late Night show and he has you doing a well.
We're going to talk a bit about Blade Sports and clear up some some questions people might have about it, but a a competition is called a cut.
Is that correct?
It's a cutting competition.
Yeah, a cutting competition.
So he had to do.
Sort of a satire.
Not satirical comedian?
Actually, comedic, satirical yeah version of it.
Yeah, we were cutting that the magic 8 balls and the tequila bottles and.
It's awesome, but really what's what's underlying it is you can see I was.
I was watching him and you can see when you pull unsheathe that knife he's dazzled.
I mean he is drawn into that and I don't think of Jimmy Kimmel necessarily has a knife guy.
What was the experience of of being on that show?
Like you know they treated me really good.
They contacted me after I'd won the world championship.
They contacted me and we talked about the weekend that I or the days that I would go there they flew me down there.
And before we we went on the show I got to talk with the producers and the great thing is I've been on TV shows before and my experience with a lot of the TV shows is that you have novices telling you what to do that don't completely understand your genre and it's kind of frustrating when you know
You're at a point at which you have the most experience, but you're being told and and and having stuff put in front of you that isn't thought out well, but with them I was really impressed because their producers contacted me and we brainstormed and just came up with ideas and they were like, hey,
is this possible?
This would be fun.
This would be neat and I think it would make you know good the camera would pick it up well and so we kind of worked out and built that course with different ideas.
Some of them were my influence and then you know, some of them were.
Giving them an idea what's realistic and what's not, and others were just some of their ideas that panned out really well and we're we're cute and stuff, so that's how that was put together.
Then they flew me down.
I think I was down in California about 3 days down in Los Angeles.
I got to walk around on Hollywood Blvd and watch everybody do people worship which is a little different than where I'm from.
But it was interesting and fun.
They put me up in a nice hotel and actually while I was down there I was across the street from the Chinese theater where they were doing the premiere for John Wick three.
And so Keanu Reeves and Holly Berry were there and I got to see it.
I just looked out my window and I got to see him doing the.
Put their feet in the concrete and their handprints in the concrete and everything, and that was kind of a cool experience.
Then I got to watch the show the night before, and then we went over like just kind of some layout and a little bit of rehearsal.
Just how the show's gonna go.
And and then it was live, so it was.
It was pretty cool.
It was a really neat experience.
They treated me really good.
They picked me up at the airport, put me up in a hotel.
They had great communication and and then we did the show and then.
I actually had to get back.
I had some chiropractic training to get back to, so I literally got done cutting that stuff and I you know basically went off stage.
Watched I walked through Slipknot, took a selfie real quick because that was the group that was planned.
Jumped in a limo and they took me to the airport and I got on a plane.
Man, that's a whirlwind whirlwind experience.
And who would think that we don't generally think of knives and quote UN quote knife life as taking us, you know, into the heart of the glitterati.
You know, right there in Hollywood and getting on TV.
That's really cool man, and I think it's cool that they that they featured blade sports on on that show gave it.
Gave it some exposure all right before we get any further.
You mentioned chiropractic and I mentioned it also in the in your intro you make you you compete in Blades sports and you make really nice knives and swords.
But you this is not your full time gig.
How did this come about?
Well, you know.
I got my undergrad in 2002 and in 2001 fall 2001. I've always been interested in swords and knives, had a motorcycle accident and I was kind of laid up.
I had a surgery on my wrist and I got online and just was like you know, looking through at different kitchen knives and stuff.
And then I saw.
Some I I saw actually Daniel Ellis.
He is at ABS Master Smith who's a knife.
He runs some things out of California.
I think he's like a knife purveyor now as well as a master Smith and a real knowledgeable guy just got on his website and I was like wow people make their own lives.
They heard about the ABS.
And then I got on a knife forum.
At the time it was called Custom Knife directory and I just started looking and then there was a person that was about 20 miles north of where I grew up.
That made knives and was on the forum and he reached out.
I talked to him, he invited me up to his shop and showed me how to make like a four inch hunter and out of 1095 and some laminated wood and I was just like totally hooked.
I had a art background before and some other things was really into just working with my hands but.
When I found knife making it, it was just like a calling.
It was something that got to use every skill I ever developed and then you end up with a really cool knife that you gotta do cool things with at the end.
So as I was working my graduated for with with my undergrad.
I had my first daughter and worked around and then decided you know I'd go back to school after working some jobs that didn't like I'd been making knives and selling them here and there, but hadn't really gotten a name for myself.
And then a combination of things came together.
I found Blade Sports started competing with Blade Sports started developing some skills that an understanding of a better understanding of performance.
At the same time.
Well, just before that, about five years before that really started working into developing some things with swords.
And and then.
I went into chiropractic school, but as I went into chiropractic school, that's when my knife making became more popular.
My name got out a bit more, started getting more orders and I actually could have quit chiropractic school and just, you know, gone to the knife making thing.
But your hundreds of thousands of dollars into student loan debt by that time, so might as well do the do both and and so yeah, I'm actually I'm a part-time chiropractor.
I actually work three days a week and then the other three days or four days.
I get to do in the shop and be with my family and it's a it's a pretty cool life.
I've actually been really.
Really blessed a lot of ways.
That sounds it sounds really cool because you have variety.
Also, it's like UH-22 very interesting pursuits or three very interesting pursuits that are all quite different.
Even though Blade Sports is related to making knives, it's a it's a physical pursuit.
It's something different than than actually making them, so you were making the knives before you got into the blade sports, but but then you indicated that actually being in the blade sports and using knives.
In in such, in, in, in one event, in which the knife is being called upon in so many different ways and you have to use the knife in so many different ways.
How did that help you with your refine your knife making so it really gave the knife purpose?
My swords had purpose because I. I have another story that we'll get back to about.
Kind of some of the things that really got me into the and the swords, but I've always been a fanatic about performance.
I'm always form formed before phone.
I mean function before form, but I I like form as well.
But What Blazesports does is it gives us this really neat testing ground.
We have lots of of data already accumulated based off of what works and what doesn't work, so we're dealing with steel selections, so we have a basic knife.
Let me grab my coffee knife right here so we have a I. I don't know if you want to call it basic but.
So this is a 10 inch blade.
We based the dimensions initially off of the ABS 10 inches no greater than two inches wide and no no greater than 15 inches overall.
But because we developed What the the task, the demands for this blade would be based off of the course.
Then you can figure out which ways you can make a knife.
Better to perform in those demands, and a lot of those demands would carry over to real life use and it's carried over to my knife and sword making and the pieces that I produced just for people to use and not compete with blade sports and stuff.
So with those demands are.
You want something to be really sharp, really thin at the edge, but it has to be really hard.
But maintain toughness and the thing about steel is that you can be tough, sharp and hard.
But you can only pick 2. This stuff, but what we've done with the development and the understanding of heat, treat and modern metallurgy is we've tried to get all three and and in this this example right here.
With this material I can put this.
You could see how acute that edge gets, it's not.
I mean, there's very little of a primary bevel.
It's basically a giant 10 inch razor and it stays this way and sharp all the way through the course.
In fact, this just got done with.
Two cutting courses.
Two weeks ago in Oklahoma and I, it's it's still extremely sharp.
It may need just a little Strop to get back to competition.
Sharp, but it's it's still ready to go.
Extra super clean.
What's the steel?
What is this?
This is this is actually venatus 4 extra.
It's a bowler, UDA, home steel.
And it's probably the it's the steel that I've determined that I've used is with all the ones that I've tested as.
Most successful steel for for a blade sports knife.
Many other steels work, but this one can achieve a thinner, thinner and sharper edge and still maintain durability.
OK, uh, I'm sorry that you put that knife away before you put it away.
I want to talk a little bit about the anatomy of a competition chopper because maybe people aren't familiar with these knives and they haven't seen them.
I know the first time I saw a competition chopper out, I was.
Of course I'm a knife junkie, so I was like, oh man, that's so cool.
But so one thing you notice immediately is that apparently blade Sports doesn't ask for anything with the point.
No puncturing, no thrusting.
First of all, why is that?
And then tell us about about the the edge and the and the actual design.
The profile of this particular knife.
So basically all of the stuff is chopping and slicing.
We don't have any stabbing or poking movements and blade sports.
One is the mission statement of Blade Sports is the promotion of not the safe promote the promotion of knives is used as tools.
The safe use of knives is tools.
I should have that roll off my tongue better, but, uh, it's late.
And so we just don't have any stabbing motions.
Uh, with the knife, it's a. Because of the people that we bring in and the way it's challenging and everything like that, it's just one of those things that can lead to injury that we just can't afford to have and stuff.
So your next question is, is kind of the anatomy of a competition knife.
Mine is set up particularly I have.
There's actually a particular ratio between handle to blade, and that gives you performance and then balance point.
I usually like mine about an inch and a half to an inch and three quarters in front of the handle material.
The way the the way the blade is measured is basically from tip to the cutting edge, right here, or where the handle the the furthest.
Most forward point of the handle material.
That could be no more than 10 inches, and so we're bound by the measurements.
There's actually a jig.
We use to measure each knife.
Each knife is measured before every competition, even if that knife has been measured in every other competition.
It's been in this up as far as the handle goes.
There's a little bit of grip tape, but this is a combination of canvas micarta and then inlaid rubber.
And now this particular knife is my design, but it's actually made by Carruthers, performance knives, Nathan Carruthers.
Is is the the mastermind of this?
He was able to take my design and create something that we made a batch of, like 100 or so.
And and we're giving people the opportunity to use a knife that I would use for competition so that they could own and experience that.
And so I actually compete with this very knife.
I mean I have my other customs that I compete with.
This is the one that I I I I will compete in nationals and worlds with this year and hopefully we can win another one and.
And and and put that together and stuff.
I'm a little go ahead.
What part of the questions haven't answered yet?
Ohh you, you've answered them all.
But actually this raises another one.
Just examining this knife, I see the swedge across you know 90% of the spine of the blade and I'm wondering what the swedge is for.
Is that just for weight reduction or weight management?
Yeah, also it gives you board relief.
This is actually the way that this grind is.
You can't see it.
Because it's so subtle, but it's slightly hollow ground.
If you put like.
Maybe I can make you see it if you put like a credit card and let's go in the light, they'll be there.
You just clicked it.
You can see that light gets underneath there and then with that part of the anatomy.
And this was.
This was part of my design development that creates an interaction with wood and gives you a thinner edge.
As long as your material can handle it.
And then this swedge is about relief.
This wedge right here is for spreading right here is for spreading the word apart right as you you.
Penetrate into the wood and then the chip will pop and you'll see.
When I chop you'll see a lot of times I'm throwing chunks of wood and that's that factor of the blade, and then it also lowers the center of gravity just a little bit to give you more control.
Also, with the way I dropped the handle right here, this recess where a lot of people run their handle all the way up to here.
I dropped it in particular because the center of mass of the knife like around here is lined up with the hand when it's in in your hands, so.
The strongest part of my hand is lined up with the center of the knife.
It helps with aiming and then it also helps with generating power and getting penetration into wood.
What So what are these competitions before we move, move away from the competitions and talk about.
I want to really get into your investigation of swords because that to me like I mentioned.
But before we move on I'm I'm still.
I'm fascinated by blade sports and you know, it's this.
Could they seem like very?
Like really cool gatherings, I don't know how else to put it.
What are they like when you go to one of these competitions?
Ohh, we're the interesting thing about our sport is that it's small enough that we all know each other and everybody has to participate in everything other than cutting as well.
So the people that are judging and scoring you are your competitors.
But they're also your friends, and so it's kind of an interesting dynamic because we're not big enough to be like, have independent.
Experts to be officials to be judges and set up courses for us.
So we're setting up each other's course and we're judging each other and officiating each other.
And and we're training each other.
I'm a I'm a trainer to the trainer, so I there's a few of us that that.
Can train trainers or just train a new cutters, and so it's an interesting.
We're just a pretty close knit group, so the biggest thing is you know the cutting competitions are what you see on the video.
But the hang is basically what all of us travel for.
I fly over the country sponsored by Peters Heat Treat and Pennsylvania and they they find me all over to go cut things up.
But also we we, you know then we always go plan a cool place to do dinner.
We do a cookout.
It's just a great group of guys.
And gals because we have a women's competition is a women's division as well and just just neat people.
But there is that that interesting factor that it's, you know, the referees are your opponents, but they're also part of your community, in in the sense.
Yeah, something that couldn't exist without trust and friendship.
Yeah, basically so night for death.
The TV show the one TV show that I've ever seen that actually.
Popularized blade sports or or attempted to, uh, did you compete on that show or or what?
What did you feel about that show?
Yeah, I was on season so actually I was contacted during the development process of.
They for death and I I was like yeah I'll go do it, but they actually slated me for.
To be one of the.
The horse, and so instead of being a competitor, they were gonna have me.
I think they had Goldberg already and I was either gonna do the position that two lambs did or that Travis words did.
And I talked with him and stuff but they didn't like me I guess so they didn't pick me for that.
And then I was like can I do the cut?
At least you know, go on the show and they didn't let me go on the first season, so I was actually kind of.
It was a little I was like.
Ohh come on guys I I I wanted to do it.
I thought it would be really really cool.
I saw the season come out actually there were there were three or four blade sport competitors that were on there.
Chris Berry Big Chris Knives, Dwayne Hunger and Jesse Elias was there using one of my knives and then James Clifton was also on it and I'm trying to think if there was anybody else on place sports that went there for season one.
And it was interesting there.
There were some neat things about it.
It was neat to have a production company and a production companies a budget that.
But however, that was the example of where people were putting things together that didn't completely understand cutlery.
I don't think there should be rocks in any target that you're cutting with a knife.
It's just maybe my personal preference, but I don't make knives to cut rocks and a knife that is made to cut rocks doesn't cut anything else at all.
Wait, wait, wait.
I'm trying to remember all the different.
There were some.
Pretty cool features, but one with rocks.
What was that?
Yeah, they had like the bucket of sand and rocks, right?
They also had like PVC pipe that was filled with rocks and sand.
And there was and then a lot of the bracketing they used was like metal.
Some of it was heat treated metal.
So there was a lot of ways to damage a a blade on those courses and blazesports anytime pretty much everything your knife is going to hit if you miss as would.
So you're not going to damage your knife and stuff, but they would like literally hold a piece of fruit with a metal bracket or rods or screws in it or something like that.
And you know it was just one of those things where like if you took someone like me, I would have been like, oh, let's set this up a little differently.
They had chains, hanging things and stuff like that.
Chains into the target, and so you could hit a chain and The thing is, is that what people don't understand is?
A custom knife or a custom sword, even if it's you know, really good and high performance and stuff like that isn't made to cut a chain, it just it may not break from a chain, but it's gonna mess the edge up.
And then if you got to go do other stuff where you've got to cut like a fibrous rope or ratchet strap or something like that that you need sharpness you're going to, you're going to mess it up and so actually the the K team is what I came up with after competing on knife for death.
So I took a. I took actually a version of the Super assassin that is similar to this prototype right here, so this is.
A prototype that I'm working on and this is a different version of the Super assassin with a longer handle I'm seeing if I can get there we go.
That and there's.
The edge, so I took something like this on knife or death and it worked really well.
Uh, that the challenge that I had with knife or death was.
When season two came around, they contacted me right away and like, hey, we're doing another season jump right in so I did the application again, filled out everything and they actually called me up on my birthday.
After waiting for months and they're like, yeah, we're not gonna bring you on you, we'll put you like as an alternate or something, but we we need.
We need somebody that's maybe a different gender or a different, not you person.
Ah, we got enough of them.
The the ones that are like you and yeah, yeah, so good good with a knife.
Or or or, you know, good with like my dissent or something yeah no no that gotcha yeah.
And so I think somebody got sick or whatever like that.
They called me up and like hey can you get to Atlanta and like 2 days.
It was kind of interesting because I was working on this night.
This sword for knife or death, but when they called me up and was like I just kind of went like huh again, you know and I said it on the shelf and so it wasn't it wasn't finished.
It needed to do some different work, but it wasn't quite finished and so when they called me up and was like, yeah, you got to ship your knife like tomorrow morning and so I like worked all night and literally the epoxy and everything was curing while it was going to Atlanta.
Wow where they filmed it.
Why did they need your?
Why did they need your swords so early?
You're nice because I was flying there in a day or two, but they wanted to afford their first.
Well, you know, they want to get the the blade there and stuff.
And so I I didn't get to bring my I mean I always test.
That's one of the things I'm known for is how I test my blades and you find so much out you you never know how a blade works.
Even if you've made it before until you you take it to its limits and stuff.
It's like a race car, you know you can't just put a race car.
Together and go out and try to run.
You know, the Indianapolis 500 or go Formula One or anything like that.
You're going to hit the track and test and tune it for a while so I get to the I get to to Atlanta, I get on the show and and I compete and you know some things went well.
Some things just didn't go as well as I wanted to.
I I lost my first in the finals of the of the episode that I was on.
And yeah, just kind of went on.
But then on the on the on the way home.
I came up with a knife design that I wish I would have taken.
To to to a situation like that, and part of the double edge of the K 18 is, you know, you mentioned like it's like a three handed sword.
It has multiple positions to to grip based off whatever you're encountering.
Whether you're encountering a very light moving fast target, there's a part of you.
Put it on the handle you can.
You can operate at one hand if you're cutting something that you just need a lot of power, like.
I mean I I showed chopping 2 by fours and one hit or that kind of stuff.
You can get the hand position for that and then you can save that back edge because that back edge is extra thin and actually design like basically like a like a circle.
What's the thing the Grim Reaper has?
Yeah yeah it's like a side it's got yeah and it's like you hold it and it's like for robes and meat and everything like that and it can be extra sharp because that's protected from rocks and all the other crap that they put in to their targets.
Another thing that they did was.
It was really interesting and I don't think they thought this out, but because they obviously they didn't have the experience of this, but.
There's different techniques if you do sword training, you know you wanna cut with particular angles.
Yeah, you have a a sequence of cuts you know in.
In the Japanese there you know it's basically you got a forehand or backhand or a flat cut or you're doing up cuts, but you're never.
You're very rarely just smashing your your sword into something without with just the intent of hitting like a baseball bat.
But some of the targets.
That's actually what you had to do.
So if you take a PVC pipe and you fill it full of rocks, you make it really dense.
If you cut it like you're cutting like a Tommy mat, the sword will actually glance off.
It's too much mass.
The swords not able to get purchased.
You're, you're literally just need to smack it like a baseball bat because you're just gonna fracture the PVC pipe and it's not even cutting, it's just.
It's just smashing and stuff.
And so it was kind of interesting because it was kind of like an area where people got selected based off of.
Like you see people that are well trained cutters and they go to like a a technique that they've practiced and they they get disqualified.
Will they they lose at that point in time?
Somebody just comes over in baseball bat swings, it gets through, and it's kind of an interesting filtration.
I don't think they planned it out.
It's how it turned out, but it was.
It was kind of one of those.
Those interesting dynamics.
It's basically like, you know, being on a race track, and if you if you drive it like a a demolition Derby then you win when you're basically supposed to just go faster than everybody.
Yeah, that's what I'm thinking is you call it a filtration, but it's not necessarily the right filter.
That's not the right size, no?
We we consider ideal, but the other thing though is that you have to realize they're making.
It's much like Fortune fire.
They're making entertainment.
The drama is part of the product.
The failure is is is something that they can sell to the public because I guess maybe the public can identify with that part because people have had failure in their lives or or they they they they like the drama.
So it is kind of interesting.
When you have producers, they're producing content and entertainment versus let's see what's capable with blades and who can do it.
You know, for some reason, that just doesn't seem as interesting to the masses.
Now, to the people that buy my stuff, they're super interested in that, but it's, it's all depends on.
You know what track you're running on.
So let's talk about the people who buy your stuff is are so you make a wide variety of.
Things from from Japanese inspired knives and swords to these competition in inspired swords and knives and and kind of everything in between.
Who are your main customers and what what are they using these things for?
You know I have.
So I have quite a few customers that have been with me for years.
I mean some of them been over 10 years.
They've been customers of mine and so I have enough customer base that I have a standing list of people that if I were to post anything, they literally just like my emails light up and they're like I'll take that and and and everything.
So it's a great place to be in so.
You know my customers are just people that really appreciate the authenticity being authentic and having things that are built to be extremely durable but also balanced and functional and and capable.
And that's due to the the metallurgical science and the a lot of the experience that I've I've gained by pushing the limits and understanding what things work in blade Sports.
So we're looking at right now.
We're looking at these very Japanese style blades.
I mean, you, uh, the the K 18 is a is a big full Tang profile slab of a knife.
These are very different.
These are put together in a very different and deliberate way.
Of course the K 18 is deliberate, but this is a different process altogether.
Tell us about the process of making these very complex Japanese swords.
OK, so uhm, you know I, the Japanese swords are.
Man, they they they figured out some amazing ways of putting things together and due to some of the limitations of their materials and their metal metallurgy, they've developed some techniques to overcome those.
One of the interesting things to say you take like the the there was some wrap around the handle and that was like a laminated composite handle before that became a thing.
You basically take a wood, you cut the negatives and you put the two halves together.
The Tangoes in there, but then you reinforce it by wrapping.
Uh, Sawman Sawyer works a lot like Rawhide, where you, UM, as it's wet you can form it.
And then as it's as it dries, it constricts and forms a really durable, really durable surface.
Which is it's?
It's like if you ever try to cut it with a saw or something like that, it's really hard to cut.
Some is the race, skin, skin, yes, sharkskin rayskin.
They can use them interchangeably.
But the same has presentation nodes where they get like the belly button of the of of the ray and they put them in a certain spot and there's a lot of tradition to it.
I've always been, you know, enamored by antique Japanese swords of thought.
You know, I just just holding on to a piece of history is just really cool and just, you know, knowing that these pieces have been used in battle.
So I took the a lot of their designs and everything like that.
But this story is what the one I was.
I was telling me to get back to.
I was in a Dojo with a friend of mine and the sensei of the Dojo was like a tenth degree in Shotokan karate, and he'd been over Japan and he was given this.
Nihonto Japanese sword.
A traditional Japanese sword that was quite old.
You know, for for being over there and being so accomplished and as martial arts.
And we were doing some demonstration cutting at this Dojo and somebody had a. Gotten a hold of that sword that was not very skilled and used it and bent it and twisted it and what they did is because the the grass mats the the the the Tommy is set on top of like a Dell and it's the Dallas shirt you
just set it right down and it's all rolled up and then you cut it.
Well this person got a little bit low and got into the stand which is made out of four by four and wooden dowel but the sword had taken enough it it twisted and bent.
And then my friend and I we took the sword to a Japanese polisher over in Seattle and he charged like $900 to straighten and and polished this sword.
And I was like.
What if we could just make a sword that could cut up the four by 4?
But still be like every all the handling and all the tradition of that.
And so I started to explore the the the the steel different steels that could do that and not only do that but do that on a very consistent basis.
I use a lot of CPM metallurgy.
I use a lot of particle metallurgy and not that like basic carbon steel is bad.
But what I've found previously in my experimentation with heat, treat and foraging and developing with.
Pharmacies is What from batch to batch.
The consistency was not.
It was not consistent enough for me to to not have to reinvent the wheel.
Every time I got a new batch of steel, so I found that with like more precise steels, you could go from batch to batch and and all of the gains that you had made and the research and development you would apply to the next batch of steel from the previous batch of steel.
You wouldn't have a set back, you know someone wants you to make a big sword that can perform and you've shown that you can do that and also you get a new batch of steel.
And this one isn't as good as the previous one.
It's really hard to send that out to the customer and be like, Oh yeah, it's kind of as good, but maybe not, you know.
And I I I. I really value honesty and and I just be like I wouldn't want to get something that wasn't as good as what I thought I was getting.
So I. Went to my you know the processes so I I I ended up on CPM 3V.
I found it was like the best balance of you know you can get a tougher steel like like.
Seven but seven didn't have the edge capabilities that I wanted for a sword, because part of my swords is how long they stay sharp, but also part is how much impact they can withstand.
And it's a great combination to have because you can get basic spring steel and you could just have all the impact in the world.
But your dull after two or three cuts.
And so I found that, well, let's let's maintain knife like sharpness while being extremely durable.
Being able to bend to like 90 degrees and come back to straight.
And and so that's how I ended up with CPM 3V based on the different testing and then spent like 10 years refining the Heat tree protocol and partnering with the company that sponsors me Peters heat treat because.
I basically get to do experiments with their hundreds and millions of dollars worth of vacuum furnaces, and then Nathan Quarrellers, the person who made the competition chopper that took my design and was able to produce it.
He had also been doing parallel experimentation.
Then we started comparing notes and we developed a protocol called D3 V and then our our friend, my friend that sponsors me Brad at Peter St. He actually got Peters heat treat to designate.
Furnace just to do our protocol because the the protocol actually puts more demand on the furnace than what the factory would recommend that they do it it it.
The heat cycle, the heating and the cooling and the the rate of that it exceeds what the standard the industry standard would allows.
But he was able to get the engineer in there and we program the specific furnace.
So we run our our proprietary heat treat through those.
That that furnace, particularly so, is that a a protocol that that D3 V protocol, is that something you can license and sell to other makers.
How does that work?
You know, we we've had people that have asked for it.
There is one company that was in part of the development called Survive Knives.
He's a friend of mine.
His name is Guy Seifer and he was using it for a bit.
But because of his manufacture process it didn't quite work.
D3 V requires that you have.
Majority of the blade shaped before heat treat, but guys process required just heating a a profile blank but no bevels ground and that affects the rate of cooling with with the edge and the the thermal mass of the blade so he was not getting the quench rate that was necessary to be to to achieve the
performance that we would get with D3 V. Other companies have.
Other companies have asked us, but the challenges is that if you give that out and somebody else gets to put that, that D3 V on their their blade.
They have to hold a standard, you know, and the thing about dealt 3 is small batch.
You can't do huge batches.
It's like even even big even runs of of hundreds of knives have to be broken up in a very small batches so that the blades can be properly spaced so that they can all get exposed to the right atmosphere to the to the right heat.
The right cooling the the the rate, the proper cryo, all those things have to be done particularly and.
We'd it would you know, it's just it would.
You would have to manage that because had they if they put that out into the market and it didn't perform up to a standard that we've been known for, then that would put a tarnish in the the integrity of Delta 3 V. And so we're really, really particular, and because it's a, it's a community that
we've all come up with.
This everybody has to agree to allow another company to lease it or something like that, so we've actually each of those have come into hey, what do you think of some?
And so does this or that.
Now, if a company were to like say.
Uh, you know something like Spyderco knives, or Boker, or or something like that.
If they wanted to collaborate with me.
Uh, on a sense, or with Nathan and stuff then we discuss and then under my collaboration so those knives would have my Insignia and Boker, or or Spyderco.
Then we could run those through like a D3 V, and in a sense, because we basically have the heat tree control and stuff, but it's a real.
It sounds controlling, but the science does What the science does, and if you vary from it, it doesn't do it anytime that we've had variations happen.
Because we have standards and I have a a wall of of test standards and stuff.
Enough I get something back and I'm like this is not acting like this.
And then we'll run it through testing and and see if if something's off and every now and then you catch something and you're like OK, we gotta reevaluate this or what's going on.
That's how we found you know the process of which we space them, the process of which we divide up larger batches.
And that's because we had a few things that happened.
It was like these are not performing up to the standard that we would put the the SIGNIA on.
And so, so we're gonna have to reevaluate and make sure that we're we're achieving that standard.
And I just can't.
We just don't trust it.
Everybody else is gonna do that yeah I mean it just makes sense if it.
If Delta 3V stands for a very particular set of parameters and performance standards and and then and then it gets licensed out and and it gets botched even once, then it defeats its entire purpose.
It's now completely meaningless.
You know what I mean?
It's like it's like, are you going to let Hyundai make a Bugatti?
Yeah, you know, like no yeah.
So I am interested in these parallel sort of processes between making that full Tang double edged chopper the K 18 and and one of these refined super assassins.
Not that the not that the K 18 is unrefined, that's not what I'm saying.
But yeah, like I said very very different process.
When you're making a. More traditional Japanese blade is that a totally different process than when you're making the K 18. For instance.
Yeah, yeah, the K 18. Initially I made I've made about 10:00 or so in the shop eighteens where I started from start to finish and then the K teens that then like the competition choppers, corrothers knives started making them and the full Tang is.
There's two parts.
One it is set of two for the ease of manufacture.
I prefer hidden Tang over over exposed.
I mean all my pieces are still full Tang.
My Tang generally runs the full length of the handle or or 90% of it, even if it's a long handle.
The Hidden Tang is is just easier to produce with their methods, and so I mean not the hidden thing the the full Tang or or exposed tank is is easier to produce with their methods and then making scales and it's it.
It was able to get it into a price point that just isn't accessible with with my handmade pieces and stuff so.
But because we collaborate and we we use the same heat tree protocol, my stuff will go in with their stuff and their stuff will go in with my stuff.
But we just space it properly and it all goes in the same the same batch.
Nathan just has so much more capability like you're, I'm not gonna grind 140 or so.
I think it's how many we might have done with the first batch of them.
I don't know Nathan's going to do them because my designs are really hard to produce because the demands of the geometry is it?
It creates a lot of challenges and when you think you're going to be able to make a profit, you end up having to redo some things or this and that.
And it's it's hard to scale.
It's hard to scale the custom design.
And stuff so that but the K team was kind of, uh, put together with that intent to, you know, take on something like knife or death where you have unpredictable challenges.
But you have a lot of options based off the performance characteristics.
Something like one of my my super assassins or my.
Japanese katanas and stuff you.
We still have all the the performance characteristics, but they're a little more refined and hand done in a sense, and they're they're.
They're usually 3-4 or six times the cost, and so if they're just so yeah, that's that's about the extent of that in terms of robustness, would would you feel just as comfortable?
Taking taking a hidden Tang, a Cortana, Japanese Cortana through a course like knife or death that you've made.
Obviously, as you would something full Tang like that Big K 18. Yeah well my the the the blade that I took on knife or death was hidden tank it was it was it had there it is.
It had this handle construction right here.
There's literally 1 pin that holds this together right here.
The tank goes.
You about there and the So what?
What I've done with this particular design.
One of the things is that the handle materials, Terrell, tough Terrell Tough is selected over my Carter or G10 one.
I just hate working with G10 because it's it's literally glass fibers everywhere and it's just not good for you.
I am a doctor and I do know the long term effects of those things and and I don't want to have those anyways.
But my card is pretty durable but but tell tough is.
It's a material and the way I would test this is you take.
8th inch strip of terror tough G10 and MICARTA and I'll put it on my amble and I'll hit the G10 and I can usually break the G10 and a half and two hits.
The canvas micarta might take four to six hits the terror though you can just sit there and smack on it and you literally you turn it into pulverization before it fractures.
It's just it has a different canvas.
It has a different resin.
It is not expected to be shiny.
It is not expected to to be really pretty.
It's just expected to be really durable.
It's used for, UM, it's made by a company out of Oregon, and it's used for bushings for deep water welling to to to be impregnated with lubricants and take a lot of pressure and a lot of industrial forces and and so.
And so it works great for handle material, but then I'll take that handle and I will encase it in carbon fiber.
This is this is there's no seam in this carbon fiber and this carbon fiber is in is surrounding.
The the terror tough so.
Every way that this handle can fail is reinforced by the strongest capability of the material that that prevents that failure.
So this handle can't crack because all this carbon fiber is extremely resistant to to being pulled apart, and the only way you're going to crack this handle is to pull that carbon fiber apart.
The only way you're going to mash this handle or get it loose is to compress that terror.
Tough, but that Terra tough is is meant for a bearing and it's extremely resistant to compression.
So you've got a resistance to compression resistance to to distraction.
You also have resistance to torsion, which torsion is usually the way you destroy hard materials, and so there's no place for it to fail, and then the cap.
This right here and this right here are are our machine, billet, titanium, and so there's no seams or no welding.
This is all from a billet and I cut these out.
Umm, you know when machine them out and so there's nowhere for anything to go, and so the handles don't you.
This is literally handle that.
You pull that pin.
Everything can come out, but the way the Japanese did it was everything is a wedge going into a negative and the deeper and more force you put it in, the more it secures itself.
So the very fact of trying to break it strengthens it, and that's kind of the approach of the of the source.
I do so I can chop a 2 by 4 in one hit with this.
Please I can cut a tree that's you know 4 to 6 inches in diameter depending on what type of wood it is.
With this and not have to worry about this handle coming part even though it's just one pin holding it so that carbon fiber wrapping the terratec is like the salami wrap doing the same exact thing.
How do you have it without a seam?
Or is that something that you figured out that you ever see a Chinese finger trap?
Yeah yeah, the carbon fiver comes like a Chinese finger trap.
You put it over and as you pull it apart it tightens down.
It's like it's like steel braiding on a hose for a for like a a a a car, for for like the the.
Coolant posing and stuff like that.
You can put steel braiding over that or like steel braiding for brake lines.
How they reinforce something for like race cars and or motorcycles and stuff.
So I selected that carbon fiber and then the resins that I use.
There's a company called Solar Composites and they do a lot of marine and industrial applications so everything is just overbuilt with the very best that I can come up with.
And if I and if and I'm not, I'm not beholden to anything.
If there's something better.
If there's a steel better than three.
We all use it if there's a a carbon fiber or a resin better than what I'm using, I'll use it.
I I don't have favorites.
My favorites are the very best and so that's what I offer with my customers and my customers are.
There's not a lot of them, but there's there's enough of them and they appreciate that and and they also know that, like with the waiting list on my pieces, if you buy one of my pieces in it, if you need to, you know, because they're expensive.
You need to get out of the money or get money back.
There's a market for them, and most people make quite a bit of money if they buy one of my pieces and then.
You know, decide they need to sell it to, like, you know, help buy their house or something right, right he have we are we are all guilty from time to time to buy of buying a blade that perhaps was not well timed financially.
Yes, I do that with blades, firearms, things sometimes yes.
So as an artist.
Describe to me where your where your where you go differently when you're making the more traditional Japanese.
Because you're Japanese swords because you're holding up that sword and I'm looking at the at the hilt and you said that was milled out.
I'm sorry the the the Suba or whatever that cross.
They're all out of titanium.
They're all filled out of a single piece, correct?
Uh, yeah, I mean, like, OK, so at that's very different from when you're making something traditional.
You're carving out the Suba you're carving out that little part that that cuff, and all that there's two cups.
Once the top one, that's a fucci, and the bottom was the kashira.
And a lot of times they're made out of.
They could be made out of just mild steel.
They could be made out of non ferrous metals like copper, bronze, brass and then they have.
There's other metal mixtures that are traditional Japanese that I haven't really done much of.
I did take some jewelry courses and one of the particular aspects was to work with those metals in solder.
So my hibachis, which are the caller that goes on the bed and I don't really have a great example.
There's some examples of of on my swords.
Those are usually non ferrous metals.
They started as just a flat bar.
You forged them around.
You have to learn how to solder them so the seams interact with the.
The texture or they're just not really visible and you also have to select the right solder to maintain durability, but.
I chose titanium because the only downside to titanium that I see is the difficulty in working it.
But once you figure out how to work it, once you get your shapes and stuff there's I mean there they don't.
They don't rust, they're extremely durable.
I more durable than steel pound for pound and then you can anodize them.
You'll see a lot of my pieces are there, they're anodized or colored with fire.
I can work in different textures, and in that sense.
I just consider them a superior form.
I think if in ancient Japan and Edo period Japan or something like that, if they had the technology to do that, they would have done that.
I also think with three V if they if they had come across a mountain and were able to dig up CPM 3V and figure out the delta heat tree protocol, we'd all be speaking Japanese right now.
Ah, that's that's cool and we'd all be carrying awesome awesome 3V swords.
It could be pretty awesome.
Yeah, What what's your gorilla logo about?
You know that's the gorilla thing is just.
It's a. It's a funny joke with my friends and then my daughter back in the day she always like we'd always just play and she always called it playing gorilla and she always just like would tell tell people that her dad's a gorilla and so it stuck.
She's she actually went off to college this year.
She's 19, but she'll still tell you stories about that and and so it it stuck amongst my friends and everything like that.
So originally I wanted to.
The idea for the logo was like a gorilla doing the thinker pose the whole.
You know like this, but it just didn't turn out good in a logo and it it actually looked like the Michelin man taking a ****.
So so it's not a good look.
We were like so that I was talking to the guy.
His name's rock claws that his dad Don Clause made some beautiful knives that I really was enamored with when I first got in Knific and still am if I ever come across one and could afford it, I would.
My one just because he inspired me and.
He'd worked out the graphic with me and we've gone back and forth and I drew on it.
And then he drew on it and and finally we just came up with it.
It's like the gorilla, is it?
You can see what it is and it's a little cartoonish, but it's also, you know it's it's imperfect, but perfect at the same time.
And then once I saw it, and I was just like that, we're doing that and it it shows up on the blades really.
Well, actually, here's.
Here's a little a little fighting knife that I'm about to send out to a customer and there.
Well, let's see if we can go there.
It is right there.
Yeah, that is cool and so this is the tarot tough material.
The cool thing about this tarot tough material let me get back there we go is.
It you know, you just can't expect it to be pretty, but the interaction with with your hand and it the the wetter and sloppier it gets, the better this stuff, grips and it's just like the design of the rest of my pieces.
The things that are supposed to make it fail actually make it stronger, and so that's just kind of one of the approaches that I do with with the the performance that I want out of the pieces I make.
OK, before you put that beautiful piece way, let's talk about this for a quick second.
And then I want and then I want to find out for everyone else, uh, how they can get behind the wheel of a Dan Keffeler.
But but hold up this knife here, this fighter, this unexpected little Easter egg of a this is beautiful here.
Is that a?
Is that a sharpened swedge?
There it can be depending on demand.
It is pre sharpened, which means it's about at 10 thou, right?
There, let's see if we can get focused.
I don't know if we're gonna get focused right there.
It's about 10 thousandths right there, and that that part runs from here to here and this original fighting design was designed for ticularly.
From a request from a friend of mine who they do a lot of hog hunting in down South.
And there's a lot of design to a piece that will probably dispatch of a. Of a hog with, you know, without taking much time and uh and getting getting the business done, the most humane way possible, and in that sense.
And so so yeah, this is an anodized one.
Solid piece of titanium for the for the guard and then that's just just different color analyzation.
The gold rings.
And then it's a tarot tough.
Uterotonic handle, So what do you hear back from the field?
How do these perform?
I get pictures and everybody was there.
It's fortunately they're they're very highly coveted.
Those that have them do not sell them and they get offered like enormous amounts of for pieces that that that usually like.
I'm like these are just functional user pieces.
These are not like.
Man, I mean you take.
Do you know who Mike Rosenberry is?
No, I don't.
Quesenberry yeah yeah I think I do very fancy just just gorgeous just absolutely the.
There's a couple guys that are like him that I just walked around the table blade and you know they're getting extremely high dollar for their pieces, but it's like, yeah, that took you a year of just going into the shop every now and then and just working for hours on like I cut the flour out of
the handle here and then I had to do that 50 more times, you know?
And and and it's just and the engraving and all that.
Just amazing stuff.
I mean Mike, he does some stuff that just makes me like you know it.
One of the things I really me is like if I had taken his path when I started.
I don't think I could do what he does.
You know, I just I'm just like just a talent beyond me and in certain ways there's a. There's quite a few makers that I feel that way with that have gone down their genre and I just I just am enamored and I just allow myself to be awestruck because I just don't see myself going that direction.
I have my passion this way, but all sudden I start getting prices like people.
Start getting offered stuff.
They'll tell me what they get offered and they turn down.
I'm just like dude, you should take it, I'll just make another one.
Just you should just do that.
But it is.
Yeah it is interesting.
There are people that generally.
I mean, there's like, you know, you could go by the car that.
You go by the car, that's you know that people can get and it's super fast and it's really pretty.
But you can also go try to buy the one that won.
Like you know a Formula One race or or something like that.
And those ones that actually can do the thing that are just designed purpose.
There's a value in that and people really see that it's not a large portion of people, but it's enough to sell my stuff too for sure.
OK Dan, so say that say that someone out there listening is has to have one of your one of your pieces.
What's the best way for people to line themselves up to get a Dan Keppler?
It is, UM, it's challenging right now.
You know, usually Instagram is the way that people contact me.
There is quite a bit of backlog, UM, just people if introduce yourself, tell me what you're interested in, understand that it's gonna take a lot of time, and it may not be something I can do, but I have been working on different ways to produce more pieces.
I'm really limited on how much I could produce because I have the the standards that I hold.
Unless I can, you know if I can do something you know in a batch.
And I can maintain the standards on each piece, then, UM?
Then I I'll do that, but.
It's just it's very difficult.
But the the the one way you don't get it is if you just chime in and be like hey, how much is that that those don't those those messages don't don't really get you very far.
I got other things to do, but if people are really interested, introduce yourself.
I usually everybody I sell something to I actually call on the phone and we have a conversation because I'm really interested.
Just like if you go to a doctor's office and you have a problem and you want to know what's wrong with it, the doctor should ask you like.
Questions for at least 15 minutes just to get a good understanding of what direction to take, and I treat my knives that way.
You know, because sometimes people think they want something and there's a couple reasons to want something.
One is just because you have to have it and you want it to to have it, and that's a valid reason.
Other reasons are I might actually do something with this that I need.
I might actually deploy overseas and I might have to use this piece for circumstances that are unpredictable and then the benefit of working with someone like me is like let's explore the options and what's possible.
And what can happen?
And let's make sure that your bases are covered and and and you have a plan for irregular situations that you might have to use this in in ways that you didn't imagine as a. So yeah, it was a long answer to your question.
Contact me, introduce yourself and you know if if we're serious, we'll talk on the phone and we'll see if we can work something out.
Great dental, I'll be calling you right after the show.
Alright Dan, thanks so much for coming on.
The Knife Junkie podcast.
It's been great meeting you Sir hey nice meeting you.
Thanks for having me.
Yeah I had a lot of fun.
Awesome my pleasure talk to you soon.
Ever order a knife online and have it delivered to the office or your wife doesn't know?
Chances are, you're a knife junkie.
Yeah, that's what I'll be doing with the K 18 having it sent to the office and then somehow I'll have to hide that missing chunk of cash.
But yeah, one day I would love to have any one of those things we just discussed doesn't have to be a K 18. I'm not that picky all right ladies and gentlemen, thanks for joining us and Dan Keffeler on the Knife Junkie podcast.
Be sure to check us out on Wednesday for the midweek supplemental and of course Thursday
10:00 PM Eastern Standard Time on Facebook, Twitch and of course right here on YouTube for Thursday Night Knives where you get to join the conversation.
Also be sure to download the podcast to your podcast apps and listen to us while you mow the lawn or drive to work until next time.
I'm Bob DeMarco, saying for Jim, who works all of this magic until next time. Don't take dull for an answer.
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