Jerod Johnson, STA Blades – The Knife Junkie Podcast (Episode 448)
Jerod Johnson of STA Blades joins Bob “The Knife Junkie” DeMarco on Episode 448 of The Knife Junkie Podcast.
STA Blades started in 2020 in Jacksboro, Texas, when Jerod took a blacksmithing and bladesmithing class from Chuck Stone at Masters Forge. A USMC veteran, Jerod decided to make knifemaking his encore career, making a mid-life tack into a new career.
He counts on lessons learned from the daily grind and the good people of the knife community for professional and technical development.
STA Blades is a Veteran owned company proudly based in Jacksboro, Texas, making custom knives with blood, sweat, and tears.
Be sure to support The Knife Junkie and get in on the perks of being a Patron — including early access to the podcast and exclusive bonus content. You also can support the Knife Junkie channel with your next knife purchase. Find our affiliate links at theknifejunkie.com/knives.Jerod Johnson of STA Blades is featured on Episode 448 of The Knife Junkie Podcast. Johnson is a USMC sniper turned knifemaker in 2020, making beautiful blades out of Texas. Click To Tweet
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Welcome to The Knife Junkie Podcast, your weekly dose of knife news and information about knives and knife collecting. Here's your host, bob the knife junkie DeMarco.
Bob DeMarco [00:00:16]:
Welcome to the knife junkie podcast. I'm Bob DeMarco. On this edition of the show, I'm speaking with Jared Johnson of Sta Blade. Jared is a former US. Marine who started his knife making business in 2020 after attending a bladesmithing class. Like so many other Marines I've spoken to on this show, his bravery has been proven twice, first in serving his country thank you, sir. And then afterward, throwing himself into small business knife making. Now, most of Jared's sta blades are combat oriented and derived from traditional patterns, translating his experience in theater into practical working tools and weapons for the battlefield. We'll meet Jared and talk all about sta blades. But first, be sure to like, comment, subscribe, and share the show with a friend. And as always, if you want to help support the show, you can do so by going to Patreon. Just go to theknifejunkie.com Slash Patreon or scan the QR code on your screen. Again. That's theknifejunkie.com slash patreon.
If you search Google for the best knife podcast, the answer is the Knife Junkie podcast.
Bob DeMarco [00:01:24]:
Jared. Welcome to the Knife Junkie Podcast.
Jerod Johnson [00:01:27]:
Hey, Bob, thanks for having me.
Bob DeMarco [00:01:29]:
Hey, it's my pleasure. It's really nice to meet you. You come highly recommended, as it were, from Matt Chase, a good friend of mine and an incredible knife maker. And he said, you have to check out knowing your taste, Bob, you have to check out sta blades. And he was right.
Jerod Johnson [00:01:48]:
Now, he's been extremely helpful and pivotal with a lot of my growth and just my knowledge of bladesmithing and things like that. I really appreciate everything he's done for me.
Bob DeMarco [00:02:01]:
Former US. Marine and a new knife maker. Relatively new knife maker. You've had your business for about three years. Tell me a little bit about your service. Also, thank you for your service to this country. It's greatly appreciated. Tell us about your service a little bit and how that led into knife making.
Jerod Johnson [00:02:21]:
Yeah, I was too dumb for college and too smart for jail, so the Marine Corps was a good fit for me. I spent eight and a half years there. I got off active duty in 2002 and went into the firearms industry and worked for some big companies there for quite a while. And then I entered security contracting overseas. And eventually I started a training company doing firearms training. And when I moved to Texas, as soon as I moved here, the pandemic hit and shut down all the business, everything. I couldn't get people to come out and train. Travel was restricted. People were scared. And I went about a year with no work, and I just got this weird bug to just try to start making knives because I didn't really know what was going to happen with the future of everything. And I needed income. And so I kind of just took the last few pennies that I had and started a little collection and started up a forge and took some classes from Chuck Stone and just locked myself in the forge and committed to it until I felt like I had a blade that was worthy to sell.
Bob DeMarco [00:03:39]:
Well, if I may say, lots of people, myself included, have been in that situation where you're out of work, not sure what you're going to do, prospects are weird, or not there at all, and then you make a move and kind of pull yourself out. It's rare and courageous and interesting that you chose knife making as that thing to pull you out of the morass. You must have had a history of making things to really feel that instinct. Are you a maker already?
Jerod Johnson [00:04:14]:
No. It's really weird because I'm not mechanically inclined. I'm not that handyman type around the house and things like that. And what kind of sparked it was in June of 19 no, I'm sorry. June of 20, I went up to Northern California to do some firearms classes for my dad's company. He has an indoor shooting range and gun store, and we were kind of doing a little behind the scenes during COVID Father's Day sale at his place. And I'm trying to promote classes and just really trying to get up off my feet. And he has a Boy Scout table on the other side of the parking lot that people donate, like, old leather holsters and belts and stuff, and then they sell them for a couple of bucks. And my sister walked over, and she's like, hey, look at this cool knife that I bought from the Boy Scouts. And she showed it to me. And then, like, 35 years of just not remembering anything flashed back to me. And it was a knife that I had made in high school, and I made it in, like, metal shop, and it wasn't heat treated. It had handles on it and a guard, and it was sharp, but it wasn't hardened steel. And I had completely forgotten for decades that I had made a couple of knives in high school. And then I got mad because my dad took a knife that his son made him because I gave it to my dad, and he gave it to the Boy Scouts to sell for $5 on the table. Right. So it was right then when I started to go, you know, I wonder if I could make real knives, because I've been around real knife makers. In the 90s, when I was in the Marine Corps, I became very good friends with Mick and Dwayne from Strider Knives. So I'm watching them grind in the back, and they got all the respirators on, and they're making all these crazy knives. Greg Medford has been a friend of mine for a long time. From Medford Knives, I was living with my buddy in phoenix. And Greg was our buddy, and he came over one night, and he had this little notebook, and he's like, hey, man, I want to get your idea on some of these drawings that I'm making because I think I'm going to make knives. And so he's showing us these sketches that he did, and so I've been around the knife industry in some of the knife makers, but I was never like, one day I want to make a knife. Until June of 20. I started to get the bug for it, and then I was watching forge and fire and stuff like that, and I was like, you know what? I got to do something. I don't know what else to do. So I did that. And I'm on a big ranch here in Texas that my buddy let me set up my firearms training company on. And he said, hey, I've got a shop. If you want to clear it out, you can move your forge in there. And so I just scrounged up every penny I had, and I just started watching YouTube and forging fire and making stuff and breaking stuff and not doing it right and trying to figure it out. And at that time, I didn't know Matt Chase, so I didn't have him to lean on for any advice or anything, which would have been huge for me.
Bob DeMarco [00:07:43]:
Let's back up before we get into your process, because I want to talk about that. I want to find out about your knife usage over your life. Were you a knife guy? Obviously you were, because in metal shop, you made a knife, probably much to the consternation of your shop teacher, but you made a knife right now.
Jerod Johnson [00:08:00]:
Back then it was fine. Back then it was okay. My daughter was like, Wait, you made a knife in school? I'm like, yeah, we used to make knives all the time. She's like, I can't even believe this is true.
Bob DeMarco [00:08:12]:
Yeah, how could she? How could she? Yeah. So were you always kind of someone who loved knives, and did you use them in the Marine Corps? Obviously, I'm sure you did a lot, probably to open up crates and stuff. But tell me about your knife usage, and were you a collector as a kid?
Jerod Johnson [00:08:34]:
That kind of definitely. I think, like any young man who's remotely allowed to go outside and play likes knives, right? So I had little saber folders and Swiss army knives. I never really had fixed blades until I got into the Marine Corps. And of course, you go with the K Bar to start, and then as I kind of got a little bit more time in the Marine Corps and pick up some rank, you get more money. And I got introduced to Dwayne and Mick from Strider knives. And so I started buying Strider knives. So I carried Strider knives in the Marine Corps. I carried a cold steel cookery that I absolutely loved. I always loved the kukris, but I didn't even know what the kukri was and the lineage of it back then. But it was just a good tool that I could use if I needed it. And I've always liked knives. I've never been, like, a crazy collector of them. I have some nice know.
Bob DeMarco [00:09:46]:
Well, what was your job in the Marine Corps?
Jerod Johnson [00:09:49]:
Most of my time I was a sniper. The same as okay.
Bob DeMarco [00:09:54]:
Okay. Yeah. So interesting about the knives. Snipers bring into the field and different situations. Sometimes you might want a knife that's stout enough to go through cinder block. Sometimes you need something for clearing brush, is that right?
Jerod Johnson [00:10:10]:
Right. Yeah. As a sniper team, there's times when you may need to make what's called a hide site. Sometimes having a little tool to help build that structure going through thick brush. We did a lot of training with the Malaysian special forces, australian, things like that. And so you're in this super dense jungle rainforest type stuff, and just having a K bar you're just physically not going to be able to pass through.
Bob DeMarco [00:10:43]:
Yeah. Malaysia, they're they're known for Malaysia and the Philippines and all of those archipelagos known for their many different blades. Actually, some of them are on the wall behind me. I love. So while you were there in Malaysia, did you pick up any or in these different places where you go train, do you pick up weaponry from the locals or blades from the locals?
Jerod Johnson [00:11:08]:
I really wish that I did. When we go to the Middle East, you pick up some daggers and stuff like that, but it's all, like, touristy stuff. I didn't really get any hardcore stuff until many years later when I started doing security contracting. I think where it really sparked me was about four years ago, I went to Nepal and so I went to the kukri house and saw the kukris and got to know how they're made and talked to the Gurkhas and stuff like that. And that's where I was like, man, one day I really want to make a know. I carried one in the Marine Corps, and now I'm seeing these guys, making them and using them, and you hear the know and the lineage of it and it kind of fascinated me. So I bought a bunch of kukris when I was there.
Bob DeMarco [00:12:00]:
Thank you for providing me with a perfect segue. You make a kukri and I think it's one of your newest models. Do you have one close at hand to show off?
Jerod Johnson [00:12:08]:
Bob DeMarco [00:12:12]:
I like this one a lot.
Jerod Johnson [00:12:13]:
So most of my blades are all named after a friend or a family member. So this is the JV kukri. Get this right here. It's about 15 inches overall length. I kind of wanted to keep the traditional profile of the kukri blades shape, but I really never liked the handles on a traditional kukri. It's made out of cheap wood it cracks, it doesn't have good retention. So I wanted to put kind of an Americanized fighting handle on it where you get better retention and grip for stabbing.
Bob DeMarco [00:12:50]:
That's the thing. Kukris are actually really good for thrusting. And that curve, you might think that it puts the point in the wrong spot, but actually it doesn't, given how your arm swings, especially if you have it slung low. So you can thrust with a kukri just fine, but you're not inspired to with the traditional handle. I see what you mean, because you can slide right up. You offer this giant guard there.
Jerod Johnson [00:13:18]:
Yeah. And that's what I'm trying to do, is with the kukri. I just did a video, like, a week ago on my kukri, and one of the things that I talked about on it is when I grab onto this knife, because of the angle of the spine up here, I'm actually in a better position where I'm pre staged to do a good stab without my wrist being canted down. Like a traditional knife would need to be a traditional knife. My wrist would need to be oriented like this. With the kukri, I can actually be up here and have a little bit more reinforcement behind the stab.
Bob DeMarco [00:13:57]:
Jerod Johnson [00:13:58]:
Bob DeMarco [00:14:00]:
That rings true with some of the Filipino blades that have that diving down blade. Same with the Malaysian. Yeah. It really actually sets you up beautifully for a thrust. So yeah, I think the idea of having a guard is why didn't they think of that before you?
Jerod Johnson [00:14:19]:
Well, when you look at a kukri, a kukri is basically derived from a Greek copus. And so if you look at my kukri, it's like, if the traditional kukri and the copus had a baby, that's kind of what mine looks like.
Bob DeMarco [00:14:41]:
Right. That copus had an almost fully encompassing hilt.
Jerod Johnson [00:14:44]:
Bob DeMarco [00:14:45]:
It had that big thing.
Jerod Johnson [00:14:47]:
Bob DeMarco [00:14:49]:
I love it. Okay, so you said that when you were deployed, you carried around a cold steel cookery.
Jerod Johnson [00:14:57]:
Bob DeMarco [00:14:58]:
So what was your impression? I'm a cold steel fanboy, readily admit it. Always have been since my first one in 1987 that I bought at the Randall Park Mall. I love cold steel. What was that like, having that knife in the field? Because my brother in law, a former Marine, talks about how everything he had that was cool was stolen when he.
Jerod Johnson [00:15:18]:
Was in the Marine. Right. Yeah. I liked cold steel products. I have tons of cold steel products. I did a hog hunt in I don't even remember what year it was. Maybe like eight, seven or eight. And I had a cold steel taipan that my buddy had bought for me as a gift. Right. And so I took that cold steel taipan on a hog hunt, and they have these little dogs called Lacey's, and they surround the hog, and then you got to run in and stab them. And the taipan made such a devastating wound channel. It was very disturbing. So I sent a picture to Lynn Thompson, and they sent me some little scimitar type knife as like a thank you and stuff. I love cold steel stuff. He's basically the pioneer of making extremely good blades for an amazing price. But also the diversity. Nobody in the knife industry has the diversity that he's done.
Bob DeMarco [00:16:28]:
Nobody agreed. And such an attention to history and beautiful modern interpretations of historical knives. His folding navajas are among my favorites because I love those old knives and they're hard to find.
Jerod Johnson [00:16:43]:
Well, and he puts his blades where his mouth is. I mean, he doesn't just chop hanging meat. He goes out and hunts animals with all his products.
Bob DeMarco [00:16:54]:
Jerod Johnson [00:16:55]:
How much better could that get?
Bob DeMarco [00:16:57]:
So let's talk about how you kind of came into it. So you said you went to a bladesmithing class, blacksmithing and bladesmithing class. Just kind of on a lark.
Jerod Johnson [00:17:08]:
Bob DeMarco [00:17:09]:
So tell me about that and how that led to you deciding no, this is what I'm doing.
Jerod Johnson [00:17:15]:
Yeah. So I was like, okay, like anything that I do with firearms training, if somebody wants to buy a gun, you should go get firearms training. And so I've just had that mindset of like, okay, well, if I'm going to make knives, there's a million things I don't know, and there's a million things that I think I know that are probably wrong. So I wanted to go and get some sort of formal classes on it. And I just kind of Googled knife making classes in my area. I live in rural Texas. It's about an hour and a half northwest of Dallas. There's not a lot of stuff out. And I found this guy named Chuck Stone from Masters Forge. And I just emailed him and I was like, hey, I want to do some classes. And so he's like, well, come on out for a couple of days. So I did. And everything that I thought I was going to learn, I didn't, and everything that I learned, I liked better than what I thought I was going to learn. So, like, for instance, he was very old school, and so everything was on a coal forge, which is a lot harder to keep going and manipulate the steel and everything with that. And it was all hand hammer forged, and you couldn't use an angle grinder to cut a piece of steel off that you didn't want. You had to use a hot chisel. Right? So everything was just like I felt like I was like in the 18 hundreds doing it for real.
Bob DeMarco [00:18:43]:
It's like learning from Michelangelo or something. You're not going to learn the new way. You're going to learn the old way, and you're going to learn right.
Jerod Johnson [00:18:50]:
And there's a million places to learn the new way. Right? There's not a lot of places to learn the old way. And when I walked into place, like, this dude looked like a freaking blacksmith. Like, big old beard, big old gray beard, kind of a burly, soft spoken guy, super nice. And just like, he picks up a hammer and puts a steel in there. It's just like the metal goes where he wants it to go. It's fascinating.
Bob DeMarco [00:19:20]:
The strength someone builds up over years and years and years of doing that is amazing. And sometimes you can see the lack of symmetry from one forearm to the other, but all of that gripping and hammering. So you forge. You are a forger. And also stock removal. Like, you do both, right?
Jerod Johnson [00:19:48]:
Much more stock removal now than hand hammering, but I still do it.
Bob DeMarco [00:19:54]:
So we're still there at that blacksmithing class. How did you know that this was something that you could do and make a go of and not just a passing fancy or something that you're maybe not gifted with?
Jerod Johnson [00:20:09]:
I really didn't. I was kind of painted into a corner where it was like, I just kind of had to make this work. The one thing that I did have going for me was out here on the Richards Ranch. I had a the family were willing to let me take over their shop and have a forge. Okay, so for most people, the hardest part is, like, where do you put your forge? So I had that covered. I had a very good following of very loyal past students from my firearms training company that supported me in the beginning of it, especially. And so I thought, okay, if I can just get this going, I've got to make this work. And so I literally just locked myself in the forge. I didn't have a job to go to anyways, and so I just took the know. Chuck told me where to go buy all the stuff at. And we have a really great place down here called the Texas Ferrier Supply, and they have every knife making thing that you need all right there that you can touch and feel and see. And so I bought a coal forge. I bought a propane forge. I bought steel handles, grinder, little tiny crappy grinder, and just did trial and error for months and months. And that was about December. And then March, I believe march was when I sold my first knife and was like, okay, I feel like these are good enough to sell without too much reservation.
Bob DeMarco [00:21:50]:
Well, you could easily see how your past experience having a business teaching firearms training could help you on the business side of opening a knife company. I know. I'm sure a lot of things between service and retail are different, but in essence, there's a business sense that can translate. What did you take from the Marine Corps into the creative part and the knife design.
Jerod Johnson [00:22:20]:
You know, in the military, kind of like what you covered on a little bit earlier was like, you use a blade in the military for a million different reasons. Right. Whereas in the quote unquote civilian world, your likelihood of using your blade to defend yourself is very low. And so the whole knife fighting type stuff is not as applicable. But in the military, it's like, we go to schools. We go to Silent Century Removal schools, we go to knife fighting schools. When we do our close quarter battles, we have that type of training and stuff that we get taught with. So when we look at knives in the military, it's like, okay, it's not a single use item. I really like to make my knives as multipurpose as possible, but because of the background of it, I put the attention to that small percentage for most of my clients and customers of actually using it to defend their life. But if they have to, it's going to do the job that is needed.
Bob DeMarco [00:23:36]:
Right? All right, let's see. Let's look at some more of your knives. I want to get an idea of what we're talking about. We've seen the Kukri. Let's go from large to small. The other one I was mentioning before we started rolling, that is my personal favorite on your website is your combat sacks or battle sacks?
Jerod Johnson [00:23:55]:
Yes, the sacks. Unfortunately, we're only going to be able to do pictures if you pull it up online. Those just go so fast.
Bob DeMarco [00:24:04]:
That's a good problem to have.
Jerod Johnson [00:24:06]:
I don't have any in stock, unfortunately, but yeah, no, it's a really nice it's a big knife, though.
Bob DeMarco [00:24:16]:
Let's talk about it for a minute. Maybe Jim can find it on your website while we do it's. Very interesting to me because it was the classic combat utility knife in Western Europe for a thousand years, at least in various forms throughout Northern Europe and Western Europe. And then it kind of disappeared. We as Americans love the Bowie, and I love the Bowie, don't get me wrong. So where did the sax go and what made you bring it back for combat?
Jerod Johnson [00:24:50]:
Basically, Vikings used the sax. That was one of their raid blades that they would use. I give a lot of credit to Forge and Fire. Forge and Fire, the TV show doesn't always show. You, like it's not informative all the time as far as, like, this is how you make a knife. This is how you do this. But what I got out of Forge and Fire was the mistakes and how to diagnose the problems that they have that helps me make a better knife and the tests that they do on those blades. And so if you watch Forge and Fire, you'll see there's a ton of saxes that are on that show that get made. And the advantage of the sax is it's multipurpose. Right. So it's an amazing chopping knife, but it's also a great fighting knife. If it was good enough for the Vikings, it should be good enough for anybody these days, right? If you look at my handle. My handle is a smaller version of the Kukri handle. You put a little bit of your style into it. The one thing that I changed on the sacks today versus back in the day is that I put a medium height grind at the tip. So if you look at my sacks, my main bevel edge does not go all the way across. So if you look at the middle picture down at the tip, you see that differential grind kind of about three inches from the tip. And so what that does is that keeps the tip thicker, because the higher you grind all the way across, the thinner your tip gets, right? And the tip is obviously an important characteristic of a knife. So a lot of my knives will have a differential grind towards the tip that keeps it thicker and stronger, but it also creates a bigger initial wound channel.
Bob DeMarco [00:26:55]:
I appreciate that because not necessarily the wound channel part, but I would if I needed it for that. But I appreciate the extra beef up front, the extra steel up front, especially with a Warren cliff. I'm very partial to that kind of tip. But, man, I've dropped almost all of them that I own on the tips just because. Just because. And with a little bit of extra geometry up front, it seems like the way to go.
Jerod Johnson [00:27:24]:
It makes everything about it harder. It's like I'm a glutton for punishment, because if you think about, like, I make my own cotex sheets, right? So when I'm doing my cotex cease and I soften the cotex up and I fold it over, I have to go in and fill those grind areas because the tip is fatter than the backside, right? So I have to make the backside as fat as the front. So I have to put all this extra material, cardboard spacers, things like that, and then tape it up. Otherwise you wouldn't be able to get your blade out when you went to extract it, right? So it's a lot more work. So I appreciate when people tell me that they appreciate that because it's a lot of extra work.
Bob DeMarco [00:28:07]:
Well, also it gives you, I mean yeah, a lot of extra work. I'm thinking of the kidex. I've made a few kidex sheaths in my time, and they're kind of a pain in the butt. But, yeah, you got to account for that extra little bit there, like in.
Jerod Johnson [00:28:21]:
A recur softens and then hardens it'll.
Bob DeMarco [00:28:25]:
Lock it in there bigger.
Jerod Johnson [00:28:26]:
Now you won't be able to get it out.
Bob DeMarco [00:28:28]:
But also on a swipe, a slash, if you are, heaven forbid, using this thing as a weapon. We all know from Michael Janet, a Warncliffe style blade is amazing for a slash. It's an amazing tactical design. But if you're swinging against someone who's armored with layers of fabric and kevlar, whatever it is, magazines, and you don't want to be smashing that tip off on an mag?
Jerod Johnson [00:28:57]:
No, no. AK mags are bad on bullets, let alone.
Bob DeMarco [00:29:04]:
Okay. Actually, while Jim has this up, I want to address that middle knife that seems to be the one kind of your flagship knife right now. Talk about that.
Jerod Johnson [00:29:18]:
Yeah, my DJ fighter. I love that profile. I have a small skull crusher on the bottom of it. I think it's about ten and a half inches overall length. I like that. It's a great stabbing knife, but you can also do slashes and stuff with it. And the thickness on all my fighters is 316 of an inch, so they're not super thick over beefy blades. In my opinion, if your knife is ten inches long and it's a quarter inches thick, it's just too much blade. If you have a proper heat treat and good steel and everything, 316 is more than enough for a fighting knife. So it makes it a great stabbing tool. You can cut with it. It's very aggressive looking. I've got that one that you just saw and then I'm finishing up this one right now. Here's another DJ Fighter. I haven't got it engraved yet and I'm still kind of cleaning it up and working it out. But here's a little better picture.
Bob DeMarco [00:30:36]:
I like that thumb swale on the top. That's like you're really going to lock in there.
Jerod Johnson [00:30:42]:
Yeah, everybody comments on it and they say it looks like you took a bite out of it.
Bob DeMarco [00:30:49]:
Well, you know exactly what it's for. You know exactly. Your thumbs go in there for the Filipino grip. I'm sorry, can you just hold that up again? There's a couple of things I want to point out. Something I really like in a fighting style knife is something you see on traditional French fighting knives. Basically, it has a wider blade at the Ricasso than the handle, and the blades is the guard. And then, incidentally, it takes on that look of sort of a chef's knife. I love it. I love the look of it. The Prater war. Buoy does that. The Fred Perrin knives do that. There's something very appealing and utilitarian and simple about it. It also means you're looking at a full tang knife. In your experience, what are the benefits of going full tang as opposed to on a forged knife? You're frequently making something that is a stick tang that goes into a handle.
Jerod Johnson [00:31:48]:
Right. So the advantage of the full tang blades is that you're going to get the overall strength of it. You can do more of what's called a differential heat treat. So when you harden a blade in the oil all at once, it kind of goes from like 1500 degrees to 700 degrees in like a second, and it hardens all your carbon inside. With full tangs, you can actually just quench the blades or part of the blades and it leaves your full tang a little bit or your tang a little bit softer. So if you're hitting stuff. You have vibration that's traveling through and has somewhere to go versus just a super hard blade that's 100% hardened, you have a better chance for breakage. The other thing is the balance with full tang blades, you don't have to counterbalance it with a brass pommel or anything like that. So your balance is a lot more it's easily achieved with a good balance on a full tang than with, like, a hidden tang where you have to compensate. Otherwise, that blade is just so blade heavy.
Bob DeMarco [00:33:02]:
I never, ever thought of that. And for a fighting knife, you want that balance kind of right at the forefinger. I'm presuming that's what you're talking about.
Jerod Johnson [00:33:11]:
Yeah, I don't know exactly where I'm at here, but let me just try to do this without killing myself here. But I'm right about at that spot right there.
Bob DeMarco [00:33:27]:
Yeah. And you're saying on a stick tank, I never thought of this. On a stick tank, you do need the pommel. You need the pommel to screw onto the tang anyway. But you do need that there for counterbalance, right? Because you don't have all that. I never thought of that. That's interesting. Okay, so we're looking at the DJ Fighter. It looks like it has a number of different this one has a sort of guard built into it.
Jerod Johnson [00:33:50]:
Those are the older versions that I just haven't updated. But yeah, the current version is what I just showed you there. My website is pretty new, and I'm in the process of putting a merchant account on it and getting everything mean. I just got a YouTube channel, like, a couple days ago, so I'm really behind the power curve on it.
Bob DeMarco [00:34:14]:
Well, I want to ask you two things about your naming convention. First of all, since we're looking at the DJ Fighter, is or was DJ someone who was particularly fond of knives and that kind of training knife fighting stuff?
Jerod Johnson [00:34:32]:
Yeah. Same after my buddy Dana Jones. I wouldn't say that he was, like, into knife fighting or anything like that. He's a very good friend of mine, and he was pivotal with my training company and getting it started and attending classes nonstop, bringing people out. We've gone on hunts all over the Southwest. Just an awesome dude, baja 500 racer, just a stud. And I wanted to name a studly knife after him.
Bob DeMarco [00:35:05]:
That's cool. I love that. And then sta blades. What does that stand for?
Jerod Johnson [00:35:12]:
As far as the company goes, it doesn't stand for anything. In the Marine Corps, snipers were in what was called a Stay platoon, a surveillance target acquisition platoon. And my logo, if you see on my logo, you can make out an S-A-T and an A. And that was our logo that we used in the Marine Corps. So I had sta training group. And then? So I started sta blades. And I like it because the acronym is Sta. Sta Blades. I thought it was kind of cool and just kind of trying to carry a little bit of my background into the name and things like that. So for the company, nothing.
Bob DeMarco [00:36:03]:
How much of your background? The sniper community in the Marine Corps I know is very tight, and I know it's going through a serious upheaval, if not a final upheaval for the moment anyway, as things have restructured in the Marine Corps with the Scout snipers. But how much has that community, that sniper community, kind of helped you launch this company?
Jerod Johnson [00:36:31]:
Well, I think that I've gotten a lot of support from guys in the community. The reconnaissance community and the sniper community are very tight, and we worked together a lot. We went through a lot of the same training and deployments and things like that, and I had a lot of support from those guys. It's hard because I hate selling knives to my friends. Right. It's the last person I want to sell a knife to because I feel obligated to give him a discount. Right. I want to sell to the guy that I don't know, transaction is a transaction. He's not going to bring up what he used to do for me and what I owe him, but I always give the discounts to the snipers and the reconnaissance Marines, and that's how Matt Chase and I started communicating was Matt sent me a message. He saw the name of my company, and obviously he put it together because he know from that same cloth and where it was awesome was up until March of this year at Blade Show, Texas. Texas Blade show. That was the first time I ever met Matt. So for, like a whole year, I've been talking to this dude on the phone. Almost every day we talk, and he's been so helpful with giving me ideas or just telling me, no, that's stupid. Don't do it. It won't work. I did it 30 years ago. Because Matt's been making knives for a long you know, he just got his he's he's on a totally different level. Right. He's my mentor, so that was nice to have a guy that I've never even met just be so willing to help me out with all this stuff and just have a great friendship.
Bob DeMarco [00:38:34]:
Yeah, he's a really great guy. I'm so happy. My dear old friend, my wife's best friend from high school, Drew Smith, was the guy who introduced me to Matt Smith. Right.
Jerod Johnson [00:38:49]:
I heard that on your podcast with Matt.
Bob DeMarco [00:38:52]:
Yeah. Great, dude. I don't know, from the outside, it seems like quite a brotherhood.
Jerod Johnson [00:39:00]:
Yeah. When you have 175,000 Marines in the Marine Corps and you have about 200 of them that are snipers, everybody kind of knows everybody or has heard of them or whatever. And so that bond is very tight because Matt was on East Coast sniper and I was West Coast. We weren't even in the same unit.
Bob DeMarco [00:39:27]:
And then the idea of your job, the very nature of your job, making you a high value target and making you one of the most sought after people on the battlefield. That's got to grind in the gut, man. So you meet other people who have the same experience and can relate on that level.
Jerod Johnson [00:39:52]:
Bob DeMarco [00:39:53]:
That's important. It's pretty cool. I want to talk a little bit about the stabbies and the I'm a I'm a daily carrier. Here's a knife that Matt and I have collaborated. I'm a daily carrier of fixed blade knives. I love them. I saw the stabbies, especially the upswept one. Those things are really cool. Tell me about these knives.
Jerod Johnson [00:40:21]:
So stabbies the stabby line. So I have stabbies fighters, shivs and Skinners and then some chef knife stuff. But as far as the stabbies go, stabby just means that it's basically at seven inches overall. So it's kind of like an everyday carry size knife. The one you're talking about, I believe, is the Mo, which I don't have on me. But I do have a couple of different stabbies here. But the stabbies is just something I wanted to make for everyday carry. Here is a FD stabby. This is a Sanmai stabby. This one is named after a very good friend of mine, Frank Nasoma, who owned Patriot Ordinance Factory, and he passed away a couple of years ago, unfortunately, but this is his profile model. And then I have an MD Stabby. And this is that grind that I was talking about on the sacks, the differential grind that goes about halfway up. And you can see that the tip stays thicker with that because if this grind went all the way up to that point, it would be this thin up here. So, yeah, the old stabbies, that's definitely been a huge part of my line and everything. And then the shibbies and the shivies were kind of they came from the OSS SOE daggers from World War II, basically, where they'd have them strapped to the wrist. And it didn't have a cutting edge. It was just a stabbing instrument. And it was basically made to be able to stab through in civilian clothes. The would jump into France or whatever, and they could stab a German soldier through his leather jacket and do a combat recovery of his guns and gear and kind of outfit the resistance and everything like that. And so I wanted to make something that could sleeve into a molly. So as you can see, it just goes into a vertical molly, loop the sheath sleeves down, and then you tie with the 550 cord at the bottom and anchor it. And so the shiv is basically just got about two inches of cutting edge, right?
Bob DeMarco [00:42:57]:
Just enough to get you in the door.
Jerod Johnson [00:42:59]:
Well, and this is the thing in the military, if I'm in a Humvee and it's chow time and I need to open up my MRE to reach for my K bar to pull it out is hard, but if it's here on my LBV or my plate carrier, I've got something that will open it. But because it's so thin, I don't have a guard. So if I stab and I hit bone and my fingers slide up, I'm not cutting my fingers on it. And it's generally made for stabbing, but I've also got the ability to do cutting.
Bob DeMarco [00:43:34]:
Yeah, I love that. The way you pulled it out in reverse grip with the thumb on the back. That's probably how you're going to use that knife 100% of the time. Absolutely.
Jerod Johnson [00:43:46]:
You're going to be doing some hammer.
Bob DeMarco [00:43:48]:
Unless you're opening your MRE and then you don't have to really worry about it. I love that. So are they all that American tanto tips now?
Jerod Johnson [00:43:58]:
For the most part. I do a version that's similar to the DJ fighter. That's kind of your traditional round belly type up into almost like a Japanese tonto. The other shiv that I do, I just kind of came out with this one. This is called the die bar. Everybody's making pry bars nowadays and the pry bars are cool. But I wanted to make a die bar because like everything else I make, I wanted it to be multipurpose. Right. So I do a differential tapered grind on the back here. Right.
Bob DeMarco [00:44:41]:
What's the purpose of that?
Jerod Johnson [00:44:43]:
So basically what I'm doing is I'm keeping this part thin because it's nice and strong. And as you taper up front here, if I make this grind real thin, my crowbar end is not going to be very strong. So once again, I'm a glutton for punishment. I like to do things the hard way. But basically you've got your crowbar pry bar. You can actually use it as a glass break. There is no cutting edge on this blade. Okay. So it's only for stabbing if you had to defend yourself. But if you look at the tip, it's a pretty mean tip.
Bob DeMarco [00:45:20]:
Yeah, it reminds me a little bit of a besh wedge up there. Do you know what that is? From the 80s, there was a knife maker, I can't remember his first name, but he made these tips and a couple of different companies used them and they were wedge like tips. Look it up, people, if you're listening. The best wedge, I don't want to try and describe it, I could probably draw it, but it was a thing at one point and it was to make the tip real stout. I don't think it really caught on in a huge way, but the way you have it, it's actually got a point. The other one was more of a wedge tip, and this actually has a point. You could breach anything with that.
Jerod Johnson [00:46:04]:
Right. And you can stab it and use it as a defensive weapon as well. I put a reference line here just so that when guys and girls are grabbing, they're not grabbing back here and then prying, because then the tip would go through your hand and it wouldn't feel very good. You can also use this as a punch spike, right? So if I just punch like that, you don't want that. And I just wanted something that was universal, but everybody's into the pry bar stuff, and it's like, well, why just carry a pry bar if I can have something that could actually defend my life with as well?
Bob DeMarco [00:46:44]:
Again, sort of fitting into that philosophy of ounces are pounds and pounds are pain. And if you're out there carrying all of that stuff, you could bring a dagger and a pry bar, or you could just bring a pry bar that can do the dagger's work.
Jerod Johnson [00:47:02]:
Bob DeMarco [00:47:02]:
Yeah, I think you're right. There is a big trend towards tactical screwdrivers and tactical pry bars and all that. Yeah, I find those things interesting, but just about only interesting only because my suburban dad lifestyle doesn't require the pry bar. Now, a die bar, maybe, because there are carjackings around here, but there are better tools.
Jerod Johnson [00:47:27]:
Yeah. And the die bar, the name gets a little attention now with military and law enforcement. For a guy that's running a plate here every day, it's a great tool to have. And I do them in titanium to make them a lot lighter grade five titanium, stainless and high carbon. So there's a couple of different versions.
Bob DeMarco [00:47:50]:
Of it that is r1 benefit when you're going into making knives for combat. Obviously you've been there, and so you know the kind of things that you need and the kind of things that are not. That's why I was very surprised when you said that during some of your deployment, you had a cold steel Kukri, because that is a big and heavy that is a ten inch blade that's a quarter inch thick. But obviously you're not bringing it out there because you think it's cool. You had some real use for it.
Jerod Johnson [00:48:21]:
Right, and it's dependent on the situation. If I'm doing a black side mission, like an urban environment mission, I'm not taking if I'm doing a green side in thick vegetation and stuff like that, yeah, I'm going to bring it, and if I need it, great. If I don't. Whatever. But some things are just worth having, because when you're operating in a four man team, everything has to be multipurpose. You have to have the ability to use it in just more than one different type of thing. We could use the kukris for fighting and defending our lives, and we could use them for clearing brush, cutting wood, whatever kind of weird stuff you get thrown at.
Bob DeMarco [00:49:12]:
Because out there you need to be stealthy, and you need to carry a lot of heavy stuff, and you need to be stealthy, and you carry tons of heavy I can't even imagine. I don't know what the job entails, but I do know that those two things play a role. So to have tools made by someone like you, who knows and who's been out there, I think is a real bonus. You said it was green side. I guess that means mission out in the field and then black side is something in an urban environment. It seems like your Die bar is exactly made for that urban environment sort of mission. It looks like you could turn it around, use that bird speak to the pry bar to smash through brick walls or smash through things.
Jerod Johnson [00:50:05]:
You said glass, but yeah, windows, everything.
Bob DeMarco [00:50:09]:
I love that. That's also the spirit through which the tomahawks have kind of been reintroduced to modern combat. I love that it activates my imagination, for sure. But I also just love the fact that some things don't go out of style. I think this is why people love why modern warriors love makers, like Winkler, for instance, who does stuff that looks like it's from the Revolutionary War, because it is, because that's how he started making repros for his reenactment and stuff. So to me, that's like a traditional tool that you think, oh, with guns and atomic weapons and cruise missiles, what do we need Tomahawks for? I guess that's a little bit of a pun there with the cruise missile, but fact is, right, it doesn't go out of style. A sharp blade and a pry bar at the end of a half that you can use for both a tool and a weapon that doesn't go out of no.
Jerod Johnson [00:51:08]:
I mean, Tomahawks are awesome for breaching doors and bad guys. They're multipurpose.
Bob DeMarco [00:51:15]:
So what are the kind of things you want to make in the future? What are the kind of knives you'd like to take on?
Jerod Johnson [00:51:25]:
I definitely want to do tomahawks. I want to do short swords, but I'm a one man shop. I do all my stuff in house. I do all my heat treat. I do pretty much just like Matt does. I don't have the means to play around a lot with stuff that I'm interested in until I get the business up and kind of running on its own with orders and stuff like that. And it's all seasonal, too, right? When hunting season comes, the skinners get really popular. And my skinners here's, one of my skinners here, this is called the CJ. And if you see, I put a swooping guard here, so when you're inside the animal, gutting it out, you have a reference and almost a lock to where your finger is. And it also will kind of protect you from, like, broken ribs and shards that are in when you're cutting. And then what I did was you can take it. So, like low light elk hunting, you shoot an elk at sunset. And what I did was I also put cat eyes in there. Cool. So you can illuminate the cat eyes and sit it on the ground and still know where it goes. And I do the same with my this is my new general purpose knife that I'm doing for a company called Free Wind Defense, which is here in Texas. They wanted a nine and a quarter inch overall general purpose knife. And I did the cat eyes on it as well.
Bob DeMarco [00:53:12]:
For them, this is a wait, what's this company? And tell me a little bit about this knife.
Jerod Johnson [00:53:19]:
So this is called the Free Wind Defense general purpose knife. And Free Wind Defense is a company owned by my buddy Dave Staffel, who is a former Special Forces officer and just an amazing dude. And he's basically they do bushcraft classes, they do survival classes, and then they offer kind of some of the most applicable stuff that equipment that you can get. He wanted me to make a knife that was perfect for having out in the field that you could still skin with. So what I did was I rounded the top spine of the tip to make it stronger. I left this right angle so you can still hit it with a ferro rod to start fires. And then I put an angle down right here from the flat portion of the spine. And that's basically like an aiming reference. Same with the scalloping here. That's like an aiming reference for if you're like putting this on a log and whacking it with another log to split wood, you have kind of an aiming reference there. And then you have the cat eyes and then the mini skull crusher on the bottom and just kind of make it an all around, not too big, not too small fighting knife differential, blended differential grinds. So as you notice, there's not a lot of contrast on the grinds compared to, like, this one. See how it blends in up here? And it's just for strength and stuff.
Bob DeMarco [00:54:58]:
I like the way the swedge or the little tip is crowned. It's a way to keep it thick up there. It's also a way to save your baton if you are batoning wood. Thirdly, it's a great way to make it slip into organic mediums better. It's doing the swedge job, but kind of with a little bit more finesse because you're using it for a multipurpose tool.
Jerod Johnson [00:55:24]:
Right. And anything rounded is going to be stronger than anything that has right angles, right. So it just gives it a little going back to that strong tip. That's kind of my thing, I guess. I don't like breaking my tips out in the field.
Bob DeMarco [00:55:40]:
Yeah, I'm sure it's happened. I'm sure this is all coming from experience. So how can people research your work, get in touch with you and get your knives? It sounds like there are a lot of people out there who could use them. These are tough, field ready utility weapons or weapon utility knives, right?
Jerod Johnson [00:56:03]:
Yeah. The website Stablades.com has all my email, phone number, everything on there. I am setting up the merchant account to be able to put up knives that know in stock and ready to big. I have a bigger footprint on Facebook, but Instagram as well, all under sta blades, TikTok and YouTube and all that. But if they contact me and kind of just let me know what profile they like or if they have questions that want to have a specific handle, color or texture or something like that, we can definitely do that.
Bob DeMarco [00:56:43]:
I for one, reached out to you on Instagram and you responded very quickly. So that's a good Instagram is magic, man. For knife makers in particular, because you can go and you can look and you can drool and you can really become attached to knives and find new makers that way.
Jerod Johnson [00:57:03]:
For me, I probably sell nine knives on Facebook to everyone I do on Instagram. I love Instagram, but I just don't have the buyers on Instagram. So it's always different for everybody, but it's growing. I'm new.
Bob DeMarco [00:57:19]:
Yeah. So Facebook might be the place. But I was going to say, before I let you go, I don't want to let you off the hook. I want you to tell me what your fantasy build is. What is that? A knuckle duster knife like that or something? Like, what is your fantasy build that you can't do right now because you just don't have the chops right.
Jerod Johnson [00:57:42]:
I really would like to do a Greek copus that's always been kind of the one that I've wanted to do. It's that or like a full size gladius type of sword. The knuckle dusters. I can't make the actual knuckle duster, but when I went to my bladesmithing class, chuck Stone, he gave me the knuckle duster handle for one of those knives, like a legit one, but it didn't have the knife in it. So he said, here's a present for you. One day finish this knife up and have fun with cool. I'm going to do that one day. Have you seen the ones that Matt does? They're insane.
Bob DeMarco [00:58:30]:
Yeah, those are part of a collaboration with Les George, another Marine.
Jerod Johnson [00:58:36]:
Bob DeMarco [00:58:37]:
And the ones that Matt made are stunning.
Jerod Johnson [00:58:41]:
He does the stainless sandmai.
Bob DeMarco [00:58:43]:
Yeah, stainless sandmai. That's what it is with the part of it is black, part of it is silver.
Jerod Johnson [00:58:48]:
Bob DeMarco [00:58:49]:
Yeah. Gorgeous, man. Yeah, I was just saying knuckle duster because it seems hard, but I love the idea of making knives or swords from the ancient world that we're still using today, like you did with the Kukri, but just their ancient form. I'll be here for it, man. I can't wait to see them. Okay, Jared, thank you so much for coming on and talking about sta blades, man.
Jerod Johnson [00:59:14]:
Thank you very much for having me.
Bob DeMarco [00:59:16]:
It's my pleasure. And to patrons, we're going to continue this conversation, so be sure to check us out there. All right? Thank you, Jared. Take care, sir.
Jerod Johnson [00:59:24]:
Bob DeMarco [00:59:25]:
There he goes, ladies and gentlemen, Jared Johnson of Sta Blades, making unapologetic utility weapons for the field. And EDC, I love those EDC, the stabbies. Those are pretty sweet, too, so be sure to check them out. Facebook seems to be the best place, but also Instagram. I do know some beautiful shots there, and you can reach out to Jared there. All right, be sure to check us out next week for another great conversation. Wednesday for the midweek supplemental and Thursday for Thursday night Knives, 10:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, right here on YouTube, Facebook and Twitch for Jim, working his magic behind the switcher, I'm Bob DeMarco saying until next time, don't take dull for an answer.
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