Jim Cooper of Sharp by COOP Photography — The Knife Junkie Podcast (Episode 86)
Cooper is in an envious spot for many knife junkies … he’s got new knives coming to him on an almost daily basis that he gets to look at and admire, and then photograph in a beautiful way. As he says in the interview, “that itch gets scratched every afternoon.”
He goes through his lighting technique, his four-part process of running a knife photography business, what his daily cardboard cutting knife is and how he became fascinated with knives — and more.Jim Cooper of Sharp by COOP Photography is this week's guest on The Knife Junkie Podcast. Beautiful knives and beautiful pictures of knives! Does it get any better? Click To Tweet
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Jim Cooper 0:00
purchasing of knives is really it has to strike me in it comes very rarely, but that's because that itch is scratched every afternoon. These knives come to my door I get to own them for two three days a week handle them. I photograph them I inspect them their mind for a little while and then I shut them back away and the glory is I don't have to purchase that knife to enjoy it
Welcome to the Knife Junkie podcast your weekly dose of knife news and information about knives and knife collecting. Here's your host Jim Person and Bob The Knife Junkie DeMarco
Jim Person 0:43
Hello Knife Junkie and welcome to episode number 86 of the Knife Junkie podcast, I'm Jim Person
Bob DeMarco 0:49
and I'm Bob The Knife Junkie DeMarco, welcome to the podcast,
Jim Person 0:52
Episode 86. As I said of The Knife Junkie podcast it's our weekly interview show The Knife Junkie Podcast the place for knife newbies and Knife Junkies to learn all about knives and knife collecting and we get a chance on the interview show to hear Bob talk to knife designers, knife makers, manufacturers knife reviewers anyone who loves knives and Bob, not that this isn't a knife lover, but this is a different twist, if you will for interview show today. It's not a knife maker, not a designer, but a knife photographer. That's very interesting.
Bob DeMarco 1:25
Bob DeMarco 1:26
the pre eminent knife photographer in the in the business right now. Jim Cooper, he's known as sharp by coop, you'll see that watermark on his photography, which is very identifiable. He has definitely his own style and it has become the way to photograph knives for merchandising. The way he sets up His photography. The viewer can sort of see the whole knife as if they're holding it in their hands but we'll get to that later. Sharp by COOP has his photography, you know, makes me drool for these knives. So, yeah
Jim Person 1:58
Well and that's the reason he Photographs them for makers and manufacturers because they want you to drool over them to buy them so
Bob DeMarco 2:05
Exactly. I mean it's a visual thing if you can't be in a knife shop and not too many of us have custom knife shops in our neighborhood. You can't be there holding it and you know, inspecting it, you can do so through these photographs. Plus they're just beautifully and artfully arranged lit and shot.
Jim Person 2:23
Well speaking about I think you said merchandise, that type of thing a couple of pages that we'd like for you to visit on the Knife Junkie website before you get into the interview The Knife junkie.com slash knives that's a page that we have that has some of the most recent nice for sale from some of our affiliate relationships with companies like like knives ship free etc. That's The Knife Junkie dot com slash knives, but we've also created a merchandise area on the website, The Knife junkie.com slash shop. You can get your Knife Junkie merchandise as well as other knife related shirts and hats and mugs and all that kind of stuff at The Knife Junkie dot com slash shop.
Bob DeMarco 3:03
I'll tell you what I'm getting first Jim. I'm getting the sort of baseball t shirts the three quarter length sleeve t shirts that I used to wear in the 70s and 80s as a little kid bombing around the neighborhood well I can wear one of those now with the with the Knife Junkie logo on it or don't take doll for an answer on the front and I love them. Jim you did a beautiful job designing all this stuff. Definitely check it out.
Jim Person 3:26
Thanks sir The Knife junkie.com slash shop if you'd like to go check out and look and see what we're talking about. So what do you say we get into that interview with Jim Cooper sharp by coop right now.
Bob DeMarco 3:37
Let's do it.
Got a question or comment? Golden Knife Junkie is listener line at 724-466-4487.
Bob DeMarco 3:44
I'm here with Jim Cooper, or as you may know him sharp by coop, the preeminent knife photographer out there in the knife world and I'm honored to have him on Knife Junkie Jim, welcome to the show.
Jim Cooper 3:56
Thanks for having me, Bob. Thank you for your listeners for listening.
Bob DeMarco 3:59
You know, it's funny, I realized I remember realizing at one point that all of these amazing nice pictures with the sort of, well all these amazing nice pictures that have a signature sort of style to them are all coming from the same place. I started looking at the watermark down, you know, on the the bottom right or whatever and I just wow, this guy really knows how to photograph knives and seems to have a passion for it. Why knives, Jim, you're obviously a talented photographer. explain your path to this, this position here.
Jim Cooper 4:35
Thanks for asking. And I'm, and I want you to ask me about that logo at some point because it a little interesting there. That's about how that evolved. I would in regards to you know, you claim I'm a good photographer. Well, I'm a I'm a I'm a pretty good photographer of other things, but I'm a very good photographer of nice. That's my specialty and I and I often tell people I'm a big fish in a small pond because when You mentioned that your professional photographer everybody says, Well, my cousin does weddings. And this is not me. You know, I photograph metal objects and and and that's what I focus on. So I'm a specialist in that regard.
Bob DeMarco 5:14
So why why knives? Do you have a personal love? I mean, it's obvious you have some sort of personal affinity. How did you discover that?
Jim Cooper 5:22
Well, no different than you. I started the photography came after my love of knives. And I was very fortunate in the late 90s. I, my brother in law, his name is James ciello. He, he moved out to Arizona and he partnered with a fellow and they he was a really talented machinist. And him and James Lozano have created something called James brothers and it was a an automatic folder they made out of CNC aluminum in spring loaded was fast as heck. And he'd been working on machine shop and obviously he shipped me a gift. piece of check out what I'm making now. And it was this kick ass spring loaded automatic. I was like, Whoa, that's the coolest thing I've ever seen. And he said, Yeah, we're marking them. They're about $250 and I just about fell off my chair. Really a knife that costs $250 well to it none nice person that sounds like a Lafayette. They went on to for a number of years. It ended up being desert nighthawks after it was James brothers, and they made a model called a Cheyenne. Some of your longtime listeners may know this. They stopped making them probably early 2000s. But I still have a one or two. But it was that knife, that automatic knife that works so well and was so lethal. You know, when we talk about an automatic, it's a switchblade, you know, and so that that cemented my statue. And so then I asked him up, could I get a couple more and so I purchased a few and again his wedding gifts and I gave him to my best friend and
Jim Cooper 7:05
grew from there. I can keep going but I'll let you
Bob DeMarco 7:07
were they illegal at the point you
Jim Cooper 7:10
Bob DeMarco 7:11
in Connecticut or wherever
Bob DeMarco 7:12
Jim Cooper 7:17
you know, you stop completely at every stop sign.
Bob DeMarco 7:20
I know that's that's the thing I'm like you know luckily I don't get in too many desktops with the cops so you know if on occasion I venture out with a with an automatic knife so be it.
Jim Cooper 7:31
Yeah among friends.
Bob DeMarco 7:33
Exactly. So you have this automatic knife from the James brothers and is that when you decided geez I need to take a picture of this thing it's so compelling
Unknown Speaker 7:43
nope one of my friends was a was come to find out he, he belongs with me and local wrong club that I belong to and I showed him this and he goes Why did you know that I collect knives. I said no. And he collects a bunch of old traditional you know grandpa's pocket knife. He must have 30 of them. like a Whoa. So he invited me over and we opened and closed him and I ended up getting him one of those knives. Guess what, he's he's been my best man at my wedding three years later so we really built a friendship. He said by the way, I'm going to wish a show a local show up in Waterbury, Connecticut about 45 minutes away and it's on a Sunday. Would you join me? Yeah, wow, that sounds really cool. So I I did I went up there and I wandered around and I was just, you know, the first time you ever go to a real nice show, you just can't believe what you've seen and it's so focused, you know it look at the smile on your face. I know it and I ended up leaving there with a $35 Columbia River knife and tool kiss folder. You know that Yeah,
Bob DeMarco 8:45
I know exactly. It's ubiquitous folder. It's got one side.
Unknown Speaker 8:50
And that was all I spent that day. But the but was that boy, I love all that stuff there and I'm going to tell you that a second portion of the story I stopped at a custom purveyor. And it was a woman, Graziano shock and she had a host of custom knives in her case, and one in particular all it was so beautiful. It looked like a bird with wings and it had a clump beak and it was the most beautiful knife and I call my buddy from the other side. I said you got to come over. Well, it was a wolf and loerchner wings folder, Wolfgang Loerchner and the custom knife world is the top five most renowned custom knife builder does it all with files and stuffing folder? And I said, What is this cost? She says $2800 Oh my god. Yeah, it was unobtainable. Well guess what? That knife now is? I said 2800 that knife is easily 428,000 Whoa, yeah. The other that investment? Yeah, yeah. And and his work is continues to be renowned and I love the Man I love his knives, but I'll never forget that particular one particular knife was so beautiful Google bird wings loercherner l er er ch is not lorchner not as I thought for so many years. It's not because he's pronounced it that way. But the wings folder from Wolfgang Loerchner that cemented that was it I just had to get involved in customers
Bob DeMarco 10:27
So was that the moment you started building your okay so your roster is amazing the people that you've photographed you know it is a literal who's who and and counting You know, they're they're going to be more people who are constantly coming to you because of how you how you do this. Who are some of the people you photographed? Like you like your most the ones you're the craziest about the proudest about?
Jim Cooper 10:54
Wolfgang Lochner would probably capitalist because I've met him and he's personal friend. Michael Walker, my top five names and I say within this and I'm talking about customers, these are makers that are knives or sell upwards of 10 grand. Well upwards of 10 grand. So, Wolfgang Loerchner, Ron Lake, Ron lake just sent me brownies and pickles.
Jim Cooper 11:20
This is the friendship that we have. That's cool. Yeah. Michael Walker, there's a European phone in European standout Jurgen j er jergens sky now his work is impeccable and it's beautiful. And it's unobtainium and they're $20,000. Right? And Ron Appleton arrays. Ron Appleton is Ray Appleton son. His work is just it's maybe makes five pieces a year and every one of them is over 20 grand. The one maker who I'd love to meet and we all know about and he's setting the world on fire with his knives is Bob Kramer. Oh, right. The chef's knife, man Yeah, and I've never photographed above Kremlin knife but if I was telling you who's the five top six most collectible knife makers in the world, Kramer would have to be there. I mean his knives. Look at one of his use knives just auction for 23 $230,000 I heard about that.
Bob DeMarco 12:16
I did not hear about that.
Jim Cooper 12:17
Yeah, his chef's knife that he had made personally for Anthony Bourdain. You know, the chef on TV. Yeah, well, he died. And so his estate that knife went up for sale. It was Anthony ordains personal knife from from Bob Kramer and any rate, so it was auctioned, and it went for astronomical $230,000. So there you go. Wow.
Bob DeMarco 12:41
So okay, so how how has floating around in this rarefied air affected your taste in knives or your your collection? I'm assuming you have an amazing collection. I don't mean to be presumptuous, but I can't help but imagine you have a sweet collection.
Unknown Speaker 12:57
Oh, you're, you're correct. And I probably I've probably owned 150 handmade knives custom knives over the course of time but right now I probably own 50 to 60. You know how it is knives they come they go. Here's the phrase that I use. Now I my purchasing of knives is really it has to strike me and it comes very rarely. But that's because that itch is scratched every afternoon. These knives come to my door. I get to own them for two three days a week, handle them. I photograph them I inspect them their mind for a little while and then I should back away in the glorious I don't have to purchase a knife to enjoy it.
Bob DeMarco 13:42
This is something that I mean you are in such an enviable spot because this is a common theme that just keeps coming up. I'm like I act as if I'm a curator in the Bob DeMarco knife museum. And it takes a lot of discipline for me to unload knives because there's something about each one that I have That I, that I love, and I'm way down there in the production world, I have a couple of customers, but, you know, so I mean, these are things that are, or you would assume, way less hard to get attached to because their production, their run of the mill, if you will, you know, and some of them I customize or this or that, but trying to sell some amazing work of knifer that you have, I can't, you know, can't fathom that.
Unknown Speaker 14:24
Well, you know, there is an intrinsic value to the human that's behind those individual makers. And, and by all means they that's inescapable and it's real. However, though, and however, is this humans behind those factory nuts, there's people that designed it, there's people that are making it making their living with those knives in there, you know, so you can't just say it's just a production knife. It's not spinning, spit out of a machine without some type of no interaction with the knife community. So it's making people happy. But, boy, there's nothing like support and some maker in their little garage shop and what they're doing and yeah, and if you've had one on one interactions with a person just like you and I are right now you feel some bond. Yeah, you feel some bonds. So, um, you know, the handful of customers that you have, I'm sure if you've met those makers, you like, I've never letting this thing go.
Bob DeMarco 15:18
That's exactly right. And one of them I got to pick up in his very shop and that was, that was a great experience, too. So, so you're in this enviable position of being able to sample and review all of these amazing blades as they come in for you to photograph and send out. What have you learned in handling all of these masterpieces about about your own tastes and knives and also where where the knife world is, is kind of going and what people are into right now.
Unknown Speaker 15:46
Yeah, I get a huge variety. And certainly I've seen the utmost in quality. So I've got a pretty distinct tie as to what you know what, this is really good and close. That said not everybody makes everybody's trying to shoot for the most precision. tightest fit the most perfection. One of my friends of friends he's he's our nicest guys ever met pete prine out in Oregon and his knives are without question rough. Rough he sells every single one because I think his clients that come up to his table love him they like his knives is no question as to handmade knife because this doesn't the scales a little fatter on this side than that side. You know and, and Pete if you're out there Forgive me but I love you. But I you know I just use you as an example. I am so impressed every time I is what got published on cover knives illustrated knives annual and he sells everything. So like so there's a nice example. Wolfgang Loerchner and or Jurgen Steinow, this stuff is so precise. Yeah, down a microscopic level.
Bob DeMarco 16:57
This other gentleman's it's the beauty of imperfection. Yeah,
Jim Cooper 17:01
yeah, yeah, there you go. So there's runs the gamut.
Bob DeMarco 17:05
So the knife comes to your door, some amazing knife comes to your door. Tell me about your process. Explain that. What do you go through? And how do you figure out how to shoot these and then and then talk about your style you have sort of a triptych style to tell me about that.
Unknown Speaker 17:20
Oh, good. Thank you for asking. That's important. I'm gonna tell you that. I've learned that my knife photography is four parts or equal parts. And the first one is the actual shooting and capturing of the knife is my job is in capturing under the light and I'll talk about that in a second. But that's, that's the shooting. I can do that in a show. I do my studio. And there's work involved with that mirrors, lights, all that stuff that science. The second part is I take those files, and I disappear up two floors up to my office, where we're interviewing and I edit them through paint, iMac display and Photoshop and I spent time merging your viewers if they know my Work Go Go to knife gallery dot com and you'll see all everything that I've ever done three images like you said triptych, there's usually two or three images of the same knife and I edit them so then there's the shooting and then the Edit. The inescapable part of what I do is I'm also a shipping company. I'm a shipping every knife that comes in comes in a cardboard box even a separate I'm going to spend I spent a lot of time and unpacking and putting aside I print and then I've got a Reeboks everything and I've got a label and so I'm a shipping department. Yeah, well the low end of this year. And the final portion that is just as important as maybe the most important is all communication that I do with the client. And ultimately to get that knife in the hands of editors and to on Facebook on my Instagram away all that stuff behind the scenes to dialog. Communication and typing. So those four things are the biggest aspects. And you can't do it without all four, all four. They're all equal,
Bob DeMarco 19:09
Well, why do why do makers send their knives to you in particular,
Unknown Speaker 19:15
I've developed my style that is very visual. It's a single image talk. First let me tell why I single image of composite image and photography in general is still and will always be here to stay. The podcasts we're listening to right now is dynamic, it's moving. Videos are dynamic, they're moving, you have to hit the pause button, if you will, and you can back up you can, but it's constantly moving. So you gotta you gotta kind of pay attention, a single image, a photograph, whether magazine or on your computer, screen the phone, you can take your time you're going to study and you go at your own pace and you can come back, come back to it, and it's there. It's not shifting, you can really spend your time so the Always be an opportunity to always be a place for single images. Because it's it's just the most common way to view something and stable, that composite image thing that I do. And I won't lay claim that I invented this, this format. I probably did. Eric akeley from point seven was probably the first one that I saw do it and others early 2000s. And everybody's doing some form of it. I've certainly capitalize on this display format. But the great thing about these composite images is that you don't have to shift from one if you're on a computer, you click out of one image about you go to another energy click out. We've all been to the websites and you click out they've got six shots and they're all you click in, click up. Whereas I like looking at a single image and you scan around it you go Oh, look at the back spine, look at the close side and point out that I always shoot a caught my core view which is the knife that's open With a fixed blade it's in. Usually it's not diagonal from upper right down the left
Bob DeMarco 21:05
Just to maximize your speed.
Jim Cooper 21:07
Yeah. So and then that then if it was a folder, you want to show the other side of the folder, you want to show what the folder looks like closed. And then, of course, the backside of a folder is generally some area of some cool stuff. Yes. So if you can incorporate the back spine, the closed view, the other side of the knife, in the main view, you've got four big ingredients for the you got 95% of the knife in one rectangle,
Bob DeMarco 21:34
right? It's almost like you're holding in your hand turning.
Jim Cooper 21:38
That's why it's effective. Because people I just I just like to, you know, there's neither long and thin so you have all this extra real estate around it. If you put it in a rectangle, no matter how you shoot, it's always going to be a rectangles long and thin. So you've got these triangles on either side. That's either dead space, you can fill it with stuff. And to this, am I guilty of sometimes overfilling that bottle. Yeah, me and everybody else.
Bob DeMarco 22:04
But what are you feeling it with another high definition image of this night that someone might be interested in buying, you mentioned the stillness of it, and I can still see pictures. We have this old weapons book that my brother and I used to fight over when we were kids. And you know, I still have a version of that now here a modern edition of it and I can look at these pictures, these images and I can remember them from just staring at them when I was you know, 10 years old, I can remember them, there's There is something about a still image and then by putting those other aspects of the knife in that same image, you're kind of given that the effect of a moving picture because you're able to look at the handle from the side and then from the from the spine side and get the contours and stuff like that. I noticed you usually put the point like especially if it's a sword or something, sometimes you'll you'll show the hilt and and then the And then in the back and you just kind of get an impression of the whole knife.
Jim Cooper 23:05
I often send people as you know, usually when we look at a knife, custom knife usually is what I'm photographing. But any knife, you look at it quickly on a side view, that's the core view. But the first thing you do is you pull it up to your eye, you start looking closely at the details we love, we love the details, because that's where the mechanics lie. That's where all the little stuff is intricacy that's hidden so the overall shape of the knife has to be pleasing and we like that boy then we draw it up and so that's where I I'd like to think I Excel is a try to show those details that the people if they had it in the hand where would they turn it? How would they roll it they want to look at this and not have a home Look at that. Yeah, yeah, that's, that's it.
Bob DeMarco 23:47
So as someone who has knives and has photographed them and taking video of them and you know, I've photograph for Instagram, look at my new knife kind of thing. Yeah, it's not it's not easy. Especially if you're just doing it on iPhone but I look at your photography and after I'm done drooling over the knife that you've so you know, nicely captured. I'm struck by the light, you know you have amazing even light and and that's so great for showing off details like, you know in materials and that kind of thing. Explain how you how you use light so well.
Jim Cooper 24:28
Good. Yeah, it says a very valid question. I learned long ago that the best way to photograph these knives is to have them shoot them with a diffuser background. May your viewers must have seen some type of light tent. Mine is literally an angle 45 degree angle from the back of my table up to the top of my head. And it's a diffuser material you can buy especially you can buy it at a artists supply stores draftsman is developed. So I like to state that as you need. You need Three light sources to get the quality image that I have three light sources. One is an overall abundant light source that lights the whole knife itself and, and usually that's the one that I position so that the blade itself is is the right temperament the right brightness. So it can't be too bright. It depends if it's a Damascus blade is gonna you gonna brighten up the heck out of it. But if it's a shiny polished blade, hello, you're going to turn turn it down a little, the second light, this is the important thing as a much smaller focused beam. And if you look closely at my, my images, you'll see that I always point a lot probably get 30% more light at the handle. handles are always light absorbing material. Usually like especially in a fixed blade, they're always something you know, the blade is shiny and then the hardest thing to photograph is that dark handled
Bob DeMarco 25:53
shiny black kurta or Yeah, yeah,
Jim Cooper 25:56
it's so you gotta see you turn it up on one And you turn it down on the other end. So if you have two light sources, you can you can, you can meet that and then you play a little bit in Photoshop to, which is not a sin. As matter of fact, Photoshop is a wonderful tool that
Bob DeMarco 26:15
It's only a sin if you're a Luddite,
Jim Cooper 26:18
right, but two lights is net, where's that third light source, you know, I'm just identifying I got one big one. And then I get the small one and they're both behind the diffuser, they're coming in from behind the coming on the knife pointing kind of at me, Well, I have an array of reflectors, and they're literally plexiglass mirrors. If you've seen pictures of my work of setup, you will see that I've got all these mirrors that we could throw around. And if you look at one of the fixed blade or any of the things you'll see a highlight on the inside of the knife, you'll see a highlight light beam, that's it that shows that the handle contours and that's always that third light source which is reflected light. It's reflected from the other two and by adding angling that your and I angle it up and down and any number of ways you can you can position that light and really call it fill lighting and that's the difference that's why the knife is always very clear because otherwise you get that bring bright light at the coming on without that fill light you got a big deep shadow
Bob DeMarco 27:19
right and you're going to get flares on the blade and stuff yeah like it just from from an extreme novices point of view when you're shooting something with a you know hollow grind and an A and A What do you call it like a satin finish kind of it you know you want to show all of the contours of that blade but then it starts to blow out the like you said the handle material everything else so you got a camps that's interesting. So you have a light handle or a handle light. Like Yes, I love that. You were mentioning before and and I have to ask because I'd be remiss if I didn't. You mentioned how you're shipping, a shipping agency as well. You're constantly department, shipping department, you're constantly opening up boxes. What are you doing it with? I know you're not using. You're not using the beautiful Birdwing?
Unknown Speaker 28:11
Well, now, I'd like to. I have a it is a handmade knife. It's it was it was given to me. It's a friction folder. That's my my main choice of friction folder and by a gentleman named habeer shallow, who is now making knives in in in Arizona, and he's making chef's knives but he made a he made a folder of friction folder and post them a few years ago and as you said, I liked him. I went out to dinner with him once he's just a well spoken guy. Not a big maker at all, but I just liked him enough. I said, I'm like I need a knife. And this and you just nailed it. What do I use a knife for? I'll tell you what. 90% of the time that I need a knife is for opening cardboard boxes, right? I mean, I'm just we're product oriented. And me. That's all So I need a cardboard knife box so
Jim Cooper 29:04
a cardboard box knife yeah
Bob DeMarco 29:06
well so so why okay all right so then Then what is it why you can you mentioned 90% of everything we do is is
Jim Cooper 29:13
Bob DeMarco 29:14
can be covered with a small clip joint which is our fascination with with evermore you know I'm not even getting to price but ever ever more innovative folding knives for instance ever more beautiful fixed blades with with exotic materials. It's not pure materialism but it's also not art because it can be used What is it? What is our fascination with these things?
Jim Cooper 29:39
You know, funny I wrote some notes down and I was going to send them to you but I didn't but I here and and says right here, why are knives appealing? That's it so I was hoping you'd ask what is it? And first from the first word I use is their sinister. They are primarily used to cut flesh. cardboard they were designed to cut flesh. Whoa.
Jim Cooper 30:05
Stand Clear Of The Closing door.
Jim Cooper 30:08
You know? So So that said, we know that the swipe you have to apologize sometimes when people when I tell people I shoot handmade knives they take they go Oh, that's nice as they take a step. There's there's just something very sinister about that. But that said, we like risk. Those of us that like knives are very real conservative, we like a little bit of risk were a little challenging. So there I like that sinister thing. The second thing is anybody that has a good sense of engineering and design skills that you can study and I can go Wow, look at look at the way that was manufactured and I love engineering. folding knives are abundant with engineering with the locking in the full Island, the billions of things that go on there, but they're not limited, but the mechanics are so Feeling, there's just there's so much appeal and it's sinister, but yet there's mechanics involved engineering, and then we look and we look at the skill of the, whether it's a production knife. The, whether it's a handmade knife is, you know, how, how wonderful did this person make it? Or did they they leave file marks in it just to show those handmade or is it polish to the degree? And last two notes I wrote here, it's just simply that because they're dangerous, and yet they're artful. Yes, yes. That artful,
Bob DeMarco 31:32
especially the, the, the knives you're shooting, I would, I would also say that, at least with some knives, the, the curviness it's kind of anthropomorphic, it might be kind of remind us of humans or remind us of, you know, women or whatever, you know, just just the curves might. And also its primitive. It was the very first tool and there's probably something by this point, that's in our epigenetics that just like draws me to it, just like there. Things that push us away from snakes you know make us recoil from snake there's something that draws us to the blade.
Jim Cooper 32:06
absolutely absolutely so I I'm like you I just I just find it appealing who doesn't like just opening and closing some folder that's well designed yeah oh there's just something about that
Bob DeMarco 32:18
yeah yeah and i mean that's that's the same kind of appeal that that guns have for me though I'm way way way less a gun guy than a knife guy but I you know I like to shoot it's fun but I also really appreciate the the mechanism the machining you know, it's just beautiful. So, in your so how many years have you would you consider yourself a denizen of the knife world if you will?
Jim Cooper 32:42
2020 Oh, I started I started in 1999. So here we go. So
Bob DeMarco 32:47
when those 20 years Yeah, tell me like what the trends you've seen and like in big arcs what the trends have been and and kind of give me your, your opinion
Unknown Speaker 32:58
The thing that the two things and you know everybody's sort of the we'll call it tactical that started in that started even before I came in apparently the 90s that is growing everybody said out of the tactical market so bubble, it's gonna blow up there and nobody's gonna it's not and it just keeps growing and growing and growing for every reason that we just described all the mechanics all of the cool stuff it's every time I open up a new maker that I've never heard of and I see this is a you know, I don't like calling them tactical knives I've kind of nicknamed them myself and I'd rather hear I call them urban folders. Ah, because tactical sounds like it's just a it's a weapon type of thing. Where is just an urban folders like, you know, I'm not out on the ranch. Yes, right. You know, this is something I can kind of conceal a little bit. I could walk around, it's I live. I live in Connecticut. I live in an urban area, I put it in my pocket, but I pull it out. So I like the term urban folder and it can be a walk, it can be a frame lock. It could be every definition of what you used to be called tactical, but I just don't like that. Yeah, so you'll hear me saying and refer on my website, you know, he's got his urban folder. You can call it a tactical if you want, but I like I'm trying to make it I'm trying to dumb it down a little bit
Bob DeMarco 34:13
Well, in a sense, if you think about it, no one's going to use any of the folders, you photograph in a tactical sense. They'll they'll get a cold steel, you know, do whatever they need for that kind of business and then they'll pick up their R J Martin when they're going to the dinner party or whatever.
Jim Cooper 34:29
Well, going further. I in the last probably six, eight years, chefs knives have really, really, really just exploded, and brilliant. It's brilliant because they, they're simpler. The simpler is that it can be a three piece enough. I've long heard that term. It's a three piece not two scales in a blade down the middle with a couple of rivets, it can be and then they can be as intricate as imagine now, the key is how how useful they are. And that every American household, every household, yes, can use a chef's knife. So there they are, and they're designed where they designed cut fruit cut flesh cut whatever. We all there's the ultimate tool and now that the custom field has, has found that people are liking quality and willing to we are food is our nourishment that we're willing to spend hundreds of dollars on a single implement a tool in the kitchen that broadens that market to nationwide.
Bob DeMarco 35:32
Yeah, and it's a great excuse for someone who who might be a closet knife guy to be like, honey, it's a kitchen. Okay, all right. Yeah, that makes sense. Yeah. I always look at a chef's knife as as harder to make and I'm no knife maker, but you know, you have to get them thin, thin, thin, thin, and flexible and fully flat ground and all of that that to me like
Bob DeMarco 35:53
takes takes the skill level up.
Jim Cooper 35:55
I minimize a sense of simple thing.
Unknown Speaker 35:59
handful of makers out there rolling their eyes right now because they're said that fitness is and I'm the first one to know because I look at my hand Oh my gosh. And so then they put these crazy crazy Damascus patterns off even in the chef's steel and and the subtle shapes sculpting in the handle very subtle sculpting and on and each one. It's it's just, it's so impressive that you can there's so many takes on the same item so it's energized the field. It's given a lot new, a lot more new people a chance to purchase a hand a handmade knife and who knows and maybe they've got this great chef's knife. I want to get one of those urban folder
Bob DeMarco 36:43
Yes, I hear he makes urban folders.
Bob DeMarco 36:49
Slip joints also kind of seem like that kind of you know the fact that all all the major manufacturers have come out with their modern slip joints. To me that's also another way to end invite people who might have the knife thing in them but not you know, but sort of latent, invite them into the fold, you know, Oh look, it's a slip joint, like your grandfather, you know, you know that
Bob DeMarco 37:10
and they're like, oh yeah. And then suddenly people are carrying knives, it doesn't matter what they're carrying. They just need to be carrying a knife so I don't have to loan one to them. You know
Jim Cooper 37:19
the slip joint traditional knives, we like to refer to that. They've become so precise, so beautiful, but so friendly. So user friendly. Everybody's got grandpa's tackle box knife, you know, they're, you know, in their back pocket. And there's plenty of good production knives that are that are cheap, but then you see these handmade ones that the makers make, and they're just you look at ego, how do they fit those three blades in there? They're 10 thousandths of an inch apart and they don't touch. Oh, it's, it's masterful. Yeah. So that that's part of the appeal as well and but, but because of that, that simple, very friendly, you pull out a little it's almost like a Boy Scout knife though. Everybody has a Boy Scout. Click, click Yeah, so the traditional knives have grown largely, chef's knives have grown. Of course, the urban folders of designs will milus but that's the good old American boy. Just continues continues to continue. Everybody's got to have a good old American, because once you got a big honkin bully in your hand, you go, I want one of these
Bob DeMarco 38:24
god, I was looking through a bunch of your images and you have photographs. I'm a huge, huge Bowie fan and you could photograph some amazing amazing Bowie's there's just they're just people out there making some amazing, incredible work. But I agree every household needs a big old Bowie
Unknown Speaker 38:43
You need at least one and there was a master Smith that I wish I've lost touch with him. I hope he's still doing well. Robin Hudson is his name. He retired but I remember him saying he talked about he hit like a 14 inch boy and he says Eddie had a big headliners, and he says I wear it all the time. So what do you do? Well, I can open up a bag of chips with I can reach the top, I can reach the book at the top of the bookshelf. He had all these auxiliary uses for this big honkin bowie that had nothing to do with you know the sandbar fight.
Jim Cooper 39:20
It was this tool of choice, the
Bob DeMarco 39:22
A Reacher and a grabber and I
Jim Cooper 39:25
could cut my sandwich in half and I can open the cardboard box and you know, you can choke up on a big knife and make a little task but you can't make a little knife do a big task
Bob DeMarco 39:34
So that's what I when I was in college, I worked in a kitchen and that's exactly what those guys all said. You know, there we had an array of knives that would get taken off and sharpened every week, but it was always the 10 inch regular chef's knives that got dull. And you learn very quickly at least I did in that kitchen like you know you don't cut things with a little knife. You use the big knife, you know you choke up and so where do you see things heading Okay, so we talked about the trends over the last 20 years. What do you think the next trend is going to be? Or where do you think you see things in the next 20 years? Wow.
Jim Cooper 40:11
The pause of my voice is simply because I haven't given it that much thought. I can't say that I'm seeing it'll be more of the same I'm going to be as just as surprised as you. Okay.
Bob DeMarco 40:25
Sometimes I wonder if we haven't hit peak urban folder?
Jim Cooper 40:28
Well, what or what I'm seeing a lot more of is, is is is singular usage of CNC machine. When I see singular usage, smaller individual guys that know they're making CNC machines affordable, so a maker can actually wanted his own studio, RJ Martin for years, has CNC equipment. The genius in CNC stuff is that it's repeatable. You could program it, and you can it's replicable it never hand finished. A knife, it's just makes the parts repeatable for it. There's so much finishing that needs doing and the science and the smarts that it takes to amazing program any CNC will supplant the I want a handmade knife I don't want a CNC. Well guess what? That man's got a college degree
Jim Cooper 41:18
program in that little CNC urban folder of yours. And I'm impressed with that, too. So I've never I've never dismayed at seeing that makers are using CNC in some form because I know that took some real smarts
Bob DeMarco 41:30
and and let's be honest, handmade is a very, very deep hole. I mean, you could Yeah, man. You could say like, oh, it has to be made with files or no, it has to be like made with emery board. Like, how handmade does it have to meet this guy thought it up program, this damn machine, you know, had it spit out raw parts. You know, he could have done that or he could have just, you know, contracted that job out to a waterjet or whatever. Yeah, you go. So so in a way you know, keeping it in house is keeping it in house. We're on the same page there totally, totally, totally. Well, it's kind of exciting. It's like, in a way, it's like, you know, Steven Spielberg said years and years ago, I remember reading him saying, like, the next generation of filmmakers will be making them in that garage is going to be, you know, young kids. And you know, he was absolutely right, you know, yeah. So it's kind of the same thing. It's like people, people who with a drive in a vision, who, you know, who have the know how it's I think of Brian Nadeau, you know, he does all of that out of his house. You know, he's act like he had to alter his house to fit the machine in there. Like, that is dedication. But the truth is that the handmade knife is things are amazing. And but
Jim Cooper 42:41
yeah, well Brian's Brian's a brilliant, it's just that his smarts and programming and his skills and his attention to details, and in design is is superb. You know, we can't we can't let this conversation slip by without mentioning how forged in fire Oh, How much how important that has become to our current culture and to end but I mean, I every time I turn around, there's another maker and or blacksmith I've never heard of. And wow, are they getting involved? And then the viewers that are that are admiring this reality, Jim, it's it's drama. We could poke holes in the show, but truth is, it's doing more more good than harm.
Bob DeMarco 43:21
It's the greatest TV show ever created. Okay, so let me tell you, this is it. Let's go back 15 years I'm on the couch with my wife watching Project Runway. You're watching watching fashion designers come up with their designs and kind of hash through the the creative process. And of course, they're stabbing each other in the back and I'm like, they should make something like this, but knives. You know, that'll be the day Why don't you make that show? And I'm like, yeah, and here we are. And I'm grateful for that show. I gotta say I do. I do really love that show. We had. We've had Jay Nielsen on the show to Talking about judging and also talking about his own forging. Yeah, he does eautiful stuff. But what I love about it is that it's still on its there five seasons in or so five or six seasons in and people are watching it. People are loving it. And to me that's just a great sign that just means more knife people, you know?
Unknown Speaker 44:19
Yeah, it has all the ingredients for successes has a lot of danger involved as a lot of skills as luck. Very human element. And it's got competition. Yeah, you know, we love competition. We love watching competition.
Bob DeMarco 44:32
Sure. And it also destigmatizes the knife itself, you know, it's not jumping out of anyone's belt and stabbing, you know,
Bob DeMarco 44:38
it is it is a an absolutely essential tool and, and it's great to see these people putting them together. Hey, before we wrap you wanted me to ask you about your logo. Tell me about the sharp by coop logo.
Unknown Speaker 44:53
It's easy to put a text watermark on any image and just say shop talk via this that not do that for dealers that I photograph for, but at some point I wanted to you know just I'm brand aware. So I, I reached out and I found a design company it's called 99 designs and I went with them and it was a brilliant as an Australian company that jobs out to a world market and I heard them I said it here's what they asked her portfolio. What do you want to do? What do you want to do? You know, so I said, I'm a photographer I want to show knife in and so this company called 99 designs said, Okay, we'll submit it and it's a contest and you choose at the end of a week, which logo that's cool. I said, Oh, okay, so I I did the entry level the lowest budget $300 logo. I was like, you know, in the world of logos 300 bucks. I can afford three. Yeah, my work I had. I'm not whining I had at the end of three days. 110 different logo. From 50 different artists, they're from Indonesia they were from India they were from England, they're from the US they were from all over everybody spending time my head hurt by looking at all these designs and trying to figure it all up. Finally, you know, I ended up you know, settling down and yeah, all these people these talented people gave spent a lot of time and I had to tell I had to tell 149 of them no you know, I'm sorry, but I ended up working with one guy and then you're allowed a couple of revisions and you sound like to tell it and one of the things that you'll know my my business name is sharp by kuip photography. What do you think about when you think about sharp a nice pointy edge? You look closely at my logo and the point is buried it's gone it's gone. But I love that because that you know it's got a camera and it's gotta s buard bowie, you know, the Great American bowie, but it shoved that it's that statement that you took a knife and went pow!
Bob DeMarco 47:05
the table deeply buried it and
Unknown Speaker 47:07
it just buried in the table and it makes a statement. I'm here. This is my knife, you know, I mean, so that statement is is I just thought sharp or not because it was so many decided they had a little point there there was embedded in the words. Something about that one and I didn't realize it until later. I don't know, I kept coming back to that. And I said, You know what? I like this one the best and all of a sudden I realize it's the only one that doesn't have a point. Funny Yeah,
Bob DeMarco 47:33
yeah. I like the concept of making people kind of come compete like that. And and, you know, you get to select from that.
Unknown Speaker 47:42
You know that I'm gonna I'm gonna I'm gonna make some people mad or I'm going to make some people really happy because I talked to a very noted graphic designer and he said 99 designs. He said that's he worked for graphics companies that we take our clients work, we send it to 99 designs. We pay them pennies, they come back with a bnuch, and then we turn around we show our clients. he says we look like heroes. And he says, I didn't tell you that and I was he rolled his eyes I said Wow. So they have different tiers. I bought the lowest tier $300 you can go up to like $1,000 but you, you really get some better graphic work, but it's still unlimited selection. So there's an endorsement for that 99 designs.
Bob DeMarco 48:25
So Jim, what are the first of all, I want to find out how knife makers can get in touch with you and how they can retain your services if it's the right fit and and what are your What are your stipulations what what exactly do you photograph? I'm not going to send you my production zt to photograph What are you going to what do you take?
Unknown Speaker 48:45
I'm happy to photograph that ZTE every day as long as you're willing to pay. So I people often will tell me that they don't know if I have a knife worthy of your skills and I was like the only Where you're going to get yourself on the map is to start you know, if you can't do it yourself you gotta send it to a professional I I'm glad that I'm their first choice. That said, one of my digital skills because I work with a computerized just literally in the last two months I rebuilt my website so that it's mobile friendly. And my my website, I have two websites, but the the one my business website is like I'm interested in getting and I photograph is sharp by coop.com. And I'm so proud that I made this website out of WordPress, and I made it mobile friendly, it looks great. And it's it has inflammation there. And, you know, I learned from reading about website design that said, you need to have like a single button that says, here's where you go start here. And so I got a button that says let's get started. And you click on that and that's where it Okay, what's the steps Oh, first review my pricing. Then send me your information and then review my shipping. Little Three, and you got to know what you're up for pricing because it is a whole sword cost more than a folder, you want five prints uh I'll have to sell them to you that's this is the extra. And then I asked for a form that fills out all the information from the maker and about the knife and this is what I said to the editors. And then lastly, I have all shipping guidelines because knife makers are notorious for making quality knives but are not a shipping and stuff will come poking through the box and I want to give them guidelines on how to do it correctly.
Bob DeMarco 50:33
Right well I have to say from my perspective, when I see a knife makers or when I see a picture by you a photograph by you and I see a beautiful knife I I gotta say I take it a little more seriously. I think, you know, knife makers should make themselves you know, save up if that's what it takes. And that's definitely a great marketing tool because you look at that. You see the amazing photography that that allows you to see every detail The blade you've worked so hard on and then you see sharp by cooping I like okay, legit. Well at least that's how I feel.
Unknown Speaker 51:07
Well thank you and those people have stepped up there. They're proud of the work it shows that they're there. They're trying to make a stand. And the good news is I you know, you see my, my Instagram is my first hundred and three thousand followers right now. And but I made sure that I send out to 10 editors of international magazines and USA magazines. I'm usually covered everywhere somewhere. But my Facebook is concurrent with my Instagram, everything that gets posted in Instagram goes on Facebook. So and then lastly, I put her on I've been a I've been involved with knife forums for 20 years to that's how I got started with this whole thing that started on a knife forum. So stuff is going to get seen and I I it's amazing in our social in our digital life that people still the place the highest value. I want to see my knife in I want to see it in a magazine. Is this amazing? Still we hold on to that that's that's the holy grail of promotion right
Bob DeMarco 52:08
it's not an emerald doesn't just disappear it's there.
Jim Cooper 52:12
Yeah, yeah, it's it's real. I mean we see it on a screen and it's it's it's good and it is it's valuable because maybe more people gonna buy it on the screen but but there's something something very tactile about flipping the pages and senior their knife in the pages of a magazine. So that's, that's totally important.
Bob DeMarco 52:30
Well, there you have it, everybody. Jim Cooper sharp by coop thank you so much for coming on The Knife Junkie podcast that I love your photography. It's been great getting to know you and finding out what, what drives you and what's behind these beautiful images.
Jim Cooper 52:44
Bob, it's a pleasure.
Jim Cooper 52:45
Thank you for reaching out to me. I love talking to Pete. I love the knife people. It doesn't matter who they are. It's so impressive. People they're interested in quality. They just like me and you and it's it's a pleasure. I'm mostly unavailable at a show you people going to go to blade no way I'm going to lock the door I've got so I get so busy in a show and that I have to focus that's when my work starts. So it's it's unfortunate I want to say hi to you viewers out there now because you're not gonna see me then there's a couple of gatekeepers My wife is a gatekeeper and Bob if you stepped up I'd say
Bob DeMarco 53:23
all right, well, they heard it everybody. I will be a blade show and I will be stepping up just for a quick moment though. I know you got work to do. All right, Jim Cooper. Thank you sir. It's been a pleasure.
Jim Cooper 53:34
Cheers. Thank you so much.
Do you use terms like handled the blade ratio Walk and Talk hair popping sharp or tank like when you are a dork and a Knife Junkie?
Jim Person 53:45
Back on episode 86 of the Knife Junkie podcast as we said bombuh interesting interview today not a not an a knife maker manufacturer but someone heavily and deeply involved in the knife industry.
Bob DeMarco 53:56
A serious Knife Junkie with with an enviable position in the knife world, you know, he has an opportunity to hold, inspect and own these beautiful knives from all these amazing makers for a week at a time. I mean, and oftentimes, that's all you need with something. And I don't, I don't mean to cast aspersions on on any given knife, but oftentimes I'll buy something and be like, this is a great knife and I'll carry it for a week and then it will reside in my collection to take up a certain role. Well, that's kind of just, if I could just hold an own an eye for a week, I might not, you know, acquire so many and have so many my collections. So he's in a very enviable position plus, he gets to hold handle and inspect knives from the top custom makers. I mean, these are knives that take a month to build. And he gets to have these in his possession for a short while and to me that's like, it's like being able to go visit a museum with famous art in it. You know you get to take in this work for a while you don't have to own it and possess it but you can you can soak it up and appreciate it and learn what you need to from it you know and then he puts it back in a in a bonded envelope and send it back
Jim Person 55:13
well you know what you need to do or you know what we need to do or we what we need our listeners to do. They need to send you a bunch of knives not for free but just send you so that you can have for a week or so to do a video review talk about here on the podcast that way you know they're getting some publicity for themselves and for their knife. You're getting inventory to showcase on your YouTube channel and then you get to scratch that itch.
Bob DeMarco 55:38
Well that's right. it's like our good buddy Stu. You know he's he's got stone and steel up in Vermont his his knife company and he sent me recently the ZT0223. After he heard me you know, kind of talking sideways about it on the show. He said check it out. You might you might it might change your opinion and it most definitely did. I did a little bit view on it send it back to him had it for a week carried it for for you know the lion's share that week and yeah that was a cool experience
Jim Person 56:08
well if you'd like to check out some of these videos that Bob is talking about The Knife Junkie dot com slash YouTube and be sure to subscribe to The Knife Junkie his YouTube channel just go to The Knife Junkie dot com slash y t subscribe Definitely you need to be subscribed to his YouTube channel so you don't miss any of the videos. Alright Bob that's going to wrap it up for show number 86 final final word
Bob DeMarco 56:30
final final word is just keep it sharp man.
Jim Person 56:35
Alright. sounds good. Thanks everybody for listening to the Knife Junkie podcast for Bob The Knife Junkie DeMarco, I'm Jim the knife newbie Person. Thanks for listening.
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