Keanison Knives – Bryan Montalvo
Bryan Montalvo of Keanison Knives joins Bob “The Knife Junkie” DeMarco on Episode 405 of The Knife Junkie Podcast. Keanison Knives, the brainchild and passion project of Montalvo, makes some of the most sought-after custom folders in the knife world today, offering graceful but aggressive profiles and an exotic palette of materials.
Each and every knife that leaves the Keanison shop, is labored over both in the combination of materials as well as build. Each Keanison knife is composed like a piece of fashion and each one is taken apart and reassembled an average of 300 times in order to get the perfect fit and function.
In a rare turn, Bryan began his knife making career creating custom frame lock folders, some of the most difficult to perfect knives there are, especially for a newbie. But his background in product design and an open-armed knife community (with plenty of advice to offer) gave him the confidence needed to take the plunge directly into folders.
Bryan’s stringent attention to detail, aesthetics and build paid off at the 2023 Texas Blade show where the latest Keanison model, the “Bluetick,” earned best M.A.C.K. or Machine Assisted Custom Knife. Despite the heavy competition in a crowded category, Montalvo and his Keanison Knives are very well respected amongst his peers and collectors.
The demand is high for his custom knives with everyone from CEOs of major companies to kids in dorm rooms champing [not chomping] at the bit to pay premium prices for his one-of-a-kind creations. In the case of Keanison, demand far outpaces what he can supply, so he has turned to top manufacturer Reate to produce the company’s first production flipper, the Fido, bringing his aesthetic within reach to the average knife collector.
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.Bryan Montalvo of Keanison Knives joins me on Episode 405 of #theknifejunkie #podcast. Keanison Knives makes some of the most sought-after custom folders in the knife world and is fresh off winning the earned best M.A.C.K. award at… Click To Tweet
Keanison Knives - The Knife Junkie Podcast (Episode 405)
©2023, Bob DeMarco
The Knife Junkie Podcast
[0:00] Welcome to the Knife Junkie podcast, your weekly dose of knife news and information about knives and knife collecting.
Here's your host, Bob the Knife Junkie DeMarco. Welcome to the Knife Junkie podcast.
I'm Bob DeMarco.
On this edition of the show, I'm speaking with Bryan Montalvo of Keanison Knives.
Now I know very little about Keanison Knives besides the fact that they are exceptionally beautiful modern folders. They're created by knife makers in the heart of Texas, and, now that they've earned one of the most esteemed awards in the business. I first took note of Kinesin after hearing viewers and listeners urge me to check them out in their amazing custom wares on Thursday Night Knives, and I'm glad I listened. We're going to peel back some of the mystique and find out about Keanison Knives and the people that make them. But, first, like, comment, subscribe and share the show if you would be so kind, and also download the show to your favorite podcast app so you can listen on the go. And as always, if you want to help support the show, you can do so on Patreon. quickest way to do that is to head over to the knife junkie.com slash Patreon. That's.
[1:10] The knife junkie.com slash Patreon.
You know, you're a night junkie if you love your knives more than your spouse.
Hey, Bryan, welcome to the show.
Hey, Bob, how you doing?
I'm doing great. Hey, thanks for doing this. So so quick hot on the heels of Blade Show Texas.
Yeah, it was a great show. My voice cuts out. It's because we talked too much at the show.
I hear that. Well, I want to congratulate you on your win there. You won Best M.A.C.K. 2023. What is a M.A.C.K.?
Yeah, it's a new category they just came up with for the show this year. Just because, you know, the industry is moving. Well, not moving. Our segment of the industry is growing so much that they felt it necessary to add a category. So M.A.C.K. stands for machine assisted custom case stands for knife. So machine assisted custom, basically implying that you need to do something with an automated machine, and then do some things by hand on the night. So we do all our knives primarily by hand. The only thing we did on that one that was machine automated was the water jet process, we get our blanks water jetted in Maine or Texas, just outside of town here. So that qualified us for the category. But yeah, it's a, lot of fun, a lot of great makers in that category and a lot of friends of mine and so lucky to have won that one.
[2:38] To me, from my perspective, it seems like that is that's how most custom knives are made these days. You know, and and I could see how it almost seems like they should make a category for the other kind, you know, the kind where the blank is cut out with a band saw, something like that.
Yeah, I mean, it's, it's kind of new. We, you know, we've been shooting for these, these awards for several years now. And each show is different. You know, we talked to them in Utah about the categories. They didn't have a tactical folder category in Utah last year.
[3:17] Or a blade show West. And they try to tailor the categories for the amount of people exhibiting to make sure that there's enough people in each category. So after some conversation, we put put, they put together the M.A.C.K. category. So that, you know, it kind of included a few different types of knives. The only, the only real contingency there is it couldn't be a lock back or a slip joint. They said no slip joint. So because those slip joint guys are amazing. You know, they put so much work and time into those things that we really I mean, it's hard to compare with a lot of those.
Yeah, I guess they have to have their own sort of traditionals category or something like that.
I mean, the slip joint guys can get into pretty much all of them.
I mean, it's an art knife, it's a EDC knife, it's a slip joint, you know, it's just they're incredible what those guys do.
Essex knives, I forget where he's from, but he won best in show and best slip joint.
It was an incredible, I mean, even machine the corkscrew, it was an incredible, incredible knife. If you get an opportunity to check it out, you absolutely should because he, deserved every minute of that. So yeah, it's interesting the way that they do those things.
It's not always necessarily fair or just the way that it works, but But we all get in there and do our best every time.
It's the best we can do.
[4:46] Yeah, well, you're dealing with humans on the judging side, and you know, everyone's got their peccadilloes and that kind of thing. So obviously you've shown at shows before. Is this your first major award like this?
It is. Yeah. Yeah. Like I said, we've been, we've been working for it for several years. It's one of those things that was on my bucket list over the last few years was to, I mean, it's a great, great metric to see how you, you know, you can't put a lot of value on awards.
I mean, one of those things where you'd like to do well, but it's not everything.
Getting out there and making a quality product and have people appreciate it.
[5:23] It's more that you're recognized by your peers, that you're doing...
You're moving in the right direction, so to speak.
So that's what means the most about it. The judges that were in there and the guys that bestowed that upon us are some really, really amazing makers that we look up to.
And that was the most incredible thing is being able to be in that room and having all those amazing knife makers, no matter what genre they're in, support us.
So yeah, it's a lot of fun. Yeah. And to be recognized by your peers, especially in a crowd like that.
Now I've only ever been to Blade Show Atlanta, but walking in the room the first time a couple of years ago, I remember thinking, how the hell do they judge?
And then I realized a little bit more of the process, you know, you have to submit.
It's not like they walk and look at every knife and judge, but still your peers are, you're dealing with the best of the best, you know?
Yeah, absolutely. And I know when I posted the award on Instagram, they're the best in the world.
I mean, there's makers from all over the world that come to Blade Show Atlanta and Blade Show Texas and all over all of these shows.
And it's incredibly humbling to think that out of all those knives, we.
[6:44] We won. Still kind of digesting that. Well, okay. So before we find out more about Keenison knives, what was the knife that won this MAC award?
It's a new knife for us this year. We call it the Blue Tick.
Came up with it a couple of weeks ago, maybe a little over a month ago.
It's different for what we make. I like to kind of step outside the box with a lot of the knives that we're making. I was talking to somebody this weekend. We don't really do a lot of traditional blade shapes. I enjoy sketching blades and kind of pulling things together that aren't traditional. But this one's very traditional, which may be why it fit in that category. We call it the Blue Tick. This one was all titanium handle, mother of pearl inlay.
[7:27] MagnaCut satin blade with a bronze backspacer. So yeah.
That is beautiful. Blue Tick, and it's following on a dog theme that I've picked up on.
[7:40] On. One of my favorite of your knives is the Whippet. But before I go any further with that, I know people are going to want to know MagnaCut, what's your heat treat to on the MagnaCut?
Oh yeah, what is it? 2150 for an extended period of time? I don't have it right in front of me.
Oh, I'm sorry, not your recipe. What's the Rockwell on that?
Oh, it was, uh, I think it was around 63, 62, 63, somewhere in there.
Cool. I can, I can, I can hear people applauding and nodding approvingly.
Yeah. Well, I mean, I brought up the heat treat cause it's one of the most frustrating parts about dealing with that steel is, um, holding your, your heat treat oven at, you know, 2100 degrees for an extended period of time tends to burn out the heat sink.
So, uh, the heat treat process is really the, the pain in the butt with it.
So I could see how going on a huge batch of that could be difficult.
I really think the shape of that is beautiful.
I think all of your knives have very unique shapes and unique blade shapes.
This one, as you said, looks more traditional, I guess, but to me, it looks pretty...
Would you be so kind as to hold that up so we can take a look?
[9:00] Yeah, that's a good fun profile we have.
We lifted the backspacer a little bit so you can kind of see the backspacer a little bit higher than the rest of the knife there, which was a fun detail.
And then the pocket clip was a challenge too. It's got a fun, I don't know if you can see it, a fun little chamfer on the side there that was pretty difficult.
[9:20] But yeah, it's a, like you said, they're all, sorry, my dogs are in the background. They're all unique profiles, but this one's a little bit more traditional for what we do.
That pocket clip, you know, just looking at your background, you can see a lot of cool antiques. The the pocket clip reminds me of the tremolo bar on like an old guitar, you know, it's got, that. Oh, absolutely.
The whammy bar. Yeah, absolutely. It kind of does. Very nice. Well, congratulations again on that award. That's a that's a real feather in your cap. Let me ask you about the name Heenison for a second here. When I decided to reach out and talk to you. I didn't know your name. And I was expecting to see your last name being keenison for some reason. So what does keenison mean? Or how did you what's the name?
[10:10] Yeah, I get that a lot. People say Mr. Keenison. So the company is named after two of our dogs that that passed before we started making knives. Keen and Madison. And we kind of combine them and make keenison. And then you know, you kind of hit it on the head. All of our stuff is my dogs are making noise over here. All of our knives are dog oriented and dog themed. You know, everything we do, the dog stickers and branding and all that stuff. So we try to keep it consistent.
Yeah. How important or... Yeah. Do you find it to be important or is it just fun that you remain consistent in your naming convention and that kind of thing?
I know a lot of a lot of makers do it. It's one of those things that I think is important because it keeps it. No, I like.
[11:04] To work within structure at some point, right? I mean, when when you leave it open for anything, any name, any, you know, you can name it after a car, you can name it after whatever, I find I have trouble when you have kind of a theme working and a, constraint. I always work better with that. So this year, we did something new, we named all our new models after hounds. So the blue chick hound, basset hound, blood hound, wolf hound. So just kind of keeps it keeps it consistent. Next year, we'll pick another classification of dog and try to keep it in there.
So it makes my life a little easier sometimes to to work with a theme. But I think that people resonate with it a lot more as well. Not just dog people, but people that are following along they kind of know why we're doing it and what we're doing.
I know Brian Brown uses a lot of.
[12:01] Are there a thing that airplanes and flying things you know i want to be a pilot so you can name after that i'm.
Change scorpion six it's a lot of nordic names i believe.
I'm so i think everybody can have a little bit but that just happens to be ours.
As a collector and you know just fan of knives across the entire spectrum i like it because it doesn't seem random it seems like it's part of a.
An ongoing theme, you know, maybe a year and a half, two years ago, the big conversation was, how do you name a knife?
We've run out of names completely. And I would imagine that latching onto something, especially something that you love and have a close connection to, like dogs, you know, that's not a problem.
It's just, you know, there are other cool dogs and you're gonna get inspiration from those.
How did this begin? How did your knife making begin and how did you step into this?
Yeah. So my background is I went to Academy of Art in San Francisco to do industrial design.
And I was working as a consumer product designer out of college trying to bring other people's dreams to fruition.
And it was a lot of fun, but it was difficult. I had a lot of jobs that weren't as exciting as I wanted them to be.
[13:27] And ended up in the IT industry. And ended up in the IT industry and started building a business with my business partner. And I enjoyed that.
But I got to the point where I have a need to create.
You know, I was building a business, which was fun. But I wanted to get back into working with my hands and building things.
I find it very rewarding. I always say people are usually motivated by accomplishment.
And when I was building the business, I felt very accomplished and I felt very satisfied, but came to a point where we were comfortable and in a good position and kind of.
[14:04] Stable. So I found rad cleaver on Instagram, my wife got me on the Instagram because I was into guns and things like that. And I, found a rad cleaver one day on on Instagram, I contacted Colin and I said, Hey, man, how do I get one of these? And this was years ago. Because this price is gonna seem ridiculous. But he, said, it's $2,500 in six months. I said, Okay, he said, I need, the money up front. I said, Oh, okay. It's that kind of thing. Um, so I went to a buddy and I said, Hey man, I think if you can machine this, I'm pretty sure I can get this done.
Um, so we, I came up with the stray, the flipper stray was my first design.
Uh, and we had some water jet, uh, blanks cut and started trying to make a knife.
Um, so we think I had six sets that we, we cut. Um, and we went to town on doing that. And it It was right before Blade Show 2016, I think. 2015, 2016.
And we were working really hard to get out. We were going to go to Blade Show for the first time.
So we were working really hard to get some knives done.
And out of six knives, we kind of finished two.
[15:15] And I took them to Atlanta and started showing people. And you're going to hear me talk about the knife community multiple times.
And I'm sure because one of the things that was so rewarding was the reaction we got from people.
I mean, looking back, they were not great knives. I mean, I have one locked away somewhere, never to see the light of day because I wouldn't look back and say what an accomplishment we did.
But it was the knife community people looking at them and saying, yeah, this is pretty good.
You can do this. If you really put your mind to it, you can do it.
You could really improve this. And the advice we got from older makers, we had a little lock rock in there and went over to a couple other makers and they said, Oh, here's what you're doing.
[15:55] Your stop pin's a little low and lockup should be here. And so it's that kind of community where, an older knife maker isn't threatened by the young guy coming in. They're actually more than happy to help you step forward and improve the product so that you can push the the industry a little further, which is so much fun. I mean, I encourage new makers to do that all the time. So, so yeah, that's what really got us going. We caught the bug from there.
And then, you know, I was coming home every night, you know, after work, I'd have dinner with the family, put my kids to bed and go outside to the garage from 830 to one in the morning.
[16:39] And try to make nines.
Okay, so you jumped right in to the most, I mean arguably, the most difficult kind of knife to make, a modern tactical style folder, locking folder.
Oftentimes, almost always, it seems like people start with fixed blades and gradually find themselves making folders or take the jump into folders and it's a concerted sort of effort.
What kind of challenges did you come up against starting with folders?
All of them. There are so many. Still to this day, there are so many things about making folding knives that are frustrating.
When you're starting off, it's just terribly irritating. If you're a perfectionist like I am, it's not going to be perfect no matter how many times you want it to be in that initial process.
I met some great makers. I'll take that back.
Met some great makers that pulled it off but I'm very stubborn. I like folding knives.
I like the fidgety factor of them. I like the break on the detent, the lockup and those are the things that still keep me interested. I recommend that any knife maker start with fixed blades but yeah, we jumped right into folders just because it was... That's what we're into not fully understanding the challenges that were in front of us, but.
[18:06] But remaining consistent and trying to do it again and again and again, improving the product and still trying to improve the product.
You know, like I said earlier, we've entered these awards before and fallen short, but it was one of those, you gotta do better. You gotta understand what you're doing wrong and continue to step up.
And I'm motivated by all the other makers around me.
And that's one of the benefits of going to these knife shows is that you have so many great makers around you and you get to feel the product, you get to talk to them about what they're doing and see their challenges.
And because we're all willing to share our challenges and the things that we've improved on and how we're doing it.
Because I tell people all the time, I could explain to you how to make a folding knife, but the real challenge is understanding how to correct it when it goes wrong without ruining the whole thing.
And that just comes with time and experience. with the kind of materials you're dealing with.
You know, even if you're not dealing in super exotic materials, it's all expensive.
Blade steel, titanium, you know, and the time you put into it also equals money.
So, yeah, you don't want to have to throw it in the scrap heap or the bucket of unfinished knives, you know.
We all have them. We all have them. I know Natty from Black Snow Knives is one of my influences that I've always looked up to his work.
And when he started messaging me and saying, Hey, how are you doing that? Or.
[19:36] How are you working with this deal? That was a big pride moment for me.
It was very interesting. I took a step back and thought, Wow, I must be doing something good.
[19:47] But I know I've talked to him about some of his builds where he said, Oh, you know what?
I'm just going to put this one in the box then. Which a black snow, you know, his standard is, here for most of us. It's probably just a fine knife, right? I mean, it probably worked just great, but it wasn't quite where he wanted it to be. But yeah, we all have a big box of knives that will never see the light of day. And I get offered money for them all the time because they're not horrible. It's just not where it needs to be. But you can't put that out in the world. You have have to keep.
Keep your standard someday that might that might that knife might end up on the secondary market and then someone gets a hold of it and they don't know the back story about how it was negotiated for and how it's a second or whatever it's interesting how sometimes people like yourself who already have a love of certain type of night with these kind of, modern folders and you have your you already have your preferences for.
How it should feel on the release of the lock and the detent break and all of the things that as a someone who loves knives and fidgeting with them, you already know going into it what you're trying to achieve and then it and then it also seems like there are some makers who, and this is in no way a diss, but who rely on feedback from, from the crowd, oh, we want this to feel more like this.
[21:17] We want this to be more like that, and then they can assimilate that and perfect their craft.
How much do you rely on or not on feedback and that kind of thing?
I think feedback's always important. I mean, I don't mind listening to everybody's input on what we do.
I don't get offended. I mean, even if somebody doesn't like what we're doing, I totally understand that it might not be for them.
Um, but at the same time, I feel like sometimes when you're asking somebody, Hey, is this okay? Or, Hey, what kind of detent do you like?
Sure. Some people like a strong detent. Some people like a lighter detent.
They want the blade to fall.
But if you'll ask them honestly, what they want is a crisp break, the blade to fall the lock to work.
I mean, it's, it, to me, sometimes it's a moot question because you know what you want, right?
You want it to work. You want it to flip every time you want it to not fall out when you shake it, you want the lock to be so solid that you could, you know, hammer a nail with it. Sometimes that's an odd expectation. You shouldn't expect that from our stuff. But, um, but you know, there's always always people. Um, and I find I have found in what we do that, um, you, you know what you're shooting for.
And if you really need to ask that, I mean, you probably if you search your soul, you know the answer to it.
[22:36] Um, so I like the input. I like people telling me, you know, we took all our prototypes to blade show Texas this, this for this year. Um, and I liked watching people interact with them, uh, flip them, uh, and you know, some, some geometries and it might not be perfect.
So I got to go home and change them and make the alterations so that it flips a little easier. So that everybody's a little bit more pleased with it. But again, I mean, even if that knife is perfect. You know, like, not this one's far from perfect, but you know, it was good enough to get some accolades. It still doesn't mean that it's, you know, everybody's knife or that everybody's going to be into it. Somebody is always going to dislike things. I added some pretty heavy jimping to the top of this blade up here. And although I like it and you know, I put my thumb on it before it went and it's not sharp enough to cut you or anything like that. But I got a lot of input from people that said it was too aggressive and they weren't into it because it was, it looked looked like a little bit much. But when I went back and tried to make it smaller and adjust it, the blade didn't look right. It looked too fat and it added a lot of weight to it, that visual weight to it that I didn't want in there. So you make design decisions based on.
[23:49] The input that you have and the goal that you're trying to get at.
Because that has a lot to do with it, right?
So it could be kind of a numbers thing, especially when you're bringing prototypes to a place like Blade, and several hundred people are handling it, and you get a preponderance of comments on the same thing.
Ah, this hurts my finger. You need to take a little bit off of the flipper tab.
Now, I don't know if people are that bold to be talking to someone such as yourself in that kind of way.
[24:21] But still, you might get the idea that there are certain things that need to change just through the sheer numbers.
So by the way, this is neither here nor there. I love that big style jimping.
It reminds me of some of my big, beefy, tactical fixed blade knives, you know?
And I do love that. I also incidentally love the way it feels.
I love big jimping, just the way it feels on the thumb. Yeah, that was one of those things that jumped out.
If you look at a lot of our designs, And we don't use it a lot at all. Even the gentle jumping, a lot of our... A lot of my first designs are very sleek and modern and seamless. And we didn't go into a lot of that stuff, partially because we weren't set up for it and didn't know what we're doing.
[25:09] And secondary, it's just my style. I like the smooth lines and things like that.
But with this design, I was really going for something tactical.
And, you know, something a little bit outside of what we had been doing previously.
And I think it went really well. I like getting into genres, right?
If I'm trying to whip it, I was going for kind of a stiletto look, right?
Something thin and long and pointy, which I got there, but a flipper tab is not very much a stiletto, right?
It's just something that I felt like fit the design and worked well with it.
So, but yeah, I get it.
It's a preference thing and I like to touch a lot of different factors in there.
I think that one worked out.
So as Jim is scrolling through your page, I see certain...
[26:07] Well, each knife kind of looks different, But they all look like they're coming from the same hand.
How do you go about designing a knife?
Do you get an idea for something that you want to accomplish with the knife and then start drawing or is it more of an automatic process?
Process, how does that work.
Yeah, I appreciate that. Actually, my buddy Israel from Arcane Design came out last year to build a knife with us. And he said the same thing. He said, they all look very different, but I can see your influence on all of them.
[26:43] He said I have a vibe that goes with all the different knives. I actually disagree.
I don't see it all the time, but I like to start with blade shapes. I always start with those. I like to sketch the blade first. That's for some reason that's what really gets me attached to a design is the, I'm going to say speed of it. You know, the lines pulling a line across a page and then making it cohesive in a style that I can grind. That's always where I start one of our more iconic designs is called the Alpha. And I was sketching the Alpha.
[27:21] It started as a cleaver and I kind of took a little bit off here and I changed the angle there and then kind of turned into a sheep's foot. And then I remember drawing the line to kind of abbreviate the front of it, looking at it and saying, yeah, that's it. You know, that's something I can work with. And then what I really enjoy about designing folders versus fixed blades or anything like that is then you can take that blade and you have to make it nest in something else, right? Yeah, this is a cool blade shape, but can I take that blade shape and make it nest in something functional? And that's what really got me addicted to folders was that that, you know, again, working in that restriction to say, I can't just do whatever I want, I have to make this now come in here and fit the function in there and get the detent right and the lockup and you know.
Those are my favorite things about it so i always start with the blade shape first.
I get something that works and then i'll put it in i'm pretty basic i put it in adobe illustrator and i trace out my blade shape and then i start.
Pulling some lines and getting some function put in there and seeing if that works and i've designed a lot of blade shapes that absolutely could not nest in something it just or they could but it wasn't.
Didn't seem functional to me, you know, the back of the handle was lower than the, Bottom of the blade or you know, it just didn't work out so I've abandoned a lot of designs because of that, but it's interesting I, like you said the page looks very different right every night has a little bit a different flair in it, but.
[28:49] They all have a similar vibe as far as you know, how they go in a lot of blade in a little package or or, you know, I try to push it in that aspect a lot.
That's actually something I was gonna mention. I'm unabashedly shallow and looks really, when it comes to knives, and looks really mean a lot to me.
And something that your knives really have in spades is the handle to blade ratio is so good to me, like pleasing, you know, it's the right amount of handle for the amount of knife.
Sometimes, and this is just my cursory analysis, sometimes you can achieve that from a fatter blade and a thinner handle, or you can do a sort of measuring and say, it's exactly a half inch from the pivot and therefore it is a perfect, from the center of the pivot to the end.
Whatever it is, you can see.
It looks like the blade and the handle are almost the same size.
And for some reason, that's really important to my eye.
And that's that's one of those unifying characteristics of your designs, I think.
Yeah, I have a hard time and it's challenging because I have a hard time.
[30:08] Fitting the fasteners in there sometimes because I don't want to add a bunch of, material to the back of the knife and that becomes very challenging at some point.
I just saw you guys scrolling through the page. We just announced this today. This is a our first production knife. I think it's a pretty good example We're talking about with a lot of blade and a little packaging.
[30:28] But the tip here, although you can't you know, it's important. You don't catch your finger on it, So I'm not gonna catch your finger on it, but it goes all the way back there when it's open It's actually pretty large for a small knife It's a lot of blade in there and to your your point the proportion it looks like all, This blade is about the same length here But I believe the blade is to the end here. It's about three inches.
And then the blade overall is just under seven. So there's significantly more on the back. It just doesn't really have that look to it.
[31:00] Which knife is this? Okay. So this is our first production knife.
We're going to do with a Riat. We're calling it Fido.
The Fido. So it's a, it's a flipper knife. It's got one of those little micro flipper tabs on the back. It's kind of hard to see.
Hard to see. Yes. So it's a tiny little little button there. And then you just kind of pull down on it light switch not button that opens it. This was one of the things I was talking about at Blade Show watching people interact. It was the first time that we'd had it out where people could see it. And with that little flipper tab, we were kind of curious if people, you know, it jumps out of there, it works really well. And we're flipper knife guy, folding knife guys. So it was easy for us, but getting it on the table and watching people walk up and pick it up, whether they were folding knife people or not, and be able to open it, which I would say 96% of the people, walked right up, kind of looked at it, couldn't figure out what was going on. And I explained it and soon as I got it once, it was, they were really pleased with it. So we got a really good, really good response on that. We did in titanium and carbon fiber as well. So this This is the black DLC in carbon fiber with brass.
[32:14] Wow, I gotta say, well, first a couple of things. First, I'm surprised that 96% didn't know.
I thought you were gonna say intuitively dragged their finger across that.
Oh no, no, I mean, I don't know if it was intuitive. You almost can't see it, right?
I mean, when you look at it, you almost don't know how to open it.
They would, they kind of pick it up and look at it and do one of these, you know, your grandfather's knife.
And then I'd say, oh, there's a little button on the back. And 96% of people did, you know, pull their finger down and get it. The ones that couldn't get it really, really struggled with it.
I love the cutting edge. I love the shape of that blade. I love the way it dips down, has a belly. It reminds me a little bit of a like a traditional Spanish knife, at least the cutting edge part of it. It's really pretty.
[33:02] That's great. I appreciate that. I'm actually majority Spanish and a Spanish citizen. Oh, wow. Yeah.
Yeah, that is fun that you say that. But yeah, it's probably a little bit of my heritage in there coming out. That is cool. So and Riyadh, how has it been working with Riyadh? You you're a maker of your own fine fine knives, and then you hand over a design to them. How did that feel?
Um, I'll tell you what. The reason that we've waited so long to do this is because I feel like Riyadh makes an extremely quality product. And I was anxious to work with them. Out, of everybody else now, you know, again, the industry pushes each other up right at the time that we had kind of gotten into this It was almost two years ago.
[33:53] The standards were being raised up a little bit here, up a little bit there.
They're all great companies. We look forward to working with all of them. I'd love to do a WeKnife. I'd love to work with Best Tech, but, to me, especially with this little design and little flipper, Riat makes a really quality product. It's not always the easiest to deal with, unfortunately.
I wish that was a little bit different, but there was really no problem in handing off my product to them. I knew that they were going to do a great job with it, and they did.
I think most makers would hesitate to send a little flipper tab knife like that to anybody just because it takes a lot to make that work properly.
And they nailed it the first try.
I made some revisions on the aesthetics but even the first, I have one of the first prototypes here I changed it up a little bit. This one had a little bit different blade shape than the other one.
But they made it, I pulled it out of the package and it just flipped exceptionally.
Exceptionally. It's gonna be hard to see the changes there, but this one has a little bit more of a hesitation on the bottom of the blade here. Yeah. But yeah, I mean, they've been fantastic with their product and working with us and taking our input and saying.
[35:04] You know, that's not what we do, but here's how we do it. And you got to trust them. They make a lot of quality knives. So I'm not going to sit there and tell them their business. I'm gonna.
[35:13] And tell them what I want. And, and hopefully they can accomplish that. And they certainly have. So I would love to work with them more, hopefully a little bit faster next time.
Yeah, actually, I'm not surprised to hear that they nailed it first time out. I, I too love we invest tech and have immense respect for for all three of those companies and and others. But Riyadh, they seem to have to date nailed the most in terms of variety of designs and innovations that are coming from knife makers such as yourself. So you know, that little tiny flipper tab, that's not something we've seen too often.
And to send them that and have them have them just nail I would imagine a lot of that relies on exactness in the layout of the pivot area.
Yeah, it's a geometry thing, right? The leverage of having this above above your pivot area, and your lockup and all those things so that you get that proper leverage without laying on it too much and getting enough area, you know, we angled the top of this so that your finger kind of pulls down the top of it and hits that button.
But no, folding knives is amalgamation of so many different little things that make it work right and get that thing working so that it does everything you want every time.
It's very difficult.
[36:39] And rewarding to people such as myself who you know that the moniker knife junkie is kind of a joke but it's kinda not you know and there are so many knives that i love and that i see and that i want and.
So many of them are out of reach i'll just put it that way and to be able to know that i can get a fight somewhere down the road.
Is exciting because looking at your knives, they are labored over exquisitely.
The materials are, sometimes they look absolutely insane.
[37:18] Tell me a little bit about your process in the actual making of the Keenison knives, your custom knives, and the materials you use.
What dictates where you go with that? I mean, it seems very exotic.
[37:35] Yeah, so again, my background is in industrial design. I love materials. It's really what got me into this, you know, black Damascus and zirc and zircotai and everything Chad Nichols does and different steels. I was always, you know, I always wanted to play with them.
That was, that was really one of the things that got me into making folding knives. But What really pushed us over the edge material wise was meeting my buddy Matt from Hawksnest, Hawksnest Customs or whatever he calls it.
Matt is a material genius. The things that he knows about my cartas and Bakelite and the histories and who made them and where they came from and identifying what it is, it's second to none.
I've never met anybody that could do it the way he does it.
And I remember seeing one of his posts and reaching out to him and saying, Hey, man.
[38:35] I'd love to get some of this, you know, what is it and how do I use it?
And he helped us through the process. Oh, you want to back this or you don't want to back it, you want to leave this there, send it like this, don't buff it, whatever it was, he'd help us through it.
But the more we got to know each other and become friends, the more I just kind of latched on to the things he was excited about so that I could use them.
But the process is really easy. Like I said, I'm a material hoarder, especially after knowing Matt.
So we have a toolbox in the shop full of carbon fibers and micartas and blade steels and all kinds of different stuff.
[39:12] So what I typically do is go into the box and I'll pull out a blade.
Blade steel and put it on the table and rummage through the box a little bit and say, well, one, how elaborate do we want to get with this? We want to keep it a little bit more simple or we're going for the stars here.
Just line them up. This is yellow, this is red, this is blue.
Let's see what else that has some cohesion there.
It's like fashion, a lot like getting dressed in the morning.
You don't put some green pants with a bright magenta shirt. Some people do. I'm not that guy. But it's a lot like fashion design or anything like that.
You pick a vibe and a color and things that go together. I'm lucky to work with another guy.
His name is Will Walker. He's a younger guy that started working with me a couple years ago.
And Will and I will sit down at the table with a bunch of material and go through it and say, Well, how about this? What about this? If we want to use this for a bolster, Is that the right thing? Can that handle it? Or how do we need to approach this?
[40:20] And because we have a lot of those things in the shop, we can grab each one and put it on the table and see how that works. And if we don't have everything we need, I call Matt up. And, he moved from Tennessee to Austin a couple years ago. So I'm, again, lucky enough to be able to say, Hey, Matt, I'm on my way up there. I need something read, pull some stuff out so that we can, look at it and check it out. But now you know it's not just Matt. I mean there's so many great material companies out there, great carbon fiber companies and, and things like that. Camo Carbon is my buddy Andy. He was right next to us at Blade Show Texas. He makes a great product. Great colors, great carbon fiber, and just like a lot of the carbon fiber guys these days he's trying to get Cargo quarks.
Uh, equivalent out there so that we have something like that to work with again. But, uh, yeah, I just.
[41:12] I love pushing it. I like not doing the same thing again. Um, somebody asked me, well, hey, why don't you guys just do 10 of the same thing and sell them? Uh, just not that we can't and not that it's impossible, but at some point I get a little bit bored. Um, just like everybody else, I'm excited to take that material, glue it up or bolt it down, whatever we do and put it on on the sander and contour it and see what colors come out, what patterns come out and, how they drive together.
We did one for this show, one of our new models called the Wolfhound.
And a great, great guy, Mike Dunn, MD Edgeworks, had sent me this little billet of his Feather Damascus last year.
[41:53] And it was sitting on my table. And I couldn't find the right project for it.
It was a little thinner than we usually work with.
[42:01] But all the knives I came out with this year are a little bit thinner, a little bit lighter.
[42:05] And then I saw Alpha Knife Supply come out with this new pattern.
I don't know what they call it, but it was kind of a V, just like the feather pattern was and I said, well, that's it. I mean, I need that piece and I need to pair it with this blade.
And we need to put it on this knife just because all the lines kind of went together like that.
It was pretty awesome. It came out really well.
But I think, just like anybody, you have that eye.
If you're into it, if you're into cars or whatever it is, you keep your ear to the ground and you find what's new and what people are into and you kind of have a feeling you know what you're gonna do with it.
But like I said, I have so much stuff at the shop now, Westinghouse and Antique This and Rag That. And it's fun.
So you're talking about everybody's eye is a little bit different.
And I am more of a Westinghouse, my card a guy, I guess, or just a my card a guy oftentimes.
And one thing that I see in Keenison Knives is you don't have what I sometimes call the Mr. Furley issue. You remember Mr. Furley from Three's Company?
You know, he'd have some crazy shirt and a crazy leisure suit and scarf.
And it's like all these conflicting patterns. And you can take patterns and put them together and have them harmonize or you can just take, patterns and kind of put them together.
To, you know, it's not something I can explain what looks good to my eye, but it seems like.
[43:33] The way you combine materials with Mr. Walker, you have just the right amount without going overboard, without dazzling too much and you have the ability to look at the rest of the knife as well as the materials.
Yeah, you got to let them sing. I mean, again, it's a lot like fashion, right? If you have pinstripe pants. You don't always want to pair it with a different, you know, What do you call it?
Yeah, polka dots and right. Yeah, it pays leave. That's what I was looking for a paisley shirt. Yeah again people do it it's not unheard of and some people pull it off really well, but, I'm a consider myself a little bit more understated You got to have something that's the star and something that's kind of a secondary read the secondary.
[44:25] Aspect of what's going on? So if you take a a sandwich Westinghouse micarta that has a lot going on, a lot of patterns, a lot of textures. You don't want to put that next to something else that has a lot of texture, otherwise it's going to take away from it. So, use something a little bit more solid, something that's going to jive with it.
But yeah, I try to be very conscious of that. Not overdoing it, not putting too much in there but letting the materials be the star. Fashion and food too, right? I love food so much. But when somebody puts a plate together, they try to let the feature be the feature.
You want to taste that beef or that fish or whatever it is so that it's the star of the show and everything else is just making it better. I like to do that with knives.
And the Damascus steels, right? We're talking about the handle materials, but a lot of the Damascus steels are just epic these days. And the things that Baker Forge and Chad Nichols and Vegas Forge, the things that they're doing with these patterns and the cord steels, it's so great.
[45:28] The guys at Vegas Forge are some close friends of ours. I mean, they all are. All those guys, are close friends of ours. But Jesse and Jeff, I've known them for a long time. And, they're really pushing their patterns a lot, adding Rose and all these other things, Rosebud.
And when you grind them, they look completely different than they did before you started.
And you can't always know what that's going to look like. But you hope that this has a lot of lines, then let's make that work with something else. But it's, something I'm very passionate about. I love the materials. I love putting that stuff together. And I think a lot of what we do is.
[46:05] Not not necessarily frowned upon or nobody scared to do it necessarily but it's it's again it's untraditional to use materials in the way that we use them sometimes so again that's a challenge.
We've learned that some things have to be back more than others and some of the styles that one of my major influences is peter carry.
Yeah, I think Peter uses materials exactly the way they should be used when he uses carbon fiber. It is, Amazing. It's it's it's gonna sit perfect. It's I mean, he's done it for so long. He knows what works He knows what doesn't work. He knows what's gonna pick up in the corner.
[46:42] He knows what he likes to do and what he doesn't like to do And and most of all of his knives are fastened, you know a couple extra screws here And that's what holds the scales on, Whereas a couple of the knives we do, we tried to back, we just did one last week that had a copper backing on some brown paper micarta, kind of tortoiseshell with some Jade G10, and a copper line running between it, right?
So, we had a vision for what it was I needed to break up those two services, I wanted copper in between.
But then we also did copper on the back, so they're all kind of jive together.
And Will has a great influence on that as well. Sometimes I come up with an idea and he comes over and says, listen, this backspacer is not going to look right when we line all this and squish it together.
So let's go pick something else.
So it doesn't always hit right the first time, but sometimes we have to do it again.
But I think we both have that eye where we know when it's good and when it's bad, and we have the confidence to go back and change it if it's not right.
Well, it must not have been easy finding someone whose aesthetic resonates with yours so easily.
[47:54] Yeah. Not always. There's always somebody driving and somebody telling you when you should swerve.
I'd like to think that I'm sitting behind the wheel sometimes And then Will knows, you know, what to say when it's not right.
But, um, yeah, it, I think we've, we've been doing this together for now for, I think five or six years.
And I think, uh, at least initially he may not have been as much on board as he is now, but I think he's seen the progress of what we've done and people's response. I think it...
[48:31] He doubts me less sometimes when I throw things out there. I'll always throw out something crazy right for the next show I don't know what we're gonna do, but you know, we did one with with, Camo, I'm sorry camo carbon 80s colored carbon fiber and then we inlaid pink and orange bakelite, Hole, you know buttons in it, So we'll milled out the carbon fiber and turn down pieces of bakelite to fit each hole that he drilled. And then we set them in there. It was crazy. And when I came up with it, I think I sat there and I said, Hey, well, I got a crazy idea here. Bear with me. I know this sounds ridiculous, but I think it's going to be neat. And it was, it was received really well. But that's what I'm talking about. I mean, it's not something everybody would do. And a lot of people probably looked at it and said, that's absolutely ridiculous.
But, you know, it worked and we did it and some people liked it and it pushed it a little bit further, right?
Like we talked about.
Well, those guys weren't there then, you know, they were probably all born in the 90s.
They have no idea. Yeah, exactly. Exactly. You got it.
[49:40] Your business model seems to be kind of like a painter might operate or a sculptor might operate in that, well, like you said before, you're not making 10 of the same thing.
You're really, you know, you have a design or a catalog of designs and when you decide to make a certain knife, that's when you pull the paints and the chisels together and kind figure out what you're going to do with it.
Is that the way you wanna run the main part of the business and then kind of do your collaborations with Riyadh for expediency or?
Yeah, okay, so somebody came up to me early on and what we're doing and multiple people said, you know, this isn't just a knife, this is art, right? And I kind of don't love that. I mean, I appreciate it. It is art. It's pocket art, right?
I mean, what we, what all these guys try to do is, is make something better and create art.
[50:45] And so I started approaching it that way. I think initially when we started, like when we, when we did our alpha, our, our first alpha run, we tried to do 10, 10 knives, all black DLC coded, you know, slight variations here and there, but that, that was it. We were going to do 10 of them.
And it came out and people enjoyed it. But I think after that, I really realized that it's not as artistic as it could be. You know, if we're making art, let's make it artistic.
Let's, let's make it unique.
You know, everybody likes a lithograph, but everybody wants the only original.
Right. Um, so that's kind of how I see this is we realized we can only make so many knives, one of the, and it's a great problem to have one of the problems we have right now is we just can't make enough. We can't make them fast enough.
Um, and I want to continue to do that. And the reason for, you know, these RIAT or we have a US production knife coming out with Jim Vanderveldt from HMC Knives, hopefully in the next few weeks or months.
[51:46] That's what keeps the lights on, right? It's making handmade knives one-off is a very difficult business.
Again, it's not that we don't get paid for it, but nobody sees the ones we throw in the bucket.
We don't post the soft story of how terrible this one was and we throw it away.
It doesn't say anything good about us, how many we screwed up.
It's not going to play any violins and some sympathetic ear that, oh, you messed it up.
No, I mean, you want to know that your maker is doing the right thing. And if you accomplish it, better and faster and more efficiently than the next guy, it doesn't make it less, it makes it more. So the production stuff is what allows us to be more artistic, hopefully, because we've done well with this. But again, it's really terribly difficult to make a one-off handmade knives.
It's not a moneymaker. It's more of a labor of love is what I tell people, because we do love I mean, and just like Natty of Black Snow, I mean, you spent so much time on this thing, at any given point you can screw it up, right until you put it in the box, and even then when you take it to the show, somebody drops it, it's over.
So you can't put all those eggs in that basket, you gotta do something else.
So we're hoping that the production industry will give us a little bit of breathing room so that we can keep doing this.
Natty of Black Snow, isn't he a jeweler? Didn't he start as a jeweler?
Yes, he was a jeweler, and amazing. He and Lee Lerman are incredible.
[53:14] Wow. So who are your customers? What kind of knife guy or gal buys your knife?
It's a really interesting question. I get asked that, especially initially when I told people I was going to be a knife maker.
They'd always ask me, who buys that? It's a really broad segment, right?
I would love to tell you it's a bunch of guys driving Lamborghinis, but that's really few and far between.
There are some serious collectors out there that can drop a lot of money on a knife like that. But it's a very small segment.
To answer that, I get everybody from CEOs of major companies to kids in dorm rooms.
And I don't know how those guys are putting together a couple grand to buy a knife.
But I think in the knife industry, as you grow into it, you start with a Benchmade.
You have 10 benchmades, and then you see, you know, a small customer, you know, limited customer on knife, and you sell five benchmades and you you, you know, level up to that next one.
And then when you've saved for two of those, you kind of say, Hey, I like that one now. So you sell those two, and you kind of, step up the game to that next one. So it's, I think that's what keeps it broad is that that trade up kind of thing with when people sell their furniture on eBay and buy a car or something.
[54:35] It's always possible to take your collection and scale up. Yeah, that begs the question or talking about the materials and the kind of the preciousness of them is they also seem, at least in the design and like I said, I've never owned one.
And unfortunately, I've never even hefted one, but I'm going to have to change that at Blade Show this year. Yeah. Yeah.
But, but I'm presuming that they're also built like tanks because you're spending all of this time and energy on each individual one. And each one has to pass your muster before you let it leave.
I mean, that's the goal, right? They should all be more exceptional than the one before.
I mean, somebody always says, what's your favorite knife? It should always be the last one, right? You should always be pushing a little bit harder and accomplishing more.
Yeah, I mean, they should be built like things. I think it depends on the knife though, too, right?
We talked about the variation between this little guy and this big guy.
I consider this a tank. They both function the same way both have great lockup both can, Handle the beating this one is just hopefully gonna do it a little bit more a little bit longer I guess I don't know how to describe that but yeah.
[55:59] To that same note though, you know each knife I say has a personality Production knives they just work man. I mean this thing works every time it locks up. Perfect. It it jumps out of there. I mean, it's a wonderful knife. I say handmade knives have a warmth.
They have a personality and identity to them that I think is what people are attracted to.
[56:23] Some production knives can feel sterile, for lack of a better term, and not in a bad way.
It hits every point that you want it to. But handmade knives just... Some of them, you pick them up. And it's like a long lost friend that you've known for years that knife just spoke to you. It did the things you wanted and it behaved the way you wanted. To the same note, though, I've handled my first blade show. I one of the best things about blade show Atlanta, you said, you know, you said you've been there is the pit, right? The pit after the show, everybody's got their knives on the table. Some guys with $20,000 worth of knives and you walk over and you kind of hesitate, with it. Oh, yeah, pick it up, flip it, play with it. My first year out there was actually disappointed by a lot of the handmade knives that I picked up that I had been so reverent about. They didn't jump out of there the way I wanted them to or, you know, the lock had a little bit of stick. It's, unfortunate, but it happens. I mean, I had a really bad out of lock stick last month and had to had to work through some of that stuff. But yeah, I mean, a handmade knife is just a little bit deeper. It has, you know, like you said, you've looked over everything, you've spent time on the lock case, you've analyzed the detent, you've made sure that it, you know, doesn't have blade wobble, that it centers, you know, these are just the basics, though.
Those are the things you have to hit to even be in the conversation.
After that, you know.
[57:46] How well does it do that? How smooth is it? How easy is the lock? Is it satisfying?
Because sometimes, we've all picked up production knives where the detent was too strong on this one and it was light on this one, right? It's the same with productions. I mean, or I'm sorry, with handmaids. It's not always a foregone conclusion.
Some things are better than others, but we try. That's something I learned from...
I keep bringing up Natty. He's a big influence or Peter Carey, man.
[58:14] They just don't let it leave. If it's not what it should be, it just can't go out.
So I think that's one of the things that takes a lot of willpower sometimes.
It might be something tiny, something so little that it might not make sense.
But yeah, you just... Like you said, you expect that when you pick up a handmade knife, it's better than the other thing. That's something you have to strive for.
So it doesn't always come out that way. But hopefully, you accomplish it every time.
Right? I know what you mean about the warmth and the connection you get from a handmade knife. I have, I have a growing collection of handmade fixed blades. And most of them, many of them are carryable on a daily basis. I like to carry a fixed blade knife. And, and there is that connection to the maker, you feel that direct connection. But also each one you know, is a little bit different than the others. And.
[59:09] And if you've had any input in in what the materials are even more so it's yours. But it's also that maker's knife. And and that does that gives you Yeah, a different feeling. Then then an excellent, you know, production fixed blade. So when you hang up your cleats, you know, years and years down the road, what's the knife that you hope you've made at that point? Like, do you have some fantasy build? Or some fantasy? I don't want to call fantasy because fantasy knife is a thing. But I mean, do you have some knife that you dream about making.
[59:46] Uh, dream? Yes, I do, actually. Um, I recently was lucky enough to meet and befriend Edison from Sharkko Knives.
Um, and he's an amazing, amazing maker. Uh, and I've looked up to his stuff for a really long time.
One of the things, a couple of the things, and not many, one of the things that I'm all, you know, we're always striving to do better is, You know, the gaps on either side of the blade.
There's a very comfortable place there where the detent works well and everything's going, to flow and it's going to fall and it's going to do all the things you want.
And you can get comfortable with keeping that there. Keeping that gap consistent is obviously very important, but it could get thinner, right?
It could get closer.
[1:00:29] It could get Edison's knives, a lot of them, especially his early work, you can fit a piece of paper.
Barely fit a piece of paper between the blade and the scales when it's closed. And I've always admired that it's incredible the way that he does that. And then to make matters more complicated than you know, he does these knives with hidden hardware, Natty at Black Snow as well. He wrote one to USN last year that was his opiate. And there were no there's no hardware, right? I mean, there was no pivot, there were no screws, you couldn't see anything. And Edison does it equally as well. I saw one with white carbocords that he had that a friend of mine owns and the blade, you know, from the profile, it looked like the blade and the two scales were almost one piece. And then you open it and you know, there's no hardware, you can barely see a screw. And it's done just exceptionally. Every attention to detail.
[1:01:19] Mattered. And again, he upped the game by taking something that is very standard and very easy to do and making it more complicated. Which is again, something that I like to do is take something that's comfortable and make it more complicated. So those two things, you know, always pushing the tolerances. I would love to do something where I can hide all the hardware. It's really a very complicated process. So the way it's put together, and I'm not, I can't see myself taking a sideways screwdriver and ratcheting it, you know, you take these things apart, I tried to count one time hundreds of times in the process, 300 times to 400 times, just to get it to work before you before it goes out the door, right?
[1:02:01] And if I have to sit there with a sideways screwdriver and get that little screw out every time, it's gonna drive me bonkers.
So, trying to figure out some alternative way to put a knife together that hides all the hardware so that it's not all visible, that's something that is in my book of things to do.
Being able to do that without that sideways screwdriver will be the innovation, right?
My God. Exactly, exactly.
Well, Bryan, thank you so much for coming on the Knife Junkie podcast and sharing all this with us.
I really appreciate it. It's been great to get to know you a little bit here.
And man, I cannot wait to try one of your knives at the blade show or try whatever's left on the table by the time I get to it.
We try to keep them on the table these days so people can play with them, but yeah, I look forward to it Bob. It's really a lot of fun. Great, thank you sir. Thank you.
[1:02:51] Don't take dull for an answer. It's the knife junkies favorite sign-off phrase and now you can get that tagline on a variety of merchandise like a t-shirt, sweatshirt, hoodie, long-sleeve tee, and more. Even on coasters, tote bags, a coffee mug, water bottle, and stickers. Let everyone know that you're a knife junkie and that you don't take dull for an answer. Get yours at theknifejunkie.com slash dull and shop for all of your knife junkies merchandise at theknifejunkie.com slash shop. There he goes ladies and gentlemen Bryan Montalvo of Keanison Knives and if you didn't know he was an artist from looking at those beautiful knives you can tell he is by, by that instinct to make easy things more difficult.
[1:03:37] In the pursuit of artistic perfection.
Really great to meet him. Be sure to join us next week for another interview and of course Wednesday, the Midweek Supplemental and then Thursday Night Knives.
That of course is the start of the weekend is what I keep hearing so I'm gonna go with that.
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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