LUC Knives – The Knife Junkie Podcast (Episode 407)
Mike Donnelly of LUC Knives joins Bob “The Knife Junkie” DeMarco on Episode 407 of The Knife Junkie Podcast,
Mike calls himself a washed up YouTuber, but in this host’s opinion, he has a great channel with insightful videos on some great hand hard-to-come-by knives. He has made the transition to knife maker, and after a short time, is delivering on very refined and handsome fixed blade knife designs.
Mike started out as a knife reviewer on YouTube, but quickly found a passion for knife-making. He started by making his own knives and continued to refine his skills until he realized that making knives was something he truly enjoyed.
Eventually he put his YouTube channel on hold to focus on his craft, and has since been purchasing more equipment to continue improving his work. Today, while still serving his country on active duty in the U.S. Air Force,* Donnelly is a skilled part-time knife-maker growing his LUC Knives brand.
* Donnelly was on leave at the time of this recording, hence the beard.
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.Mike Donnelly of LUC Knives, a self-proclaimed 'washed up YouTuber' turned knifemaker, joins Bob on Episode 407 of #theknifepodcast #podcast to talk about his fixed blade knife designs. Click To Tweet
LUC Knives - The Knife Junkie Podcast (Episode 407)
The Knife Junkie Podcast is the place for knife newbies and knife junkies to learn about knives and knife collecting. Twice per week Bob DeMarco talks knives. Call the Listener Line at 724-466-4487; Visit https://theknifejunkie.com.
©2023, Bob DeMarco
The Knife Junkie Podcast
Welcome to the Knife Junkie podcast, your weekly dose of knife news and information about knives and knife collecting. Here's your host, Bob the Knife Junkie. DeMarco.
Bob DeMarco [00:00:16]:
Welcome to the Knife Junkie Podcast. I'm Bob DeMarco. On this edition of the show, I'm speaking with Mike Donnelly, proprietor of Luc Knives. I followed Mike when he was reviewing knives on YouTube as Knaf Sergeant. In fact, he inspired the purchase of one of my favorite folders to date. But what's more exciting than getting his take on other people's knives is seeing his own vision and skill develop as a knife maker. I have yet to check out any of his fixed blade knives in person, maybe hopefully at Blade Show, but I'd like to think I have a good eye. And from what I've seen of his work, he's off to a very auspicious start. His luck knives thus far sport a refined yet utilitarian look, and his craftsmanship seems to be beyond what you'd expect from a new maker. I'm excited to find out how he got started and where he plans to take luck knives. But first, be sure to like, comment, subscribe, and share this show. You can also download it to your favorite podcast app. And as always, if you'd like to help support the show, you can do that by going to the Knifejunkie.com/Patreon and checking out what we have to offer there. Again, that's thekjunkie.com/patreon.
You know you're a knife junkie if you plan your vacation around blade show.
Bob DeMarco [00:01:31]:
Hello, Mike. Welcome to the Knife Junkie Podcast.
Mike Donnelly of LUC Knives [00:01:33]:
Hey, thanks for having me, Bob.
Bob DeMarco [00:01:35]:
It's my pleasure, it's my pleasure. We've had a lot of glancing conversations on Thursday night Knives. Sometimes you'll tune in and I'll see your logo pop up, and it's always exciting to have a knife maker or someone, you know, from YouTube popping in. So I feel like, in a way, I know you already just from watching your videos. Anyway, thanks for joining us. Yeah, I want to congratulate you first and foremost on this transition you've made to knife making. I know you for longer as Knaf Sergeant reviewing knives. How did this take place? How did you go from Knaf sergeant to LUC Knives?
Mike Donnelly of LUC Knives [00:02:17]:
So, as you know, I was doing knife reviewing on YouTube for a little while, and when I do something, usually it tends to I get tunnel vision and a lot of time, other things kind of get overlooked, I guess. So I get really laser focused on doing YouTube videos, and stuff happened in my life where I just wasn't really able to I wasn't able to put out the level of quality of content that I was really wanting to. But even before that, I've always enjoyed making things. And in my channel, I did a little video series where I wanted to make my first ever knife, and then that one didn't turn out so great. I mean, it is still a functional tool, but it is definitely not really that awesome. And after I did that, I made another knife and then I made another knife and I kind of started realizing that something that I really enjoyed doing. So that is why I kind of decided to put the channel on hold. I put out a video every now and then. Nothing really all that crazy, but I've really started to focus more on making knives and I've started purchasing more and more equipment and that's kind of where I'm at right now. So it's something I'm really enjoying doing.
Bob DeMarco [00:03:36]:
Did you have to sell off a bunch of your knife collection to get equipment? I know a lot of people end up doing that.
Mike Donnelly of LUC Knives [00:03:42]:
Oh yeah, I sold off one of my Grail knives and just that knife alone. I was able to buy a two x 72 grinder and a couple of other things. Nothing like I got like a band saw and a few of the essentials for knife making really a Cadillac.
Bob DeMarco [00:04:03]:
What was the grail knife? You got to tell me.
Mike Donnelly of LUC Knives [00:04:05]:
It was a Frank Fisher fury, which now lives on in Dirk Warnings collection. So yeah, he shows it off all the time.
Bob DeMarco [00:04:15]:
But how did I know? How did I know that's where it ended up?
Mike Donnelly of LUC Knives [00:04:19]:
He always told me that if I was going to sell it to go to him first because he really wanted it. But yeah, I haven't regretted it yet, so I'm still enjoying this. Still learning. Definitely.
Bob DeMarco [00:04:32]:
Well, that first knife that you are calling not great actually looked really cool. If I'm thinking of the same knife. You used a really interesting sort of damaste steel and it was sort of.
Mike Donnelly of LUC Knives [00:04:49]:
Scalpel right here, probably. Yes, it is. Baker forge Damascus. Which honestly, if you're going to make your first knife doing fancy Damascus is probably not the route you want to go. You want to use material that is easy to heat treat and all that stuff. But honestly, the core of this blade is actually just adcrv two and that's what they say is to just heat treat it the same way as adcrv two, which is a relatively easy steel to heat treat. So that's kind of one reason why I was willing to do it. But it's kind of where your finishing work really comes through when it comes to the Damascus. That was just kind of the material that I already had on hand because I bought that for a future build to send off to a maker at some point. But I had it sitting around so I figured why not? So that's kind of where I got my start from, right there. And now I've went in, I have a whole pile of different knife making materials sitting behind me. So it's kind of a whole new sickness unto knife collecting at this point. Now I'm going to all the sites and looking at that stuff now going.
Bob DeMarco [00:06:09]:
And lurking around the handle materials section yeah. So how did you get into the knives? First, I want to really dive into your process and your designing and everything, but before we get there, I want to find out a little bit about your past with knives. I'm presuming you served in the United States Army, is that right?
Mike Donnelly of LUC Knives [00:06:32]:
Air Force. I am still currently in right now, still active duty. I'm on leave right now. I've been on leave for about, like, three weeks or so. That's why I kind of have the beard going on at this point. I've been serving for just a little bit over 14 years, so I got six more years to go, and this summer I'll be PCSing to a new station up in Utah. So that'll probably be the last base that I'll be at before I retire. And we haven't really decided where we're going to live after that, but I'm originally from upstate New York. I lived there pretty much my entire life before the military. Very rural area. I know it's kind of a weird thing to say because a lot of people just automatically think New York City, but a very rural area up there. Just having a knife is kind of a normal thing that you have on the day to day. I'm not like, out there bushcrafting or anything, just what we all do. Just opening stuff or anything that needs to be cut, really. I've always kind of had one in my pocket all the time, and then I didn't really get anything. I wasn't really aware of all the different levels of knife. I just kind of had, like, a crappy little Gerber knife. I think it was when I was a younger person. But it wasn't until I got in the military and I went my first deployment and I got issued a Gerber Six auto, which that one was actually pretty nice. It actually had a really nice snappy action to it, and it was really good. And around the time that I started my channel, I bought another one, and that one was not so good. But, yeah, it was at that point when I started kind of diving down the rabbit hole of looking into because it has giant letters like S 30 V, and I'm like, I don't know what that is. And so I start googling, and next thing you know, you're just on YouTube. So that's kind of how it goes, really.
Bob DeMarco [00:08:35]:
So you were issued an automatic in the Air Force?
Mike Donnelly of LUC Knives [00:08:39]:
Bob DeMarco [00:08:39]:
Wow. Can I ask what your job is in the Air Force?
Mike Donnelly of LUC Knives [00:08:46]:
Currently? I am a F 35 avionics specialist. Basically any sort of radios, flight controls, navigation, wire maintenance, any sort of thing like that, really, that breaks on the jet. I got to go out and fix it. And then before that, I'm currently at Nellis Air Force Base here in Nevada. I've been here forever now. It feels like before that, when I first got here, I was on the A Ten doing the same job. And then that squadron got contracted out to civilian contractors, so we got forced cross train over to F. Before that, I was working on the U Two, the spy plane.
Bob DeMarco [00:09:31]:
Oh, my God. Okay. So Mike, in an earlier part of my life, I did a series called Firepower for Discovery Military. And my favorite stuff was always the airplanes because my father served in the Air Force. By the way, thanks for your service, especially 14 years of it. My God. And he was at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma. And I guess my dad, I got my love of airplanes from him just this very night. I saw four F 16s fly over when I was taking my daughter somewhere, which was very cool for me anyway. But Nellis, I used to get a lot of footage from the test sites at Nellis to put in my show. And the A Ten Warthog is by far my favorite airplane, but I always thought it was cool that they were going to transition over to the F 35, which seems like kind of an opposite type airplane in terms of just seems so space age and sophisticated. I don't know. And then the u two. That's amazing.
Mike Donnelly of LUC Knives [00:10:35]:
Yeah, u Two is actually probably my favorite airplane to work on. That was the plane that I also did all my deployments with. And I went to Korea for a year on the YouTube as well. So a lot of traveling. It was fun.
Bob DeMarco [00:10:49]:
Wow, that is cool. Well, yeah. Upstate New York. I went to college in upstate New York. And yeah, there is a lot more to the state of New York than New York City. Like a whole lot more. So you were carrying knives because it was just a part of your lifestyle, and then you got involved in the Air Force, got issued the one great Gerber. I guess it started from there. So how did you get into making.
Mike Donnelly of LUC Knives [00:11:17]:
YouTube videos that started pretty much in the middle of COVID I don't know, I was just kind of out of boredom. I was watching a lot of Metal Complex and Slicy dicey and all those guys at the time. And I actually was because I originally bought the Hoback Sumo when it first came out, and there was no videos on YouTube on it at all. And I figured, I'm going to try this thing out. So I made the first video on the Hoback Sumo on YouTube and that kind of just went from there. And then I sent that off to Metal Complex, and he proceeded to blow it up. And I was doing daily videos for probably about six months or so. And my channel is actually seeing tremendous growth. But like I said, I got that tunnel vision. So stuff that should have got a little bit more attention didn't get quite as much attention. So I kind of reeled it back a little bit, pumped the brakes. So I kind of started not putting out quite as many videos, but I was really trying to increase the quality of those videos. Like I was doing music and broll and all that kind of stuff. But even then, eventually that started to become almost kind of like a job, even though I wasn't even getting paid for it because it's just a hobby for me. And then, like I said, I decided to do the whole knife build project, and I took a lot more interest into that.
Bob DeMarco [00:12:52]:
Okay, so a lot of famous knife makers I'm thinking of the guy who I don't remember his name. Who started SOGG, and Ernie Emerson and a number of others who are escaping me at the moment, started in aerospace. And in one engineering or one aspect or another, how did your expertise in maintaining avionics in the most high tech airplanes that exist, how did that guide you when you started making knives?
Mike Donnelly of LUC Knives [00:13:30]:
Honestly, that has nothing to do with my knife making. Because when it comes down to doing CAD and all that stuff, I have no clue. I have no sort of engineering degree or anything like that. But growing up with my dad, my dad does own a contracting company. So all the way up from when I was like a little kid up until before I left for the military, I've been pretty much building houses with him, and I work on all my own cars and stuff, so I am pretty mechanically inclined. So when it comes down to making things and all that sort of stuff, I do take to it pretty quickly. And when it comes down to actually nice making, I watch a lot of YouTube. Whenever you trying to figure out how to do anything, YouTube is always a great resource. Really? Yeah, a lot of Walter sorrels and I'm still to this day, I'm still trying to figure out how to grind and just do everything better. Pretty much. It's all still a learning process for me.
Bob DeMarco [00:14:37]:
So this most recent knife, you posted a video on the Squall?
Mike Donnelly of LUC Knives [00:14:43]:
Bob DeMarco [00:14:44]:
Man, that is really beautiful. And I'm looking at it just on screen on my phone or on my laptop, and it looks really like I said up front, it looks very refined in the grinding to me. And I'm like, Wait a second, this guy just started this. Am I being dazzled by the actual metal that the actual steel he used, or am I looking at this right? It looks so good, even with you have a swedge running along the top.
Mike Donnelly of LUC Knives [00:15:16]:
Yeah, I think you're talking about where'd.
Bob DeMarco [00:15:20]:
You go, oh, yeah, it was here somewhere.
Mike Donnelly of LUC Knives [00:15:25]:
Oh, my God. Well, this is awkward. This one right here? Yes. I made this one for an Instagram knife building competition. Even though I am definitely a beginner, still, I figured, what do I have to lose, really? I mean, might as well give it a shot. So, yeah, this is Baker Forge, Ice Storm, Raindrop Damascus, and it is a San Mai style feel, as you can see right here. This is also an Ad cr v two core. And I just love the way that Sandmai Damascus looks. And it also has a really good functional factor to it because it has a performance steel as a core. And like I said, I'm pretty much a custom knife collector at this point, even though I know a lot of people don't. I really do like the fancy materials. I did watch Dr. Frankie's Channel for a long time, so I do kind of like that stuff. And I decided to also make the scales also the same Damascus material. And then just to make it a little bit crazier, you can't really see it very well on the camera here, but there's turbo glow liners, so in the dark, those glow blue. And, yeah, I've not done very many swedes on knives, but I definitely wanted to take my time and do this one right because I messed up a few, so I've messed up quite a lot, actually, but definitely took my time on this one, and I'm pretty happy with how it came out. It's also only the second knife where I did, where I actually use a Removable hardware. That was kind of a new thing for me, too.
Bob DeMarco [00:17:09]:
What is the challenge with using Removable hardware?
Mike Donnelly of LUC Knives [00:17:12]:
It was just figuring it all out, and you kind of have to grind everything down to fit. You have to have it, like, size right, and you got to have the right chamfering tools and all that kind of stuff because I'm kind of in the process of I don't have quite all the tools that I need, but I'm not trying to buy everything right now because, like I said, we're moving to Utah. So I'm not trying to have a whole bunch of stuff to move. But once we get to Utah, that is when to get my little shop area fully kitted out. At that point, I would like to more long term goals. I would like to get a mill because right now it's kind of a pipe dream, but I really would like to start making folding knives at some point. But it is quite complex and I'm not quite sure how to do it yet, but I need that. I do still need to get a heat treating oven because all the knives that I have right now, I'm still heat treating using a forge that I made. It's a very rudimentary one, but it's easy to take down. So when we move, I can easily just take it down and move it pretty easily. And I got to give a shout out to Super Steel Steve when he came on your podcast because I had no idea that those thermo Crayons existed, that they melt at a certain temperature. Those make heat treating so easy. It's not like an absolute super accurate, but it definitely helps with a lot more accuracy than what I was doing where you just kind of check with the magnet. And I do have a couple of magnet cut knives, but I actually sent those off to transparent knives to have him heat treat them.
Bob DeMarco [00:18:58]:
Mike Donnelly of LUC Knives [00:18:59]:
Yeah, until I get my own heat treating oven, that's kind of what I have to do with stainless steel.
Bob DeMarco [00:19:04]:
Well, a couple of things here, I think first of all, it's pretty audacious to start with such high end materials. I mean, even though you had it laying around for some future custom build. But in a way did starting off with exotic steels, exotic meaning baker forge. Did that put your feet to the fire and really force you to be serious about it?
Mike Donnelly of LUC Knives [00:19:34]:
Yeah, a little bit. Because those first few knives, when you use that kind of steel, you can definitely tell like once you finally put it in that final etch. And you put the final finish on it, you can definitely tell. You can see all the little scratches and stuff still that are still in the blade. So you definitely kind of find out that you definitely can't half asset whenever you're doing your final finish work. Like all your hand rubs and all that kind of stuff. It was a good learning process, but yeah, I would definitely recommend if it's something you're wanting to consider doing to start making knives, you definitely want to use a more basic steel. Like I said, it was all I had around, so that's kind of what I just went with. I have a lot of regular ones now too. Like, I have these ones right here. These ones are like a regular 52 100 steel, which is actually a steel that's been around for forever. But for what? I have my equipment down in my garage. This is a steel that as long as I follow the recipe for it, I can pretty easily get it up to 62 63 HRC. So that's kind of what I was going for. It is just meant to be a small lightweight, just an EDC, something you can carry in your pocket. This has a belt loop on the sheath. I do have pocket clips I can put on the sheath as well. But yeah, it's just meant to be just a good everyday cutter and I just want it to be able to hold a good edge. And I like to make colorful things. I guess I don't always go straight for the OD green or the black. Despite being in the military, I've made that very clear on my channel before. I've never claimed to be any sort of combat veteran or anything like that. I know nothing about knife fighting, so just so you know.
Bob DeMarco [00:21:31]:
Well, you probably see enough black and OD green in your day to day. Can you hold that knife back up.
Mike Donnelly of LUC Knives [00:21:35]:
That's really when I wear it every day.
Bob DeMarco [00:21:38]:
Hold that knife back up. Let's see it. And let us take a look at this. You just made a small batch of, like, ten of these or something, right?
Mike Donnelly of LUC Knives [00:21:47]:
Yeah, like twelve or something like that. Yeah. This one is like Tiffany blue g ten with matching Tiffany blue g ten pins and the size of Tiffany blue kitex sheath. And I made a few of those. I still have more material left, but then I also got pretty much the same thing, but in ivory g ten and white kidex, kind of like a stormtrooper type look. I got a whole bunch of colors. Still got the Magna cut one with the Starry Night Kidex here with layered g ten. I go crazy with materials. And then I also even have right here we have a sandmai steel. It is the same core as the 50. It is 5100 core. So you're basically going to get the same performance out of it, but as the sandmai. And this has my personal favorite micarta. It is. It's a little dark, but vintage emerald green paper micarta. I have that I have so many different materials, it's kind of ridiculous.
Bob DeMarco [00:22:53]:
Wait, hold that one back up. That is stunning. With that micarta and the San Mai god, that's beautiful. So I really like the profile of these. This is what I was talking about up front. Like utilitarian, but elegant. They kind of look like little Japanese chef's knives in a way.
Mike Donnelly of LUC Knives [00:23:14]:
Yeah. Here's the one that it's my personal one right here. This is the same vintage emerald green paper micarta with titanium pins and Alabama Damascus blade, super thin. These are full hollow ground. That was intentional. I know a lot of people, they'll bring the grind higher up if they kind of mess it up, and it's not quite even. But it was my intention from the start to actually do a full hollow grind because that was actually inspired by this knife right here. Trevor Burger. This is Atlas, and I think all of his knives actually are full height hollow grind. And I love the way that these knives perform. These knives cut so awesome. So that's kind of what this was inspired by, because I wanted to have this sort of cutting performance out of my knives.
Bob DeMarco [00:24:04]:
I'm a big fan of that full height hollow grind, and my introduction to that was through the Jack Wolf knives there. Except for one of them, the slip joints, they all have that full height hollow grind. It gets real thin, and it stays thin for quite a while, for quite a distance up the blade. And, man, that makes it really well, like you said, an effective cutter. 52 100. Isn't that's the ball bearing steel?
Mike Donnelly of LUC Knives [00:24:35]:
Yes, it's been around based off the research I did. And that's another thing. I did a lot of reading Larryn Thomas's book, too, the knife engineering book. Read that thing. I do all kinds of research, but yeah, that steel, I want to say, has been around since like, the 20s or something like that. I know Spiderco has used it before on a Sprint run. Actually, I saw I forget which website, but there is some other what's his name, the guy that does the Kukri? Jason Knight. Yeah. He just put out some knives in 5100 as well, I saw. Yeah, that's still in use today. So it's a good, easily heat treatable, at least for what I have right now. And it's probably for the best because I'm not really like the super steels are way more expensive to buy, like bulk, like, large sheets of them. So it's good to start out on the cheaper stuff.
Bob DeMarco [00:25:37]:
Well, you talked about magna cut. Now what are the challenges that presents? Is it a fun deal to work but difficult to heat treat?
Mike Donnelly of LUC Knives [00:25:46]:
Well, because it's stainless, it has to be in a very controlled environment. When it's being heat treated, you definitely want to use for any stainless steel. Really, you definitely want to use a heat treating oven. And that's just not something I have. But I had a big bar of it again for a future custom build that I was going to send off, but I ended up not needing it. So I kind of made a bunch of blanks, and I sent those off to Brian for him to heat treat them for me. And I was able to make a few of them. One of them I messed up. And what I learned on that first one was it definitely overheats much faster than regular high carbon steel. You definitely got to be a lot more careful. Definitely keep it cold, keep it wet as much as possible.
Bob DeMarco [00:26:36]:
This is while you're grinding it. All right, so let's get into your process. So you do the heat treat before you put the bevels. Tell me about your process. Let's take it soup to nuts.
Mike Donnelly of LUC Knives [00:26:47]:
So I grind out the profile. Well, now, it used to be a lot more work. There used to be a lot more sacrificial material because for a while I didn't have the band saw, so that made everything so much better. Yeah, cut it out. And then I'll typically grind. You actually have an unground blank right here. So this is the same one as this one right here. What I do here is I'll get the profile. And then there's no choil, no finger choil right here. This line right here, this little vertical thing, I actually use that as the guide for my plunge grind. So I'll do like, a rough grind first. I won't quite go up all the way to the spine. I'll get it, like, probably about 70, 80% of the way. And then I'll heat treat it, and then I will finish it off at that point. And then after I finish it, that's when I grind in the finger choil. And yeah, it's just real comfortable in the hand, nice and small. I mean, I have medium sized hands, so I don't know how quite yet how it'll be for somebody with larger hands, but it's just a nice neutral ergonomic handle, really.
Bob DeMarco [00:28:05]:
So you were talking about keeping it cool and wet, meaning you don't want to spoil the heat treat by overheating it while you're finished grinding it or continuing with that bevel. Yeah.
Mike Donnelly of LUC Knives [00:28:24]:
More increasingly nowadays, people are quite they're very critical on heat treat. So while I like to do all kinds of pretty materials, I do want to ensure that it is a good functional blade. And I am one of those people too, where I would like a steel to be at the HRC that it should be. Because ultimately that's when you're going to get what's the point in having a fancy super steel if you're not getting it at its full potential, essentially like you're getting what you're paying for, I guess.
Bob DeMarco [00:29:03]:
Yeah, I mean, there's been a lot of talk about that recently, just about larger batch makers not maybe taking Magna Cut, especially up to its full potential. And the question is why, the closer you get to heat treating it exactly the way it should be, do you come closer to ruining it? That's my question. I am not a heat treat expert by any stretch of the imagination.
Mike Donnelly of LUC Knives [00:29:36]:
I don't claim to be either. I'm just trying to follow the protocol on what I'm reading on whether it be knife, steel, nerds or whatever, because I would like to get as much performance out of it as possible too. I know Brian heat treated all the magnet cut to 64 HRC, so.
Bob DeMarco [00:29:59]:
Mike Donnelly of LUC Knives [00:29:59]:
Pretty much up to me at that point to not ruin that heat treat. Yeah, I think it kind of just comes down to a lot of companies. They don't want to make the steel too brittle because I know it's a new steel, it's probably not a steel that a lot of them have really worked with really that much. So I guess they're just trying to play it safe. But based off what Larry Thomas says, he isn't the all knowing person of everything, but he did design the steel that is his baby, right.
Bob DeMarco [00:30:34]:
That does give him a leg up on knowing. And he is pretty brilliant. He probably is the guy the guy for for all blade steals just because he's put so much thought and he's got his PhD in it. Talk about a dude who knows his steel. He creates new steels for the car industry, for work. All this other stuff is in his spare time. It makes me think when a company doesn't really heat treat Magna Cut all the way up to 64 or whatever, its upper threshold is, that it's more about selling a knife with Magna Cut. It's kind of like getting the shirt with the label on it with. The polo pony on it or something to sell the shirt, and that feels a little weird. You would rather know that someone like Transparent Knives, he seems to be the.
Mike Donnelly of LUC Knives [00:31:29]:
One who's really hardship on all knives.
Bob DeMarco [00:31:32]:
Yeah. And chief among them, his own knives, his own reblades, and his own heat treats. He's very critical of himself, too. So that's the kind of person that a new maker, especially before you get your own capability of heat treating that stuff. He's the guy you probably want to send it to.
Mike Donnelly of LUC Knives [00:31:54]:
Yeah, that's long term goal. Well, I will definitely have a heat treating oven shortly after we get to Utah. That is definitely in the plans. I lost my train of thought just now, but yeah, so I don't claim to know everything. I'm definitely still learning at this point. I'm just trying to refine everything as much as possible. I'm getting pretty comfortable now with hollow grinding. For whatever reason. Hollow grind is what works for me. I don't know why. I just kind of figured that out a lot faster than flat grinding. I definitely need to learn how to flat grind a little bit better because I'm not as good at it as hollow grind. But it's also a learning process for me. Really trying. Now that I'm kind of getting comfortable with the squall shape, I've made a bunch of little ones. I've made a couple of big ones. Now starting to play with some new shapes. I made a tonto. This is actually just to essentially practice using Removable hardware that kind of has the exact same handle as the other one that I did. This obviously isn't like a typical tonto grind like you would see on an American style tonto. This is actually inspired by unfortunately, you're only going to know this if you follow custom knife makers, but Shark Knife co Edison, this is inspired. It doesn't look really anything like because I couldn't come anywhere near what he does, but it's inspired by his Ryu model. And that's just like a shape that I really love a lot. It just has, like, this really robust tip or whatever. And then this is also a full hollow grind. And this is also 52 100 steel. I'm still kind of figuring this one out. I've done another version of it, like a little tiny little pocket thing.
Bob DeMarco [00:33:53]:
So cool. Okay. That is really cool. That's even cooler than the one you just had up.
Mike Donnelly of LUC Knives [00:34:00]:
Yeah, it doesn't look like it would be all that comfortable, but somehow just having your fingers in the little choils and it works somehow. It's a really good I've been using this to cut out strips of sandpaper and stuff like that. It's kind of just been like my workbench utility blade.
Bob DeMarco [00:34:19]:
Pretty much when you posted the larger tonto that you were just holding up before you held that, I remember looking at that, thinking, that is a full height grind. And look at that tip. But in this smaller one, your little shop knife, it seems like you've taken that concept to a different level. That's a really cool little knife.
Mike Donnelly of LUC Knives [00:34:44]:
Yeah. Still kind of figuring it out. But I do like it, actually. It works better than I expected it to. It was just kind of scrap steel that I had, and every once in a while, when I have some leftover material, I just kind of freestyle it and just try to try to make something new. Kind of just playing around with shapes. And I just made kind of this one not too long ago. It's like a leaf shaped blade, I guess. It kind of ended up being somewhat of like a sheep's foot. But my intention was to have, like, a leaf shaped blade, just something I can just have in your hand and say, nice little I guess it would probably make a pretty good skinning knife, too. And then another one I kind of wanted to make, like a Barlow is shaped fixed blade. But it's like a very kind of futuristic one where it's just very angular. It's not, like, curved or like a spear point. So it was very neutral starting out. And then I was like I didn't want to make it easily so that my hand could slip up on the blade. So I did add a finger choil so it's not neutral, like your typical Barlow shape. And then I also added, like, a little thing back here so you have a little bit more secureness on your hand. That's kind of like a weird little, I guess, sort of tanto Barlow. I don't know. Tanto Barlow.
Bob DeMarco [00:36:04]:
I love it.
Mike Donnelly of LUC Knives [00:36:05]:
I don't know.
Bob DeMarco [00:36:06]:
You recently said that well, and you were saying it here, too, that you have more difficulty with a flat grind, which, as a total non knife maker, that was a surprise to me. But you mentioned getting a 72 by two X 72 grinder, basically by selling off your grail knife. How did that change your knife? What were you using before that, and how did the two X 72 change things?
Mike Donnelly of LUC Knives [00:36:37]:
So when I made the first knife here, I made this one. I made this one right here. These are the first three knives I made. This one actually works pretty well. It's just not finished very well at all. And I made this one right here. These are all actually flat ground. It was a two X 42 X 42 belt grinder. It only had one speed. And then it had an attached disc grinder, which I actually still have that, but I still have the disc grinder because that's actually really useful for making knives. And then I took off the belt portion of it, and I made that into a buffing wheel. And I can also use a wire wheel on that, too. But, yeah, changing. Getting the two X 72, I made sure to pay extra and get the variable speed because that is a huge help. Because to have so much control over the speed and all the attachments like, I have the ten inch contact wheel and having the small wheel as well. Because with these knives right here, I had no way of really doing these. Really? This is not even a tight curve, but like, these choils and stuff like that, I don't have the tools to do it. And something about being able to control the speed of the belt and the way that it's on a stand, it's kind of like down sort of almost like waist level, you're able to really hold that work piece in there and kind of like you can just kind of brace it more and you can have more control. And it was like night and day almost from making those three knives to switching over to the two x 72. And it was like it just way more easy. I don't even know how to explain it.
Bob DeMarco [00:38:39]:
Well, actually, maybe you can answer this. I've done some rudimentary knives of my own on a two X 42 Craftsman. It sounds similar to the machine you were describing. And yeah, it's got one speed, which is light speed, and you can really heat stuff up and grind way more than you intend away. But when you slow things down, that gives you, I would imagine, more control. But does that also help with, for instance, not ruining the heat treat when you get it back, magna cut or.
Mike Donnelly of LUC Knives [00:39:14]:
Something like that, going slow? Yeah, it definitely helps with heat management, although I don't have a water system going into the belt, but I pretty much just do a few passes on the blade, and I just keep dunking it into the bucket. I just want to make sure that it stays cool. Yeah. Controlling the speed. Whenever I'm doing my final grinds, I'll usually have the belt going a little bit slower, but when I'm doing, like, the rough grind, I'll just crank it all the way up. And this hog out material, it's really weird to say because I didn't just wake up the next day and all of a sudden I know how to grind a knife again. I still make mistakes all the time. It's definitely a learning process. And these knives that I'm currently working on right now, those are going to be flat ground, and I'll probably mess up a few of those too.
Bob DeMarco [00:40:14]:
Where does it take you? Is it an artistic high that you get? Is it like building a house with your dad? Or is it more of a what does it bring you creatively, the process?
Mike Donnelly of LUC Knives [00:40:29]:
Well, at this point, I'm not really doing it for a living. Like, I have a job already. So I'm definitely, I guess, what they would consider to be a hobbyist knife maker. And because I am into custom knives and stuff like that, I like weird shapes. I like weird stuff. I'm not making folders, so I can't do weird mechanisms. So I do have the freedom to.
Bob DeMarco [00:40:53]:
Mike Donnelly of LUC Knives [00:40:57]:
This isn't what I'm trying to live off of. So I kind of have a little bit more leeway. I can kind of just do whatever I want to do at this point. So I would like to maybe in six years from now or so when I get out of the military, it would be awesome if I got really good at it in those six years and go full time knife maker. I'll have that retirement going for me, so that'll be a nice supplemental income and it'd be really cool if I could go full time. But I know there's a lot of knife makers up in Utah. Maybe I can possibly get into one of their workshops and learn from them. Maybe that'd be really cool, see if I can learn some more tips and tricks.
Bob DeMarco [00:41:36]:
So you mentioned folders, and I know that your collection of knives, at least from what I've seen from your Knife Sergeant channel, are folders.
Mike Donnelly of LUC Knives [00:41:46]:
Yeah, that's primarily what I collect. Yeah.
Bob DeMarco [00:41:49]:
So is that what you want to be making eventually? Is that the end goal or is that just another thing that you would like to be doing?
Mike Donnelly of LUC Knives [00:41:58]:
It's something I would like to do. If I can figure it out, I would really like to. But right now I'm pretty happy doing fixed blades and it kind of spoils it for me because a lot of times I'll be on websites and I'll see really cool custom fixed blades. I'm like, that's really cool. And I'm like, I can try to make something similar to that. Why do I have to buy that knife? So it kind of ruins fixed blades for me. But I do see a lot of really cool stuff online, though. Yeah, definitely. I do tend to prefer folding knives a little bit more. I do fidget with my knives quite a lot. Yeah, it'd be really awesome if I could learn how to do folding knives. The end goal for sure, the plan is to get a mill long term goals. I would like to learn some sort of CAD so I can possibly, at least for the basic knives that I make, like the basic steel, I could have somebody just kind of water jet out blanks for me so I don't have to waste a whole bunch of abrasives like cutting out blanks for me. And then I can do those for my regular knives. And then for the more custom ones, I can do all myself. But it is basically just kind of speed up the process a little bit more. I just got a laser in last week. I still got to finish setting that thing up. I got it primarily to etch things, but that actually does have the capability of cutting handle material so I could cut out scales for it with it, I should say it can't cut metal unfortunately, that would have been really awesome. That is my goal basically is just keep learning. And if that's where it takes me to learn how to do folders, that would be awesome. If one of my favorite knife makers wants to take me into his shop and I can be his apprentice or something like that, that'd be really cool. But like I said, right now I'm kind of just a hobby knife maker. So I'm kind of just enjoying doing what I'm doing right now.
Bob DeMarco [00:44:17]:
How cool is it that you just bought a machine that can cut you bought a laser that can cut handle material? That to me is so cool. I know I show my age frequently, even FaceTime on iPhone still blows me away. But to me, a laser that you can set up to not only engrave your knives or engrave your knives, but that can also cut out material is pretty cool. Kenis and knives won best. Mac at the Texas Blade Show machine assisted custom knife. I didn't know what Mac stood for until a week ago and I thought, to me that is such a cool category because it's totally modern. Like there are certain parts of the knife making process, like you mentioned cutting out, having blanks, water jetted. It's a material money and time saving step, but it's also if you want repeatability and you want total accuracy or at least from the start, it's a great way to go about it. And it's interesting to see that someone who uses water jets to cut out blanks and then does everything else by hand could be a machine assisted custom knife or basically any level of involvement with machines. And you think about the old masters of fine arts, Rembrandt. If Rembrandt had access to a video camera or a camera, chances are he would have used that tool to reach his end, which is the accurate representation. So this machine assisted custom knife thing, I don't know. I don't know what just made me think of that, but I think it's a very interesting concept. And that's what you're doing. In a way.
Mike Donnelly of LUC Knives [00:46:11]:
Yeah. That is ultimately what I would like to do is to make things more repeatable. Because for all my knives that I currently have made right now, all those squalls, you can put all of them next to each other and not one of them will be identical because all of them are ground up by hand, by myself. They have the same shape, they're pretty much all the same length, but there's always something just a little bit different about them. And I know there's a lot of people that actually prefer that. They prefer the handmade aspect of it.
Bob DeMarco [00:46:43]:
Mike Donnelly of LUC Knives [00:46:46]:
I would just hate to sell it to somebody and then have them not like it because maybe that's not what they are wanting. Maybe they were wanting something that was a bit more precise or something like.
Bob DeMarco [00:46:57]:
That or exactly like the one they picked up at your table at Blade Show or something like that.
Mike Donnelly of LUC Knives [00:47:05]:
That's what a lot of the custom makers do, though. They'll do the groundwork, they'll get all of the mechanics of the folding knife just absolutely perfect, and then they'll go in and hand finish all the stuff just to kind of give it that handmade feel. And that's my favorite maker, kurt Merrick. That's kind of what he does. That's what a lot of the really high end custom makers do. Yeah, I would love to get to that point, but I'm still learning right now. Yeah, but I'm not going to try to get any sort of big head right now.
Bob DeMarco [00:47:46]:
But I'm looking at your work as Jim scrolls through it. And I know that you can see as the Maker, all the little differences and that's all well and good, but from this perspective, it seems like you've got an incredible amount of control because they all look very, very there may be some little differences, but they all look very much the same model. And but those little tiny variations, like you said, those those are what make, you know, until things are absolutely repeatable. That's what that's what makes them collectible and charming and will draw people in, as well as your past in reviewing knives, because people already know you and already, like you and I would imagine are already rooting for you. What kind of reception have you got from knife community people that you know or that follow you?
Mike Donnelly of LUC Knives [00:48:49]:
A lot of people are very encouraging. I've gotten a little bit of feedback so far from the knives that I have sold off. Some of them like them. I did actually get one back from Kevin left to EDC. He would be the one to send it back. So basically, I just had to make a new sheath for him because it wasn't quite doing what he was wanting it to. So made him a new one and sent it back. He'll be happy with that. I sent it back to him last night or yesterday.
Bob DeMarco [00:49:19]:
So he sent it in for the sheath, not for the knife.
Mike Donnelly of LUC Knives [00:49:23]:
Well, there was one little part where I did miss on the edge when I sharpened it. So I did resharpen it for him and redid the sheath, because a lot of the sheaths that I did, they were a little bit tight, brand new. And because when it comes down to sheath for fixed blades, I hate it when I can just take a knife and just shake it out of the kidex sheath. I want it to be in there. So the ones that I did, some of them, they are a little bit hard to draw out of the sheath, but hopefully they should wear in a little bit. But that's another thing. I have to get a little bit better with my sheath making. It's not rocket science, but there's definitely some things to learn about it.
Bob DeMarco [00:50:09]:
There's some feel to it. I'm a big fixed knife collector, and yeah, I do not like rattle in them. And it's not an absolute deal breaker, but I prefer not to have rattle. I like a tight fit. And I have noticed, depending on the mounting hardware, I mean, I've kind of always been an IWB strap kind of guy like you have on yours. And then recently, the discrete carry concepts just for how I carry those are great. But I have noticed on some sheets, you can have a perfect fit on a sheath. And then when you put your mounting hardware on for whatever clip you're using, it does tighten the sheath. It will tighten it up right at that pinch point near. And that does change things, but the tighter the fit, the better, as far as I'm concerned, because chances are you're going to be drawing it and putting it back in, drawing it, putting it back in, and that also loosens the sheath. And it actually cuts a little track for you a little bit in there. And you don't want it to be like, literally cutting the kidex. But the more you wear it in and out, the more it accepts it. Kidex is not the most doesn't take much to heat up Kidex. It doesn't take much to alter Kidex. So I would rather start with a tight fit and wear it in. And also just be wary of how tight you tighten your hardware. Not you personally, but someone who buys a knife and thinks it's too tight. Well, you may have tightened the Chicago screws on your thing, like, really clamped it down too much. Yeah, Kidex seems like a buzz. I've made Kidex for my knives that I like to carry on a regular basis. Say I buy them and they come in a pouch sheath or something like that. I'll make Kidex, and I have a little janky little press that I made myself. And it's a buzzkill to make Kidex sheaths, I got to say.
Mike Donnelly of LUC Knives [00:52:23]:
Yeah, I've kind of gotten the process down. I'll usually wait until I have a whole bunch of knives made, and then I'll kind of just press them all out all at once. And I'll kind of just try to make them kind of like mass produce them, I guess. But I'm definitely learning it a little bit better now. I've kind of learned what to do and what not to do. Ideally, it was kind of a design choice. But on my knife, because the blade is sharpened all the way to where the fingertwell is at the full length of the edge is sharpened, that's kind of what a lot of this one that has the kind of little nub on it, that's kind of what really does well for the retention on the kidex sheath. So unfortunately, with this one, I just wanted the full length sharpened. So with this style of knife, you are going to have that blade cutting into the kidex more often than with the other one with a little nub. But I guess it's just a compromise. I don't know.
Bob DeMarco [00:53:25]:
So what fixed? Fixed blade makers. So you told me Kurt Merkin is your favorite.
Mike Donnelly of LUC Knives [00:53:33]:
Oh, yeah, he is.
Bob DeMarco [00:53:34]:
Knife maker folder. Six fixed blade makers only make six blades.
Mike Donnelly of LUC Knives [00:53:40]:
Man, that's hard. Put me on the spot here. As far as, like, just straight six blade makers, I would probably say the only one that I've really kind of gone back and looked at over and over again is that James Williams or James Williams blade design? Is it James Williams? Williams.
Bob DeMarco [00:54:10]:
Mike Donnelly of LUC Knives [00:54:12]:
But I originally went to his site because he has the one tomahawk, the bearded Tomahawk. His production version is the Crkt Skegox or whatever it is.
Bob DeMarco [00:54:26]:
Oh, man. Now I'm on the spot. I know you talk about, yes, he's a Japanese knife, not Williamson, it's Williams. He was on the show. He's the guy who knows how to kill you in 50 million different ways without barely moving his hand. He's a legend. And people are yelling at their screen right now, trying to yes, I know exactly what you're talking about. Those beautiful upswept blades.
Mike Donnelly of LUC Knives [00:54:56]:
I originally went on his website because he did a batch of his I don't know if they're custom or mid tech, but those bearded Tomahawks, because I love the look of that. It's just like a Viking tomahawk. And I went on into his knife section and I saw it was like a tonto, like a three and a half inch blade. I want to say it was kind of like a Quaken style blade.
Bob DeMarco [00:55:20]:
Yeah, he's had Winkler Knives making these designs for him, and they're gorgeous. And William, this is killing me now because I get emails from him regularly from his martial arts school, river of Life. I think it's his martial art school. And I don't know how I got on that. I think just in communicating with him to bring him on the show, james Williams. All right, I'm going to stop right there because now I'm just but, yeah, I really love his and you know his designs when you see them. He did the otana shinoken. He's done a lot of stuff for Crkt, and they're all those Japanese style tontos, and they are beautiful. James Williams is his name. Sorry for the senior moment there, but okay, so I want to ask you, everyone who is a collector who comes on this show and who runs or ran a channel, but you still kind of run a channel, but it's more of an update at this point on your collection, but also on your progress.
Mike Donnelly of LUC Knives [00:56:21]:
If I'm feeling motivated, I'll put a video out, or if I unbox something, if I get something cool in, I'll make a video about it. I actually haven't even made a video about it yet, but I did actually get in the tactile Maverick titanium, which unfortunately, mine does have a couple of problems. I'm still talking to Tactile about it, but I do love the design, I think. Wow. I am blanking real hard on it.
Bob DeMarco [00:56:49]:
Mike Donnelly of LUC Knives [00:56:50]:
Yeah, Richard Rogers. He did a real nice job on the design. I like how it's really slim, nice and contoured. I love the texturing on it. Nice thin blade stock. I like it a lot. Yeah. Whenever I get something in that's really cool, I'll make a video, but it's definitely a little hit or miss, I guess.
Bob DeMarco [00:57:13]:
Well, you still qualify for the speed round, so I'm going to ask you 15 or 16 questions, and it's just a one word answer, and it really kind of shows us all the cut of your jib, knife wise. All right, are you ready?
Mike Donnelly of LUC Knives [00:57:31]:
Bob DeMarco [00:57:32]:
Yeah. Okay. All right. Fixed or folder?
Mike Donnelly of LUC Knives [00:57:35]:
Bob DeMarco [00:57:36]:
Flipper or thumb stud?
Mike Donnelly of LUC Knives [00:57:39]:
Bob DeMarco [00:57:40]:
Washers or bearings?
Mike Donnelly of LUC Knives [00:57:42]:
Bob DeMarco [00:57:44]:
Tip up or tip down?
Mike Donnelly of LUC Knives [00:57:46]:
Bob DeMarco [00:57:47]:
Tanto or bowie?
Mike Donnelly of LUC Knives [00:57:49]:
Bob DeMarco [00:57:51]:
Flat ground or hollow? Ground?
Mike Donnelly of LUC Knives [00:57:56]:
Bob DeMarco [00:57:57]:
Full size or small?
Mike Donnelly of LUC Knives [00:58:00]:
Bob DeMarco [00:58:01]:
Gentleman's or tactical?
Mike Donnelly of LUC Knives [00:58:04]:
Bob DeMarco [00:58:05]:
I guess you have to choose. Okay. Automatic or bally song?
Mike Donnelly of LUC Knives [00:58:10]:
Bob DeMarco [00:58:13]:
You have one right there.
Mike Donnelly of LUC Knives [00:58:14]:
It looks like a couple now. Well, this is my utility blade ballastong. Cool. I impulse buy a lot of stupid stuff, and this thing is actually really well made. It's a titanium ballastong with a utility blade on it. It looks like it's got a zebra one as well. Yeah, just been playing around with those, being stupid, but I've had a lot of autos, but I don't really get it. Very many autos. Sorry I slowed down your speed round.
Bob DeMarco [00:58:49]:
No, that's quite all right. That's part of the deal. That bally song looked like it also had a screwdriver when it yeah, it.
Mike Donnelly of LUC Knives [00:58:59]:
Has, like, a little multi tool type thing on it.
Bob DeMarco [00:59:02]:
All right. Benchmade or spiderco?
Mike Donnelly of LUC Knives [00:59:05]:
Bob DeMarco [00:59:06]:
Chris Reeve or Rick Hinderer?
Mike Donnelly of LUC Knives [00:59:09]:
Bob DeMarco [00:59:11]:
Milled. Titanium or spring clip?
Mike Donnelly of LUC Knives [00:59:17]:
Spring clip. I like the functionality of it.
Bob DeMarco [00:59:21]:
Yeah, I hear that. Carbon fiber or micarta?
Mike Donnelly of LUC Knives [00:59:25]:
Bob DeMarco [00:59:27]:
Finger choil or no choil?
Mike Donnelly of LUC Knives [00:59:32]:
Finger choil. But not every knife needs a choil.
Bob DeMarco [00:59:37]:
I hear that. Also, form or function?
Mike Donnelly of LUC Knives [00:59:41]:
Function. I like the pretty stuff, but it has to be a functional tool first.
Bob DeMarco [00:59:46]:
And then lastly, this is your desert island knife. You get one knife to keep forever. Oh, man. The Koniger area. Man, I still need one of those. And you just got that really cool 80s carbon fiber scale.
Mike Donnelly of LUC Knives [01:00:06]:
Yeah, this is, like, such a good knife. It is a great fidget toy. But as far as, like, a functional tool, it is awesome.
Bob DeMarco [01:00:15]:
That, to me, has basically a full height hollow grind because it all has that little extra rib up on top for opening. That's a beautiful knife. I didn't know until I knew, until I picked one up at Blade Show. I don't have one, but flipped it. And obviously it had also been flipped a million times before, so it was 1000% broken in and already, like, amazing before that, so yeah, I could see that being a worthy desert island knife. Mike, I want to thank you for coming on the Knife Junkie podcast and talking about this move you've made into knife making. I think it's really cool to watch happen. And I loved your channel, but this is better to me because you're obviously a knife enthusiast who's making knives. And to me, I know about making stuff. It's not really knives, but the satisfaction you get from that. So it's great to see your evolution.
Mike Donnelly of LUC Knives [01:01:15]:
Yeah, thanks for having me on. Hope I didn't bore anyone too bad. So thanks for sticking it out and making it this far if you did. Yeah, thanks to my wife for putting up with me spending long nights in the garage. And she's the one that actually bought the laser for me, so thanks to her for that, too.
Bob DeMarco [01:01:35]:
She's a keeper.
Mike Donnelly of LUC Knives [01:01:38]:
I was just kind of browsing. I was like, window shopping online, and then she kind of came up behind me and she's like, let's buy that.
Bob DeMarco [01:01:44]:
Okay. That's what it takes. A little bit of support and keep you going like that. Well, thank you, man. We'll talk to you soon. We'll see you on Thursday night, Knives. Yes.
Mike Donnelly of LUC Knives [01:01:56]:
All right, have a good one.
You know you're a knife junkie if you plan your vacation around Blade show.
Bob DeMarco [01:02:01]:
There he goes. Ladies and gentlemen, Mike Donnelly of LUC Knives. I like saying that better than Knaf Sergeant. Knaf Sergeant is cool, but LUC Knives is cooler. I look forward to get my hands on a squall. That big one is absolutely gorgeous with the flourishes and the not Thai mask, dumb ASCO's handle and blade. But those little ones just look like little honeys. So I hope to get my hands on one soon. Be sure to join us next week for another interview. And of course, Wednesday the midweek supplemental. And Thursday thursday Night Knives, 10:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time right here on YouTube. Facebook and twitch. All right, we will check you out next time for Jim working his magic behind the switcher. I'm Bob DeMarco saying, until next time, then, don't take dull for an answer.
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