Mark D. Zalesky, Editor of Knife Magazine and author of “A Sure Defense: The Bowie Knife in America” — The Knife Junkie Podcast (Episode 70)
Zalesky and Bob talk a lot about the Bowie knife, after all, Zalesky is the co-author of the book “A Sure Defense: The Bowie Knife in America,” (affiliate link) but they also chat knife collecting and of course about Knife Magazine.
If you’re not familiar with Knife Magazine, check it out at knifemagazine.com and subscribe. And be sure to let them know you heard about the publication here on the podcast!Mark D. Zalesky, Editor of Knife Magazine and author of the book A Sure Defense: The Bowie Knife in America is my guest on episode 70 of The Knife Junkie #podcast ... I hope you'll listen Click To Tweet
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Mark Zalesky 0:00
The things that are truly new I'm going to be in trouble with somebody for saying that but most of the things that are truly new are either not truly necessary they're put there because we are fascinated with odd mechanisms and this is something different or they are something that was never achievable before the materials or the technology to make it came along.
Welcome to the Knife Junkie podcast your weekly dose of nice news and information about knives and knife collecting. Here's your hosts Jim Person and Bob The Knife Junkie DeMarco.
Jim Person 0:39
Hello Knife Junkie and welcome to episode number 70 of the Knife Junkie podcast. I'm Jim Person
Bob DeMarco 0:45
And I'm Bob DeMarco. Welcome to the podcast.
Jim Person 0:47
Welcome to the Knife Junkie podcast. The place for nice newbies and Knife Junkie is to learn about knives and knife collecting and hear from knife designers, makers, manufacturers reviewers, and anyone who Who loves knives and I'll add this in the knife industry and definitely have someone that is deep into the knife world with our guest today, Bob,
Bob DeMarco 1:10
yet we're talking to Mark Zalesky . He's the editor of knife magazine, and the author of a sure defense, the bowie knife in America. Now, Mark Zalesky has been around the knife world for a long time. He's been a knife writer for a long time. And he's a renowned expert in the bowie knife. So I was very excited to get him on the show. As you know, Jim, the bowie knife is just about the the pinnacle to me.
Jim Person 1:34
Well, definitely someone knowledgeable not only about knives, but the knife world, the knife industry but putting together a publication and a website, just, you know, kind of curating all the content from the knife world and, you know, we've got memberships and see the magazine. It's just just really nice, really, really gorgeous. Yeah, and Mark has a vast collection with sub collections, which I really love. You know, if he's He has one main sort of collecting subject for a while so that he doesn't tire of that or so that he doesn't exhaust his resources there. He's also looking for other things and other kinds of knives for his sub collections. So I love hearing about a collector that's got sub collections, you know, seems like we all have at least one collection if not multiple, so categorize them subcollection subcollection a one so Exactly. Lots of gaps to fill. Our podcast today want to remind you is sponsored by audiobooks. Now, listening has never been more convenient and affordable. And you can get 50% off your first audio book by just going to The Knife Junkie dot com slash audio books, that's with an S on the end. Start reading or shall we say listening today, say 50% off your first audio book that's at The Knife Junkie dot com slash audio books, and I'm sure a lot of Christmas gifts will involve Things that can be used to listen to audiobooks so now's a good time to get that 50% savings by going to The Knife Junkie comm slash audio books also before we get into the interview one remind folks go to The Knife Junkie comm slash subscribe that way you can subscribe not only to the podcast if you happen to be listening on the YouTube channel where we put the podcast or maybe on the website you can subscribe and get it in your podcast player but also that Knife Junkie comm slash subscribe page also gives you a chance to subscribe to the Knife Junkie newsletter so two things to do right there on that subscribe page. So The Knife junkie.com slash subscribe.
Do you carry multiple knives then overthink Which one do you use when an actual cutting chore pops up? You're a Knife Junkie of the first order.
Bob DeMarco 3:51
I'm here with Mark Zalesky, editor of knife magazine and author of a sure defense the bowie knife in America among many others. books and articles. Mark thank you so much for coming on the Knife Junkie podcast.
Mark Zalesky 4:04
You're very welcome.
I'm pleased to be here.
Bob DeMarco 4:06
Well you're known throughout the industry as being an expert, preeminent expert on older antique knives and weapons, describe your expertise when it comes to knives and swords and these kind of things.
Mark Zalesky 4:20
Oh, expertise is related to expert which is a word that terrifies me just a little bit. You know, they say about an expert that it's any anybody more than 50 miles from home or that that sort of thing. Former expert group under pressure all those kind of things I'm you know, I started out collecting antique pocket knives many years ago and then American hunting knives and my father's a collector of military knives for a while so I've got a little bad British, American and antique buoy knives are have been my primary collecting focus for large a lot of years and antique straight razors are another thing I'm pursue and to a degree medical instruments and things like that.
Bob DeMarco 5:07
Alright, so before we get into talking about your work as an editor for to me the most beautifully produced knife magazine out there well Thank you You're welcome tell me what you think this fascination with edge things are. I mean you mentioned straight razors and to me Yeah, a straight razor with with tortoise shell handles. And a nice big wide blade to me is a just an inherently beautiful thing even though I shave with a with a Mach three when I so what is it about edge things?
Unknown Speaker 5:43
I'm not sure what it is about edge things but there's a certain appeal to them I suppose and that they're inherently a little bit dangerous but I think that as far as historical objects go that any object that that is legitimately historical you It has the potential to connect one directly to the objects of the past to the events of the past and to historical events. That means something in history of our area, our country, our families, or events that we may personally be interested in. So if you if you think World War Two is a fascinating thing, you know, you don't just have to read about it in the book, you can go purchase an object that participated in World War Two. And you know, if it's straight razors, it could be the straight razor that your great grandfather shaved with or others like that. One of my personal fascinations among street races, they presented a beautiful surface, nice flat surface which could be etched and they were frequently etched with the events of the times patriotic and political and things like that. So they are very directly tied to the events of history,
Bob DeMarco 6:56
where there was meant to be used those razor's edge with his story. local events
Mark Zalesky 7:01
oh absolutely they were meant to be used it but the reason they're on there is they're meant to be sold in in England for the for the most part and they were at with these things because it would help sell them and it was an easy inexpensive way to decorate.
Bob DeMarco 7:18
So you started as a kid collecting I know for some reason you bristle at the term slip joints article but so you started as a kid collecting let's see traditional pattern knives
Mark Zalesky 7:33
Bob DeMarco 7:35
so where did that how did that fascination you know but and explain to me how it grew.
Unknown Speaker 7:41
It was very simple but probably unusual for most of us in this hobby, you know, without dragging the story out too awful long. My my grandfather was a collector of things like single shot rifles and frequented the gun shows back in the day and when my father died Out of the Navy in the late 60s it the government was just all too eager to implement the Gun Control Act of 68 which dissuaded my father from collecting firearms. And subsequently, he discovered knives and thought military would be a good thing to collect. And, you know, when I was born shortly thereafter, my mother decided that we couldn't have all those killing knives in the house with her baby being me. So the the military knives moved on and then there were pocket knives and there were hunting knives and then there were Bowie knives and then there were folding knives like knives. And this progression of things created a small but useful library and a good base knowledge of information in my household tutor. So when I became old enough to go to the gun show and my father didn't want to have a kid in tow and I threw fit, so that I wouldn't be allowed to go cuz it See my dad that much at the time I was being dragged through the gun shows in in in Iowa where I grew up from the time I was five years old and knives were something I could you know purchase and trade for and that sort of thing I did I dug in everybody's junk boxes and bought things and we took them home and you know, cleaned them up a little bit and I take them back and trade them for more and I done that ever since I was a kid like a
Bob DeMarco 9:27
currency for you.
Mark Zalesky 9:28
Like it was a currency for me. And it you know soon became a source of income for for me.
Bob DeMarco 9:35
So as a kid at that age when you were just first going to those gun shows and hunting out deals and finding Yeah, finding knives What was your ideal at the time? What was the ideal knife you had in mind for the perfect score?
Mark Zalesky 9:50
Well, you know you're you're fascinated with the things you read about in books and so the you know, the books I was looking at were petersons, American knives, 1958, which had all kinds of of wonderful historic knives and knives and other things and books like knife makers of old San Francisco and the California knives but I was particularly interested in in American pocket knives and things like that at that time and so was very influenced by Dewey Ferguson's romancer knife collecting second edition 1970 and the pocket knives in there and and eventually I became interested particularly in the hunting knives of Webster Marvel and marble arms and manufacturing company. The first really good knife I acquired as a kid was a marble safety folding hunter and wonderful condition when I was roughly nine years old, and at that time that knife was worth about 125 or 150 or $175 is a really good knife. So I've got one I'm going to collect these and I built that collection and Finally Sold But when I was about 2028 2930, and in turn that into quite a number of Bowie knives
Bob DeMarco 11:10
we described with that marbles looks like
Mark Zalesky 11:13
well, that particular marbles I'm referring to the safety folding hider. I wrote a very extensive article on those back in 2002. It's available on our website. It's a knife with a blade longer than the handle, and it has a lengthy extension that sticks out the end that when you open the blade fully, this extension folds in place to lock the blade. It has a folding guard associated with it. It was invented in 1902 by a fellow named Milton H. Rowland, who was a leather worker who worked for marbles and there are gosh there are at least 30 variations of those over the years. It's a fascinating knife very well made. And they you know, they have been considered top collectibles for a long, long time. What Marvel's is mostly known for were very high quality hunting, six blade hunting knives and then the safety axe with the folding guard and and so those are the things I collected for many many years. What was the purpose of the folding hunter with the with the oversized blade? What was the purpose of making that knife the purpose of making well you know folding hundreds were very popular among hundreds I mean know that a lot of people had fixed blades but if you wanted a knife that was a little more portable or maybe you had a large fixed blade wanted a smaller knife that you kept just for the skinning of the game or whatever, you know, they sold lots of those and they're different shapes of the coke bottle shape we have the most sort of the rat tail European inspired shaped like a case 65 pattern. You know they came along but the one that Webster Marvel design, combined and they sold two different sizes but they combined a fairly short handle. With a longer blades you can get a longer blade in a sort of A smaller package. It was simple to manufacture. It didn't have the complex locking mechanism that some other things had. And yet it was an it was an extremely strong locking mechanism and it you know, had this folding guard as it was complex. It was cool. It was really well made. They weren't cheap. But it was, you might say a quite advanced hunting knife for the time
Bob DeMarco 13:23
folding hunting. I remember the first time I saw one of those, it was in my adolescence at some point and I remember loving the swing guard you know because it reminded me of an Italian stiletto swing guard so I thought that that must be an extra cool night. Actually Jim the producer of this show bought it wasn't a marbles but he bought some great folding hunter like that. And I cleaned it up for him and he resold it and made a made a nice little nice little purse there. But it was that same sort of thing. You know, the the short handle the longest Blade you fold it in. And just in holding it, it made me wonder you could probably use just the tip of the blade as it is folded in just for small tasks and then when you need to dress out game or something like that, open it up fully.
Mark Zalesky 14:16
The marbles has the tip of the blade protected. But I've seen other types that didn't do that. And yes, you could certainly do that in this is a design. This is not a mean I say Milton Roland invented 19 two but like a lot of things and even patents today that I say that there's nothing new under the sun. I mean English we're making knives like that in the 1830s. The French were making him in the late 1700s of that basic concept with the blade that is longer than handle and locks in both positions.
Bob DeMarco 14:50
Right. Okay, so I mentioned at the outset that you wrote a book called A sure defense, the bowie knife in America and
Mark Zalesky 14:57
Bob DeMarco 14:58
co wrote... So you're a bit of an expert on the subject and I happen to love Bowie knives in the in the clip, clip shape clip point shape and, and the whole nine yards and there's a lot of lore that goes into the bowie knife that Oh, yes, I, I sort of know that I can sort of hold on to but I'd love to hear more about but before we do one thing I can't help but notice is that the bowie knife is is known for that clip, pointed blade. But we've seen that shape before before Jim Bowie we saw that in history in the past. What where does it come from and how did it come to be sort of ascribed to the bowie knife?
Mark Zalesky 15:43
Oh, who the heck knows you know, I mean that that clip, the clip point blade goes back to the sax may go further back than that, who knows? Again, there's nothing new under the sun and I said it's not quite true every once in a while I'll be running around shacho and see something as well never seen that before. Most of those the things that are truly new I'm going to be in trouble with somebody for saying that but most of the things that are truly new are either not truly necessary they're put there because we are fascinated with odd mechanisms and this is something different or they are something that was never achievable before the materials or the technology to make it came along. So they're there things that again, they're they're there for those of us who like gadgets, I love gadgets, I love knives with goofy mechanisms but I years ago I I really offended a Japanese designer by making a parallel to his brand new design, you know, to a press button knife company switch blade in the 1890s Well, you know, it's similar to this designs patent didn't 1892 by do a trade and I did not even realize what I was doing that I just you know, blown up his new event. He was not very happy with him but
Bob DeMarco 17:04
Mark Zalesky 17:07
I suppose that you know if if you're a designer today and you want to you know create new design I'll tell you where to go find him go go look in the patent indexes from from way back when and there are tons of things out there all these things are are old before they were ever the new modern so
Bob DeMarco 17:27
then describe how we got the Bowie as we know it today. And and and Bowie or buoy.
Mark Zalesky 17:35
If you're in the south, it's definitely buoy if you're in the north, we might cut you some slack. The buoy is a really interesting, the development is really interesting and it
let me let me step back a little bit. The buoy knife is something That we've all read about a little bit and it's been written about many times historically and as I grew up reading their the work of Billings and and Bernard Levine and all these wonderful researcher writers who came before me and Bob able and such, you know, you come away with an idea of what the history was. When I was charged with coordinating this movie exhibit curating this movie exhibited historic Arkansas museum that led to the production of the book, it really, the book is in a catalog of the exhibit. But they said, Well, if we're going to do a book on this exhibit, then what we want to do is we want to have to scholarly essays. I can write a scholarly essay, footnoted and so what are we going to do? Well, I'm going to take on the evolution of the bowie knife and you go in with preconceived notions based on what the previous writers have have put together and put out there And I went back to the source material and researched it myself and I came away with some with some interesting observations and some very different opinions than I had. Putting together that exhibit turned out to be the most educational thing I've ever done on on Boogie Nights. It caused me to go back and prove to myself what I thought I knew. And a lot of that I really didn't know and I'm not sure how many other people did. The buoy nice, you know came about as a result of the sandbar fight and in 1827 of course, we know this and there weren't very many witnesses to the sandbar fight, but it was covered by a few counts in the newspaper in those accounts. Some of them anyway, were copied from newspaper, the newspaper and that way spread across the country, but the entire description in that event was a buoy removed a large butcher knife and that's it. That's a large butcher knife in the Most common account and none of the other accounts are any more detailed than that. So these, these articles did not have illustrations and all they ever said was a large butcher knife. And in my estimation, the boovie knife was not an immediate fad that that stemmed from 1820. So we had one account this at all this deal in the country was immediately. But it turns out it took, you know, a while for us to dig out where that came from. It came from an 1836 newspaper, not an 1827 newspaper. So what really happened, I think, is this slow development of the buoy knife and the buoy developed by being produced by craftsmen across the country based on whatever they saw or whatever they thought would be a suitable signed on based on their own history. So the Germans produce things that look kind of like German booty knives and the the makers With French backgrounds and produce things that kind of look like French butcher knives and we had the influence of the Scottish Dirk and the Mediterranean Dirk and all these things and you know as the as America is a great melting pot It was a melting pot of immigrant Cutler's and and all of their influences. were used it independently to create different styles of Boogie Nights and and some of them we believe we can trace across a country where this knife went from Arkansas to Cincinnati and we see knives in Cincinnati like it. And then he may have gone New York and we see a knife in New York like that. And there was taught you had a knife like that on his belt, and then he went to Washington in 37. And oh, wait, we have a knife in Washington like that. So it's an interesting evolution.
Bob DeMarco 21:46
Let's back up one second. We talked to you you talked about the sandbar fight you kind of breezed over. tell people what that's all about.
Mark Zalesky 21:53
Oh, don't ask me to go into detail on the sandbar fight. I'm a knife guy and I'm not a gym buoy guy you know, essentially The sandbar fight and I'm sure we can provide you with a link. But the best thing out there on the sandbar fight if you have no background on it, and are interested in it, there are two YouTube videos that are narrated by a great friend of mine named jacket Edmondson who is an expert on these sort of things. And he portrays Jim booey. And both of them I believe, but the sandbar fight amounted to a duel between two rival parties that are political and there I think there was was some, I think there were some women involved somewhere along the way. And anyway, there was a there was a duel held by parties from Mississippi who to conduct this duel and keep it out of Mississippi. jurisdiction went across the river from Louisiana. They were in Louisiana cross river to Natchez, Mississippi and the first Island above matches was was where this duel was held, and So the parties that were were set to do brought their their doctors and brought their seconds and brought the all the other people in their party. And they fired two shots at each other and missed and shook hands and started to walk off the field as friends. You know. In the meantime, the second who were all at war with each other decided to settle their differences. And two of them started shooting at Jim Bowie, who ultimately survived I think we decided to seven stabs with a sword cane and, and two shots. One was one of which was, I believe, through his chest and dissemble one adversary and ran the other one off by slashing and with a bowie knife. And he was he was extremely ill for the next few months but he eventually recovered and, you know, found his way to the Alamo.
Bob DeMarco 23:56
We are not descended from weak men as we know
Unknown Speaker 24:00
It's ... but that the story of the fight did kind of capture the imagination, but I'm not so sure. Exactly the role that it had to do with spreading the popularity of these knives. You know, the buoy knife was not the first knife used for self defense anywhere in the world or even in America. dirts were extremely popular before then they were they were considered kind of a sleazy weapon, you know, you carry this little concealed Dirk and you know, if someone you know, aggravated you, you pulled out this weapon that the that your adversary might not be suspicious of and sticking with it and run off right? So the movie night was essentially a larger version of the dirts that had already been popular for decades before that.
Bob DeMarco 24:44
So you left off saying before I asked you about the sandbar fight you were talking about how buoy. I'm from Ohio, but I'm going to say buoy, right.
how the buoy is descended from kind of a different ethnographic takes from different Cutler's
Mark Zalesky 25:02
Bob DeMarco 25:02
And, you know, you mentioned the French buoy in front. And then and then it occurred to me it's that's the kind of knife where, where the blade is the guard, you know, instead of having a guard protruding cross, it does look a little bit more like a chef's knife.
Mark Zalesky 25:19
Yes, yeah. Well, that's that's the Cyril style. This style we refer to as a straight back style in the book because I hadn't heard anybody put a name to it other than Cyril style, and those came out of Louisiana. Daniel Searles was I can't even remember his ancestry. He wasn't French. But by the time he made the knife, he was in an area with a very strong French influence.
Bob DeMarco 25:38
So how did the Bowie actually happen? Did Jimbo he he commissioned this knife right?
Unknown Speaker 25:45
Oh no. Well, we don't know a lot of it. You know what? And the first question you must ask you say what is the first bowie knife you say? Well, which one do you mean the, you know, the first buoy knife the knife that was at the sandbar fight that was just scribed is a large butcher knife. Well, it could be that one or, you know, maybe that was the part that was the event that the name the buoy nice. So, so maybe the next night he got he got maybe a dressed up version of that. And so maybe that's the first movie night or you know, you could consider the night he preferred the most might be the you know, the real buoy and I or maybe the first knife that was ever called a buoy night. Because that's another thing you know, the term buoy knife doesn't appear in 1827 or 28, or 29 or 30. And not in any quantity. We have a couple of weird quotes, but really we start see the term come into common use in the late 1835 and into 1836. And the term becomes popular after the fall of the Alamo. All of that being said, How is it defined? If you were asked today, if someone came up to you and handed you a knife and said, Is this a bowie knife? You would evaluate it? And you would say yes or no because of what I think there are different definitions that apply to different people in different situations. And this is something that my co author on the book bill worth in historic Arkansas museum curator, he and I debated this quite a bit. How do you define a bowie knife? Because a lot of people say, Oh, it's got a clip point blade and a big cross guard and that sort of thing. And you know, very quickly if you try to define a knife, by its style, or by its size, you find that it doesn't work. You're putting in exceptions to the rule constantly. And you know, some of the most desirable buoy knives of all are these rather small, godless coffin billionaires, they don't have a guard. They don't only a couple of them have clipped points. And you know, the blade might be five or six inches long. Yeah, there's one on the cover of next month's knife magazine I might add. That is a pretty interesting one. And it you know, if you define it by size, if you design define it by blade shape, if you say it has to have a garden It's not a bowie knife, but I'm telling you, it's a bowie knife. It was, it's referred to in a 1841 newspaper account is one of the first movie knives. I may have that quote off a little bit, but it's it the way it was referenced, referred to it as the original booey knife or something to that effect. So the way that we approach the definition of the movie knife was not to define it, by style, but to define it by purpose. And in in the sense of a history of history of a historical sense. We define it as a knife produced between 1827 and the Civil War, for purposes of self defense, and or other things. Then you say, Well, what about all the Boogie Nights have been produced since then? Well, now you're looking at something where we have to consider style and size and and that sort of thing to define it. Movie Night but the perception of the movie nice has definitely changed over the years not to say that you know if you took a big clip point movie nice and 1840 is it is this a movie I? Oh yeah, it was a boon I put a bow and I could have been a lot more than that, or like different than that a lot smaller. But But one thing for certain is that it was a knife to be used as a weapon. Now with the Civil War and and improved firearms production, the cartridge guns and that kind of thing we had we had firearms that were reliable, you no longer needed to have a knife with a 10 inch blade or 12 inch blade or a 14 inch blade. You know, because you weren't likely to stab someone you were you weren't going to get any closer to your adversary then you had. So as a result, the buoy knives of that time as they were advertised were not always clip point but often clip point blades of this style were familiar with, typically small and the intended purpose was was Hunting not sure they make very good hunting knives but but that was the the style popular is a hunting knife up until things like the the nest mock and that this will top hunter in the kept part and Webster Marvel came along and that that's a whole nother subject he able to the sport hunting. But interest in Boogie Nights came along again it revitalize really with the production of Raymond thorpes book 1948 bowie knife, which is a subject I probably shouldn't get very far down. It is in many ways a terrible book. But it had a great deal to do with revitalizing interest in the bowie knife, helping to inspire the iron Mr is the book and the movie. And, you know, Randall and eventually Moran and Rwanda and others produced an awful lot of Boogie Nights that were really inspired by Raymond thorpes book. That's that's in Interesting I was, I was thinking you were going somewhere else. I thought you were going to say that interest in the bowie knife was rekindled by the proliferation of the K bar. Because what an effective Bowie shaped kind of fighting slash utility or whatever else,
Bob DeMarco 31:19
now you feel, you know, to proliferate the culture at that time anyway.
Unknown Speaker 31:23
Well the bowie knife never went away, I mean, Webster marbles, ideal is not that far removed from a bowie knife and the blade on that K bar is like a seven inch ideal. It's really the filler is a different size, but it's it's a very similar blade, you know that the stacked leather handle and the K bar comes from Webster Marvel to not that I'm a Webster Marvel fan or anything. Actually, I'm a tremendous Webster Marvel fan. But, but but that's where a lot of those things came from.
Bob DeMarco 31:52
I read somewhere where you were saying most collectors have sort of a main area or focus But then little sub focuses and in my in my way I have the same thing in my knife collection Tell me about yours.
Mark Zalesky 32:08
I don't know if that's true of everyone but it's certainly true of me. You know, I have I have been a sort of a collector dealer all my life so I have I have things that in my head our inventory, I guess, and and I have, I have things that I collect and so you know, my primary collecting focuses American made buoy knives, the mostly pre Civil War era with exceptions I like certainly like California knives and certain Civil War buoys. But, you know, related to that are early American lock back, folding knives really were folding Dirk knives, which are quite rare to come from America. Nearly all of them were English that I collect. I collect a lot of little things and you know what i found? Was that as I got older and had a little more disposable income, and started collecting things that were rarer and more desirable and more advanced, let's say it's not fun to go to a nice show and not come home with anything at all. And, you know, I found that I would be lucky to get a knife a year. So I started collecting little sub collections for a while. So maybe I collected I collected wardenclyffe pattern knives for a while I collected American made knives with exotic shell handles for a while and you know, I'd collected them and I wrote an article and eventually sold them off and moved on to something else. I think that you know, in in today, we've got a collecting culture that has sort of gotten away from from the shows that show culture that I knew as I grew up and became a collecting adult, but you have to continue finding I think in your quest or you get bored and and so I've collected other things to keep from being bored to be, you know, besides you if you collect things like like I collect on the budget that I have, you better find some cheaper things
Bob DeMarco 34:19
So what are you? What are some of your sub sub collections?
Mark Zalesky 34:23
So I already mentioned the early American lock back ders, I have a collection, I have a collection of straight razors ranging from the early English types and the large bladed types and that certain primarily English ones, but I developed a special focus within that on American patriotic and politically decorated reserves. Not that I'm any sort of an authority on American history in a broad sense, but I found that the direct connection to history be very appealing I collect custom knives by some of the 70s makers and things that are historically inspired that I think are well done. And I like I don't even know what else I've got. No, that's all I have a few of these and I have a few of those. And I like this and I like that I like knives with goofy mechanisms. And so Paul knives and roll oxes and stuff like that just sort of fascinating.
Bob DeMarco 35:24
So, you have a magazine, knife magazine.
Mark Zalesky 35:27
Bob DeMarco 35:27
As editor ... how did this come about? How did you become editor of this magazine? And how does your natural you know inborn love for knives, feed this?
Unknown Speaker 35:40
Well, that was never a career path I expected to take as you might imagine, you know, growing up reading the nice magazines I thought they were they were cool. But you know, I went to college to be environmental chemist and graduated and work six months in the field and found out you know that this There's a possibility and said, well the heck with that I'm going I'm going to go do something I love essentially. You know, it sort of started with writing for the magazine my father wrote for a few different publications over the years a little bit anti trader national knife magazine.
Mark Zalesky 36:20
I think he had a piece published in knife world.
And and so when I was in college, I submitted my first article to knifer, which is nice magazines, predecessor, and Houston. The editor then called me up on the phone, so we want to put her on the cover. The next issue in my head grew four sizes. And he put it on there and encouraged me to write more. So I did write some more now and then as I had time, and when Houston was looking to retire, you sort of it may call one day and said would you be interested in and it took a couple years to get to that point have spent about a year and a half as a full time knife dealer, which, I don't know that I could even pull that off today, but I certainly couldn't pull it off with the family today. But at the time, I was able to do that. And I came in, you know, took the editors chair here for about half of what I was making before. And it was sort of a natural fit, you know, to be able to do something related to what you love is is priceless. And there there are not a lot of people that are that lucky and I try to never forget how lucky I am in that regard. You know, I I spent this past weekend at the Civil War show in Franklin, Tennessee, because all my buoy collecting friends are there and I sent clay up to Kentucky to the to the nice show up there. So he was working and I was playing and that's that's good. He had fun too, so
Bob DeMarco 37:58
So I look at knife magazine and what sets it apart to me is the production. Well the writing and the researches is amazing and incredibly thorough and well written but the magazine on the whole is produced beautifully. It's big and colorful and put to you what sets apart knife magazine's knife magazine from the others.
Unknown Speaker 38:23
Well, I sort of glossed over our history but you know, knife magazine is the successor to knife world. Knife World was established in 1975 in St. Louis, and it was a tabloid on newsprint. That's, that's the publication I wrote for when I was younger publication I took over as editor in 97. And then when when my boss Houston passed away at the end of 2014, I purchased it. purchase the other half of it from the family and did what I felt I you know, the man magazine always needed was turned it into a magazine. We were always magazine content. We felt the best content in the industry, but we weren't pretty. So we essentially took knife world and made it pretty. And, you know, we have a small staff here, but you know, we're pretty good at what we do. I you know, I've been editing the magazine now for coming up in a few months, it'll be 23 years. You know, my graphic artist Kim, just step back a little bit in her role this year, and she'd been doing it since she's not listening 1980 for us, so she that makes her about 45
Bob DeMarco 39:41
Oh, she's still.
Mark Zalesky 39:45
And, you know, Clay came on board last year with his experience over at the truth about knives blog. And this year we brought in a new graphic is a great writer, by the way. Yeah, yes, yes. He's absolutely wonderful. We're really pleased to have him boy he can, he can turn out a short piece so fast and when I write something, it turns out 2500 words when he writes 600 words, I will you know, I can really use that because that's not I'm sort of verbose. But we brought in Lisa beavers this year is our new graphic designer and after a few months under her belt, I think she's found her groove. The magazine's looking better and better each month I think and, and our printers do a wonderful job for us. Johnson pressing America up in Pontiac, Illinois, they do a wonderful job with the printing goes out on nice paper in a sealed bag. And you know, the cost I think is really reasonable for what we do and then now we've got the the alternative of you know, if you're out of country that you know, the postage is ridiculous, but you know, if you want to have access to the magazine without paying those fees, you can you know, you can get a subscription to the magazine on our website. Not only the current issue, but every issue we've ever Published
Bob DeMarco 41:00
Yeah, I have one Jim has one and yeah it's it's pretty amazing of everything right there. But what I was gonna ask you is what what are some of the main like what are the challenges of having a nice periodical like every month you
Mark Zalesky 41:21
and a nutshell it's every month it would probably be off color to to reference a menstrual cycle but it's much like a menstrual cycle every month.
Yeah, every month I'm going to be really cranky for a week.
Bob DeMarco 41:35
And you're gonna you know through through necessity, you will find out amazing things because you have to research something I mean, your your your magazine is very deeply researched. And and historically based a lot of the articles are either about modern interpretations of traditional knives are just basically historical and traditional. lives it takes a lot of research. And so where do you get your information? Is it a lot of first hand? You've been in the, in the business for 23 years? Have you met a lot of people?
Mark Zalesky 42:10
Well, I, you know, I write some of those articles occasionally. But we we rely upon a whole, you know, squadron of freelance authors who have written many of which have written for us for years, or sometimes we have people just come out of the blue, who collect one area of expertise in that area, and in more expertise than anyone else would. So we encourage them to put their words on paper tell us what they know. And you know, if they need a little assistance, we can turn it into an article so most of our writers of the of the article content are not necessarily even writers. They're nice experts. Yeah. You know, I can I can take something that is no literary masterpiece and turned it into something legible. readable
Bob DeMarco 43:00
You know you're not going to those guys for their writing you
Mark Zalesky 43:02
write their knowledge on right and and that is a challenge as far as generating material goes because often you have a fella come in and write his one article and he's done. So now you gotta go find another one. But, you know, we have some of the most respected people in practically any field you can imagine whether that's military knives with Frank tresca and run Flook, Roy Shadbolt, you know booey knives, we have a bunch of different people pocketknives we have you know, and and writing for us right now. You know, we have Bernard Levine, who's been the you know, the industry experts and writing for us since 78. I think and, and we have you know, Bruce Boyles and Stephen dick, who you know, both former magazine editor highly respected long term magazine editors, book authors, writing for us, you know, when when they When they when their situations changed with where they were, they said Come come come here we will give you the freedom to do what you want to do and be who you are. So it's been kind of fun to pull together people like that. And to to be able to present a magazine that I you know, I think is unique from the others because of our coverage. Well, you know, the coverage is very broad and knife magazine and, you know, frankly, when when you see you in a magazine, the coverage of modernizes mostly designed to generate advertising dollars, which is where the money's at, and, and we address that area just like the other publications do. But you know, I this month's cover story is is on an antique buoy knife and really the deal that that led to the change in ownership of this buoy knife. You know, the maker that knife has been dead 150 years he isn't running
Bob DeMarco 44:58
Mark Zalesky 45:00
There's no advertising revenue and military knives or antique knives, or most, you know, a high percentage of the things we write about. So it doesn't make commercial sense for another magazine to do it. But, you know, we're not another magazine, we can do whatever we want. You know, this is the only publication we do. We're, you know, we're nice people. We're not publishers, we're publishers only because we're nice people. Right?
Bob DeMarco 45:26
So you've been in the knife business for 23 years. What? What are your impressions of the knife business today? And what changes have you seen over, you know, across that period of time, and where do you see the world headed?
Mark Zalesky 45:41
I suppose that I came in at a very interesting time. No one maybe realized that at the time, but despite You know, when I joined the knife world staff in 97, the spider codes were already out and benchmade and you know, so we had tactical folders in development and and We didn't know where they were going to continue to go but we were seeing things like you know, titanium and that but but it was all new. However the probably the biggest change was you know I can remember it was either 97 or 98 talking to Blackie Collins in fact may have been two different years in two different events and you know showing us his new Meyer co Rahman forget what it is but his assistant opener it in Kenya Kershaw were the first to assistant open so what do you think of that I caught myself the first few times I handle the handle the strike at Stretton cutting or ever handle one of those.
Bob DeMarco 46:34
Not that one in particular.
Mark Zalesky 46:38
Straighten cut it operates on
Well, it's a strike mechanism that operates the blade. He was a motorcycle guy he designed the knife based on his body. But it's a knife that if you're used to traditional pocket knives as I was the the point at which the blade snaps closes probably 20 degrees earlier than you expected. So that like said, not just the first time I had to live, but the first two times I got cut. But Blackie also and I don't know if it was the same year, the next year that he you know, he and Houston were great friends and and so you know I had the great pleasure of getting know Blackie just a little bit and he came to us for our opinions. What do you think the reaction would be if we brought in some knives from China? And we said, well, we think you know, you're probably out of your mind or at least it's gonna take a while before they accept it. So you know, we saw this with Japan back in the 70s. And initially the Japanese knives were you know, were poor quality, I shouldn't say were their medium quality. And and it took a while for them to get some traction. And by the time the mid 80s rolled around, they were making better and better knives or better knives in particular genres and could be made over here. Right. And you know, we're seeing that exact thing. You know, in China, it's happened During the period in which I've been here and and it's sort of coming full circle now we've got Chinese companies bypassing the the middleman like Columbia River over here and selling you know, direct to the collector. So where's this going to go? Well, I don't know but a lot of it is led by the by the the connectivity The internet has provided and you know, the the making of a smaller world you know, it manifests itself in all sorts of unpredictable ways but that that was that was the way it certainly didn't predict Didn't you know, 97 or 98 or whatever that was
Bob DeMarco 48:41
right back then the internet was just a way to like look up the closest pizza joint Yeah, yeah, there's there's no future to this.
Mark Zalesky 48:50
Well, you knew there was some future but you didn't know where it was going to go and and to see where it's gone from there and and you know, the different possibilities. is offered into nightclubs I mean 97 nice shows where we're still going strong with with no end in sight and you know since then there you know there are a number of shows that are still very strong across the country but there used to be 100 of them a year and I don't know how many there are a year right now but it'd be it'd be closer to 50 Yeah, yeah. It's, it's a different world and and the the collecting world is collecting different things than they did back then.
Bob DeMarco 49:26
I feel like there is a you know, I've been collecting knives since the late 80s. Well, since before that, but I got my first expensive knife in the late 80s you know, and I feel like I've seen things go way less tactical way more pocketable This is primarily how I feel and I think others might feel this way. But if I'm going to be spending the money on this item that I'm going to obsess over and and use sometimes I want to be able to carry it around with me.
Mark Zalesky 49:56
No ... You can't show it off If it's home in this case
Bob DeMarco 50:00
Yeah exactly, exactly. So I think that that's really led to this. I mean, it sounds so obvious. It's not brain science here, but I feel like that's led to this surge in popularity over the last certainly, five years, but definitely 10 years of pocket knives and, and, and with every year, the innovations come a little bit more easily, you know, now everybody's got bearings, and and titanium, you know, it used to be you you only saw titanium with certain steals. And now you see titanium with some lower grade steals and, you know, it's it's like the barrier of entry gets lower and lower with the internet.
Mark Zalesky 50:43
Bob DeMarco 50:44
yeah. And I feel like there are a lot more people it I feel like the community is just larger. But then again, when I first started collecting knives, I was a totally unconnected kid. So I don't know maybe there was a big knife world happening then.
Mark Zalesky 50:58
It's it's hard to know what the key Unity is now because the community doesn't really interact them. I mean, they do online, but it's hard to track it. It's not like the shows used to be where, you know, I can remember my first knife show in 1978 local, I was a kid looking up and everybody's 10 feet tall and jam together and, and, you know, it was a madhouse it was it was the greatest Madhouse I'd ever seen in my life. It was incredible. And this shows for the most part are not like that anymore. But there's all this activity online with the forums and the blogs and all the collector type sites where collectors gather and, you know, interact together or people are just messing around out there buying and hoarding stuff and not and not interacting. And I think the interaction is really important. I think that's something that we've lost to a degree I you know, for example, you know, we were discussing this weekend, the situation with anti bullying And how do you become a collector of anti bullying eyes anymore? I think if you're interested in anti bullying knives, the worst thing you can do is sit at home and try to collect them because you're you're going to buy fake after fake after fake and where are you going to learn that you've just bought a fake? I can tell you how to tell the difference. I'm I shouldn't say I can tell the difference. Yeah, but how are you going to learn it if I'm not there telling you that that's something you need to be watching. So that if you get people who get out to shows can bring things and talk about things and interact and I can show you that look at this and compare it to that. But if if you've isolated yourself, buddy, you're on your own.
Bob DeMarco 52:42
Yeah, I mean that that's a scalable concept across a lot of different areas. It's like learning a martial arts from a video or, or YouTube you can't you know, yeah, sure. It might help you get further along than where you are. If you have some, some base but you know, there's certain things that Most likely you're not going to learn any other way than getting in there with someone who knows. And you know that you can really pick up what they know. So how do people how do you okay? If you're going to do some trades or or whatnot How do people find you and find out what you have to trade? How does that work? How does your Are you always trading stuff?
Mark Zalesky 53:23
Bob DeMarco 53:24
Unknown Speaker 53:25
yes I am. But to be quite honest, when people try to contact me through the magazine or whatever to buy a knife I I'm really busy and I'm not very good. I had a fellow poor fellow friend of mine now down in Florida who pestered me for a good year, making phone calls leaving mesh I want to buy a knife from you. Now I'll get back to you. And, you know, finally I sold him a $5,000 knife or something, but, you know, for me to unplug myself from the business to go make a call to call somebody. I just I'm not equipped Do that I don't have the time and and as much as I like love knives you know I got a family I have to unplug a little bit at the end of the day and maybe I go plug back in after the kid and the wife are in bed I go back downstairs and work till some stupid hour dealing with you know the magazine or doing fun stuff or whatever but we all need a little time away.
Bob DeMarco 54:23
Oh yeah, no dout; no doubt. So tell everybody how they can find knife magazine The best way to get connected with the content you produce and that you unclear putting up literally will know about that.
Unknown Speaker 54:36
Well, we're pretty easy to find. We're at knifemagazine.com online and and if you're listening to this, I guess you're connected. You can also reach us at 1-800-828-7751. But if you go to our website, you can see our homepage is clays. Never Ending newsfeed and you can sort of check out a sample of what we do there for free. You get Some examples of things that you would find in the magazine, there's always sample articles there. And there's a fair portion of our website is free content. If you go into what we call the vault, you will find interesting things there. And will lead you to places that maybe you can't quite get to until you remember, but there's plenty of samples there to see what we're all about.
Bob DeMarco 54:39
Yeah, and it is so worth so worth subscribing to knife magazine. It is an endless font of research and just fun for knife nerds like myself. And I'm assuming you mark but I'm not going to cast.
Mark Zalesky 55:38
I tried to make something that I want people to read because I would want to read it myself. That's that's the basic idea.
Bob DeMarco 55:45
Well, Mark Zalesky , thank you so much for coming on The Knife Junkie podcast. It's been a pleasure meeting and speaking with you.
Unknown Speaker 55:51
Well, thank you, Bob. I've really enjoyed it. And maybe you'll let me back one of these days. If you can filter out all the bad words and uh uh
Bob DeMarco 55:59
Not too many of uhs and I heard no but no bad words. You're all good.
Mark Zalesky 56:05
The Knife Junkie is online at but Knife Junkie dot com back on the Knife Junkie podcast
Jim Person 56:10
Back on the Knife Junkie podcast... great interview Bob with Mark the editor of knife magazine, just a wealth of knowledge.
Bob DeMarco 56:17
Yeah, really ... I was very interested in hearing about his folding, hunting knife collection similar to the knife that you got that, that I helped you rehab. Just Just an example of a sub collection of his and I just think, I don't know, it's just very, very cool. But that's his collection, his career, you know, spans quite a bit. And just in talking to him, made me realize that if you immerse yourself enough in something, even if it's just an interest or even if it's just a hobby, and by just I mean something you're not getting paid for, but you really invest yourself in it, it can it can open up opportunities to you that Never imagined and marks alaskey seems to be an example of that.
Jim Person 57:04
Absolutely several opportunities he talked about in that interview that came about. So yeah, if you want to see all the great writing the gorgeous pictures, all the content, they've got a great calendar of knife shows and nightclub meetings as well right on their website. Go to knife magazine. com Knife magazine. com. that's a that's a great resource for anyone in the knife world.
Bob DeMarco 57:27
Yeah, it's like a big beautiful illustrated. It's like the old Life magazine right? Giant, beautiful,
Jim Person 57:34
right? All right, well, that's gonna wrap it up for this edition, this pre Christmas edition of The Knife Junkie podcast, if you will. But don't forget the supplemental is coming out on Christmas Day. You can listen on Christmas day as a present, or over the next day or two if you want but we'll have a few messages from some listeners along with Knife Junkie holiday wish as well as some other knife news. That'll be coming out on Christmas day you can listen then or later in the week but that's going to be our midweek supplemental issue or episode that we will release on Christmas day so if you don't get a chance to listen to that on Christmas definitely want to say Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to to you and thank you for listening.
Bob DeMarco 58:17
Yeah, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and let this New Year be an excellent one filled with prosperity and love.
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