TriStar Knives’ Matt Marken – The Knife Junkie Podcast (Episode 352)
Matt Marken of TriStar Knives joins Bob “The Knife Junkie” DeMarco on episode 352 of The Knife Junkie Podcast.
Marken is a knife maker based in Northeast Tennessee who owns and operates TriStar Knives. Specializing in EDC fixed blades, neck knives, and hunting knives, TriStar provides high quality custom blades for a lifetime of use.
TriStar knives are crafted with the owner’s tastes and custom elements in mind and are intended to be passed down to generations to come. TriStar Knives provides quality, handmade knives that will last a lifetime. Handcrafted with the highest quality materials and artisanal creative designs, Matt also does small production runs of TriStar models.
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.Matt Marken of TriStar Knives - who's making some sweet knives - is my guest on episode 352 of #theknifejunkie #podcast. Check him out. I think you'll love his knives! Click To Tweet
Matt Marken, TriStar Knives
The Knife Junkie Podcast (Episode 352)
Welcome to the Knife Junkie podcast.
Your weekly dose of knife news and information about knives and knife collecting.
Here's your host, Bob the knife junkie DeMarco.
Welcome to the Knife Junkie podcast.
I'm Bob DeMarco.
On this edition of the show, I'm speaking with Matt Marken of TriStar Knives.
Matt's work is new to me.
As a matter of fact, a friend of his reached out and exposed me to it directly and I'm really glad he did.
This gentleman knows my taste and thought I should know Matt's work tristars custom and small batch production EDC, fixed blades and neck knives, and hunters are beautiful to look at.
With functional, sleek profiles often sporting sanmi blades and handsome material combinations on the handles.
Now I look forward to meeting Matt and finding out more about TriStar knives, what drives him and how he is making these beautiful things.
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Welcome to the show.
How you doing, Sir?
Thanks for having me.
It's my pleasure.
I've been on a on a couple year long tear now in my knife collecting where I'm I'm really obsessed with working fixed blades into my EDC.
As a suburban person working in a in a a very domesticated world it can sometimes be difficult.
So we look for like smaller knives, neck knives, EDC, fixed blades.
And these kind of things.
So I've been yeah, I've been trolling the Internet and trolling Instagram and and looking at knives like these and knives like yours, and I'm really glad I was exposed to them.
Tell me about how you started making them and and how you found this niche.
Karen Knives since I was really young and I used them hard for work every day.
I work in the automotive industry so crying and cutting into all that and I'm always wear out.
Folding blade, folding knives.
No matter what the the quality of them, they always wear out.
The pivot clip falls off.
So we got turned on to a small fixed blade and spend good money on it, but realized I should just start making them myself.
So I started.
Just going at it, read about it enough, learned enough, and.
Just started working in.
With tools and learning more about it.
So I kind of just grew into it actually as a hobby and trying to turn it into something now.
First of all, everyone, I'm sure.
Well, I gotta know, what was the small fix blade that you spent a fair amount of money on?
You know I have it around here but I can't think of the name of it right now.
Bradshaw Bradford Bradford Bradford.
Warren Cleft I like Warren clefts and downturn blades so on end up picking that one up and liking it but.
You just got me hooked on fixed blades at that point.
So you use them hard in the automotive industry you're you're using, you're using it as a hard use tool, not just as something that's cool to have.
I'm always after quality tools.
You can have many, many fold the knives of any quality.
They're attractive and work for you.
But I like a collection of everything really.
OK, so, uh, so you start working on fixed blade knives.
What from from the the Bradford.
What did you want to do?
How did you want to improve on that to make it a better knife for how you use them?
Well in a it's it's great that that particular knife, great steel, perfect size and all.
It's just a didn't want to have to spend the money again on another fixed blade.
When I figured out I like fabricating things, I like making things.
So I figured rather than buying the next knife I could.
Invest in the tooling and start figuring it out for myself and I kind of just led me into it that way.
The size of it's great and the really want to when you start off making knives, you get an idea of what you what you want to do.
But it it doesn't ever just go to plan.
It kind of shapes itself as time goes on.
And I said that's how I've gone with it.
What was your first model like?
Because now I know what the.
I know what?
The Bradford guardian.
That's a great knife, and I know what the Warren Cliff looks like.
So what did what was your first knife?
Honestly, it was just a rough.
I don't have it here with me, but it just a rough shape.
A smaller knife.
Handle based off on Ace Biblio kind of kind of shape to it just something that that flowed out of me at the time.
It wasn't the dream knife by any means or it was just something to get started really.
Yeah, OK. Just so people know what we're talking about, do you have any examples of your knives that you could hold up right now?
Yeah, this is this is one of a the current run that I'm, I'm working on right now.
It's a 52100 with Taro, tough handle, and just brass washers in there.
And this one is what I'm calling the sheep's foot.
It's it's hard to say what's what nowadays, but.
That's what I'm calling this one and as a for the drop point.
Equivalent to that kind of thing is.
About the same thing, just Terrell tough and this is the Grey version I have.
A tan of each each one and in tan as well.
They're black oxide stone washed so it's it's a little shinier whenever it comes down down to the.
The finish then acid etch, but it gives a nice uniform finish and.
These are just great pocket size.
I actually carry them in my pocket.
I create a pocket sheath for it.
What is that?
A 3 inch blade?
Just just that three inches I think overall see if I got a tape measure around here.
I think of the overall is a 6 1/2 so it's it's a full my I got large hands but it's a full 4 four finger grip on it just good for.
Nice, nice little use.
Those, those both have a real modern look, but very utilitarian.
The the drop point like it's got.
It's got a real traditional hunter vibe though.
It's very it's kind of futuristic a little bit.
And same thing with the with the warrant or with the sheep's foot.
Well the odd thing is, when I first started this I was always on the chase of the perfect skinning knife and.
And honestly, I've never been hunting so I don't know what it takes to be a perfect skinning knife, but that seems to be whenever you're looking over custom knives, everyone's making beautiful wood handles, skinning knives.
So after chasing that down just trying to hone my skills and I I realize I'm a I'm an everyday carry kind of guy.
So I just started developing my taste and and design for that.
So so these two that you were holding up, they are your small batch production knives.
Right now there's six of each of those profiles with this, with this particular material and and set up now I usually try to find a profile that I like and I can keep it into production and and the drop points definitely going to be one of those, but.
So so I usually will try not to run the same profiles with exact same materials.
Kind of give someone the buyers that they got something limited production, a little special and the same same goes with the sheets on these.
I have the first first prototype sheets right behind me.
I'll grab it really quick.
This is a. This is the first sheath for this this setup, so it is a leather sheath.
Always try to do something artistic on them.
Uh, this one just happens to have a Raven on the thing, and it's it's stitched off a little different than what you normally see.
How did you get that, uh, image on there?
I have a laser engraver.
God, that's cool.
So I drew it in my phone and transferred it over into the point of a. Setting it up in my laser etching machine and it it burns it in there and then I'll go through and do paint work on it and and just play around with it with paint and stain and dyes until I like it.
So that's what I've settled on this one.
So these 12 will get this particular style sheet and then I just won't make any more of this this artwork sheet.
So it's a different theme for the next run kind of thing that's that sheath is really beautiful with that Raven and and your.
Logo is this and then you spent all that time.
I mean it's not just that the line imagery, but the the the texture you have there with all the color and stuff.
So this is each sheath is a unique work of art in and of itself as each knife is a unique work of tooling.
Someone I have feels like they have something that you can't just pick up off the shelf.
Well Kydex would definitely be easier on me and I do wanna take it up.
As of right now, these these limited run Leathers are just where my toolings at and I'll I'll eventually get to the point where I'm using Kydex and probably speeding up production with it, honestly so.
Well, are you an artist?
Are you a draftsman?
The tattoo artist in my younger 20s.
So ohh while I did that and made my money with it, I just I didn't find it to.
Keep me, keep me interested as the the growing man that I've become.
So family man kind of thing.
So I ditched it.
But I still have a an eye for artwork and and it comes to me fairly easily and you can still draw, man, and you still know color that that is really cool.
Do you have any other of those sheets in front of you?
Was the first run.
It would be a little bit harder to see on this one.
Is a. It's a wolf.
Oh yeah, yeah, yeah.
So it uh, which here's a here's a little sample of that as well.
It's just a uh burned in this was a little this was a little card for telling you telling you what how to keep take care of it I kind of thing just so there's there were there were ten of these in this run with a different handle materials just another little small.
Small knife that's easy to carry kind of thing.
This is what started off these little knives for me as a. Just easy easy carry knives these runs I've been carrying one of these every day for since the beginning of the year is when I got these so there were all diamond looks my handle material so there's you can't really tell on this screen but
they're they're all different colored and.
I mean I could tell one of them has a greener tint, one of them sort of, but those are really sleek, very good looking knives and and the perfect size I think for the kind of.
I mean, I carry fixed blades like I said all the time this.
Even though I'd like to walk around with a big Bowie on my hip like the smaller the better but but if I can get 4 fingers on it.
That's your your winner with them.
I mean that's a winner for me and I saw you, you gripping that.
Umm, but I I I really like that sleek profile.
Looks like a a racing boat.
A cool little.
It's, uh, everyone.
Like your kids have them.
Fidget spinners and fidget toys.
These are grown men.
Fidget knives are on this first run of round of the spine over.
So just you could play around with it in your hand like you would have a knife and it rolls around like that one, that one there that is on the screen.
To me, to me, the smaller there's a certain point where it's too small, but it it's a good knife to the size of a wants you to carry.
You want to carry it every day.
You have those nice big knives, but you're not going to throw them on your hip for the day.
For work, you you just need a a nice cutting tool in your pocket.
Yeah and and uh for people like you who are making these knives and I've I've spoken to a number of of knife makers who specialize in these kind of knives.
It's it's a double edged sword.
I'll use that because people want to carry fixed blades.
They're less app to these.
They are more apt to.
But you still have to convince them to carry them over folders.
So you have a very.
Definite you already had a very definite preference over folders.
Well, I would love to make folders I don't currently have a milling machines or or even the the ready knowledge to to just jump into it and actually be successful.
It's going to, you see those guys make beautiful folders worthwhile kinds of money and you'd love to have one.
But I'm not going to pretend like I'm at that level just because I can make a fixed blade knife.
So while while in my knife making grow future, I'd like to add it to the mix.
As of right now, I'm I'm on just on the hunt for a a stable quality with my, my full, my fixed blade knives for now, just consistency that that I can repeat over and over again.
Yeah, I was talking in terms of usage.
I'm sorry if I wasn't clear with that, but like uh in in your line of work where your hard using a knife that to have that fixed blade.
Sure you know that sure feeling in hand and and just knowing that there's not a weak point right where the sharp point meets your hand.
It's kind of nice to know how did the automotive industry and and what you do in it.
How did it benefit you or help you out when setting out to start doing this.
Well, uh, I was working as a I've always liked metalwork fabrication work.
So I was working at a hot rod shop as the metal fabricator there, just doing all the rust repair and panel modifications and rebuilding these cars and it was a fun job, but had to move on.
And I've been in that line line of work, you least hobby work, even since I was very young.
So this kind of just naturally came about just because a knife project is such a a small project, you can really get through it quickly.
Cars, cars could take you years.
So this kind of just claimed my my attention span where I can get that sense of fulfillment making these things and the fabrication, just naturally I had half the tools I needed for it and it just.
Spoke to me.
I suppose you talked about repeatability and of precision.
You know, in in your output.
How do you ensure that?
Uh, just I guess.
I got a fairly calibrated eye.
I'm, I'm, I am leaning towards a. Having my blanks at least once I decide on certain ones water jet cut so I can add machines to the mix.
I do have a CNC plasma machine and a router table that I'd like to utilize and and I figured while utilizing those tools and with the aid of a computer you should be able to count on all your specs and measurements where it'll come down to me.
Still hand grinding, bevels, but I've, I've.
I do it freehand and I've worked at it for I'm probably going on about 2 1/2 years now.
Freehand, grinding, working, I'm I'm satisfied with my skill set and always growing and developing more, but it's it's a I keep on it enough that I I feel like I'm I'm getting better with every knife that I make so I can usually land my grinds just fine.
And the it's the profiles and all that that I'd like to be able to speed up naturally just with the aid of computers and that and everything else.
Yeah, it helps out.
Take it kind of from a a hobbyist standpoint to to of small production.
I know, I know some guys as a hobbyist are fast, can be, and I don't understand it, but I'll do what I can do and now if computers, computers and machines can help me out a little, I'll take it.
I always talk about, like, if Rembrandt had had access to a 4K camera, would he use it?
Well, of course he would, you know?
He was using the best tools he had at his disposal.
With the with.
Well, what is your process?
I was going to say with water jet but but you haven't done that yet.
What is your process?
Kind of soup to nuts but.
So so I have a drawing book where I just draw all kinds of knives.
I'm just constantly sketching profiles just just to keep in mind around ideas and if I'll come back to him.
So once I land on one I'll I'll transfer it to this this like a piece of plywood.
It's 3 sixteenths.
I have a bunch of leftover from some sort of house project so I'll make sure I like the way it fits in my hand.
And then uh, proportions of it.
And then I'll, I'll scribe it out on my piece of steel, use a band saw drill and and refine it with a grinder like like majority people do.
And then you come up with this is actually do this one last night.
It still is in rough grind, but I I threw this handle on it this afternoon after work but it's a. I still got to do the final grind on it.
So this is just a straight out of the kiln and quench and temper so, so, so that that is the mock up you were just holding up.
Yeah, look at that.
That is so cool.
With the harpoon and that, that's so I got to say the handle on this and you can see that handle running through some of your designs is evocative of the old gun stock handle.
I started making those connections I've watched the whenever you you've gone over those in a couple of your other podcasts and I've I followed Jack Wolf Knives recently I found them and and started to notice it's it's definitely similar gives you gives you good.
I like to segment my fingers and two two to two kind of thing rather than the single upfront kind of gives you more options on your grip and that that Jack Wolf even that gun stock.
Definitely is something that I I would prefer, I would think.
Yeah, it was a revelation to me for sure.
I was just thought it was for looks on that one.
But on yours, on the size of it especially, I like that it's a two finger, you know, two finger steps.
It's not a partition, it's a step and that's what I prefer.
So so yeah, the two finger on a small knife like that definitely works.
I agree with you, a single thing I've been trying to develop over time as this is an older knife of mine.
This is a W2 with a hormone and it's.
I used to chase W2 down for the phone and realized it had me hand sending my whole life away.
So I kind of kind of slowed down on it.
But this one is the single finger just traditional style and I started to move away from from this probably this year as I started changing styles up in the.
Then it led me into yet another.
W2, uh, hormone still there, just not quite as, quite as.
Intricate is the other one, but it same thing with this one you kind of separate your your two fingers.
This is your hunter, right?
This is your hunter.
This was made for a friend of mine in Louisiana I grew up with in the.
This is it's like a he's he's a hunter.
He truly is.
So I'm trying to make something that he'd be willing to carry every day and actually use so we'll see if he likes it.
I still need to get it out to him.
He's been patient enough to let me hold on to it, hold on to it until.
Till this day so you can see it on this podcast here nice that looks really sweet in the in the sheet.
Can you hold up that handle again though to me when I saw this and and on your website and saw that it was labeled hunter hunting knife.
The handle which already made sense to me but made even more sense because it's got a sort of step.
It's got a two finger 2 by two partition there but each one kind of flares out at the at a similar angle.
And I also have never feel dressed in animal, but I've watched it on YouTube, you know, and there seems to be an action with the fingers and the wrists that that that handle would be handy for.
They're trying to get a a like a forward grip on here would be your ideal.
You're trying to guard the point of the knife with your fingers so you're not cutting into what you don't want to and the guts wise, but it it lets you lets you.
Handle this thing.
Forward and still have a nice nice control over the the the handle without without.
I would imagine with blood on it would be a different story, but in my mind it seems like it's the ideal.
Ideal way to grip a knife whenever you're going to be utilizing it in that way.
So yeah, it's sort of wedges itself in in your grip.
Now excuse me, in my open I said Umm, send my steel.
I think I was making a mistake seeing the hormone in the W2.
How is that made?
Is that that clay that absolutely it's a it is a. W2 and a differential heat treatment, so you you apply an insulation insulator clay on it whenever you're going through your your heat treat.
You got a specific temperature recipe that you you dialed in and I. I just fell in love with W2 at the beginning of all this, but like I said this, uh, this.
You have to hand sand.
You imagine hand sanding hardened tool steel up to 2000 grit just to dip it in acid and start over.
So it's a it's a time consuming thing, but it makes beautiful knives and this this is a this is truly a mono steel.
It's a. It'll show you some version of where my clay was.
I I was trying to take notes every time I would do one of these and.
Basically, recreate a knife similar to this one with this activity in here and it's always different.
It's always difficult.
Some guys have a. Some guys have figured it out and I know that I have not yet for repeatability on the my own, at least I could I can repeat a harmonious just don't get this this level of activity which is the best the best amount I've created.
When you talk about activity, you're not talking about the the waviness of the line itself, are you?
Are you or are you talking about what's happening within the line?
Have you have a?
This is the this is the softer side of the top side, and this is the hardened steel, of course, and the darkness that you see underneath the.
The clear line is of the ashy of it.
It's a. It's just part of what happens, the magic of the hormone in there.
So it is hardened steel, but it's a, it just has.
I don't know what you'd exactly call it.
It it just has all that character in there.
Yeah yeah, there.
That this particular knife is my favorite I've ever done.
Here's another one and you can see that it's definitely there and it looks cool and all, but it's it's nowhere near the activity that this one shows, so it's it's interesting.
I don't know if it was because of this big fuller in here that allowed the the heat to do its thing.
I'm not exactly sure how I got this one look this way, but I haven't been able to recreate it.
So you do your grinding before you do about 80. Center so and then, uh, then put your clay on there, heat treat it and and do your thing from there.
OK. So that way you can, you can.
Well, you can shallow hardening steel, so if it's too thick, you'll grind out all the hormone.
You didn't actually.
So so you you want to get rid of some of the steel to begin with so that when it comes time to actually insulate it, it has that material to do its job with.
So you're not grinding it away.
He comes into it is you.
You're kind of wanting to be delicate not to to ruin it.
You want to see what the steel has to offer and your heat treat there rather than just watch the machine burn it.
Burn it all out of there.
And so but you have to do that and then dip and repeat, right.
He once you once you hand send it to a nice polished finish you use some sort of acid you whether it's fair chloride, lemon juice, coffee, whatever it is and it'll ruin your Polish.
But then you got to re re Polish and and do it over and over until you get the the look that you're trying to.
Even sometimes it comes out amazing, sometimes it comes out amazing, but not quite as active as others.
So it's a it's an interesting process.
That's why I say you take notes and you're always trying to you'll kind of become an obsession of yours trying to figure this out.
But it's it's a lot more difficult to at least for me to to recreate exactly, figure out exactly what I've done to get a certain look there.
And two, uh, you're going for the certain look, but also you have to be aware of the hardness of the the hardenable steel.
Yeah, so, so.
When you're now that you're not doing the hormone as much, you said you've kind of strayed.
Not strayed, but you've moved away from W2 because it's so damn labor intensive.
So now do you have a a different sort of approach in terms of how you how you heat treat it?
I mean obviously you have you're not covering it with clay, but is it a total actually, actually I'm just skipping out on W2 altogether and I'm using a lot of 52100 right now it seems.
I like, I like the high hardness of W2 takes a real fine edge.
So with 52100 you you also can.
Have a high hardness level, uh, and and keep a nice fine cutting edge on there.
So that seems to be my my go to you at the moment.
I'd love to get into stainless, but it's just a I don't have a. I don't have a way to cry out treated at the moment, which is yeah.
Hey, I'd love to get into it.
It's just it's not the time quite yet.
I I like the idea of, well first of all I like high carbon steel period and I also like putting patinas on them and that that that's another kind of character that I enjoy.
Plus you can you can easily Polish those out and and redo patinas.
So I like the idea of 50 to 100, but I also like the idea of it because it's a ball bearing steel, right.
And that came from Aerospace I think.
Since the late 1800s, even 18, early 19, it's been around for a while and that's it.
It does rust just like any high carbon steel.
But really, whenever you're using a knife regularly in the looking it over, you always have a chance to wipe it down with some WD40AS simple as that of weekly we'll we'll salvage the thing without, without having any problems.
So it's a great steal.
It's a it could take abuse even at that high hardness and not not be brittle.
I have one that I have.
I carry around.
I work at a. Currently my current job at bringing around, there's a couple guys that I I come across at car dealerships that like knives in the in the technicians and I can take a knife and drop it right on his point and it won't damage it.
And that kind of kind of proves to me my own heat treat, but also shows these guys why why I'm making these rather than just going out and buying knives.
You could get a different quality out of out of your own product.
I think you could dial in geometries and heat treats and recipes and all that and it and really get yourself a high.
Quality life, yeah yeah and and anyone who works on concrete with a knife long enough will will recognize the value in that in that drop test.
And you're you're right about I mean I have I should say anecdotally I have also noticed when I take my car into one of two places.
The guys all carry knives and one guy recently and and it I feel like a creep sometimes.
Like, Ohh, I couldn't help but notice you're carrying a paramilitary too.
They're like, stop looking in my pocket, you create it.
But this guy had a maximum at and he couldn't he couldn't stop talking about how awesome it was.
Well, yes, he could.
I couldn't stop talking about how awesome it was, but he was like, he loved that blade steel for what he was doing, working, you know, working in a in a shop there.
Yeah, so that that makes sense.
So, so as you transition, not transition as you start acquiring skills.
Some taken from your your other life but but and your career, but some newly acquired do you do you have mentors or people that have shown you things along the way?
No, no, not at all really.
Uh, just just guys that I've met online through Instagram, other makers seeing their, seeing what they do and like something catching your eyes.
So you have to research it.
I'm good about research and reading something to death and then then going out there and jumping right into it.
So if there's something, something new that I see or or want to know about, I'll I'll figure it out and take it from there and just dive in until.
Until I figure out what's what works and what doesn't and and hopefully it's usually fairly quickly so I'm not spending a lot of money on waste time and all, but it's it is a learning process, all of it, and you kind of you do earn it as you go through.
I mean, imagine what this, what what this experience for you would be like without Internet.
And now I'm being presumptuous here, but I would imagine it has a lot to do with how you're learning here.
And in the old days and not even that long ago, you know, you'd have to get in your car and you have to drive somewhere and you'd have to seek this out.
You know, I think about this a lot like my parents have always been travelers and and they were they were putting trips together before the Internet.
How the heck did they do that?
You know, but it's the same thing.
With something like this, you would have to go seek out, find where knife makers are, and then get in touch with them either on the phone or write them a letter or show up at their doorstep.
And, you know, take you a lot longer, even if you have the.
You know, the natural inclination to be a maker.
That's honestly how I learned a lot of the car stuff.
I know I was always into automotive bodywork fabrication and paint and auto body.
So I'd have my mom take me to the the library and look up every book that I can find on it, whether there were any good or not, probably probably ten, 20-30 years old.
So it's out dated information, but good.
And then you start trying it.
You meet, you meet other grown men in the industry and you ask them questions and you.
It's the same questions to everyone you could find and then figure out what seems right, what seems wrong and and go from there.
Trial and error and you start taking you taking you longer than nowadays, but you'd learn how to do it with your own trial and error when the knowledge that you've gained of asking questions.
So you're you're 100% correct on that one.
The blade show or any other knife shows, no.
I last year I was wanting to get or actually this this past blade show.
I've wanted to get there.
I didn't have anything to show.
I they accepted me to show if I wanted to, but I was, I wasn't at the the point.
I through family Project house projects and stuff.
I didn't have enough inventory or anything to show.
So this coming, this coming one in in the summer of 23, I'd love to be there.
I'd love to be at the position that I have.
Plenty to show there.
So that is my one of my goals coming up here and I'm so close to it, about five hours away.
So it's not, not too hard to get out there.
Well, even even if you even if you don't, I mean.
What I mean is, even if you don't have the the stock you want to bring, it is very, it's such a great time, first of all, but it's so amazing to be there and just be surrounded by, you know, hundreds and thousands of people who not hundreds of thousands, but hundreds and probably over 1000 people
there who love.
But when it's happening, I I watched all those guys having fun and I'm sure you're there, but it'd be, it'd be nice to meet people that I've talked to you through Instagram and and seen seen their work and seed in person and just the overall.
When when you love knives, guess we're in a in a way are all knife junkies and this this is what captivates our our attention and hobby and it would be amazing to go see it, see what the US has to show you there.
That's really what's going on.
So it's all the innovations through the year and design.
Well, I'm sure it's amazing.
Amazing show to get to.
And you know what?
I kicked myself.
I've only been twice, but both times I've kicked myself because there's an entire part of the room full of stuff that I love, like Old World War Two era things, folders fixed blade knives, Randalls and stuff.
And I'll walk by them because I know what those look like.
I want to see new makers and then I'm like, oh, but I should have bought a Randall while I was there or something like that.
Do you collect?
Do you have any knives?
Leftover from before you started making the things we carry.
I do have a bunch of a lot of them are are just sub $100 knives that I'll just using a use up and and use them until they fall apart kind of thing.
And I have a couple of good bench maids and and spider codes and stuff like that but it's a I've moved around.
I moved out to Tennessee about five years ago so some of it got lost in the move, some of their just to me work knives so I don't have any kind of valuable collection.
A lot of a lot of guys do.
I have a couple couple that I hold on to, but it's it's nothing that I'm.
No, no show pieces or showcase kind of things now that I'm now that I'm making these things I I did recently buy a. This is the first folder I bought and I was I was looking up as a Kaiser.
I don't even know what it is, but sweet.
I was looking up a sheep footage.
I like the design and the my card on it, so I cheap enough to grab and and just carry it as a. That's a that's got a weird name.
It's called the Towser.
OK, but that's a that is like one of the smoothest knives I've ever opened and closed and it's it seems like it's geometry.
It just a. It just it's smooth as can be especially for a a $70.00 knife.
So I'll I'll try knives out like that and I'll I won't care about them too much.
I'll just use them up and once they've fall apart they fall apart.
It's it's no big deal you pick up the next one if if you choose to or you carry you carry one of your own little fixed blade that you decided to design the night before just to keep you keep you moving with it is is that how quickly you can bring an idea into?
Reality, just kind of overnight, so to speak.
Yeah, it depends on what I'm doing.
If I'm working on a run and then I try to stay focused just so I don't break my focus, have a process that I'm working through, I set up little bins of every every one of them in their stage and just keeping it moving.
But this this particular knife I've been dealing with, I've been dealing with the run of these for a couple weeks now, just trying to pin down the hardware and everything I needed.
So just to keep get my mind out of it, I threw this one.
Together and it was based off of a design that I drew a couple weeks ago and last night I was a I saw a piece of steel that called my name and you know, I wanted to get it together.
So this was a matter of an hour or two last night to get it roughed in and then after work today through some handles together then through try to get a heat treated and ready to go for this particularly I didn't, I didn't make it to the final grind of it.
It just it actually just came out of the the kiln for tempering.
Just before we got on here.
Ohh I'd love OK, so.
Just to honor that, hold that up real close to the screen.
I want to see this.
Look at that.
That is beautiful.
I love that handle material.
It looks like like some sort of coral or undersea creature shade.
It's an epoxy in it, and it's it's a router, a routing machine, CNC router that out.
I think his name is.
Brilliant scales he makes a he uses a similar machine the CNC router that I have but he's he's machining out my card is and and all kinds of stuff just to just to fill in fill with epoxy and and this was one of the first scales that I bought from them and I finally decided to use it at their their
quarter inch thick so I figured to wait for a smaller knife and and I actually just ordered a a handful probably enough for fire 5 to 10. Lives more of his material.
Not this exact kind, but other stuff just because I like supporting small makers of handle materials and and he's making some nice stuff and I'm, I'm I'm getting into synthetic, synthetic handle material.
I have a drawer with thousands of dollars worth of fine, fine stabilized wood but synthetics are are kind of calling my name right now.
So that's that's the beauty of these small batches.
You kind of just get a float through whatever, whatever calls your name at the moment, whatever style you're looking in for.
So what happens to be?
Probably something you'll see on the next run or so of knives is something that he's made.
It's cool because it's the same with the sheath.
So you get to you get to sort of freely express yourself with the little runs, but you also do custom stuff.
Are you what I'm what I'm trying to say is you have custom patterns that you make.
Uh, But what about, uh?
If a customer comes to you and says I want you to make me a Bowie knife, for instance, is that something that you do?
Centers the the screen.
Yeah, that is cool.
So, so this is the first the biggest knife I've ever made.
I was asked for I think a 12. I can't remember exactly.
I think this is 12 inch blade.
But this is, uh, he wanted to, he wanted some sort of chopper.
So this is, this is what I came up for him.
The camp knife has salt teeth on the back, the back side there, put a fuller in it just to just to lighten the blade up some and just.
Give you give you a good grip.
Nice full grip chopping knife.
So this one this one is one of those one of those custom knives.
And while custom knives take me a little longer just because it's a, you kind of have to reinvent the wheel every single time where where I'm trying to get to the point where.
I'm trying to get to the point where I have that these these production type knives where you can just keep keep them in the loop and you can just change them up and make them something.
But you can always go in and have have a knife that is is something that you've designed for someone and maybe you'll make it again, maybe you won't, but it's it's on that custom.
See this one is a W2 as well and it it hadn't been sanded out but there's.
There's a hormone ghost hiding in there somewhere.
Yeah, I can see it.
I can see it.
That knife is sweet.
I really like the sort of Spanish notch and the guard that is very.
Once I've done that, I've I've always.
Either either put something on there on the guard or not, but this one, I wanted to go a little little deeper with it and and try putting some shape in, in an area that I haven't gone that that far into yet.
So that's dramatic.
That's a dramatic.
And I'll likely make another one at some point, but it's a. It's one of those custom knives.
Unfortunately, they cost a little more when it comes down to it, just because you're it's a one off thing and you, you you can't get in this rhythm.
You're even as a knife maker your your rhythm is making knives, but you get to a point where if you make the same knife, you can be more efficient with it, where these custom ones kind of throw you off a little bit, but it's.
Yeah, I I I work in a creative field and some things you just have to do over and over again and and if you're smart about it, after a while you have created a you've problem solved that process, and you've created a a process that works every time and and then you can't imagine how you did it
before you knew that stuff.
So yeah, that that's exactly where I'm I'm trying to get.
I'm trying to force that out of me with with these type knives is is getting to this rhythm where it's the process that I just that that I always do and then I can always count on.
And where where these custom knives are, they're all epoxy together and indifferent.
So truly like a lanyard hole for if you ever had to tie this, lace this thing to a stick and make a spear, you have the option kind of thing.
So it's a. So it's it's one of those I'll do it but I'm trying to grow myself and and and and kind of force a business plan per se out and then and it's it while it's still going to exist it's it's not my main focus anymore where these these runs of things that's why I'm I'm hunting for that perfect
profile that's a popular one that I can no I can I can pay to have water jet cut and and count on them then moving rather than just sitting on there on something.
That was a decent idea, but didn't turn out.
Yeah, that's that is a I think that's a valuable thing to note.
We, I, I bring this up a lot.
There's the the idea of having one or two or three designs that you perfect over years and you just iterate and reiterate and reiterate and and so I call that like the Chris Reeve knives model kind of.
And then there's the tops model who's got 50 billion models and they're always almost all available except for the ones that are.
Totally out of print.
And both of those are exciting to me.
I love both of those because I I'm you know I'm I I do call myself a junkie.
So I love the variety of the of the tops but the concept of sticking with the design once you've dialed it in and just are every once in a while tweaking it.
You know over the last 12 years we learned we should do this and you can't even see the difference but it makes the knife better.
I love that concept and that's that's somewhat it's a rough ideas to try to get to that point but that's where these runs the creative.
Side will be the the material that goes into it whether it's different steel maybe it maybe I do do a run of all W2 where they're 100% unique with their hormone kind of thing but you're I wanted to try to even if I have a lineup of knives which maybe I'm shooting for about five of them even if I
have that line up every time I I make a run you could at least have something different than you you have the last buyers had so you're always they're always a collectible and in some way.
Are these a serial numbered or dated in any way right now uh I haven't got that deep into it other than the the wolf knife kind of thing like wolf or that run that particular run this the sheath is kind of what's what's labeling these runs or or the artwork on there so I do need I have a hard time
naming and in animate object so it's my brother-in-law's been on me is like just give it a name and I don't name.
I've never named Carl Samuel.
It seems odd to me, but it's a necessary thing and I gotta figure it out.
But as of right now.
The the artwork on the sheath is is what is.
What's what's keeping track of these particular runs is is you you won't see it again once they're gone kind of thing but that that will only be until like say say like a earlier I said I'd like to start using kydex.
Once I start doing that I do need to put a number to it a name to him and and try to try to keep them distinguished and that that kind of way.
So are these all spoken for this current run with these with the artwork on the sheets?
No they aren't.
I haven't actually officially said they are for sale yet but.
Have I have taken a couple of pre-orders so they're they're are probably four of the 12 missing of each of the there.
There's 12 total six of the drop .6 of the sheep foot, but there's there's 3 tans and then there are three.
Out of out of the drop point, the six of them and then three of each color of the the sheep's foot as well.
And I know, I know one of the sheep's foot's gone and two of the drop points and I believe they're all Gray.
Right now if I'm remembering right off you go back and look it through through emails.
But there there are still a handful of each color left of each profile.
So how would how would someone watching get in touch with you?
You can go on to the website and then contact my website is.
Westernize.com you can go in there and contact me directly through e-mail or you could find me on Instagram is usually where where I'm you're trying to feed an algorithm kind of thing so I'm usually always the president on there.
It's easy to easy to keep in in your hand on your phone kind of thing, so message me on there.
Either way there there's ways to get a hold of me through Facebook, Instagram or website and and claim one.
Alright, so so Speaking of the website, there's something I wanna you had something that we haven't talked about at all which is that Tonto is so cool.
I don't know if you have that around you or not, but but is that is that one that you have ordinarily on offer or.
Yeah this is a this is yeah this was made at a request of a friend of mine and.
I I have what axe wax, so it's not rusting in the drawer over there, but it's a. It's not something of a made two of them or I made three of them.
One of them, one of them is long gone with a a guy picked it up and this is this this guy is it's the same knife for same same owner of these two.
So these are.
These were an old, old style.
You can see it's it's much bigger than anything that I've I've showed you.
Just a little bit ago and it's a little different style.
This was this was me trying to develop what I what I'm making and and.
Trying to put cool finishes on it, so it's a. It's an interesting.
Interesting patina on there, and it's a it's a. It's hard to see in this light, but it's a cross cut.
My car to segmented scale and a spalted Maple Levi believe for the.
The the handle material tapered Tang.
So this this would be a custom knife.
This is something that that you probably won't see in the lineup.
This this compound grind here.
Yeah it's it's a difficult one these this was the first one that I tried out and it worked out.
So I did it two more times, one with the smaller one here and then one with exactly the same.
But it has a blue, a blue handle.
So it it was a difficult process to just wing it.
But it worked out and I don't love tontos but.
I'm like, I'm not the guy carrying knives, all the knives that I make, so it really doesn't matter what I love.
But I do love that, Tonto.
And and and when you were just holding up, I was, I was noticing, yeah, I didn't even see the swedge or notice the swedge in the photograph.
But like all all of the that's a difficult grind.
You've got hollow grind, flat grind and the switches and all of that.
Yeah, that that's part of, that's part of that that deterrent.
The for for doing it again, but it's like I said these worked out first try just came out of nowhere and it worked out.
So I'd imagine if I put my mind to it again and I could pull definitely pull it off.
So it's a all of all of the.
These are the only two that I still have out of those, but they all they all have nice lines in them and this was these were made a little while ago so I'd imagine with the.
As many knives I've made since then, she shouldn't be too hard to make it make it even more clean.
Crisp lines in it, and another beautiful thing about 52100. It's a emachines really well so once it's hardened you can get crispy.
Like real crisp.
Bells on it.
So you're nowadays my, my plunge lines are always they seem to they seem to work for me.
So it's a my technique works out.
So that's that's the.
With with one of these tomatoes a I would like to try it again.
I'd probably change it up a little so it's not just a big.
This is a big beefy blade here so.
Kind of streamlining a little and and make something of it, I'm sure, I'm sure be willing to do many more of them well.
I mean, I could see how you could translate that into the kind of current sleek language you're dealing with with the other three small knives, though, with the Warren Cliff drop point and the and the original sort of almost spare .1. How automated do you want to get as you as you continue?
I would like to since I have I know, I know you're a plasma cutter.
Isn't the ideal thing to cut out your profiles because it it's too much heat along your edge so you have to oversize the knife and and it and account for all that water.
Jet cutting or lasers likely the way to go but that would be one thing that I'd like to do just I spend.
I spend a lot of time sitting here.
I got I got all kinds of profiles like this that I've had to truly cut out and refine and drill like everyone else does.
But if I can, if I can speed that process up, I could make more knives.
And then another thing is, once I do get to the point where that process is something I can dead count on, I can also utilize my routing machine, my my CNC router to help create my handle.
So if it's, if it's a handle, if these two things could work with me here.
I could potentially say I could create 30 knives a month is as a goal of mine.
If I could do that then then I I could almost make this into a full time job.
Now whether I could sell 39 a month, who knows, but it's it's one of those challenges.
Let me see let me see what I am capable of doing and then do it again and do it again and and go from there.
Just try to repeat this and I don't.
I'm not looking to be a gigantic production knife business but it would be nice to be to to produce a good amount of knives where.
Really what I would come down to is finishing is all by hand all and grinding the bevels will all be by hand.
Just because I can't imagine setting up the CNC bevels at the moment, that's that's.
If I could get profiles down and handles down, I'd be in heaven with it.
So I'll stick at the grinder with grinding out my my bevels and.
So the idea is to make it impractical to have another job.
Yeah, well, my job right now is I fix water leaks in cars, rain water leaks.
So in Tennessee here it rains.
So you end up having a wet floor or a stain on your headliner and then you take your car to a dealership.
They call me and I come in and I. And I I figure out what the problem is and I fix it.
So if it doesn't rain, I don't have work.
So that's what started the knife knife thing is I needed something that's going to, that's going to and I get paid Commission, Commission base.
So while I wasn't working I needed something to do to generate some sort of income and knife making came into the picture and and and I love it.
So and I've already told the business I work for real.
It's a really small family business and I'm the only guy in Tennessee this side that does this.
So I've I've.
Gave him a heads up that this is what I'm a knife maker as well so whenever whenever it's time for it to become full time I'm I'm welcoming it and in my business plan I've recently I've kind of pushed car, my own car business I wanted to be a a manufacturer of aftermarket parts for porches and I and
I was I had to make a decision just recently and sell off this Porsche came in that I had.
I'm actually wearing a. Of course your club America shirt but I sold off this car to tell myself my focus is knives.
So now that I've done that I'm Porsche Cayman list so I have to I have to prove of the knives were the right decision and and if it's full time that that's the goal is to to do this full time and I and there has to be a solid business plan with it you can wing it.
You could be a hobbyist business and make make a little money here and there as a hobbyist but I'd love to see what this.
What this market can actually do for me and?
And I hope, I hope I can pull something out and and this is where the efficiencies come into play where CNC router can help me make handles a water jet cutting our CNC plasma can help me make this part of the process because these knives aren't $500.00 knives by any means.
So now now your your answer is some sort of volume and some sort of something bit a bit of move a volume of knives at a decent price and it's hard to compete with overseas markets.
So that's a. It kind of create a uniqueness in our artistic style and and move on from there and figure out how to do it, repeat it and and grow with it.
So that's that's the goal at the moment.
I would say you've already signaled your intent with that sacrifice of the Porsche I. Bad for uh I've been wondering.
I've been wanting that car for uh since it came out when I was younger 20 is that car is a 2006 Cayman S so beautiful car and it's a they're still beautiful cars nowadays they they handle great and then A and I have a I for automotive design so I in my custom body work I I like tasteful mods so that
market has a room to grow in it.
But it's it's costly like you would imagine.
There was a it was a decision in in this current.
Economy, was it smart to be holding on to a toy car that you're only going to go deeper in and abandoned the knife business to to embrace that or abandon the car and embrace the knife business and knives one.
You know, Matt, every time I I get on myself for collecting knives and spending money, I probably shouldn't.
I think, well, at least I'm not into watches or cars.
I mean, I could be easily, but I've never allowed myself to go there.
Held on of of three other portions right now and they're they're of course they're of course the 9:40 fours of the the cheap the cheap one.
And then I have an old 73914 which.
He's a little turd of the Porsche world, but those things have skyrocketed in value and mines in good shape, and I'm going to modify it more.
But those things are valuable cars nowadays, and it's surprising.
So I did hold on to hold on to the cars that I that I've had for years.
I just couldn't hold on to the one that I I really wish I could have.
But, well, so sell more of these knives and someday you'll get that Cayman, that Cayman back.
Matt, I want to thank you for coming on the Knife Junkie podcast, Sir.
It's been a. It's been a pleasure meeting you and seeing your knives up close.
Oh, it's it's my pleasure.
So let everyone know how the best way to keep up with you and and your releases.
My website for one, my brother-in-law is the one that's created that he's done an awesome job and he he keeps adding to it at any request I have or any great ideas.
So you can always contact me through there through e-mail and he's going to always be updating that with the new releases and the new ideas coming up.
And then also me personally, I'm constantly feeding Instagram.
I'm just trying to create content to keep keep keep seeing really and and it's easy for me to stay on there.
So I'm always usually daily will post.
Updates on what I'm doing, what I'm working on and what's available and we'll answer any message that comes across there.
So with with those Facebook's the same way.
It's a little slower updating than Instagram, naturally, just because of Instagram right at your fingertips.
But it's a I do update those, update that daily or every other day.
So any any of those methods you can get a hold of me, ask me where I'm at with whatever you're seeing or whatever you might want and we can move from there if you do decide that you you want.
Want something that I do make?
Yeah, one more time.
Just hold up the the sheath and the night and the knife.
These sheaths are are incredible.
So this is the sheath for what is available right now, and this will be the exact same sheath that goes with.
This is the drop point.
And this sheep's foot knife.
So these are the.
These are the options for both of these things you get a 2 profiles.
One in Gray, Gray, Terrell, tough and.
In town and both profiles have both option on them and these things will someday have a name, but until then?
What are knives?
Drop point sheet put?
Matt, thank you so much for coming on the show, Sir.
Thanks for having me.
I've been a pleasure.
Do you use terms like handle the blade ratio, walk and talk, hair pop and sharp or tank like then you are a dork and a knife junkie.
There he goes.
Matt Marken of Tristar knives.
I love the idea of the one-of-a-kind knife knives in one-of-a-kind, sheaths with the original artwork on it.
Very, very cool.
I love seeing makers going above and beyond and and just exceeding expectations and giving us a little bit more of themselves in their work.
So really awesome stuff.
Alright, so be sure to join us next Sunday for another interview and Wednesday for the midweek supplemental.
And don't forget Thursday night knives, 10:00 PM Eastern Standard Time right here on YouTube, Facebook and Twitch.
Until then, and for Jim working his magic behind the Switcher, I'm Bob DeMarco, saying don't take dull for an answer.
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