Ric Valdez, Ocaso Knives – The Knife Junkie Podcast (Episode 423)
Ric Valdez, founder of Ocaso Knives, joins Bob “The Knife Junkie” DeMarco on Episode 423 of The Knife Junkie Podcast.
Ric was an executive at Cold Steel for 20 years before forming Ocaso Knives. He started Ocaso Knives with the belief that your EDC knife defines the essence of who you are and what you believe in. From the office to the outdoors, Ocaso Knives are designed to be a lifelong companion, combining sophisticated, versatile, and distinctive pocket knives that reflect your lifestyle and personal style.
Each Ocaso knife is created as a piece of functional art that is luxurious and well made, with performance to match. Ric bases Ocaso on the belief that a gentleman’s knife should be simple, stylish, and easy to carry while exuding elegance and style.
Ocaso means “sunset” in Spanish, and is a reflection of the Southern California home of the company.
Be sure to support The Knife Junkie and get in on the perks of being a Patron — including early access to the podcast and exclusive bonus content. You also can support the Knife Junkie channel with your next knife purchase. Find our affiliate links at theknifejunkie.com/knives.Ric Valdez, founder of Ocaso Knives, joins #theknifejunkie on Episode 423 of the #podcast. Ric started Ocaso Knives with the belief that your EDC knife defines the essence of who you are and what you believe in. Click To Tweet
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Welcome to The Knife Junkie podcast, your weekly dose of knife news and information about knives and knife collecting. Here's your host, Bob the Knife Junkie. DeMarco.
Bob DeMarco [00:00:16]:
Welcome to the Knife Junkie Podcast. I'm Bob DeMarco. On this edition of the show, I'm speaking with Rick Valdez of Ocaso Knives. Ocaso Knives is a new brand that got my attention with its sophisticated, lifestyle driven pocket knives, the big name designers attached, and the hard use tactical pedigree backing the knives. You see, Rick started Ocaso Knives after 20 years in the C suite of a major American knife company. I had the pleasure of meeting Rick at Blade Show this year and had a chance to experience the knives in person, which were luxurious and wonderful. But I really look forward to hearing his story and finding out how Ocaso came to be. But first, be sure to, like, comment, subscribe, and share this show. That really helps. And you can also download it to your favorite podcast app and listen whilst on the go. And as always, if you want to check out the show on Patreon and help support it, please do so. You can do that by scanning the QR code on your screen or going to theknifejunkie.com Patreon. That's theknifejunkie.com patreon subscribe to the knifejunkies. YouTube Channel@theknifejunkie.com YouTube Rick welcome to the Knifejunkie podcast, sir.
Ric Valdez [00:01:27]:
Thank you for having me. This is pretty cool.
Bob DeMarco [00:01:30]:
It's my pleasure. What I think is pretty cool was making it wandering over into the other room at Blade Show, so to speak. My favorite room, actually, and coming across Ocaso Knives. I had just heard of you in the not too distant past. You guys came across my screen with your Gents knives and these beautiful collaborations. You got to tell me you have different marketing than anyone else I've seen and a different spirit behind your brand. Let's jump right in and find out what defines Ocaso Knives.
Ric Valdez [00:02:12]:
Well, thank you for that because there's a lot of heart and soul that's going into this, a lot of passion. And we're definitely doing this because it's a style that I like and it's a husband and wife team. So I'm going to have to thank her for a lot of the messaging and the branding that you're seeing, because I met her at the previous company. I guess it's well known now, pretty much. I used to work for Cold Slowance, so that's where I met my wife, and she was a graphic designer there. So a lot of the branding and messaging that you're seeing comes from her passion. She loves photography, she loves graphics, and she's taking care of the branding, she takes care of the website. And I think it's wonderful. And of course, with her being married to me, she knows what my style is like. And so this is the message that she's created, has come out of my mind and for being with me all these years. So thank you for reading it loud and clear. I appreciate that. I also heard that a lot at the booth at Blade show. People walking up the booth and just saying, I get it, I get it. And that's cool.
Bob DeMarco [00:03:29]:
It's hard to miss Rick, because we live in a society, in a culture that has become so casual. I lecture my daughters about it all the time. I'm a little bit of a curmudgeon, but I'm like, what's up with these kids wearing their pajamas out, and we're at dinner? Shouldn't he have a collar on his shirt? This kind of thing. And I like to tease my daughters about that, but it's true. We've become awfully casual, and the Ocaso brand has a different feel.
Ric Valdez [00:03:56]:
Yeah, I've been like this ever since I was a kid. And it's funny because my two young daughters just pulled out their yearbooks that they just received, and we were telling them, make sure you get you get them. And they're young. They're very young, eight and ten years old. And we're explaining to them, make sure that your friends sign the books. And as an example, I pulled out my yearbooks from when I was in high school, 16, 1718 years old. And Bob? Honestly, I didn't even remember. But it's kids saying even back then, to me, it's like, you're so GQ. I love your style. And it was just interesting that came about and then talking about the style that the Ocaso brand has shown itself and lending itself the way it is. So it comes easy. It comes easy. I do have a particular style. It's not like I dress up every day, but when I do, it's okay. It's a ticket to that level where, let me grab the watch, let me grab the pen. And what was missing a lot of times was a cool looking knife. And so here I am now, creating knives that I like that matches when I go out to particular events or if I'm dressed a certain way or a certain style or certain slacks or certain shirts. And so far, it's great. I love it.
Bob DeMarco [00:05:26]:
Well, I hope I'm not overshooting, but I think you and I might be same generation, if not close to the same age, because you described yourself in high school as very GQ, and that was what I aspired to be. And looking back, wow, I missed by a mile. But still, I was always in my mind, I was like, how would James Bond handle this? Or, like, what would James Bond wear to the prom? So this means gents knives, gentlemen's knives. And that's a loose category, and we all kind of know what it means. I know it when I see it. But how do you define a gentleman's knife? And how does Ocaso knives defy some of that?
Ric Valdez [00:06:05]:
Well, for me, you're going to see that my blade lengths for right now are not going to be over three and a half inches. So three and a half inches and shorter is the key for me. Something that's small, something that's very light, slick, slim, clean lines is what I'm looking for. And that's a lot of what takes place when I'm having a conversation with the designers that are coming on board. And sometimes it can be a departure from what they're creating or what they're known for.
Ric Valdez [00:06:40]:
Ric Valdez [00:06:41]:
Ric Valdez [00:06:43]:
Ric Valdez [00:06:44]:
There's a lot of big, beefy, tactical, rough and tough knives out there, and that's the world that I came from, and that's great, and that's cool. I just felt I had to take a little different approach. And so that's what it is. It's something that lives in the pocket and owns a you know, I want to own the pocket at this point in time. So that's what it is to me. Something that's very beautiful, premium materials, something very pen like at this point. And then the slim knives exist out there. There's other great, gigantic brands that have their slim knives out there with all respect to them. I was carrying some of them and testing some of them. And when I sat down with Andrew Jemko and said, what can we do? Because he said he was going to come aboard and help me out with some designs, I sent them some of those knives. I sent them some pens from my collection, and out came the solstice. This is our take, basically, on the slim gentleman's style knife.
Bob DeMarco [00:07:50]:
Well, okay, I have a lot of questions because this gentleman style knives is intriguing to me. I don't have too many of them, I realized I have always been kind of into the tactical, self defense kind of stuff. It's just my taste, my wheelhouse. But I also do have some finer knives, and they tend to be smaller, the gentleman's knives. Something I like about the Solstice in picking it up is that it still has a wicked vibe to it a little bit. It's got a longer blade. It's long and slender, and it's of beautiful materials and beautifully made. And it seems to me like reminds me a little bit. Now, I'm talking about the third knife or the first and the third knife in this lineup down below. It seems like a modern day stiletto, something that is it's not just an innocent gents pocket knife that's non threatening. It has a little bit of that menace, which I don't know if that's just me seeing it through my lens. How much did working at Cold Steel influence your taste, even though your taste seems to be very different?
Ric Valdez [00:09:02]:
Well, the philosophy over Cold Steel was a lot different, and what I brought over from Cold Steel, it's going to be more of the business aspect of getting out there and marketing the company. How we did it at Coal Steel is very similar how we're doing it here, just trying to create the demand from the bottom up. But in terms of a gentleman's knife that Cole still came out with, it was the lucky it was a slip joint, small little blade knife that came out of Italy. And that was pretty darn close right there. That hit it off with me. I carried that.
Ric Valdez [00:09:44]:
I like that.
Ric Valdez [00:09:46]:
And the slip joint, small knives like that, that's very traditional looking. Right? So when I'm seeing the gentleman when you see a gentleman's knife within my lineup, it's more of a modern look.
Ric Valdez [00:09:56]:
Like a today's look.
Ric Valdez [00:09:58]:
Very pen like. Also no longer slender, like you're saying. And stiletto. I've heard that, too. I've heard that people say that when it comes down to that knife.
Bob DeMarco [00:10:09]:
Yeah, stiletto. Actually, when I bring it up, I think more of like the Renaissance gentleman with a stiletto in his not necessarily you could use it for dirty work or whatever, but in a lot of cases, it was there as a symbol of status and that kind of thing. And what you're making is a luxury item and a status symbol amongst knife collectors. I've got a case full of them, and I don't mean status like, I put my expensive knife in my pocket, and I expect people to care, but I know how well made this thing is. Now, when I asked you about Cold Steel influence, I was thinking less of design. But when I was picking up the knives, because I picked everyone up that you had, and they felt very, very well built and very robust, even though they come in this gentlemanly package, the.
Ric Valdez [00:11:08]:
Quality absolutely has to be there. So, yeah, you're correct. It was always quality first. When it came down to Cold Steel products, that was instilled in me, instilled in all of us. That's one thing that's part of this whole designing and coming up with one of our products is quality and function have to totally be there in addition to the design. So, absolutely, I should have mentioned that. But that was huge in our life when looking at Cold Steel, and then.
Bob DeMarco [00:11:41]:
Something I'm seeing in your lineup that is very pleasing is that, to me, the Solstice gentleman's knife. Without question, it it fits all of those it checks all of those boxes. Boxes. But as you look at the different models, you've got Kurt Merkin, amazing design. I mean, you've got some heavy hitters. You've got Mike Wallace, you have Seaton, and they're all making knives that look different from one another and look different from what you might think as a traditional gent knife. But they all are hitting that well. They're all striking that tone. What do you talk about when you sit down with the designers? And what are those conversations like?
Ric Valdez [00:12:27]:
Well, I first introduce myself as a new company and just explain to them that this is who we are, this is our direction, and would you like to work with us? So, first of all, I'm very grateful that these guys are jumping on board, and they're being part of my new journey, and I've been very lucky. And then to have patience with us, it does take a while. I'm the little guy that's coming in and talking to these big factories and getting some support, but that's what I'm saying. And then there's also, I love your design. Would you like to go to market with it under the branding of Ocaso? And so you'll see a lot of the similarities in some of these designs. So you'll see that diamond like pivot. So if I can change their pivot to the Ocaso diamond, the Wraparound deep carry pocket clip with the branding there as well, and most of them are all just they're coming on board if they've all said yes to all that. Now, if we implement it and I see it in a sketch and it doesn't look right, then I won't do it. Like Kurt American's knife. One of his designs. I mean, that thing is so cool. I can't wait to come out to market with it for right there. That clip didn't really lend itself to that design, but we went with the diamond pivot on his knives. David Seaton, you see the no clip on there, but that's his design. And I liked how clean that was. That lives at the bottom of the pocket, so the tops are basically, hey, there are certain things that we want on your design. Are you okay with that? And then are you okay with taking it and living under the brand of Ocaso? So far, yes. And that's what I did last year at Blade show. All I did was just walk around and recruit some designers and had a conversation with Kurt American for American Knife. David Seaton, wes Crawford, also coming on board soon. But I knew Andrew Demko. I knew Mike Wallace. John Denko is also handing in a project. So there's a design in the works from him coming soon as well.
Bob DeMarco [00:14:55]:
I think that this is speculation, but I think as a knife designer, being approached by someone like you would be very exciting because it's an opportunity to do something different outside of your own brand. Let's talk about demco knives. We all know them for being the most robust and innovative, hard use knives, folding knives out there. But where does Andrew Demcode get a chance to show his gentlemanly side? He, of course, could do something like that for Demco knives, but it would kind of be off topic, you know what I mean? Off brand for him to do that. So this is a great opportunity to express himself, and I'm sure the other designers, speculate might feel this way. A great opportunity to flex some different muscles as a designer and show off some different skills, a different side of yourself.
Ric Valdez [00:15:50]:
Ric Valdez [00:15:50]:
I mean, look at, to me, that's talent. Look what Andrew Denko did. Yeah, he's known for those big, strong knives fixed blade or pocket knife and he came out and helped out with the Solstice. I mean, I think that's true talent that he can do. That the quality, function and design that makes us happy and it becoming our hero product and helping El Castle get up and off the ground and yeah, true talent and same with everybody else. Everybody else. So we're completely happy. And right now, yeah, that's the original Solstice. Then we have Damascus and I don't know if you had the opportunity, but we showed the harpoon blade style Solstice coming out soon. Yes, I saw a warm cliff, also Solstice coming out. So there's going to be some new variations and expansion on that category actually pretty darn soon. Next week there's going to be an update to the website and update to our social media posts that's just right around the corner.
Bob DeMarco [00:16:56]:
So explain a little bit, describe what it was like. It's got to be a big decision. I'm going to start a knife company and we're going to start it on Wednesday. How did that work for you?
Ric Valdez [00:17:10]:
Well, as you know, as you saw and read and heard, that December 2020 is when Cold Steel was sold to GSM. And what happened after that is there was some people that reached out to me wondering what I was going to do next, come work for us. But those conversations always had relocation topic and I didn't want to relocate. So that was kind of tough. I was happy that people were reaching out and just asking, what am I going to do next? I'm in Southern California. I have my parents that live down the road and my in laws that live in the other direction. My brothers are in the area. So my wife and I were at a crossroads when it came down to what am I going to do? So we decided, we talked about this long and hard and we said, how about coming up with a knife company? I went to a couple of interviews and Bob, it was so weird because now here I am. I I hadn't been an interview in over 20 years, right?
Ric Valdez [00:18:17]:
I was the one always given the interviews, always. And so just felt a little different, weird. It's like, am I really going to leave this industry with all the relationships and the connections that I've made? And so that's what happened. And then I had a conversation with Andrew because he is my friend too. I've known him for a long time, 15, 1617 years. And he said, yes, I can help you out, of course.
Ric Valdez [00:18:42]:
And so that's what happened. And it was several months before we actually launched. So we launched nine months ago. That's when we turned on the website. But there was a few months before that that we were working and talking to factories to see if they were going to help me out. They all said yes. They jumped on board. And then, as I mentioned before the recruiting, when I went out and I went to multiple trade shows to do some recruiting and it wasn't easy. It's not like everyone said yes. There's a lot of people that just I don't know, which is fine. I understand. I'm a new guy, not a gigantic brand that's going to be doing miracles for someone when you take one of their designs to market. But that's what it was. Just kind of the experience of what I went through after Coal Steel sold in December 2020. And Mr. Thompson and I are still friends. We're neighbors. He lives up over on the other side of the hill, so he lives in the same community. I run into him every once in a while when I go get a cup of coffee. I ran into him at Blade Show.
Ric Valdez [00:19:51]:
But that's what happened. It was long and hard. And here we are nine months later with a brand and a company up and going.
Bob DeMarco [00:20:00]:
So you touched on it a little bit before your wife's input. And let me just say as a sidebar, if she had anything to do with the Cold Steel catalogs, my hat is off to her. I and my brother, for years and years just poured over those. I want that. I want that earmarking. I always loved great graphic design there in those catalogs. But when you decided, when you and your wife came to this conclusion that you have to start a knife company, which I love. I love these stories. I love family knife stories. They come up again and again, and I love them. But any case, when you decided this, did you know right away what your brand identity was? Were you like, I'm Rick Valdez and I'm Stylish, and let's make these knives, and the whole thing? Or was it a more calculated kind of discussion?
Ric Valdez [00:20:53]:
No, I hate to say it, but it was more like, yeah, I'm Rick Valdez. I know a lot of people. I'm a starting a knives company. And it was my wife that said, well, hold on, wait a minute, Rick. That's great. There's a lot more to it. So she's the one you don't have the drive, right. But you come, you combine that drive with her vision and outcomes.
Ric Valdez [00:21:19]:
Ric Valdez [00:21:20]:
So she sat down and she actually was the one that just put all this together on the back end. And I'm lucky to have her in my life to help me put this together. Yeah. Having connections and knowing distribution channels and factories is key and very important, but there's a lot more to it, as you're mentioning, about the branding of the messaging from the catalogs to the website to our social media posts to our booth. Yeah, that's what I have to say on that point.
Bob DeMarco [00:22:00]:
Well, here's something that especially a blade show strikes me when I go is with every new knife company that I think we all welcome with open arms. But with every becoming of every new knife company that is taking a customer away from another knife company to sell those knives, it's your job as a company owner to figure out who those customers are, who you're going to try and attract. What segment of the knife community, the knife buying world has Ocaso entered into. Who would your competitors be if you were to frame it that way?
Ric Valdez [00:22:45]:
I have a lot of respect for William Henry. His knives are really nice looking, super premium materials, but they're way up there in price, right? They're way up there. Chris Reeves I have respect to that company, but my understanding there's a huge backlog there, and that's great. So there's a little pocket that I have found. There's a little pocket there amongst them. And Dijo. I like dijo also. They make a cool, slick, slim little pocket knife. It's one style. And their branding, their messaging is very similar to ours. So right there and my take is it's an entire lifestyle branded company. It's not just a category because you have some of these giants that have very similar knives, but it's just multiple SKUs. It can be just a category. And then they have so many other categories, fixed blades on and on.
Ric Valdez [00:23:59]:
Right. So for me, this is what's going to be just this. And there's many projects in the works. Right now, I have other things that I will expand into. I have that case, that knife storage case that people like a lot. I have other cases. I have leather goods, wallet category coming out. I have desk knives coming out, pens also. So it's basically, again, stuff that if you look at my desk, I got desk knives that are sitting here. Mine are going to be a little unique, a little different in the knives cases. Can I show you?
Bob DeMarco [00:24:46]:
Please do. But I got to ask you, even before you show the knife case, I love that you're using the term desk knife. I got the term a case has a desk knife that I've never but I have desk knives, certain knives that I never carry, but they live right here, and they have different so when you are designing, I'm not sure if you've started, but what is this desk knife going to be like? You got to explain.
Ric Valdez [00:25:11]:
It's definitely going to live on the desk. And it has a little stand that it comes with. And it's going to be a functional little desk knife that you can use to open up a box, open up an envelope, and so forth. It's got a very beautiful, unique style to it. And fidgety. I can say that I don't want to say too much, okay? Because some of these giants out there, they can take an idea and get out the faster than I can, man. So I got to be careful what I'm doing and what I say oh.
Bob DeMarco [00:25:46]:
No, I understand that, actually, because you have a real niche, and people could start sniffing that. There are some companies that come to mind, like James Brand, which is a very lifestyle oriented company. Their knives take a variety of different shapes and stuff, but they're always kind of doing something cool and hip. To me, that's a slightly different demographic than yours. To me, yours is a little more James Bondi, a little more gentlemanly, a little more boardroom, but not limited to at all. You could also throw everything in jeans or even use it outside. I mean, the sense I got from holding them was that you could even use them to do regular pocket knife things. They're not just fancy.
Ric Valdez [00:26:39]:
Right. And that's the strategy. The strategy is the one that's the gentleman's light purpose knife. You've got the solstice that you take out. That's solstice you use Monday through Friday in your suit. But if you want to go out for a little adventure hiking, like camping, then the strategy is the one that you can throw in your jeans or your gear bag.
Bob DeMarco [00:27:02]:
That's the one designed by Mike Wallace.
Ric Valdez [00:27:04]:
Ric Valdez [00:27:05]:
Bob DeMarco [00:27:05]:
Do you have one of those on hand? Do you have these knives on hand?
Ric Valdez [00:27:08]:
Sure, I should. I have them all on hand.
Bob DeMarco [00:27:11]:
Let's show them off. We've teased long enough.
Ric Valdez [00:27:14]:
Bob DeMarco [00:27:15]:
I've been staring at the one behind your head from time to time. I love that.
Ric Valdez [00:27:20]:
So we've got the strategy in a few variations. We've got jade G Ten with a satin blade, and then we have it in also black, PVD coated. And this is two of the strategy variations. We have it in all aluminum handle, black on black. I don't know if that's coming in clear. Okay.
Ric Valdez [00:27:49]:
Yeah. Regular just black G Ten handle, satin blade. And again, they all have that diamond Ocaso. And you know it spells out Ocaso in the pivot, right? I don't know.
Bob DeMarco [00:28:03]:
Yes, you can see that in your logo, correct?
Ric Valdez [00:28:08]:
Yeah. And then this is a carbon fiber G Ten puply handle on this. And so that's the one that you.
Bob DeMarco [00:28:17]:
Can use for the outdoor right.
Ric Valdez [00:28:21]:
Bob DeMarco [00:28:22]:
Nice point blade. You've got that big, like, a larger ergonomic handle with some of the little finger wells in there. Now, what are the materials on that particular knife? The strategy by Mike Wallace.
Ric Valdez [00:28:33]:
It's a K 110 D. Two steel coming out of Germany. So I know a lot of people, they're beating up D Two, but we use D Two before, and I think maybe they're beating it up because D Two, if they just say that and they're not expressing that it's from Germany or from Europe, then maybe it's China D Two.
Ric Valdez [00:28:56]:
Ric Valdez [00:28:57]:
But no, this is coming from Europe. I've got the certificates that show that. And, of course, I'm working with factories that I believe and trust and have been working with for a long time.
Bob DeMarco [00:29:09]:
I love Boulder. K 110. Here's the deal, Rick. Every time a new steel comes out, a super steel, another one drops off the back end and becomes unacceptable. So it just became D Two's time with I don't know, maybe it was the advent of magnetite. D Two had to drop off the back end. But I remember when D Two first was introduced, and it was on very expensive knives, and it was held up as a super steel. And it's still awesome. I don't care what anyone says. Just because something else exists doesn't take away from its own quality A and B, K 110 is awesome. And for outdoor applications, perfect.
Ric Valdez [00:29:45]:
Absolutely. And you bring up a good point, because a lot of people are asking me if I'm going to use those super premium steels, and the answer is yes. But I need to work with the materials that are available right now. I can't wait a year to two years for something to come in, because that doesn't help me get up and out into the market. So at some point, yeah, absolutely. I'd love to use those premium steels. I'm working with the steels that I've worked with for a long time that proven themselves that we're great. Look at all the beating and the bashing and the marching we put behind those steels. So they were proven to me there. They're proven to me now.
Ric Valdez [00:30:25]:
Right. And so that's where I'm going in terms of the S 35 VNS, the VG Ten S, the Aus Ten Eight material steels that I'm using, it's available for me. I need something that's here and right now so I can get out to market. But the premium steels, you definitely will see it. You will see it.
Bob DeMarco [00:30:46]:
Well, that's also a nice I mean, what you already have with the S 35, with the K 110 and with the what was the other one you said? VG Ten. I mean, those are all really great proven steals. And if you were to lay them out, they all kind of fit on a graduated scale. So you're able to cover a number of different applications, but also people, buyer types, I would imagine.
Ric Valdez [00:31:13]:
Yeah, absolutely. And I did talk and I had conversations with factories recently, and there's other steels that are available that will be using sooner versus later. So in between what I'm using now and the screwed premium steels, there'll be other steels coming in line very shortly.
Bob DeMarco [00:31:36]:
You're using some pretty premium handle materials, too. On the Solstice, for instance, you're using fat carbon. I think you showed some. Is that fat carbon or Ocaso carbon, one of the exotic US.
Ric Valdez [00:31:49]:
Ric Valdez [00:31:50]:
Yeah, it's fat carbon coming out of Lithuania.
Bob DeMarco [00:31:52]:
Ric Valdez [00:31:53]:
Bob DeMarco [00:31:53]:
Ric Valdez [00:31:54]:
So it's a company out of that area that, of course, sends the material over to Italy, and Italy is using it. And so that's being used on the Damascus Solstice and then the high grade titanium and carbon fiber. On the Solstice coming out of the Taiwan factories.
Bob DeMarco [00:32:11]:
Okay, so let's talk a little bit about the factories. This is a blessing of the modern age, the fact that American knife designers and smaller companies or new companies can outsource to really outstanding companies that are really producing amazing products in Taiwan and China. So tell me and Italy, which makes me particularly proud. So tell me about I know some of you have these relationships in the past, but what's it like working with these companies, and how do you decide where you're going to have what built?
Ric Valdez [00:32:49]:
Ric Valdez [00:32:50]:
So certain factories are better at doing something than the other factory, and so that's where some of the decision takes place is, I know this factory is better at making this certain style knife at a certain size, just from experience, from before. Again, these are factories, and their role is and they've had a big, long standing role in the industry making for a lot of big branded companies out there.
Ric Valdez [00:33:24]:
So I trust them. I know them, and they do they're great knife makers, and they're doing really well on my stuff. And a lot of people coming up to the booth at Blade show and saying, I heard about you. I read about you online. And then they pick up the products, and they're blown away. They're blown away with how they feel, how the flipper action just fires open the stainless steel cage bearing systems that in there, just smooth deployment. So they're impressed.
Ric Valdez [00:33:55]:
Bob DeMarco [00:33:56]:
Okay, so we all know that Italy and Taiwan are among, I should say, the factories in Montago, Italy, and in Taiwan are some of the best in the world. And there are debates over different knife nerd types, like to debate over who does a better job or what they're better at. What, in your opinion, what would identify, or am I trying to say what defines an Italian made knife versus what defines, say, a Taiwanese made knife from one of these exceptional factories?
Ric Valdez [00:34:34]:
For me, it's the material. I mean, if it's true premium material coming from Europe or Italy down to even leather, that's, to me, in addition to the craftsmanship, anything from Italy, it doesn't matter if it's a knife or if it's a watch or anything.
Bob DeMarco [00:34:58]:
Ric Valdez [00:34:59]:
It's all that anything comes out of Italy. It's classy. It's well made, it's beautiful.
Ric Valdez [00:35:03]:
Ric Valdez [00:35:05]:
And as you can see, there is a big difference in the looks when it comes down to the Solstice. To me, that's how I'm going to answer that question. Anything coming out of Italy, it's just a beautiful piece.
Bob DeMarco [00:35:18]:
I agree with you. The Italian made knives that I have, they almost all have crowned spines that's just coincidental. But to me, that's always a little luxury thing like, oh, they cared enough to crown the spine. But there are other things. Just the feel of my Italian knives, they just have a different I don't know. I don't know a different genesicois, if I may. But then I moved to the Taiwanese knives. I have some of them cold steel, some of them spider co, and some other knives from Taiwan. They're built like they seem to be very precisely built and through that precision, very strong. I don't know if that's just my impression as a collector or what, but I think Italy and Taiwan, you couldn't have gone better.
Ric Valdez [00:36:09]:
Yeah. And I'm having a good time working with these factories again. It was great to just meet up and regroup with them. And once they heard that I was coming back in the industry, doing my own thing, they were happy to hear it, and I'm happy to be working with them. And there's been a lot of other factors that approach me, wanting to work with me. China. There's been a handful of China factories that want to come work with me, but I don't know them. I know that they're out there, they're doing their own marketing, they have their own Instagram, social media posts and so forth. So it's a little different from me back in the day, where factories, their role was supposed to be behind the scenes, right? But now you've got factories that just go out straight to the market and just killing it, that's fine. But the factories I work with, their role is just to be historical great, peacemaking, knife makers of the world. But, yeah, other factories, I talk to them, I have respect for them. I've seen their quality of work. It's great. And that's where a lot of people are also coming to me and say, who's the OEM? You didn't ask that question back in the day.
Bob DeMarco [00:37:23]:
Ric Valdez [00:37:25]:
That was a trade secret back in the day. So there's been a lot of changes in the industry in two, three years. There's been a lot that changed, which is great, because I'm still learning, but I'm still very teachable. Right. So there's lots of things coming my way. So who's who's OEM? I'm like, do you really need to know?
Bob DeMarco [00:37:45]:
But none of your business still work or not?
Ric Valdez [00:37:49]:
Well, the way I want to be respectful and the way I am answering that now is that's a very interesting question. The way I can answer it is I think you're probably expecting me to mention a China factory.
Ric Valdez [00:38:01]:
Ric Valdez [00:38:02]:
Because, again, those are the guys that are marketing themselves, and they're OEM for a lot of the big branded companies, but they also have their own brands and they're looking for that type of answer. But even if I told them who my factories are, they're not going to know them.
Bob DeMarco [00:38:17]:
Yes, they're not.
Ric Valdez [00:38:18]:
So that's how I answer and have that conversation. But it's out of respect that they're asking that question now.
Ric Valdez [00:38:25]:
Right. And it elevates. And I tell my factories, I said, you guys need to stay on your game, because now you have all these other factories, if someone's asking, who's OEM? They're now being watched, right? So their quality now has a name to the factory. So they're not going to want to tarnish that. I think that's great. So everyone has to have a high standard of knife making out there, which benefits us and benefits all the knife brands out there in the world. Knife making has been elevated in terms of the quality. So I think that's good for the end consumers and for the market.
Bob DeMarco [00:39:02]:
And you have people who love guessing this feels it's got to be a best deck or a RIAT. So that has become part of it, that guessing game. But you mentioned something interesting. You said that the knife world has really changed a lot. And I'm thinking, yeah, this man has been two decades in, and then you said in the last two years.
Ric Valdez [00:39:22]:
Bob DeMarco [00:39:23]:
So so that that's interesting to me because I was expecting you to talk about a long, gradual change across the, you know, the 20 some odd years you've been in the business. Lay it out for us. What is the change that you've seen, first of all, in your entire time, but also in these last two years that's been so profound?
Ric Valdez [00:39:41]:
Well, the entire time, check this out. The way we used to market Cold Steel was with a VHS tape, okay? We had our marketing videos, approved videos on a VHS that we used to send out. And that's how people saw the visual aspect of what our knives could do to now everyone has a cell phone that can do videos in the backyard, can do the testing and so forth. And it doesn't take decades for anything to change in today's world whatsoever. And so when I jump back into this industry, I had my role, I had my responsibilities at Cold Steel, and there was teams doing everything. We had a marketing team, social media team, and so forth. And now that I have my own company, I have to dig in and do it myself. And I'm seeing a lot of impressive stuff coming out of media, these factories, these branded knives out there that have been around for a long time. Great designs. The designs on pocket knives have changed a lot. And it's really cool. It's really cool to see that it's not just the rough and tough clip point tantal style knives. There's modified clip points. Now there's modified tantal style points. And the looks on the handles are just beautiful. The materials that people are using now, too.
Ric Valdez [00:41:14]:
So it was impressed.
Ric Valdez [00:41:15]:
I was blown away when I had to create an Instagram page that just started looking through it. I'm like, my God, what has happened here? All in a positive, great way. This is good. Better for me, too, now that I'm coming out. When I'm coming out with good looking knives is one of the keys.
Ric Valdez [00:41:34]:
Bob DeMarco [00:41:35]:
It's a real renaissance time for the knife industry, and it doesn't seem to be slowing down. And I hope I'm not jinxing it by saying that, but I mean, every day I see something new and exciting to me, and to me, that means that the market is growing and that people from outside of the quote unquote knife world are coming into it. And I feel like brands like yours are responsible for that to a great extent, because it's sort of crossing the aisle, if you will, into there could be a guy out there who's, quote unquote GQ, who loves watches. As most of us do and likes his cufflinks and is proud of his wedding ring and likes to put on a nice and then is called one day. Gee, sure wish I had a pocket knife like Grandpa gave me that time. And then he goes and he finds you guys, and that's a knife that fits into his lifestyle and boom. Now there's another person in the fold who understands that these are great tools, they're worth paying for, and they're worth integrating into our personhood.
Ric Valdez [00:42:48]:
Absolutely, Bob. And you're so right. At Blade Show and at Shot Show, I've had doctors that come up to the booth. You got lawyers that come up to the booth. You got high ranking C suite individuals come into the booth that carry nice but like what we're doing because it's more fitting in their suit or when they take it out and put it on their desk. And that's what I want to do, continue to reach out to those guys. There's still so many people I love the knife community. That's another thing, too. It's wonderful. It's very united, it's very vocal, it's very supportive. But there is a whole nother world out there outside the knife enthusiasts and knife officials and knife collectors on gentlemen don't know that. Yeah, you can add a knives to your watch and pan collection, and when you're done with your knife, take it out and set it next to those pieces. Put it in your little wallet caddy on your desk or on your shelf. One individual actually came up to the booth and bought some pieces, and the first thing he said, these are just going on my case and they're not going to be touched. They're just beautiful pieces to display. I think there's a lot of that with a lot of knives. But I think that's cool to hear that.
Ric Valdez [00:44:09]:
That's cool to hear that.
Ric Valdez [00:44:11]:
At some point in time, Bob, I hope my goal is to be place an added GQ magazine.
Bob DeMarco [00:44:17]:
Ric Valdez [00:44:18]:
Talk to those guys.
Bob DeMarco [00:44:19]:
Yes, I think that's a great idea. It used to not be a question. I remember my grandfathers both had pocket watches. Well, one grandfather always had a pocket knife, period. But my other grandfather had more of a suit and tie type job, and he had a pocket watch, and it had a little knife attached to the Fob and my grandfather wasn't a knife guy, but he always had a knife on him. And to me, that was just not to me, that was just a part of what you had on you. You had something to start fire because most likely you smoked back then, but you had something to start fire. You had your wallet, you had spectacles, you had your knife in your pocket watch or whatever, but you had those critical items. Let me ask you this. I want to get back a little bit to the change in the knife world as you've seen it. You must be aware, I'm sure you're aware of the many enthusiast designers, people like me who have channels, who have had a thousand knives come through their hands. They've really developed a taste for what they like. They design a knife, they have it OEM, and now they have a knife company. I have several colleagues and friends in this knife world whose knives I own, and it's pretty amazing to just pick up and say, wow, they drew this, they had it made. Not that it was easy. I'm not suggesting that, but it seems like there's a lot more access, a lot more level of playing field these days than, say, when you started out in the business.
Ric Valdez [00:45:52]:
Completely instagram influencers is another big thing. When I was in the role, in my previous position, there was maybe one guy, two guys who was the big influencer, and you always wanted to reach out to him. Now they're all over the world. They're all over the world. And there was a lot of influencers that came by the booth, a lot of influences that I reach out to. And I'm stacked up in terms of follow up work from Blade Show to reach out to these guys and props to them and respects to them with what they do and their talent. They're talented people with the videos they put out, with the imagery and the pics and the branding themselves. But yes, all of a sudden you hear that. Now they're coming out with their own knife.
Ric Valdez [00:46:44]:
Yes. It wasn't like that before, Bob, and you're right there's. All access and factories are open up to that. And I think, by all means, we all should try to partake in one form or another and have fun and have a crack at it.
Ric Valdez [00:46:57]:
But you're right, it's not easy. It's not easy.
Ric Valdez [00:47:02]:
But jump in if you can. It's not easy for me either. It's not like I can go and knock on the door for the people I was working with 20 years and say, yeah, hey, bro, yeah, I can help you out. No, it's not like that. Yeah, you're right. I think I wanted to touch upon that is respect for those guys that are actually doing it, giving a shot, going out, putting their time and effort and their energy into it, because it's not easy. And we should be giving props to everybody, and I respect every bat in.
Ric Valdez [00:47:29]:
The industry, big or small.
Bob DeMarco [00:47:31]:
Yeah, I've had a taste of it. I've had a design of mine. It's half mine. My blade produced the knife maker, made 25 of them, custom knife maker, and basically sold to my friends, people who watched the show, who are interested, and that I made like, $80 on it. But the point is, it wasn't for that. I'm not quitting my day job, but I am participating more deeply in this hobby that I love. And to me, I don't even call it a hobby. It's a little something else than a hobby for me. But I think in any way that you can this is an interesting thing. You brought up the talent of these influencers. It's true. And you see it through the videos these people put out. I feel like with so many people now, with this sort of modern way of expressing yourself, whether it's making a design and setting it off to an OEM and having a knife produced or whether it's making a video. About the knife. This whole modern way of making is bringing out creativity in a lot of people who, otherwise, I feel, might not have that avenue.
Ric Valdez [00:48:43]:
Yeah, absolutely. And thank goodness it's there for them now, because there's a lot of people that should be sharing their passion and their talents and showing off their skill sets. I'm sure as heck impressed with a lot of these people that I find out that they're making their knives in their garage, in the little shop or little shed and in the backyard. It's like, holy smokes.
Ric Valdez [00:49:07]:
Good for you, man.
Bob DeMarco [00:49:08]:
Ric Valdez [00:49:09]:
Good for you.
Bob DeMarco [00:49:10]:
So Ocaso has four models now, and I know you've got a number of them in the hopper. Let's see, what do they say when the government wants a new fighter plane? They put out design requirements. It has to fly this fast. It has to have this armament. So what kind of design requirements are you going to start putting out for future knives? Okay, you've got the long slender one. You've got the sort of crescent shape. What are you looking for in future design?
Ric Valdez [00:49:45]:
I wish I had some prototypes. Andrew demco has turned in so John DeMarco has handed in a design. Mike Wallace has turned in a couple of other designs. Andrew Demco has handed in another two projects. And I wish I had prototypes because I have no problem showing you the prototypes because that just showed you how long away along the way we are. But slick, slender, making sure they do have a little variation. I will show you a Wes Crawford prototype. So I don't know if you saw that.
Bob DeMarco [00:50:24]:
Let me just say, if any of these listeners are newish tonight, wes Crawford is a legend, and he's been around since the beat. Like, I first found out about him in the in the, you know, ninety s at some point, early 90s, making some of the first tactical folders. Right. West Crawford with his father, too. Oh, his father also.
Ric Valdez [00:50:46]:
Him and his father. Pat Crawford and West Crawford. That name goes way back.
Bob DeMarco [00:50:53]:
Yeah, both of those guys. I forgot. Father and son. So let's check this out.
Ric Valdez [00:50:58]:
So Wes Crawford has a certain design, and this is a prototype. We've got to change a few things up just a little bit. We've got to maximize the blade to the handle a little bit more, but you get the idea, right. So it's going to have a carbon fiber handle with a bolster, of course, the plastic pivot, and then the wraparound, deep carry pocket clip. And this will be a flipper along with a thumb stud. What I like to do is I'll come out with, at the minimum, two SKUs on one design, because my philosophy has always been one SKUs, just one knife, but multiple SKUs becomes a category.
Bob DeMarco [00:51:45]:
Skew. What's a skew?
Ric Valdez [00:51:46]:
Ric Valdez [00:51:47]:
Just a part number.
Bob DeMarco [00:51:48]:
Ric Valdez [00:51:49]:
Got you a part number. I'm sorry.
Bob DeMarco [00:51:50]:
Yeah, no, that's okay.
Ric Valdez [00:51:52]:
No, and you're right. I say skew in my world on the back end from where I used to be. But you're right. I need to watch what I say. But models, part numbers, variations. So two variations become a category, not just one variation. So this hopefully will be coming out maybe another three months. It's slick, it's slim, it's slender. Price point still to be determined.
Bob DeMarco [00:52:17]:
Before you put that down, I just want to describe it if people are just listening. This knife is cool. It's got bolsters and looks like carbon fiber scales. But the blade is a really nice daggery bayonet grind with a swedge that almost goes all the way to the back but gives you a little thumb rest. Very nice. And this is kind of a classic Wes Crawford sort of look. It's definitely in his design canon. And man, this is cool. And this is straddling. That line a little bit like the strategy to me. It's gentlemanly tactical. Tactically gentlemanly. You know what I mean? It's a little bit more on the line than, say, the seaton or the solstice.
Ric Valdez [00:53:05]:
Right? And you know what?
Ric Valdez [00:53:07]:
Since I actually have the sample that I bought right, and just to let you know what took place, because you had asked this question, what are the conversations look like? Basically, take his design and just ask, hey, can we take it down a little bit? Because this is a little too big for our brand bible. He's got a certain opening and locking system that didn't lend itself to the brand, so we changed it to just a regular liner lock. Different clips now. So this answers your question for this.
Bob DeMarco [00:53:41]:
Wow, that's a wild looking flipper there. And I can see how you're like this is very unique and innovative, but not companies aren't set up to make this. Maybe. Or maybe it just doesn't fit the brand, but that's cool. So you can take the aspects, the blade, the handle shape, and those things are the real spirit of it anyway.
Ric Valdez [00:54:03]:
Ric Valdez [00:54:04]:
And then refine it to Ocaso Life, something that I would walk into a store, look at, like, and then pick up and buy.
Bob DeMarco [00:54:12]:
Okay, let me ask you this, Rick, and hopefully this doesn't I'm not asking you to show your cards too much, but who are some of the other designers that if you had, like, we have fantasy football leagues. If you had your fantasy knife designer stable, who are some of the other designers besides the ones you've already landed, which are pretty impressive, that you'd like to have in that stable?
Ric Valdez [00:54:40]:
Princeton. Have you heard of him? Princeton Knives. I talked to him, and he was really a kind individual, and I liked his style. I liked his knives. But he's up and coming. He's rapidly growing, so he'd be picked up by other big major knife brands and understood that he decided to go with them. Of course.
Ric Valdez [00:55:07]:
Ric Valdez [00:55:08]:
I mean, should I really be throwing out these names?
Bob DeMarco [00:55:11]:
I don't know.
Ric Valdez [00:55:13]:
Bob DeMarco [00:55:13]:
What I'm asking is, whose designs do you like? Not necessarily like, who are you going to reach out?
Ric Valdez [00:55:18]:
His designs. I liked his designs. And then I guess that right there. I guess the bullpen already all stocked up, right? Yeah, I kind of shifted my focus and haven't really been looking out there just yet. So, for example, this Blade show, I didn't go around doing any recruiting because I'm behind. There's a lot going on right now, so I don't want to get ahead of the company, ahead of the brand by bringing on and working on way too many projects. So I guess that's the short answer I can give you at this point in time. But believe you me, when it's time to shift and go back, you ask me that question later. I can say, oh, my God, these are the guys I found out. They're cool. They're making great stuff.
Bob DeMarco [00:56:06]:
You're at that part of your business, I think, where you are walking the tightrope. You've got to be careful about growth in both directions. You don't want to go too slowly. You don't want to go too quickly and over commit and then burn bridges with people. But you're also at this awesome phase where you have this new company and you've got some clout built up with your past and with your designers. You can start reaching out to the Princeton Knives, to the up and comers the people who are this untapped talent, and you could be responsible for bringing them to market in some ways, and that helps them, but of course, that helps you, too. That's a pretty good position to be in, I think.
Ric Valdez [00:56:51]:
Yeah, it's been a great journey, and it's a great part of this business. But I'm really excited to get Kurt Merrick and his knife out there. So this, again, is just a prototype, right? These aren't going to be the colors, but this is one of his designs. His custom name piece is called the Karma. Then we'll have to change the name, but this will be coming out of Italy. It's it's a modified tantal style blade. It's got the Damascus steel on it, high grade titanium frame, lock fat, carbon. And so the colors and the hardwood color, that's all still being discussed at this point in time. So hopefully by the end of this year, we'll be coming out with this knife. But this is really cool. This is Toya, a John Wick style knife that will look really good in a suit, but it's light. It's about three inches. Beautiful knife. I'm excited about this one.
Bob DeMarco [00:57:52]:
He's a man. He's amazing. Kurt American. I think his stuff is really cool, and I talked to him for a few minutes at Blade show. Very nice guy, and I was really hoping to get him on this show. And not too many people say no. And I don't mean that as a reflection on me, but every once in a while, someone's just like, nah, not into it. I'm just not into it. I'm into naked knives, not talking about them, and I'm like, what can I say? You're so cool, and I love your knives. Please, if you ever reconsider, call me back. So hats off to you for getting him that's a huge feather in your cap.
Ric Valdez [00:58:29]:
He's a cool cat, man. He's really cool.
Bob DeMarco [00:58:32]:
His knives are just blindingly cool, too. So way to go on that Tonto acquisition.
Ric Valdez [00:58:40]:
Bob DeMarco [00:58:42]:
So before we got to wrap up here shortly, but before we do, I want to see you're about to bring out a knife case that you wanted to show up. I want to sort of expand and find out what other kind of EDC things you're interested in. You touched on them a bit, but are watches in your future? Tell me some of these things that.
Ric Valdez [00:59:05]:
You want to do. Yeah, absolutely.
Ric Valdez [00:59:06]:
Watches that's probably at the bottom of the list, but the next category that you'll see is case leather goods. So here's a prototype wallet. Basically, it's got a little pocket so the seat doesn't have a clip.
Ric Valdez [00:59:23]:
Ric Valdez [00:59:24]:
So if you don't want it just living at the bottom of your pocket, but you want it a little protected so it doesn't get scratched up. I'll have a wallet where it fits nice and neat there. It's a front carry, slim, minimalist style wallet, money clip action, which you can take on and off. So if you want it even thinner, you can take the money clip off.
Bob DeMarco [00:59:49]:
Right, that's cool.
Ric Valdez [00:59:50]:
And now you're ready to go. I have little knife cases here that fits our knives. This will fit two of the solstice, but it also has a flap which can fold down. Okay. And then you can fit the large seaton or Kurt American's particular knife in.
Ric Valdez [01:00:11]:
There, and this is something that you.
Ric Valdez [01:00:12]:
Can just sit and set on your desk. Smaller case for the smaller knives, smaller seatons. I changed the shape up on this, but this is a keychain again.
Bob DeMarco [01:00:23]:
Oh, that's cool.
Ric Valdez [01:00:24]:
Something where you can place your little seat knife in there.
Bob DeMarco [01:00:28]:
That is very cool. So I love this addition of leather. Leather, steel, carbon fiber. All of these materials are so appealing to people like us. I think leather is a great next step someday. Watches.
Ric Valdez [01:00:45]:
Bob DeMarco [01:00:46]:
But we all know the deep hole watches can be, so maybe you can entice people with the knives and then really send them down the hole with watches in a few years.
Ric Valdez [01:00:56]:
And you're right. I say it's Bob the list. Because do what you know, right? I know knives, all the leather. I love wallets, too. I have tons of wallets.
Ric Valdez [01:01:08]:
Ric Valdez [01:01:09]:
I love pens. Mont Blanc was the brand that I went after and always carried Mont Blanc backpacks and wallets and cases. But yeah, the watches. Yeah, you're right. Have to be careful. Do what you know. And so far, everything else that's come in in line with the Ocaso. Brand is what I know, what I. like, and my style.
Bob DeMarco [01:01:31]:
Well, Rick, hats off to you. And for Ocaso knives. I think this is very cool, and I think it's great that you and your wife do this together and that it's a joint thing, especially considering all the combined experience you have in the industry. And then you're savvy at finding these great designers and pulling some really nice work out of them to fit your niche. I'm very excited about Ocaso knives. I can't wait to see where you guys go.
Ric Valdez [01:02:01]:
This was great. Bob, thank you so much for having me. And I definitely got a little bit more relaxed, and it's a full blown conversation, just knife talking with you, so I appreciate that, and I apologize if I was a little nervous at the beginning, because I've never done this before, but thank you for having me, and I look forward to continue our relationship. And let's stay in touch and stay tuned. We're just trying to make as many friends and I saw that you put our Instagram name on there of cost one, just four knives. We're just looking to make as many friends as we can at this point in time, so I appreciate this. Thank you. Thank you.
Ric Valdez [01:02:38]:
Bob DeMarco [01:02:39]:
That was my pleasure, sir. We'll talk to you soon.
Ric Valdez [01:02:42]:
Sure. Thank you so much.
Do you use terms like handle to blade ratio, walk and talk, hair pop, and sharp or tank like? Then you are a dork and a knife junkie.
Bob DeMarco [01:02:54]:
There he goes ladies and gentlemen, Rick Valdez of Ocaso Knives. Keep your eyes peeled on them, like I said, lurking around their table and handling all of their work. It is fine. It is really nice stuff, and. I know there's a big gentleman's knife group of gentlemen knife lovers out there, but you don't have to be a gentleman knife lover because these things are awesome. Just an EDC knife guy. Anyway, keep your eyes peeled for Ocaso knives. And another great interview right here next week on the Knife Junkie podcast. For Jim working his magic behind the switcher, I'm Bob DeMarco saying until next time, don't take dull for an answer.
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