RichMade Knives – The Knife Junkie Podcast (Episode 411)
Richard Kloc of RichMade Knives joins Bob “The Knife Junkie” DeMarco on Episode 411 of The Knife Junkie Podcast.
RichMade Knives are incredibly unique one of a kind hand-made custom folding knives crafted by Richard Kloc in Colorado. Each folder is made from hand carved titanium and steel, featuring sculptural and decorative elements not seen on modern folders.
RichMade Knives has exhibited at recent Blade Shows in Atlanta and USN Gathering in Las Vegas. RichMade has also closed its books allowing Richard the freedom to make what he wants when he wants with all the creative license.
Find RichMade Knives online at richmadeknives.com and on Instagram at www.instagram.com/richmadeknives.
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.If you like big hulking unusual knives, then you'll love this episode of #theknifejunkie #podcast with Richard Kloc of RichMade Knives, who is making some awesome hand made knives featuring sculptural and decorative elements not… Click To Tweet
RichMade Knives - The Knife Junkie Podcast (Episode 411)
The Knife Junkie Podcast is the place for knife newbies and knife junkies to learn about knives and knife collecting. Twice per week Bob DeMarco talks knives. Call the Listener Line at 724-466-4487; Visit https://theknifejunkie.com.
©2023, Bob DeMarco
The Knife Junkie Podcast
Welcome to The Knife Junkie Podcast, your weekly dose of knife news and information about knives and knife collecting. Here's your host, Bob the Knife Junkie. DeMarco.
Bob DeMarco [00:00:17]:
Welcome to the Knife Junkie Podcast. I'm Bob DeMarco. On this edition of the show. I'm speaking with Richard Kloc of RichMade knives. Knives. I first saw RichMade knives at Blade Show 2021, where the audacious and huge designs hooked my eye. And in checking out the knives, they were in hand, both familiar and exotic. Clock makes his folders one at a time in Colorado. They are big sculptural frame locks and motifs and shapes that you'd never imagine seeing on a folder. After my eye got over the shock of Rich Maid's unusual designs, I began making unexpected visual connections that have me seeing these as art knives and seeing them in a new light. We'll meet Richard and talk all about his work. But first, be sure to like, comment, subscribe, and share the show with friends. You can also download it to your favorite podcast app. And as always, if you would like to help support the show, you can do so on Patreon. Quickest way to do that is scan the QR code on your screen or head over to thenifejunkie.com patreon again. That's thekjunkie.com patreon.
Ever watch video reviews of knives you already have just to justify your purchase? You are a knife junkie, and you've come to the right place.
Bob DeMarco [00:01:34]:
Hi, Richard. Welcome to the Knife Junkie Podcast.
Richard Kloc [00:01:37]:
Hi, Bob. Thank you for having me.
Bob DeMarco [00:01:39]:
It's my pleasure. It's my pleasure. So, as I mentioned up front, your knives are very unusual. They're set in a framework that we understand titanium frame locks, but that's about where it ends. I want to talk all about your current style of knives and everything about them. But before we get there, I got to find out how you got interested in knives in the first place and started making them.
Richard Kloc [00:02:10]:
Yeah. So about seven years ago, I attended my first knife show here in Denver, Colorado, and I picked up two or three knives. Some of them were, I think, two used ones and one new one, and I really liked them, and I wanted to make some changes. One of the used ones I got, the action wasn't very good, and so I set about disassembling the knife and seeing how it worked. And I was fascinated by the way that the frame lock worked and the construction. And from there, it just kind of spiraled out of control to the point where I started buying knives, customizing them, reselling them. For about six months. I did customization of other makers knives or production knives. People would send them into me, and then I would do some customization to their specifications, and then I would send them back to them. And then after doing that for about six months, I started to realize I'd much rather be making my own and customizing my own. And so I started really slow, kind of not really knowing what to do or how to do it, and just kind of took it from there and started off just with test parts like using aluminum instead of titanium, using the steel and not worrying about the heat treat till later. And just all of my original designs were drawn out on paper by hand. I would literally cut them out with a pair of scissors and then I would put them on the stock, whether it was aluminum or steel or titanium. I would draw it out with a sharpie and then I would cut it out with my band saw and then throw that one away and try again. And it took about six months before I could really make a folder that was what I considered to be acceptable and ready to actually use. So it's been a learning process. It's going on, I think, going on about six years now. So I would say that it was just something that fascinated me. And I slowly I didn't have any knife workshop. I didn't have a metal shop. Started off with my first belt grinder and then I bought a saw, a metal saw and band saw, and then just kind of went from there and started off with a really small heat treat oven. Literally, I could only do a knife about yay big because the oven was really small and it wouldn't get very hot. So I could only use tool steels. And I slowly upgraded and got much better oven. Now it's to the point where I just kept taking over more and more space in my basement to where now I've got the entire basement dedicated to my workshop now.
Bob DeMarco [00:04:51]:
Okay, so something interests me here. First of all, you got a couple of knives at your first knife show, and your first instinct was to take them apart and see how they work. And then you started making knives and you went straight for the hard stuff. You went straight for folders. So are you a tinkerer by heart? What's your background?
Richard Kloc [00:05:09]:
Yeah, I'm in it. So I started off in the Navy. I was in the Navy for seven years in It while I was in the service as well. That's what I do for a living. I work for one of the big It companies, and I don't make knives for a living. This is just a part time endeavor for me. I make knives mainly evenings and weekends, usually just weekends. And then I went from the Navy into the private sector in the It space. And just the way that the knife was designed and the engineering behind it is what really kind of drew me in. And I went to my first knife show, which was Blade Show in Atlanta, because I have family in Georgia. So while I was there visiting my parents, we went out to Blade Show and I started looking at all the knives. There was just so much to choose from and I probably bought more than I could carry out the front door that first time I went. And then when I got back, I just started ripping them all apart and seeing how they were made. And just like, I got to try to do this myself. And so that's kind of what started it. It's just a real curiosity to challenge myself. And on the flip side of that, it was like, this is going to be my side business and my retirement business. I've got probably going to work for another ten years or so and then retire. And then once I retire from my regular job, then I'll have something to do to keep me busy so that just don't sit around and vegetate all day. So give me something to do in my spare time.
Bob DeMarco [00:06:38]:
I think it's interesting that you're in It. And I've spoken to a couple of people actually quite recently who are It professionals and who make these very expressive knives. Not just your average run of the mill knives. I'm wondering if there's some sort of connection between the kind of work you do and then the kind of work you make.
Richard Kloc [00:06:59]:
I'm not sure. I really kind of got drawn to the really ridiculously large overbuilt knives. Medford Knives was one of my first. I really liked that big giant cretorian that he made. That was when I first saw that I was like, wow, this is so cool. I like gigantic big watches. Everything just to me it's like the bigger the beefier, the crazier. It is just kind of appeals to me for some reason. And so I kind of gravitated that way with my knife making. And another thing is kind of thinking about the style that I have and why I went there is walking around blade show. If you ever go there, even any of the larger knife shows, you walk around, you see just a sea of stuff that's so similar. Different colors, some shape variations. But for the most part you could probably find 1000 knives that all look like they could be clones of each other. And I had no interest in that. One of my first thoughts was I am not going to design or make a knife that sitting on a table. Somebody just walks by and doesn't even notice it. It's like I wanted to make something that really made a statement and that was just I try to come up with the most crazy ideas I possibly can when I design them. And I kind of have a no holes barred, as you saw the one you just put up. By the way, I've got some on the table here to show you that I just recently made.
Bob DeMarco [00:08:26]:
I would love to see them.
Richard Kloc [00:08:28]:
Yeah, we'll get there. But the whole idea for me was just make what I like, make what's unique to me and interest to me. And if nobody wants to buy it, then nobody wants to buy it. It's not supporting me. It's not paying my rent. It's not paying my mortgage. Doesn't really bother me. So that's kind of like, one of the advantages, I think, of being a part time maker that doesn't live off that income, is you're not worried about what other people think. You're not worried about whether you sell something or don't sell something. I've been very fortunate and that I've sold everything I've made for the last five years. But if that wasn't the case, I might slow down and make one knife a month, make ten a year, and hopefully find ten people that were willing to support me in what I do.
Bob DeMarco [00:09:15]:
The knife that Jim just had up was from February 2021, is the knife of yours. That when I saw that it all clicked with me. For some reason. That knife in itself, it's called a zombie killer. And I know it was a crazy build zombie killer. That one in particular. Something about all of the something about the sculptural element of that just is moving to me especially. It looks like an abstract expression is painting, or it looks like some piece of graffiti or something. Can't quite put my finger on it, but it evokes a lot. Tell us about your design style and how you evolved to this sort of abstract spot.
Richard Kloc [00:10:08]:
I almost started with that. That was one of my very first designs. This one here, this original zombie Killer, this was one of my first knives, and I just gravitated towards just making a really big knife, the fattest steel I could find. And then, how crazy can I make it? What can I do to this thing that just I kind of wanted to make a knife that looks like you dug it up out of the ground from World War II. It's been driven over by tanks and stuff like that. Because to me, it's like you can only do so many colors. You can only do so many styles of finishes. At some point, you just run out of ideas. And so when you're doing kind of what I'm doing, which is making knives on the side, you don't really care about how many you sell. You start to think to yourself, I want to focus more on what can I do? That just has never something I've never seen before. Right? And you wake up in the morning, and that's kind of where we'll talk a little bit about this one. This is one of those wake up in the morning or in the shower thinking about wonder if it's possible to put copper across the top of a knife and make it look like a barbed wire fence. And that's kind of where this came from. When I did this, I'm going to cut out the center of the blade, and I'm going to put two holes in the end and I'm going to attach them together using just some wire. So that's kind of where that came from. Here's the same knife, just on the smaller size. I've never done this before. No one's ever seen this knife. This is the first time it's ever been displayed. Wow. These are going to blade show. This is the two different styles. Let's see what I got. Yeah. Give you an idea of the style here. So this is the medium zombie killer, and this is the large and both of them, these are the only two with the copper across the top. So it's like one of the interesting things I think about with my knives is when you get one, you're not going to run across someone else that's got one that looks exactly the same. They're all different in some way, because when I start off making the knife, I just kind of let things go. I flow it, I look at it and I think, what do I want to do with this knife? How do I want this one to come out? I don't have a list where I say, okay, these are all going to make Kennedies, and they're all going to look the same. I never do that. Each one gets its own little bit unique touch to it.
Bob DeMarco [00:12:46]:
So you were saying before that when you first started, you drew everything out on paper. Does that mean now you approach it kind of like a sculptor approaches a marble and you just start digging into it? I've noticed your things are very uniquely carved. They seem carved.
Richard Kloc [00:13:04]:
Yeah, I know. I was jumping around a bit. So the first couple of years, that's the way I did it. I would draw the knife out, cut it out, and I literally kept the template, the cardboard cut out, and every knife was drawn from that cardboard cutout and then cut out on the bandsaw. Well, after doing that for two years, I just realized that this has taken way too much time. And every single when you do it that way, every single knife has to be tweaked and tuned and adjusted because every single time there's slight differences between them. So I finally realized I got to make my life a little easier, and I got to figure out how to do take these designs that I did in cardboard and move them into AutoCAD. So I started taking AutoCAD training online. I purchased AutoCAD, installed it on my computer. I spent probably a month just teaching myself how to use AutoCAD. I started slowly transferring one design after the next into AutoCAD. And then I started searching for a water jet cutter. I found someone here locally in Denver that did it. And that took about probably six months to a year before when you first start working with a water jet cutter, especially one that in my case, had never worked with a knife maker before. They have really no idea what they're cutting or why. So it took me a year to kind of train my water jet cutting guy to know, I need this size, nozzle, I need this speed, I need this level of tolerance. And then I finally kind of got him to wear it to get me the parts that I need. And so now all these designs, the handles and the blade shapes and everything, are in AutoCAD. And then I basically buy like sheets of titanium and sheets of steel, bring them to him, and I get maybe probably about ten of each models in different sizes. I get them all cut and then I just have them in my basement, all the parts stacked, so that now, when I go to start, I just grab the two slabs, the blade grind, the blade heat treat the blade all that I do in my own workshop. All the cutting, all of the drilling, the finish work, the blade edge all that I do, all that's done by hand. So the only part of it that I have water jet cut is just the girls and pocket cuts and so forth, just because it made life so much easier, that point when I did that. So I try to keep like ten of every size and every model in stock parts that I could, so I could make one of any model I want. And so I'll go down on a Saturday morning into my workshop and say, what do I feel like making today? Let's make one of these and one of these. I usually do two or three a week, depending on whether I'm even working that week or not. So probably that's kind of my transition from what I drew out. Everything started as drawn out, converted it into AutoCAD, and then from there, I usually do when I start off with a brand new design, I only get one or two prototype parts cut because you never know if you're going to run into problems. So it's a pretty involved process to bring out a whole new size or model because you got to make sure that the AutoCAD that you designed is going to work properly.
Bob DeMarco [00:16:27]:
So with the complexity of the outer contours of the handles and the blades, did you notice your work getting more complex once you went to AutoCAD and could kind of repeat AutoCAD and water jet and could sort of repeat some of those more complicated shapes easier?
Richard Kloc [00:16:50]:
Yeah, once you get the design locked in and you can repeat it over and over again, now you're at the point where that's something you don't have to worry about, because when you're cutting it out by hand, I was literally cutting that. You've probably seen, I may have worked with some mic makers, that you cut this lock bar out by hand with a rotary tool, and it's so much time lost to in that. And so now I can focus more of my attention on the design and uniqueness of the knife and less so much on getting to the point where I've got working parts that I can actually make a knife with. So it's just been an incredible time saver as well as improving consistency and quality overall.
Bob DeMarco [00:17:33]:
So let's talk a little bit about the suspension bridge feature across the top of the blade.
Richard Kloc [00:17:42]:
I got a new one for you.
Bob DeMarco [00:17:44]:
Okay, cool. How did that idea spring out? Does it have any engineering function? Yeah.
Richard Kloc [00:17:56]:
Well, where did the idea come from? I don't have any to show you because I only made less than ten of them. But I started out it was maybe a couple of years ago. I made copper wrapped knives where basically what I did is let me go this way is I bolted some copper on here on the face. And then I basically turned. I put this thing in a vise and I hit it with a hammer to where it wrapped all the way around. And then I screwed it in on the backside. And then I did the same thing to the blades. Let's find one that's out of top on here. We'll take this one. This is before heat treat. I drilled holes in the steel, I attached the copper and I wrapped the copper around the top of the blade. I wrapped the handles with copper and I called it the steam steamer. Was a steamer series because it was like a steam trunk, right? A steam trunk has those copper wrapped around corners. And so I made about ten of those. And it was a lot of work. It was really cool. It was an idea that I had. It's like, what can I do to kind of add? I mean, I have literally thought of I'm going to put a screw in here and I'm going to attach a piece of wire and I'm going to go to here and attach a piece. Steampunk style really interested me. So I did that a couple of blade shows ago and I sold probably ten of those. And that was really cool and I enjoyed doing that. I may do a few more at some point down the road, but that was kind of the idea in my head was I want to put something on the outside of the knife. That's really cool. People love copper. Copper is just one of the coolest materials out there.
Bob DeMarco [00:19:38]:
Richard Kloc [00:19:38]:
And so this idea of putting something on top of the blade has been in my head for a while and I've been kind of noodling it. How can I do that? Right? And how can I attach it and what can I put on there? So I just took one of my knives and I just started probably a good example would be this one here. I just started cutting, right? And I thought, I'm going to leave a piece on either corner up here where I'd attach something across here and screw it into the sides of the blade. And that's kind of where this idea came from. And once I got the first prototype done, then I thought, okay, now I can go into AutoCAD and I can CAD this to where I don't have to do it all by hand. And I can get these part, these titanium. This is actually titanium here. So that's kind of was my idea. It's like I just thought it would look really cool because I've done so many of these style where I have the cutouts in a blade like this and almost like a Freddie Kruger kind of. It's like, how crazy can my brain possibly think up things? And this is just where does it come from? It just comes from kind of brainstorming. You wake up in the morning, you just lay there on a Saturday morning and think, what am I going to build this morning? I don't want to build anything that I built before. I wanted to build something totally different, some kind of crazy idea. And that's where kind of like stuff like this comes from.
Bob DeMarco [00:21:07]:
When I was looking at it and thinking about whether it has an engineering purpose, I was thinking your knives, which are pretty large, must have some weight. I know that's not your first concern, but I thought maybe that was also a way to save on some weight and a really kind of compelling and cool looking way that fits in with the whole kind of visual motif to me I see in your work so far either sort of decay and destruction. I mean, that sort of beautiful and decay and destruction that you see in your favorite kind of apocalyptic movies or I see this sort of almost flirty sort of viny thing. Again, that knife from February that Jim had to me reminds me a little bit more of that, a little more gestural, which I just think is pretty interesting.
Richard Kloc [00:22:07]:
Yeah, this is one where it just has a it's kind of got like a I call it like a Godzilla spine on it where it's his back. And then the back here is all cut out as well. And then the back spacer just kind of keeps the spine and kind of holds it all together. And again, I love doing these, but there's so much work to do because you literally have to cut these on the band saw and then you have to soften every single edge here because nobody wants a knife that when you go to touch it, it's going to feel sharper, it's going to annoy your fingers. And so I love doing these types of knives but man, there's just so much hand work goes into those because every single cut you have to soften after you cut it because they come out where the steel or the titanium, you make that sharp point. You can't leave it that way. Think about how many points there were. When you're done cutting something like that, every single one of these points here has to be softened so that it feels good on your hand. And this is the first time I've ever tried powder coating. I'm bringing a batch of blades with me at a blade show that have black powder coating. I've never done this before and it came out really cool. I was amazed. I have never had a whole lot of experience with powder coating. My water jet guy does powder coating. I have since bought my own powder coating equipment. I'm going to start actually doing it in my own workshop. But I'll tell you a funny story. I'm sorry we're jumping around a lot, but I'll just tell you a quick funny story. So I had a guy, customer of mine, long time local here in Denver, who has bought a dozen knives from me now. And he said to me, I really want a black knife. And he's been pestering me for like over a year and a half. I want a black knife. I want a black knife. I'm like, I don't have any way to do black. I don't have any way to do powder coating. So I finally was like, all right, fine. I'll do a small batch of knives, powder coating for any of you that don't know. Problem is, if you're going to do like, I think I did six, let's say maybe six knives that were powder coated black, the problem is you have to get all this prep work done, all the sawing, all the groove. Everything has to be totally done before you give it to the power coder. You have to send the power coder like ten scales and all the pocket clips and everything. And then wait, it could be two weeks to a month to get all those powder coated and then come back to you. So you invest in ten of those scales. I probably had a month's worth of labor invested in just getting to the point where they were ready to go to powder coating. Then when they come back to powder coating, now you got all these parts sitting there. You're like. Oh, God. Now I got to build ten knives. I can only do about three a week at my working part time. So that's another couple of months to build all those knives. And anyway, I got a batch of ten of them now that are going to be go to great show. So we'll see how people like them. But this is another one, another model of mine. This one's called the Grim Reaper. And this one's got a dark blade, as you can see. All of that, all this grinding here is all done by hand. This is black powder coated. Each one of these holes, obviously, I did that on the drill crest after powder coating to give it the two tone look. I've got a few that are just all black, no two tone. And I liked it. I thought this really came out nice. And I got to be able to do this myself because I can't ever go through a batch of ten just with so much it's like as a knife maker. One of the things that you get pride in at. Least when you're doing really if you're an individual knife maker and you're doing really small batches everyone, you make you have a sense of accomplishment after you finish it. Well, delay accomplishment, that feeling of accomplishment for three months, because you get ten parts prepped, you ship them off to the powder for them back, and then you spend another couple of months putting ten together. And so it's frustrating because you feel like two months have gone by and I haven't built anything. They're all in various stages of build and pieces. That can get pretty frustrating when you were holding up.
Bob DeMarco [00:26:34]:
Well, first I'll start this by saying I think that your collector was right in badgering you, because I think the knives look beautiful with the two tones when you were holding up the larger one with the blade shut with the black. Yeah. To me, that looks like a landscape, because you get a depth between the black and the silver from the blade. It really pumps up the the visuals of this. So my question and and maybe a lot of people would have this question, and this was remedied when I actually picked up your knives, but what about the ergo? The ergonomics that are so important to holding a knife? You have these handles with these very unusual contours. How do you account for that, and how do you explain the ergonomics of these?
Richard Kloc [00:27:28]:
Well, so I don't focus too much on it other than when I first designed a knife and go through prototype process of getting parts cut and seeing if they work. I just hold them, see how does it feel? Can I get my hands on it? Like, this is literally a standard. This is called the Fat Bastard. I actually call this a full sword, but when I'm doing my prototyping, I get the parts. I build a couple of prototypes. I feel them, I use them, I carry them for a couple of weeks. I go back into AutoCAD. That doesn't feel good. I need to do this. I need to that I want a place to put my thumb when I'm holding it. I want to have this here to prevent your hand from slipping onto the blade. And so, to me, the way that I do the ergos is I'll prototype the design in AutoCAD. I get two or three cut. I build those two or three. I see if there's any functional problems, any ergo problems, anything that I want to change a little bit. I'll move this a little bit over here, move that over here. And then I do another cut. And I'll only. Again, maybe only do two or three. Sometimes I've gone four or five iterations of design, build tweak, design, build tweak. I usually sell the prototypes because now I've gotten to the point where after five years, I know it's going to work. I know that the functionality will be there. So I'll usually build for two or three prototypes, sell them for basically the parts cost just to move those out. And people love getting those kind of prototypes because it's one off that you'll never see again. And then when I finally get to design it's like, okay, I will say, even today, I still make minor, minor tweaks. I'll still take a design that I've been building for three years. And when I get to go to do another batch of cut, I might still move something around just a little bit. That's really minor tweaks. But I still do that just about on every time. With every batch, there's little minor changes. Like, I made quite a few changes recently to the Ratchet. And so for those of you that don't know what that is, yeah, that's the folding hatchet there. So this one I've gone through and made quite a few tweaks to over the years.
Bob DeMarco [00:29:43]:
You know, I said before in my intro, I said that I first saw your knives at 2021. But I think this knife I saw before I saw your other stuff.
Richard Kloc [00:29:56]:
This, I think, is your I've tweaked the blade. I've tweaked this design here quite a bit. I've tweaked some of the contours here to your point, right, making it a little bit more friendly to hold. So as the years have gone by, I'm in constant tweak mode anytime. Like, I'm going to move this over a little bit. I'm going to smooth this line out a little bit. But this one came out really cool. This is the large ratchet. And then this is the Small.
Bob DeMarco [00:30:25]:
I'm seeing this Saturn pattern.
Richard Kloc [00:30:29]:
This is new. This is called Moon Crater. Finish. And this is because it's been one of my favorite designs. But I just added a sandblast cabinet to my workshop about a month ago, and I'm really having a blast with it, figuratively speaking, blasting my parts. So now I'm sandblasting the scales. This blade is totally sandblasted and then thrown in the tumbler. So I'm having a lot of fun with that. So it's kind of like I go through these cycles, right? I'll do the skeleton knife and then I'll do this and just kind of whatever feels good or feels right and kind of catches my eye. And so just having a lot of fun with the sandblast cabinet. Even try doing a two tone where just the top is blasted and the bottom is silver grind. Throw it in the tumbler for a couple of hours. So that's kind of where that came from. But I've been enjoying the Moon Crater finish, and it's going to be quite a few knives like that at Blade show. Here's one of my small pocket friendly style knives. As you can tell, I don't make a lot of pocket friendly stuff. And here's one that is actually pocket friendly. This is called the Stingray and this one's one of my most popular since I introduced it. I don't make a ton of these, but I'm going to be making more. This is the knife that people buy out of my pocket when I get together with my buddies and stuff like I just did last weekend was hanging out with my friends and they said, oh, what are you carrying? Because I know I always have one of my knives. And I pulled one of these out and I bought it right out of my one of my buddies bought it right out of my pocket because it's small and it's relatively thin and can be easily pocket carry, but it's got the same kind of my rich made flavor in there and with the moon crater finish in it. So to me it kind of looks like it's got a little bit of like a galaxy effect and you've got some impact into the moon surface with meteorites and stuff. Kind of that's the thought process I had in my head when I came up with that design.
Bob DeMarco [00:32:44]:
So there's a real strong contrast between the and don't take this the wrong way, but the sort of chaotic nature of, say, the handle sculpturing and maybe chaotic is not active. The sort of active region of the handle and then the active region of the spine. And then you look at the bevels and everything is so crisp and clean and where the business happens, everything seems to be really squared away and on point. What's it like working in those two worlds of extreme precision where everything has to be on a straight line because you're selling these to knife guys who are going to look and then you're off on the rest of the knife just sculpting and doing crazy stuff.
Richard Kloc [00:33:33]:
Yeah, it's an interesting point that you make because for those who have ever had experience with a grinding machine and sitting in front of the grinding machine and grinding the steel, that's probably where the perfectionist in me is. You just sit there with your eye and you kind of look for it. I will say I have a bit of a philosophy that some people don't like and that's okay. I have a problem with that. My philosophy is I don't try to give you an example here. If you look at this break here between the two grinds, this is a dual grind. You'll notice the size of that there and then you'll notice on this side that it's a little bit fatter right here, this break. And some people might say, well, it's not perfectly symmetrical, right? Or it's a little off here there. I don't look at it that way. I look at it as if you want absolutely, perfectly symmetrical. You want no indication that a human touched your blade, go buy it at Walmart off the shelf. They've been made by a machine. Every one of them is exactly the same. I look at it as that was ground by me in my workshop, sitting in front of my grinder for an hour, and that's what you got. That was the result. And so to me, I look at it and I say, wow, Richard, ground that blade. If you want a blade that you look at and say, wow, I cannot see any this looks like it was done by a machine. What enjoyment do you get out of that view? In my opinion, so I don't worry too much about everything being scientifically perfect. I look at it kind of more as. Again, what is my eye see? And as I'm grinding, what am I after in a blade like this? I'm like, okay, I'm going to do a compound grind. And I do those quite a bit. That's kind of the thought process that I go through. I have a little bit of a different philosophy than some of the makers, but I also don't charge $3,000 like some of these crazy custom knife makers do. And I guess if you're spending $3,000 on a knife and you find a little thing that's not right, you might not be too happy about that, right?
Bob DeMarco [00:35:48]:
Well, your approach just I keep coming back to art. It's like mark making, at least when I was in art school, that was a big expression. Mark making has a lot to do with how someone knows that something is yours. How you make your mark quite literally on the paper. Well, there you're showing that ridge between those two grinds, and they're not exactly perfect. Just like nothing on anything handmade is exactly perfect. And that's the whole beauty of it, right?
Richard Kloc [00:36:22]:
And same thing with all the grinds, and they're all just random and whatever looked good to me at the time. So that's kind of the way that I approach it. It's like each knife has my own thought, design and eye in it. And you're getting a knife made by a person, not a machine. It's not CNC made. And if that's the style of knife you want, go to Blade Show. There's 500 tables of CNC made knives. You got your seized choice. You could probably get one for $75. But if you want a knife made by a custom maker that spent their blood, sweat and tears into that knife, and I can tell you how many times of finger cuts you have, literally, blood, sweat, and tears go into these knives. So many cuts, never ending. And the nice thing is that I have found that people actually do appreciate that, because, as I said, I have had no shortage of challenges selling them. So people it's obvious to me that people do appreciate that they're getting a knife that is made by hand and has some human imperfection built into that knife. And then on the flip side of that, I stand behind every knife I made. It was funny. I got contacted by a guy last week who had one of my knives. He didn't buy it from me. I don't know where he bought it from. Probably from some friend of his or maybe online in a used knife forum or something. But he contacted me and he said, hey, can I send my knife in for you for a spot treatment? And how much do you charge? He said, It's not opening as smooth as it used to. I said there's no charge. I said, I will work on any knife I made forever if you bought it from me, it's a little bit different if you bought it from me and you ever have a problem with it, not only will I service it forever, but if I can't fix it, I'll just make you another knife. I'll take your knife, toss it in the trash and say, hey, I couldn't fix it. What do you want me to make for you? I'll make you something new. But anyway, this guy sent his knife in for service and when I took it apart, the washer, the cage, bearings inside of it crushed like somebody had stepped on the thing by an elephant or something. So I just took everything apart, put all the new parts back in again, got it all tweaked back up, and put it back in the mail to him. So the nice thing about dealing with individual makers is that you're going to get that hopefully from most makers, you're going to get that one on one treatment. And I didn't charge them, even though I had to put new parts into it. I even put new standoffs in titanium standoffs in the back. The idea is you want to keep your customers happy. You want to make sure that they're enjoying their knife forever. And if anyone ever buys a knife from me or acquires one and they need help, I put those service requests and those incoming knives ahead of new builds. Existing customers and bills go before new builds. So someone contacts me and sends me in a knife. My goal is to turn that knife around in a week if I can.
Bob DeMarco [00:39:28]:
That's one thing that collectors, especially custom collectors, talk about a lot is developing that relationship with makers and how much that makes the knife more worth the money, worth the time, and sometimes the effort and the weight to get one of these knives. What are your collectors like? And how would you say you first got a toehole in having collectors, having regular buyers?
Richard Kloc [00:40:02]:
So the first time I started selling knives, the very first blade show, I didn't have a table. I went with maybe two or three, four knives that I made, and I sat down in the pit at one of the tables, and I put my knives on the table along with some friends of mine. People just started walking over and saying, oh, wow. What the heck is that? I said, I'm just starting to make knives. And these are my first three knives. I walked away from that show with, like, 20 orders bills, because people were like, I want one. How can I get one? I said, I'll build you one. Give me your information. I'll contact you. So that's kind of how it started. Is that just from word of mouth? And then now it's more like I post every build I make on Instagram and Facebook. I have a whole bunch of followers there. And then I have a couple of dealers that I have a standing arrangement or a standing okay with Knife center. They tell me, we'll buy everything you make. If you ever don't want to try to sell it yourself, just send it to us. And it's like, I appreciate that, but I want to try to get knives out to people for people to handle and so forth. So it really has not been an issue with trying to find customers. Usually they find me. And just in the past, about six months ago, I stopped accepting orders from customers, from anybody. And the reason I did that is because I'm a watch collector. You'll see, some watches on the stopped accepting orders is because this is again for me. This is a part time love of what I do. And it's instinctive in me that I wake up on Saturday morning, and if I have orders, which just kind of bugs you, right? You're like, I owe ten customers knives. I've never accepted a deposit. I will not take a pain from anybody. I used to have this really cool policy where I said, if somebody wants to order a knife, tell me what you want. I will make it for you. When I'm done building it, if you don't like it, you don't have to buy it. I'll sell it to somebody else. There's no problem there. And so that took some of the pressure off, because I found that when I first started doing this, if you have people's deposit, they feel like that entitles them to pester you. Now they're like, hey, you got my 200, 300, $400. Where's my knife? A month goes by checking in. Where's my knife? And so I was like, you know what? I don't want anybody's money. Don't need anybody's money. I'm just going to make you a knife. And then when I'm done, I'll show you what it's like. And if you like it, you can buy it. And if you don't, we part as friends. You're under no obligation. So I did that for about three years, and then I would only accept orders for about six months out of the year, because their other six months, I was building knives for shows, blade show. And the USM gathering in Vegas this past year, I've decided no more orders. That way I don't have to feel like I've got people waiting for me to work. Because you wake up on a weekend and you're like, I can't go hang out with my family because I got ten customers waiting for knives. This is kind of this little voice in the back of your head that says, you got people waiting on you. You got people waiting on you. Go get to work. Go get to work. Well, now that I have no my books are cleared, I have nobody waiting for any orders. I can wake up on Saturday and say I'm taking the day off. And I don't feel guilty because there's nobody waiting for a knife. Of course, a spot treatment or repair would take precedence, but those are fairly rare for me. So now I'm actually enjoying myself even more because there's no pressure. If I make one knife for blade show, five knives, ten knives, 20, who cares, right? It is what it is. And so that's my new approach.
Bob DeMarco [00:43:52]:
So who are the collectors? Who are the other makers? Do you think that they are collecting?
Richard Kloc [00:44:01]:
You mean, who likes me? That probably likes other makers.
Bob DeMarco [00:44:04]:
I guess what I mean is, in all of the knife people, I've spoken with a lot of people. I like everything. I'm equal opportunity. I really do love everything. But some people are just folder collectors. Some people just like World War II stuff. Some people just like, who goes in for rich made knives?
Richard Kloc [00:44:24]:
It seems to be people who do kind of tend towards the larger style folders, like the Medford style, the Todd Heater style, those really big beefy folders. There are people that really enjoy the dress style, the fancy, and I've done a lot of time ask this as well. But those types of people are general. It's someone who probably half of my customers are collectors are looking for. Like an example, I call this a coffee table nut. This goes on your man cave. Nobody's going to carry this around in their pocket. This is going in your collection. So that when you go to hang out with your buddies and you open up your pelican case full of your collection, this thing's sitting in there, and your buddy says, what the heck is that thing? And you pull it out. Go check this out. And they're like, oh my God, that's the coolest thing I've ever seen. Did you get that? And then next thing you know, I got another order coming in, someone else. Well, I don't accept orders, but people are reaching out to me and saying, how can I get one of those? So I think that the style that I'm after is mainly collectors. I'm starting to get into some people who do carry, which is why I have some of the more pocket friendly stuff now available. But I think it's for people who appreciate the uniqueness of the knife. They're not fixed blades because don't make fixed blades. I've made probably less than ten in the last six years, and even those were only because I was just goofing off and dabbling and try something I hadn't tried before. And I don't really get too much into the super dressy, fancy style knife because it's just not my thing. I've made probably 20 or 30 full polish timeascious, some polished blades and things, and I probably will make some more in the future. It's just not something that calls to me all that much because there's a lot of other people that do it better than I do and appreciate spending so time, every little detail, and then they're charging 2000 or $3,000 for that knife. It's not me. I'm not interested in that. I don't want to spend a month making one knife for three grand. I'd rather spend a month making three knives or ten knives and sell them for 500, $600 apiece rather than the other way around. To me, that's just more fulfilling.
Bob DeMarco [00:46:52]:
Yeah. So when you said that that knife in particular was one that you keep in your man cave, that you show off to your friends when they're over for a beer, I love that description because I have some knives like that. And I've gotten knives probably for that reason or just because I myself just love to hold it, open it, look at it, think about it. Certain things, knives in particular, capture our imagination in a way that other tools just do not. I always talk about wrenches. You don't see too many wrench enthusiasts. Maybe there are some, but it's a smaller community than the knife community. So there's something in it already as a tool that's just part of us as humans, because it goes way back, but then you take it and you turn it into a usable art piece, an expression. I mean, these to me are all personal expressions of yours, like paintings on a wall. It becomes something else.
Richard Kloc [00:47:57]:
Yeah. And I think that it's nice that there's room for everybody. There's room for people who want a certain style. There's room for me making weird, crazy stuff that there's not very many of this folding sword. If I make five a year, that's a lot for me, because there's not that how many people want a knife that's this big. So at five a year, over five years, there's maybe 25 of them out there in the world. And so the advantage to that is that there's space for that amount. There's space for the number of people that would have an interest in that. And there's enough room in the collectors for me to maybe make 50, 60 knives a year. And people seem to appreciate them. And it's nice that people like some of the crazy ideas I come up with enough to support me and to buy those knives because I would stop making them if I had a shelf full of 20 of them and nobody wanted them. It's like, well, I guess that I guess I'm done, right? But believe that hasn't been the case.
Bob DeMarco [00:49:00]:
What do you want to try? Where do you see your style developing.
Richard Kloc [00:49:05]:
To I'm just going to continue to come up with crazy ideas. This is the newest one, right? There's been probably less than five suspension blades out in the wild right now. There's going to be probably about maybe six or seven of them going to Blade Show, right? And there'll probably be ten or twelve in total. And that'll be the run. And then I'll go on to come up with some other crazy ideas. I've got other ideas. I'm going to come up with some really wacky. If you think some of this is crazy, there's more crazy coming. And, you know, my, my take on it is, is there there are haters in social media. You know, it's a tough world out there. We all know that from watching the news. And I've had my share of that. And my attitude is, if you piss people off because you make stuff that's so insane that they get really angry, that means you've evoked an evisceral response in them and you're doing something right? Because if you make a knife that looks like something that you could buy at Walmart, then what did you accomplish? You've accomplished mediocrity, right? Make a that when you show it to somebody, they say, that's horrible. What the hell would I ever buy that for? Then you've accomplished I actually triggered something in their brain. It might be a negative initial response, but if I held up a knife, something from one of the major CNC manufacturers, that's nice. It's a knife. Cool. Take it out. Go hang out with your buddies and take out a knife that you bought from Walmart and show it to them. And they'll be like, yeah, cool. Nice. Take a knife out like this and put it down on the table. And they'll go, what the heck is that thing? Where did you what the hell are you going to cut with that thing? You're going to go chopping down little trees out in your backyard? You're going to get a visceral response from people one way or the other? And I enjoy that, right? I kind of enjoy sitting down and thinking, what else can I come up with? I want to move away from the frame lock. I'd love to come up with another. I've been toying with all kinds of ideas on other ways to do lockup because this has been done, the frame lock has been done to death. And so I've got all these ideas churning in my head. Problem is, I have a full time job, and I do it for a living, and so I don't have a ton of time to devote to it. But as my building process evolves, these knives will evolve, and new knives will come out. And one advantage is that if you bought a folding sword or you have one, you might have one of 50 that exist on the face of the planet, and then that'll be the end of that, because I'll start going on to something else. So I think some people can appreciate that as opposed to buying a knife that you're at the February run where they made 6000 that month.
Bob DeMarco [00:52:11]:
Well, it's that idea of soul being sort of injected into the thing that you're working on. And you put all of your attention on one knife while you're making it or while you're working on it, and that absorbs your soul. Kind of like some of the stuff on the wall back here, that's handmade and used it, and just the act of hand making it and spending that time gives it that soul. And then you look at the fact that each one is an individual, and that makes it even more so.
Richard Kloc [00:52:51]:
Yeah, so it's kind of a side passion of mine. It's scary that I wake up on the weekends thinking about knives and designs and what the heck do I want to make today? And that's just kind of the way my brain just starts churning. What's the next knife? What am I going to design? What am I going to come up with? It's got to be something different. I got to try something I haven't tried before. And I'm kind of always in that mode. There's got to be something else out there. And so I'm constantly pushing myself to come up with crazier, crazier stuff and stuff that just catches my attention and catches my eye. Every once in a while, I come up with an idea, and then I see someone else cop beat me to it, which that's okay too. I don't mind.
Bob DeMarco [00:53:35]:
So we've talked about Blade Show a bit. You're going to be there this June. You'll be there the whole week at.
Richard Kloc [00:53:41]:
A table is Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I think my table is 21 C. It's been the same table every year, and I'm right as of today. I've got 20 built so far, and I'm probably going to get to about 30. We got about five, six weeks left to go, averaging about three a week. So with time to get packed up and everything, I'm figuring I got enough time to maybe make about ten more. I got two in the hopper that are partially through the build process, so I'll get somewhere between 25 and 30 that'll be available for the show, and then we'll see how long those last. Other thing is, I do allow remote purchases. You don't have to come to Blade show. I try to post a video from my table on my Instagram, in my YouTube, and if somebody wanted to, they saw something on the video, they're like, oh, I like that knife. They can just message me through either Instagram or Facebook Messenger and say, I want to buy that. And then we just arrange through PayPal or whatever and I take the knife off the table and I put it in the case and I ship it to them after the show is over. So it's kind of nice because people always say to me, how do I get one? How come there's nothing on your web site for sale? It's like, well, I get that. Be patient, be on the lookout for my Blade Show and see off the table. Just hit me up. You can even call mobile if they want it or text me and then they could just buy it right there from the show. The advantage of going to the show and the reason I go is it gives people who do go the opportunity to hold them and try them and see them. And it's not something it's really the only opportunity you have to do it before you buy it.
Bob DeMarco [00:55:29]:
Yeah, and no doubt they're not everyone's cup of tea, but everyone will love to pick them up and check them out. I mean, that's another thing about Blade Show. I mean, people talk about how you go there for the people and yes, that is true, but you also go to pick up all of that, all of those different knives wouldn't even consider buying, but that you're still interested in because you're a knife junkie or you're a serious enthusiast. And to find myself picking up kitchen knives, I know I'm never going to buy $1,000 kitchen knife, but still, to hold it is amazing. And that's a benefit to going to Blade Show. As we wrap. What advice would you give to someone who wants to start making knives themselves?
Richard Kloc [00:56:16]:
Start small. Sit down with a pad of paper, draw out your knife, take first thing to do as far as figuring out the geometry and the functionality is buy ten knives and disassemble them all and reassemble them and analyze how they're made and see kind of what works and what doesn't. And then start off making your knives out of cardboard. Just cut it out with a pair of draw it, cut it out with a pair of scissors, punch a hole through the middle, go to your local hardware store, buy a screw and put the screw through the pivot and see if it opens and closes and kind of fit everything. Kind of see if it fits right. And then if you really want to get into it, just start buying. You can go to Harbor Freight and buy one of their cheap bandsaws and one of their small belt sanders and you could just go buy yourself a piece of steel. You can order it off of Amazon, maybe start off with aluminum as your side so it's not as expensive. Don't worry about the frame lock part for now, just kind of work out all. The geometry and then just start small from there. And if after doing that, you're, like, starts building that passion to you, this is something I really want to try to do, then you could start buying and investing in the equipment, because outfitting a workshop in order to be able to make a knife like this can get very expensive. And so some people like to start small. And I talked to so many people that come by my table at Blade Show, and they'll hand me a knife that they made and say, Check this out. I just made this, and I made it all off the Harbor Freight Parts machines. It's like, wow, that's really cool. That's great. And, yeah, I'm getting ready to buy my first two x 72 belt sander. It's like, oh, good for you. And so you got to start somewhere, start small, and then see if it's something that you're passionate about, because it takes a lot of time. Takes a lot of time and energy, and it's a learning process. I'm still learning. Every knife I make, I learn a little more, right? I just changed the wheel that I use to grind my lock face to try to make it a little bit smoother, and it seems to work a little bit better now. And so it's just a constant process. I told you, I just bought a sandblast cabinet. I just bought a giant compressor. I'm looking for a surface grinder. So it's just every year, all the money from the knives goes right back into the workshop. New parts, new equipment. You just kept rolling into it. If you're doing this to try to support yourself, good luck with that. That's really hard to do, because if it takes you a year or two to get good at making knives for that year or two, you're not really making any income, right? So it's a process to get to the point where most knife makers who are doing it for a living have gone through. They had a day job, but their end goal was to do it full time. And it takes many years of practice to get to that point. But you got to start somewhere, start it out as a hobby. You could even do what I did, which is buy ten knives, go to Blade Show, buy ten different knives, take them home, and just start customizing them, start tweaking them. Feel how you could do regrowinds on blades. I did that, too. Take your belt sander. Instead of starting with a blank piece of steel, start with a regrind on a $50 knife and see how it works. So all kinds of different ways. You just got to get a lot of practice under your belt before you get full.
Bob DeMarco [00:59:39]:
Well, Richard Kloc of RichMade Knives, thank you so much for coming on the Knife Junkie podcast. It's been a real pleasure getting to know you a little bit and finding out about your process. I think it and your knives are just incredibly interesting and exciting. So thanks for joining us.
Richard Kloc [00:59:57]:
You're welcome. Thank you. Don't take dull for an answer. It's the Knife Junkie's favorite sign off phrase.
Bob DeMarco [01:00:04]:
And now you can get that tagline.
Richard Kloc [01:00:05]:
On a variety of merchandise, like a t shirt, sweatshirt, hoodie, long sleeve tea and more, even on coasters tote bags a coffee mug, water bottle and stickers. Let everyone know that you're a knife junkie and that you don't take dull for an answer. Get yours at theknifejunkie. Comdull and shop for all of your Knife Junkie's email@example.com.
Bob DeMarco [01:00:29]:
Shop. There he goes, ladies and gentlemen, Richard Kloc of RichMade Knives. Be sure to check out RichMade Knives on Instagram and be prepared to be blown away. The knives are so cool, so interesting, and like I keep saying, so artistically expressive, in my opinion. So there you go. Join us again next Sunday for another great conversation with another knife person. And be sure to join us on Thursday night for Thursday Night Knives, right after you watch the Wednesday midweek supplemental right here 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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