Chris Stroup of Stroup Knives – The Knife Junkie Podcast (Episode 375)
Chris Stroup of Stroup Knives joins Bob “The Knife Junkie” DeMarco on Episode 375 of The Knife Junkie Podcast.
An Army veteran, Chris left the service and entered into the real estate world, which ultimately funded his foray into knife making. Stroup Knives offers six different models of fixed blade knives, from EDC to tactical to camp, all in 1095 High Carbon Steel with a variety of handle materials. All knives come with custom Kydex sheaths.
Stroup Knives are custom fixed blades meant to be used in the field, for EDC or combat and are built with a mission: “To provide you the ONLY knife you need when the world goes to hell.” Stroup knives has been a family business since 2017, with four Stroup children helping in the shop.
Chris collaborated with ex-LEO and tactical dog trainer Justin Melnick on the Bravo 5. Stroup also collaborated with survival expert EJ Snyder on the Mountain Predator, a survival combat Bowie. Besides knives and tomahawks for camp and combat, Stroup also makes a Pry Tool that won Best Factory Non-Knife Tool at Blade Show West 2022.
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.Chris Stroup of Stroup Knives is my guest this week on episode 375 of #theknifejunkie #podcast. Big things happening at Stroup Knives and I think you'll enjoy hearing all about it. Click To Tweet
Stroup Knives Chris Stroup - The Knife Junkie Podcast (Episode 375)
©2022, Bob Demarco
The Knife Junkie Podcast
[0:00] Welcome to the Knife Junkie Podcast, your weekly dose of knife news and information about knives and knife collecting.
Here's your host, Bob the Knife Junkie DeMarco. Welcome to the Knife Junkie Podcast. I'm Bob DeMarco. On this edition of the show, I'm speaking with Chris Stroup of Stroup Knives.
This is an army vet and entrepreneur who heads up a fast rising star in the camp and combat knife arena.
His Stroup Knives is a North Carolina based family business that has expanded and seen many exciting developments in the past year, even winning a best of award at this year's Blade Show West. We're going to talk about that.
I have a personal bond with a Stroup Knife.
[0:47] This TU2 with my favorite maroon handle and logo etched in the bevel was a Christmas gift from my wife last year.
It carries easily, cuts beautifully, and enjoys a tenured position in the old rotation.
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You're listening to the Knife Junkie Podcast. Chris, welcome to the show. How you doing? Good, how are you?
Good, it's good to have you back on the show. I wanna congratulate you on winning best non-knife tool at Blade Show West 2022. That's pretty awesome.
Yeah, isn't it? That's pretty cool that we won an award at Blade Show. It's crazy.
[2:11] You're a pretty new company still, and you won that award.
What is the best non-knife tool that you made? Tell us about that.
We made a pry tool. Man, of course I don't have one right next to me. Give me. Oh, and we were just talking about getting stuff together.
I forgot one right here. Sweet.
Out right there in a stoop box. Yeah.
So this is the pry tool.
[2:37] It comes with a soft loop, which will loop into one row of Mali webbing. So it takes up, if you put it on your kit, it takes up almost no room.
[2:48] It's a little pry tool. It's just a solid piece of 1095 high carbon steel that you can use instead of your knife. So if you want to bust open stuff or smash things, I don't know, whatever you want to do that you don't want to abuse the tip of your knife with.
Yeah. And it fits in either way into the sheath.
[3:08] Oh, that thing. That thing looks great. Oh, I see. You don't have to worry about its orientation. That looks great. It looks like you could use it as a screwdriver too.
As a pry bar you could pop open, you could pry open crates and stuff like that. Also, of course, I look at that and I think of, you know, it's a, it also looks with that wedged tip. You could use it in a pinch to, to, for pain compliance or whatever you want to call it. A weapon.
[3:37] You know, but, but I'm looking over your shoulder and there are so many other better options for for that kind of thing.
But what kind of inspired you to make a pry tool? I know you've been hot and heavy with a number of different models of knives and tomahawks.
What happened with the pry tool? How did this come to you? My friend Damien, he's in Australia, and he said these are really popular there because guys can't carry knives.
So they love carrying pry tools like this. And he didn't like any of the ones that were on the market. they were too expensive or flimsy or the design was just kind of weird.
So he kind of guided me through what he liked and didn't like about all of them. He's a paramedic and a firefighter, law enforcement, personal trainer, a lot of things.
So he kind of helped with his experiences and this is what we came up with. So in a way that skirts a lot of their knife laws while giving the user like a whole
bunch of utility minus the slicing and you know some of the more obvious. But if you needed to you know if you needed to use that for self-protection no doubt you could. And there are so many other things you could use it for that you that you'll destroy your knife.
[4:51] Using. That's pretty cool that it comes out of a real need from someone that you know.
Yep. And we sent him the prototype. I think he got it about a week ago. Took a while to get there. So is there an issue you mentioned he's a firefighter and and this is something that I've thought of before. Is there an issue with kydex and firefighting because kydex has a pretty low,
melting point and if you're walking through a blazing house would would he be able to would he have to have that in his kit inside somewhere? I don't think this would be the tool for being in active fire but maybe if they showed up to a scene of a car crash or something and you You just needed to bust open the window or smaller tasks like that.
But if he was going into a building, this probably isn't the tool for that.
[5:41] Probably more of an axe. I said about, yeah, I think you're right about that. And that cool, that cool try tool thing that they have. I tried to design a knife at one point for a friend of
mine who's a firefighter and I couldn't get around the kydex problem. And then, and then he basically said the same thing. You just said it like, well, chances are a knife isn't the first thing I'm going for. Yeah. I'm like, are you sure? Cause I mean, you know, it's a knife.
So you have, like you said, you prototyped this specialized tool with your friend in Australia.
As I mentioned up front, you served in the armed forces. Thank you for your service.
Of course, sir.
But do you tend to do that with a lot of your products? Send them out into the field with people that you know who will use them and put them through their paces in your R&D?
Yeah the craziest r&d that i found is my kids.
[6:41] We're working on another night with another company right now and i had the prototype done last week. And we went out and made a fire this weekend me and the kids and they spent three hours just smashing pieces of wood with it over and over and over.
I don't think any adult would abuse their knife that way, but that's what I wanted them to do with it and I didn't even have to ask. Were they instinctively just trying to? So were they batoning it and that kind of thing?
They were trying to make feather sticks, sort of, but it just turned into them hitting hardwood over and over on the side of it.
[7:23] Kids, yeah, they actually, you have boys, right? I have four boys and or three boys and a little girl. Yeah, well the little girls can tear it up, too
I know mine do but but I mean little boys if you want to if you want to set out to do a destruction test On something. Yeah, you definitely want to go with them as I mentioned before we started rolling I am in a Bowie phase and so I've been using them to baton wood just to kind of check it out and.
[7:51] This right here this tu2 seems like it would be a great option option for a small knife to do something like that. So I got this knife for Christmas as a gift from my wife and I put a little tweakage in it, had my logo put on it. Thank you both,
and all of that. But I've always kind of viewed it as like this as this carry, you know, weapon kind of knife. It very much has that sort of, to me, it's a Viking kind of sax style knife.
What I think of it as. But I never think of it in terms of its outdoor utility because I'm not much of an outdoorsman. But just in this conversation so far and
just having this in hand while we're talking, I'm feeling like this could really be an excellent all-arounder. Tell me about, you know, what goes into these designs and what you're thinking of for your knives.
Well, a lot of our designs started with the Mini and for a lot of, for me, it fits perfect because I'm a tiny little human.
What not tiny, but you know, smaller than a lot. So it fits in my hand. Perfect.
But for a lot of people, it gets swallowed. You know, it's kind of back here.
[9:07] So we made the two two is kind of like the big version of this. And it's got a lot of utility. Yeah. Outdoors.
We've had people skin animals with it, but a lot of guys will carry it concealed carry or on their kit or on their battle belt. Law enforcement officers, all of those kinds of people.
And then the way we design all of our grips is so that way backwards land. So it's got all the grooves in it so you can wear it with gloves and it's really easy to grab out of its sheath and retain, especially if it's wet out or in pretty much any circumstance.
And they're designed to lock into your hand here so we have a nice solid grip for whatever you're doing with it.
[9:49] Doing with it. So you have the whole grip production of it automated, I should say. At least last time we spoke, that was a part of the process that you were working on. More or less
automating, I should say. Having the grooves and such milled out. So tell me a little bit about about what goes into building these?
So we do CNC the handles, just the ridges, and it's oversized, so it'll be just a little bit bigger. So every one of these gets ground exactly to that knife, and then we round over all of the edges.
That way there's no hotspots and everything is nice and smooth, and that makes every one of them unique. So we don't just CNC the handles and then screw them on.
There's a lot more that goes into it after that. And I've been learning over the last, I don't know, year or two, how to run the CNC machine.
I have no machine shop experience. I just bought a CNC machine and went for it.
[10:48] And we're getting there. Yeah. And so what about the blades? How do you make the blades?
We get the steel water jet cut. So it comes as a knife shaped rusty piece of steel from New Jersey Steel Baron. OK, so that's made, you know, it's cut out in the United States. Not too far from us.
[11:07] Every one of our designs, I designed the CAD file and then they cut it out and it just shows up as a rusty knife shaped thing, and then we just sharpen it and it's done.
That's it. That's not it, obviously. That's what people say to us when we go to some events. Oh, you just get it.
You know, it's already a knife and you just sharpen it. There's 75 steps that we painstakingly obsess over how to make each one of them better and better.
Wow, 75. So, you know, part of my introduction was labeling you an entrepreneur.
And that's what you just mentioned, counting the steps. And maybe that's something that all knife makers do and I just haven't talked about that.
But to me, that seems like something that really comes out of a business sense. Let's count how many steps it takes to make this.
Let's see if maybe we can reduce it by a step or two without cutting corners, but let's see how we can make things more efficient so that we can spend more time making more knives.
So we always wanna make a better knife faster, But we didn't count the steps because of that. We counted them because people always say, oh, all you do is sharpen it and then you're done.
[12:22] So to be able to counter that, we counted all of the steps. And that's not 75 like little steps, that's 75 processes.
So some of those are multiple steps, but we do obsess over every little part of the process and making it more efficient and better and repeatable.
A lot, you know, I know that you make these as rough.
[12:49] Well, I shouldn't say rough, but capable of doing rough, rough and tumble work. And yet a lot of attention goes into the aesthetics of these, a lot of attention goes into your look.
How would you describe your style?
I don't want you to be scared to use this. So our style is kind of.
Not abused already, but it's got the rock tumbled finish, so you're not going to be scared to pull this out and put it on your belt and carry around and use it all the time. Because if you get a tiny scratch on your odds are you won't even notice because of the acid edge rock tumbled finish and the way we texture the flats on the top.
So I hope that it encourages people to use it, so I want it to be out there being used like a knife, you know? Yeah. Well, you know, this this sort of rock pattern that gets milled or not milled, but what do you call it?
[13:45] Ground into the flats of all of your blades has definitely has a look, but it also seems to have a purpose. And that is what I've noticed is that it seems to reduce drag.
Now, I don't know if that's just something that I'm fond of thinking. And so I think I feel that.
But it seems like there's less because there's less surface area touching whatever you're cutting.
It also kind of cuts through things easier. Yeah, 100% on purpose. Yep. All right, cool.
No, but another purpose of it is you look close and it's kind of like brown or black colored.
That's forged scale and that prevents rust. It's just another protection on the top of it So every now and then we get people that ask if it is rust when it's the opposite It's protecting the steel from the rust But it just comes out different colors sometimes because every one of these is done by us,
so sometimes you get color variations and.
[14:44] It's 1095 blade steel that you use why 1095 why not another carbon steel?
Why are you found at 1095 we can abuse it and it keeps going it's easy to sharpen everybody's heard of 1095 it's not some weird obscure thing we know how to heat treat it inside and out because we've done it so many times now that we know exactly how to get the best out of it.
It's just the old reliable. I think it's the king of carbon steels personally. And you know, not that I have, you know, huge vast experience testing in scientific ways, but I have a lot of 1095,
blades and the only knives I've ever made have been from 1095 or AEBL, you know, just kind of messing around in the basement. And it, I like it. I, something about it, I like that I can baton it
through wood too. Totally unnecessary way to abuse my knives but it makes me feel like I'm using them a little bit. So I want to talk a little bit.
We covered a lot of that when we spoke last time but I wanted to catch some people up about your process. But some things that are new since last we spoke,
are some really exciting collaborations that you've done over this past year. I I think you've had a very busy year.
[16:04] And I saw you at Blade Show like six months ago at this point, and it was great to see you there.
And that was only half a year ago, and it seems like a lot has even happened since then. But you did two collaborations, and I wanna talk about the first one, the Bravo Five.
So who was this, who did you collaborate with, and tell me about this then.
Okay, so the collaboration is with Justin Melnick. He's a police officer, canine handler, and he's also on the TV show Seal Team as the dog handler, and the dogs in the show are his dogs.
[16:41] So here's the Bravo 5. If you're thinking it looks like the Mini because it is the Mini. Oh look, I got a great Mini and a great Bravo 5.
Isn't that perfect? Oh, that's nice.
But I set Justin a bunch of knives because we decided we were gonna do a knife together.
[16:56] And you kind of see the size comparison. The TU-2 was bigger than he wanted and the mini was smaller than he wanted.
So these were born or the Bravo five was kind of born of that. It seemed like a great fit because this one is fits a lot more people's hands and it's a little bit bigger.
So you, people feel more comfortable putting on their kit and taking it, you know, on patrols, cops and doing all kinds of things with.
And, and so Justin Melnick, uh, and you, you, you decided to do a knife together And this goes and the proceeds or some of the proceeds go to one of his,
tell me about the foundation that it goes to.
It's the Special Operations Wounded Warriors.
[17:42] Okay. They do a lot to help veterans when they get out. They do a lot of events where they get veterans together and help them cope through some of the things they're going through.
That's cool. So that's a way that you can directly give back if you buy one of your knives. I mean, if you buy one of your knives, you're directly giving back to you, who also serve.
But no, I mean, if you want to help with this special operations wounded warrior program, you can get that awesome looking Bravo 5.
[18:13] I can see what he means. I mean, this is a great knife. knife. This is on the upper end of what I carry comfortably in the waistband in the three o'clock position. I use the same discrete concepts clip and it rides nicely. But any bigger, it's too big.
I could see how that Bravo 5 could be a great little daily companion. I mean, it's not little, it's a three and a half inch blade and that's bigger than what a lot of people prefer to carry in their folder. So as an EDC fixed blade, like perfect. Perfect spot. It's our bestseller.
Even outpaces the mini now. Oh, the Bravo 5 does? Oh yeah. All right. So another collaboration, the Mountain Predator. Yep. Yeah. Okay. So this one is impressive in a different way.
This is not an EDC knife as one might guess from the name Mountain Predator. Look at this beast.
So that's E.J. Snyder's signature. We laser engrave into each one.
[19:18] So if people don't know, who is E.J. Snyder? E.J. Snyder is an outdoor survival expert and sort of celebrity or definitely celebrity. He's been been on Naked and Afraid a bazillion times, I think six maybe.
[19:36] And he teaches a lot of outdoor survival classes and he's. EJ is awesome. He's a character. He's helped us in a lot of ways with our business, connecting with people and teaching us things.
Wasn't he on that show with Cody Lundin, dual survival for a short while? I don't know. Maybe.
I think he was, and then he wanted to strangle him and so left the show.
But this is the guy who walked around the tundra with no shoes.
So he comes to you or you go to him. How did this, how was this born? So one of the guys that used to work for us, Adam, they were Sears School instructors together.
So Adam connected us sort of, and I think maybe our email went to the junk mail and I just tagged EJ.
I want to say maybe December 23rd in a random picture that I posted and he responded and I invited him over and on Christmas Eve he came over and spent probably half the day with us hanging out in the shop.
[20:35] Yeah. And now we're friends and whenever he's in town he comes over and hangs out in the shop And that day we decided to design this knife together.
[20:45] It's got a similar blade shape as that to you too. You have just supersized. And then a different handle with the his nickname is the skull crusher.
So we put a skull crusher on the end of it. How did he get that nickname?
I have no idea. I've heard the story, but I don't remember, man. That's a hell of a nickname, you know, Bobby. No, but so he decided like, let's make something. And he likes Bowie's, I guess.
So, I mean, this is a big dramatic and I call it a double peaked bowie. I like bowies that have the humps on top like that. Mm hmm. What is that? About a nine inch blade, nine and a half inch blade?
I think it's right around nine and a half. Yeah. OK. And about a quarter inch thick. It's in that classic bowie sort of form factor. Yep.
[21:35] And so that's that's a big knife. So for survival in your experience, you know, I know you have quite a bit of experience yourself.
Does the larger knife usually win out? You could do a lot more with it if you're setting up camp because you can shop things a lot better. So if you had to build a shelter, it's a lot easier to use this.
To get your everything together, you know, chopping off branches off the trees and delimiting things and prepping whatever you need, because it's basically a small ax in its own right.
It's got a handle and you can really get some swinging behind it with the weight it's got.
[22:15] So for me, this would be definitely something I'd consider bringing if I had to survive for a long time.
So how did you guys settle on the design? Was there a back and forth or did it happen like in a lightning strike?
We just drew kind of a rough concept on a piece of paper and then I made five or six different designs in CAD and emailed them over to them.
And then we made them all out of Kydex just so we can see the shape and hold them and play with them.
[22:43] And then we probably made two or three more after that. And then we settled on this design.
And so what has it been like with that collaboration and have you made them all? Is it a limited run? How are they all sold out?
We keep these available on our website. We normally have them in stock.
It may or may not be used in a TV show really soon. So we're trying to make some extras and have them available on the site.
So you'll let us know, I hope, if it is used on a TV show and we'll spread the word and make sure people see it.
Awesome, yeah, for sure.
That would be really cool. So if they do that, like a movie company, do they have to come to you and tell you or a TV production company?
Or do they just use it and one day you see your knife in a TV show.
So far I've known about all the ones that have happened because Justin carries it on the SEAL Team TV show, the Bravo Five.
Oh, cool. And then the other one, we sent the guy the knife for it. So.
[23:46] He asked us if you know if he could buy one to use. We're like no but I'll send you one. So these collaborations do you get, what do you get out of them as a as a knife maker? I mean I get what you get out of it as a businessman. You get someone else to share ideas with and,
and you know you can you can share their name and they can share your name to promote a product. But,
But just in terms of you as someone who's learning more and more about knives and designing and making, what do you learn from these collaborations?
There's always something new to learn. So with this mountain predator, how do we make this giant knife over and over?
[24:36] And a bunch of them, repeatably with the same high quality. So there's always a new thing and there's always a new marketing thing we learn, which,
is a whole nother monster of owning a business that's kind of annoying, but also interesting and fun.
And I just like working with other people on it because they don't make knives. So now they get to have a knife with their name on it that they had design input and they get to be a part of that whole process.
So to me, it's fun when Justin says, Hey, why don't we do a knife together? Heck yeah, let's make a knife together. do you want it to be? Because your name is going to be on it too. So I want some of your input into this thing. And then he's all excited because we made this knife with his input.
And I'm excited because we got to make it with somebody else's input and they're excited.
[25:22] It's just fun all the way around. Yeah. Yeah. And he ends up getting a tool that's, you know, made for his purposes and to his, you know, aesthetic. Who are the other knife makers out there whose designs you admire
that you think.
Kind of have a similar vibe definitely daniel winkler winkler knives. He's obviously like The original this thing he's been doing it forever now,
And there's a lot that i've learned from him. He's become a friend over the years now and then spartan blades,
They're about an hour from us Um when I first not first started making knives, but when I was able to make a decent knife I came to them and hung out for a couple hours in their shop.
[26:12] That was two years ago, maybe three years ago, I don't know, a while ago.
And ever since then, they've just helped us with everything. I talk to them all the time. We had dinner a couple weeks ago in Nashville together.
[26:24] They made my, they made a little graphic with my logo and my face under it. Now it's the background on my phone. Oh, that's cool.
Yeah, those, it's awesome working with other knife makers. The whole knife community is amazing.
And those are two, I mean, two of the most respected outfits, you know, in the knife world and you're close to what, both of them? You're a Cazir in North Carolina, right?
Yeah, Winkler's probably four hours away.
Okay. Well, I am grateful to you for introducing me to him at Blade Show because I had an opportunity to talk to him on this show and it was so cool for me because I just, you know, I've admired his work from afar.
I don't know any of his knives and I've seen and heard him, but never spoke directly with him. And it was a real pleasure.
He's such a nice guy and so smart, you know, seem to just have like a lot of, uh, you know, depth of knowledge about this stuff. Yeah, he's awesome.
He's always pushing us to do better and we always hang out at the shows. And sometimes I email them and call them if I have questions and things I'm trying to sort through. That's what's so cool is the knife, other knife makers, We don't see each other as competitors. We're all trying to help each other do better.
Yeah, well, that's funny, because I was going to ask you because and this is kind of a rough question to ask, but who who are your competitors, like who would you consider your.
[27:53] You know, people in your on the same shelf, so to speak.
Is that is that a difficult question to answer? That's a difficult question, because there's our knives and the way we do it and our story is so much different than everybody else's.
In a way, we're similar to Winkler.
[28:11] Because his are sort of you know, he does a lot of it by hand still and they look similar with the acid edged and them or whatever kind of dark coating he puts on there and the,
Similarities and a lot of times in knife stores or gun stores even we end up on the same shelf as him.
[28:28] But it's hard to put us in the same Thing we're not priced the same. They're different materials generally similar uses but also a lot of differences between the designs and everything.
Yeah, I, just speaking about Winkler knives for a second, I absolutely love them and the Tomahawks.
[28:50] But, and this is not even a but, but just incidentally, this I can carry on my person on a daily basis in my suburban lifestyle,
whereas his knives are a little bit too much for me to be able to carry around.
So it would definitely be a collector only item for me. That's why I have yet to get one, but I would really like to, it's on my list.
But I'd like to get one of his tomahawks first. I gotta say his tomahawks are awesome, especially the Siyach, that's the one I'm the biggest fan of. Yeah. And over your shoulder, I see a bearded tomahawk and then I see a spiked tomahawk.
[29:32] Are those regular models for you? Do you make those all the time?
We try and keep them on our website, but normally they sell so fast, as soon as we put them on there, I can't keep them in stock. So right now I have a couple in a box sitting over here for an event we're doing this weekend, and we might hope to put him on the website next week.
But we can't normally if I put 10 or 15 of them on the website, they're gone within a day or two. So we try and make them enough to keep up and we got hit hard with retail orders. So,
I'm sure if you Google the tomahawks, you'll be able to find them at a few of our retailers.
[30:07] That's pretty cool that you have expanded to to various retailers since last we spoke. But before we talk about that with these tomahawks,
was there a call for them or is this something that you just love and you just wanted to make?
I don't remember. I started, I made the first two years ago and only made a couple of them. Yeah, I think people were asking for them regularly.
So then we'd make them kind of onesies and twosies for people, especially guys getting married or for going away gifts we would do them for.
And then every time we would make them, six more people would ask for them.
And then more people. So we increased our capacity to make them and got better and better at all the details of each one of them. The sheaths took a long time to get right too.
Yes, I would imagine. I would imagine. I have a, on loan, I have a very cool ax, like Tomahawk battle axy type thing from a big name.
[31:06] Not a big company, but a big name. And I won't mention him. But the sheath, I'm like, man, it looks cool. It looks like it should work, but tomahawk sheaths are tough.
It's really tough. Yeah. Yeah, I could see how, especially if you have any, like a beard on the blade or any sort of, I mean, this thing has a crazy looking blade and a spike on the back.
So I could see how it would be difficult in the first place. But I think a beard, like probably the Norse axe behind you, probably presents an issue with that.
That one's not too bad. The spike one is way harder to get right.
[31:45] Cause you have to maneuver the little hook into the sheath and then get the spike to lock in there. Oh, I see. Whereas the other one is more of just a straight, you can sort of fit something straight onto that.
So the reason I was asking, is there a demand? It seems like it's not only a very popular item for people like me who collect, who are collectors,
but the reason they became popular in the first place because they were being used by the service overseas in combat zones for opening door, breaching and all sorts of stuff and and combat.
So I was curious if the the people that you worked with in those days were requesting that kind of thing.
Some of them, it's the guys that I worked with. We like to travel light.
[32:34] So, you know, I would never do army things with a big old tomahawk on me, But I definitely keep one in the car in case we got stranded somewhere for the night or.
You know, a lot of bad things happen in your vehicles. So having something big like that near you would be handy. Definitely. Yeah. A lot of our friends are on still active duty and buy them for deployments.
I see what you're saying, though. But but like it's a pretty heavy piece of kit for being light and nimble for whatever you're doing. Yeah.
Interesting. Yeah, because those of us who. Well, I shouldn't I shouldn't speak for anyone other than myself,
You know as as someone who has no combat experience yet has a love of all these kind of weapons It's like no. No, you can't be out there all laden down with swords and gear just because you think it's cool and it.
[33:28] But but the tomahawk thing with with RJ with RJ RMJ I was about to say RJ Martin with RMJ,
and earlier than that with the Vietnam Tomahawk, with the American Tomahawk Company, it always seemed to have some sort of use in service in the American military.
I think it's kind of cool.
Yeah, definitely. Tomahawks just look cool, but they do have a lot of uses. Our kids love using them out in the woods in our yard.
Just for doing work? Another test. Yeah, just, no, they just like smashing things with things.
Oh. Well, that's good. So the family aspect of your business, how has that helped you grow? And like, what about working with the family do you love?
Well, the biggest impact is my wife gets to work in the business full-time too.
So I get to work with my wife and every time we travel, we get to do it together. So that's super cool. Especially after being in the army and never being home.
And now I get to wherever I travel for work, my wife gets to come with me.
And a lot of times if it's local events, our kids get to come to and help out.
[34:40] The kids during COVID, they helped a lot because they weren't in school.
But now that they're back in school, it's pretty hectic for them. They don't get off the school bus till four o'clock.
[34:51] And I finished working about four, three, three, five every day or four if I can when they get off the bus. So sometimes they'll stay in here and help me with things, especially if I bug them to or on the weekends they'll want, especially if they wanna earn money. Cool.
Because we pay them to help, but we're trying to teach them, even outside of the knife making, just how to run the business, kind of the decisions we make and how to deal with all of the things that are involved with the growing business.
So it's fun to teach them as we go.
I just got approved for a business loan maybe two hours ago to help build this second building we're building. And I walked him through why we decided to get a loan now because up until now we've had no debt.
It's all been funded just through keeping the money in the business.
But I walked him through all the reasons we got the business loan and why we didn't take it out earlier.
And all the risks and the benefits and their understanding and kind of helping sometimes ask them, what should we do just to get them to think? Yeah, so that way they can either take over the knife business or they can start their own or they can help somebody in their business.
[35:57] That's pretty cool. I.
[36:00] Speak to a lot of people who work in the family business dynamic and it's interesting to see different ways different kids of different ages,
can be involved everything from like building boxes and to to learning the trade,
But but I know from our previous conversation before you were doing knife making making you were doing, I believe it was real estate, right? So you got a business sense
in an abstract sense, in a totally unrelated business that you are no longer doing, or I'm presuming that. But you got the abstract lessons in business from that and from probably
other ventures in your past that you can apply to knife making, which is of course the best of all businesses, but you can also instill them to your kids.
I learned a lot of the backside boring stuff through real estate systems and customer relations and following up and email and all that stuff that's not knife making. I learned a lot of in real estate.
So it was definitely helpful, but.
[37:05] Real estate wasn't that fun for me. It just kind of steals your soul. You're always on call. Yeah, right, right, right. Always. And it just got too much for me. I sold a lot of houses and it helped fund our knife business. So I'm thankful for it, but it was,
time to move on to something less stressful. Wow. Owning your own business, making knives is less stressful. That's, that's, that means you're doing something right. Yeah. But with the real estate,
with, I'm of course thinking of my own job too, like there are certain things that are just good habits that you develop, that you're forced to develop just to get by in certain jobs,
that you might not, that might not be the pinnacle of your calling, but they teach you a lot along the way. They're so valuable. I've had so many of those, you know, in my years, like, you know,
learning different skills that have in aggregate really helped out. In real estate, they tell you to tell everybody what you're doing, right?
So tell everybody you're a real estate agent. So that way, if they need to buy a house or sell a house or their friend, they think of you.
So it's kind of like that, I guess, with everything. It's just networking, making friends, talking to people about what you're doing with knives. I mean, our whole, pretty much our whole life now is knives.
[38:24] Yeah. Yeah. And that and that networking thing is no joke. You know, I saw you at Blade Show, you know, like a phantom here and there and talking to people and moving around.
You know, that's important. And I was a part of that and I'm grateful.
Oh, hey, Bob, how are you doing? Can I introduce you to anyone?
Yes. As a matter of fact, you can introduce me to Daniel Winkler. Sure. And then five minutes you're off, Daniel's off.
And it was cool to watch you, you know, moving and operating like that.
[38:56] You know, how much how much of that is are you doing now that you're going to the shows.
All of it. All of it. an extreme introvert.
[39:07] And I would rather live in the woods and make knives by myself all day. But I'm really good at making friends and helping people with things and solving problems and, you know, connecting and having fun,
collaborating on projects.
So, yeah, those events, I just kind of wander and make friends with everybody. That sounds like an extreme extrovert. Everything you everything you describe is no, but I get it. I get it. You know, yin and yang.
And then I go home and I sleep for a week. So.
So where you are, where your shop is, is this where you're going to be built? Tell me about this build out you're going to do or or is it a totally new space?
Tell me about the expansion of the company.
We're in a building right now that's about 2000 square feet on my property, and we're adding a second building that's 1500 square feet, 30 by 50.
The foundation was poured a week or two ago and the building goes up on Monday the 12th Wow, man, and we just got the business loan so we can insulate it sheetrock HVAC electrical.
[40:18] Hopefully six weeks from now we have a Mostly functional shop with lights and walls and so can you maintain?
Maintain full production in the current shop while all this is happening? Or how does that work?
Yeah, we're going to build it out and get all the benches built, at least room by room, and then move everything probably nights and weekends so we don't have to stop what we're doing because there's just too much to do to shut down.
[40:47] So i think we're gonna have everything wired and prepped and benches made so that we all we have to do is just reshuffle equipment around. I don't know if this is a personal question or you know like uncouth but how many knives do you guys make a month like what's what's your.
I because i know you're i know i see you at blade hq where have i saw you a dlt i think dlt trading recently not yet. I was somewhere other than blade HQ and I saw you maybe it was knife Center knife Center smoking mountain knife works, you know,
Okay, all the places I go and lurk. Yeah, I've seen you and I've especially seen that dagger man I don't mean to get off track. The dagger is awesome, but we can talk about that later.
[41:32] Just in terms of demand now now you have a number of retailers that you have to keep stocked and then you have to keep your website stock and all of that. How much, let's say in the past year or so since we've spoken, how much has your production ramped up?
Dramatically. We've made.
[41:53] Right about 3,000 knives so far this year. Wow. And we had some slow months when we were building the shop because we moved in here in June of last year. So a,
So a lot of this year was spent revamping the shop, closing in the screened-in porch and insulating walls and building doors and adding walls where there was just openings to the outside.
So a few of the months were pretty slow for production numbers, but we needed to just increase our production.
[42:25] So I'm curious to see how far we can push it with the new building. And a lot of what we've been doing too is getting our employees all on the same page, which took employees as a whole.
[42:37] A whole thing that has been a struggle for a while, but we fired three people in the last six weeks, maybe four weeks, and gotten a really good team that everybody meshes well and knows their roles.
And it's taken a long time for me to figure out who goes where, who's good at what and what do they like doing.
[42:58] But I think now we're finally in a really good spot to really just turn the screws and start cranking out knives.
Now we've got our systems flushed out and everybody gets along. There's no drama anymore Okay, just Relax and make knives. Well that that's kind of what I was gonna ask.
[43:16] Is it was it a personnel issue or were you having trouble?
[43:22] You know having people make your product because you want your product to be just so and wasn't just so At first it was really hard for me to let people do things that weren't just, you know, clean the back of this handle or things like that.
But we were up to 11 employees, 10 or 11 employees, and now we're at eight. So everybody that's here now is well trained in what they do. And some of them are more detail oriented than I am.
So we have one guy who's a retired 82nd Airborne Sergeant Major, and he is very Sergeant Major, like with the details of every little thing. So he does all of our final inspections now.
[44:03] He's not he's not afraid to kick back half of them.
[44:08] And make everybody do their parts to fix everything. So it's just finding the right people and getting them in the right places and figuring out what they're good at.
And they have to like doing it.
I realize that also.
Yeah. Is everyone in your shop a knife guy or gal? Is everyone there a knife nut? I would say we have one.
Oh, really? So so the people who come to work in a knife shop who aren't knife nuts are machinists or people who otherwise would be doing something like that but maybe not knives?
I would love to have a machinist so I can have somebody else run the CNC machine.
[44:46] A lot of our guys are like retired law enforcement or retired military. I like to call them house dads, which is perfect because they're not here for the paycheck. They're,
they're here to belong to something and they're the ones that take the most pride in what they're doing and our team and the family and everything we're doing. So those people are amazing. But then we have one guy, he came here one day to get a Spartan blades pocket knife sharpened and then never left.
[45:17] Now he works more hours than anybody else. He offered to help us like, Hey, I'm going to come in tomorrow and just help you guys because I'm off work.
About halfway through that day, the employees were coming up to me saying, hey, we gotta hire this guy, because he's awesome.
[45:30] So we hired him that day. You know, they talk about corporate culture and, but that is the kind of culture you want to build in a workplace. You know, people, I love this idea of house dads,
you know, these guys who are just, uh, probably all good with their hands, obviously, but, but,
they're all, uh, retired from former high stress jobs. Now they just get to hang out, you know, around machines and other men and other people, because I know it's not all just men, but,
and make knives that that is a seems like a very great atmosphere, you know, and probably the opposite of drama, as you were talking about. We had we had some struggles, but we're learning how
to, I don't know, going from the army to run in a business is a big change. And employees is just something I've never had to really deal with. In the army, you don't get to pick and choose your employees, you just, that's what you have.
So it's kind of a weird, I was listening to a business podcast about veterans and how they struggle with firing people because they're not used to being able to get rid of people.
Like I can kind of see that you mentor them and mentor them and mentor them.
[46:41] And that's kind of what we did at the detriment of everybody's sanity for a couple of the people that were here because there's, you can only ask somebody so many times the same thing, you know?
Know, hmm, or people like, Hey, I'm gonna be at work tomorrow morning. Okay, I'm counting on you to be here. And then they call you 10 minutes after they're supposed to be here. Oh,
I'm not going to be there today. How many times do you put up with that? Or, you know, hey, when you ask that's this knife, if it has a big weird white spot on it, you got to go through these steps again, you can't just put it on the table at the,
next process, you got to go back and fix it. How many times do,
you have to nicely talk to them about that before some, you know, like, hey, we've done this 30 times now and somebody else has to go and do it a second time.
So now I'm paying hourly wages twice for the same process.
But I have all the patients in the world and I'm trying, my instinct is to just keep helping, you know, let's keep working on it.
But how many times do you let them make the same mistake before?
So that's where the other guys in the shop are like, hey, look, man, your business is losing money because of these people.
[47:49] So it's finding the right people to help me make those hard decisions, I think. Yeah, and who can encourage you and help you. The flip side of that that I've seen are people who,
have served, who put up with bad situations, say at work for longer than they should because they're used to just kind of putting up with it due to rank or whatever their situation is in the military. But it's like, no, but you don't have to do that anymore. You're not a,
a part of that, you know, and and yeah, so that's that's interesting.
So I don't want anybody to feel like that here. I want everybody to show up. And man, this is awesome.
Everybody's just making knives and working together. And it's a place they can come and tell war stories and, you know, like, oh, I had this crazy private that did all these crazy things, and they're all hanging out laughing on their breaks and, you know, makes them feel like they're part of the team.
And it's cool. So did they come with you to the shows? Did they or I know that this is kind of a relatively new team at this point,
but is this a group that you plan on, you know, kind of bringing with you when you go to the shows and that kind of thing like you're dyed in a wool crew?
We bring a couple with us. Some of the guys don't want to have anything to do with going to these shows.
[49:08] Or they've determined that they're never going to work on the weekend again. And all the shows are on the weekends. So just because of that, they're like, Nope, I'm not coming no matter what.
And then some of the people, it's all sales and business things. So it's a balance of finding who's good at selling knives and who wants to do it.
And we've learned that you need to have a knife maker looking dude, like a, you know, a grown up.
And then you can have somebody else because one of our employees is 19, Gabe, and then Sarah is 22. We've had them at a booth before and they can't sell knives.
People it's just that they're knowledgeable they work and then they're the ones that make the knives, but it's that maybe trust or.
[49:51] Confidence of you know a dude with a beard. So if we have Gabe and a dude with a beard Because most of the most of the guys here have looks similar to me, you know, yeah, so if you have that combo and.
[50:05] It doesn't matter. It's just the appearances of it Then we sell way more knives and more people approach us and talk to us. Yeah, I mean.
[50:14] Well, think of it if you're at a makeup convention And would you buy the makeup from the guy that looked like you or from the good looking lady?
Yeah. It's the same thing.
It's a valid point. But it took me a little while to realize that when they were there, we didn't sell hard landing knives and nobody talked to them.
Yeah, it's because they want to talk to a knife maker. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah. With dirty hands.
[50:40] So what kind of projects? I know you can't reveal much about things that have not come to pass yet, but what kind of projects? We know you do Fixed Blades and Tomahawks,
and now Pry Tools, which are award-winning, which is awesome. Again, congratulations.
But what other kind of projects are you looking to take on in the offing?
So we just did a podcast with Black Rifle Coffee and it comes out on December 12th.
This is airing on the 11th. So tomorrow, if you're listening to it the day this comes out. I think that's going to be pretty big. And then we're doing a bushcraft style knife,
which was one of those collaborations that I learned a lot of different skills on because it's a whole different handle design and a different steel thickness and just a different
use. So that's going to also come out on the 12th of December. That's going to be released here in December and that'll be a short run only available a limited number, at least for this first batch.
[51:44] So that's going to be really cool. That's a completely different style from anything we've done. Yeah. Is that also a collaboration with someone?
Yeah, a company.
Okay. Oh, a company. Okay. So yet to be released information. And I don't need any corroboration, but I'm imagining something like a Kephart or a, you know, some like a Canadian belt knife or for something that would, actually a Kephart,
I think would fit your style.
[52:13] But that's just me. So I'm going on record saying that, but I look forward to seeing what it looks like. And I bet the grind has to be different too, right?
Like you have to look at it a different way.
Yep. Lots of experimenting that went into this in a very short period of time.
Interesting. I was gonna say, did you end up going, taking prototypes out back and using your, you know, the skills you learned in the military to test these things?
Yeah, definitely. And to let my kids just abuse it to see what it's gonna hold up to. It held up well. They smashed it into cinder blocks on accident a few times.
There was just the tiniest little nick in the blade.
I interrupted you. You were about to say, I designed. Oh, I designed the handle in a hotel room in Utah.
And it took me way longer than it should have, but it worked on the first run. It was pretty cool.
[53:06] Really? So you were, uh, you just happened to remember that, that that was. Oh, it was a really short suspense from the time that we decided to do this till the time I had to have prototypes done and in the mail.
[53:20] So the only way to make this work was to design it while I was in Utah recording that black rifle coffee podcast.
That is cool. That must've been really fun.
It was. it was a little nerve-racking. I mean, this is a big deal. A lot of people are going to hear this that comes out soon. So I'm curious to see what comes of that.
It was fun to Mike Glover was a good host.
I've seen some of their content on YouTube, some of the older stuff. They did kind of like skits and stuff. And, man, they were very good and hilarious. And their coffee is just awesome.
I don't even drink coffee. Yeah, that's that's surprising to me. I thought all army, I thought all military guys were coffee drinkers, but I guess not.
I don't drink alcohol either, so I don't fit the normal. I don't fit the normal of anything ever, so it's just normal for me to not fit the normal. Yeah, well, yeah. I remember recently seeing you
pulling some weighted sled through the woods and I was like, this is a man who's in shape and he's He's got a vision.
He's got a vision. Well, what do you see for Stroop Knives? What is the ultimate goal here?
What do you want to see Stroop Knives be when you're ready to hand over the reins?
I want us to be a household name. Maybe not as big as Benchmade, but up there with Winkler and Spartan Blades and beyond, and just see how far and big we can grow it and how many people's lives we can impact.
[54:47] Right now we have eight employees. eight people that I get to provide for their family and their lifestyle and provide them a safe, healthy work environment.
Reggett and you know a lot of veterans law enforcement there working through their things going on in the brain so they get to come here and learn a skill and make knives and have quite all that down. And then those things that they're making are going out into the world into the hands yes into some hands like mine who you know don't whose life doesn't rely on them hopefully ever but also they're going to hands of people for whom they could make all the difference.
And that's got to mean something, that's got to feel like something for them and for you. Oh yeah, 100%. And it's cool when we make something and ship it across the world too. We shipped a pry tool to Sweden the other day.
[55:38] So the guy was like, man, I know that I helped make a pry tool that's going all the way to Sweden to be used. Yeah, no kidding. So what do you hear back from the field?
What do you hear back from users who have your knives?
I made an Instagram post about this today actually. When I was still making knives in a one car garage by myself two, three years ago, a guy came by to buy a backpack I was selling and ended up buying a knife that I had made.
And he sent me a picture of it. The scales are like half destroyed somehow. And he re-profiled the tip because he said he was a 50 cal. machine gun was jammed and he used it to pry open the bolt.
Whoa he said he is absolutely abused and done things that no knife should ever hold up to.
Is like i still care this thing everyday is amazing. That is the best yeah and he cared enough to reach out and say that it's still holding up and send me some pictures.
[56:38] That's the coolest thing in the world to me that is and no doubt as the years go by and this is. You're still a young company as the years go by and you're at more and more shows.
They're gonna be more and more people walking up to you. Oh, let me show you my t two. I've carried this every day since I bought it.
And yeah, that that's gotta feel great. That's gotta feel really great because it's not just something that you're making that's going to hang on someone's wall that they appreciate. And there's I'm not saying.
That that's not a great thing to do to make art like that. But you're also you know, you're making a tool. You're making a tool that people get to bond with but they also get to rely on and you know Knowing that you're doing that's got to feel great.
[57:21] Yeah, it's pretty cool it's cool when people buy our knives as gifts to their friends to especially military members and or retirement gifts and they buy a tomahawk and we engraved the the unit logo on there and they put it on a plaque.
[57:35] That's really cool to me to that people like our stuff that much they want to gift it to somebody. Well yeah this is the perfect time to do that.
Chris thank you so much for coming back on the night of the podcast it's been a real pleasure talking with you again thanks for having me this is always fun i'm sure we'll do it again next year. Indeed sir alright take care.
Thanks you as well you know you're a nice junkie if you're as happy as a kid on Christmas morning when that new knife arrives in the mail.
There he goes ladies and gentlemen Chris Stroup of Stroup Knives I just love the image he painted of the house dads.
[58:15] All all around his shop making his awesome knives and and just being together and and I don't know sounds like a really really cool Retirement atmosphere. So maybe maybe we'll have to look to move to I was gonna say New York new I mean, North Carolina,
someday in the future anyway Anyway, thank you so much for joining me and this interview with Chris Stroup.
Join us again next Sunday for another great interview with another great personality from the Knife World and Wednesday for the Midweek Supplemental and Thursday for Thursday Night Night.
For Jim, working his magic behind the switcher, I'm Bob DeMarco saying until next time, don't take dull for an answer. Thanks for listening to the Knife Junkie Podcast.
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