T.Kell Knives - The Knife Junkie Podcast (Episode 403)

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Tim Kell, T.Kell Knives – The Knife Junkie Podcast (Episode 403)

Tim Kell of T.Kell Knives joins Bob “The Knife Junkie” DeMarco on Episode 403 of The Knife Junkie Podcast.

Tim is a knifemaker from Ringgold, Ga., designing EDC knives, concealed carry knives, hunting knives, custom tactical knives, military knives, and more. He served in the USMC and is a life-long American Patriot with a passion for practical, durable and functional edged tools.

Tim’s father was an incredible craftsman and teacher and started to make a knife for Tim that he was not able to finish. This inspired his life’s mission to make high-quality blades. As a function-first kind of guy, Tim only buys tools that are best in their class for durability and multiple uses and his knife designs are based on the same uncompromising philosophy of use.

He has numerous collaborations with the likes of Steve Tarani, Frogman Tactical and Prime Combat Training (by IDF Operator Imri Morgenstern).

T.Kell knives are tested in the hands of professional users and are sent to work and play in some of the harshest environments: Police car, war/hell, backwoods, protective detail, blue collar trades and offices. T.Kell Knives are also guaranteed for life, regardless of ownership, “even if you’re doing stupid things with it.” They also include lifetime sharpening.

Find T.Kell Knives online at tkellknives.com, as well as on Instagram at www.instagram.com/tkellknives, Facebook at www.facebook.com/tkellknives and YouTube at www.youtube.com/@TkellKnives.

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Tim Kell of T.Kell Knives is a knifemaker from Ringgold, Ga., designing EDC knives, concealed carry knives, hunting knives, custom tactical knives and more. Hear my conversation with Tim on episode 403 of #theknifejunkie #podcast. Click To Tweet
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Tim Kell, T.kell Knives - The Knife Junkie Podcast (episode 403)

©2023, 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.

[0:11] 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 Tim Kell of T.Kell Knives.
T.Kell Knives caught my eye a few years back and had an immediate impact due to three different distinct reasons. The knives themselves are hard use, obviously. Combat and self-defense oriented. And they're made by a Marine Corps veteran in the United States. And that man, Tim Kell, has a big personality. If you've ever seen Tim's shop or product videos on Instagram, you'll know what I mean. But beyond that, word began seeping in from the field and from collectors that Tim's knives are both rough and ready for hell, but feel like a dream in the hand and in use. Also, I have it on good word that the man makes killer biscuits. Just another testament to his craftsmanship. We'll get into all of that in a moment, but first be sure to like, comment, subscribe, hit the notification bell, and share the show.
You can also download the show to your favorite podcast app to listen on the go. And as always, if you'd like to help support the show, you can do so on Patreon. Quickest way to do that is to head over to theknifejunkie.com slash Patreon.
Again, that's theknifejunkie.com slash Patreon.
You know you're a knife junkie if you plan your vacation around Blade Show.

[1:32] Tim, welcome to the show, sir. Hey, thanks, man. It's good to have you.
As I mentioned up front, you are a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, so I have to thank you for your service in serving this country, and also I take it as my family.
I take it personally, so thank you very much. I appreciate that.
Well, you're welcome.

[1:52] It was my honor. Well, okay, so as I mentioned up front, your knives, T-Kel knives, they are definitely oriented towards hard use, towards combat, towards self-defense, and those are the things, those are where my knife tastes really run.
So the work that you do really did catch my eye immediately.
And then I saw something, an audacious design, which I just happened to have in front of me, and that really, man, that sealed the deal for me.
This Guardian, I'm a big Wharncliffe guy, and the fact that it's triple edged, just really got me reeling.
So I think you design knives in a way that people maybe aren't expecting.
How did you get started with this? What was the impetus to push you into knife making?
That's kind of weird. Well, I'm weird, so that helps to do weird stuff with a weird person.
I worked for the railroad, and I got furloughed. I did a job in signal maintenance, which is an electrical type of job, and that's my craft.

[2:49] And I was kind of bored, collecting some railroad retirement, and had always built and made my own things, firearms, I had a forge from doing that, I like sharp stuff, I like stabby things, so that was kind of the first foray into, actually my wife told me, she said, hey, you know what, I saw this show on TV, and you could do that, and I'm like, really, what is it? And it was forged in fire.
Iron and fire, actually predates forged and fire.
So I made a kitchen knife because I'm smart and I'm like, well, if I'm gonna have a new hobby, it better be a gift for my wife.
So that's what I did. And she's like, this is actually pretty good.

[3:26] So I just started making stuff the way I liked it. And we were selling it at some local places and people really, really liked them.
And I started making stuff for me And this whole thing just kind of took off into what it is today.
And my approach is completely different.
How would you say it's different?
Well, I wasn't a knife guy at first.
I'm a combatant, and I'm a firearms guy, and martial arts background, and some military background, and I'm an avid shooter, family protector, and I couldn't find a fixed blade that would pair well with that.
And I had broken so many folding knives, and I've always liked knives, so I didn't really trust them for what I wanted to do, and I'm a worker, so I'm a blue-collar kind of guy.
And I wanted stuff that would hold up to my stupidity, my marineness, but I wanted comfortable, and not something that's just really ostentatious, this big, huge sword on my side, and I couldn't find that anywhere.

[4:31] You mentioned your marine-ness and having a lot of family who are in the Marine Corps and such. I think I know what you mean, but what was your experience in the Marine Corps with knives, knife usage, the knives that you were issued, and then how they ended up performing?
Oh, without saying names, everybody knows what blade the Marine Corps typically issued.
It was a 1095 steel blade.
And we were taught combatants with those things, but because most Marines eat crayons, we didn't know that you weren't supposed to dig with it and pry open crates and stab desert rats and MREs and all that stuff.
And I always liked.

[5:12] That blade because they gave it to me. But I always had thoughts of, if I did it myself, I would do it this way, with no intention of ever actually doing it.
Right. But you found the tool itself, and we all know you're talking about K-Bar, and we all love K-Bar, so it's no skin off of their back.
But did you feel like it was substandard for the use that you were actually putting it to use?
It's a combat knife, it's a bowie blade, oftentimes the swedge, at least in the old days, was sharpened, meant for knife fighting, but it seems in the modern era, that happens vanishingly less than in the old days.
I didn't like the grip and the guard. I just didn't like them.
They didn't seem intuitive to me, and that's where all the ergonomics comes with my stuff.
I wanted balance, I didn't find it very well balanced.
It was robust, I mean, we beat the hell out of that thing.
But, and you could sharpen out a river rock. That's why my first steel I tried was 1095, because I loved it, I absolutely loved it.

[6:17] And I moved beyond that because I wanted more for my blades, but I just didn't like it.
I mean, the sheath was terrible.
I just, I mean, we have a low budget.
Yeah, that's right. In the Marines, you get all the, the Marines, you get all the cast on some of the, like the Cobra, the Huey Cobra, while the Army is flying around in their, in their, what is it, whatever their attack chopper is.
Anyway, I think it's cool because the Marines make good use of older equipment and that just shows that it's the mind and not necessarily the tool.
Yeah, that improvise, adapt, and overcome you hear about. Right, right, right.
They give us garbage, so you know.
So you gotta, if you're gonna be the most effective fighting force in the country, they'll give you a trash bag and go fight with you. That'll work.
So you're talking about the ergonomics of the K-Bar and I agree with you that it's kind of round-handled, it could turn in your hand.
Where did your love or your appreciation for those ergonomics come from?

[7:13] On K-bars? No, on your knives. I love indexable things.
So a lot of times you're in the dark and you don't know.
So I wanted it easily to be able to have that narrow grip that you absolutely know where cut foot goes this way, point points that way, sharp stuff, not you.
So that's what did it for me I wanted narrow, but I also wanted something that when it meets your hand, you absolutely know it's there. So I really, minimized, My grip and completely didn't do what anybody else was doing because I didn't know any better, so I spent a lot of time perfecting.
A knife that actually fits into the shape of your hand rather than have it to overcompensate with a super fat handle.
I was reading your bio on your webpage and you mention your father and how he gifted you, he made a tradition of gifting you a knife every Christmas.
That's a tradition we have in my family. I give everyone who will accept one a knife at Christmas.
And I was really touched by that story, especially the part where you talk about how when he decided to make you a knife, he gave you something to mold your grip in.
He wanted to make something for your hand.
Tell me how that influenced your design.

[8:36] And I didn't realize that it had until years later. But he worked for Delta Airlines and they had all these space-stage materials and he literally had me squeeze it into my hand to where it was a comfortable grip, and we did the lost wax process he made this grip. And it was always something that I saw him make his own tools, and he'd build firearms and blades, and he always... I'd see him. He'd grab it, he'd feel it, or he'd move something and really detail in all of his work to make it match what he was trying to do. And I guess his influence on me in everything that I did came out later in my designs. And then when I stumbled upon after I had already started making blades, and that may be part of the story you're referencing.

[9:24] I found that knife, and it was just like this lightning bolt moment, like, this is, what I'm supposed to do. It was very moving, because the way I lost my father was very traumatic for me, and I never really accessed that. And in that moment, you know, it wasn't like a weeping, Oh my gosh, I'm going to kill myself." But I was like, Man, I can honor him by picking up that torch and moving it forward and make something that he would want, that he would be proud of.
So that really pushed me into that. He never really cared what other people were doing anyway, and I always admired that about him. He was a very respectful person. He was very genuine.
I kind of modeled my life after that, and then my design followed that.

[10:14] So he's just, he's a piece of every single blade. I love family stories in these knife interviews I do, and there are a lot of them where people turn their knife business into a family business, and I love that.
And in your case, I get that sense, but it also basically traces back to before the company even began. It's as if your father's a part of the company because of that influence. I think that but that is a strong foundation.
It is, and you know, that was more than half of my life ago that that happened, and it's yesterday.
It's still yesterday to me.

[10:55] So you mentioned, I'm sorry, I just interrupted you. You've mentioned before when we spoke on the phone, you just said it right now, that part of your design strength, and you look at your knives, you have a large catalog of designs, and they're all very confident designs, but different.
You know, they look the same, but different, and that's a recurring theme also, the same but different.
But the fact that you don't know any better, quote unquote, is a strength.
How do you think that that's a strength?
I think a lot of what I see in the industry, and I'm kind of on the fringe of the industry.
I don't know a lot of people in the industry. And that's not necessarily my choice, That's just how it happened.
I did my own thing. I didn't have to ask a lot of people, well, how do you make a handle?
What do you put on your blade?
What is that material? How do you make a kydex sheath?
Without going into too many gory details, initially, I reached out to some people.
A lot of people were telling me, hey, your stuff's really different.

[12:02] They didn't want to help. So here I am, like I think I'm good at this, I really study material and metal and function informed, but I can't get anybody to even teach me.
What goes on a knife handle. So I just used my background in other industries that I came from, just made it how I thought it should be done, and it ended up being a hole in the market.

[12:30] It's been the craziest thing. I don't take all this credit like, wow, I'm the greatest knife designer. Please touch my robe. That's just not how I am. But, it's become its own thing. And it blows my mind. People see a picture of a new knife and go, but I knew that was a T-kel before I signed up.
You know, this coming from different industries is a big, leads to a lot of innovation in the knife world.
I know Ernie Emerson was, actually a lot of people were in aerospace engineering in California and other places, but aerospace engineering is a big place where a lot of knife labor and other industries, and I think you're one of those, you can count yourself among those innovators because you had it from a lifelong, you know, nerd, a lifelong immersion in knife and knife design.
It's more how to get, how to make the ultimate tool and how to get that job, you know, done.

[13:33] Here's your guardian. Here's my guardian, I should say. Thank you very much.
Hey, you got the handle for that.
Is a beauty. Well, I put it half on there.
You have, you sell these aftermarket handles to fit your knives to put the karambit style ring on there.
Can be used as a knife pull or you can use it as a karambit.
Me, I like it as an extended handle in this grip.
But I left the beautiful Blackhawk, whoops, I left this side on, I love that purple in the back.
We're gonna do those.
In all the different colors coming up, it is incredibly hard to get that height just right.
To get the black on top or the purple on top.
Oh, I see what you're saying. But I'm going to get to this blade. I want to talk about this blade because this was the first, this was an early model of yours, I think. And it really, one of my friends, Dave of This Old Sword Blade Reviews, got one of these. I was like, oh my god. I love, As I said in the opening, I love wharncliffs, and I love anything with a double edge.
That's just my thing, and when I saw a triple-edged wharncliff, it made me real.

[14:44] And then, you posted something recently on Instagram with some of your, I think they're the Nightshades, the small self-defense knives, and they have shallow bevels.
When you look at it, you're like, wow, that's a thick blade and a shallow bevel.

[14:59] And you make a point, and I loved this, And actually, I've quoted you a couple of times in the videos I've made of this knife, which are only a couple of shorts so far.
But I mentioned how you say these are not for cutting paper, these are not for shaving arm hair or slicing cheese.
These are for, you tell me.
I mean, it's for creating a deep, wide, difficult to close wound track.
There's not a romantic way to say that. I mean, I guess Amazon has some boxes that have really thick tape and you just really need to get in there.
You know? But I mean, I just a pressure cut.
And you're a martial artist as well. You understand that I've got a video coming out.
I'll have to ask my wife when that's coming.
We shot the B roll for that.
And the Guardian is center stage with a traditional pork man.
So pork tenderloin. I mean, it's just, it takes nothing.
And I have to say that in email.
So, hey, I got this guardian. And I'm like, I know you didn't read the description.
I already know when I see the title of the email.
It didn't shave hair, which by the way, is a terrible test of sharpness anyway.
But it just, you touch it and it just pops open. Pops open. Amen.

[16:22] It's super sharp, but it's not slicey sharp. And if it's gonna get up off of me, it's nasty.
This is what is really pleasing to me, because there are so few people out there who are willing to call a spade a spade and say, look, this is a knife for self-defense.

[16:41] And if you're gonna embrace that idea, you gotta be able to say the word wound channel without, you know, because that's what it's about.
Just like, you know, you could have a firearm for target practice, you could have a firearm for hunting, or you could have a firearm for all of those plus self-defense.
And when you have that, you have to consider the fact that it has an effect on the human body.
And the greater the effect, the more valuable it is as a tool for that purpose.
And so that was one thing that just, I really loved about that.
It's refreshing to hear that.
But also, you know, I've been a knife nerd long enough see trends come and go. And for a long time, it was the hard, hard use, sharpened pry bar folder, love them, I got a ton of them. And then it became Oh, no, it's all about thin and slicey. Aren't you just gonna don't you want to cut with it.
And so I love that too. I have a lot of thin and slicey. But, but I break those, to not pay attention to that. And to make purpose driven tools to me is sort of a no matter what the trend is, is the ultimate goal.

[17:49] Yeah, I mean, I've always been that guy that everybody knew and most everybody liked, I think, at least to my face. And I never, I didn't wear what was cool, I just wore what was comfortable. I mean, I was that kid working on cars and making them go super fast, listening to rock and roll in my garage with my dad. I didn't just, I just didn't do what they did, but everybody was cool with me. And that's in my knife design too. Like, I don't know.

[18:15] What's cool in the industry. I just don't. And I'm made.

[18:21] What i need it and i found out that a lot of we i get this all the time thank you for making stuff like for guys like us and i'm like i didn't know that nobody was doing i didn't know.
No no that nobody's doing it i just that's what i hear so i'm just honored to be different i guess it's a good way to put it because i don't try to be different you know.
It just comes out that way. So where does your design inspiration come from?
I mean, I know it comes from making useful tools, but they're not just useful tools, they're also, forgive the term, pretty.
They're beautiful knives, you know, to look at.
You were just holding up your newest, and I know it's all sold out, I already tried.
I don't know, that's crazy.
The Sapper, it's a beautiful knife, and I know that's a collaboration, I want to talk about collaborations down the road a bit, but how do you design your knives?
I have my first employee now, so that's cool. He puts screws in stuff, but I was telling him just the other day, I love cars, but I don't like cars in the way that some other people, like Chip Foose is such a great car designer, and my knives, I like them to look sleek, and I want them to look like they're going towards injury.

[19:45] Injury is a different way i told yesterday i said you look at all my nice electric and cut the ass out of you just laying there on the table.
How do you do that i just take my pencil and i put it on the paper.
Just look fast.

[20:02] And even the bigger finger wheels are like wheel wheels to me.
Like I said, I'm such a strange dude.
No, no, no. I can see that. And I'm looking at the Mercenary right now as Jim is scrolling by.
And it does have a Corvette feel or an automotive feel with the sort of forward-leaning curves and that finger choil.
And like I said before, they look pretty. pretty, but then you hold it in your hand, and you see, and you can feel, A, that it's meant for a human hand, and that there's no doubt which way it's oriented when it's in the hand, and that it's going to beg to go towards what it's intended target is.
That was first for me. I didn't understand a lot of the fixed blades that I had.
I would grab it and be like, okay, I know how to use a blade.
I'm a worker, and I have some training.
We use it for not work, wink wink. But this doesn't make sense to me.
Why are they doing this?
My hand is not shaped like an oval. I don't understand that. So.

[21:12] I just, I mean painstaking little here little there on the 2x72. Actually I made my first 2x72 out of a freaking treadmill. Oh nice.
Yeah, there's an old video and it's still out there. I'm about 800 pounds heavier in that video.
But it's in the other shop, it's still on a property.
And skateboard wheels and motors and welded together because I'm a craftsman, so I just build stuff.
I used it for years until I quit tracking, right?

[21:47] The grooves you put in the corners of the handles, not the corners, you know what I mean, right up here on these edges, they seem, when I first looked at them, I look, well, they all look the same.
They all look kind of regularly spaced out. How are they gonna fit different hands?
And I have medium-sized hands that big knives feel good in, small knives feel good in, and everything lands just right in place.
Tell me a little bit about how you go about making these handles, because you offer a whole bunch of different materials as well, like different looks.
You could have a cheerful-looking teak-held knife. Yeah.
While you practice your wound track, your brachial cuts, it can be pretty.
It was always important to me when I would work on anything.
I didn't put something stupid on a knife that didn't make sense.
So even, like you were talking about the sapper, these are in different directions, and they ended up looking aggressive, but they serve to pull you into that knife without creating a hotspot.
So each one is placed that way and I will grab a blade a million times.
I know I look like a weirdo when I'm designing a knife, I'm always, you know, grabbing it, moving my hand around, and how we need to move this, we need to do that.
And that's.

[23:07] The grips are that way. I mean, I don't want to polish G10, it may look cool, but this is actually, that texture is a micro texture from a SIG hand grip.
Because that's comfortable and it's grippy and when it's wet, I stay on my pistol or the grip on my, any of my other rifles. I like that feel, so to me, you had to put it on.

[23:31] Okay, so tell me a little bit about how you go about making these, a little bit about your process. And I got to say before we actually before we get into that, I find it very interesting that you said you had difficulty getting help from people when you first started because I've heard a lot of the opposite.
Which is weird. Yeah, yeah, that people are very willing to help. That's what I've heard mostly. So it's interesting to hear a little bit of counterpoint to that. It sounds like a realistic thing to me.
Yeah, I mean, we're probably don't want to go on super details. I don't want to name drop, but I'm kind of a direct guy. I feel like I'm a super nice human. But I, I can ask a question like, Why are you doing that? And some people think that that's, that's an assault or it's genuinely not. I'm very studious. I studied a lot of stuff. I read a lot. I that may have been why I thought I'll piss off. Like, yeah, I'll call you right back. And then, but I don't know if that was it. Or I.

[24:39] Asked too many questions. It didn't make sense to what everybody else I don't know. I tried it twice with two different people. And I was like, Okay, I guess I'm gonna have to figure this out on my own.
Well, so then what did you figure out? Tell me a little bit about how you make these knives, what your process is, and also where's your, tell me about your shop too, I want to hear about this. The shop is just behind this wall.
If you look outside the door, I've got a couple of thousand blades on the wall.
It's at home. in the basement. We started in another shop on the property.

[25:12] One, I didn't know anything about ventilation, so I'm out there and I started out with a forge, a propane forge, and I was getting a little woozy, and I was like, man, I need to do something different. So I looked it up.
Why did I feel like crap after forging for three hours? Oh, yeah, carbon dioxide, that stuff will kill you.
So then I was like, well, let me go with an electric gun, I built an electric gun, and it just grew, and I literally was freezing my hind end off. My wife felt so bad for me.
She's like, there's a smoker shop in the basement.
So that's where it is now.
But we've grown to the point, I had this CNC machine.
I bought one because I went to a guy and said, I'm getting killed.
I make six knives a week and people want 12.
And he's like, well, you should do CNC stuff.
And I'm like, what is that? So I look into it. He's like, oh yeah, you can easily do it.
So they said it was gonna cost me $45 per blade.

[26:09] And I'm like, these things are 80 bucks. I can't do that, you know?
I just didn't feel like, I didn't know that people would pay money for good stuff.
I always did, but I didn't know. So I bought a CNC machine, not knowing what in the hell I was doing.
Three days later, it shows up in my driveway.
And I called that guy back, He had told me if you're serious, So I call him I don't know if you remember me, but, you told me about making knives and There's a CNC machine in my driveway. Can you help me put it together?
Are you effing serious? And I was like, yeah, what's your name again? And I'll say Tim Kelly's like I guess that dude works for me full time now full time and we built him a shop last year because, So he sits in his shop, and it's actually we did it over the state line because I'm just on the Tennessee Georgia border, So it's cheaper for me to pay the bills in Tennessee than it is there so he sits in his happy little room and that's partially because.

[27:17] I'm always coming up with new knife designs and if he were in the shop like shut up. No more new knives today, Let me make this one, so.
That's how that process started, me being insane, going, sure, okay, I'll do that.
I didn't have the money to buy a CNC, but I did. So the CNC, is it doing, are you making blades and handles with it? I know a lot of people just make handles, or some people just do the blades.
Well, we started out with just blades, and literally, Cameron Wife, as she's known to everyone in the world, she would come in the shop and flip the blades over, and let them do the other side.
I mean I was anal about no this has to look and feel and move exactly like this hand gravel. I would take the hand gravel and be like alright smarter than me guy make this on your magic machine because I'm not doing it that way. I'll hand grind the crap and I'll go out of business. I'm not I'm not I'm not manufacturing these blades so.

[28:16] She would go flip the things over and the only reason that she got all done in my shop, she got tired of getting stupid little metal chips in her fingers and me tracking them upstairs in the house. Your friend, Mr. CNC, his ass is out of here.
So I called that guy who taught me how to do it, I said, hey man, got a CNC machine for sale.
And he goes, hey, you know, we could put that in my basement. I'm like, we could. And now he's got a couple more. That's a fantastic idea, sir. Let's make this work.
Now, Maschine G10, you asked about that.
We tried that, and that's another one of those don't suck carbon monoxide.
Don't eat G10, kids, because it gives you a gravelly voice. You may sound like a tough guy, but it's not good to eat that stuff.
I quickly realized that.
Don't need to well, they were all handmade and again that anal super super detail. It's gotta be just like this I couldn't find anybody to do that and I found one guy smarter than me and he helped me get, The grip design down and he already had figured out The ventilation and how to cut g10, So I was like, well, I'm buying my g10 from this place. They make it in America. So You do your magic?
So we did both initially on one C&C.

[29:39] But our trajectory has been like this. I mean, it's just really quick.

[29:47] And I'm funny about other people doing my stuff. So I won't let them.
Well, this is like you being, it's like you being a producer, where you're starting to automate your process and bring in the best people for the job do certain parts of the job, and that's what's, I mean, to me, that seems like that's what's making that trajectory go up, is that you've streamlined the process, and now, I'm interested, though, you were talking about how you design knives.
You take your pencil, you put it on the paper, and you design a knife.
Does the CNC, has the CNC process changed any of that for you?

[30:27] No, no. I don't have a working knowledge of being a machinist, And I think that's partially why it's good that he's in his own shop, because I don't design the knife around how easy it is to machine.
So we've, we and he have come up with ways to make them exactly the way I designed them.
And he he's, if he dies, I'm screwed. We're doing it a different way.
And he's told me that I'm like, can you teach somebody? He's like, I can't.
He's like, I can't even teach you. And I'm like, all right. I mean, what are we doing different?
I'm not telling you that because you talk too much. All right.
I mean, but if I want this angle lean forward because it looks aggressive and he's like, well, we can't do that.
I'm like, well, you told me smart guy that your super smart machine can do what these hands can do.
And here's the hand ground one.
So, well, you just, it's talk cheap and it kind of ticks them off a little, but.

[31:32] He called me Steve Jobs. He said, you have these impossible things and this can't be done.
I'm like, but you always do it.
I probably should stop doing it because it encourages you to be a madman.
That's good. And if it works. You gotta push people. You gotta push people, you know, because.
I push many. I mean, I don't stop, you know.

[31:53] Well, you only feel that when it's your thing. Even if this gentleman is like heavily invested and loves you and loves the work, it's not, ultimately, it's not coming out of his brain, it's not coming out of his soul, and that's what you need to push another person to their great heights.
If his great heights are all about engineering and machining, he needs someone like you, I'm just gonna venture to say, he needs someone like you to push him there.
Oftentimes, we all need someone like that pushing us.
I mean, I used to be a manager of almost 400 people across the southern half of the United States, and it was always important to me to teach somebody to do what I do. But if I didn't know how to do it, I wanted to find a guy who was the very best at that and stay in my lane. I will never call him and say, hey, you need to machine this way. I don't know if you know any machinists.
That's a quick way to get it up this fight. Tell a machinist you need to do it this way. Or what's even more fun, put two machinists in the same room and have them tell each other how to work. That's fun. That is entertaining. They don't like being told. So I am so famous for saying, stay in your lane. I'll stay in my lane. But if he has a suggestion, have you thought about?
I'm like, you know what happened, but let's make it. Let's try it.

[33:23] So if I say, you know, you're super good at this. If you've had this idea that you've always wanted to do, bring it to me. That's like the guardian that you're talking about. A customer said, I've always thought a blade like this and we email back and forth back and forth back and forth.

[33:42] On no, I want a wharncliffe. I'm like, what about this? What if we do this? What if we do that?
And that's how that was born. And I get emails every week from customers say, have you ever thought of like, send it to me. I'm not a diva. I don't think I designed everything the best in the world. How have you felt market forces on knife trends? Like, for instance, I'm a big lover of the call style knives. I just always have been or I should say since they since the pin the ditch the the what is that the ditch clip the ditch clinch pick sorry. Ever since that came out, I thought it was awesome. And they've become very popular.
I think a lot of it has to do with people think you don't need any skill to use them. And and you know, you need less. That's for sure. It relies on your natural arcing motions and, and Adrenaline-dumped caveman-style fighting.
And this is not to belittle anyone who does Libre fighting. I'm not saying that it doesn't take skill.
But it has been a very definite trend. How do you feel in terms of reacting to those kind of market forces?

[34:53] It's funny. I've been so fortunate, because I've kind of blazed my own thing, hit those trends right before they become a trend. It's like, this is the MR-1. So I literally released this blade for pre-sale on Wednesday. It's a Pakal. This came by way of a Marine Corps unit asking me, hey, we need this, we can't find it, but I love your Night Stalker grip, can you help us out? And I built it, and then I was talking to my wife And I said, man, I've seen the word pakal everywhere now.
I think I'm going to bring this on as a production blade.
And I think the industry is moving towards the fixed blade.
I really do. And especially for defensive use.
Yeah, no doubt. No doubt. Okay, so huge.

[35:45] Huge, like, population of people who are getting into knives through pocket knives, which I absolutely love, you know, the action, the look, the design, the materials, you know, people go down the rabbit hole with steels and all that milling all the things that that modern knife companies can do with folders is really bringing people into the fold. And I'm all for that. Like, even if you you're getting your knife as a as a fashion accessory, like I'm going to pair this with this shirt and, and, you know, and this fancy wallet. I love it. I love it all. I say more is better.
That's cool, because you know, we're humans. And humans like different colors. And I like different music. And God made some of us different skin tones and body shapes. And I don't.

[36:38] Care if you don't like the same music. I like I think the music like is great. If you like a folder, you should like a folder. I don't like all this like fighting and oh, I just that's not me. So I agree. Totally. So that trend, you know, these people who are getting really into EDC and the flashlights and stuff, it all is going towards fixed blades, I believe. And that's because people are discovering, oh, you can have a fixed blade.

[37:04] That is totally non combative looking, and it can fit in your front pocket. And, and that solves the the pocket knife issue, it also solves any sort of, if you're someone who's doing work beyond, like office work, the kind of stuff I do, and you actually need a fixed blade knife for the strength and the robustness, well you can still have it and have it in your pocket.
You don't have to wear it, just because it's fixed blade doesn't mean you have to walk around with a K-bar on your hip.
So I agree with you, I think things are going towards more and more people getting fixed blades.
How do you, how would you, or what models do you have that incorporate that because some of your models do appear to be more EDC able, quote unquote.
Yeah. So the piranha, that is how this was born. A million people asked me, I love your fixed blades, but like you, I can't take this to the office. But I still wanted that same amount of grip and the durability from a fixed blade, but I want to be able to drop in my pocket. So that's how that was born. And we've got something super cool coming out that same ring grip that you have on your Guardian.

[38:12] I've got that Century grip coming for the Piranha.
You gotta listen, and they're, I love a fixed blade knife, but these are sold out all the time.
All the time. I cannot keep them.
You also have the Nightshade line. The Nightshade line is born with a ring on it, correct? That ring is integral to the handle. That was the first, the very first ring handle, that one, the Nightshade.
I know the Nightshade comes in a number of blade styles, but what is the guiding force behind that design?
So, this was the original. Well, this is the more refined original. But this is the reverse Tonto.

[38:54] I had a police officer in Chattanooga, I won't say his name, but he wanted a get-off-me knife.
And he said, I need something small that'll sit right behind my mag well. I love your stuff. And this is when we were still going to the local markets. I mean, beating the street, hitting it hard every weekend, grind all day, finish blades all night, go sell them. And we got this small following locally and then it just... But he wanted, he said, I want something that's front and back but it's got to be comfortable no matter how I grab it. And I just toiled over it and he's like, I don't like ring blades. And I made one and I said, I really think you'll like this. And then I showed it to camera wife And she's like, you need to be able to just do this because everybody is not trained like you. Everybody doesn't understand this.
So maybe you should do this. And I was like, holy crap. And I did it.
And I ended up putting this ring in the line of your knuckles.
And I showed it to him and he went crazy.
Wow, that thing is great.
And it worked. So it started this. And then people say, hey, have you ever thought about a clip on that?
How about a one clip?
How about this? How about a four inch version of that? How about that?

[40:18] They just, I try to listen, keep my ear to the ground. Because people want different stuff.
I think the ergonomics, we've been talking a lot about ergonomics, ergonomics come into play so much with the ring and I feel like the ring on a knife has to be so refined, it has to be so well considered because if it does misalign, you can really crack up your hand, you know, it's like knuckle dusters.
You know, I have a couple of them and I've hit hit the heavy bag with them. And it hurts like hell if it's not designed correctly. It shouldn't. Agreed. You know what the only knuckle duster that works is this, this old 1918 because hands were smaller than I guess I don't know fits me perfectly. And I could, I could go to town all day with that.
But to make it universal, you know, you really do have to offset the ring, it has to be pushed forward so that your, your, your knuckles aren't doing this. So how long did it take to really zero in on that.
Man, on the wall in the other shop, there are 10 of these in a row until I get to the one.
And then it's funny because we have a little bit of property in my life is walking around the yard and this happens more often.

[41:34] She's got to have good things. She doesn't carry in the yard.
I'll come running up with a knife like, look, I did it.
And she's like, oh, and I give it to her. And that's the final lip.
And so she's like, yep.
And I'm like, yeah, it fits me too. And then I go find the biggest simian human that I know.
I'm like, put this in your hand.

[41:53] And that finger alignment, you know, as being a martial artist, these three fingers are so important for grip.
So if you're gonna be able to make that fist and get that lock, you can't have a fat handle.
And if you're gonna strike somebody, your knuckles need to be in alignment and certainly not get bit by a piece of steel because that crap hurts.
It really does.

[42:16] I do the same thing when I get a new knife. I bring it to my martial arts class and show it off, and there's a variety of different sizes there. And there's a guy who's 300 and, I don't know, he's gigantic. And this fits his hand fine.
Like with me, when I hold it like this, that choil, my fingers don't go in there.
And I don't try and force it, because that's when it's.
So it's very comfortable like this. And then my buddy at martial arts, he fills up the whole thing.
And it fits him perfectly. I think that's a very difficult thing, not even just with a ring knife, but with any grip to get those different hand shapes, different hand sizes to really work.
That's why you have to listen.

[42:58] You can't design the coolest looking thing on paper. But that's why there's so many iterations of the design.
That's also what's good about owning your own stuff, your own equipment and not having somebody else make stuff for you.
Because if I need to make a tweak, it's a matter of minutes.

[43:21] Hey, we're going to do this different hands, different people.
So you say listen, and that is really important.
That's what most knife people really appreciate about most knife companies and especially smaller companies and knife makers that are accessible, that you can talk to, is that they take that, they take the input and put it into their knives and make changes so that obviously for them it's good, they sell more knives, but their product also becomes more refined.
Listening also is important in collaborations, and I know that you've done a number of them.
You were holding up the Sapper, you did that with Imri Morgenstern, who's an Israeli Defense Force guy, and Steve Tirani, I mean, I love Steve Tirani, Karambit's the thing.
I mean, when a guy like Steve Tirani comes to you, and maybe some of our younger guys just getting into the knife industry don't know his name, And he goes, you're doing stuff that I like.
And he hasn't made an eye for anybody since 5'11 in the 90s, a long time.
And you're like, okay. And there's wink, wink, dot, dot, dot.
Those Karambits that he was so super famous for.

[44:42] I may know a guy named Tim Kel that's gonna be re-releasing some stuff, re-releasing.
Wow, I'm gonna have to figure this one out. Give me some time.
Yeah, see if you can, rhymes with Kim Kale. It might help you.
If you would, pull one of those Taranis off the wall. Tell me about this design, because I must be perfectly honest, it does not look intuitive ergonomically to me.
It was not at all what I expected when Stephen and I were emailing back and forth.
But he does a lot of the CQB CIA training still, currently with DevGru a lot of the other operational forces still every weekend and he wanted, something that mounts on your belt that is low-profile inside the waistband so, and I'm Dave just got one of these a lot of people will say this at first like I didn't understand this I didn't like it at first and then they fall in love with So, it's got three grits, your standard...
Forward and that's just a punch knife, you know, and this is a very thick geometry was Steve was like This is what it has to be the handle shape like this You're gonna make the steel magic and you're gonna put your nickel.

[46:02] This looks and I got like Steve. You don't really argue with him on that. So, The thumb forward is a little more dexterous and the finger forward It's described as peeling somebody off.
So when it comes down to using the Tarani closed quarter, it may not be your most exciting hour.
It's, you know, we're not cleaning game here. This is last ditch.
You're trying to create space, get to your secondary.

[46:34] So it's a positive grip and there's nothing extra, nothing more that you need.
So that one comes in a variety of blades. I see a Tanto right there and you've got like a drop point.
Like the rest of your Itoshi, this is the Ridgeback because it kind of looks like a mountain. And then we've got, it's a standard clip, so power drop, a little clip, and then the spear point and one thing that was very important to these they had to be really robust every so that the triangle this is a 90-degree angle these three screws and these two are always in line with the tip of the blade to put all of that energy that you're pushing through so they'll line up here here all the way through bone conduction so you get all of that force that you need to really drive this thing where you're trying to put it. So it's, there's so much strength when When you get that bone conduction through here, that's what that triangle was for.

[47:45] He was very specific about that. And it makes a lot of sense from a combative standpoint, if that's what you mean. That's what the blade's for.
I've had a, I have one push dagger, sad to say, in my whole collection. And so I'm seeing a glaring hole in my collection that needs to be filled. And when this came out, I was like, ah, I don't know. But seeing, and I watched Dave's video, of course, and seeing you talk about it like this. And, and, and Steve Tirani, obviously, I didn't have any doubts, because you and Steve Tirani were involved, but I didn't know how it would work in my hand. But seeing you talk about that triangle, and having it nestle right up into your palm straight down the wrist. Yeah, that makes that makes sense. And, and okay, so you also work with this gentleman, Imri Morgenstern, an IDF, IDK, IDF guy, who, you know, obviously, Israeli Defense Force, they are constantly working. And this is probably someone, I know he makes his own knives or designs his own knives, right? Tell me about that relationship and and what the collaboration process was to come up with this sapper.

[49:00] That's an interesting story. Yeah, initially, we reached out to see if he might like the TCQ blades. And then that developed a friendship, and then those guys at Tactical Riflemen have a tremendously successful training program. One, they're.

[49:17] All tier one guys. He was a tier one guy for their counter-terrorist units in Israel. So.

[49:23] The provenance that they bring to the table is pretty substantial. And he said, you know, I've got this blade I used to make for our Sapper units, and that's a mind-searching And he said, we really loved it, but I love your style.
I've got this blade. Would you take a look at it? And I really love this collab with him, because one, we were fast friends.
We're super close now.

[49:48] And I would say, all right, this is what I think. I think we need this, this, this, this, and this.
He's like, do it. Do it. And he's a knife maker, you know, and he's talented. And what we came up with on this, it was just simple stuff. Like I wanted to back this wedge up a quarter inch to make that tip diamond shape where it's useful for puncture and lining everything up. The tips are straight in line. This was a true 50-50 collab. I mean, and neither one of us had an attitude because we both have different backgrounds we brought to the table. And it is a special blade.
It is a beautiful blade. I love the—I'm a big recurve fan. I also love the look of that tip and the swedge. I couldn't tell from the pictures if the swedge was sharpened or not.
You mentioned an etched line down the center, I think from the tip to the—what's that for?
So Emory is the expert on this, but when you're probing for a mine, knowing exactly where this tip is is incredibly important for obvious reasons. You know, a millimeter off and you turn into a pink mist, and that's a really bad day. So this.

[51:03] Is to give you exact sight alignment to know exactly where your tip is on your subterranean so you can feel that and you know exactly where that is because I, mean millimeters matter when you come to that and actually the first run sold out in one day but the secondary we're gonna put graduated lines so we're gonna have the metric on one side standard on the other because Israel so you'll know how How deep this thing is, that's the line.
It's just stuff like that that we really... And even this hook in the back is not just for retention, it is to grab it.
He's going to do a video soon. I can't even do it right.
Oh yeah. So you can feel that in the palm of your hand, under the ground, and know, get that tactile feedback.
So the crest of the bird's beak on the back of the pommel there is the center line where that line is etched all the way to the tip.
Here, so all the way through.
That's really interesting to me.
Like, being a non-sapper, you know, I would look at that and wonder, I know there's some purpose to that, but what is it?
And the idea is the tip is under the sand or under whatever the line might be buried in, and you need to know exactly what you're probing with and where it is. That's pretty cool.
I mean, I think that knife is beautiful. Man, it is. It's three-sixth chinks.

[52:31] That's the first recurve I've done.
And I brought the, we need to make this tactical and practical, I hate that phrase, but it is.
So we wanted it bushcrafty and youthful, not just to search for a mine and what came out of it.
I'm going to have this on display at Blade Show because they sold, I mean, quick.
And he didn't even have an opportunity to push those out to his followers.
I put them to my guys on Patreon and I put them to my community and they're gone.

[53:11] And it's, I like it a lot. Yeah. That's a good problem to have.
Not for my end because it's going to be a while until I get one, but that's a great problem to have as a knife company.
And speaking of being a knife company, which you are, how do you hope to see T-Kel Knives grow?
What is your goal? goal? I'm kind of known for saying this and it's I want to make as many knives as I possibly can, at or above my current quality level. So I don't really know what that number looks like.
I don't think that to me in my mind's eye that's not multi-million dollars. I cannot physically sharpen and make that many blades myself. And if it's got my name on it, I touch it. My wife ships it. The guy, the one dude that I trust, puts the screws in and reads the order make sure everything's in the box and packs those up. But.

[54:16] Whatever that size is. That's what we want to do. As for us, It's we sell into a lot of the three letter agencies and a lot of military and we don't have any military contracts but we've done big runs for me in several of those agencies and we get the feedback of man I use this to do blank and it saved my life. That means.

[54:46] More to the people in this room than how many blades or how big the company gets because I I have no idea. I mean, six was enough for me at one point, and then it was 12, and then it was 20, and then it was...

[55:00] Man, the way we make them and how we're able to make so many in a week's time period with just me and a handful of people is different.
Because I wanted to make more, but I didn't want to make more at the sacrifice of, well, anything.
So any step we take, it's painstaking, because I'm like, it's got to be better.
So that customer feedback, I mean it, I feel it. Like, if somebody's like, you know, you missed. unfortunately.
We don't get those emails very often. I mean, it's very rare and it's usually not the case, but, I feel it. It's like, okay, now I've got to do this different. So let's change this.
But as long as it fits within, I may sound like a control freak, maybe what it is, but it's really important.
No, it sounds to me like you want to always maintain the personal connection, Not just you with the knives, but the knives with your customers.
I mean, when I'm texting you or anybody else, and I'm not answering fast enough, I have to send them a picture. I'm in my full hood. I sharpen 50, 60, 70 blades a day before the sun ever comes up. I mean, I've tried to train somebody to sharpen knives. It's, It's just not how I want it done.

[56:29] So until I can figure out myself personally how to sharpen more, that's how many I'm going to make.
Because we do it different, you know?
Even my sharpeners are so weird.

[56:41] Because nobody said this is how I sharpen. I did ask them, by the way.
Well, most guys don't want to.
I'm like, okay, I'll figure it out.
So now I have custom stuff made for that too. it's crazy. So it's, it's stressful though, man. I mean, it really is. It is sleep is something that is in short supply that are out. But I wake up naturally like a freak of nature at four o'clock in the morning.
I love it. I love it because you have a pretty broad catalog. And you've figured out certain ways to automate your process. But.

[57:19] They all maintain that personal connection and they all have your hand, not just in the design and the painstaking design and iteration reiteration, but in the sharpening, you know, the, I'll just close with this, this, guardian edge, I've looked for, I've looked for any sort of inconsistency, just not not to call anyone out or anything. But I always do that just because there's something so gratifying and looking at a perfect edge. And this is I cannot and you've got three, you've got six of them on this because it's a That's so hard, Bob, you don't even understand.
It looks easy, that's hard, that's hard. It doesn't look easy, but it looks like, you know, it's perfect.
So I love this. I really, I've appreciated talking with you and learning more about your process.
It actually makes the knives even more appealing at this point, because I know that each one has such a personal connection to you.
Yeah, it means a lot to everybody here, I mean.
That's it, I mean, I'm the breadwinner. So I...

[58:20] It means a lot. Well, Tim, thank you so much for coming on the Knife Junkie Podcast.
It's been great speaking with you.
I really love it, and I urge people to, if they haven't already, which I'm sure they have, but to check out your YouTube and your Instagram and to seek you out at Blade Show.
Seek out your table at Blade Show. I'm going to be in the big room.
At the big room. We made it. All right. You're free, right? Oh, man.
Well, I will be there, and I can't wait to shake your hand.
Yes sir, we'll see you then. Alright, take care.
See ya. Don't take dull for an answer. It's the Knife Junkie's favorite sign-off phrase and now you can get that tagline on a variety of merchandise. Like a t-shirt, sweatshirt, hoodie, long-sleeve tee and more.
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There he goes, ladies and gentlemen, Tim Kell of T.Kell Knives.

[59:29] Man, I just love the honesty that goes into the designs and then the integrity that goes into the making of these beautiful creations.
And now having one just doesn't feel like enough. But that's me, that's my problem, my issue, as you know.
You know, Junkie is not an accidental name. Be sure to join us next week for another great interview and Wednesday for the Midweek Supplemental and of course, Thursday Night Knives.
When the weekend begins, that's what I've been hearing, so I'm gonna go with that.
Thursday, 10 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, right here on YouTube, Facebook and Twitch. 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. If you enjoyed the show, please rate and review at review the podcast.com. For show notes for today's episode, additional resources and to listen to past episodes, visit our website, theknifejunkie.com. You can also watch our latest videos on YouTube at theknifejunkie.com slash YouTube. Check out some great knife photos on the knife junkie.com slash Instagram and join our Facebook group at the knife junkie.com slash Facebook and if you have a question or comment email them to Bob at the knife junkie.com or call our 24-7 listener line at 724-466-4487 and you may hear your comment or question answered on an upcoming episode of the Knife Junkie Podcast.

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