Mike Thomas, Texas Custom Knife Show (Nov. 4-5) – The Knife Junkie Podcast (Episode 453)
Mike Thomas, co-producer and co-host of the Texas Custom Knife Show, joins Bob “The Knife Junkie” DeMarco on Episode 453 of The Knife Junkie Podcast.
The 6th Annual Texas Custom Knife Show (TCKS) will be held November 4-5 at the Lonestar Pavilion in the Montgomery County Fairgrounds in Conroe, TX. The TCKS started as a way to showcase the many varied and talented blade smiths that compete on TV’s Forged in Fire.
Forged in Fire judges Doug Marcaida and J. Nielson, along with other knife personalities (such as The Knife Junkie) will be hosting events and judging maker entries. Events include, live forging contests, tomahawk throwing with Bravehawk forge tomahawks, live Bladesports cutting competition. Also, there’s a Parade of Blades, where you can check out the weapons actually created for Forged in Fire final rounds with the bladesmiths who made them.
The Texas Custom Knife Show aims to bring the general public together with custom knife makers from around the country and display custom knives, challenges, contests and demos from the knife making community.
Learn more about the Texas Custom Knife Show, and get your ticket to attend, at www.texascustomknifeshow.com.
Be sure to support The Knife Junkie and get in on the perks of being a Patron — including early access to the podcast and exclusive bonus content. You also can support the Knife Junkie channel with your next knife purchase. Find our affiliate links at theknifejunkie.com/knives.I'll be at the 6th Annual Texas Custom Knife Show, Nov. 4-5 at the Lonestar Pavilion in the Montgomery County Fairgrounds in Conroe, TX. Learn more on episode 453 of #theknifejunkie #podcast. Click To Tweet
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Welcome to The Knife Junkie Podcast, your weekly dose of knife news and information about knives and knife collecting. Here's your host, Bob the Knife Junkie. DeMarco.
Bob DeMarco [00:00:17]:
Welcome to the Knife Junkie Podcast. I'm Bob DeMarco. On this edition of the show, I'm speaking with Mike Thomas, producer of the Texas Custom Knife Show. For the last six years, Mike has been throwing and growing a knife show in Conroe, Texas. Centered around TV's forged in Fire contestants and their work. The show features live forging and cutting, demonstrations and competitions, visitor participation, whether forging a knife or throwing a tomahawk, and of course, a judged knife competition. Mike invited me to the show to help out and be a part of it, and I cannot wait. I'm honored and very excited.
Bob DeMarco [00:00:54]:
So I'm calling on all Texas Knife Junkies to come out to Conroe for this knife throwdown. At the beginning of November, we'll talk about when in Lone Star style. We'll talk all about the Texas Custom Knife Show with Mike Thomas. But first, be sure to, like, comment, subscribe, hit the notification bell, and download the show to your favorite podcast app. Also, if you want to help support the show, you can do so by going on over to Patreon. Quickest way to do that is theknifejunkie.com Slash Patreon. Again. Theknifejunkie.com Slash patreon.
If you search Google for the best knife podcast, the answer is the Knife Junkie podcast.
Bob DeMarco [00:01:34]:
Welcome to the show, sir. Nice to have you here, Mike. Thank you.
Mike Thomas [00:01:37]:
Very glad to be here.
Bob DeMarco [00:01:38]:
This is yeah, yeah. Not nearly as exciting as what I have ahead of me. This is all about me. I'm so excited to come to the show. Custom knife show. Thank you so much for inviting me down there. I'm over the moon about it.
Mike Thomas [00:01:56]:
Well, thank you for coming. Thank you for accepting the invite. Obviously, you do a great job. You have a great audience here. I think I saw in the opening right there, this is episode number 453, I think. I mean, that's stellar, Bob. I mean, congrats to you. And we're just thrilled that you're willing to come be a part of it.
Mike Thomas [00:02:12]:
We started this thing a few years ago that probably wasn't much bigger than a backyard barbecue for the first one. Like you said, it's really grown. It's really taken off, and we're having a good time.
Bob DeMarco [00:02:24]:
Well, we're going to talk all about it in detail, but first I want to find out who Mike Thomas is. How did you get to be producing this show? Are you a knife guy? Are you more of a producer? Who are you?
Mike Thomas [00:02:38]:
Yeah, that's a great question. And hopefully we'll spend about 10 seconds here and then move on to more exciting things. Everybody asks me if I'm a knife guy, if I'm a knife maker. Well, those are two different things. I'm a knife guy. I love them. I've just never really made one. And so I'll be glad to confess that.
Mike Thomas [00:02:55]:
Not proud of it. But they welcome me into this community, starting with this. And it's an unbelievable community. If you haven't met a lot of Bladesmiths, if you haven't met a lot of people that are in the industry, it's a fun show to put together and it's fun to get to know people in my community, the business community, putting the event together. But nothing makes it more worthwhile than getting to meet the Bladesmiths and the other people that are involved. We went to a great little show last weekend and got to see a few of the people that are going to be at our show next month. And it was recharging, right? You just get to shake hands, hugs and all that kind of stuff. High five.
Mike Thomas [00:03:30]:
And look at the great work. That the blazing that you're doing. So that's what makes it worthwhile, no. I grew up in farm country in Kansas. Went off to college to play baseball and learned journalism. I was going to be the next writer for Sports Illustrated. That's where I was headed, maybe work in pro sports. But my senior year of college, I was a full time athlete training for Nationals.
Mike Thomas [00:03:52]:
I was trying to graduate college there in Kansas and wound up working in the athletic department. And they host the school. Washington University hosts a big holiday. It's a big basketball school, so they host a holiday tournament every year during the semester break. And early in my senior year, the athletic director brought me in, and for a lot of different reasons, he said, Listen, you're our guy to put this event together. It's an eight team tournament. I think it was like three days. I think it was eight teams.
Mike Thomas [00:04:21]:
It's been a long time. It was back in the 80s. So forgive me, but listen, we're a little short staffed and you've got to put this entire tournament together. I said, you want me to do what? I said, I'm an athlete and I'm a student. I'm trying to graduate and get on. And had so much fun putting that event together, the teams, the halftime, the promotions, the marketing, you know, when, you know, and it was just to get to do it. And then I had a chance to travel. A couple of years later promoted and did some concerts for an international humanitarian organization, Upper People, if that memory is a bit.
Mike Thomas [00:04:57]:
But got to do advanced work for nine shows in three different countries for the Upper People cast, promoting a great message about equality and on humanity, things like that. And just again, fell in love with doing that advanced work and the PR work and the logistics. It's amazing just to put an event together and just see it all come together and sit back and let it happen. So I've done it off and on throughout the years. And in 2018, this opportunity absolutely fell in my lap. And one of the very first forged and fire champions. I happened to meet him right here in The Woodlands, Texas. Guy Harris, rest in peace, bless his soul, lost him a couple of years ago, but he asked me to partner with him and everybody else and how could I sign up?
Bob DeMarco [00:05:45]:
Wow. That's very interesting to me. In a lot of the people I've talked to, whether they're knife makers or people who work in the industry somewhere or other, first of all, I've spoken to one other person on this show who is a part of Up With People, and I do not remember who it was. I remember that from the 80s. Yeah, when I was a kid. So that's kind of funny. But the thing that I run into a lot on this show and I find it so interesting because it's something I admire is the entrepreneurial spirit. Whether you're a large company putting out knives or a small maker making custom knives one by one with a forge, it takes some level of entrepreneurial spirit to make a go at that.
Bob DeMarco [00:06:32]:
And to see the various levels is very interesting to me. But you are sort of pure that coming into the knife world. At least that's how it seemed with all the tournaments and stuff you had produced in the past. What is it about all those moving aparts and about pulling something, all these disparate parts together into one date in time and space that excites you?
Mike Thomas [00:06:55]:
Well, I'm sure somebody who's way smarter than me would find it as some kind of insanity. It's crazy. And I'm sure I've lost a lot of hair over the years doing it, and I added a few grapes. It's just a thrill. It's an absolute challenge. I mean, remember, I'm just a guy that came out of a small town, and you get together, work with something like this, and again, just the people that we work with. But it's not just the amazing people in the Bladesmith community that make this very worthwhile and rewarding. And remind me almost on a daily basis why I do this, but the city of Conroe has absolutely embraced us.
Mike Thomas [00:07:30]:
The city themselves support us in so many ways, the Chamber of Commerce. But I think we also have seven or eight financial sponsors, businesses within the community. So if you're asking me what makes it worthwhile again, I love the thrill of seeing it all come together. And there are a lot of moving pieces. Bob, we started working on this thing back in February of this year. It's months of preparation, but just to see it all come together and every year we hit this point and you go, man, I'm tired. Are we going to do this again, or is this the last one? Are we going to keep going? And then you go to the show and it just absolutely recharges you enough to do it again for another entire year.
Bob DeMarco [00:08:14]:
Well, let's talk about how this show began conceptually, as I mentioned up front, and as we've hinted at it's, based on the Forged in Fire television show, the competition show, and the many very talented people. I mean, you see four people every week. There's always one winner. But oftentimes that's not a skill question. Oftentimes it's a luck question. So there's a lot of talent on that show. How did you come to shape this show around that?
Mike Thomas [00:08:47]:
Well, when Guy here came to me, we had met through other memes and other channels, and he came back to me and said, hey, listen, there's a bunch of us knife guys, some forge and fire guys, and some knife makers around Houston and especially the north Houston area. He said, there's a bunch of us around that want to get together and do a show. We've been on the TV show. We have some people following us on Facebook and things like that. We'd like to just get out there and meet the public and show more of what we do, maybe even sell a few knives. They were trying to make a business out of something that had been a hobby and a craft for a long time. So he came to me and said, hey, we do knives, you do events. We should get together and do this thing.
Mike Thomas [00:09:29]:
And so I got back to him a few days later. After some thoughts and research, I kind of laid out a sketched out a quick little business plan on what this thing was going to take sponsors, venue. But I told Guy one thing. I said, Listen, if you know me, I got to do things a little bit unique and different. That's the way I've done sporting events and things like that. I see your vision, but I want to do something that's different and that's exciting, and we got to make this entertaining for people to come to. So that's when we came up with the idea of doing the Life Forging event and actually simulating the TV show. I said, Listen, this is what people want to see.
Mike Thomas [00:10:09]:
They tune in every week to see this. This is what they want to see. And it seemed crazy that we could try to pull this off. And do you know, it worked the first year and then it's continued to get better every year. And I leave that piece of it to my partner, Jake. You've had Jake on the show. You've visited with him. You'll meet him when you're here.
Mike Thomas [00:10:30]:
He is the knife guy. He is bravehawk, forge. He makes the tomahawks. You see one right there on the wall behind me. So, yeah, that was an idea that Guy and I had way back when. But Jake has just taken it and run with it, and I think we are the only knife show in the country that simulates the Live Forging contest. If I'm wrong, then I'll be happy to recognize and congratulate anyone else that does it. But I believe we're the only show in the country that takes four guys who are former forged fire contestants, and we give them a pile of steel in three and a half hours and tell them good luck and make a knife.
Bob DeMarco [00:11:05]:
And what's the prize? They all get tested, like on the show.
Mike Thomas [00:11:12]:
So we've always tested the blades. I mean, if you're going to have a contest, you've got to have a winner. So how do we get from contest and entries to a winner? So in the early days, the first couple of years of the show, we tested them on bags and water bottles and everything you kind of see at an exciting but maybe an amateur level or however you want to call it. I don't know. We were trying to figure that part of it out, too. But again, kudos to Jake, and he and I just kind of put our heads together. And I think it was three years ago, I think it was 2021 was the first year that ballistic dummy lab came on and partnered with us. So we actually have the ballistic gel torsos like you've seen on Ford, Fired and other shows.
Mike Thomas [00:11:53]:
So now we're slicing the dice and we're cutting up the dummy torso, so you got the blood squirting and the slicing, so it makes it even more exciting. So that kind of stepped it up a notch. And then last year, we always thought this was just a dream that might never come true. But early last year, April, May of 22, we sent a shout out to beg Markita and a few of the other judges on the show, hey, please come to the show. Please come to conroe and check it out. And I think we've been trying to reach them for a couple of years, and we never got a response. And then, lo and behold, Markita responded. He's like, so what's up in Texas? Tell us what's going on.
Mike Thomas [00:12:33]:
And sure enough, he came to last year's show. So now we have a live contest just like the show. We have Jay Nielsen and Doug Marcaida coming to do the mean. You're watching the show happen right before your eyes. Four contestants, one winner and real judges.
Bob DeMarco [00:12:51]:
That is so cool. I am a longtime practitioner of Kali, and I'm very much looking forward to Doug Markaida, and I'm excited to ask him about a controversial thing that was going through the martial arts schools that I was going to long before the show began. And it was his philosophy on footwork. So I'm going to talk to him about that. I can't wait to meet him. And I've had Jay on the show, and I've met him in person, but it'll be really nice to reconnect and forge perhaps a stronger relationship with these guys. But before you started this and focused this show, very smartly, if you ask me around a forging competition, had you been to other knife shows for research to check out how others do it.
Mike Thomas [00:13:38]:
So I had not when the idea was first brought to me, so obviously you get online, you start checking some things out, but not long after, a guy came to me, and we were still in talks to put it together and starting to put some of the pieces together, talking to the venue and some potential sponsors. There's a gentleman right down the road that's in the same circle of South Texas Bladesmith cowboy Sizmenski that has Phoenix knives. His first show was coming up just a couple of weeks later. So guy and I traveled down. Guy was actually attending the show and exhibiting and selling at the show. So I had a chance to see that and see what a good show looks like and what will draw people to the show and just meet a lot of people that are in the industry that would be coming to our show as well. So the timing was great. I got to attend that took one of my boys out.
Mike Thomas [00:14:37]:
We had a great time, one of my sons, and we had a great time at the show. And that, for me, was the first time it seemed real. There's some layers to it here, and there's a lot to put this together, but it will definitely draw a crowd and people can come and have a good time. So we've just continued to try to take that philosophy. And again, every year you try to make it better than the last. I think we've done that. We continue to add more events and attractions and make the contest sweeter and sweeter. I mean, when we first started the Forging contest, we used the railroad spikes, and so they were making a railroad spike knife.
Mike Thomas [00:15:17]:
Well, now we stepped it all the way up to where I think it's a 19 layer billet. Excuse me? No, I have it in my notes. Oh, I'm sorry. 139 layer, and it's a 19 inch edged cutting surface blade. So we've gone from reveled spikes to a 19 inch 139 layer billet. It's become a tremendous contest just in itself.
Bob DeMarco [00:15:43]:
Well, I asked you before, and then I veered off, but is there a prize? These guys get to compete. What do they win?
Mike Thomas [00:15:52]:
Bragging rights more than anything else. The pride. Yeah, I'll touch on the prizes for sure, but, you know, this crowd and you know how proud they are now. They're a brotherhood. And again, that's what they've accepted me into that, and that's what makes it fun. And, you know, I think we had Jonathan Sibley, who won two years straight. Oh, trust me, he let everybody know and hear about the fact that he was running two year champion with Gen Designs. He's right down the highway from there.
Mike Thomas [00:16:25]:
And then we had Chris came in and won the next year, and then last year again, really trying to let these guys ham it up a little bit. We went from giving plaques and things like that that they could hang on the wall, and I'm sure that was exciting for them. But last year, Jay came up with the idea of a world wrestling big gold belt. The big buckle. The giant buckle. Oh, yeah. No, we got pictures of Don Halter with Cragback's Armory winning it last year. He's got holding the blade, I mean, holding the belt up and marked is there with the blade.
Mike Thomas [00:17:02]:
And he just smiles from ear to ear. So huge bragging rights. He takes that to every show he goes to. And he did a video I can send it to if you want to edit this in, you can see it on our social media. He did a video a couple of times holding that belt buckle up. He's like, See if you can come and take it from me. Come to this, come and take. Know that's like a Texas slogan.
Bob DeMarco [00:17:28]:
Who doesn't want a championship belt for the thing that they're good to? I'd love to get one at work every once in a while. Bob, you did a great job. Here's your belt. And I walk around. So something very interesting about your show I only have a few other shows to contrast it with, which is and I also haven't experienced it yet, the Texas Custom Knife Show. But Blade show. Of course. I go to that annually.
Bob DeMarco [00:17:54]:
And I've been to the New York Custom Knife Show. That was a long time ago. And Blade Show has a lot of events, but really it's a giant marketplace and it's a place to meet for me, it's a place to meet new makers and to acquire knives. There are plenty of events there, but it's such a big affair that I feel like unless you're there for that event or competing in it, you might miss it. The thing about the Texas Custom Knife Show that's very appealing to me is that it's an event. It's all based around various events. There's Blade sports, there's foraging, there's Tomahawk throwing. There's like a very community based feel to it.
Bob DeMarco [00:18:39]:
Do you think I'm accurate?
Mike Thomas [00:18:40]:
No, absolutely. And that's something that we've had to actually work harder at and really strive for, to make it a more family friendly event and to have some events and attractions that will draw people of all interest. One of the most rewarding things for me is I'll talk to people as they're exiting the show, visit with people around the event throughout the weekend. And you always have a son that brings a dad because dad is a fan of Forging Fire. You always have girlfriend that comes with boyfriend or wife comes with husband or whatever. You see couples in small groups that come out because one or two members of that party are knife fans, and they're fans of the TV show and all of that. And then you have those that just tagged along. But then all of a sudden, their eyes are opened up and they're like, okay.
Mike Thomas [00:19:32]:
I never knew this show was this much fun. I never knew the Texas Custom Knife Show had so much more to offer than just seeing a bunch of knives. I mean, there'll be thousands of beautiful blades for sale with over 50 knife makers on display. But you're right. We have Blade Forge, which is just fun to watch. The timed event, the timed competition, it's fun to watch. But we have the tomahawk throwing. And I don't care who, you know, all ages, even the kids, we get out there and help the kids safely learn to do it.
Mike Thomas [00:20:04]:
But this year we've added a couple of new things, primarily for kids. We're going to have face painting. So Bob, you can get a big knife painted on your face or your shoulder. We'll get you something painted up. But we have two things that are going to be fun for the kids. Jelly ball is a kid's version of paintball. So they have inflatable, what do you want to call it, areas where you can hide behind and shoot, right? But the balls know they're smaller and they're friendlier, they're kid friendly, they're environmental friendly. They're not going to stain or do anything to the environment or the arena.
Mike Thomas [00:20:39]:
They don't hurt when you get hit. You're not getting pelleted and pounded. So it's very kid friendly. And then we have some friends from northern Texas coming down and bringing an inflatable BB gun shooting arena. Again, completely safe, very kid friendly, very supervised and monitored that they will have a BB gun shooting gallery on site as well. So, yeah, there's a lot of fun things to do.
Bob DeMarco [00:21:05]:
That is cool. If my brother's listening, which he might be, it probably reminds him of the BB wars we had as a kid. I know that this is just a shooting range, but you also have the jelly ball. That's really cool. We were talking about Blade Sports, and I was looking on your website, jimmy Slash, a favorite of all of us here on the Knife junkie and Knife YouTubers in general. Love, Jimmy. And he was there with his new Cold Steel, which I actually happen to have here, his chopper made by Cold Steel competing. So not just forged and fire people, but other folks we might know.
Mike Thomas [00:21:45]:
Exactly. I mean, we continue to draw a bigger crowd. I mean, look, Bob's coming. You're coming?
Bob DeMarco [00:21:52]:
Mike Thomas [00:21:54]:
This show is gaining a lot of know. One exciting know. We've partnered with Blade Sports. This will be second year, third year that they've come. But they've agreed to proclaim our event, their event within ours. Their competition with ours is now going to be the Blade Sports Texas State Championships. So we're very excited to announce that and to hold that. So this is going to be the Texas State Championships held at the Texas Custom Knife next month.
Bob DeMarco [00:22:28]:
All right, explain. Blade Sports is an actual league, right? It's not just a generic term for people who like to chop things and.
Mike Thomas [00:22:37]:
Compare themselves to I mean, it's a time competitive event. So the competitors and some are frequent Blade Sports competitors who will travel and follow and participate at different events where they appear around Texas and around other states. And sometimes we've drawn in just local people that just want to come compete. They have to obviously pre enter and their chopper or their Blade has to meet those certain specifications. Last year, we even certified Bladesport set up and ran their course and they actually certified. Some people don't believe they're going to be doing that this year, but we want to do everything we can to support them and help them grow as well. But if you've never seen the event, it is fun. It's exciting.
Mike Thomas [00:23:23]:
Usually competitors go one at a time and it's a timed event where they're chopping the two x four, slicing the water ball. I mean, it's exciting to watch and chop the rope, chop the tennis ball, chop the ping pong ball. They've got that set course laid out and people are going to be able to get a real good bird's eye view. We actually have some bleachers where people will be able to gather, but sit up in the bleachers and watch the event happen. It is exciting to watch. And that's all happening on Sunday. That'll be on Sunday.
Bob DeMarco [00:23:54]:
I love watching those Blade sports competitions. They can slip you into sort of a Zen meditation. Just watching people go from that slow slice through the paper towel roll to releasing the ball and chopping it, to just knocking off a rope as you go to the bottle slice. I love all that stuff. And as a matter of fact, as I mentioned before, I'm not new to knives. I think I could do well at one of those. I'm going to have to start who knows, maybe while I'm there, if it's possible I might try my hand at it. I know it's something you got to pre qualify for, but not as a competition thing.
Bob DeMarco [00:24:33]:
But I would love to try because I look at I'm like, yeah, I could chop through an inch thick Sicily rope, no problem. But then you actually go to do it.
Mike Thomas [00:24:42]:
Let's see if we can get you a little demo run, a little exhibitor run or something. That's a good idea. Let's see what we can do.
Bob DeMarco [00:24:48]:
Well, that's when you know someone is great at something, they make it look easy. I was watching a couple of these Bladesports competitions from the Texas Custom Knife Show 2022, and I was like, man, this guy's making it look easy. It must be hard. You got to have to look at it that way. So Tomahawk throwing. I'm kind of staring. I'm looking at you, but I'm also staring at that tomahawk behind you. I got to say, tomahawk throwing is a contest.
Bob DeMarco [00:25:17]:
And a part of this show, an integral part of that is Jake from bravehawk Tomahawks. We had him on the show a couple of months back, and he makes these amazing Tomahawks based out of the Northeastern Woodland Tomahawk sort of era, and they are meant for throwing. Tell me about his involvement with the show, but also the Tomahawk throwing.
Mike Thomas [00:25:46]:
Yeah. Honestly, we wouldn't have a show today if it wasn't for Jake. I love doing my part of it, but the way that story goes and that story has become legend. We did the first show, and again, it was fun, but it didn't quite meet all expectations. And honestly, I walked away from the first one going, I'm not sure if we'll do this again. But about a month before the show, actually, probably about two months before that first show of the inaugural show, I get a phone call one Friday morning, and I said, hey, my name is Jake. I'm in the area. I heard about show.
Mike Thomas [00:26:22]:
I make these tomahawks. I'm thinking about setting up a Tomahawk throwing booth because that's getting really popular. Do you think that would be a good fit for the show that you're doing? That was immediate. I was like, Heck, yeah. I mean, that'll be great. Let's do that. So we worked that out, and we had him all set up to come to the first show. And then I'm not lying.
Mike Thomas [00:26:44]:
He calls me the week of the show, and he's like, I can't be there. I'm like, what do you mean you can't beat the show? We've been promoting you and hyping you, and you're going to be a huge and he's like, I can't tell you why. I was like, you're telling me why I've been promoting you? You have to come to the show. I can't come to the show. Why not? I can't tell you why. Well, as it turned out, he was flying out the same day to the History Channel studios to film his episode and, you know, show they're sworn. He's like, I can't tell you. So he told me, but he didn't tell me.
Mike Thomas [00:27:18]:
Because I'm sorry if any of the he didn't tell me early. I promise. I promise he didn't tell me. He came, and then he actually left to catch his flight, and he went and filmed his episode. Season six, Episode 15 so now the show is over. We're into 2019. And I started doing some special events for some marketing clients of mine. And we did an event, and I called him up, and I said, hey, can you bring your Tomahawk going out? Be a good fit for this event.
Mike Thomas [00:27:49]:
And he did. So we did that event at one of my business clients. And then he so it's early 2019, march, April, I think, maybe. And he goes, So you're doing the knife show again?
Bob DeMarco [00:28:00]:
I said no.
Mike Thomas [00:28:01]:
He goes, you got to. Do the show again. I said, no, come on, man, you got to do the knife show again. I said, Jake, we're not doing the knife show. We did it once and some things were great. Some things weren't great. It's first year, you learn a lot. We're moving on, mike, you got to do the show again.
Mike Thomas [00:28:16]:
Jake, we're not doing the show again. Let it go. So he just kept after me, and finally he got me. He kind of wore me down. He's like, well, what would it take to do it? And I said, Listen, I'd have about half a dozen phone calls. Sponsors would have to come back, and I don't know if they will. I said, we're going to change the venue because we had some challenges there. I said, there's a lot of things we've got to change and do differently.
Mike Thomas [00:28:39]:
And there's no way that everybody that would need to say yes and agree to all these things would do it just wouldn't, like, make the calls. Find out. Dang it, Jacob. So, Bob, sure enough, I made half a dozen phone calls.
Bob DeMarco [00:28:53]:
Everybody said yes.
Mike Thomas [00:28:54]:
Everybody wanted us to do it again, and they were cool with the changes and sponsors agreed to come back, and I guess we're doing the show again. That was year two, and here we are going into year number six. Thank you, Jake.
Bob DeMarco [00:29:09]:
Let me tell you two things that come out of this story for me. First of all, the reason they all said yes was not necessarily the show itself from that previous year, but it was working with you, no doubt, because I work in somewhat adjacent line of work, and it's all about the people and how they handle adversity while a production is how people adapt, how they evolve. So I would imagine all those sponsors and people the year before were like, I want to work with this guy again. Yes. Let's do it. So that's number one. Number two is something that I tell my daughters, kind of. I send a mixed message.
Bob DeMarco [00:29:49]:
If they're like, I want to watch TV. And I'm like, no TV. And they're like, I want to watch TV. No TV. You're so persistent. Cut it out. But other times, when they want something that I want them to want and they go after it and they achieve it, I'm like, that persistence really paid off. So I'm sending a mixed message there.
Bob DeMarco [00:30:05]:
But right here, it was Jacob's persistence that led to this show continuing. And it sounds like the two of you make good partners, that sort of juxtaposing partnership thing.
Mike Thomas [00:30:18]:
We really do. I'm probably a little more old school and he's a lot more cutting edge, pun intended. We have skill sets that match up. I have a promotional background, but, my God, he can be creative and his energy. Thank you for having me on the show, but I'm the kind of guy that really tries to stay behind the scenes and have him do all the interviews because he's electric. He's energy. He's just much better at being the face of the show than me. I love getting out and selling it because I like talking with the business people.
Mike Thomas [00:30:50]:
Yeah, we absolutely compliment. I like to let him get up on the stage. It seems like every time I have to get up to the microphone, something goes sideways. I think it was two years ago. We're sitting at the stage, and we're getting ready to jump up and had to make an announcement and a presentation, and you got your little index cue cards to thank sponsors. And this is when we still did the show at the brewery. And they had some metal poles. I don't know what they use the poles for, but they were about knee high up out of the ground.
Mike Thomas [00:31:17]:
So we were kind of sitting there in the chairs, and I kind of missed my cube, and I hopped up out of the chair to run up on stage, and I bashed my leg right up into one of those poles. And so you got the adrenaline going at the show. But sure enough, I get up there on stage, and I'm making an announcement, and people are looking up at me, and I look down, and blood is just gushing down the front of my leg. It's like something always goes wrong. Anytime it's my turn to get up there, I like to sit back. This is fun. I'm having a great time. The makeup people didn't show up to do my hair.
Bob DeMarco [00:31:53]:
They didn't show up here either.
Mike Thomas [00:31:55]:
Sorry. But I am sporting my a m aggies. Jersey. Okay? So go AGS. Beat Alabama today.
Bob DeMarco [00:32:03]:
Mike Thomas [00:32:03]:
I had to get that in. All right. I got to got to promote my Aggies today. But no, doing the show is a ton of fun. But I couldn't do it without him. Maybe he could do it without me. I don't know. But certainly when one of us gets a little brain fried, we don't get burned out.
Mike Thomas [00:32:21]:
Neither one of us ever get burned out. But you just kind of get like, I need a recharge. I need I need a little power check. And then here comes the other one with a brand new idea or something different. He put a little twist into the Live Forging contest this year, which we can talk about. This is what I thought. Is this going to be the same old thing again? And what can we do different? And then all of a sudden, boom, he had the idea.
Bob DeMarco [00:32:47]:
Well, kind of like Forged in Fire has done. I'm very interested in what these things are kind of out in the culture that bring non knife. I believe personally that everyone's a knife person. They just don't know it. And I'm not being corny. I actually believe that an appreciation for a good knife is in our epigenetics it was our first tool and it allowed us to survive. It predates pretty much everything. So I believe that that's in everyone's system.
Bob DeMarco [00:33:17]:
And it's always curious to me what are the things that make the non knife person a knife person forged in fire, for instance, is definitely one of those people become interested in those kind of process, show whether to my wife and I, when I was in New York City and working in the fashion industry, I was like, they need to make a Project Runway for knives. You know, where guys come in there and they make knives. A couple of years later, this comes out. I wasn't the only one thinking about it. People love that sort of process thing. There's something about knives that really draw people in whether they want to or not. So this is all to say I'm curious. When you were working on a corporate a totally different corporate show event and you reached out to Jake and said your axe throwing would be appropriate here, what was that? Know, you don't have to be too specific.
Bob DeMarco [00:34:05]:
And how do you think you bridged the gap between knife people and total non knife people and Tomahawk people and brought those things together?
Mike Thomas [00:34:14]:
Well, like I said, I mean, this show has really always been designed for the knife makers and give them a chance to celebrate what they do, get them their recognition and draw their fans to the show. But in doing so, we've drawn hundreds and thousands of non knife makers. Like I said, whether it's friend that comes with another friend and the first one is a knife maker and the second one isn't. Like you said, people do the they always find something to connect with here, like you said, whether it's the history of what knives are. I mean, we live in our phones every day and all this technology these days, and I think it really does connect with everyone at some level because it takes them back to our roots and who we are. But the other thing is there's so many different styles of knives, whether it's self defense cutlery. I mean, there's thousands of knives on display here. So people find something they identify with, whether it's utilitarian something that's purposeful and functional or so many people are just blown away with the beauty of it, the beauty of the different blades, whether it's Damascus or a different style.
Mike Thomas [00:35:19]:
So many people just OOH and awe over a lot of the blades because just how gorgeous they are, the handles, the woodworking and everything. And then it's just again, it goes back to the people. The Blake Smith community is incredible. These wonderful people. I grew up with farmers, but I've also worked with athletes and entertainers and corporate people who thought they were a lot better than they were in their corporate world kind of thing. These are the most down to earth loving and friendly people and that's the reason I want to keep on it. I get to see them every year.
Bob DeMarco [00:35:55]:
So we've talked a lot about the event aspect of it, the different things, the forging contest, the Tomahawk throwing, the blade sports. But there will also be knife makers who are showing off their work and selling it. Let's talk a little bit about that. What kind of knife makers are coming to this and how do you draw those people in?
Mike Thomas [00:36:17]:
What kind of knife makers?
Bob DeMarco [00:36:18]:
Well, again, to show I'm sorry, what I mean is you have people beyond just forged in fire contestants, right, showing off their work, is that right?
Mike Thomas [00:36:28]:
Absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. Initially it was only going to be the forged and fire people because again, it just started with a smaller vision. But it's definitely grown. We definitely want to promote Texas Bladesmithing and Texas Knife Makers Guild is one of our sponsors and supporters, but we're drawing knife makers from Louisiana, Missouri. In fact, Kyle Reese with meltdown. He comes out of Missouri. He was actually on Jake's episode and they've continued a relationship because they filmed together.
Mike Thomas [00:37:00]:
But he's going to come down and do the make it yourself booth where you can come in and make your own knife with a forge and fire bladesmith and take that home as a souvenir. So we've got guys coming from Missouri, Oklahoma, Colorado. I don't want to say they're coming nationally, but certainly our footprint is really growing. They're coming from all over Texas and we're trying to get the word out as much as we can. So some of them are ford's the fire guys, but no, some of them are definitely not.
Bob DeMarco [00:37:31]:
Well, I mean, that's the great thing. I just wanted to make sure that there's opportunity to buy because people love going to blade shows and seeing all that stuff happen, but they also like to leave with a souvenir. And as I was telling you before we started rolling here, I'm going to have to be very judicious with what souvenir I walk with. But one of those Tomahawks bravehawk tomahawk is kind of cheap among what I'm thinking there. But yeah, the idea of having a whole knife centric event that is a marketplace where you can buy, but is also so much more is appealing to me. What about standard event extras? Like is there food? It's Texas. I'm thinking barbecue. Is there anything like that happening there?
Mike Thomas [00:38:23]:
You know, that's a silly have. We're going to have Jamal coming now with this know, doing a barbecue, doing it right, your briskets, your pulled know, if you don't know it the state sport of Texas as much as it is football. It's also know and smoking meats. So you can't do an event and it's certainly one like this that draws this kind of attraction. But we're also going to have a taco truck and then a truck that's got more variety of sandwiches and things like that. All the drinks, including some adult beverages to enjoy. So there's going to be beer, there's going to be barbecue, there's going to be some blades. So it's definitely going to be a good time.
Bob DeMarco [00:39:12]:
And all of this happening on November 4 and fifth, 2023 in Conroe, Texas. Beautiful. Conroe, Texas. Tell me a little bit about Conroe. As I was mentioning beforehand, I was looking refreshing myself as to its geography north of Houston. But it's a lot of Texas beauty all around. Tell me about it.
Mike Thomas [00:39:33]:
I mean, it is it's in the middle of pine country. And so we're at the fairgrounds, but driving through Conroe, and especially if you're driving in from out of town, you're going to come in and you'll see that 50 to 100 foot pine trees, the evergreens. I mean, it's beautiful country. I love living here. I grew up in farm country in Kansas, but I love being a part of this community for the people and the culture. Yeah, I mean, it's just a beautiful place to know. We've got Lake Conroe and a lot of water sports and a lot of recreational areas. It's a great community to live in.
Mike Thomas [00:40:10]:
But one of the things I love most about know it's the center and the heartbeat of Montgomery County in Texas. Montgomery county, you can look on any report, it's one of the fastest growing counties in the country. Again, we're just north of the Houston metro area. Conroe used to be that little town that was 30, 40 miles away from Houston. And it was just a small, little community, very rural and agriculture based community. And then, of course, railroad came through. And so that really brought a thriving economy into the Conroe area. It was where there was a lot of cattle exchange, cattle loading and unloading.
Mike Thomas [00:40:49]:
So it was that kind of a market in South Texas that was the historic base to South Texas. But then obviously, as the cities have grown and the populations have grown, and the sprawl of Houston has just overtaken it. So as you travel up I 45 north out of Houston, it's pretty hard to tell when you've left Houston and traveled into Montgomery County and Conroe, it is one continuous metro area. I think don't quote me on this, and I could be wrong, but I know I've heard and I know I've read, population wise, houston is the fourth largest city in the country. But in terms of area and sprawl, I'm pretty sure that Houston metro area is the largest geographical city in the country. So Conroe is the very northernmost edge. I tell people if you draw a clock, it's right at 12:00. It's right at the northernmost edge of the Houston metro area.
Mike Thomas [00:41:44]:
But here's what you love most about Conroe. When you live here and you do business here, it still has that small town feel. There might be a million people here. Not might be. There are. There are a million people plus in Montgomery County. But I go to the Chamber of Commerce. I talk to business people.
Mike Thomas [00:42:00]:
People know you by your first name, they shake hands, they hug. I mean, it's Southern hospitality. And we do business here and we live here and we treat each other just like that farm town I grew up in with 3000 people in Gerard Candy. This is Conroe, Texas. And I love and I tell the people of Conroe this, you know, that in the knife know, we reference these shows by the town they're know tennessee does a great show, but everybody calls it the Nashville Show, right? Blade Show is still Blade Show by brand name but people call this the Conroe Show. So even though it's got a big name, Texas Customized Show, I love that people just call it Show. You know, it gives it that small town feel like it is. It's just amazing.
Bob DeMarco [00:42:47]:
Well, I live in the greater DC area, a super, quote unquote, progressive area. And knives are not a big thing here. As a matter of fact, this is one of those areas where you would expect to have like a blunted tip knife law. But anyway, I idealize Texas a lot for that, I say that. But things have changed in Virginia because of our new governor and knife rights. But I do idealize Texas in terms of a place for freedom and a place where you're free to carry knives and things are big and they don't mind in terms of like, I don't know, this kind of thing. What are some of the challenges of putting together a knife show like this? And are they relieved by being in a place like Texas?
Mike Thomas [00:43:39]:
I mean, everything you just described, Bob, certainly does make it it's. There are places in this country where going out and promoting and talking about a knife show may not be embraced and may not be welcomed. People may perceive that as an issue, a concern, maybe even a threat. So certainly doing this project in this area certainly does make it easier. You walk into a business and tell them what you do. I've never had anyone have a look of horror on their face. Obviously, we have to be very careful in what we do. Insurance companies don't always love what we do, but obviously we're very careful because everybody that attends this show respects what we do and they're very careful about it.
Mike Thomas [00:44:29]:
We've never had an incident. We go to great lengths for safety, obviously for the bladesmiths and definitely for the public. We go to great lengths for their safety. And there's times and places within the show that obviously we have to keep the crowd back for all the safety reasons. The live foraging is going on and things like that. We have a new attraction this year. We kind of tried it last year. We have a new attraction this year which we should talk about.
Mike Thomas [00:44:52]:
The museum bob, but certainly there's some safety protocol there. But back to your point, to your question. The nature of the show itself isn't really a challenge. The biggest challenge that we have is we are a major metro area with major sporting events. You have the Houston Astros, you have the Houston Texans, you have the major concerts come through here. You've got, at any given time, the symphony, the orchestra, I mean, all the way down to the very same weekend that we are doing our show. I think there's three or four other big festivals going on within 25 miles of our show. So just the entertainment dollar is always up for grabs.
Mike Thomas [00:45:34]:
It's always a competition just to get a family to come. That's the biggest challenge. So we try to be very grassroots in what we do, but we also have billboard, radio, print, and we're doing a lot of the traditional stuff and of course, social media advertising like crazy. I think you've seen some of what we do and we do what we can to reach people locally so they'll.
Bob DeMarco [00:45:52]:
Come by on this show. I've interviewed a bunch of people and many of them have been from Texas. It's a great knife state, along with Pennsylvania, California, oddly enough, florida, Oregon, I mean, well, there are a lot of great knife states, but Texas, I've spoken to a lot of people from there. If there are Texas knife makers who want to become a part of this, I mean, obviously it's a little late now, probably, but in the future, how do you suggest people get involved if they're knife makers and in Texas?
Mike Thomas [00:46:24]:
So we had just a bit of technical difficulty. I just want to clarify the question. How would a potential knife maker get involved with the industry and blademaking or get involved with our show?
Bob DeMarco [00:46:35]:
Get involved with your show. I'm talking about there are a lot of knife makers in Texas. How would they perhaps get involved with this show?
Mike Thomas [00:46:44]:
Yeah, just reach out to us and we'll just make sure they're a fit. But if they're in the knife making industry, we want to get them involved year round, not just our show, once a year, one weekend so they can contact the Texas knife makers. Guild is a great way to really get involved with the industry. But as far as our event is concerned, just reach out to us. The email address is texascustomnifeshow at gmail. Jacob monitors that very closely, a little more than I do because that's where we direct a lot of the attendees and a lot of the knife guys. So Texascustomnifeshow@gmail.com, all they need to do is just send an email. One of us will reach back out to them, see what's up and make sure that they got the right idea and get them plugged into the show.
Mike Thomas [00:47:32]:
So I think we have probably I'd have to go back and check the list, but there's probably 20 knife makers coming this year that it'll be their first year at our event.
Bob DeMarco [00:47:42]:
Mike Thomas [00:47:43]:
Yeah. No, that's a very exciting thing. We just continue to draw new people, and new people are getting into the industry all the time, right?
Bob DeMarco [00:47:49]:
Mike Thomas [00:47:49]:
So as they become, they have more inventory made up that they want to show. They want to sell the show. And shows like these, the TV show shows like these are helping this industry just thrive. So new guys are getting into it, ladies are getting into it, and certainly we welcome them.
Bob DeMarco [00:48:08]:
It's interesting you mentioned ladies getting into it. Haven't seen too many female contestants on Forged in Fire, but knowing women, I feel like it could be a great hobby or thing to get into because at least all the women I know and have ever known, including my daughters, are way more detail oriented than I am. In a process like that, it seems like it's kind of a wide open hobby for women to enter into because it might tap into some of their particularities, if you will. I hope I'm not speaking out of school. I think my wife would agree with me when I say she's more detail oriented than I am, though I think I could probably swing the hammer for longer. Anyway, getting past that, some people might be wondering, what the hell is Bob going to do at that night show? He doesn't make knives. So what kind of things are you thinking of? How can I be of service? Because I'm really excited to be of service to this show.
Mike Thomas [00:49:15]:
Oh, no, that's great. Yeah. We need your help. We need your help. So Friday evening is when we have kind of a VIP meet and greet. That's a fancy name for really just all the nice guys getting into town, getting ready and getting set up and a chance for them to sit down and have a little Texas barbecue and let them catch up so that when it's game time the next day, they can do their thing and send to the crowd and talk to their customers. And they've already had their chance to get reconnected because this is always a mini reunion when those guys come into town. But one thing that we'll be doing Friday night at that event is actually the entry and judging of all the best and show knives.
Mike Thomas [00:49:54]:
So all of the entries will be submitted for the best buoy knife, the best everyday carry, the best tomahawk. I think we're doing a folder. We got seven different categories this year, so we need your help judging those. You're an expert, you're a pro. So we're going to let you weigh in and cast a vote on your favorite entry in each of those categories and help award and present the winners there. So when the show starts the next morning, you'll have your stories to tell, but the guys will have their awards on their table and their knife or tomahawk on display as hey, this is a I already won Best in Show for this show. We definitely need you to participate in that. You good with that?
Bob DeMarco [00:50:37]:
Oh, man, I am shocked. Really? Yeah. I cannot wait. I cannot wait. Anything I can do and if I can help run the show, whatever it is, not run the show, but talk to people when you're actually running the show anyway. Somehow things become more real when you put money down on them. And I just bought my plane ticket, which was so shockingly reasonable. I'm so excited.
Bob DeMarco [00:51:07]:
Anyway, it's become very real to me. I'm very excited. I'm also excited to meet you in person. I'm excited to meet Jake in person and of course, Jay and Doug Markita. But also just meeting knife makers is one of my favorite things to do. When I go to Blade show annually. I leave there feeling like that is my element. Why am I not in my element all the time? And sometimes you cannot be.
Bob DeMarco [00:51:35]:
But this is another exciting thing to me about coming to Conroe is meeting all these knife makers. So if anyone is listening here and might want to help out in other ways, I assume that it's never too late for sponsorship know, I hope I'm not speaking out of school here, but if someone wanted to help sponsor the show, what would they do to become a part of it?
Mike Thomas [00:52:03]:
Yeah, again, go ahead and send you can just send a quick note to that same email or the email that I use more for this event is Razorsharpmt. My initials, Mt. At Yahoo, either of those emails, but certainly the Texascustomnifeshow@gmail.com if you're interested in sponsoring. And again, we're less than 30 days from the event. We did have a sponsor come on board last week, but we're pretty tight at this point with the funding that we need and of course the benefit for the sponsor receives being on all the printed material and radio ads and things like that. So a little bit late in the game for 2023, but yeah, if you're interested in supporting us, being a part of it, again, our sponsors, the first year I mentioned the phone calls that I had to make. Sponsors have come back every single year. New people have come on board and continue to support us and want to be a part of it.
Mike Thomas [00:53:00]:
We try to give back to our sponsors more than we ask them to give to us. We like they're involved in the show. We've had sponsors be involved in judging like we talked about in the past, the ballistic Dummies. If there's anything left of those tour pills, we'll let a sponsor get up there with a tomahawk and just go crazy and finish off one of those Dummies. So we like to have our sponsors have fun and get involved, but they're in it to support and promote their business. So we want to make sure that we give them a chance to bring their clients out and have a unique experience or do whatever we can. Usually every sponsor, they get the menu items of yes, you'll be have banners and you can have a booth and you can have tickets and all the normal stuff, but we try to put a twist on it to where they're doing something unique for their business. I really do try to customize that goes back to my sports marketing days and just trying to do a lot of things to customize and make the experience for the business as beneficial as it can be, because they're there to grow their business, and I know that.
Mike Thomas [00:54:00]:
So we do what we can. We're not just taking their money, we're making sure that they're growing their business.
Bob DeMarco [00:54:06]:
Well, I think it benefits everyone to have someone with such business savvy in front of this. And then the fact that you love knives and are a part of that community makes it even better. Mike Thomas, thank you so much for coming on the Knife Junkie podcast. Texas custom knife show coming up November 4 and fifth. I will be there. Doug Markaita will be there, jay Nielsen will be there, as well as Jake from bravehawk Forge, mike and a whole host of knife makers from all around that region. I cannot wait. Mike, thanks for coming on the show, sir.
Mike Thomas [00:54:40]:
Thank you for having us. This has been fun. Appreciate all you're doing to promote the show. And one of the reasons that we're growing is because of people like you and the things you do to get the board out. Thank you.
Bob DeMarco [00:54:49]:
Oh, it's my pleasure. Take care, sir.
Mike Thomas [00:54:52]:
All right, we'll talk to you soon.
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, even on coasters tote bags, a coffee mug, water bottle and stickers. Let everyone know that you're a knife junkie and that you don't take dull for an answer. Get firstname.lastname@example.org slash dull and shop for all of your knifejunkies email@example.com slash shop.
Bob DeMarco [00:55:33]:
There he goes. Ladies and gentlemen, Mike Thomas, producer of the Texas Custom Knife Show. I don't know if he calls himself producer, but from my perspective, that's what he's doing. He's taking all of these elements from all over the place, putting them together into an amazing experience that us knife junkies can enjoy. So if you are a knife junkie living in Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, or wherever, come on down to the Texas Custom Knife Show on November 4 and Fifth. I know I, for one, would love to meet you. All right, ladies and gentlemen, be sure to join us next week for another great conversation with another great knife person and then join us on Wednesday for the midweek supplemental. Don't forget. Thursday, 10:00 p.m.. Eastern Standard Time. YouTube, facebook and Twitch for Thursday Night Knives.
Bob DeMarco [00:56:09]:
For Jim, working his magic behind the switcher, I'm Bob DeMarco saying until next time, don't take dull for an answer.
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