web analytics

Tag Archives | Custom Knives

The Regular Guy Sessions: Knifemaker Ray Laconico

This is the first in what I hope will become a series of interviews with those who are making incredible gear for Regular Guys and Regular Guy pursuits. It is important to support these small business and it is important to know who is behind them. If you can trust the gear maker, you can trust the gear.

Ray Laconico is a good friend of mine and an excellent knife maker. He has been featured in Tactical Knives magazine and is getting to be very well known for his straight forward, modern designs. His knives are not exercises in design only; they are meant to be used. I am honored to have him as my first guest on Jerking The Trigger.

 

 

Old and New Model Explorers

 

Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I was born on January 25, 1974 on the island of Cebu in the Philippines.  My family moved to the U.S. in 1982.   I’ve been married to my wife for 11 years and I have a 21 year old stepdaughter.  We live in Visalia, CA along with our dog “Bear”.  I’m a full time knife maker and I work out of my home garage.   I have a very minimal shop with no more than about $3,000 worth in equipment.

What did you do before you started making knives?

I’ve been an artist all my life.  I used to draw and paint landscapes, portraits, people, wildlife and just about everything else. I was always good at it but I could never fit in with the “artist” crowd. My first real job after high school was at a big law firm in downtown Los Angeles.  The job was so “not for me” that we moved to Visalia in 2001 to escape with no real plans and ended up starting a cleaning business.  Meanwhile, I’ve always been interested in making knives so I made them as a hobby in my free time.

Why did you start making knives?

I’ve been interested in knives ever since I can remember as a kid.  When I was old enough to buy knives, I started collecting them.  As we all know, it can get pretty expensive.  Then I thought, why not try to make knives instead?  I’ve always been good at making things.  I made my first knife around 2001.  I made about 3 or 4 knives per year just to give them away.  I continued to get better skills and better equipment and by 2005, I started selling them.  By the summer of 2006, I was a full time maker.

 

 

Lightweight Camper/Hiker (My first knife from Ray)

 

Many knife makers are also knife users. I know you really enjoy the outdoors. What or who are your influences as a knife maker?

I have to admit, as a kid, I got interested in knives after the Rambo movies!  Later it was Crocodile Dundee!   As an adult and in knife making, my first influence is probably seeing the works of some of the ABS makers and their big bowies.  In the last 2 or 3 years, my influences have been the wilderness and survival guys who have turned my style into the simple and practical user knives that I’ve done.  In the past couple of months however, I’ve been really influenced by my first and only real teacher and mentor, ABS Mastersmith Mike Vagnino.  He has turned me yet into another new direction; slipjoint folders and hopefully liner locks next!

How much influence do your customers/users have on your work?

During the last 3 years or so, almost everything I’ve done is because of my customers.  If I’m not doing a custom order, I’m doing what I think my customers would want to buy.  Once in a while, I’ll do a customer’s design that turns out to be a hit and end up doing a whole bunch of orders of that knife.  The HWK was my all time biggest seller.  I made so many of that knife that I got sick of it!   My target crowd was always the outdoorsmen who want a nice usable and practical cutting tool – a tool that will cut well and still look and feel good.  Once in a while, I’ll do something different like a bowie or fighter but it’s not very often.

 

 

HWK and HWK+

 

Your designs are always so crisp and modern. The designs seem so simple, but I know that the simplest designs often take the most work to perfect. Can you talk us through how you design a knife?

I usually just keep in mind what I think will cut well and be nice to hold.  If you get those two things you’ll always end up with a simple, yet good looking design.  I truly believe that simple designs are the ones that work the best as a tool.  Edge geometry is also VERY important.

You are known for your incredible precision, fit, and finish. What drives you to achieve that level of quality and are you actually a knife making robot?

As a former knife collector, I would always look at the fit and finish of the knives that I buy.  I always sought after knives that were well crafted.  Even if it’s just a user I still wanted it to be close to perfect (a perfect knife does not exist).   I guess I just want to make a knife that I would be happy to receive if I was the one buying it.  I also price my knives accordingly.  I ask myself, “Would I be happy if I paid this much for this knife?” As for being a robot, the answer is no.  I am not a robot.  I am actually a cyborg.  I am living and breathing flesh but some parts of me are mechanical where they are needed for precision work.

 

 

Nessmuk

 

Do you take more pride when your knives are used or when they are collected?

Definitely when they are used.  However, many of my customers are collectors who also use their knives.  I don’t think very many of my knives are sitting on display.  Maybe some of my earlier works are but I think most of my knives are going to collectors who use their knives.

You are typically known for your fixed blades. Lately, you have been making several slip joint folding knives. What sort of folders can we expect to see coming from you in the future?

Yes, I’ve been known pretty much solely for my fixed blades but I think I’m going in the direction of folders from this point of my career.  I’m going to be making a liner lock hopefully later this year.  I want to take myself to the next level.  I want to be a better knife maker by gaining more skills and knowledge.

 

 

Compact EDC

 

If you could have a knife from any knife maker throughout history, who would it be?

This is something that I probably have to spend more time thinking about but right now, the knives that come to mind are an original Jimmy Lile “First Blood” knife or maybe the big knife that was carried by Jim Bowie.

What is the best way for someone who is interested in owning one of your knives to get their hands on one?

Because I want to develop my skills in making folders, I’m not taking orders for now but I’m sure I will in the near future.  Meanwhile, I should have some knives for sale every now and then in the for sale forum on Bladeforums.  Also, my knives often pop up for sale second hand on Bladeforums.

 

Bushcrafter

 

 

Add to: Facebook | Digg | Del.icio.us | Stumbleupon | Reddit | Blinklist | Twitter | Technorati | Yahoo Buzz | Newsvine

wordpress hit<br /> counter

Coming Soon: An Interview With Ray Laconico

I appreciate the people who make the great gear that fuels our pursuits, whether those pursuits are woodland survival, shooting, self defense, or EDC. I believe it is incredibly important to support these small business owners and operators when ever possible. I hope to bring you interviews that give you insight into the lives, influences, and backgrounds of these people so that you can make informed decisions on the gear you plan to buy. If you can trust the person making the gear, you can trust the gear.

I will be posting an interview with knife maker Ray Laconico some time this week. Ray is a good friend of mine and a very well known knife maker in wilderness survival circles. I am honored to have him as the first interview in what will hopefully become a valuable series of interviews.

North Branch Knives Soloist

North Branch Knives is a fledgling custom knife company that has been the longtime dream of Ben Wiernusz. Ben and I grew up in north east Pennsylvania, in a small town, right on the North Branch of the Susquehanna River. The river and its surrounding areas not only provide the name of the company, but also the inspiration for the designs of his knives. The river even provides the inspiration for the names of each individual model of knife Ben hopes to offer one day!

Ben and I spent most of our time during high school in the woods or on the river, whether it was small game hunting, camping, or canoeing – if it was outside, we were doing it. Ben’s love of the outdoors and hunting continues to this day and it drives his knife making philosophy. He makes knives that are made to be used as only someone who regularly uses knives can.

The Soloist is his first offering. It was designed from the start to be everything Ben would want in a small, capable, and versatile tool. It must be compact but ready for any task that the soloist canoe camper could throw at it – hence, the Soloist.

Ben is the kind of guy who knows a little about everything and does all things well. He has an eye for the aesthetic and can make just about anything. I have any early prototype of this knife that I still use. It wasn’t everything Ben hoped it would be so he continued to refine it until he arrived at the current design. I know Ben is already working out more ways to further refine this design!

On to the pics!

What does a guy with an eye for the aesthetic and a drive to do things well do when he needs a box for his knives? He makes them himself, by hand!

The boxes are handmade from some kind of attractive waxed cardboard so even the box is tough. You can see the end tag with model name that Ben designed in the previous picture and the logo tag in the next. Ben studied advertising in college so you better believe his knives will be well branded!

Here is what I was greeted with when I opened the box. I was very, very pleased.

Under the knife you can see further evidence of the care that goes into each knife – a certificate explaining more about the model and saying thanks for your purchase. Each knife is also numbered.

The sheath itself is very well made. It is quality full welt construction and hand stitched with the addition of rivets at the stress points. Ben added a simple “N” stamp to the leather for North Branch Knives. The proportions are very nice. It is molded to leave just about half of the handle exposed. The leather has a warm, used feeling that makes it seem like you have already owned this knife forever. The square design of the sheath is not only visually attractive but functional (helps the sheath ride well in a pants pocket). It allows the sheath to be used with either the left or right hand.

Have you ever broken a belt loop on a leather knife sheath? I have. That won’t happen with this sheath. The belt loop is stitched and riveted to the sheath. The loop is large enough for most any belt.

Like I said before, this knife had to be versatile so a spear point blade shape was chosen. The blade is about 3 inches long from tip to scales. It has a convex edge, a long straight area near the handle, a short section with plenty of belly, and still enough of a point to be useful. The point is also positioned in line with the handle to facilitate drilling tasks. This knife would be at home zipping open a white tail or whittling a tent stake.

I provided stabilized Eucalyptus scales for Ben to work with for this project. The knife bares a “1” stamp that corresponds with the number on the certificate that came with the knife. The opposite side bares Ben’s “N” stamp like the sheath.

The biggest clue that you are using a knife that was designed by someone who uses knives comes from the handle. It is shaped well with no guard and a slight finger choil. The choil is not obtrusive enough to force any one grip but serves well to index your hand on the knife. The scales have a relief cut near the blade that allow a pinching kind of grip that is important in some grips like the “chest lever” grip. The handle is long enough for any grip and short enough to keep the knife very compact over all (about 6 3/4″ overall).

I tend to like knives that work and I am generally not willing to pay more for a knife that is beautiful. Ben proves you can have both beauty and function with this knife.

Everything from the handmade box, to the finish on the scales, to the way the white spacers set off the beautiful reddish hues in the Eucalyptus scales, to the warm tones of the leather sheath contribute to feeling that this knife gives you. It is like you have already owned it for years. This knife looks simple and primitive but when you have it in hand, you realize that was all by design. It is all part of the aesthetic as well as the function. You can really see the knife maker’s hand in this knife.

It’s like an old friend.

Specs:

  • Steel: 1095
  • Blade Length: 3″
  • Overall Length: 6 3/4″
  • Sheath: Leather, Belt or Pocket Carry
  • Scales: Stabilized Eucalyptus

Contact North Branch Knives on BladeForums (username Cheekser).

Powered by WordPress. Designed by Woo Themes

%d bloggers like this: