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USA Made Blade Open House


If you’re an avid Instagram user and you follow a good amount of knife-related accounts (guilty as charged) then chances are you probably follow USA Made Blade or at least have seen posts from them at some point.  Their feed is filled with well-shot pictures of high end knives, a lot of them with slick custom anodization jobs.  I was excited to find out that USA Made Blade wasn’t too far from where I live, located in Salisbury, North Carolina.  When I heard they were going to have an open house with a handful of well-known makers and brands in attendance I thought the time was right to make the trip from Raleigh and see the store.

I spoke with Scott Whittington at USA Made Blade about the business and about his custom anodization work to get a better feel for what they’re doing.  Scott and the crew at USA Made Blade were very gracious in holding this event for the community and taking the time to talk with me.

Knife Informer: How did you get into anodization and etching work?

Scott Whittington: I watched a Youtube video about anodizing and decided to try it.   It was not hard to learn and everything kind of snowballed from there.

KI: How many ano/etching jobs do you typically do a week/month?  What’s your equipment like?

SW: The number of jobs really varies.  We rarely charge any extra for the work we do on the knives we sell so I do it when I have free time.   I would say anywhere from 10-40 depending on the week.   My equipment is a standard power source and for the laser work we have a fiber mark laser.

KI: What do you like doing ano/etching on?  What don’t you?

SW: I love doing work on any full Ti knife made in the USA.   I hate working on knives not made in the USA and have stopped doing it.   Just a big difference in fit and finish on a lot of Non-USA made Knives, which makes getting them back together much more difficult.

KI: What is operating a brick and mortar like in 2017?  What percentage is online versus in person?

SW: We are in Salisbury, NC which is a very small town.  If we relied on local customers to keep us in business we would be out of business pretty quick.   We do about 90% of our sales online.  That has been changing lately as folks from Raleigh, Durham, Greensboro, Charlotte and other surrounding areas find out about us.  The retail store is a challenge but totally worth it.   We goof off a lot in the shop and it makes it fun.

KI: How’d you come up with the idea for a US-only sales model?

SW: I have always made sure the knife in my pocket is made in the USA.   I just felt like every morning I woke up and got dressed and there was nothing I owned or wore each day that was American Made.  Clothes, Watches, Shoes, Phones are almost never made in the USA.   So you are darn straight when I am getting done getting dressed, the knife going in my pocket will be!    When I decided to start my company the choice of American Made Only was a pretty easy one to make.

KI: What’s in your pocket today?

SW: It varies day to day but everyone who knows me knows at least one knife in my pockets is a Hinderer Half Track.   It is the best ‘Every Day and Everywhere’ overbuilt pocket knife I have seen to date.   Besides that I always have a knife in my lower cargo pocket.   That knife changes often.   The latest rotation has been a ZT0456, Southern Grind Penguin, Hinderer Jurassics, Chris Reeve Inkosi or ZT 0801Ti.

SouthernGrindAlso in attendance at the show was Southern Grind, a knife company based in Georgia that is the brainchild of Zac Brown, one of the most well-known names in modern country music (with the Zac Brown Band.)

The Southern Grind makes an interesting variety of high-quality knives ranging from small folders to throwing axes(!) and proceeds from the brand benefit Camp Southern Ground, an inclusive camp that brings together typically developing children, children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), learning and attention issues such as ADHD, and Dyslexia, social or emotional challenges and those with family members serving in the military.  I had an opportunity to handle a number of their products and to speak with some folks from Southern Grind and ask a couple questions about the brand and its products.

Knife Informer: I’ve been dying to know: how involved is Zac Brown with the brand?  Does he carry a knife on a regular basis?  What does he carry?  How did he decide to get into this market?

Southern Grind: Zac is definitely involved and has input on all knife designs and materials.  Nothing is made in Grind without Zac signing off.  He does carry a knife daily and I think he has a different knife in his pocket every time I see him.  His go to knife is a black Bad Monkey Emerson tanto with serration.

Zac has always been a big knife enthusiast since a very young age.  He is creating businesses to support and sustain camp southern ground.  What better way than with businesses he can be passionate about.

KI: You guys make some crazy stuff – one could almost say the Bad Monkey is normal compared with the Gran-Daddy, Jackal, and Rhino.  Is Southern Grind aiming for a specific market, or more of a widespread lineup?

SG: I’d say a wide spread market.  We like to build items where Zac feels there is a need or just something that he really likes and knows it will contribute to the industry and our fans.

KI: The Penguin is very cool, high-end materials and an interesting look to it.  It’s a fantastic flipper and fit and finish is top notch. Is it being made in-house?  Who designed it?

SG: Obviously Zac has a ton of influence on all designs, but the work was done by Mike Trull.  Mike has been with Grind for years and has always been a great asset around designing and spec’ing all Grind Knives.  We make 80% – 90% percent of the Penguin in house.  We have used outside vendors for things like handles and hardware, but do make some of them here as well.  More of a capacity decision at different times.  Have recently brought bevel grinding in-house which has really helped with lead times and prototypes.

KI: Are you planning to do any maker collaborations in the future?

SG: We always have things up our sleeve.  Look for future projects with the likes of W.R. Case and Sons,Diamond Back Firearms, Kimber and DPX Gear.

KI: Some of Southern Grind’s washer pivot knives are smoother than some bearing pivot knives I’ve handled.  What’s the trick?  How are these so smooth? What is the brand’s take on washers versus bearings?

SG: Not sure we can provide and tricks for you, but we really like phosphorus bronze washers and have used them almost exclusively until the penguin.  Mike designed a patent pending multi track bearing that is in the Penguin and it seems to work pretty well.  I’d say we will use both in the future.  It just depends on the application and knife design.

KI: What’s in your pockets today?

SG: Bad Monkey Custom with Black Tanto Serrated Blade and Desert Tan Handles.  One of my favorite color combinations.

Hinderer Kniveswas also in attendance and had a huge quantity of knives on hand to demo.  The new Half-Track is quite an impressive little knife in hand, smooth titanium handles and a lot of interesting curves.  A strong flipper action is a change for Hinderer, whose flippers tend to run on the softer side.  There were a number of the limited run Slipjoint XM-18’s there as well, which have a great backspring and very positive engagement.  The Jurassic is another neat design, with a 3.25” S35 blade and a framelock with some more organic lines – and the Gears variant with sets of intertwined gears on the scales and pocket clip that turn is a visual treat.  The Maximus dagger is a refreshing addition to the lineup, too.

Getting to handle some SpartanBlades was eye opening as their market penetration has been pretty small.  This is a brand to keep an eye on.  Mark Carey of Spartan was carrying the new Kranos folder in anodized blue and black G-10 and oh man is this knife the business.  A subframe lock is smoothly integrated into the design, the G10 inlay forming the outline of a Spartan helmet (ah ha!) and superb flipping action making this one of the unsung “must have” knives of the year.  The Pallas button lock folder is also a joy to use.  These are top notch knives that need more exposure.

The show was a great event to attend.  Beyond the hospitality of USA Made Blade, I also had the pleasure of meeting Rick Hinderer and Ethan Becker, as well as Mark Carey of Spartan Blades.  The store was packed from counter to counter with knife enthusiasts of all types.  If you’re in the area for this open house next year, I highly recommend attending – and if you are looking for a new knife or anodization work, check out USA Made Blade’s website here.

Story by James Mackintosh.

Last updated on Feb 5th, 2018 by Matt Davidson


The 12 Best USA-Made Pocket Knives For Everyday Carry

Though many people think of them as little more than violent weapons, we’re of the mind that knives are tools first. And, in the hands of someone who respects the danger involved, they can be one of the most valuable things you carry with you anywhere. Of course, it helps if the everyday carry knife in your pocket is of good quality.

If you really want to stack the deck in your favor in that regard, you can rarely go wrong with a pocket knife made here in the United States. After all, “USA-made” is often synonymous with “superbly built” — and American craftsmen are keen on continuing that tradition. It is with that in mind, specifically, that we’ve put together the following list of our picks for the 12 best USA-made EDC knives currently on the market. Stay sharp!


Why Buy American?

Dedication to Superb Quality

It would be asinine to suggest that American soil is the only place you can find well-built gear. That doesn’t change in the case of everyday carry knives. In fact, there have been positive strides made all around the EDC and knifemaking worlds and there are tremendous craftspeople all around the planet. Having said that, there are also a lot of reasons you know you can trust American craftsmanship — guarantees that you might not find elsewhere. Below, we’d like to illuminate some of the many reasons you should consider buying a USA-made blade for your next EDC cutting tool.

It’s hard to say which came first in the United States: the quality of craftsmanship or the public perception of it. The truth is, they probably developed simultaneously over time. The real truth is, however, that it doesn’t matter. The fact remains that USA-made goods have a reputation for being well-built and, as a result, that’s what people expect out of them. And American craftspeople are keen to keep that reputation, as it means people will continue to seek out their goods and keep them in business. Thusly, it’s in the best interests of American makers to continue the tradition of well-built goods. It might be a chicken-and-egg situation, but the true origin doesn’t really matter.

As far as labor laws are concerned, the United States has some of the strictest in the world. This ensures that craftspeople are well cared for, paid appropriately, not abused on-the-job, etc. To some, this means that USA-made gear is simply more expensive — but we’d suggest it also means greater quality, oversight, etc. Furthermore, materials are also subject to higher scrutiny on U.S. soil — leaving less room for corner-cutting and, thusly, resulting in a better overall quality tip to toe. Yes, the laws and regulations are rigid, but that means the end result is elevated that much higher. It also encourages craftspeople at the top of their game to seek out employment with U.S. companies. After all, people that craft the best also want to be employed by the (subjective) best.

While it probably shouldn’t be the sole reason to seek out USA-made gear of any kind, national pride can definitely influence a decision — and Americans are often quite full of pride. After all, why wouldn’t you want to support the hardworking people of your country of origin? Americans have a penchant for thinking of their country as the best in the world, so it makes sense to purchase goods that originate within its borders. After all, what’s good for America is often also what’s good for Americans.

SOG-TAC XR Folding Knife

Masterfully blending a pocketable EDC-friendly silhouette with professional-level tactical durability, the SOG-TAC XR Folding Knife is certainly a formidable cutting tool no matter which way you look at it. This particular version is equipped with a cryogenically heat-treated D2 drop point blade, a grippy all-weather G-10 handle, and the brand’s signature ambidextrous XR locking mechanism — which pairs perfectly with the reversible pocket clip. For those with a flair for the tactical, few other USA-made EDC knives can compare at this price point.

Blade: Cryo D2
Handle: G10
Blade Length: 3.39″
Total Length: 8″
Type: Flipper

Purchase: $80

Kershaw Leek Assisted Opening Knife

Ken Onion’s knife designs are a lot like fine wine: they just get better with time. That perhaps goes double for the Kershaw Leek, especially when you take into consideration the version you see before you. Along with its instantly recognizable silhouette, this knife boasts an assisted flipper deployment, a high-end CPM-154 steel modified wharncliffe blade, and eye-catching carbon fiber handle scales. For under $100, we’d suggest that this is one of the best all-around USA-made folding knives you can get at such a low price point.

Blade: CPM-154
Handle: Carbon Fiber
Blade Length: 3″
Total Length: 7″
Type: Assisted Flipper

Purchase: $92

Gerber Fastball Flipper Knife

Why more people aren’t obsessed with the greatness that is the Gerber Fastball is beyond us. Truly, having handled this one ourselves, it is a spectacular USA-made EDC knife any way you flip it. With a sleek, pocket-friendly design, this knife boasts tough and lightweight anodized aluminum handles, a razor-sharp CPM-S30V steel blade, and a reliable liner lock. It might not be very boastful, but it is beautiful in its subtlety and quite formidable at its price point. Back that with a USA-made construction and you can understand our draw to this knife.

Blade: CPM-S30V
Handle: Aluminum
Blade Length: 3″
Total Length: 7.1″
Type: Flipper

Purchase: $100

Benchmade Bugout Knife

While Benchmade’s Griptilian long held the attention of the everyday carry and knife worlds, it’s beginning to look a lot like its dominance has now been usurped by the incredibly popular Bugout. And that is a pretty big deal, as Benchmade has long been amongst the best knifemaking brands out there. Available in a huge number of formats — including a smaller, more discreet mini version — we’ve chosen to focus on the base model. But don’t let that fool you; this is still a formidable option. It boasts a reliable CPM-S30V manually-deployed blade, a lightweight-yet-super-tough Grivory handle, the brand’s signature AXIS locking mechanism, and — of course — a lifetime guarantee. Pick up this knife and you might not want to ever put a different one in your pocket again.

Blade: CPM-S30V
Handle: Grivory
Blade Length: 3.24″
Total Length: 7.46″
Type: Manual

Purchase: $119+

Buck Sprint Pro Knife

Most of those with a familiarity with Buck Knives are probably aware of the brand’s iconic Hunter folding knife. However, we’ve eschewed that one in favor of the more modern Sprint Pro you see here. The reason for that is fairly simple: this knife was designed specifically to be the brand’s most overbuilt EDC blade ever. And they’ve succeeded in that venture with a CPM-S30V steel clip point blade, a stunning and tough marbled carbon fiber handle, a ball-bearing pivot system, and a reliable liner lock. This might not be a knife for purists, but it remains one of Buck’s best all-around everyday carry knives.

Blade: CPM-S30V
Handle: Carbon Fiber
Blade Length: 3.125″
Total Length: 7.5″
Type: Flipper

Purchase: $150

Spyderco Para Military 2 Knife

If you consider yourself an everyday carry enthusiast and the Spyderco Para Military 2 isn’t on your radar, we’ve got some bad news: you’re probably not as well versed as you think you are. Since its initial release, the PM2 has remained one of the most iconic and formidable folding blades ever released and has retained its popularity through the years. While there are many different options, the one you see here has a leaf-shaped CPM-S30V blade (complete with Spyderco’s signature oversized thumb hold), G-10 handle scales, and Spyderco’s unrivaled compression lock — which might be the best all-around lock presently on the market.

Blade: CPM-S30V
Handle: FRN
Blade Length: 3.42″
Total Length: 8.24″
Type: Manual/Tactical

Purchase: $155

Filson Titanium Frame Lock Knife

Filson is perhaps best known for its outdoor apparel and not so much for EDC gear, but that hasn’t stopped them from dipping their toes into the everyday carry world here and there — sometimes to spectacular effect, as can be seen in this exclusive titanium frame lock knife. Yes, that means the sleek handle, along with its frame lock, is made from solid titanium. The subtle flipper clip point blade, however, is built from premium S35VN steel. And, perhaps obviously, the whole thing was made in the USA. But don’t think that this is just an existing knife with a Filson logo slapped on it because it definitely isn’t. This knife was custom-made exclusively for Filson — and it’s a limited-edition, so you’d better hurry if you want one.

Blade: CPM-S35VN
Handle: Titanium
Blade Length: 2.75″
Total Length: 6.5″
Type: Flipper

Purchase: $195

Case XX CG01 Flipper Knife

For the most part, Case is known for their more traditional knives — things like the lauded Trapper and/or the Stockman. However, you might not be aware that they do have a few thoroughly modern options, like the Case XX CG01 Flipper you see here. A fairly big departure from their other styles, this knife is marked by sleek, lightweight aluminum handle scales, a reliable frame lock, a stout and sturdy pocket clip, and a high-end CPM-S35VN steel tanto blade inspired by Japanese swords. It might not look like what Case is known for, but there’s no denying that this USA-made EDC knife is pretty wonderful regardless. And you’d be lucky to slip one into your pocket.

Blade: CPM-S35VN
Handle: Aluminum
Blade Length: 3.37″
Total Length: 8.37″
Type: Flipper

Purchase: $200

Zero Tolerance 0235 Slipjoint Knife

Believe it or not: Zero Tolerance had actually never released a slipjoint before the 0235 you see here. That being said, this Jens Anso-designed beauty was certainly worth the wait and has already become one of our favorite designs in recent memory. For starters, it has a grippy and lightweight carbon fiber handle mated to a stout-yet-useful CPM-20CV steel blade — complete with a nail nick for easier deployment. Furthermore, the blade is kept safe in the closed position by a pair of detent balls, the pocket clip allows for deep carry, and there’s even a lanyard hole — should you want to attach some paracord and/or beads. For discreet carry, this is a pretty tough knife to beat.

Blade: CPM-20CV
Handle: Carbon Fiber
Blade Length: 2.6″
Total Length: 6.3″
Type: Slipjoint

Purchase: $225

Emerson Knives Bullshark Auto

California has some of the strictest regulations regarding automatic knives in the world. However, Emerson Knives has masterfully sidestepped them to create this stunning and stout Bullshark automatic knife that is 100% legal to carry in California. Of course, even without that goal in mind, this would be a spectacular USA-made everyday carry knife thanks to its unique silhouette, 5.3-inch total length, 1.9″ 154 CM steel blade, and the list just keeps going. If you have always dreamed of owning an automatic knife but you’re wary of the legal restrictions, this is one of the absolute best workarounds. Of course, even if legality isn’t a concern, this is a spectacular knife.

Blade: 154CM
Handle: Aluminum
Blade Length: 1.9″
Total Length: 5.3″
Type: Automatic

Purchase: $280

DPx HEST/F Urban Ti Knife

Designed by all-around badass Robert Young Pelton — who has lived through more battles than he’d probably care to count as a war journalist — the DPx HEST/F Urban Ti is a remarkably hardcore tactical folder pared down into a pocketable EDC format. To be more specific, the knife weighs just 4.25 ounces, measures up at 6.7″ overall, and still manages to be loaded from tip to tail with an incredible number of high-end features and materials. That includes a full titanium handle with a remarkably sturdy frame lock, a CPM-S35VN drop point blade, an integrated bottle opener, a glass-breaker tail, and a hex wrench. All told, this incredibly formidable folder might just be the definition of “tiny but mighty.” At the very least, it packs a punch that you can depend on for years and years and years.

Blade: CPM-S35VN
Handle: Titanium
Blade Length: 2.9″
Total Length: 6.7″
Type: Tactical

Purchase: $375

Chris Reeve Sebenza 31 Knife

There is a very good reason that the Chris Reeve Sebenza has been one of the most lauded and sought-after pocket knives ever built. Actually, there are numerous reasons — many of which have been carried over and improved upon for the latest update, the Sebenza 31. The standard edition (meaning the version without any additional upgrades, like onlays) comes with a titanium handle, CPM-S35VN drop point blade, an off-set pocket clip, and the legendary Reeve Integral Lock — which is perhaps the best version of a traditional frame lock we’ve ever seen and has been emulated many times but never truly replicated. It’s also available in large or small versions — so you can pick your poison — and, as mentioned, there are five other available upgraded editions, including one with absolutely drop-dead gorgeous Macassar Ebony wood.

Blade: CPM-S35VN
Handle: Titanium
Blade Length: 2.99″/3.61″
Total Length: 6.98″/8.4″
Type: Manual

Purchase: $375+

The 12 Best EDC Knives Under $50

You don’t have to spend an arm and a leg to get a solid everyday carry cutting tool. In fact, if you take a gander at our list of the best EDC knives under $50, you’ll realize you can find carry-worthy quality for much less than you might think.

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Scott Whittington focused on quality when deciding the singular principle for business.

USA Made Blade, run by Whittington and his business partner Kevin O’Mellan, exclusively sells knives made in America. He said other countries make well-crafted knives, but American ones are routinely the highest quality.

“You wake up in the morning and your pants are made in Vietnam, your shirt is made in China, your hat is made in Korea, your watch is made in Japan and your phone is made in who knows where,” he said. “There’s the occasional piece of clothing you put on yourself that’s made in America, but the last thing I put in my pocket before I leave to head out the door is my pocketknife, and I want it made in the U.S., dammit.”

Whittington’s focus on the quality of American knives is the reason he started the business.

“The short story is I got tired of everything being made overseas,” Whittington said. “There was this knife I bought that I got excited about. I’ll leave the company name out of it, but they typically make all their knives in the U.S. So, when I get it in the mail and open it up, it was made in China. I lost my mind, and that’s honestly how this all came about.”

Initially, USA Made Blade was a business based in Whittington’s basement. For about three years, USA Made Blade only used social media and websites to push its products. Last year, they opened a retail location at 134 N. Lee St. In part, the move to a concrete location was also necessary to purchase certain kinds of knives. Some knife-makers won’t ship to sellers who don’t operate a retail location, Whittington said.

Now, USA Made Blade has moved to one of Salisbury’s busiest roads — Main Street. The store will have a grand opening for its new location — at 320 N. Main St. — on Saturday starting at noon. A number of well-known knife-makers are scheduled to attend, including LT. Wright, Andy Roy, Allen Surls, Dylan Fletcher and Todd Hunt.

The store’s hours are noon to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and noon until 5 p.m. on Saturday.

The new store offers more storage space to bolster the company’s online business. Whittington says he also hopes to increase USA Made Blade’s retail business. The retail space is noticeably larger than USA Made Blade’s previous North Lee Street location.

In addition to selling knives, the store also offers a sharpening service. Whittington said the store will sharpen any knife purchased at USA Made Blade for free. Knives purchased at other stores can also be serviced at USA Made Blade for a fee.

Though many people may own a pocket knife, Whittington said it’s a tool worth carrying around every day.

“It’s amazing how many times you’ll use a knife in a day if you carry one every day,” he said. “I probably use my knife for a simple, practical purpose 20 times per day.”

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.

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