Today’s installment of 5 from the Grinder features Johnny Kraken, who sends us his entry from the great Down Under. Australia has a strong community of makers, but due to OZ’s strict knife laws the art knife trend has exploded, but Kraken’s work still shows a robust functionality which would be equally at home in the Bush.
If you are new to our series and would like to be featured yourself, you can find out more about 5 from the Grinder here.
Please introduce yourself and let us know what led you to making/designing knives
Hi. I’m a full-time knife based in Melbourne Australia. Have always had a love for knives from a young age. I was working in the seafood industry for 16yrs from the age of 14 and pretty much worked with a knife in hand daily. I also studied various forms martial arts over the years including edged weapon. About 6 years ago while working in construction i was talking with co-workers and I spotted a piece of steel & said I should try make a knife out of it my co-workers response was “what the fu%k do you know about making a knife”. So I went home with nothing more than a few hand files and that scrap piece of steel and started on my first knife. It remained a hobby for the next 3-4 years using cheap tools and belt sanders that were never intended to be used for knife making. I would just make various different designs for myself or give them away. Then almost 2 years ago I started a instagram account and I was contacted by a company that specialises in high end close protection body guard work to the worlds elite. They asked if I could make them a few different custom knives which I did. Then they placed a order for custom training blades which was the point where I decided to take a chance at becoming a full-time knife maker. I had only had that one sale so far but decided to go all in set up a small hope work shop and try make a hobby a full-time job. Since then business has been growing and I’ve been lucky enough to have been able to work with the team from Tactical Rifleman in the USA who have the YouTube channel tactical rifleman and who are all US special forces veterans with decades of experience each for the last 14 months who have helped me grow as a knife designer and maker and improve in my craft they have been able to test and review my prototypes and provide me with constructive criticism and feedback and produce better usable knives. They have also allowed me to use their TR logo on my blades also if people that follow them request it to show there support. I had a web-store that I never had time to update with available stock I get all my custom orders via Instagram or email and when I have time to complete a few extra knives they get taken by my USA dealer TTSGEAR.COM
What knifemaker(s) or designer(s) have had the biggest influence on you? Do you have any mentors?
I don’t really follow any knife makers or designers apart from Neels Van Den Berg from Black Dragon Forge. I learnt a lot from his YouTube tutorials and his skill is amazing. Biggest influence though would have to be Karl Erickson from Tactical Rifleman with 25yrs military experience 18yrs special forces he is a retired US special forces Green Beret . His feedback and input in my designs has been amazing having had real world experience he has helped me refine and improve my designs and transition from what I thought was cool or looked cool to actual designs that are built for their task and useful. His feedback good or bad pushes me to improve and produce a better product. If it wasn’t for him and the TR team i would be way behind with my designs and overall fit and finish.
What is your favorite knife pattern or style from history?
My 2 favourite styles of knives would have to be from the ancient Greek kopis style of knives and all types of knives from the Philippines.
What is the next big thing in knifemaking? / What direction do you see the industry going?
I’m not to sure what I’d love to see is some sort of regulatory system that prevents knife companies/manufacturers having a business registered in say the USA or Australia and claim they make their own knives but instead have them made on the cheap in china or somewhere for $10‐$20 and have massive marketing campaigns & charge customers custom knife prices by lying & claiming they hand make everything. It really annoys me. As I myself and other makers put so much time and hard work into producing a knife.
Is there a knife from your lineup that you feel best exhibits who you are as a knifemaker/designer in terms of design elements, aesthetic or techniques used?
I’d have to say each of the knives I’ve made and sold up to now has been a one off custom my designs have all been made in small batches most less than 10 units apart from the ‘EREBUS’ field knife and the ‘DOLOS’. However each one has had a unique individual custom finish not matching any other.
I customise them with custom multi coloured laser etching, cerakote, Stonewashed finishes even custom airbrushed designs. The handles i also either use G10 or Micarta however im preferring to use Glass reinforced Nylon66 Chemlon that I can hand shape & contour and hand paint and laser to achieve some wild effects from reptile skin to camouflage patterns to textured geometric designs.
What is your EDC and why?
I have actually stopped carrying a EDC knife due to our laws here. However around the house/workshop i always have one of my knives within reach that im working on.