Knife making requires skill, dedication and an extreme amount of knowledge. When it comes to knives, finding the right one for your needs can be a real struggle, but if you spend the extra buck or two to get a custom knife, you’ll be wielding something catered specifically to your needs.
Knowing which knife maker to order your custom knife from can be a challenge. That is why we have comprised a list of some of the best up-and-coming knifemakers from around the globe to keep on your radar.
1. Marty Jelinek
With a background in fabrication but no formal knife-making training, Marty Jelinek might seem like a surprise on our list. As a working man himself in the harsh conditions of Australia, he has not needed formal training to prove himself to be a high-end custom knife maker.
Some of his bestselling models include the 4-inch drop-point hunter and his 3-inch everyday carry drop-point. Jelinek taught himself heat tempering and treating by using time-temperature-transformation, and all his knives are field tested. His drive for self-education shows how dedicated he is to the perfection of his art.
2. Wayne Meligan
Located in Pensacola, Fla., Wayne Meligan is a father, full-time nurse and part-time custom knife maker who is a pro at utilizing his time to the max. Meligan began knifemaking without knowing he had a family history in it. Only after he became hooked on spending time in his shop did his grandmother inform him that both his grandfather and great-grandfather were in the knife-making business.
His best sellers include the ringtail cleaver and drop-point hunter. Blades are ground flat, and he tests his knives in a variety of ways, from push-cutting newspapers to cutting nails. Meligan is a wood handle lover and prefers to make his knives from local hardwoods like walnut and snakewood.
3. Tim Flack
Inspired by South Africans Ford Hallam and Tiaan Burger, Tim Flack first became interested in knife making through the traditional approach. There was something romantic to him about how these craftsmen used hand chisels to carve the metal, and that artistry drew him into the field.
Flack is mentored by Stan Hohowsky and Brad Woollon, who both studied with master smiths Heather and Kevin Harvey at the American Blacksmith Society. With mentors like that, it is no wonder his passion and education are shooting him straight to the top of the list of custom knife makers to look out for.
A custom knife made by Flack can range in price from $60 to $300, so anyone can afford his services. Located in Cape Town, South Africa, he is a member of the Cape Town Knife Club and can be seen at local shows in Cape Town.
4. Rudy Dean
Starting out by studying steel pattern-welding under the mentorship of Herb Derr, Rudy Dean was encouraged by both Derr and friend and mentor Edmund Davidson to get into the craft of knife making. Dean then took an introduction to bladesmithing class at the American Blacksmith Society, but it was not until 27 years later that he decided to become a full-time bladesmith.
Dean grinds his blades flat and occasionally will grind hollow. His bestsellers include forged Bowies and tomahawks and hunters made from pattern-welded steel. A custom-made Rudy Dean Knife can be costly — around $900 — but he does customize knives at a more affordable price of $250.
Dean is a member of multiple organizations, including the American Blacksmith Society and the Knife Maker’s Guild.
5. Rob Ratliff
Located in St. Lewis, Mo., Rob Ratcliff customizes knives for those who prefer gemstone handles. Utilizing everything from fossils to minerals and stone, he makes all his knives at home except for the engraving.
Ratcliff can customize a knife handle with a variety of materials based on a request to make your custom knife truly unique. His price range is $400 and up for folding knives and $100 and up for neck knives.
Ratcliff started making knives in 2007 after transitioning from careers in ornamental iron fabrication, welding and woodworking.
These impressive knife makers are in great company with well-established and dedicated innovators such as Anthony Marfione, Ramon Chaves, Doc Shiffer, Robert Carter and Liong Mah — all leading the way in the knife making industry.
If you require a custom knife for everyday work, recreationally, a graduation or father’s day gift, or a knife collection, a custom-made knife will set you above the rest.