We’re thrilled to have Lynn, founder of Cold Steel Knives with us today for our new “Know your knife maker” series. Enjoy the interview!
1. A little bit of history: How did Cold Steel start, and why did you get involved in the knife making business?
Cold Steel really grew out of necessity. The industry needed tougher knives! (laughs) I’ve always been a Martial Artist. I’ve been training since I was a teenager. Well, one day I was training with a knife and it broke. I went into the house, grabbed another and carried on training. Guess what? That one broke too! I called the manufacturer to complain and eventually spoke to the owner, and he said “Aw Lynn, it happens all the time. Send it back and I’ll replace it”. That’s not acceptable! I grew up in Brazil, and in the bush there aren’t any replacements! I thought to myself, there must be a market for knives that are tougher than this, and well, the rest is history!
2. What is a knife to you?
People ask me this question a lot, and they are often shocked when I say “a knife is a weapon first”.
Let me explain what I mean by that. When you are making a knife to the standard of quality required for a weapon, there isn’t a higher standard! It’s something you can trust your life on! It’s something you give to your son or daughter, brother or sister as they go to war. Something you hope will help get them home safe!
That’s a huge responsibility and it’s something we instill in all of our employees at Cold Steel.
Our first customers were military and law enforcement as well as members of the self-defense community. They chose Cold Steel because our tools were strong enough for them to trust their life to. I’m incredibly proud of that. That’s a big deal.
So I say, whatever we make, we make it like a weapon. Make it something you can rely on!
Cold steel was founded in 1980.
3. What distinguishes you from other businesses in your category?
I guess our tests. We torture test our products. We put them through hell. The toughest tests in the industry – and if they don’t pass, they don’t get released! Think about it, you make a razor sharp blade and put a hinge in it. It had better have a strong lock! I love my fingers too much to trust them to a weak knife!
Again, it comes back to that ideal. Making something you can trust with your life – and your fingers!
I know I’m outspoken, but I backup my brag. When I say that we make the strongest and safest folding knives in the world, I’m willing to back that up with the confidence that comes from actually testing our products. We’re a part of an industry with no regulation or standard safety guidelines. It’s up to us to decide what’s safe and what’s not. That’s a responsibility that I don’t take lightly. That’s what makes Cold Steel unique.
4. Right now, what’s your business biggest challenge?
The same challenge I’ve always faced. When you mass-produce a product and you hold it to such a high standard, it’s a battle. We raised the bar, and now we have to live up to that. I always tell our employees that we should be our own biggest critics. Our own toughest competitors.
We accept nothing less than perfection, and that’s tough!
It’s cheaper and it’s easier to let things slide, and to say “I guess that’s good enough” – well I won’t stand for that! No way!
We want to be the best, and that is our biggest challenge.
5. What’s the most popular Cold Steel knife that you sell?
I would probably say our Recon 1. That knife has been a popular choice for military and law enforcement (and civilians!) for many, many years. It’s super strong and durable. It can put in great work, and it’ll serve as an admirable self-defense tool in a bad spot! It has American CTS XHP powdered alloy steel, making it incredibly strong and giving it awesome edge retention. A DLC, diamond-like coating for abrasion and scratch resistance. Plus, it features our Tr-Ad lock, making it pretty much impervious to shock – something that most folding knives in the world just can’t handle! It’s a heck of a lot of knife for the money asked, and honestly, it’s hard to beat!
6. Are you still improving your knives? How?
We never stop, and we never will. If we’re not working on new innovations, we’re testing and refining our existing line up. We make regular rolling changes, always working hard to make our knives, better, stronger and safer. My vacation time is spent field testing products. I can’t relax. It drives my wife crazy! (laughs
I feel the pressure of our self-imposed responsibility. Somebody out there may need to rely on one of MY knives to keep them safe! That’s the kind of thing that motivates me and keeps me awake at night.
7. What is your favorite steel to work with? Why?
I really like CPM 3V. It’s an excellent, tough tool steel made in America by Crucible. I have begun to use it a lot with our fixed blades, and I even re-released some of our classic Japanese Tantos with 3V last year. When properly heat treated it can be very strong, very durable, while still keeping a sharp edge
that won’t chip out under hard use. It’s a great choice for military or survival blades, and in our tests it has performed really, really well.
8. How can people keep Cold Steel knives sharp? Would you give them some tips and recommendations?
Sharpening is really personal. Everyone has their own favorite methods and techniques. For our folders, I usually recommend either the Lansky
System or the Spyderco Sharpmaker. Both are excellent. We also offer a sharpening service on all of our knives and swords. Customers can just send them back to us. We will re-sharpen them for them.
9. Tell us something people will be surprised to hear about Cold Steel.
Lots of people know that our employees train in Martial Arts, but not many people know that we’re gun lovers too! We have our own private shooting range, and I go there twice a week with my employees. I encourage all of my staff to learn to be proficient with firearms as well as edged tools. I give guns as Christmas gifts to my employees. In fact, our unofficial company motto is “Never Unarmed!” (laughs
As you can imagine, we’re staunch defenders of our second amendment rights. Guns and knives are brothers in arms.