Questions with Greg Medford of Medford Knife & Tool
Medford Knives have become synonymous with high quality, over-engineered knives built to take the rigors of hostile environments. Anyone who has seen one immediately knows they have a look that shows Greg is not only a tremendous machinist but a true artist. Make no misstate, the knives are not inexpensive, but like all world class products you get what you pay for. Greg and Amy are extremely personable, approachable people turning out unparalleled American made products. Recently, we had the opportunity to chat and have the pleasure of sharing our conversation with you.
Q: Greg, how did you get into knife making? What drew you to it?
A: I’ve always loved edged weapons and when looking to get into durable hard goods manufacturing I was interested in aerospace, firearms, engines and cutlery. They all would have sufficed but after looking at possible shortcomings of each industry I decided knife making left the most creativity, human individuality, and ultimately flexibility in the market place, not to mention the least amount of government oversight.
Q: Almost all of your production employees are military veterans. Can you talk about why that is important to you?
A: I love vets. I like them happy and working through all of life’s challenges that their civilian counterparts work through. They come to my shop and “fit in” again and work through their reentry into the normal world, so to speak. They get no quarter for their service, since we have all served, so they get to be basically normal and in an environment that is truly fun. We do not have “sensitivity in the workplace” seminars or struggle to “not offend anyone” and appreciate our collective dark and inappropriate humor. We are courteous and never judge or put anyone else down or shame anyone but we have fun with each other in an old fashioned way that is very pre-politically correct military and makes long days of work fun and builds friendship.
Q: Prior to knife making you did some really cool things. Can you talk a little about what you did before starting Medford Knife and Tool?
A: I was a master-level martial artist. I trained in 4 styles and was promoted to multiple degrees of black belts in all of them. My highest rank and primary dedication was in American Kenpo under Huk Planas. I started training in 1978 and taught daily until 2011. I taught mostly adults self-defense and combatives for many years in my own schools here in Phoenix and Scottsdale, Arizona. I had a few schools and loved the martial arts and business around it but ultimately wanted to do something more scalable. Upon my return from Kuwait in 1991 I moved to AZ and started flying Warbirds in the civilian world. I flew very intensely for years and have several thousand hours flying all kinds of civilian and military aircraft from all over the world. My primary interest was in radial engine era craft and tail draggers in particular. At my most intense period flying you could swing by my hanger and I’d be working on my Nanchang CJ-6 or Yak-50 or Yak 3 from WWII. The time I spent building engines and fabricating parts for my rare birds really schooled me for the ins and outs of knife design and making.
Q: What has been the biggest surprise to you in your knife making journey?
A: The biggest surprise in knife making is the insatiable demand the market has for expensive, high-end stuff. I had no idea how many “1%rs” there are out there and additionally how many regular folks would go for these kind of knives. I was stunned initially by how precise knives need to be to work well! I was also blown away by the seriousness with which the rabid fan base of knife collectors took this business and I respect them greatly and appreciate their collective love of our products at this level.
Q: What is your favorite model from the current MKT lineup?
A: Picking a favorite knife is like singling out a favorite child. That being said, I will say that I love the Praetorian for its obvious success and how it catapulted my team and me solidly onto the map. I love the new designs like the Infraction and the Burung for the style and design savvy. I love putting the TFF-1 and my latest stuff next to each other and comparing and contrasting the start and current place in my design life. I love the epic quality that my latest knives display, as a testament to my efforts to respect our customer and their hard earned and spent money. And I am proud of my team’s craftsmanship that shows through in everything we make. It is very humbling.
Q: Your knives are some of the coolest looking, innovatively designed knives on the market. Where do you get the inspirations for your designs?
A: As far as design goes, I take my lead from my emotions. I have been fortunate to travel the world more than most and have stared at the great art and architecture of our specie’s finest creators. I have studied anatomy and prehistoric fossils as well as aerospace design and have stared and reflected on the great machines and ideas that span the modern age. I have slung us from horseback to space in a mere moment of time. I have done what every bright reflective human has done, but I bring an American swagger and blend of New England pragmatism and South Western optimism to everything I do. I typically honor form over function and allow the necessity of a tool to guide my initial sketches.
Q: If you weren’t making knives what would you be doing if you had your choice?
A: I’d be doing one (or more) of the following: making breaching tools, building a PVD system to do coatings, making carbon fiber motorcycles, building a titanium foundry or possibly flying a jet. I always do stuff I love so those are pretty good bets!
Q: Why did you choose D2 as your primary blade steel?
A: I like D2 for a variety of reasons. It has many of the properties of modern more exotic “super-steels” but is reasonably easy for end-users to re-sharpen. Further it takes heat treat like clockwork and walks perfectly a middle-ground for the amazing wide variety of end-user needs. I use the specialty steels to cater to those rare individuals that truly need something for their specific environment or use. I leave the rest of it to armchair quarterbacks that take their leads from the sales pitches for the “latest greatest new unobtanium.” My metallurgy page at www.medfordknife.com pretty much covers my position!!
Q: Your knives have been carried all over the world and in some pretty hostile places. Can you share a story or two of where your knives helped someone out of a jam?
A: I had a border patrol officer that ended up in the middle of some sort of drug trade mayhem that was apparently shot in the chest and hit directly on the side of his MKT fixed blade on his chest. He says it “saved his life” and that it was in an evidence locker. Sounds pretty crazy but he called me to thank me. We have over-nighted product to Benghazi, Egypt, and to points around the world to embassies during the peak of the Arab Spring. We have had NSW teams use our EOD model to hammer their way through an 18” bronze shaft bearing to repair a Riverine Boat and get back to the water. There are just too many funny stories to go into it.
BONUS Questions for Amy
Q: I am sure working at MKT has its ups and downs like any business but what is your favorite part of the job?
A: My absolute favorite part of the job is dealing directly with customers and resellers on the phone, and meeting them at the shows. I love the challenge of managing customers’ expectations and helping to elevate our product with excellent customer service.
Q: What is your personal favorite Medford knife?
A: My personal Medford knife has evolved over the past two years. I would have to say -without a doubt – the Midi-Marauder is my favorite. The size, proportions, and subtle elegance of the knife are perfect!
Q: I heard that your skateboarding career might be over. Do you care to tell us why?
A: I think I’ll be sticking to Frisbee. It is much safer and easy on the ankle.