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Interview with Brad Zinker

Brad Zinker is a knifemaker from Florida and a member of the traditional American Knifemakers Guild. Most of his designs are filigree, his preference for narrow blades and reduced handles is easy to recognize. The weight of his designs therefore always plays an important role, the extraordinary knives should never burden or hinder their wearers.

What was your first contact with knives?

Even my earliest memories involve knives. My dad was a vegetable farmer, so he always had a knife on him. I was a cub scout and boy scout and knives are a big part of the camping experience.

When did you make the first knife by your own?

In the early 1980s I met a mechanic who had already made some knives. One day he gave me a piece of D2 steel and two plates of Micarta and told me to just have fun with it. In 1984 my first attempts at a 1x42 belt grinder started and a whole year and a half later I held my first knife in my hands. It was sharp and firm, but it wasn't really pretty. That was the beginning of a passion that lasts until today.

How long do you work as a custom knifemaker?

Since I started with my first knife in 1984, I have worked as a spare time knife maker for about 20 to 25 hours a week on knives. The only exception was the year and a half when we sold our old house and built a new one. Last December, I ended my 32-year career selling industrial machinery for cement mills, quarries and farms and moved with my wife to northern Florida to be closer to our three children and four grandchildren. Since I set up my new workshop in mid-January, I have been a full-time knife maker working six to seven hours a day in the workshop.

Is there anyone you would call your mentor?

Larry Brahms from Bladeart who introduced me to Boker. Also, I have learned many things from all the knifemakers I have met through the years. Related to mentoring, I have helped quite a few young people make their first knife in my shop, including my oldest son and daughter.

What are your biggest talents as a knifemaker?

In designing and making slim, lightweight knives that are functional and easy to carry and use. I also try to put as much blade in each frame as possible.

Where from do you get your inspirations?

I am inspired by things in the world around me like the curves of a leaf or the lines of a building. I also get inspired by going to shows and seeing what other makers are doing. I am always eager to get back in the shop and get right to work on some new ideas.

What is the biggest fun for you in your profession?

Being able to take raw materials and turn them into functional tools is fun for me. I also like to hang out with my knifemaker friends at shows, talk shop and learn how they do things.

Can anyone just order a custom knife from you?

Although I prefer to just make the knives I want to make and offer them for sale, I will take custom orders if I am intrigued enough with the pattern and materials.

Please tell us how a typical work day of yours goes?

II‘m up at 5:30 most mornings and get on the computer and check the news and answer emails. I do most of my design work early while things are quiet. I‘m in the shop by 8am and work until 12 usually and take a few hour break and maybe a nap before going back in the shop around 3:30 for another 2-3 hours.

Do you have any time for other things besides work, with all its different tasks you have to fulfill?

Of course, because even though knives are my great passion, there are more important things in life than work. I try to spend a lot of time with my children and grandchildren. I love to cook for the whole family on weekends and usually light up the barbecue while I'm still working in the workshop.

If you have free time, what is important for you, and what do you do for relaxing and recreation?

First of all I spend time with my family, then fishing, hunting and enjoying nature. I love being outdoors and discovering new things.

Is there anything else you want to tell our customers?

I would like to thank all my customers for investing their hard earned money in my custom knives and my Boker series knives. It fills me with pride that so many people appreciate my work and I can give them pleasure with my knives.

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