Time for another interview, this time with knifemaker Matthew Lerch of Lerch Custom Knives based in Wisconsin, USA. Matthew has been designing and making knives for over 30 years now, focusing on custom knife creations as well as some interesting collaborations with big names like CRKT and ProTech. Many thanks to Matthew in donating his time for this interview.
Hey Matthew, thanks so much for taking the time to do this interview. To start off, please tell us a little about yourself and Lerch Knives.
In high school I worked at a jeweler where I discovered an appreciation for the fine and delicate art of jewelry making. I then served a tool and die /mold maker apprenticeship and worked my way up to a Journeyman. This is where I learned the craft of metalworking and the skills of machining. The two experiences joined perfectly to a knowledge and desire to create something interesting, complex, and attractive, knives.
When did you start designing and making knives? What inspired you to do this and how did you learn?
I received the book “How to Make Folding Knives” for Christmas from my son Brian. This and a little free time at work helped the creativity spark and grow. I was excited with the results of my first knives which kept me driven to see what I could produce next.
How have your knives evolved over the years since you first embarked on this journey. Is there a particular type of knife you specialize in?
My first knife was a liner lock, second was a lock back, and the mechanisms have progressed from there. Designing the mechanism is one of the most challenging and creatively rewarding parts of the process. A knife can be simple or complex, I prefer to create knives of detail and mechanical complexity. I now have 8 patents for folding mechanisms.
What are some of the most exotic materials you’ve used in your knives?
There isn’t anything exotic I haven’t worked with, diamonds, gemstones, gold, platinum, and Damascus from the bests smith’s in the world. I love working with different materials and learning the nuances of each.
Is there one knife in particular you are most proud of? Tell us about it.
My Art Deco Dagger, This was the most challenging piece that I have ever done. There are multiple complex angles and intricacies.
What is the most important aspect of a well-made knife in your opinion?
Hands down the most important thing is fit and finish, the intricate details need to be complete to perfection. One little mistake can ruin an entire piece.
Tell us a bit about your collaboration with CRKT. Any notable designs you are particularly fond of?
It is important to me to surround myself with good, honest people and that is what I have found at CRKT. CRKT has a knife line with Ruger and I have developed some models for them. Also, ProTech just started using my new assisted mechanism.
What other knife makers out there impress you these days? Do you take inspiration from anyone else in the field?
My good friend Ken Steigerwalt. Ken is very talented and I feel he has the best and most unique designs. He continues to amaze. Ken is also a very kind, honest and gracious man.
Do you attend many of the popular US knife shows? Which shows are knife fans likely to see you at?
I always make sure to attend the BLADE Show, Solvang Custom Knife Show, and the East Coast Custom Knife Show. There is plenty of quality work and lots of great people. BLADE show is the largest show centered on knives. It is a great place to see the craft first hand, what is going on in the industry with other knife makers, knife companies, materials, equipment, demonstrations, and anyone or anything else that supports the industry. It is a good time to personally meet and socialize with knife makers and customers.
Any knife show put on by Fifty-Fifty Productions run by Steve D’Lack are top notch. He takes into consideration the customers and knife makers to make the experience something to look forward to. The smaller venue shows really allow time to get to know the customers who often become friends.
What’s your view on the state of production knife making in the US these days? Are the major brands meeting the needs of knife fans today and staying innovative?
I work with CRKT and ProTech and both are great companies. Every year the knives keep getting better. They use quality materials and they utilize a high quality manufacturing process. They produce pieces anyone would be proud to own.
What’s up next for Lerch Knives? Any exciting new projects to tell us about?
We are considering traveling to Europe for some knife shows, and currently working on developing a new mechanism that will lead the knife industry.
Thanks so much for the interview Matthew. All the best for the future!
You can reach Lerch Custom Knives online here.