The Story



Social Media- My Instagram username is joewatsonusa and on Facebook it is Please note that I have zero affiliation with any other social media page, despite what may be listed.


Watson Knives story and philosophy:

 The industry has no shortage of people selling "tactical knives" who have not been trained in their use. There's no shortage of blades produced which were never tested. No shortage of outdoors knives designed by people who don't leave the city, who don't even carry knives. I wanted to change that, because myself and my peers needed knives designed and made by people who know them. I offer a variety of high performance, handmade knives from kitchen to outdoors to self-defense pieces. Alternatively, I like doing historically inspired knives and art pieces and improving them with modern construction methods more logical design. I still fabricate, cut, grind, shape, dress and polish things one piece at a time after all these years. I am meticulous in my heat treating and effort in the details to offer people the best knives I can. I enjoy it ALL- whether it is working with the latest hi-tech materials or working with rare, unique natural and antique components. 

From one longtime tactical trainer, I learned to never take untested equipment or procedures in front of students, nor to combat. From that I also took away to never use customers as guinea pigs. How many consumer goods do you see in which folks express "stay away from for a couple years until the bugs are worked out"? That practice has never been OK to me. 

As someone who has watched fads come and go, I've always done my best to contribute to the improvement of the industry. Do what is right, rather than what is popular. It has been quite the ride watching the public go from balking at my ideas because they weren't folding or Rambo knives, to seeing the influence from my work spread and eventually being approached by different groups and companies to do design work and consulting for them.

Since high school I've been fascinated with the craft of knifemaking and have had a lot of interests/hobbies, so I make knives for a wide variety of uses. Generally these are broken down into two simple categories: 

-Field Grade: Everyday working knives made to perform with good geometry, heat treat and materials suited more towards ease of maintenance and durability. CPM154 or AEB-L are the most common steels used as they're the best all-around steel for most situations. Sometimes, steels like CPM3V, Vanax, Elmax or PSF27 will be offered as well. 

-Signature Grade: My opportunity to explore and deliver a higher level of old world craftsmanship. The performance, high quality heat treat as the working knives, but with more premium features, more striking cosmetics and the use of more rare materials. Finishes can vary, from painstakingly hand rubbed and polished metal, high gloss satin finishes and pattern acid etched finishes. Blades may be stainless, or carbon steel with visible hardening lines-commonly referred to as a hamon. Thicker stock will often come with a tapered tang. You will also see hand sanded handles made from superlative examples of figured woods, vintage phenolic materials, and other specifically selected components. A lot of these materials I may find in limited quantity and then may never find again. 

 At 17 years old I enlisted in the US Army during the peak of the War on Terror, which was a great learning experience to kick off my adult life. Between training and combat missions, I'd gathered some thoughts about what knives should and should not be. Folding knives would routinely foul up, lose screws & clips or get lost from being snagged on the environment or an operator's rifle sling or pack strap. When a locking mechanism failed, you had a real safety problem on your hand. If you weren't in the jungle, some huge, bulky knives took up too much space and weight on equipment. Sheaths were terrible. My initial work was modifying factory knives/sheaths. Much of the time spent overseas was living and working out of remote outposts and local abandoned buildings without running water or electricity. 

Upon leaving the military to work in the private sector in various security and training roles, I got to learn from some of the finest trainers around. Over the years I practiced BJJ, boxing, Muay Thai, Filipino and Indonesian martial arts. In many places I had coworkers who could not carry firearms, so we started to heavily seek out edged, impact and improvised weapon training. While traveling, I would find out who was local and would go see how they did things. Some of the information was great but, I felt much was about entertainment with some of these systems. A lot of choreographed flashy moves, little to no training against opponents who were trying to win. There wasn't much actual scenario training, but a lot of standing around and talking about what they would do in a given situation. As far as knife and sheath design, I noted a lot of things I did and certainly did not like. Large guards and choils would snag when testing in organic mediums, sheaths that did not allow full grips caused users to come out of the sheath with their hand partially wrapped around the blade. Eventually I'd have friends direct me to other trainers who were using combat sports as a basis and pressure testing techniques against non-compliant opponents. This type of training is rough, and very few will participate in it because of the difficulty and "hits" one's ego will take along the way. But, in my view, anything not proven is fantasy. Likewise, an influencer or public figure won't participate in classes like this because they can't risk not looking like "the man" in front of public view. 

I've always spent as much time as possible outdoors and continue to use these knives every day, not just working around the shop, but also during hunting trips, wilderness survival & bushcraft and plain ol' property maintenance. 

Initially I just wanted to make functional tools and didn't give a thought to fit and finish.  I continued to learn under some of the great knife makers like Johnny Stout. Through him I also got to learn tips, tricks and techniques from other longtime pros with immaculate attention to detail such as John Young, Harvey Dean and John Horrigan. After seeing their masterpieces, I was inspired to refine my work further. As I improved the details, my skill grew and the knives started not just working but looking a lot better as well- go figure! 

By remaining active in the defense training industry as both a teacher and student, I am blessed with constant feedback on my designs as well as awareness of what people on the job require in ever-evolving environments. Since I respect the value of other methodologies and experience, I also frequently work with professionals from the military, law enforcement and civilian sectors to vet and create new designs. I have heard it said that I've probably put out more designs, and variations of them than most. I am not sure, I just know that there are a lot of great ways to build things for people who have a lot of really cool jobs. I'm blessed and thankful for your support and business.

-Joe Watson