Sunday, June 15, 2014

Medford Knife & Tool at Blade Show 2014

One of the highlights of the 2014 Blade Show was the large booth run by Greg Medford, of Arizona-based Medford Knife & Tool. A family man with a wife and two children at home, Greg embodies the spirit of the prepared and independent citizen.  He's been restoring and using period Japanese swords since the 1980s, has spent more than three decades in the martial arts, and applies his understanding of close-quarters combat to his tactical knife designs. A licensed pilot who served in the Marine Corps from 1988 to 1992 (deploying in Operation Desert Storm and Operation Desert Shield, not to mention fighting as part of ground combat operations in Task Force Ripper in Western Kuwait), Greg has flown airshows professionally, knows how to build planes and rebuild plane engines, and approaches his work with both zeal and patriotism.

Medford Knife and Tool Display at Blade Show 2014
"I design everything," Greg admits.  "I've made the vast majority of the prototypes. The guys I've hired around me, we've got about twenty people making knives now. They're all self-educated as far as knifemaking goes."

Greg explains that when the economy slowed down, he wanted to build a venture that would not only help sustain his own family, but also give him the opportunity to employ others. "I wanted to change the world a little bit," he says.  "I was tired of complaining at the government, complaining at the president... I said, 'well, let me make some cool jobs for guys that like the way I talk and like the way I think, and don't mind my bluntness..."

Many of the employees of Greg's shop are military veterans. "I remember being a vet and having a college degree and being a former Infantry Marine... and it qualified me for nothing.  ...I just snagged  [my fellow veterans]."

Greg Medford with Interviewer Wild Bill

Greg is also relatively new to machining. "I bought my first mill about two years ago," he told me at the show. He was, however, extremely handy before that, given that he used to build engines for his airplanes.  "I was never an OEM maker of anything before that, though," he says.

Medford's philosophy of knives is quite narrowly focused thanks to Greg's background in building aircraft.  He believes that knives should be overbuilt and as simplified as possible.  "Everything on an airplane, if it breaks, it kind of gets you dead.  If you look at my knives, I have fewer parts on a knife than probably anybody in the building."  Greg doesn't believe in things like bearings.  A typical Medford knife has 12 parts.

Commenting on his choice to base his business in Phoenix, Arizona, Greg pulls no punches.  "I was looking at employer-friendly environments, you know?" he says.  "My dad lives out there, I was born there.  California I like, but it's filled with lefties and Californians, and Texas, I like, but it's filled with born-againers and oil.  I just thought, well, I can change Arizona...I can't maybe change the world, but I can change Arizona.'"

The egalitarian meritocracy that America once was, Greg told me, can still be found in Arizona.  "How many people that work for the government are paid upon how well they do? Arizona is a place where guys who work hard can still get ahead, and guys who don't work hard can still be fired without cause and walk out of the building.  So it's a great place to own a company. I'm able to build a team, and anybody who doesn't fit the team, I don't have to have an HR discussion with them... I walk them out of the building and I say, 'Thank you very much. Good luck finding the job that is right for you, because this ain't it."

Thanks to Greg Medford for taking the time to talk with us. Check out all of the products produced by Medford Knife and Tool at 

Contributed by our very own Wild Bill Srutwa. 

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