One of the things I like best about our 5 from the Grinder series is that it is equally applicable to both recognized masters of the craft as well as folks who are just beginning their professional career. Charles Brenner falls in the latter category, but is showing great promise with some innovative designs.
I met Charles at BLADE Show 2017. It was his “Corona Tool” that first caught my eye for its unique and somewhat kitschy design. We struck up a conversation, and he submitted the following 5ftG post upon his return from the show.
First, in a few sentences, please introduce yourself and let us know what led you to making/designing knives.
My name is Charles Brenner and I run C.Z. Knives, which is based out of South Florida. I have been making knives since 2014. I started making knives because, at the time I started, I was getting really into fixed blades, and I could not find one that satisfied all of the roles I needed it to fill, so I set about making one.
Question 1: What knifemaker(s) or designer(s) have had the biggest influence on you? Do you have any mentors?
I am entirely self-taught and learned everything I needed to know from online sources like Blade-Forums and YouTube. In terms of style, I was originally inspired by people Greg Medford and Direware, I was really into that kind of overbuilt style, but as I got more into knife making, I began to get more into people like John Grimsmo and John Gram, I really got into that kind of relentless usability.
Question 2: What is your favorite knife pattern or style from history?
I am a real fan of the Kukri and the Wharncliffe blade shapes, because both are obsessively practical, while still looking really sexy.
Question 3: What is the next big thing in knifemaking? / What direction do you see the industry going?
I have genuinely no idea. There is a lot of new stuff entering the market right now, so there isn’t really one style that is working better than the others. But honestly, that’s kind of a great thing; I think it means we are more likely to get some interesting and innovative designs from new makers because they don’t think they have to stick to what is “popular” at the moment
Question 4: Is there a knife from your lineup that you feel best exhibits who you are as a knifemaker/designer in terms of design elements, aesthetic or techniques used?
Definitely the Killer Whale, I think the design is striking aesthetically, and really practical for a number of reasons. Because of the design, you get a lot of blade in a small package and a grind that is exceptionally useful for outdoor use. Additionally, I favor a Scandi ground, D2 blade, because it affords a fine edge that is still exceptionally durable for hard use.
Question 5: What is your EDC and why?
I carry a Leatherman Skeletool, a Burchtree Blade Works midtech, a Kershaw Scallion, one of the original Killer Whales.
The Leatherman is one of the most useful knives I’ve ever owned and has saved my ass many times because of the pliers and flat head.
The Burchtree fills a large folder/slicer/defensive role.
The scallion fills the “I need to cut something, but don’t want to scare somebody’s mom” role.
The Killer whale is my ride hard and put away wet knife. I use it primarily to cut things you shouldn’t cut with a knife. It also works as another defensive option.