“5 from the Grinder” with Joe McNeely

I first connected with Joe McNeely through Facebook. He is very active in various knife-groups, sharing not just his work but also his wisdom and experience with makers who are just starting their journey.

What makes the beauty of Joe’s knives even more amazing is he eschews power grinders and buffers, preferring to make his knives entirely by hand. But I will let Joe tell you about that…

First, in a few sentences, please introduce yourself and let us know what led you to making/designing knives.

Thank you for the opportunity to tell about my knives.  My interest in knives began as a boy in junior high school when I got into boy scouts.  The knife was a wonderful tool for everything we made.  While in high school, I apprenticed with a well known gunsmith, Ralph Sisk, of Sisk Bullets, and always continued that skill.  After high school, I served 5 1/2 years in the US Army spending time in Viet Nam and learning the value of a good knife for combat and survival needs.  After my time in the military, I got into law enforcement and in a break from law enforcement became a tool and die maker and then spent some time as a product engineer for Howmet Corp, an investment casting company and learned a lot about alloy steels and their properties and uses.  I then went back into law enforcement, where I again learned the value of a good knife.  I made my first knife while I was recovering from an on duty vehicle accident from which I have had several back and neck surgeries.  This knife I made for my dad.  He loved knives of all kinds.  Even though this knife was the epitome of plain and ugly, he cherished it and always kept it oiled and sharp.  I still have that knife today.  That kindled the fire in me and the rest as they say is history.  I do make my knives with files and sandpaper, while incorporating modern methods.  However, a grinder or buffer never touches the surface of my blades.  I do not send out my knifes for any process.  Every aspect of the build is done in my shop.  Every knife that leaves my shop is fully capable of being carried and used in the field.


Question 1: What knifemaker(s) or designer(s) have had the biggest influence on you? Do you have any mentors?

Bob Loveless was probably the single most influence on my knife making.  Mostly from the way he got started and his thoughts on knife making in general.  His clean flowing style, beautiful finish and wonderful fit inspire me to make my knives as flawless as possible while still being totally handmade.


Question 2: What is your favorite knife pattern or style from history?

Again, I love the drop point, and Bob Loveless brought the drop point to the forefront of knife making.  The handle shapes are relatively common, but modified to be the best fit and feel possible.  I feel a knife should be a comfortable fit and almost “invisible” to the hand when held.


Question 3: What is the next big thing in knifemaking? / What direction do you see the industry going?

I think that more knife makers are turning back to the old ways of making knives by hand.  Using files and sandpaper instead of grinding for instance.  I think the custom knife industry is growing and will continue to grow as long as makers strive to make the best quality and most beautiful knife available.  Makers should also not be afraid to step out and push the envelope of creativity.  Try something different.


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?

I would have to say that the knife that I am most proud of in terms of design, aesthetic and technique is the bowie style that I just finished with nickel silver bolsters, curved plunge line to  match the bolsters and multiple sections to the handle, which is manmade black onyx.

Question 5: What is your EDC and why?

My EDC is a Gerber drop point, and the reason is that every single knife I make is a special order or is sold very quickly.  I have had several knives that I decided I wanted to keep and ended up selling them to a customer that had to have it. I have modified the Gerber to fit my likes, and have not had anyone wanting it, but I am always working on one I will keep for myself.

Joe’s wife is quite the craftsperson herself. She is the one who makes his sheaths.

You can check out more of Joe’s work at his website: joemcneelycustomknives.com, or his Facebook Page.

If you are a knifemaker or know a knifemaker that would like to be featured in a future 5 from the Grinder post, please send an email to thetruthaboutknives@gmail.com


  1. Richard Osborne says:

    Although I dont own one, I have been following, and appreciating Joe’s work for quite some time. He is an inspiration to me as a maker because of his fit and finish.

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“5 from the Grinder” with Joe McNeely

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