Phil Rose has quickly become a rising star in the world of custom-made knives. In just 5 years his knives have become so sought after that waiting periods for one can be as long as 8 months. Unlike most custom knives, the demand is not for their flash.
I interviewed Mr. Rose in particular because of his PSK series of knives. Several months ago they came to my attention; simple, elegant, and built to last, his knives represent what may well be the perfect custom survival knife.
Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking with Mr. Rose, and discussing him and his knives.
Aaron: Where did you grow up and how did you get interested in the outdoors?
Phil: Well, I grew up in Manteca California about ten miles from Ripon, where I now live. I’ve always been interested in the outdoors. I don’t know what really got me started on that, probably because I just don’t like the city.
Growing up, my mom used to drop me off by the river here in Ripon. I’d go down there with a Cold Steel SRK and – I believe it was Larry Dean Olsen’s Outdoor Survival – anyway I’d take some Para-cord with me and a bottle of water, and I would spend most days of my summer down there practicing, learning and having one hell of a time. That’s pretty much what got me started in the outdoors and survival.
I’ve been studying outdoor survival on and off since I was about 8 or 10. Obviously knives are a natural part of outdoor survival. That’s kind of what led me to doing PSKs. I just couldn’t find what I was looking for out there.
Actually, before I started making knives I made sheaths. The knives that I was using, I had several custom sheaths made and I would just destroy them. I wasn’t overly hard on things, but I just knew there had to be a better way. Been making sheaths since I was 16 and I’m 30 now, so from there it’s history.
Aaron: I read that you couldn’t find what you wanted. Is that what directly led you into making your own knives?
Phil: Yes and No. What really got me started making my own knives was when I left the military I didn’t want to work for anyone else. I just wanted to work for myself. I’ve always loved knives. I’ve always loved guns. When I first left the service I was planning on being a knife maker slash gunsmith. I still do a good bit of gunsmithing for myself, but I just decided that knives are where I belong. There’s a lot less paperwork and hassle [laughter].
Before I went into the service, when I was in high school, I worked in a knife store in Modesto. I did get one grinding lesson while I was working there. The owner of the store was a knife maker. He let me come over and spend the day grinding out a knife. I never did finish that knife, but it did give me a good bit of insight into what needed to be done. That was actually the only instruction I ever received.
Aaron: I was going to ask, where did you learn to make knives?
While I was in Germany I forged out a few blades over there. Actually, I turned the company BBQ into a forge. I found some tent stakes that I could actually harden and forged out a few knives, and ended up melting the BBQ [laughter]. It was a good time though.
Used to piss people off that I was out there 7 o’clock, 8 o’clock in the morning on a Saturday. Out there with an Anvil that the motor pool got rid of. I was out there, “Ding ding ding”, right in front of the barracks.
Aaron: [laughter] I am sure they did not appreciate that much.
Phil: No, no no. I was called just about everything you could possibly think of. And then people would sober up, come down and ask me to sharpen their knives. [laughter] Eh, kind of amusing. Good times though. Definitely good times.
While I was in the service I saved up a bunch of money. Unlike most people who just basically drank their paychecks. Most would go down to the Irish pub or something like that and dump a hundred Euros, 150 Euros in a night. I put my money away. When I was at Walter Reed getting my leg fixed I was ordering machinery. […]