For our second episode of season 5, we caught up with Matt Gentry, owner of Gentry Custom Knives. Based out of southwest Michigan, Gentry crafts each custom knife himself, to the exact specifications of the customer. Amongst Matt’s work, you’ll find hog splitters, fixed-blade bird and trout knives, gut-hook skinners and even chef’s knives. Listen in as Matt chats with our hosts Jeremy and Eric about learning a craft with the help of YouTube, the ins and outs of getting into social media, how COVID impacted his career trajectory, and much more.
Eric Girouard 0:00
This is Bucket Talk, a weekly podcast where people who work in the trades and construction that aren't just trying to survive but have the ambition and desire to thrive.
The opportunity to trade and construction is absolutely ridiculous right now. So if you're hungry, it's time to eat.
We discuss what it takes to rise from the bottom to the top with people who are well on their way and roll up their sleeves every single day.
Jeremy Perkins 0:28
This is Jeremy and Eric here with bucket talk powered by BRUNT. This episode, we have Matt Gentry of Gentry custom knives. But before we dive in, Eric, what's been going on? All right, it is been absolutely nuts. For those of you that know, you know, we have have to contractor base, we're kind of a lot of the content we shoot is that you've seen a lot of our videos, we also have had kind of a small makeshift office space upstairs as the teams continue to grow. We officially outgrew that didn't have any more room for any more desks. So we actually moved right down the street. And we still have our base still have our garage. But we have a new office that has been underway. We've been going through demo paint, carpeting and everything to make sure it's ready for everyone. Folks are super excited to have all the amenities that we often take for granted like heat and AC.
And so on so forth. It's been a project for sure. Yeah. And for bucket talk, I'm super pumped to say that we're starting to build out a podcast booth and, you know, we're gonna have audio video, we're gonna be doing a whole bunch of cool stuff. And I'm really, really happy to see we're gonna be going into season five, it's gonna be crazy. I love the fact that we're gonna be able to showcase people a little bit more and have a little bit more of a leg up. Awesome. Awesome. Let's dig in.
All right, we're here with Matt Gentry of Gentry custom knives. Matt. Welcome. Hey, thanks for having me, man. I really appreciate it. Oh, awesome. Awesome. We're super pumped to have you. I'd love to dive into the life of a knife maker.
It's super interesting to me. I mean, coming from the mechanic trade and dabbling in swords and knives and stuff on my off time with grinders and what have you. Nothing pretty but still fun to do out of leaf springs and what have you, but kind of want to, you know, go back as far as you possibly can and or at least care to share? Yeah, what what kind of mechanic? Are you you just work on cars? Or what was it? Oh, before I jumped on with Brian, I was an auto mechanic for, I don't know, 15 plus years.
Worked for a mom and pop shop and did diesel work. Nobody really wanted to do that. It wasn't glorious. And now it's become kind of a thing. But when I was getting into it, it was like, No, I don't want to be a diesel mechanic. It's dirty and, and rough. And I really liked it. And you know, it was my outlet. But yeah, now I work with Bryant. And then also do I have a farm up north in Maine. So kind of balance the two, you know,
Matt Gentry 2:56
very cool. I used to work at a car dealership a long time ago. And man, being a mechanic's tough, I mean, just hard work. That's all it comes down to, you know, and all those guys that go up there at lunchtime, or whatever, we'd all have lunch in that break room and all they would was just bitch and complain, I'm not getting paid enough. And Boston, their hands and all this stuff, you know what I mean?
Jeremy Perkins 3:18
can totally relate? I mean, I felt and if any mechanics are listening, it felt when I was in my prime, like a dying industry I, I was surrounded by a lot of old heads that were seasoned, and they were the ones that kind of shied you away from being in the trades. And the new generation that was coming in was super excited about it. Wages started to come up. And you know, opportunities became abundant. Now, it seems like the wage gap is a lot better, right? It's quite a lucrative industry to get in now. And now we're dealing with stuff that we couldn't even fathom. I mean, we were talking a while back about how carburetors were essentially the first computer. I know it's completely mechanical, but it was a joke, you know, when and then they came out with like, OBD one and then OBD. Two, and now things are a lot different. I mean, unlock in your car with a key fob and right. World? No, absolutely. So, you know, technology has changed so much quicker and faster. And I'm sure it's the same in your industry. I mean, even though it's to some degree health, it goes all the way back to today's of old with with blacksmithing, what have you, but the tools and the technology that you have available now. Definitely streamline things a little bit
Matt Gentry 4:34
better. Oh, absolutely. And I'm really lucky with the tooling I have currently, I mean, was kind of one of those things where when I jumped into it. I took a lot of time and I get all the research and I really wanted to get you know the best stuff I could get. Just like in any trade. You know what I mean? You don't want to get junk tools that you're working on all the time or you got to stop what you're doing. wanting to replace some or whatever, you know what I mean, I wanted to just really be in a position to where I can be efficient and good tools is just like so important. You know, it doesn't matter if it's knife making or construction or mechanic, it's the same thing. You don't want your tools breaking on. Yeah, you know what I mean?
Jeremy Perkins 5:17
100% 100%. I mean, I remember, like, I've said this in podcast before. But essentially, when I started out in the business, my parents and friends and families chipped in, to help me put together a toolbox, because you really couldn't spend that kind of money to outfit yourself. And I ended up with more like home Allen wrenches that you put like furniture together with I had more flathead screwdrivers than I knew what to do with. But you're right. I mean, as you started, you know, making your way through the ranks, tooling was huge. I mean, it's a time saver, too. So making the right tool investment, there was a lot of tools out there that I spent way too much money on. I mean, I bought a thermal imager, super cool. Oh, yeah. But not worth the money when it comes to like real world application. And I was like, so now I got this thermal imager, although I was able to use it at the farm, which was amazing, because we have heated waters for our horses. And I can just go and see if you know the elements were working or not, versus, you know, taking it all apart and actually seeing it. So you know, definitely being used now that wasn't 100% being utilized. Nada, but
Matt Gentry 6:26
it was cool, man, you had to have it.
Jeremy Perkins 6:29
I felt like a firefighter screwed around with that thing more than I should have.
Matt Gentry 6:35
Oh, yeah. And so the one kind of cool thing about knife making in general. And the way I do it is it's like, if you look at starting a business from scratch, you know, your initial startup investment in tooling, if you do have a place to work is super cheap. I mean, just for a rough example, you know, you could get a grinder for a couple grand heat treat oven, a couple grand, you know, some drill presses and all this stuff. And I mean, if you look at the whole big picture, it's relatively affordable to get into compared to, you know, like you said, Get a mechanic, you're going to spend 50,000, and tools or if you want to start a lawn care business, you're going to spend a ton you know what I mean? So that's one good thing about this, it made it to where I could just kind of squeeze my way into it, I'd sell a couple knives, I buy another tool, you know what I mean. And that was when I was part time. And after a while I just built up to where I've got everything now that like we were saying just makes it super efficient. And I've got a really good rhythm kind of down to where a process whatever you want to call it to where I'm getting knives done as fast and efficient as possible to be able to do it full time.
Jeremy Perkins 7:44
Yeah, so I love how we just straight jumped into this. But I mean, I'd like to actually go back to how you got your start, what made you what made you get into the knife making industry, kind of what you did before or the approach to it, I'd really like to dive into that.
Matt Gentry 7:59
Yeah, so I started making knives probably about eight years ago, seven years ago, like everything started off as a little hobby me just messing around in the garage. And it got to where I build a knife, and maybe I'd put a picture of it on Facebook or Instagram or whatever, and somebody would want to buy it. So I just kind of worked off that and turned it into like a little side hustle to where I would get up in the morning, every day at like six o'clock, I'd go out to the shop and I'd work on knives for a couple hours before I went to my other job which at the time, I owned a like auto Detail Shop, it was me and my business partner. So it was like I get up six, seven work in the garage here until nine go there work till six o'clock there. And actually what happened when COVID started, we shut down the shop for a little bit because all the dealerships that we would get cars from shut down. So we were like, well, I guess we got to shut down for a little bit because we don't have work. And I kind of did it as a little bit of a test to where I just worked on knives, the same amount of hours that I would have been going into the detail shop. And after doing that for like a week, I was like, man, we got to make a change. And I got to sell this business because it's just way more lucrative to make knives and just I enjoyed it a lot more, you know. So that was kind of right when COVID started a couple years ago and it's really grown extremely fast. I mean, it's actually overwhelming to kind of sit here and think about it. But you know, I got to where I take all custom orders. You know, everybody goes at this at a different kind of angle. Some people will build a bunch of knives, list them for sale. And I kind of decided to go that custom route to where anybody could get a hold of me. They could say hey, I want this knife and I have a bunch of different designs and stuff. And with this handle and this and this and this, I'd write you down in the order book and you know at the time it was like alright, I'll have your knife done in six weeks. And it luckily just kept me super busy. Again enough to where I was able to sell my half of that detail shop to my business partner, which I'm still, he's actually my best friend still just kept growing and growing and all really, through social media, it's got to her, like, right now I just closed my order books for 2022. And I'm booking for 2023, because I'm just so busy. So I don't know, I feel really fortunate about it really, and it's a just a unique situation, you know,
Jeremy Perkins 10:30
it's amazing. I mean, COVID changed a lot of people's lives for you know, a lot for worse, but some for better. And, you know, for me, it was a, I was still in the automotive industry. And for a while there, I mean, we had to lay everybody off in the shop, I was the only guy there and it was just to really be available. And, you know, I was working on a lot of emergency vehicles at the time, which kind of kept the doors open for my employer. But, you know, I saw a lot of guys decide to either a retire or be switched to something that essentially wanted to, you know, take a risk and go in a completely different direction. And, you know, that's kind of when myself and my family decided to go out on a limb and chase our dream of owning a farm. And I don't know what changed a lot of us for people and kind of put some priorities that they didn't have in the background and brought them up to the forefront. And that's super awesome. How did you actually get started in knives, what made you start making knives? And where do you get your knowledge from?
Matt Gentry 11:34
Well, it's kind of weird, you can learn everything on YouTube now. And there's a few people back then that were putting out just a ton of really cool content. And I started watching these people and just kind of gave you that, like, I could try to do this. So like just pick away at it, get a couple little tools. And like I said, I made my first knife and somebody wanted to buy it right away. And then I just kept making them and people kept buying them. And it was really cool. But like before, I always tinker around in the garage, you know, even before I did the night thing I used to at night and in the morning like I was saying I used to buy and restore like vintage Honda mini bikes. I don't know if you remember them, but like the Honda trail 70s and Z 50s Do you remember those?
Jeremy Perkins 12:22
I actually have Honda ATC 125. So 125 Very cool. Yeah, three wheel that we've had since the 80s.
Matt Gentry 12:30
Very cool. See, and I've restored a couple of the ATC seven DS, which are the little kids ones. Yeah. And put big motors in them and stuff. And so anyways, you know, I was tinkering on those. And I was actually it was a little side hustle to where people would call me and say, Hey, I've got this one, it doesn't run, you know, you want to get it and you know, so I was messing with that before I got into the knife thing. And honestly, it's just one of those things to where to be able to work from home is something I've always wanted to do. And now like I've got a five year old son, it's just to be able to stay at home and work is just really cool. And I like not having the overhead of that other shop, you know, always having you know, 1000 a month, 1200 a month going off just for a shop to work out of is it just wears on? Yeah, you know. So this, just really, it really doesn't matter that it's knifemaking or whatever it is just to be able to work from home. And, you know, be with the family as much as I can and enjoy what I'm doing. It's still a job, you know, with how busy it is. And it's not necessarily monotonous, but I'm kind of doing the same thing, same process, same knife design over and over and over and over. You know, it's not like it's all so exciting every day to go into the shop, it's still a job, but it's something that I really just enjoy. And I feel really, really grateful. It's amazing when you look into how many knife makers there are nowadays, and how many of them go to all these knife shows. And you know, they have inventory they can't sell and they do all this stuff. And I get a lot of people that reach out to me like man, what do you do? And how do you do it? And I think I'm not saying it's locked, but because I've worked my ass off to, you know, promote and grow and do all this stuff. But I just am really, really grateful for the all the awesome customers that I've gained over the years. And, you know, it's just, like I said, to be able to work from home, make a good living and, you know, be able to spend all the time with my family. And that's what it's all about, you know,
Jeremy Perkins 14:31
I mean, that's that's super special. I mean, there was a point and you know, mine and my wife's life where we thought we were makers to some degree and when we really looked towards monetizing some of the stuff that we did. You go on Etsy and you realize that there's hundreds of people that are 1000s of ad to be honest with you have people that can do the same quality, cheaper, faster, better. And you're just like, I mean like where do You started. And it wasn't for us. But was social media really that? Or was it more timing?
Matt Gentry 15:08
Well, I have, like, it's almost embarrassing how much time I've spent learning and trying to understand social media. And I know you guys are very good at it, like I watched bronce marketing, you guys blow it out of the water, you know what I mean. And I think that's part of the problem with the knifemaking situation is a lot of the guys that are really, really good knifemakers they're not good marketers. So I mean, a lot of them can make better knives than me, but they can't market it as good. So you have to be able to thread the needle, you know what I mean? It'd be able to produce a good product, but also be able to market it properly on social media to be successful. And it's, it's been a challenge. I've learned a lot about it. And I don't love the social media aspect of it. But without it, it wouldn't work. You know what I mean? It just wouldn't work.
Jeremy Perkins 16:05
Now that I mean, that's interesting, too. And a lot of people are looking not necessarily for a product, but for an experience. And social media definitely optimizes that there's a whole ecosystem of content creation, and they're almost, to some degree, they feel part of the build or part of the ecosystem that you're in, and there's more to the product than just seeing a knife buying it, or you making it and selling it, it's interesting to watch the process and the thought that goes into it in the creative. And I think that that really, to some degree connects people to what you're doing. And like you said, there's people out there that make an awesome product, but they just can't, you know, connect the dots. You know, it was interesting, too, that you spoke about, like overhead. And I think that some people over leveraged themselves, you know, I saw in the automotive industry, a lot of guys had too much overhead, and they were amazing at what they did. But their business never really did well, or they couldn't survive, because there was just so much tooling or whatever involved and just finding that balance is kind of key to owning your own business and success for the future.
Matt Gentry 17:10
Yeah, absolutely. And that. So for example, with that detail shop that we owned, I think, like I said, I think we did that for like, Heck, I don't know, maybe eight years or something. And with that industry, it's changing now, but the problem was, you could only charge X amount, you know, it was kind of like, people don't want to pay to have your car cleaned. It's kind of like getting your oil change, you just kind of like, oh, I guess I got to do it, you know, so you had to, you know, charge a fair amount. But we had a really nice facility and a nice building. So, you know, we did draw in some higher end clients, but even those people, they don't want to fork out a ton of money. So what it came down to was, it's like, every month, it just weighed on you having the big payments on stuff, and there just wasn't enough cash flow to make it to where I was happy with it. You know what I mean? It was just like, Man, I'm working my ass off. And this isn't worth it.
Jeremy Perkins 18:10
I can totally relate. I mean, we did. We did classic car restoration. And, you know, obviously, a lot of the people that were getting, you know, $100,000 restorations done, were really involved in the process, were really, you know, conscious of, you know, budget and everything like that, and it made it really difficult to do any changes or kind of have any suggestions. It was interesting because like you said, there's some of the tougher clientele to deal with then you know, some of the people that are just like please fix my car, I need to get the work.
Matt Gentry 18:45
So you're saying even those people that were coming in and having worked on on like, their hot rod, they still were super like budget minded? Like they weren't like this is my baby just make it right.
Jeremy Perkins 18:56
There were a few of them but I think for the most part, in my experience, they were retired they had Okay, that was their passion that was their hobby. So that's where they put a lot of their energy into and you know, they went to cruise nights they went to car shows, so like we're making you might spend money to go on vacation or a different type of experience. That's what their life revolved around. So, yes, we did have some of those people that you know, they were doing modifications and, and everything and that was fine, but like when it really came down to the guy that showed up with a, you know, a really nice Mercedes or, you know, I mean, we've dealt with baseball players from the Red Sox and you know, a whole bunch of other clientele and honestly, they were some of the toughest people to deal with when it came to budget and not to say that you should look at those people any different, you know, like they have disposable income that you can do whatever you want. We looked at every customer the same but you know, they'd actually want more for less when really you You're like, hey, a lot of your parts are custom made, you know, the lead times on those are four to six weeks, we can't turn around and return it just because you don't like it. If we go and return it, there's a lot of fees involved with that, you know what I mean? If you can return it at all, any actual changes to the original plan were always met with head on just, it was always a battle. And, you know, it made that that whole process like undesirable, that was one of the things that I didn't really want it to, I as a welder, I did a lot of the quarter panels and floor pans and stuff like that. But, you know, I've watched my boss battle with these guys daily, and it's like, you know, you have $100,000 car, that you're restoring your budgets, you know, whatever. 50 $60,000. Right. And you're fighting me on nuts and bolts, you're fighting me on shop supplies, like he, it was what it was, but it you know, I mean, and that's kind of the grind of the business. But I guess everybody kind of deals with that to some degree. Well, you're Yeah, they
Matt Gentry 21:03
do. And that's, it's funny, because like I said, the longer I've been doing this, the more I don't have to deal with that, which is really, really cool. Because I dealt with that a lot like people that I didn't know, they'd come in, and I'd say, yeah, it's $200 to detail your car. And they're like, well, oh, it was 185. Last year, you know, over 15 bucks and all this stuff. And just, that kind of stuff wears you out just like you said, and luckily, this business that I'm in now is so unique. When I tell people lead times, and I tell people prices, it's just a different world now, like, I'm 22 weeks out on new orders currently is what I'm telling people and everybody is like, Matt, take your time, no rush. It's all good. It's a different world. And it's so great, I could deal with people like that, that are just appreciative, they're happy, they're excited to get something to that's the other different kind of part of this is they're buying knives, because they want to buy a knife, they're not getting their car detailed, because they have to get their car details. And it's disgusting. It's a different market. And it's a different market of people. And that's the other thing that a lot of people I talk to about selling and making knives is it's like there's different price points and different crowds that you're kind of marketing to. And luckily, as I've grown, I've been able to, you know, bump my price points as quality, you know, grows, you can bump your price points, and then it brings you into this different market, to where like I said, very rarely will somebody question a price that I tell them or, or a lead time. So it's a really good position to be in. And, you know, I tell people, I'm booked out five months, and they're like, Well, how do you that stressful? How do you do that? How do you deal with that, and it's like, Well, there's two different ways to look at it, it's like, you can look at it like, wow, I've got 65 knives that people have ordered that I have to get done. While this is stressful, or you can look at it, like I have job security for five months now to where I have work every day when I go out in the shop, and I don't have to worry about it. So I try to look at it that way. Sometimes it is kind of overwhelming. Because when somebody orders a knife for me, I immediately go over all the materials they want, I get everything ordered to where when their knife comes up on the books, I can work on it. And to keep track of like I said right now it's not like 63 or 64 knives that are all on the books that I have to keep track of every different handle material steel pins, you know, all those things that it is kind of overwhelming. But again, I'm super appreciative for it.
Jeremy Perkins 23:45
So what's one of the like, the biggest, I don't want to call it a mistake. But what's one of the biggest lessons that you've learned over the course of a while even from auto detailing, that you've learned that you wish you could tell, you know, a younger Matt, like, don't do this, this, this is the wrong way of thinking.
Matt Gentry 24:03
That's a tough one. I think that don't be afraid to charge what you're worth. You know, I think that a lot of people struggle with that, especially when they own their own business. You don't want people to say no, you don't want people to say wow, why are you so much and why is this guy this and this. Don't compare yourself to other people just do what works for you. And I think that's worked well for me because I've just been able to grow and been able to really kind of count on this and I never expected it to do this. You know, I never in a million years would have thought oh, I'm gonna make knives for the rest of my life. But I think that you know, like I said because of social media because of marketing because of just a lot of hard work. Just I'm in the shop so much man has cancer Nikolas and I have been, but it all is kind of working out. And it's all kind of fitting into kind of the goals that I've set for myself. And I have, you know, short term and long term. That's really awesome. So going
Jeremy Perkins 25:13
into business for yourself, I've seen a lot of people be really, you know, hard chargers for the first six months, year, two years, what keeps you motivated on a daily basis to continue to stay on task? I know, being at home, you know, there's a lot of distractions, I work from home now as well. And, you know, the kids come home and whatever, what keeps you motivated to continue to do your job every day? Is it being booked out? Or is there something else that drives you?
Matt Gentry 25:41
Well, there's a couple of things, man, and it's like, I was just talking to my dad the other day, and he owns his own business. And he's always been the guy that says, Do not make money for other people, you know, work for yourself, every dollar goes into your pocket. And I think that that's a big thing that's motivated me to stick with this and make it work. And now, it's turned into where it used to be, you know, I was motivated by the money side of it, because I was like, Wow, I'm making more money, with my side hustle than I am with my full time job. Like, this is great, you know, the money is great. And, but it's turned into now to where I don't even it's weird. It's like, I don't even really pay attention much to the money side of it. Because I know when I sell a knife and take an order, that money's done, now I just need to get the knives done. So it's like, every week, I'm looking at my order book, I'm figuring out what knives I have to get done that week, and prepping for the following week, and just not letting people down as like so and however many years I've been doing this, I've never got a knife to a customer late, I've never been after a timeframe that I told them, I'd have their knife done. I mean, there's been nights where I stay up all night to get a knife done that I messed up, or whatever it is, it's a weird thing. And like I said, all my customers 99% of them are super cool. And if I said, Hey, man, your knife is gonna be a week late, they wouldn't care at all. But it's a weird self. I don't know, self motivated thing that I just don't want to let people down. You know, and I want to keep my name as good as what it is now, hopefully, for a long time. But, you know, right now, it's weird how as you get older, at least me as I've gotten older, and how watching my son grow up, like your priorities just changed so much to where, you know, I've been like fishing has been my thing for my whole life. I've done just hardcore fishing, here in Michigan on the Great Lakes, salmon and steelhead and that whole thing and it's like, I still make time to do that. And that's still, you know, my passion, but it's like, your priorities just change when you have a kid and like, all I want to do is be able to work hard, provide everything I need for my family and spend as much time with them as I can. You know, it's like, it's just weird how stuff changes as you get older.
Jeremy Perkins 28:05
Yeah, well, no, I mean, there's something to be said, for that I'm in a unique position, it sounds like you are to that, you know, I feel like I'm working 24 hours a day, seven days a week, but I have more time than I did with a regular nine to five to spend with my children. And I feel like, I feel like having that flexibility. Like I said, I work a ton harder than I did through that nine to five, and then you get home and all you want to do is relax and what have you and I felt like I was letting my children down. And so finding something that fit my current situation with my children being young, and being able to, to cater towards their, you know, upbringing and, and growing up was super important to me. So I do find myself like working after they go to bed and, and working before they wake up. But it's super rewarding to spend those times, you know, going into kids softball games, or baseball games or what have you.
Matt Gentry 29:01
Absolutely, absolutely. That's what it's all about, man. It's like, it's funny how, you know you leave high school and all you are just chasing money, you know? And it's like, you realize as you get older how unimportant it is, you know, you gotta make a living but you don't need to have an extravagant life to be happy. You know?
Jeremy Perkins 29:21
So where do you picture your career going? Or is this it? I mean, is there Matt Gentry store is going to be popping up or is this the sweet spot?
Matt Gentry 29:31
Yeah, so I'm actually over the sweet spot right now. Like I I push myself too hard right now. And I do a little bit too much right now than what I want to be doing. You know, everybody says well, why don't you hire somebody and why don't you bring on help and when I own that detail shop, we had five or six employees and you're constantly babysitting all these different employees and yeah, the you know, you can only pay him X amount. You can only do this but I told myself I am not hiring an employee for their rest of my life, I just can't do it. And I just don't want to do it. So basically, my whole goal is to kind of be able to mellow this out a little bit like, I'm really happy where it's at. But again, it's super stressful. And I want to be able to, you know, do some more unique things with in the knife making, you know, realm, there's so many different styles of knives, kinds of knives, ways of making knives that I don't have time to mess with, because I'm so concentrated on customer orders. So my goal is, you know, basically right now, I long story short, I bought a chunk of land at six acres, and I'm building a house on it right now. And like, right now we've got it all framed, the trusses are going up tomorrow. And throughout this winter, I'm going to finish the inside. And then next spring, I'll be putting up my knife shop out there. So my goal is to get that knife shop just completely set up. Really, really nice to wear. I don't know about you, but it's like my whole life, I've always made stuff work. Like right now I'm working out of a two car garage that I put a bunch of time and money and work into. And it's not ideal for the situation, but I'm making it work. And my goal is to build a build this next knife shop, you know, bigger than what I'll ever need it and more efficient than ever, and be able to hopefully run some classes out of it to where you know, I get people that asked all the time, if they can come to the shop and build a knife. And just the way my shop is set up right now. It just doesn't work out, it's too tight. So I want to be able to set the next one up to where I can have some three, four or five people classes, they can come in, make a knife hang out. And I can just kind of enjoy it a little more than what I do now as far as I'm just really really grinding and hustling right now to be able to get myself to that position. And once I get my house and my barn done with my nice shop, I think I'm gonna try to mellow it out a little bit. You know what I mean?
Jeremy Perkins 32:07
Yeah, yeah, getting into like tooling, what is the number one tool that you can't live without that that anybody who decides to make knives, axes, anything that cuts or you can throw or whatever, what's what's the number one tool that you use? Well, the
Matt Gentry 32:26
the two by 72 belt grinder is like, that's the knife making setup, you know what I mean? Everybody that makes knives efficiently runs a two by 72. It's just the best size belts. It's the most efficient, it's the most powerful, everything about it's really good. And when I actually right before I went full time, I reached out to Beaumont metalworks and bought one of their KMG TX grinders, which in my opinion, it's the absolute baddest one you can buy. I mean, it's just, it's so nice. And I run that thing every single day. And I've never had an issue with it. And it's like I want I'm going to add another one of those to the shop the next one. So everything is a little more streamlined. I've got another two by 72 grinders setup right now that I run in the horizontal position, do all horizontal work. And then I've got this one set up and vertical. And then I've got the other tool that you need is a heat treat oven. And again, it's like, you want to be able to make a knife heat treated properly and know that everything is good to go on that knife. You'll never hear from that customer saying, Oh, I broke my knife or all my knife doesn't stay sharp. And when you're heat treating stuff in a heat treat oven, because some people will heat treat with a forge. And you know, your temperatures just aren't controlled enough to do that. So you got to have a good heat treat oven. And you got to have a really good grinder.
Jeremy Perkins 33:50
Interesting. That's not That's good. And to be honest with you heat treating is an art in itself. I mean, I think that's kind of where I lacking knowledge. I mean, I can sharpen something or meld steel, but really, you know, getting the right hardness and dealing in that is. So where did you get that knowledge from? Where's a good spot to find it?
Matt Gentry 34:11
Well, YouTube, honestly, like YouTube has everything. And that's why like, about three years ago, I started my YouTube channel, mainly just to branch out on social media and to kind of like give back a little the information that I've gathered from so many different YouTube channels over the years to where I've just make really simple videos covering every little intricate step of making knife. So if you ever wanted to make a knife, you could go to my YouTube channel and you could say how do I heat treat this steel? Or how do I grind this style bevel? Or how do I finish this style handle? And I probably have a video on it. And that's kind of I get people that say all the time like Wow, thanks for making these videos and seven it's like I'm doing it because that's how I got to where I'm at now is from watching other people kind of do the same exact thing you know, but as far as heat treating and stuff goes, it's so precise and that's why a lot of what you see I do is I use specific steel like I have a couple of different stainless steel that I like to use a couple of different high carbon steels and it's because I got the heat treat dialed in on those specific Steel's to where I'm like super confident that it's going to hold a great edge. It's never going to break and it's going to work forever.
Jeremy Perkins 35:33
So I know you touched on a little bit with fishing but outside of everything, is that your go to is that how Matt unwinds is getting out on the lakes fishing.
Matt Gentry 35:42
Yeah, so I've been in the fishing forever and I've got a 17 foot deep V kind of like all species boat that I use and like Great Lakes salmon fishing in the summer and winter steelhead fishing on the rivers here in Michigan is kind of my thing. And you know, like right now we I just took my family out a couple days ago out salmon fishing, because basically from mid July through mid August, out of where I'm at, which is southwest Michigan, the king salmon fishing is really good. And like we went out the other night, we left here at about five o'clock. I'm about an hour drive from Lake Michigan. And you know, we fished until sunset, we caught three kings and the lake trout and two of them were like 17 pounds. And, you know, we had a great night. And luckily my wife enjoys it. And my son's old enough now to where he thinks it's really cool. And so, like I said, I don't get out as much as what I used to. I used to fish all the time. I mean, I trust you a couple of times a week. And now with this house bill going on with how crazy this knife thing is. I don't get out nearly as much but it's it's just life, you know?
Jeremy Perkins 36:52
Yeah, it's actually it's a little known fact I spend time in the Coast Guard and I'm from the northeast and I I swear to God, I thought Maine had the most lighthouses out of all the states. Yeah, little known fact Michigan actually has over 150 lighthouses taking the cake for the most lighthouses per state.
Matt Gentry 37:12
That's interesting. I didn't even know that.
Jeremy Perkins 37:14
Yeah, I'm sure I you know, being from Maine, I figured Maine had it locked. I mean, they're known for their lighthouses. But boy was wrong.
Matt Gentry 37:23
Michigan is awesome. If you're into fishing. I mean, like I said, I'm in southwest Michigan. I'm about like 45 minutes to an hour to get to Lake Michigan from my house and I normally fish out of South Haven or Holland for salmon, steelhead trout. And then if you want to make the cruise over to Lake Erie, you've got literally the best walleye fishery pretty much in the entire world on Lake Erie, so I do that too. And fish the Detroit River for walleye and we go up north, and fish for kings up there and coals and fish called Cisco's and I do a lot of fishing all over the state. And I mean, Michigan has its ups and downs. You know, the winters here are not great, but it's actually a beautiful state, especially when you get up north. The fishing opportunities are incredible. The hunting is really good. And I honestly really like it. I probably complain about it a lot. But at the end of the day, I don't want to go anywhere else.
Jeremy Perkins 38:20
I've always wanted to make the trip. So my boat was called the Escanaba. And it was named after Escanaba, Michigan. They were talking about doing a trip up the coast of Maine and down through Canada all the way to Escanaba, Michigan and I was I wanted to do it so bad. And after I was honorably discharged, they finally did it and I was kind of pissed about
Matt Gentry 38:42
that event. A cool trip, man. Yeah,
Jeremy Perkins 38:44
I've actually never been to Michigan and a lot of good things come out of there. So no, it's definitely a beautiful place. And you know, I'd love to visit it one day. This was actually super enlightening. Definitely a great podcast and you know, you touched on the fact that your YouTube channel is is where you can find more information if you want to start doing it a little your own but anywhere else that you know they could find pertinent information or anything that anybody wants to dive deeper into Matt Gentry, where can they find you?
Matt Gentry 39:12
So I have a website. It's just Gentry custom knives.com And it's a super basic simple website but it gives people some pricing ideas gives you a way to contact me and it gives you a way to put a deposit down on a new order. If you want to check out my work I recommend go to my Instagram page at Gentry custom knives there I shared the most on Instagram. It's the easiest to really get content out there and I've got a pretty good following there. But the YouTube channel is primarily for other knife makers or if you're interested in seeing really really in depth how the process works for like I said every step of the way from starting on a knife all the way to making a kydex sheath for one I can cover everything over there. And you know like I said I try Gotta get all the different social media outlets as I can to get as much reach as I can. But if you want to learn more, shoot me a message over on Instagram or an email through my website.
Jeremy Perkins 40:10
And if you want a Gentry custom knife, you better hurry up and get them now because your books are close for 2022. So yeah,
Matt Gentry 40:18
get on it. Get on the 23 books. I've already got people getting on them. So that's really cool.
Jeremy Perkins 40:24
Awesome. Well, thanks, man. This has been awesome. And you know, I look forward to speaking with you more.
Matt Gentry 40:31
Absolutely. Thanks a lot man for having me.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
When Matt started making knives about eight years ago, it was just a hobby. After receiving a handful of inquiries into how to buy one of these custom knives, he realized this could be more than a hobby. He took it on as a side hustle to supplement his income and things took off from there. Once COVID hit and his day job took a hit, however, he realized this knife business could be something much bigger.
“After doing that for like a week, I was like, man, we got to make a change. And I got to sell this business because it's just way more lucrative to make knives and just I enjoyed it a lot more, you know.”
He sold his half of his auto shop to his business partner and went all-in on the knife work, which has taken off in a big way. He’s now seen so much success that he just takes custom orders; he’s already booked into 2023. What makes his business special is that anyone can contact him, share their vision for the knife and from there, the rest is up to him. While it is still a job, he’s in a place he wants to be — and he doesn’t take it for granted.
“A lot of people that reach out to me like, Matt, what do you do? And how do you do it? And I think I'm not saying it's locked [in], because I've worked my ass off to promote and grow and do all this stuff. But I just am really, really grateful for all the awesome customers that I've gained over the years.”
What’s next for Matt? He really wants to settle into a rhythm that allows him to get further into the trade and explore more and more types of knife making. What Matt does is art, and it looks like people have caught on to just how good his art really is.