Smock Knives Goes from Chop Shop to Knife Shop

The last few years have seen the knife modding scene explode in popularity. A trip to the forums or to Instagram will reveal page after page of people showing off their modded knives: different finishes, scale materials, clips, anodizations – it goes on and on. Many of the big names in custom knives got their start doing mod work on production knives.

One such maker is Kevin Smock, of Smock Knives. Formerly working under the name Bower Bladeworks, Smock made a name for himself with his high quality mods of popular production knives. A Product Designer by trade, Smock began his knife making career modding blades for himself, starting with a Spyderco Tenacious: “I saw that people like Tuffthumbz [of] were modifying it and I was like, ‘I can do that!’” As it tends to go with talented modders, Smock gained fans and customers through word-of-mouth and YouTube; “I started getting requests to do other peoples’ knives and it just kinda snowballed from there.”

Although he’s done work on a lot of different knives – the Spyderco Paramilitary 2, Techno, Junior – Smock’s claim to modding fame is a chopped down version of the Spyderco Southard called, appropriately enough, the Mini Southard. And like his modding career in general, it started as a personal project. Smock was living in Michigan and coping with the knife laws there, which prohibit a knife over three inches: “The only problem with the Spyderco Southard is it’s over 3 inches”, says Smock. “So what does a guy do? Cut it down.”

The result is really less of a mod than it is an entirely new knife: smaller, with a different blade shape and contoured handles, the Mini Southard is gorgeous and useful. Whether or not it was intentional, the Southard has always been a popular blade for modding; “I think companies do themselves a favor when they design a knife that is mod friendly,” says Smock, who reckons he has sold between 50-100 Southards for Spyderco due to the popularity of his mod.

Mini Southard 1

Pimped-out Mini Southard

But what exactly makes a knife mod friendly? Smock prefers knives made from titanium (which can be anodized), or those with easily-removable scales over liners. Blades with more complicated construction, like Benchmade knives with their intricate Axis Locks, are less desirable to work with; “Most knives can be done, but I like to stick to the ones I know.” The knife companies certainly seem to understand the desirability of a moddable knife; many of 2015’s (and early 2016’s) most popular designs featured this sort of mod-friendly construction.

Smock has grown his business over the years, and broke into the custom knife scene with the SK23, a folding knife that, like Smock’s modding work, manages to stand out in a crowded field. “I literally made a list of everything I hate about certain knives and I made a list of things I love about certain knives. If it was on the hate list, it couldn’t be in the SK23 design.” The resulting knife is distinct, and distinctly Smockian (to coin a term), with beautiful anodized titanium scales, a compression Lock licensed from Spyderco, and a blade shape similar to the modified sheepsfoot of the Mini Southard.

Smock Knives Shop

Smock Knives’ Brand New Shop

A recent move to a bigger shop has given Smock the space he needs for better equipment: “My goal for 2016 is to buy a CNC machine and get caught up on orders,” he says. From there, Smock’s next projects are the EDSK, a small, inexpensive fixed blade designed for everyday carry, and possibly even a set of kitchen cutlery. Smock has even been talking about possible collaborations, but at this point nothing can be confirmed. Whatever comes next though, expect the same commitment to innovation and quality that has marked both Smock’s mods and his custom designs.

Knife featured in image: Smock Knives SK23