Renegade Zieba Knives Takes Top Honors at Blade Show

Michael Zieba’s trajectory to the upper echelons of the custom knife world is not because he’s following in the footsteps of other successful makers, but because he isn’t. “I don’t follow any other makers,” says Zieba, who just picked up the Best New Maker Award at Blade Show 2016.

Most rookies get traction by sticking to a single design, or at least specializing in a single category of knives they can master. Instead, Zieba is always trying new things. Kitchen knives, steak knives, front flippers, frame locks, even oyster knives – if the project sounds interesting, Zieba can’t resist pushing the limits of his experience.

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Zieba bucks convention in other ways too. After he finishes a new prototype, he’ll put it away for six months to make sure the quality holds. If a bolt comes loose or a handle scale cracks, the knife is scrapped and it’s back to square one. Zieba doesn’t take many orders directly, preferring to make what he wants to make and sell through dealers. The result is he can keep his standards high without disappointing customers with long delays.

Zieba Knives S2 Folder

No matter the project, there are some things customers can count on. Zieba only uses the best available hardware. He chooses to fabricate his knives by hand instead of contracting out parts. Zieba even avoids CNC machining. These choices go against current knifemaking trends, but they also give Zieba knives their particular appeal.

Zieba Petty Kitchen Knives


This attention to the little things paid off big this year. 2016 was only the second year Zieba attended Blade Show, and he managed to leave with a much-coveted award in tow. With hundreds of custom makers exhibiting, being recognized as the Best New Maker was a vindication of Zieba’s contrarian approach: “Just be yourself, without any extra pushing,” he says.

After such an award, other makers might be rushing to increase their production volume or to collaborate more with production companies, but not Zieba. Sure, he’d like another employee or two in the years to come, but as ever he’s more interested in his work and the message it sends out: “Showing people that simple things are good.”

Knife featured in image: Zieba Knives S2 Folder