MRG Custom Knives

100% Handcrafted with D2 Steel
14

We waded through the aisles of people, glancing left to right in amazement. I’d never been to a gun show before, much less something the caliber of the Ohio Gun Collector’s Association (OGCA) show. Though the name implies a state organization, it is anything but little. The OGCA has 18,000 members and is the largest gun collector’s association in the world. May was the annual display show, a chance for members to display their personal collections and compete for prizes. What separates this show from others is not only the size, but the types of vendors. Unlike other shows, which may include baked goods and novelties among firearms, OGCA shows only permit firearms and those items specifically related. Amidst tables of overpriced ammunition, beautifully engraved shotguns, M1 Garands and rows of bayonets, a shiny black serpentine pattern caught my eye.

The table of knives was arranged in neat rows. Each had a unique pattern, no two were the same. I’m by no means a knife expert and tend to be skeptical. I’ve had several Chinese knockoff knives before and seen promotional pocket knives marketed as something special at plenty of garage sales. These were different. My dad, who had come along with me, was also impressed, which is not an easy feat.

Mark Gutekunst, owner of MRG Knives, began crafting knives eight years ago after watching a video online. Though not his full-time career, Gutekunst puts hours of care into each piece of art and its accompanying leather sheath, 15 to 20 hours’ worth. Though independent knife makers are a dime a dozen, the craftsmanship and colorful handles set MRG apart. Gutekunst fashions his blades out of D2 tool steel and AEBL stainless razor blade steel for edge holding. The steel is professionally heat- and cryo-treated to enhance toughness and edge holding abilities. He also makes everything from scratch using wood, micarta, G10 and aluminum. He makes some of the micarta with custom colors of canvas, denim and burlap.

 

On the table corner rested an obtuse looking wooden form, a visual aid Gutekunst used to show his process and the internal parts of the knife. All are full tang and come in a variety of shapes and sizes, most commonly 7″, 8″, 9″ and 10″ in a drop-point hunter style. I decided to investigate a further and do a little testing of my own. Even with my small hands the fixed blade balanced well and was incredibly comfortable to hold. All edges are perfectly smooth and a thin line of color runs between the handles and the blade. The blade sliced through paper with zero effort and showed no signs of wear or weakness with heavy duty jobs. A combination of brute strength and elegance, rubbing my thumb along the smooth handle was almost therapeutic.

Rather than place his labors of love in commercially manufactured sheaths, Gutekunst hand stiches each of his leather sheaths and wet fits them to each knife. I’d never seen a wet-fitted sheath before, but it was truly molded to the knife, keeping it secure. Though I’ve never considered carrying a knife this way, the sheath has a belt loop for horizontal carry.

Gutekunst, based in Cincinnati, Ohio, sells his creations at local gun and knife shows but people can contact him through phone, email, Facebook and Instagram. “Each knife is my ‘baby,’” he admitted, “So yes, it is hard to let each knife be sold. But then I just make another one and the process keeps going.” Sharing his talent with others and allowing the outside world to appreciate his knives’ beauty outweighs the desire to keep them all to himself. You can contact MRG Knives through Facebook (@MRGKnives), Instagram (@MRG_knives) or Mark Gutekunst directly by phone (513-919-5542) and email ([email protected]).