As part of an ongoing effort to highlight a variety of great makers from the community, Beaumont Metalworks has started our new Maker Spotlight initiative where we will regularly feature makers that we feel has contributed to the community and use their BMW equipment to make awesome tools! This edition, we have selected Dwayne Unger. Dwayne has been involved in the outdoors and knife industries for quite some time and has a very interesting perspective on both. Here is a bit of our last conversation with him. Hope you all enjoy!
JB: So Dwayne, we met at Bladeshow about 3 years ago and have kept in touch each year since, but for the readers let’s get started with some background like when and where you started your company.
DU: This is true and officially, Dwayne Unger Outdoors started in 2017 in New Oxford, PA.
JB: What got you into knives?
DU: Since I was a child running around on my grandparent’s farm, I always had pocketknives and was very involved in various outdoor activities.
JB: I think most of us had an Old Time pocketknife or two at some point back in the day haha. So, how did you get started and what is the story behind the company?
DU: Well, in 2011 took my first wilderness learning course and started studying and embracing survival and bushcraft – that was when I got my first quality custom fixed blade. Getting into the industry and being able to meet awesome people has been a great experience that made me want to be more involved. To be able to look at a piece of steel and visualize and turn it into a functional too is really rewarding – like when I first carved a kuksa by hand.
JB: Definitely a rewarding experience transforming the steel and I can whittle a spoon, but I feel like a mug is a serious time commitment! How did you learn about knives and making them?
DU: As I started using them more, I started paying attentions to the details and attributes of each design and appreciating features for different uses. In 2017 Scott Gossman of Gossman Knives got involved with Bladesports and asked me to come down to see what it was all about. We camped out in 15 degree weather, and the following day we were cutting water bottles and the water from the cut would freeze on the blade before we could even wipe them down, haha. It was a great experience though and following that first competition I started working on a design to personally meet my swing style and strengths, and started the process of making the Black Mamba, a competition chopper designed specifically to compete in Bladesports. Scott gave assistance throughout the process and advised on the technique to make the knife.
JB: I know it well! I know you probably won’t say it, so let me ask about it for the readers; what have you used that knife for?
DU: (Laughing) I used that knife to win the episode (S1, Ep 4) of The History Channel’s Forged in Fire: Knife or Death that I was on last year.
JB: Aaaaand, what else?
DU: I also used a version 2 to win the 2018 Bladesports International Championship the same year haha.
JB: That you did! Congratulations, man! Huge year for you for sure and it was great seeing you take 1st last year! Changing gears a little bit, let’s talk about knifemaking. Why did you choose to use a Beaumont Metals grinder to make your products?
DU: That’s what I learned on and became comfortable with and felt a lot of control with the edge geometry especially when using rotary platen and slack belt to achieve the convex geometry I like for Bladesports. I bought my first KMG grinder a little over a year ago.
JB: Any tips or tricks you have found for using the KMG?
DU: I love that Rotary Platen – gives you a ton of control for convex edges. I learned on the KMG with the belts running in reverse, so when I purchased mine I invested in the reverse switch, allowing me to run the belt in either direction, depending on what I’m doing.
JB: The rotary platen definitely expands capabilities, especially for convexing. I’ve always been interested in the benefits of running backwards depending on style of grinding – we will have to get into that next time for sure! Other than the Black Mamba, what is another model you are particularly proud of that was made on the KMG?
DU: The Cadre Cleaver is a take on the Siberian style chef’s knife – a local survivalist asked me to make one in my own style and I made one for him and one for myself. I decided to use 80CRV2 for high carbon content, ability to take patina, and edge-holding. It turned out even better than I expected and has performed extremely well in survival/bushcraft. Everywhere I’ve taken this, it’s been a hit. I’m currently working on several orders right now with variety of micarta handle colors.
JB: Awesome! Definitely looking forward to seeing those ones! What are some of your inspirations for the methodology and thought behind your blades?
DU: There are definitely a few, but I will start with the first two that come to mind. Scott Gossman knew that I needed a high performing knife and was willing to help me throughout the process of making my first knife. I have a lot of respect for both his knives and skills that I use for bushcraft and survival. The second would have to be Kevin Estela for helping me get involved in the survival and bushcraft industry and teaching a litany of skills related to knife usage in the outdoor world.
JB: Great people to work with great people like that. In the same fashion, it has been a pleasure getting to know you over the years and getting to interview you today, Dwayne! Thanks again!