Six years ago, then–media sales executive Travis Weige decided he needed a lifestyle change. “I was working in front of a computer 40 to 60 hours a week or always on a plane,” he says. "I wanted to spend more time with my family." So on a whim, he started watching knife-making videos on YouTube, and knife making became his new hobby. Turns out, he had a knack for creating custom knives out of the highest-quality steel and wood.
After about three years of honing his craft, which included making knives in his spare time, reading every knife-making book he could get his hands on, and taking a course at the American Bladesmith Society in Arkansas, Weige decided to make the jump to being a knife maker full-time in September 2014.
Today, his random hobby is a full-fledged business, and Weige is one of the most revered knife craftsman in the United States, with a 14-month waiting list for his custom Weige Knives creations. And the best part? “Now I work from home, so I can pick my kids up from school and play with them outside in the afternoon,” he says.
What makes your knives different?
They are traditional knives, which is difficult to do. It's kind of like chipping away all the stuff you don’t need in a knife to make a basic, streamlined knife. And I was one of the first to allow customers to choose almost all their materials. Most knife makers just build the knife and sell it; they don’t have a customer in mind. But eight out of 10 knives we build are already sold.
Who is your ideal customer?
I like to make knives for butchers, people who abuse knives and put them through the test. But if you have enough time and money, I can build you anything, from a hunting knife to a Santoku knife. Except it must be a practical, everyday knife—not a trophy or something you show off and don’t use. I always email customers a few months after they've received their knife to see how it is going. Some of them tell me that the knife is just too pretty to use, and that hurts my heart.
Tell me about the line of knives you make for Kettle & Brine.
It's a Weige Knives exclusive—I don’t build them for anyone else. Each has a brass bolster, a traditional walnut handle sourced from a mill in Georgetown, and a unique black-and-white striped liner. It’s one of my favorites, though it is one of the most difficult to build. Brass is difficult to work with, but I still love it.
Do you have a dream person or company you’d like to make knives for?
My favorite chef is Jacques Pepin. He’s so cool and calm. I like his show, and I have his cookbook. It’s so ambitious—it has snails in it. I’d like to make him a chef’s knife.
Do you cook?
I do. I use my knives every day. I try to keep it simple. I use three knives: a paring knife, a chef’s knife and a utility knife. And I make my wife any knife she wants.
What is your at-home cooking ritual?
I get up very early in the morning and start my day off with an espresso, or three. My wife bought me a Nespresso machine for my birthday years back, and since then I rarely drink coffee. I'll have two to four espressos each morning, depending on how early I rise. As for cooking, our only real rituals are Taco Tuesday and Sunday dinner. We may not do Taco Tuesday each week, but we do Sunday dinner consistently. I enjoy making an in-depth meal on the weekend that will leave me with leftovers during the work week. I'll pull a recipe from Jack Allen's cookbook or Jacques Pepin's cookbook to try something different. That is really the only day I have time to make a meal that takes a while.
Any new projects on the horizon?
Texas Monthly recently started selling our knives online. And we are in talks with large retailers to make home editions of our knives. These would be higher-quality American steel knives for an affordable price, in the $200-$300 range. That will probably start in 2018; we are laying that foundation now.
Did you ever think watching YouTube videos would turn into this?
Every single day that I am making knives, I think it is weird. Never in a million years would I have thought I’d be one of the most sought-after knife makers in the U.S.