Is the Auto Knife Maker the New King of Spring?

by Tommy Grant

Some people are born into legacies and only have to do the bare minimum to take control of an empire. However, others truly earn every ounce of their soon-to-be domains. Then, there are the 1% who are born into a legacy and work nonstop to continue earning their keep, only to walk away from it and forge a new birthright from scratch. This is exactly what TJ Marfione did to create his own company, Heretic Knives. TJ is the son of Anthony Marfione, the CEO of world-renowned Microtech Knives.

Heretic Knives—The Formative Years

Since the age of six, TJ knew that he wanted to be a knifemaker. While his father was grinding steel, TJ would mimic him. Specifically, he would turn over a bicycle and pretend its back wheel was a grinding stone.

As he got older, his father gave him more responsibilities. Everything from burning paracord knife lanyards to making boxes or even sweeping up the shop. TJ started on the ground floor and did everything he could to work his way up the company line. Eventually, he worked up to custom shop manager, which is one of the highest positions at Microtech.

But there comes a time when a man has to take his own path. TJ realized that his designs and ideas did not share the same vision as his father’s. So, he made the bold choice to part ways.

From there, TJ took the huge risk of founding Heretic Knives in 2016 with his wife, Jessica. Its mission was to create utilitarian and tactical knives that would never fail their end users. Likewise, they would never compromise on fit and finish and would make them in the USA.

On paper, their concepts sounded great and impressive. However, actually having the skills and fortitude to make it happen in real life is how the men are separated from the boys.

OTF (Out-The-Front) Autos

For those who do not know, Heretic Knives specializes in making switchblades. Not only do they make a modern variation of the classic switchblade that has the blade come out of the side, but they also make OTF (out-the-front) switchblades.

The OTF is exactly what you are picturing right now. It’s a knife that releases the blade out the front of the handle when the button is actuated. Heretic’s double-action switchblades then retract the blade back into the handle with another push of the slide button.

Why would anyone want such a feature on a knife? The answer is simple—it allows for fast, one-handed deployment (in case you need your support hand to help fend off an attacker). Not to mention, it is just plain badass!

OTF Knife with Damascus blade.

Some critics of this type of knife think OTFs aren’t reliable and that the blade may retract unexpectedly during use. However, I can assure you that Heretic Knives double-action switchblades are extremely safe and reliable.

Once the blade is fully deployed, an internal lock (that you cannot see) engages and will not let the blade retract unless the slide button is depressed again.

Also, let’s debunk the myth that an accidentally deployed OTF will go through an article of clothing and penetrate the user’s skin. TJ has created a special safety feature that bounces the blade off track. This prevents it from fully locking out if the blade is interrupted before it is fully deployed.  

Affordable and Reliable

Producing reliable, affordable switchblades is not an easy task. Especially when they have complicated mechanisms with small springs, screws, and other tiny internal pieces that allow the blade to move back and forth.

Every knife that leaves Heretic has been hand-assembled by either TJ or Jessica. While it is not polite to disclose quantities, every Heretic blade is hand-sharpened by the owner himself. And when I say “hand sharpened,” I am talking razor-like, hair-popping sharp.

While Heretic’s lineup is predominantly switchblades, they still produce manual folders and fixed blades. These are ideal for the person who does not care for an automatic or who is restricted from owning one due to state law.

Heretic Knives manual folding knife.

Heretic Knives Custom Shop

Down the road, it is inevitable that Heretic Knives will continue to grow. So, eventually, the command staff will not be able to assemble every knife, and an assembly team will have to be brought in. However, there is one thing that will never change, and that is the Heretic custom shop.

The custom shop is where TJ solely works on his high-end, hand-built knives. Each blade that leaves the custom shop is hand-ground from scratch and then finished to a state of pure perfection. Imagine a blade that is made from steel yet looks like a glass mirror.

The knives that leave the custom shop are as close to flawless as a handmade product can be. This means countless hours of work go into each knife. Their custom handles are made from stainless steel, which then must be hand-finished. This differs from the production-line knives that have aluminum handles, which are anodized by a machine.

Heretic’s custom shop knives are comparable to what AMG is to the Mercedes lineup—pure luxury performance. The average Heretic production knife price starts at around $260 and goes up to $500. However, the price for a custom knife starts at $1,400 and can reach up to the $3,500 mark.

Heretic Knives Custom Shop.

Cutting to the Chase

Recently, Heretic Knives won the Manufacturing Quality Award at the 2021 Blade Show, which is the industry’s largest trade event. So, if you are looking for a knife that is built to last or even just a collectible asset, check out what Heretic Knives has to offer.

Not only are you supporting a truly American-made product, but you are also supporting a small, family-owned business. And that is exactly what this country needs right now!

For more information, please visit HereticKnives.com.

This article was originally published in the Skillset Winter 2022 issue. Purchase this issue in print or digital at OutdoorGroupStore.com.

Automatic out the side folding knife.

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