Darrel Ralph

Portrait de Darrel RALPH
  • Surname: Darrel
  • First name: Ralph
  • Country: USA Galena (Ohio)
  • Website: http://www.darrelralph.com/

Could you depict a self-portrait ?

I live and work in Galena, near Columbus, Ohio. My wife and I have three sons: Robert, Ryan and Ian. My son Ryan Bailey is 27-years old and works along with me as a full-time custom knife maker in my shop. Ryan has just completed his first sole-authorship custom knife design, the EDC Tribal, available from http://www.truenorthknives.com. He is working on balisongs now also.

How have you come to balisong, and why do you like this kind of knife ?

I began making knives in 1987, and the first knife I ever made was a Balisong. I have always loved the Balisong knife and have worked its design over in my mind on a continual basis for many years.

How have you come to produce balisongs ?

While I have always loved Balisong knives, my first serious attempt at building a good one was my Gemini Balisong (in 2000.) This was a very challenging project, and one that brought me many rewards as a custom knife maker. The Gemini Balisong was extremely well received by collectors, and its success has enabled me to continue developing new Balisong designs ever since.

Is balisong a knife which permits you to artistically express yourself? Does it better than for another folder ?

The Balisong knife presents many challenges to the custom knife maker. Unlike any other knife, the Balisong has two handles. Thus, it can be twice as hard to build as another knife design. Operating a Balisong knife requires more motion and energy than any other knife. This presents challenges in constructing and precisely fitting its components to accommodate all of that extra motion and energy. It is also a challenge to develop new designs with good balance, high-performance capability and long-term durability. I find my best means of self-expression by developing the skills to overcome these technical challenges with interesting, original designs.

Which material do you prefer for blades (different steels) and handles (Titanium, g10, brass, wood) and why are they your favorite ?

I build Balisong knives only from durable materials. I try to choose the most interesting, beautiful and appropriate materials for my designs. Not only do I try to design for feel and balance but, I try to balance materials and finishes for the eye.
I make Balisong blades mainly from high-performance stainless steel, such as Crucible's S30V and CPM S30V, CPM 154, and others. I use Mike Norris stainless steel Damascus for both blades and handles, in patterns he welds exclusively for me. I make both stainless steel and Titanium-handled Balisongs, and have developed my own techniques to give them durable anodized color finishes.
I am also known for inlaying special materials into my Balisong handles, and will use almost any durable, interesting material that I think will excite collectors. Some of the most noted inlay materials I have used are: antique tortoise shell, premium mother of pearl, sharkskin, Tritium and meteoric iron. I am constantly searching for new, interesting inlay materials.

Do you use CNC machine or do you work exclusively manually ? What do you think the CNC machine brings ?

I build only high-performance Balisongs. Among the characteristics of high-performance Balisongs are very precise fittings and strong internal construction. I use CNC machining to make these very precise fittings within extremely close tolerances.
I prefer to use CNC machines and processes when possible. It makes an enormous difference in the quality that I can deliver in a finished knife. I've invested my life into making the best quality knives and I do all the work in my shop from my own designs. Few people know that I make my own parts here - all the screws, pivots and other fittings used in my knives. Every single part of a Darrel Ralph knife is made right here, under my own roof. This makes me one of the only knife makers in the world who makes every single component part of his knives, himself.

Do you EDC or flip balisongs ?

I own several Balisongs, some of my own and some made by other good Balisong makers. The one that I carry most often, and which brings me the most joy, is made from a kit. It is the TYPHOON Balisong I designed for KnifeKits.com. I own some Jody Sampson balis, a few old Benchmades, and several Filipino Butterfly knives.Most of the other balis that I have flipped are heavy, clumsy and poorly balanced. Too many new Balisong makers fail to design for good performance and performance and balance, and concentrate solely on appearance. Many are in the market for a fast buck, and have no passion for high-performance design.
hold to the adage that, "Form follows function" in my designs. While I make many original, groundbreaking designs I keep my focus on high-performance functionality, with the advice of world-class Balisong experts such as Rob Rugur and Michael D. Janich.

Do you envision making spring latch balisongs ?

I spend a great deal of time in research and development of new designs. One of the things that I continue to work on is a strong, reliable and durable spring latch for high-performance balisongs. I have several designs for a good spring latches in development, and when one meets my high-performance standards I will introduce it. Any new design has to function perfectly and reliably, or I will not build it.

How do you think that the world of balisong will evolve in the future ?

The Balisong knife is enjoying worldwide resurgence in popularity right now. I think that we will see a lot of exciting, new Balisong knife designs in the near future. I think that this trend will continue well into the next decade, with more Balisongs designed for everyday carry and utility.
Additionally, my partnership with KnifeKits.com is working very hard to establish competitive Balisong flipping as an internationally recognized sport. We believe that such recognition will be a boon to Balisong flippers, collectors and makers alike, and we are working to meet our goal within the next few years. One of our most recent steps we have taken toward that goal has been to complete an agreement to sponsor Rob Rugur.
Rob Rugur is considered by many to be the best Balisong flipper in North America. KnifeKits.com now sponsors all of Rob Rugur's appearances in competitive Balisong flipping events in 2006 and beyond, with the goal of attracting more attention to this wonderful knife design.

In your opinion, what are the benefits of IKBS ?

The IKBS is a reduced-friction bearing system and it is excellent for Balisong knives.

You work on a technical improvement, is it about a new version of IKBS ?

I have an exclusive license to use the IKBS in my custom knives, but I am a dedicated full-time knife designer and I am constantly working to improve the functionality and performance of my knives. My collectors and visitors to my website are always the first to see new developments in my knife designs.

A rumor of collaboration with a big knifemaking brand, is it true or false? How is this project going ?

I have designed more than 100 knife designs that have been produced by a half-dozen knife manufacturers in several countries. I am often approached by knife manufacturers for design projects and almost always turn them down. In the past, those projects have not always allowed me to guarantee the quality and performance of the final product to the customer. This has been a disappointment to me because quality, performance and reliability have always been my paramount knife making concerns. Rather than entering into new design agreement with another traditional knife manufacturer, l decided to established my own production knife company. The name of the new company is MAXX QUALITY KNIVES.
I have several new patent-pending knife designs, and inventions in development for the new company. I am working on production processes for a new "MAXX Q" Balisong line as we speak. These will be built the way I want them built: without compromise in quality, performance or price. It is refreshing to finally be able to design production knives the way I want to make them.
MAXX QUALITY KNIVES is founded on the same principles that guide my custom knife making, chiefly: "Do not follow where the path may lead, I go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."

Thank you Darrel for taking the time to answer our questions. A last word before you leave ? (Your topicality or any other subject which you would like to approach)

I've enjoyed talking to you about the Balisong - one of my favorite knife designs. I keep an open shop and always welcome visitors who stop by to talk about custom knives. I only ask that they call ahead - especially when traveling a great distance.
One of the things I am most proud of is that my son Ryan Bailey is now full-time custom knife maker working on his own designs. He has worked hard in my shop for five years and I am excited to pass what I've learned on to him and to see what things he can accomplish on his own.
This is what I am here for ... to pass my knowledge along to the next generation of knife makers.
~ Darrel

Darrel RALPH