Sacha Thiel

  • Surname: Thiel
  • Fisrtname: Sacha
  • Country: France

Could you depict a self-portrait ?

I'm 36 years old. I have been living with my wife in Alsace for 3 years. I'm a maintenance technician in automatisms and industrial computer science, in an electric protection company. Since my childhood I make objects (generally "weapons"), such as bow and arrows, nunchaku, shuriken, catapult, boomerang, wooden or metallic dagger. I took inspiration from movies and TV series that I could have watched. I like martial arts, I practiced karate, english boxing, during many years, but also cycling and archery. Nowadays I shoot handguns (.357 Magnum). This taste for homemade objects comes from my grand father who always had a present he made himself for me when I came visiting him. So he handed me down the tradition and today I make custom knives. I'm a self-taught person. Nobody showed me or taught me. I tried to follow logic in order to achieve what I wanted in most arts.

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

I had balis when I was a teenager, but the low cost bali shapes never attracted me. It's Tuan Luong who contacted me for a first collaboration and made me discover the many artistic possibilities offered by this kind of knives. I find it to be a tremendous tool; it can be opened and closed with only one hand, it's very sturdy, versatile, and even with the negative opinions I had about it, I think we can do very original but beautiful and efficient things.

What is your source of inspiration, your muse ?

My wife would probably love me to say that she is my one and only source of inspiration, but she's not... I go on a lot of U.S. knifemakers websites; I feel closer to their production than french regional knives (certainly because of a lack of culture). I still have a bad time defining a style that (sortir du lot) and that would characterize what I like and what I don't. But concerning balisongs I think that my favorite knifemaker is Randy Doucette. He always astonishes me as I see his new knives, by the way he gives such smooth lines on his balis.

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

Though it is originally an excellent knife, what I like the most in the balisong is when it's the result of a big artistic research; and I think it obliges to make artistic and technical efforts (position and size of the spacers and axles) more important than for a classical folder. Nevertheless, the reduced size of the liners (in width) implies a more meticulous work (insert) and more precise tools.

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

I only use inox steels because in my opinion they are the better ones. They offer an excellent cutting power and are not subject to oxydation in normal use. Since today's industrial steels are excellent (D2, RWL34, CPMS30V), I don't see the point in forging a blade. For the balis' liners, (but also folders') I only use titanium. It's solid, lightweight, doesn't rust, can be anodized, bead blasted or polished, that leaves to the surface a more sweet look and touch.
I made some knife handles with exotic woods, sometimes stabilized, but I tend to only use synthetic materials like G10, micarta or carbon fiber. Unlike wood, they don't suffer from moist or temperature changes, are rotproof, very sturdy and can be used in thinner blocks than for wood whose fibers are not crossed and tangled up.

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

There is the list of my equipement :

  • A hand saw.
  • A band saw for wood only.
  • A small jewel maker grinder with fine grain
  • A big jewel maker grinder
  • A bead blasting machine with compressor
  • A backstand (250 mm wheel with homemade speed variator)
  • 2 grinding machines that I don't use
  • 2 350W drilling machines that I use a lot.
  • A set of small files + some half round files of diverse sizes.
  • A milling machine: SB20BFN. 1kW. Manual crossed table.
  • A Dremel tool with diverse accessories.

At my workplace I can ocasionally use a big milling machine and a lathe (to make axles and folder blades) but shhhhh! Nobody must know.
I'd like to have access to a CNC mill to make neat curvy cuts. But today, it's financially out of my reach. I don't blame this kind of machines because for me, the only important thing is the result. The use and the mastery of a complex machine doesn't reduce the quality of a knife... It does add quality. That permits a greater machining precision, and it saves time. Yet I don't consider CNC milling is only for industrial series; the only thing that interest me in these tools is the quality aspect.

Do you EDC balisongs ?

No, because I still have not had the time to make one for myself.

Do you flip balisongs ?

Rarely. I only do basic openings. I don't really flip !

How would you describe your creations ?

As Tuan said, I'm a High tech craftsman. I love modern knives but I want them to be well made. I'm a bit perfectionnist and it sometimes slows me down a lot in my work. I love 1/1000mm fittings and faultless finishes.

Which advice could you give to an amateur or professional knifemaker which wants to start making balisongs ?

Come make a training period with me ;)
No, more seriously I don't think a bali is harder to make than a liner lock. Though, it asks for less work and reflexion, fittings, and finishing. A professional could do that without a problem but I advise beginner knifemakers against them.

According to you, how will the balisong evolve in the future ?

I would like it to evolve but the politics doesn't seem to have the same opinion; I think about the recent law forbidding the balisong carry in Belgium. As for me, if the demand decreases, the offers will follow and that doesn't invite knifemakers to make a knife he will have a hard time to sell or that makes him an outlaw. Nowadays, in some expositions it is forbidden to show a balisong.

Thank you Sacha for taking the time to answer our questions.