An industrial engineer by training, Johnson began building knives at a very young age, learning skills at his uncle’s elbow, a welder in Nebraska. Fascinated with weaponry and how things worked, he continued to try new designs and techniques through trial and error followed by some metallurgy electives in college to satisfy his curiosity for materials. His skills continued to evolve and he began making custom designs mostly for friends and referrals using his knives in military, hunting and adventure applications. Johnson met Paul Tsujimoto and John Stitt at KA-BAR knives and they began discussing the possibilities of production knives based upon his designs. “It is a process to take a custom design and make it a production knife. There are market, material and price-point considerations, but a good design will survive the collaboration.” As the Field Editor of Boar Hunter magazine, Johnson knew he had a winner with the Baconmaker, particularly as a fit for the hog-hunting set.
The Baconmaker sports a high-carbon (1095 carbon steel) 7-1/8-inch fixed blade with a Rockwell Hardness of 56-58. Originally, a .25-inch-thick blade, the production model ended up with .188-inch steel to better facilitate an entry thrust. While observers have noted a “Persian” influence to the Baconmaker’s curving spine and point, Johnson maintains the design was more the product of “walking around the yard sticking things and finding an optimal design.” The handle material is proprietary Adventuregrip, a brown injection-molded polymer that gives a positive, stippled reptilian feel to the multi-position handle. With an overall length of 12-5/8 inches and a weight of 13.6 ounces, there is nothing subtle about the Baconmaker.
Built with that same philosophy in mind, Johnson designed a utilitarian cousin for the Baconmaker, named the Potbelly. Johnson describes the Potbelly as “the illegitimate offspring of a sledgehammer and a scalpel, a hammer with an edge.” A working knife with a thick and deep bellied blade (.25-inch x 7-1/8-inch of 1095), its blade and handle angles are designed so the wrist will be in a strong position to chop. He was inspired to design this knife when faced with situations where “a hatchet just wasn’t getting it done, but I wanted a practical piece of high-carbon field steel that I could easily resharpen.”