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There is little subtlety in the designs of Sean Kendrick. His knives are big, his blades are thick, and his grips will jump equally well into a glove or slippery hand. This is by design. Kendrick’s custom-knife owners have served and are currently serving in some of the most inhospitable places in the world. If your knife buying priorities include dissecting rose petals, the Bad Blood series from HallMark may not be for you. But if you are more likely to find yourself prying open a crate, punching through a light-skinned aircraft or slicing your way out of a tight spot, then pay attention.

HallMark Cutlery, a 30-year-old, family-owned, American cutlery business, has teamed up with knife designer Sean Kendrick to produce a line of rugged tactical and hunting knives affordably priced for the broader knife market. The partnership began in late 2010, when Jacob Hall, president of HallMark, was walking throughout a knife show and noticed knives that looked and felt different from those at the other tables at the show. Sean and Jacob found common ground, and their relationship grew from there. The Bad Blood models, HallMark’s production version of Kendrick’s designs, are well into their second generation with a third on the way. Sean Kendrick’s DNA may be perfect for a knifemaker. Originally from Kentucky, Kendrick is the grandson of a blacksmith and the son of an artist mother and a master electrician, plumber and mechanic father. At the 2013 Blade Show, Kendrick shared, “My mother finally took away an inches-deep stack of knife drawings I had made from a young age. I have always been interested in knives and knife design.” But his knifemaking began in 1994, when he lost a pocketknife he had lent to a friend. “He lost a knife I had owned for some time. I decided to build one myself rather than buying a new one.”

When asked how he comes up with his designs, Kendrick gave a curious answer: “I listen to my customers, of course. Many are military operators, and the majority have a fear of being stuck in a crashed helicopter. That situation could require a tough knife to cut away straps and even thin, metal skin to extricate oneself and fellow operators, so factors like that are always in my mind. They also operate a long way from a hardware store, so a broken knife can really be a problem. But my ultimate designs typically come when I am listening to music, thinking about what the knives need to do and blending those inspirations. I am influenced by the music while I draw, but I have a practical understanding of knives from what I learned on my own or been taught by makers like Mike Franklin and Dave Mosier.”…

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