How do you get to space? By be­ing well-grounded. This year, while at the 2017 BLADE Show in At­lanta, Ge­or­gia, I got to spend some time with Jake Hoback of Jake Hoback Knives. As we ate lunch and talked, I was im­mensely im­pressed with the vast wealth of knowl­edge Jake has about all things knives, met­al­lurgy, fold­ing mech­a­nisms and other top­ics I can’t even re­mem­ber enough about to com­ment on. But what re­ally im­pressed me the most, was how hum­ble he was, in spite of his near-com­puter-like brain. Or so I thought.

It was when the topic turned to the Par­a­clete—a new model Jake cre­ated to pro­to­type the zero-grav­ity fold­ing mech­a­nism—that I knew this story had to be writ­ten. Af­ter all, it isn’t ev­ery day you get to spend time with a maker de­sign­ing a pro­to­type knife with as­pi­ra­tions to sub­mit it to NASA for con­sid­er­a­tion to take it to space.

But, I’ll let him tell you about him­self and the Par­a­clete in his own words. —JS

KI: How did you come to speak with NASA about the zero-grav­ity folder?

JH: I have a good friend who is the lead engi­neer for NASA JPL, he has been a great help in get­ting me on the right path with what would be needed in space travel. So, I spent a bunch of time down at JPL dis­cussing dif­fer­ent ques­tions with NASA en­gi­neers. I have not brought them a de­sign as of yet, as I wanted to use the Par­a­clete knife model as a prov­ing ground for some very spe­cific ideas on lock/bear­ing/ light­weight de­sign be­fore go­ing ahead with a knife made specif­i­cally for space travel. Now that the re­search/ idea-ex­change phase is over, I am de­sign­ing a knife from scratch that will bet­ter ac­com­mo­date spe­cific needs for space travel.

KI: What are some of the con­sid­er­a­tions that arise when de­sign­ing a folder for zero grav­ity?

JH: I can’t give away all I have learned at the mo­ment, as I have not had a chance to sub­mit my de­sign to NASA, but some of the things that you have to con­sider for non-ter­res­trial use are things that most col­lec­tors and users on Terra would not re­ally like. The blade shouldn’t fall closed with­out man­u­ally clos­ing it. It needs to have as few mov­ing parts as pos­si­ble. It will also have to be ex­tremely light­weight to the ex­tent that it’s ex­tremely ex­pen­sive.

KI: How do you start the think­ing process for some­thing so mon­u­men­tal?

JH: One foot in front of the other! One step at a time. I mas­ter­mind with other de­sign­ers, en­gi­neers, machinists. I have con­sulted with machinists who have been in the game for more than 60 years, en­gi­neers who built the Mars Rover, de­sign­ers who have built rac­ing chas­sis. I pray about it a lot! One thing I can say is, you can’t do some­thing like this with­out hav­ing help from good peo­ple.

KI: Would the cold of space ef­fect the per­for­mance of the zero-grav­ity folder dur­ing a space­walk?

JH: First and fore­most, I highly doubt a knife will ever be used on a space­walk. The rea­son be­hind this is a fairly sim­ple one: way too much risk. Space travel is in­her­ently risky, so NASA has a spe­cific tool for ev­ery job,


none of which to my knowl­edge and re­search, in­cludes cut­ting some­thing out­side of a space­craft. But if I were to con­sider the us­age, I would say that no oil would hold up to the vac­uum of space, most glues would out-gas and cause sen­sor prob­lems with the suit and craft, and the ex­treme cold would con­tract the ma­te­ri­als and po­ten­tially cause the knife to lock up de­pend­ing on how you ac­count for ex­pan­sion and con­trac­tion of ma­te­ri­als. It can be done, but not eas­ily.

KI: I can only imag­ine it would have been hard to test dif­fer­ent ideas with­out your own per­sonal ze­ro­grav­ity cham­ber. Were you given ac­cess to a zero-grav­ity cham­ber for T&E pur­poses?

JH: The grav­ity is the easy part to ac­count for, it has lit­tle ef­fect on how the knife will op­er­ate. The big worry is vac­uum and safety. I had no ac­cess to NASA’S grav­ity-cham­ber in Ohio.

KI: Have you given any thought to the pos­si­ble his­tor­i­cal im­pli­ca­tions of a project like this?

JH: Not re­ally, I’m more in­ter­ested in how it all works, de­sign ap­pli­ca­tion, and func­tion­al­ity. Hon­estly it doesn’t re­ally mat­ter to me if it goes into his­tory books. I just like the chal­lenge. I’m as­sum­ing it could be big, but then again, no one may no­tice as well. I don’t get too hung up on the opin­ions of oth­ers.

KI: Can you give us some de­tails about how the zero-grav­ity folder works?

JH: It works mostly like any other folder, with a lot more safety in­volved.

KI: What safety fea­tures are in­volved that wouldn’t be found on a typ­i­cal folder?

JH: I don’t know if I’ll call it the zero-grav­ity folder, since that’s the name of the bear­ing sys­tem, but it will

have the fol­low­ing fea­tures:

• It won’t fall closed like a ball-bear­ing folder will

• It will have a rounded/sheep foot/ Wharn­cliffe blade

• It is not a leaf/liner/frame lock

KI: What are some of the strug­gles you en­coun­tered dur­ing the cre­ation of this new tech­nol­ogy?

JH: The hard­est part is the busi­ness side of things—this will be a project that will cost many thou­sands of dol­lars—but it has a high po­ten­tial of not work­ing out. A lot of the fea­tures of this knife do not in­her­ently sell knives to the av­er­age Joe, mainly be­cause the typ­i­cal knife col­lec­tor doesn’t need/use/want those fea­tures as they do not fit the sta­tus quo.

KI: Was there any point dur­ing the ini­tial con­cep­tu­al­iza­tion that you asked your­self if you took on more than you bar­gained for?

JH: It’s not in my na­ture to think that. I have been told I’m a freight train once I get mov­ing, death be­fore dis­honor.

KI: Do you think the zero-grav­ity folder will be some­thing you re­tain ex­plic­itly for this level of use? Or do you think it will be some­thing you be­gin to in­cor­po­rate into new de­signs in your reg­u­lar knife line?

JH: A lit­tle of both. I think some of the al­lure for col­lec­tors will be ex­clu­siv­ity, but I have some great ideas for this that will go into other de­signs as well.

KI: If you had the chance to do it all over again, what would you do dif­fer­ently?

JH: I would be­come a banker and make real money (jok­ing). Maybe a ninja—nin­jas are al­ways fun.

KI: Is there any­thing else you would like to add about your­self, your knives or the zero-grav­ity folder? This is your open fo­rum.

JH: Jake Hoback Knives is a com­pany that spe­cial­izes in tool mak­ing. This is not just bang­ing on metal to make some­thing pretty, this is en­gi­neer­ing from the ground-up (or space-down, in this case). We don’t cut cor­ners. We don’t give 100%—ev­ery­thing we do is 1000% ef­fort, 100% of the time. Tools not tro­phies. KI

Right: Jake Hoback with a Mars Rover mockup at JPL (Jet Propul­sion Lab­o­ra­tory), a fed­er­ally funded re­search and devel­op­ment cen­ter and NASA field cen­ter.

Left: 270° lock in­ter­face.

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