Inside the Mind of a Knife Designer

This article is part of a month-long blitz of knife content and contests leading up to The Day of the Knife

The story of SOG Knives begins in Vietnam, where members of a highly classified US special ops unit—known as MACV-SOG—carried a unique combat knife into the jungle on covert missions.

Years later, in 1986, that knife inspired a young designer, named Spencer Frazer, to found SOG Specialty Knives. His mission: to reproduce the original SOG Bowie knife and pay tribute to the special ops unit that created it. What began as a single commemorative model soon became a full line of innovative tools—field-proven by US Special Forces, and honored as the Navy SEAL knife of choice.

Original Bowie knife used by SOG units in Vietnam.jpg

Original Bowie knife used by SOG units in Vietnam

We caught up with Spencer to talk everything from the tactical roots of SOG to Japanese gardening and his go-to EDC knife (Every–Day–Carry).

Could you give a bit of the MACV backstory to SOG’s beginnings?
There has been much written about MACV SOG in the Vietnam War. What was interesting about it for me at the time was that it was a completely covert effort uninhibited by convention. This included the equipment and weapons that were carried and procured. I started collecting the indigenous tiger stripe uniforms of the period. Many were hand silk screened in the most beautiful patterns. Not long after that I saw the first SOG knife. Game over… I was enthralled.

What keeps you passionate about knife design?
Knives are combinations of many things. They are mini machines, art, sculpture, toys, fashion, and function. Bringing all of these elements together to create an aesthetically balanced and ergonomic product is challenging. As an artist and designer, I enjoy seeing products that I’ve created or worked on out in the world and serving people.

First SOG folder %22Team Leader%22.jpg

The first SOG folding knife, the Team Leader

How has your vision for SOG changed over the years?
In the beginning, my vision was simply to create great, innovative products. It hasn’t changed all that much, although the scope is quite a bit larger. I want SOG in the future to become more synonymous with high-end, innovative Men’s Gear.

Could you talk a little bit about your design influences or inspiration?
Product development at SOG now is more of a team effort. We try and inspire each other. We also look at new, high-tech products in other categories, especially consumer goods. I get excited by well-executed concepts that push the boundaries. I’m also a Japanese garden builder and oil painter. These areas influence the designs by imparting a sense of balance and artistry.

Spencer pic.jpg

SOG founder and and Chief Designer, Spencer Frazer

Bottom-line, what are the characteristics of a great knife in your mind?
The heart of the knife is a usable sharp edge–we don’t forget that. But balance, comfort, and ease of carry are also imperative. One of my sayings is “the best knife is the one that you always have with you.”

What do you feel sets SOG knives apart from the competition?
The combination and balance of the mechanical, functional and aesthetic make SOG stand out. We tend to be more innovative year-after-year, and there are not many companies that can provide a full-line solution for folding knives, fixed blades, multi tools, illumination and gear. Also, the heritage and provenance of our line differentiate us. We’ve been there for over 25 years and it’s hard to criticize success.

Mini Trident Tanto Folder.jpg

SOG Mini Trident

What’s your EDC knife?
Currently I am keeping company with the mini Trident tanto folder. Big enough to take care of business but small enough to carry unobtrusively. It’s a perfect combination.

—Patrick Murphy

Posted by Coty - 07/17/2013 01:12 PM

knife lovers should have a ‘right to carry’ knives. i always carry mine and would love to see my collection grow. SOG have such beautiful knives and I actually don’t have one…. yet.

Posted by christopher sorel - 07/17/2013 01:22 PM

Love my SOG from the little one up to my nice machete for taking camping. Would love a HUNTSPOINTSKINNINGWOOD HANDLE HT012L-CP one to skin up one of the darn wild boars to make me some bacon and smoked pork.

Posted by mike olson - 07/17/2013 01:24 PM

SOG design have always had great appeal for function.

Posted by Randy Archey - 07/17/2013 01:31 PM

If I were to be stuck in the wilderness for a week, I would have my Jungle Primitive on my hip or on my pack. Light weight-do all tool.

Posted by Sean Wentland - 07/17/2013 01:54 PM

I would like the ageis. I like the black on black design. If I were stranded for a week in the woods a SOG knife would probably be the most useful tool of survival. You can use it to make other tools.

Posted by Lisa Lopez - 07/17/2013 02:03 PM

SOG Knives cuts through it’s competition with a sharp edge in innovation.

Posted by John M Hazlett - 07/17/2013 02:09 PM

The few SOG blades that I have held in my hand have been magnificent to handle… I would give any of these a place of honor in my home and put it through it’s paces like few others would… I close with an Haiku:

Trident three point oh / easily the best of blades / a true work of art

good luck all

Posted by Doug Richardson - 07/17/2013 02:15 PM

Great to hear Spencer’s backstory and where he gets inspiration from. Also it was refreshing to hear someone who is not just about the ‘cutting edge’ but the balance and look.

Posted by John - 07/17/2013 02:18 PM

I love SOG blades & tomahawks. My SEAL Team knife has optimum sharpness, edge retention, blade strength/durability, element resistance. Ergonomic, tough, and a survivor. Far more useful for survival than a real Seal (even if they can balance a red ball on their nose) – has my SEAL of Approval.

Posted by Rick De Luca - 07/17/2013 02:20 PM

Knives are one of the oldest tools. It’s great to see how there are different ones for different jobs. Plus I like how the designer wants to make it look good, not just functional.

Posted by Cole Burmeister - 07/17/2013 02:21 PM

SOG knives follow closely in the footsteps of their MACV forefathers, a covert effort uninhibited by convention, this complex simplicity is what helps to make SOG products beautiful.

Posted by Genna Kasun - 07/17/2013 02:30 PM

If I were going to be out deep in the wilderness for a week my choice of SOG blade would be the partially serrated Seal Pup Elite. It’s sturdy enough to withstand the use, enough of multi-tasker to cover a range of needs, and beautifully designed for easy use and survival out in the wilds.

Posted by Austin Burns - 07/17/2013 02:58 PM

I like how the whole lineup of knives are fully functional while still having a good look and feel.

Posted by Hunter Severin - 07/17/2013 03:04 PM

SOG knives embody everything a knife owner could want: sleek design, practicality for everyday carry, and superior performance even after hundreds of uses. SOG’s commitment to excellence is what keeps me coming back for more!

Posted by Austin Burns - 07/17/2013 03:08 PM

If I was stuck in the wilderness the DEMO 2.0 would be my choice of knife. Strong and light it would serve any purpose needed and easy to carry.

Posted by Chris Hamlin - 07/17/2013 03:17 PM

As an Okie boy, a versatile, reliable knife is mandatory for day to day life. The past 2-3 months I have been carrying the trident and it has never let me down! It has been used helping cleanup after our deadly tornadoes, used at work in the production of building Goodyear tires, and is used nightly preparing food for my 3 yr old diabetic son…true versatility! Thanks SOG!

Posted by Gary Hanson - 07/17/2013 04:32 PM

I think I would bring a SOG Power Lock with me into the wilderness. I was first thinking of the SOG seal pup, a hard knife to beat, but for a single tool you can get more out of the Power Lock. You have the scissors to cut any clothing for a bandage, the saw to cut small branches for fire, the small blade to clean a fish, the pliers to remove any barbs or thorns and there are countless other uses you can use the multitool for.

Posted by SBH - 07/17/2013 05:01 PM

I would take a flashback, but there isn’t going to be any flashbacks when I’m done, so I’d go with the Growl, cause my stomach is gonna growl without any food…fixed blade, tanto point=awesomeness.

Posted by Daniel Chung - 07/17/2013 05:24 PM

SOGFARI MACHETETANTO 10”

In the deep wilderness right?
What more do you need then a huge machete fused together with a good sized saw? The spiked tang is perfect for hammering Large, but still small enough to be mobile.

Best design, best practicality.

Posted by Eric - 07/17/2013 05:26 PM

Now that’s a KNIFE!

Posted by John - 07/17/2013 05:32 PM

Very nice article. I had no idea of the origin of SOG knives. From the Bowie to many modern marvels. Great knives for sure!

Posted by Gabriel Lacktman - 07/17/2013 05:35 PM

I take my SOG Access Card 2.0 into the wilderness for backpacking trips. It’s thin, light weight and sharp as a razor! Perfect for my needs.

Posted by Liam Johnson - 07/17/2013 05:39 PM

BLADELIGHT FIXED INTO THE WILDERNESSSSS AAAAA

YOU CAN SEE WHAT YOU CUT AT NIGHT!

good sized fix blade with a flashlight stuck to it is like MAGIC.

its like if you have a flashlight AND a knife, you have no spare hands for other stuff. but with this, it’s PERFECT.

Posted by Dave - 07/17/2013 06:01 PM

look like your child has ‘‘full-grown’‘

Posted by Thomas - 07/17/2013 06:50 PM

i would choose the Sog force because you have a classic drop point design for hunting and skinning tasks along with a full tang construction for added strength while chopping and batoning, you also have a plain edge blade witch helps with carving plus an Aus-8 for easier sharpening

Posted by Levi Adema - 07/17/2013 07:26 PM

I have to say that there is something beautiful about having the right tool for the job. SOG has been doing that for years, and it’s great to know that the designers behind the blades are as passionate about their jobs as those of us who use them are about ours. Semper Fi, SOG, and keep doing what you do.

Posted by chris yager - 07/17/2013 09:32 PM

need new knives to carry and work with. Knives are the concealed weapon that everyone forgets about. The right knife can be be just as dangerous as a gun

Posted by Marco Klaassen - 07/17/2013 11:40 PM

I would take the Creed with me. Because its a fantastic chopper for wood, food, shelter etc. I always take the polished version instead of the black version.
This because in an emergency you can use the blade of the knife as a mirror for signaling.

Posted by el tonyo - 07/18/2013 07:57 AM

Knives have been one of the oldest and most useful tools throughout history. From the days of cavemen flaking off pieces of flint to clean game, to the days of opening Christmas presents for your kids, knives are an essential piece of survival and everyday gear.

Posted by Karlie - 07/18/2013 08:15 AM

If I was alone in the deep wilderness I would have a SOG Tomcat 3.0 in my hand for the entire 7 days. Chosen from the lineup for the comfort and grip features! The knife could not be used correctly and with confidence if the fit wasn’t right.

Posted by nick - 07/18/2013 09:41 AM

SOG design have always had great appeal for function.

Posted by Tyler Fryberger - 07/18/2013 10:16 AM

My knife is part of my pocket tap routine before I leave the house; wallet, knife, keys, phone. Without it what am I gonna do, gnaw through stuff?

Posted by Cole - 07/18/2013 12:52 PM

I take the SOG Fasthawk, it’s small enough to handle the duties of a knife, but has enough weight to carry out those of a hatchet, building shelters, firewood etc. It is also small and light enough to be easily and conveniently carried from place to place.

Posted by Chris Coyne - 07/18/2013 01:34 PM

I’ve been admiring SOG knives for a long time. Need to add one to my collection.

Posted by Rick Sears - 07/18/2013 01:40 PM

Jungle Primitive would have to be my choice…but it is REALLY hard to decide. Anything SOG would be acceptable!

Posted by moon mullins - 07/18/2013 01:40 PM

Its A SOG does one need any other reason….

Posted by don swartz - 07/18/2013 01:41 PM

Seal pup elite. Best knife ever.

Posted by Daniel Sanders - 07/18/2013 01:42 PM

what is your go to knife! do you really use your knife or does it sit there pretty to admire? the real test is actually using it..I believe the fatcat is the best in its class ever made! i use my knives..I break blades! they get worn down! This is using a knife! concealed blade protected! can cut through meat and and sinew easily! anything more and get a axe! put your knife to the test! thats what SOG wants real knives for real people staking there lives on these blades! keep making great blades that work!

Posted by Jared Usary - 07/18/2013 01:53 PM

If I were deep in the woods for a week, which I often am during hunting season, I would take the one that goes with me everywhere…my seal pup (of which I have 2; standard use and badckup). It’s strong, sharp as heck and I can do whatever I need to do with it. From making a spear, field dressing, whatever. It’s the absolute must have!

Posted by Cody B. - 07/18/2013 01:58 PM

I would take the Tini version of the SEAL pup because the knife is large enough for batoning, skinning, digging, and self defense; but small enough do more precise tasks such as cutting, sharpening and other similar tasks.

Posted by Francisco Gonzales - 07/18/2013 02:08 PM

Its always a good idea to have a reliable knife.

Posted by Doug Tester - 07/18/2013 02:08 PM

SOG hunting knives are favorite for years, love the tomahawks. A week with only one would require the SealPup elite, good weight, versatility, strength, and best comfort. Proven through years by the best, good for me. Would love to have a new one.

Posted by Michael Mace - 07/18/2013 02:10 PM

It’s nice to know an artist is behind these wonderful tools. Artists develop special relationships with their tools, the tools become an extension of a creative process. That process can be very spiritual, extremely meaningful to the artist. Of course I want an excellent knife that can handle anything I ask it to do, it’s nice to have a tool that also works with my aesthetic sense. My every day carry is an extension of my personality, not simply a tool.

Posted by Brian Falcasantos - 07/18/2013 02:11 PM

Loyal user since 1998. Had one or more on all 4 deployments. SOG is like American Express: Never leave home without it.

Posted by Rick McCown - 07/18/2013 02:12 PM

My seal pup is my go to knife for a variety of reasons. It’s been through 3 deployments and still performs like new. It stays razor sharp and takes care of any task I’ve asked of it.

Posted by Aaron Harvey - 07/18/2013 02:13 PM

If I needed one tool that I know I could count on, I’d take the Super SOG Bowie. The Bowie knife, popular since the 19th century, has proven itself over and over. Chop firewood, build a shelter, clean fish or large game. Whatever the task, this is my knife.

Posted by Kevin Porter - 07/18/2013 02:27 PM

I really like the look of the SOG Tomcat 3.0, and it’s not because my name is Tom and I have a cat, My name is Kevin and I have a dog. Think they could change the name to KevinDog?

Posted by Samantha Harvey - 07/18/2013 02:33 PM

I’m thinking I need to take the 10” SOGFARI Machete with me. If I’m out there for a week I need a fire to roast my fish and rabbits over. Wait, how am I gonna skin and scale them? Maybe I didn’t think this through!?

Posted by Jason Ephraim - 07/18/2013 02:58 PM

If I was planning to spend a week in the deep wilderness, I’d choose a Aura SEAL. It’s large enough to hack through anything in my way, but still a manageable enough size for skinning or felling. The included sharpener ensures you’re never at risk of dulling your blade.

Posted by Mike Barbeau - 07/18/2013 03:02 PM

I have a SOG pocket knife my son got me for Christmas 2 years ago and it’s my favorite knife.

Posted by Chuck Shrump - 07/18/2013 03:37 PM

I am caring a full sized Trident TINI. It is large enough to be useful around home and at work and small enough for EDC. It sits in my pocket and it never seems to be in the way with the pocket clip allowing a low carry. I really like the partial serrated blade around the yard and garden. I like the one hand opening of the SOG SAT. Another SOG would be very welcome addition to my tools.

Posted by Matt Schwartz - 07/18/2013 03:47 PM

If i would be stuck in the woods for a week i’d take my SOG seal pup knife with me and enjoy the chance to be in God’s creation :)

Posted by J. Lowrance - 07/18/2013 04:00 PM

Everyone should carry a knife of some kind everyday. I do not only for protection but for just about everything I do. From cutting opening boxes to carving a walking stick or Cains. As for protection,While in the woods or hiking trails, you could literally save someones life or your own with just a knife and common sense. Forming a weapon, making a shelter, hunting food. It’s all possible with a good knife. Or two.

Posted by Jeff Lourash - 07/18/2013 04:01 PM

it’s not just about knives, it’s about craftsmanship and quality blades. I have many fixed blades and folders that I like but I love my fasthawk. I won’t leave home with out it.

Posted by Ryan - 07/18/2013 04:03 PM

A week in the backcountry? Sounds fun but I need gear, gear that’s sharp. I’ll need a folding knife instead of a fixed, easier to carry/conceal. Straight edge over serrated for easy sharpening. Clip point over tanto cause I love that Bowie look. Finger grips, wood inlay and eye hole for paracord. This all points to (pun intended)the Gunny Folding Knife. A classic looking knife that will give me the edge in conquering that NorCal crag.

Posted by jim yee - 07/18/2013 04:16 PM

The sog tac auto tanto st04 will be choice for all around versatility. From the hunt for fish or small game to cutting trees for shelter. It’s uses are unlimited.

Posted by Matthew James Smith - 07/18/2013 04:22 PM

Strong, long, well serrated, spear-point Blade for multiple uses, black for stealth, easy enough for me to lash to a long stick….simple a DEMO 2.0 !!

Posted by Doug Willis - 07/18/2013 04:37 PM

I would take along a Tech Bowie. It is large enough for a fight, small enough to be on the belt. It has a well thought out sheath. And I can use it with a large branch to Baton thru larger saplings and branches to build a shelter and get firewood. A quality tool. Pretty sure it would survive being a can opener and cord cutter. With it other tools can be fashioned from your environment. Only limited by imagination.

Posted by Lex Konishi - 07/18/2013 04:40 PM

“I want SOG in the future to become more synonymous with high-end, innovative Men’s Gear.” If that is the case, can you create a decent concealment vest that doesn’t look like something my Great Grandfather used to go snipe hunting?

Seriously… Love that Mr. Frazer is a japanese garden builder and painter. It explains so much about the artistry of the SOG brand. Fascinating read!

Posted by Michael - 07/18/2013 04:44 PM

for a week in the wild I’d go for the super SOG Bowie, for wilderness survival you can’t beat a bowie, just ask Jim

Posted by Jonathan Borrego - 07/18/2013 05:16 PM

My favorite knife right now is a SOG Slim Jim, a SOG Trident was my very first quality blade I ever bought.

Posted by Marlana Harrison - 07/18/2013 05:21 PM

I have a favorite EDC knife that fits my business casual office, 1 for general outdoor work. Would love to try a SOG for casual EDC. I believe in “function over form”, but its beautiful when items can be both.

Posted by Carlos Hernandez - 07/18/2013 05:27 PM

I can tackle the wilderness with the Tech Bowie. The size can handle any large job for example build of shelters and cutting firewood. Small enough to be on the belt side for fast access to take down game or fight off wild beasts for extreme survival. It will survive extreme environmental conditions the Tech Bowie is the extreme survival blade.

Posted by Chad Hunt - 07/18/2013 05:29 PM

If I had to spend a week in the deep wilderness with only ONE SOG, I would take the Tech Bowie. It is an improved replica of a proven warrior’s tool: it is versatile, durable, useful, and deadly. What more could I ask for?

Posted by Mary Toleson - 07/18/2013 06:20 PM

I think I would take the Jungle Primitive because it’s big and choppy but still stabby. The serrations look like they could go thru several small trees with ease.Big but not too big.It’s like the just right porridge !

Posted by Jones Foxx Jr. - 07/18/2013 07:33 PM

Tough choice but I will go with the Demo 2.0. That spear point is tried and true and gets the job done. Plus it would make a good spear :] That many tough serrations could certainly come in handy. The blade length/weight is great and acceptable.

Posted by stephen martinez - 07/18/2013 07:59 PM

“The planets have aligned in the SOG Aegis and a nearly perfect lightweight tactical and larger sized EDC blade has been created by SOG.” – nutnfancy

I would choose the Aegis or NW Ranger because TNP hasn’t reviewed the Tomcat 3.0 yet.

Posted by Jeremy Hatchet - 07/18/2013 09:33 PM

I love my SOG Spec Elite 1 amazing knife super sharp!!!

Posted by Jeremy Hatcher - 07/18/2013 09:35 PM

I love my SOG Spec Elite 1 amazing knife super sharp!!!

Posted by Roger Morris - 07/18/2013 09:45 PM

A week in the woods…. me time ! I’ll go with the Aura Camp. A good sharp stout blade with a very important built in carbide sharpener makes this a winner. Now if it only came with toilet paper to.THAT would be the perfect woods knife.

Posted by Kyran Riley - 07/18/2013 09:58 PM

The SOG Aegis is from tip to clip a superlative design. It’s well suited for both EDC and hard use backpacking. The acute yet durable tip lends itself to a variety of tasks. The knife throughout has outstanding fit and finish. The spine of the blade had functions jimping and there’s a positive feel in the hand throughout the scales and ergonomics. Whatever life throws at you feel confident with your SOG Aegis at your side , it’s versatile design excellence with outstanding craftsmanship. Trust me this knife serves in a moments notice in even the harshest of environments. Get a knife you can trust with your life … get an Aegis you won’t look back

Posted by Paul Apple - 07/18/2013 10:13 PM

I would take my Trident. The combination of valuable features in a lightweight yet sturdy package is ideal for survival as well as urban use. The blade is sharp, the serrations rip through most materials & the handle is comfortable. Opening assist is excellent. I trust my SOG.

Posted by David B - 07/19/2013 12:17 AM

A week in the wilderness with any SOG knife: Vulcan fixed blade, because it can take on anything. It has VG-10 steel and a great design. Perfect for everything you can imagine.

Posted by Karl - 07/19/2013 12:20 AM

This is my knife. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My knife is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life. My knife, without me, is useless. Without my knife, I am useless.

Posted by Karl - 07/19/2013 12:20 AM

This is my knife. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My knife is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life. My knife, without me, is useless. Without my knife, I am useless.

Posted by Yanniek - 07/19/2013 04:15 AM

I’ll use my sog seal, it worked fine for survival the past 5 years, and i’ll bet my wife for it that it will hold another 50 years.

Posted by michael ryle - 07/19/2013 07:45 AM

The SOGFari 10” Machete is what I needed one day while hunting with my daughter. We ended up getting lost in thick brush for hours. If I had one . it would make a great gift for her.she would understand

Posted by Ketch - 07/19/2013 08:11 AM

There are so many different styles, shapes, and sizes that I would be extremely broke if I Gabe in to temptation and bought each one I like.

Posted by Jeff Long - 07/19/2013 11:15 PM

The powerlock so that I have a saw, a knife, small scissors, can opener, and tools to adjust the stove. The knife is perfect to attach to your hiking staff with some line to go pole fishing.

Posted by jason - 07/22/2013 04:40 PM

revolver 2.0 hunt. Versatility. Strength. Confidence.

Posted by Shiloh king - 07/22/2013 10:03 PM

I love my tanto machete it’s AWESOME it’s great for anything camping,hacking brush and yard work thank for great products.

Posted by Dora Auld - 07/22/2013 10:35 PM

The Aegis… Because its the 1 my 10 year friend would take with him and I’ve never seen anyone lite up like he does when he gets a new knife…

Posted by Dan Human - 07/23/2013 03:43 PM

If I could have one SOG with me for a week in the wilderness it would be the Tangle. It is lightweight and designed for convenient neck carry. Plus the paracord handle could be unraveled in a survival situation.

Posted by dan tibbets - 07/23/2013 08:41 PM

SogFari..This is no joke!
I WAS lost in the forest for nearly two weeks when I was a young teenager. I had no fire, no food (unless you count raw grubs as “food”) and most importantly no knife! The Sogfari would have come in handy.

Posted by Scott Warga - 07/23/2013 10:48 PM

I broke a Gerber that I had for years and a friend told me to try out SOG and I’m glad I did. Other than on a plane, you wont find me without my SOG Power Assist multi-tool. The knife holds an edge and the pliers are unbelievable.

Posted by Conrad Kovash - 07/23/2013 11:08 PM

SOG is an innovator- Working – inspiring employees to continue to improve on the BEST is not an easy task!

Posted by Mita Pogue - 07/24/2013 01:50 PM

These look light years ahead of the crap my son has ordered over the internet. I would love to be able to gift him with a REAL, QUALITY knife he can be proud of for life!

Posted by Pat Perkins - 07/24/2013 09:08 PM

In the ‘deep wilderness’, I would take the Sogfari 18”. Thorn bushes? No problem! The saw would help make bow drill and trap sets for fire and food. The hammer end is handy. All that aside, who doesn’t feel awesome carrying around an 18” machete?

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