About the Maker
Isn't your name Brian? Yes! It is, Brian Nawrocki, to be exact. The name Rocco is one of many nicknames that have been given to me over the years. The earliest I recall Rocco, was from members of a band I hit the road with, selling merchandise. These guys thought Rocky and Rocco sounded better than my legal given names, and so began the Rocco moniker.
As far back as I can remember, I was infatuated with swinging a hammer. I remember watching my Papa swinging a sledge hammer, busting up concrete, or pounding in stakes. I remember my father, banging nails at home, and knocking steel about repairing things. I recall a trip to Michigan's Greenfield Village, a living history of America and its growth, around the 3rd grade. It was this trip I first saw glowing hot steel being manipulated by a Blacksmith on an anvil with his forging hammer. It was in that moment, the itch began. I grew up swinging a hammer, but not in the forge. I got my education on a carpentry crew. Starting at 14 I worked with all walks and ages. This would be my fall back "career" as I aged and would find myself wanting to try new things, and adventure more. I've held many of jobs in between. Some great, some awful. I spent some time touring the country with bands and musicians, I worked at the Home Depot for a short stint, Some how always coming back to my hammer and tool bags. It was in that last run of time as a carpenter I had the pleasure to work for the man that would later become my current employer, a mentor, and a close friend,
New Beginnings - Treeman Leather Shop
In the summer of 2014 I was considering a career change, not because I disliked my job, I loved that job, I worked for a wonderful man, and with some of my best friends framing out beautiful homes. The times of $4.00 a gallon gasoline and 2 hour drives one way to work was taking its toll on me. I was considering a job in the aerospace field as a builder, closer to home, better pay and all the benefits. I stopped by the Behring compound one afternoon just to say hello, and visit. I have known the Behring family since riding the school bus with James ( owner of Behring Made Knives ) and his sister Lisa, We have grown up to be quite close friends and by extension more like family. I made mention to Jim that I was considering a career change in our conversation before headed home. Later that evening I received a text with an offer to come work for him for a few months to knock out a few construction projects we had discussed tackling over the past few years. I was over the moon about it, also torn with the unknown of what could or could not happen. I took the offer, and started 3 weeks later knocking out project after project. The last on the list was a small shop addition that unknown to me, was soon going to be offered to me for use in a full time position at Treeman Knives. October 1 2014 Treeman Leather Shop was born.
Apprenticeship with Jim Behring -Treeman Knives
After a handful of years of making leather sheaths, belts, cases, and other goods on a day to day basis, along with helping with phone, email and office duties. Jim presented me with the offer to Apprentice, make my own knives for sale and learn the trade as so many ask to come learn and very few have gotten too. I have always been a watch and learn type, and very curious. So I took every chance I had being in the shop 5 days a week to observe Jim as he created his beautiful knives. Jim started me out stacking and gluing up spacers, and tested my eye for colors, and sizing the proper size pieces of stag and ivory he would use on his knives. Later I finally got to try my hand at swinging a hammer, this came natural for me, however learning to control the steel was a learning curve. Over the next year I got to try my hands at working on various knives at different stages of completion to learn steps, learn machines, and learn what NOT to do. Jim kept a watchful eye on each step, and with that gave criticism, both good and bad. I'm not good at taking in the bad, but I listened, thought about it and would reflect. I feel this progressed my work much quicker than any other way could have. I have been blessed with a opportunity I will never take for granted and everything I do in this business I owe a debt of gratitude to Jim.
Rocco Handmade ⚡
January 2018 I made my first knife with my first touch mark. I started making my own work, with permissions and direction of Jim to use his shop all I'd like on my own time. Jim donated some steel, spacer materials, some nice rolls of stag and sent me on my way to get started. I made my first knife, posted it on Instagram (linked below) and someone purchased that knife. I was hooked to the entire process, making, creating, earning, and hearing a customers feedback. I have reinvested every earned dollar from each piece I have made, back into Rocco Handmade, purchasing steel, spacer materials, stag, wood, leather, tools, machines, etc. etc. Rocco Handmade is my future. I'm investing into it. Click the Link below and see every piece in order from the beginning. Rocco Handmade is something I am very proud of, I am working hard to make this dream a reality, however. This is like I said, the future, not the now. I am first and foremost committed to Treeman Knives and Leather shop, I will not compromise or take away from the employers who have given me so much, I will not quit, nor will I leave for my own business. I will be with Jim until he decides he is ready to retire. Until then, Rocco with be a hobby, I run as a business, when I have time to inject into it.
Each knife I make is unique, as of now in 2022 I do not make anything to pattern, but rather by look and feel. I experiment with designs, steels, colors, materials, and ideas. I draw inspiration from everywhere, from other makers, nature, and experiences. I like to mix and match, styles and colors. I am heavily influenced by makers like William Scagel, Jim and James Behring, MSA/Marbles, Jelle Hazenberg, Mareko Maumasi, Geoff Feder, Jared Lees, Steve Schwarzer, Steve Pellegrino and so many more. There is inspiration everywhere, you just have to notice it. Each knife is carefully crafted to the best of my ability at the time I am making each piece, with time comes progression and I hope to progress in some fashion with each and every thing I make. See more of the process on my instagram linked below
I guess that is what you would call it? I made Rocco Handmade an official LLC in 2022. No turning back now. I have been blessed with opportunities beyond my wildest imagination in this business, I have been lucky to find a home at Treeman Knives with the Behring family, I have been blessed with customers who continue to support me and my ventures and hobby, I have gained many new friends, I look forward to the future, while still being in the present. Remember, for now, this is still my hobby and my job at Treeman Knives in the Leather shop is and will continue to be my priority until further notice. With that being said, Thank you for understanding and being patient. Thank you everyone who has reached out, inquired, purchased an item, supported my ideas, supported my business, came to see me at a show. Thank you for getting me to where I am today. Without each of you, I am nothing, my business is nothing. THANK YOU!
Giving back to the next generation
It is in my nature to be giving, I was raised to not take, but to give, not talk but to listen. When I was a younger child some hard times hit my family, Our community was there and helped pick us back up and gave support. It is something that I have never forgotten and has impacted me in many of ways. I have always enjoyed acts of service, I was a Cub/Boy Scout, we did a lot of community service in the many years there. I have more recently joined a local Lions club, again the mission is community service. I remember being a young kid, loving the outdoors, camping, hunting and fishing with my Dad, I remember going to local gun shows and flea markets always infatuated with the blades I would see on tables. Deep down inside I was always hoping the vendor would reach out over the table and gift me a knife. Not sure I would have taken anything for free, but the idea of it was exciting. When I started making, I decided day one, I was going to "sponsor" or gift a young, avid, outdoors loving child a blade. I have done this each year since Rocco has started. I carefully watch, and pay attention to the kids I see in my local community, at the trade shows, and on social media. I choose based on there actions, excitement and love for the outdoor activities, hunting, camping, fishing and the likes. I choose at least one kid a year, and I will make them a blade and gift it to them. In hopes of them remembering the acts of kindness I was shown as a child and that they to will pass on the pay it forward ideal.
Pictured at Blade Show 2021: Rocco with "little man James" Sporting his R⚡H camo hat and Custom USA themed "bendy knife" one of the first filet knives I made and ground to be extra flexible. Little man is a prime example, even at this very young age to show an incredible interest and respect to all things outdoors.