When we talk about the achievements of prehistoric man, one of the first things to come up is the wheel. The wheel and progress, the wheel and moving objects, wheel this, wheel that. Sure, logs used as wheels were great, but the real achievement here was the tool used to chop down the tree in the fi rst place. Not being gifted by nature with sharp claws or particularly menacing teeth, mankind invented the knife, before all else.
Today, thousands of years along, we still haven’t developed the kind of claws necessary for use as a cutting tool, so we are forced to carry knives. Some carry for defensive purposes, some for utility. Hardly a day goes by that I don’t deploy my knife for some legitimate reason. Like many of us, I fi nd that knives are as beautiful as they are useful, and a lot of my free time is spent either on maintenance or drooling over the next piece I hope to acquire. Nino Lopez is a like-minded individual. He loves them so much, in fact, that he decided to put up XO, a custom knife and tool shop located in Quezon City.
I paid Nino and the rest of the guys at XO a visit, and I felt like I had come home. There were blades everywhere, from many manufacturers. Folders, neck knives, survival blades, kitchen knives—they were all there. These were my kind of people. Nino gave me a quick run-through of some of the things they did at the store. Apart from extremely difficult-to-find knives, such as Benchmade prototypes, custom knives and a very sexy titanium/carbon fiber katana, Nino said they do a lot of modification and custom work on knives. They off er professional-grade sharpening, stock removal and de-horning to get rid of the sharp corners of stock knives, and even work intricate patterns on to your favorite EDC folder. These modifi cations allow the customer to do anything from tweaking a great knife to get even more performance, to turning your knife into a one-of-a-kind work of art. It takes many, many hours of practice to get to a high level of quality when it comes to dealing with knives, and each of the examples they presented proved that they had put their hours in.
The knives they sell are knives that they themselves would use. The guys at XO are into serious outdoors activities that require hardware that will perform without exception. Nino, in particular, lived in Alaska for several months out of a year some time back, and, being miles away from the nearest town, had to do a lot of his own crafting with basic tools. These gear at XO have been tested, and in a tougher way than most will ever see in their lifetime.
The guys behind XO are also into firearms in a big way. As such, they also off er custom Kydex work. Nino was quick to point out what they mean when they say “custom.”
“Some guys come in and they say ‘I want a holster for my Glock, and I want it now.’ We actually say, ‘Well, we need to customize stuff . We need to know your belt size, what you use, how you want to carry, your cants, and what you plan to use it for, then we custom build it,” he says. “Once we have it fi tted for you, we have you try it and practice your draws.”
Wacky Gochoco, their resident gunsmith and Kydex craftsman, was someone I had met before and upon whose recommendation I purchased my fi rst EDC blade. I know for a fact that he has had years of practice working with the material. He doesn’t only make a Kydex holster for the customer, he takes a lot of care in its crafting, and for good reason.
“This is really serious stuff, because at the end of the day, if you can’t draw faster than the other guy, you’re dead. We take a lot of responsibility in this.”
Any day you have to defensively deploy your firearm is a bad day. If you have gear issues on top of this, your terrible day is going to get a lot worse. Wacky tries to make sure this doesn’t happen by field-testing several prototypes before making them available to customers. Friends who are tasked with testing are usually under explicit instructions to “wreck the holster” so the customer doesn’t have to. Still, if something goes wrong post-purchase, or, say if your belt size increases after a little while, Wacky says they are more than happy to see what can be done. “When a guy comes in and has a holster made, they leave as a friend of ours,” Wacky adds. This is the kind of personal service XO offers.
Since Nino and the rest of the guys love the great outdoors, XO also carries various brands of survival equipment. Everything from dry bags, lights, cordage and related equipment can be found at the shop. There is enough XO to mount a small-scale rescue mission—just add the manpower.
If what you need isn’t at the shop, chances are, someone will know where to find it and can point you in the right direction. That was another great thing about the guys at XO. Gear like these are particular to a kind of individual. They aren’t afraid to hook you up with other people in their network who may carry certain items or offer a particular service that they feel would be better tackled elsewhere. The chances of this are slim, though, as most of the processes they need for finishing knives and firearms—everything from sandblasting to Cerakoting and painting—can be done in-house, keeping turnaround times short. This isn’t the last time we’ll be seeing XO here in the pages of Bulletpoints. There’s so much going on, there just isn’t enough space here to cover everything they have. If you can’t wait that long, head on over to their official website at www.xoknives.wordpess.com.
First published in Gagets Magazine, June 2013
Words by Ren Alcantara