Monday, June 14, 2021

Blade Show 2021

The 2021 Blade Show was unlike any I have experienced in the past.  There were many empty tables because exhibitors like England’s Grace Horne and South African Bossie Knives simple couldn’t travel to the U.S. because of covid-19 restrictions.

Many of the Japanese and Russian bladesmiths were missing.  Some of my favorites like LT Wright had only demo knives pushing everyone to web-based orders.  More than one vendor talked about an inability to get components including steel, also a continuing complication of Covid-19.


Burls and Steel  Knives  Contact them at Burlsandsteel@gmail.com


The aisles were larger and fewer tables were set up.  The people at Blade seemed confused.  E-mails were sent telling people they could pick up wrist bands at 8:00, but they weren’t allowed in until much later.  Karen and I were able to pick up our CAP passes the night before, but many people had to stand in line to get the passes that gave them immediate access.


And really, isn’t it time Blade cuts out the privileged ticket levels? The table holders get several “free-in-any-time passes” for their helpers and they pass them out to friends so they can get access anytime.  For a bump in cost, you can buy the early bird passes so you can get in at 10am Friday morning.  CAP, Customer Appreciation Pass got in at 11 and the great unwashed mass of humanity got in at 12 noon.


Still despite all the flaws the Blade Show is the greatest knife show on earth.


I stopped off to see Raegan Lee, a knife maker, out of New Mexico.  She has been making knives since 2015.  I saw her work two years ago and didn’t buy.  This time I bought one of her neck knives right away.


One of Raegan Lee's knives.  But Sunday Morning her table was down from plenty to a few.  Find her in Instagram 


Boker is expanding their line of Out-The-Front.  I got a California legal from them.  They are also introducing a line of battle-hardened Damascus knives.  With help from the National Museum of Americans in Wartime they are incorporating portions of M-1 Sherman tanks into very nice knives.   This will be a long-term project of limited yearly production.  Eventually English, German and other American weapons will be made into Damascus by Chad Nickols and then into knives. 


Always a new sharpening system on the market.



I had a chance to talk with Boker’s Kurt Ronacher about the donut knives they made for Blade HQ.  The knife, if you haven’t seen it was a Boker Dessert Warrior Kalashnikov Dagger Automatic Knife with a light blue blade, pink handle with colored sprinkles.  Blade HQ sold out almost instantly and they started appearing on eBay and e-stores.  They were fun.  Perhaps, just perhaps, we’ll see them again.  Kurt doesn’t want to promise, because it’s a Blade HQ exclusive.  But I’m hopeful.


Santa Fe Stoneworks


I noticed more and more slip joint knives made by companies that I associate only with locking blades.  Local laws limit the type of knives you can carry.  Ohio has just made a major revision concerning the legality of knives.  Now it’s more about that you do with a knife and less about the type of knife.


Rike Knife  Thor 7


Over at Rike Knife I was thunderstruck by the Thor 7.

It is an amazingly beautiful knife.  The blade is ground from Bohler M390, carbon fiber in a swirl of orange on a titanium handle with a flipper and it opens so nice.  If you are a lover of knives, this is one you need to add to your collection.


Yes, it’s made in China.  How can I put it?  Should I talk about the difference in standard of living and how an American made knife of this quality might be bouncing around $1K? Should I talk about workmanship from people who want a better life and see quality, pride and performance as their ticket?


All of their knives use ceramic ball bearings, some use ceramic roller bearings.  No big deal you say.  Yes, big deal.  These aren’t ceramic coffee cups we are talking about.  They are precision spheres of material at least a 1000 times harder than steel.  They will not be affected by sand, ordinary dirt or granite dust, they will work at higher temperatures and need less lubrication.  I can’t think of any American company using ceramic ball bearings.  And you know what?  They will learn how to use them in knives, then maybe electric motors and perhaps jet engines and tanks.  Start small with thing for which there is little to lose if it fails and build on the experience.


Perhaps I should simply say: If you can’t see and feel the quality in this knife, your opinion means nothing. And that’s the way it should be.


Roper Knife  

I have a Roper Knife at home.  Yes, I know you are surprised.  I actually own a few slip joints.  It is a well-made knife with quality workmanship. You’ll find them in AG Russell’s catalog.  But they are taking their game to the next level.  They are introducing a new high-end line of David Yellowhorse designs.  The initial runs are limited to 100 knives and they hope to do two or three runs a year.  This is really upping their game.


The Ruple 1, limited production of 125 total



I’m noticing more and more slip joints at the big name vendors.  While Knife Rights is working hard to remove the oppressive laws governing the sale, manufacturing of knives and the impact on collectors, many cities, states and countries continue to severely limit the type of knife you can carry.  Manufacturers, wanting in on even these limited markets are making more sellable slip joints.  In much of Europe and the rest of the world, locking knives are banned.  They have to buy slip-joints


Double Helix from WE on the bottom


Another Chinese company to watch for and if you make knives, watch out for, is WE Knife Co.  I fell for their Double Helix.  The locking mechanism locks the blade both open and closed.  It’s not a one-handed tactical knife but it is a unique knife.  Does it look futuristic?  You might expect Marian space marines to be issued this knife.  The two-tone blade is S35VN steel sheltered in a titanium handle.  Pulling back on the locking studs allows the blade to open or closed.  It’s very rad!


You know what he is thinking:  "Oops! Told my boss I was at my Grandmother's funeral."


We stopped by Cobratec knives to check out their OTFs.  Right now, the market is crazy for Out-The-Front knives.  Cobratec makes their knives in Meridan, Texas and I liked the way they performed.  I picked up a nice American Flag motif with a single edge blade of D2 steel.  I wasn’t able to meet with Chad Cochran the owner, but everyone in the booth was so nice, I bought one.  Did I mention Boker is selling OTFs?  Guess who’s making them?  You’re right, Cobratec!



I walked the show.  The Blade show is a great place for people watching.  One woman had a table covered with ‘Halloween candy’ she was giving out.  Her husband had the table next to her with his custom-made knives.  Another table was filled with Steel Warriors.  Steel Warriors?   Those little folding junk knives seemed so out of place at this or just about any show.  Still, I saw adults carefully selecting one for purchase.  Perhaps if you go to a knife show you feel compelled to buy a knife but you only want to spend ten bucks.  Perhaps a Steel Warrior is the answer to that dilemma.


Zac Brown’s Southern Grind makes a great knife.  But they were having trouble meeting sales production goals.  They were bought by Diamondback Firearms recently.  Zac is staying on as a creative consultant and designer.   Diamondback is cutting back on Southern Grind’s SKUs or for us laymen, Shop Keeper Units.  Having fewer options will improve scheduling and production .  They are also strengthening the technical and manufacturing side.  Does that mean Zac Brown is a great designer but not so hot of a business man?  Not at all.  It could simply mean Zac would rather makes knives than run a company.


We had owned a Diamondback semiauto in .380 ACP several years ago and liked it, but the slide didn’t lock back.  We saw that as a critical need and no longer have that gun.  We’ll have to see how Southern Grind shakes out.  Southern Grind should be back in production by September 2021, I am told.


 Another of Mickey's unique outlook on knives

Another stop, almost a pilgrimage for me, is visiting with Mickey Yurco.  Mickey makes some of the most unusual knives around.  Boker has picked up several of his designs and it looks like they are about to do another one.  I bought a thin scalpel-like blade from him.  Hannibal Lector would have liked it.  I like his leather work, but I wish he would make his belt loops about an inch longer .   They are too small to fit my standard belt  but might work with a dress belt. 

The Sunday Morning Crowd

I walked past Pro-Tec and a fellow was buying 16 of their knives.  I figure he had at least $3K worth of knives.  There was a time that you saw deals in high end companies.  Somewhere between 60 and 75% of the suggested retail.  Not this show.  Benchmade, who used to have a wall of knives to sell, had nothing.  No catalogs either, everything online.  We’ll see what they do next year.  After all why sent 10 people to Atlanta and show off some of your new knives if customers can’t buy them.  There were plenty of other vendors, like Smoky Mountain Knife Works selling new Benchmades.


Chris Reeves Knives


CRKT has won my prize for the worst catalog in the knife industry.  With the exception of the wooden handled T-Hawks and a couple of the M-14s, the images are flat, dull and unappealing.  But don’t let that stop you from looking at their new lines.


The Provoke by Joe Caswell has transitioned to a colored Grivory frame supporting the blade and mechanism.  Grivory is a high performance super strong plastic that can replace metal in various applications.  It’s a good move; it drops the weight from 6.1 to 4.7 ounces.


I met Joe about three years ago and he designed this knife for police both as an aid to weapon retention and body control.  I think that is a little bit of a face saving fib.  It is a right-handed knife.  The majority of us are right-handed and we will wear our sidearm on the right side.  Grasping the knife on the left side is significantly more involved as compared the right side. The Provoke is an excellent right-handed tool for the ‘un-armed’ person.  But it has a few complications for left-handed deployment.


CRKT has improved and simplified their field strip line of knives.  The new version has lost the thumb wheel and gone to a simple latch.  Danish designer Jesper Voxnaes has designed their Cottidae with a 2.6 inch D-2 steel blade, IKBS ball bearing pivot.

But I really liked their PSD, or Particle Separation Device, by the innovative  Jim Hammond.  The 3.6 inch blade is a made from 1.4116 steel.  It also sports the IKBS ball bearing pivot and is assisted opening.


Perhaps the most interesting and perhaps least useful is the Ritual.  With its 4.3 inch excessively curved blade it is the knife you want to swing around you like a dead cat to make room in a crowd.  The handle is a pleasing blend of a blued stainless steel and a fiber reinforced white resin.  If the words ‘simitar swing’ mean anything to you, you know the knife.  I might just need one.


Like the moth to the flame, I'm drawn.



Spyderco's Counter Puppy kitchen utility knife


I’m drawn to Sypderco like a moth to a flame.  Situated in Golden, Colorado, they employ 150 people.  Sal did everything he could to have people work from home, make space to keep workers distant to reduce Covid-19 spread.


I understand they are expanding their production area.  Not offices, but honest manufacturing, knives-out-the-door, floor space.

I had a chance to handle an Endura made with K390 steel.  It’s an interesting departure.  It’s not really a stainless steel with less than 5% chromium.  But the vanadium content should make this a remarkable steel.  Keep your eyes open, you may be seeing this steel in a lot of their light-weight models.


They are tooling up to make a third Fred Perrin fixed blade to complement their Streat Bowie and Streat Beat.  I’m told it will be a neck knife called the Subway.


The knife world is changing.  There are more and more people trying their hand at it.   First time makers and even experienced custom makers specialize with fixed blades.  They are simpler than folders which require more machining and accuracy.  With blade blanks available ranging from simple blank patterns to elaborate finished blades, more people are trying their hand at knife making.  You saw it at Blade, you can find it online, people designing replacement handles, clips, screws and spacing bars.  You can disassemble your knife and customize it to be a one of a kind knife, solely to get ‘Likes’ or as an artistic expression of yourself.  The purveyors of such items don’t tell you that dissembling your knife voids the warranty, but I suspect most of these knives will be barbecue knives.  Only carried at gatherings of friends and family to be seen, shown and oohed and aahed over.


It’s all good, isn’t it?  But there are some changes coming.  The violence we see daily in the media will impact on your right to carry knives as politicians looking for a quick fixes which say much, but does nothing.  Similar circumstances lead to switchblades, balisong and bowie knives being banned.  Knife Rights is still battling those problems.  PayPal is currently attempting to define knives as weapons and not allowing transactions to go through, creating problems for custom makers.  Will this impact eBay and the many sellers, buyers and collectors that use that service?  I don’t know.


Here are a few photos of the “Greatest Knife Show on Earth” to show what you missed!


Primitive Grind  find 'em at joe.maynard @yahoo.com


 
Hofsommer Forge  Contact Cody at hofsommerforge@gmail.com


It was a great show!

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