The Blade Show takes place in Atlanta, Georgia and is the largest knife show in North America. During the first weekend of June, it hosts exhibitors and guests from all corners of the world. Here knife manufacturers, custom makers, purveyors and collectors are able to buy and sell just about every imaginable type of tool with an edge. The people are as diverse as the knives themselves. A crazy, chaotic mix, all with one common interest that pulls them together under one (massive) friendly roof.
Probably my favorite aspect of the show is being able to catch up with industry friends, collectors and fellow writers. Our modern lifestyle has us communicating evermore online and the show is an excellent opportunity to shake a few hands and have face time outside of our digital lives. The common location makes it possible to forge new friendships, visit old friends and talk knives for three days straight or until you are totally geeked out. Like any conference there’s plenty of food, drinks and a lot to do while taking in the incredible selection. The Waverly Hotel bar known as “The Pit” has become the show’s watering hole where fame and shame mingle amongst the sounds of flicking knives and toasting glasses.
The only real down side is that it is pretty much impossible to see everyone and everything. It’s definitely best to attend with a floor map and a plan if you want to get anywhere, at least for the first day or two. This is even more critical if you’re looking to buy any of the custom pieces or limited editions since they are usually gone within a couple of hours. To off set the door crashers, some sellers will hold lotteries and randomly choose entrants giving them the right to buy rare, limited or custom made items that are fabricated in low numbers. These can generate quite a bit of hysteria, framed by hollers of joy and shaking heads. It may seem a bit counter intuituve to enter a lotto to buy, but once you become aware of the supply vs demand, it works out to be a fair way to manage expectations.
Another key aspect of the Blade Show is the awards. Most of the main categories like Overall Knife of The Year or Imported Knife of The Year are dominated by the larger manufacturers. This is probably due to resources. The involvement of sponsorships, politics, exposure or company longevity could also be speculated on. Regardless it’s a great opportunity to see where the industry is at and what it feels is the best foot forward. There are still enough categories that some of the smaller guys have the chance to decorate a shelf with their own trophy.
The 2014 category winners are as follows.
Publisher’s Award : Mark Zalesky (American Bladesmith)
Industry Achievement Award : Aldo and Edda Lorenzi (Cutlers, Milan)
Accessory of the Year : SOG Blade Light Sheath
Kitchen Knife Of The Year® : Kai USA Shun Dual Core
Investor/Collector Knife Of The Year® : Pro-Tech Ultimate Godson 2014
Collaboration Knife Of The Year® : Spartan Blades/Les George
Best Buy Knife Of The Year® : Kershaw/Emerson CQC Line
Manufacturing Quality Award: Lion Steel
Hall of Fame Inductee: Goldie Russell (First Female Hall of Fame Inductee)
Most Innovative Imported Knife Of The Year® : Klecker Knives Ti-Klax
Most Innovative American Knife Of The Year® : Spartan Blades Integral Frame Slip-joint
Imported Knife Of The Year®: Spyderco Rubicon
American Made Knife Of The Year®: Zero Tolerance 0562CF
People’s Choice Knife Of The Year®: RAT Worx MRX
Overall Knife Of The Year®: CRKT/Ken Onion Hi Jinx
If you are just getting interested in knives and tools, are a seasoned collector, maker or budding manufacturer, Blade is the place to be. As a visitor you’ll be pleasantly overwhelmed by the amount of information to take in. Furthermore you’ll appreciate the friendly atmosphere. Most, if not everyone is very approachable and open with their knowledge and excitement for all things sharp. Likewise if you are there to sell or get exposure the crowd is immense, engaged and willing to spend.
This year I had a chance to catch up with quite a few people and make some new acquaintances. Of course there was the incredible amount of knives to take in as well.
Ken Onion graciously took the time to hang out with myself and Dan Policastro from Blade Reviews, Ken is always approachable and a pleasure to talk with. After being in the industry for as long as he has, it’s great to see he’s still passionate about what he does. It probably helps that he’s been taking home quite a few awards. The 2014 Overall Knife of the Year for the CRKT Hi-Jinx being one of them. Congratulations guys!
Thomas Welk, the brand manager from KAI-USA (Kershaw, Shun and Zero Tolerance) walked us through the new ‘factory custom’ Rick Hinderer collaboration. The model called the 0392 and is aimed to sit in between their highly limited editions and standard models. In this configuration Hinderer takes care of all of the hardware while ZT produced the blade and handle slabs. The knife is a good size for EDC with enough material to back up some heavy use. It helps that it looks great too.
As a long time follower of what has been happening in Maniago, Italy I had to stop by and see some of the manufacturers from there. First stop was Fantoni Knives who put out a new, compact fixed blade designed by Bill Harsey. As to be expected, the fit and finish are exceptional. It reminded me a bit of Jeff Freeman’s fixed blades and I later found out he worked on the CAD drawings.
Lionsteel was next up. Gianni Pauletta the owner, showed me their new(ish) lock back, the TM-1 that comes in micarta or carbon fiber with a satin or pvd coated blade. This is another design collaboration with Molleta and uses the solid or ‘monolithic‘ handle construction.
Gianni had an interesting knife with a skelotonized handle created through an additive manufacturing technique. The process is similar to plastics based 3D printing but uses metal powders fused together with a laser. This aerospace technology allows for unique forms, the lattice-like handle of the prototype being an example. While Gianni let me know that there are still quite a few details to iron out, it is an exiting new direction in knife design and manufacturing. The sample won LionSteel the Quality Manufacturer Award of the Year award.
Last on the tour of Italy was Viper Tecnocut’s booth. They released the Maga earlier this year, but this was the first opportunity I had to handle it. Designed by Krav Maga practitioner Boris Manasherov the knife has an application specific design. It runs on a bearing pivot and can be flipped or thumbed open. Additionally, established designer Tommaso Rumici was working the Viper booth. It was great to meet him along with their new marketing rep Federico. The big surprise was the company’s new collaborations with Jesper Vox. Late September/early October will see a folder, the Odino and a fixed blade call the Borr. Coincidentally I stopped by Vox’s custom table and admired the folders that the production models are based on.
When visiting Jesper I had to stop by Jens Anso’s table as well. Ansø had six of his Millennium folders for auction with varying finishes and materials. As always the fit, finish and design was immaculate. Personable as always, Jens took the time to talk shop and should be announcing some great projects of his own this year.
There were many other amazing knives in and around the custom area, RJ Martin, George Knives and Brad Southard immediately come to mind. Instagram favorites like Jake Hoback, Ramone Chavez and Brian Nadeau’s work were also great to see in person.
This year Spyderco had some new offerings outside of the somewhat uninspired black slab G-10 or patterned semi-cf scaled editions that they’ve been leaning on as of late. If fact models like the Rubicon designed by Peter Carey that won 2014 Imported Knife Of The Year or the Birch Chubby prove there is some serious fire under their mid-year releases. I’m happy to see this since I was a huge fan of the company in the past. Great that there are some new models to pine over.
Suffering from a similar lull, Benchmade’s mid year offerings look a little more inspired too. In particular they are releasing a new double action axis lock knife. Similar to their dual action Sibert 7505 Gold class, this knife has a hidden auto feature. You can use the knife as you typically would any axis or when pulling the axis lock to its limit toward the pommel, deploy the blade with spring tension. While I’m not sure of the practicality of such a mechanism (the axis lock already allows for effortless deployment) it’s definitely a cool implementation of an auto.
Along with checking out some of the tables and booths I had the opportunity to meet the Wieners and Steel crew, John Holbrook from Through My Lens and Chris Weinstein of the runaway success Knife Thursday. Dan and I had the pleasure of having dinner with CRKT Marketing head Joel Bornzin, designer Liong Mah, super collector David Lawman (formerly known as Oromoto on Youtube) and Youtube titan Cutlery Lover.
I’m sure that I’ve left a ton out. Going over this article I can see that it could easily be double the size if I recounted every detail. All I can say in closing is that it was another excellent year at Blade. I look forward to heading back next year (Save the date for 2015. June 5-7) and hope to see you there!