It is now Thursday and it has been almost a week since I first set foot in the Cobb Galleria in Atlanta. I have now had some time to decompress after the madness that was my first BLADE Show. Three solid days immersed in nothing but knives and knife people and I felt instantly at home, like this was where I belonged. The only things missing were my girlfriend and my dog. It felt weird pulling back up to my house and returning to “reality.”
Of course I knew that there would be knives for days, but far, far, more memorable were the amazing people I had the opportunity to meet. Who did I meet? A more accurate question would be, who didn’t I meet.
Everyone was there (unless your name was Gerber), and from company presidents to big name designers, all were super approachable and invariably gracious. It’s the kind of camaraderie that certainly comes from all of us being amongst our own kind.
Of course, this is the first time Clay and I have had the chance to meet face to face and it will certainly not be the last. His company was enjoyable and I think we made a good team covering the show. I look forward to doing it again.
My first double take was seeing Ken Onion chatting with some folks outside the convention hall before I had even entered. I didn’t get a chance to talk to him but Clay ran into him later and they were able to talk.
I introduced myself to Ethan Becker at the Ka-Bar booth and before long we were deep into conversation. We had a laugh about him meeting our friend/occasional TTAK contributor Jonathan Marshall in a Tennessee Costco only a couple weeks ago (he said you were a nice guy by the way!) and before long we were deep into conversation.
He told me a couple of tidbits about the future of the Becker line. For those of you who have been waiting for the Becker/Reinhardt Khukri, be assured that the knife design is finished, but kinks are still being worked out on the sheath design. The future might also be bringing something even larger than the BK9.
While we were chatting, who should walk up but Michael Collins, brother of the late “Blackie” Collins and accomplished knife designer in his own right, and his wife. Ethan introduced us and said to me (paraphrasing) “I’ve been known to blow a little smoke now and then, but believe it when I say this is the smartest knife designer alive,” and Michael had a prototype in his pocket to prove that statement!
More great conversation ensued, not between a fan and heroes, but just as a handful of knife nuts talking about our favorite thing. I’ve got to tell you, it was a privilege to be there.
Ethan set the standard for graciousness at the show. By the end of the weekend we were on a first name basis with him. I can’t tell you what an honor it was to have made his acquaintance.
Doug Ritter is another guy I was beyond happy to meet. Clay can attest that I nerded out a bit when we met him. Even before kniferights.org was a thing, I can remember drooling over his knife designs. His ethos on knife design had a formative influence on some of the things I look for in a knife to this day. It was flattering as well when he complimented me on my reviews of the CRKT RSK Mk6 (Part 1, Part 2). I didn’t even know if he was aware of them so that was very cool.
We met back up with Doug on Sunday morning to conduct an interview. With me working the video, Clay and Doug sat down and had a fantastic chat. Look for that to go up just as soon as I can get it edited. Thanks are in order to Doug, his wife Sue, and all the folks at the Knife Rights booth for how good they were to us over the weekend.
Speaking of Knife Rights, on Saturday morning we had the pleasure of running into attorney Richard Holzberg. How often can you say you were happy to run into a lawyer?! Holzberg is the attorney working for Knife Rights who is currently suing New York City for their malicious prosecution of knife owners. When he said that he has read articles that I have written about his work, it was very surreal. He also mentioned that he has used our “Truth About Tantos” post to win an argument!
We also got the opportunity to sit down for an interview with Spyderco’s President, Sal Glesser who was humble and entertaining; he spent the weekend working the Spyderco booth himself, just like any other employee. The man had a wealth of stories to share, and basically carried the interview himself! He was softspoken, and combined with the ambient noise of the hall, the audio is a bit difficult to hear on our video, but I will do the best I can to clean it up.
I was finally able to introduce Clay to L.T. Wright who has been a good friend to us. They had some cool new products at the show, including their Bushcrafter HC, which might be the best deal out there on a handmade US knife. Their whole crew is great and if you ever run into them at a local show, tell them that TTAK says hi!
I also got to meet TTAK’s knifemaker-in-residence Will Woods, who brought along his apprentice Teddy Peacher/Peachsmith Knives who was there with some of his work. Great guys both of them and good company for the rapidly solidifying TTAK tradition of steak dinner on Saturday night.
Apart from all the personalities at the event, the opportunities for networking at BLADE Show are immense. I think we’ll be able to bring you, the readers, some exciting content as a result of the contacts we made, not to mention the pile of swag we have managed to accumulate for giveaways!
I had been in contact with Derrick from Benchmade via email, and was finally able to meet and chat. Finally meeting Ben from CRKT, who has commented here occasionally, was also exciting. Everyone else for me was a new introduction, but just as exciting.
I got to handle some Fiddlebacks, which I had been looking forward to greatly. Andy Roy was very friendly and it was good to meet him as well.
One custom maker I sought out for myself, Big Chris Custom Knives, was there. Big Chris modified a the blade on a Mini-Griptilian for me last year and did a great job. I was eager to see his custom work and he did not dissapoint. I only regret not getting any pictures of his work to share with you, so follow this link to his website and see for yourself.
Other makers Clay introduced me to, like Kim Breed, the Wilmont Grinders folks and Murray Carter.
But what about the knives? Did I get anything good? Clay already told us about his haul, but I managed to walk away with some good stuff as well.
My first score was winning a Hogue EX-03. They were running a scratch-and-win promotion at their booth, and I got one of the lucky tickets! I’ve never really messed around with a tanto point before so this will be a nice bit of variety for me to test out. I was really impressed with the factory edge on the stonewashed 154CM blade. It is the best I’ve seen on a factory knife, highly polished and shaving sharp! I also got to shoot the new products they unveiled at the show. Coverage coming soon.
For making a $100 donation to Knife Rights, I also walked away with a Leatherman Rebar with their logo laser engraved on one side of the handle, and their tagline engraved on the other. If you want one of these yourself, you can make a donation here, and you will also get 9 entries into their Ultimate Steel Giveaway drawing. There are different donation levels you can choose from if $100 is outside of your price range.
My big score this year was the Pioneer, a Nessmuk pattern made by Smith & Sons Knife Company. There is so much for your mind to process when you are walking the hall at BLADE Show that it took a little bit for this knife to sink in for me. I like a good ‘Muk, so naturally I shot the knife for the post that we ran on the Smiths. It wasn’t until I was editing the photos that I couldn’t get the knife out of my head. The brown micarta handled one was really speaking to me!
So immediately after our chat with Doug Ritter, I scurried back to their booth and made it mine. The blade is D2 with a stonewashed forced patina so it should be a tough little bastard! This knife will always be representative of “BLADE Show #1” for me, much like Clay and the Kim Breed Model 15 he picked up at last year’s event.
Until next time, BLADE Show. I will be back!
For more pics of the event, you can check out our Instagram page. Also keep checking back here as we will have a bunch of BLADE Show posts going up in the next couple of weeks. You can use this link to see all of our coverage in one place.