It is 11:15pm as I sit down to write. Blade Show 2018 Day 3 is in the books. I have been back in Knoxville since about 7 this evening. I will get back to that since it really ends up as a part of my daily narrative. If you have been reading my Day 1 and Day 2 coverage, you will know that during the show weekend my posts take on a semi-chronological meandering flow, hitting high points along the way – both with regards to a couple of specific knives, but more focusing on the human interaction component. I am trying to share the experience of being there, to the best of my ability. There is time to dive into the knives themselves in greater detail in the coming days. These posts are as much a narrative journal of my days’ activities as anything.
As I was entering the Cobb Galleria this morning, I was texted by Mark Zalesky. He wanted to introduce me to a couple of people. One of whom was Jared Wihongi, who is a respected Kali martial arts instructor to military and law enforcement agencies around the world, and a knife designer for Browning. We covered the release of Browning’s Wihongi Signature line, and I admit I was a little skeptical. The “tactical imported knife from a gun company’s knife label” niche has a very mixed track record. After spending about 20 minutes having Jared explain the fighting techniques and philosophies behind the blades, and handling the blades myself, my skepticism was unwarranted in this case.
I regret that none of my pictures of the Wihongi knives are of adequate quality to publish, but you can see them here.
I wandered on from there, with no particular destination in mind, stopping to introduce myself to custom makers whose work caught my eye. I would examine a knife or 3, discuss it with the maker, and make a pitch for 5 from the Grinder. I did a lot of that this weekend, usually while in transit between vaguely formulated destinations.
I ran into Derrick Lau of Benchmade during the course of one of these meanderings, and we fell into conversation as we walked back towards their booth. As he showed me several of this year’s new models, I gravitated towards Benchmade’s SHOT Show releases, as I had written about those in my freelance piece for Knife Magazine’s March issue.
My favorite among these is the extremely lightweight 535 Bugout. This knife is roughly the size of the full-sized Griptilian, yet through strategic use of titanium and aluminum hardware and Axis lock and other weight shaving measures managed to trim it down to an astonishingly light 1.85 oz. For comparison, the Kershaw Method I reviewed last week came in at 2.1 oz. and I described it as “extremely lightweight'” .
Moving on, I stopped briefly at the Outdoor Edge booth. Last year they gave me one of their Paraclaw bracelets to test. This year, I thought the coolest product on their table was this 3-in-1 stacking camp cutlery set. Super lightweight and I love how they lock together. Their disposable blade knives and other offerings are solid as well.
I stopped by the KME Sharpeners booth, where I had my first opportunity to try their sharpening system. It is something of a cross between a Lansky and a Wicked Edge, and as it turns out seems to be easier to use than either – at least for me. Mike from KME helped teach me how to set up and use the system, putting a really great edge on my Kim Breed Model 15 that had been in need of some attention.
The thing I liked most about the KME is how you aren’t limited to having it mounted to your table. You can slide it ont the base when you wnat to, but you can also hold the unit in one hand while you use your other to slide the rod.
At the SOG Booth I ran into Rick Klug, who has been my SOG contact for a couple of years now. He took me through some of their new knives and tools. SOG’s multi-tool and fixed-blade game has always been strong, but I really think that they have upped the quality of their imported folding knife offerings in recent years.
Their Terminus XR intrigues me in particular. I like the feel of it, and while it incorporates a lock very similar to Benchmade’s Axis Lock (whose patent has run out), it contains enough changes that it actually qualified for its own patent.
Just prior to the show, DoubleStar Knives (the pointy-thing division of the Kentucky-based company better known for its AR rifles) announced the release of a collaborative project with knifemaker Kim Breed. They have licensed production for a mid-tech version of Kim’s popular Chico Diablo X knife. I will be running a more in depth piece on the knife soon, but I was glad begin a relationship with the company, and I am happy to see one of Kim’s knives become available to a wider market.
I stopped by BladeHQs booth for about the 27th time and finally caught Ben Peterson when he wasn’t on camera. Ben is literally my oldest industry contact. Stepping onto the Blade Show floor for the first time in 2014, I had corresponded with exactly 3 people – Will Woods, Doug Ritter, and Ben Peterson who was then with CRKT who had invited me to their private media Chop Fest event. In the past 5 years Ben has gotten to watch me grow into my Managing Editor role here at TTAK, and I have watched him transition from the most responsive and engaging company representative with whom I have had the pleasure of dealing, into the public face of one of the world’s largest knife retailers. It has been a pleasure to get to know him. As David has written, the best part of Blade Show is being among friends.
I did buy my one “splurge” knife at the show. It is an oddball little thing, sort of a fusion between two classic Canadian style knives – by a maker from South Africa. The knife is called a Springbook (after the mid-sized African ungulate) and looks to be the lovechild of a Canadian Belt Knife and a Nessmuk. The blade shape says Nessie, but the long sweeping s-curve of the knife’s handle and blade say CBK to me. No matter what one calls it, I think it is cool, and the fit and finish are impeccable. It joins my LT Wright small Northern Hunter prototype, and my David Manley which I bought last year.
That was one of the last tables I stopped at before the show closed down at 2pm. That doesn’t mean that the show was over for me yet in either the abstract or real sense. In the abstract, I have new material and leads to keep me busy for weeks. In the literal sense, I stuck around and helped Mark Zalesky break down the AKTI booth. That leads me to a bit of a sidebar.
BLADE Show is in transition in many ways. I have alluded to the presence or absence of the major knife companies in the past few years. The show is growing, adding an annex room which caused all sorts of problems with regards to traffic flow. BLADE Magazine and the show itself were sold this week to another publishing group, and it seemed that the staff of the show was significantly more harried than normal and I imagine that is part of it. There was a bit of a questionable decision by the previous show organizers – to not allow Knife Magazine to purchase an exhibitor table for the first time ever (BLADE Magazine puts on the show). This didn’t sit well with many long time exhibitors, and Mark was given an exhibitor badge by the folks at AKTI. I don’t know all the details and they would probably bore you anyway, but it seems like a capricious, shortsighted, and petty decision to me.
Returning to my narrative thread, I helped Mark break down the AKTI booth, and ended up needing to give him a lift back to Knoxville since his car needed to be left with a mechanic. Consequentially, I had a 3.5 hour drive home which ended up being one of the highlights of my trip. Between the actually history lesson when it came to some Bowie knife stuff, the “modern history” of interrelationships between companies and industry folks, and just general debriefing from the show, it was the quickest feeling drive home I have ever had. I could have kept going all the way up to Cleveland and still would want to keep the conversation going.
We have lots more Blade Show 2018 coverage to get to in the coming days and weeks. I was so gassed last night that I passed out with the computer open on my lap, so I am publishing this approximately 12 hours after I first sat down to write. I had a blast as always, I learned a ton, met scores of really great people, and refreshed what it is that I love about this job in the first place. Thank you all for coming along for the ride.