[Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Todd Hunt of T.M. Hunt Custom Knives to our ranks. He has previously given us 5 From The Grinder and helped us find the best steel, but today he makes his full-length editorial debut on our pages. Please extend him a warm welcome and enjoy the read]
The beginning of June is a lot of different things for a lot of people. Here in southern Indiana summer is in full force. Farmers are planting their crops. The smell of neighbors grilling out and the constant hum of lawnmowers is so commonplace it almost goes unnoticed. My sons baseball season is in mid-season while my daughters swim practices are ramping up again.
But the first part of June is so much more for a certain group of like minded people and chances are if you are reading this, you are one of them. I am of coarse talking about the one and only BLADE Show held in Atlanta Ga. every year in the first weekend of June.
Where has the time gone? It’s here, and once again come to pass. The hard work and long hours preparing for the show are temporarily over. The stress and anxiety over the table rent, the hotel, expenses and travel to and from, not to mention the possibility the show doesn’t go well has all eased up.
What we here at the T.M. Hunt shop have affectionately named “Hell Month” (the month leading up to BLADE) has come to pass as well. We did it to leave a very dirty, and usually chaotic shop quiet and lonely while a different kind of work begins in the Cobb Galleria in Atlanta.
Usually during this “Hell Month” I will be the first to admit I can be a difficult person to deal with. The amount of work that has to be done for, at best, uncertainty in what the market and industry might do seem ludicrous.
To go one step further I will even admit that there hasn’t been a year go by during this “Hell Month” that I have not questioned why I choose this path in my life.’Why would anyone put themselves through this?’ I ask myself, but every year, that question is answered at BLADE. While I wasn’t always open minded enough to fully understand it, I feel like the message was loud and clear this year, and I am very thankful for it. But in what may come as a shock to you readers, this answer has very little to do with knives.
My adventures at BLADE Show started in 2012, my first year as a exhibitor. My first show period to be honest with you. I was considering going full-time then (that happened in 2013) and I figured if I was going to do a show, go big or go home.
Now totally off topic. For me, for whatever reason, life sometimes seems to be an uphill fight and I’ve been no smarter than to always lead with my head, so to speak. So, going into BLADE for the first time I was expecting a fight, metaphorically speaking of course.
You can imagine my surprise when not only did I not meet any resistance whatsoever, but was well received, respected and considered an equal. I left with friends as well as a valuable learned lesson in life. Some things in life fight me is because in a strange way, I was looking for the fight.
Fast forward to now. This was my fifth year as an exhibitor, and even a blind man can see the difference a few short years has made in my career. That first year no one knew me, and now I have my own section of people in the pit (after hours party in the Waverly Hotel lobby).
I’ve not only met most of my hero’s in life there, but they all know me by first name and greet me with a handshake or a hug. While its always business and work especially for the full timers, I think what’s really good about BLADE is lost. I’ve read several posts on social media and the common term I hear a lot is: “there are no words to describe it” my thought is, maybe we are not describing the right thing about BLADE.
As all of our hopes are to be the next rockstar maker and sell out before the doors open, keeping your eye on the prize can make you blind to the things that are equally good around you in my opinion. I am reminded of a conversation that I had with a very elderly man one day during set up. Unfortunately his name escapes me but he has set up one aisle from me for years selling aftermarket knives and sheaths – not a maker himself but definitely part of the community for some time.
He told me that in all of his years in the industry, he has never gotten rich, but people count their value differently. He continued that once a person pays his dues in this industry, very rarely did he know anyone to get out of it. He went on to tell me his theory why and it had nothing to do with knives, and everything to do with the people.
I cant tell you how appreciative I was for our talk that morning before the doors opened, because it gave me a perspective I never had until then. The rest of the weekend I noticed (or cared) a little less about how much money was in the money box, and noticed more about the people that I have come to know as some of my best friends, and know they will continue to be until my dying day.
You see, I realized the knives are just the vehicle that has brought me to the place in life that I have always wanted to be. Sure, It shows in knife sales, but it also shines a little brighter with random acts from people that just want to see you succeed. From receiving doughnuts/snacks/coffee from the wife of a friend that I hooked up with a good deal several years ago to people asking to help with setup or lunch breaks, not because they want something, but because they care.
On the flipside of that, seeing the look on the face of a young boy when you give him his first handmade knife because you can feel it in your gut that he deserves it,will last so much longer than the $150 give or take that it was worth. You see, I have learned that the way people treat each other at BLADE is how it should be everywhere, and I have been very few places in life where that is the case. As long as I get that from BLADE, I will never be unsuccessful there.
So, now, back to the knives. I will say that even though I didn’t sell out, 2017 was the most successful BLADE Show thus far for me. But as I type this I have a small chuckle about it, because I have also learned there is no anticipating what is going to sell, or what day of the show is going to be the good one (if any). Maybe that’s part of it too. the thrill of the hunt type of thing. Who knows, maybe that will be the lesson I learn next year. Until then, I will be making my reservations, planning, anticipating, hoping, and dreading BLADE Show 2018. But I promise you this. Unless the good Lord has other plans for me, I’ll be there, and I encourage anyone one that likes knives to make the trip, because the place has so much more to offer than just the pointy sharp thing that we all love.