I know we are technically a few months into the year, but we’re still early enough for me to prognosticate. From handmade to mass-produced, find out what I predict from the knife market in 2017. I’ll start out with an easy one.
MORE CUSTOM KNIVES
I’m basing this on what I have seen from a couple of different retailers recently. The custom knife market is getting bigger. Sometime last year KnifeCenter started marketing customs through their newsletter, having previously been known only for their production catalog. I’ve also seen BladeHQ start branching out and diversifying their product line.
The final bit of info that cemented my opinion is a recent announcement from our friend Todd Hunt (T.M. Hunt Custom Knives). Just a couple weeks ago he delivered a large batch of his blades to Smoky Mountain Knife Works. When they placed the order with Todd he was told they are trying to expand their custom knife offerings. If a place like SMKW is devoting more floorspace to customs, you better believe they think they can sell them.
Certainly custom knives have been more in the limelight recently, thanks in large part to the survival oriented television out there, including Dual Survival, Naked & Afraid, and of course the blockbuster Alone series (see our rundown of the knives from Season 2 here, and Season 3 here). I’m sure these programs have fueled some of the demand for custom pieces.
I also think we, as consumers, are becoming more educated, again partly thanks to television. The Forged In Fire show has put the spotlight on custom makers and forging techniques in a big way, being the highest rated knife program of all time.
Combined with the fact that the annual BLADE Show is becoming more and more customs focused as more of the production name brands have abandoned the show, predicting the continued rise of the custom market is a no-brainer.
MORE MODERN SLIPJOINTS
As the adage goes, what was old is now new again. We are already seeing new designs for non-locking folders enter the market, and not just from the established traditionalists like Great Eastern Cutlery or Case.
I’m talking about thoroughly modern designs. Spyderco has had their Slipit line of modern slipjoints on the market for years, the UK-Penknife being the most famous. Böker-Plus even had a Chad Los Banos designed one-hand opening slippie that they offered.
Now a few other players are starting to enter the arena, and if this is any indication I expect to see more soon.
Benchmade has the 319 Proper, with a modified sheepsfoot-style blade of S30V. The modern twist includes micarta scales and torx-head screws rather than pins to hold things together. Does that mean you could take the knife apart with a screwdriver? It certainly looks that way.
SOG is also jumping into the game with Terminus and Centi slipjoint offerings. When open, the Terminus looks nothing like your daddy’s pocketknife, and for all the world looks like an ambidextrous flipper with a reversible deep-carry pocket clip.
Continuing to put their own spin on things, the Centi I has a large cut out in the blade for opening, rather than the customary nail nick.
Dovetailing with the custom knife trend, Rick Hinderer (Hinderer Knives) just unveiled a slipjoint based on his popular XM-18 flipper, dubbed the XM-SLIPPY. This design is also thoroughly modern with a removable thumb disc for one-hand opening that can be placed anywhere along the groove near the spine, making it easy to customize the knife to your hand.
I’m sure these are just the first in a new salvo of slipjoints. What is coming next? Who knows, but I would love to see a gentlemanly Chris Reeve slippie!
MORE KITCHEN CUTLERY
The kitchen knife trend than Clay and I observed at BLADE Show 2016 looks poised to continue accelerating. Supporting evidence? While it would be easy (and also true) to say I’ve seen some behind the scenes stuff that I can’t talk about yet, my opinion isn’t all based on smoke and mirrors.
Since BLADE, our friend Dan Eastland of Dogwood Custom Knives has released a chef/santoku style blade. I’ve managed to acquire one and plan on doing a side-by-side review of it once I get my Big Chris Cook’s knife to compare it to. Anecdotally I’ve also noticed more kitchen knife talk in the various trade and discussion groups I am a part of online.
This trend won’t be limited to strictly indoor kitchen knives either. TOPS and Böker have both released outdoor/food prep knives recently with the Frog Market Special and Vox-designed Field Butcher respectively.
Not to toot my own horn either, but my Nordsmith Canteen Knife also falls into this category.
We’ll see how things pan out, but I’m pretty confident in these predictions. I’ll check back next year and see how I did.
UPDATE: After writing this article, but before posting it, a few more knives popped up on my radar that only seem to reinforce my points above.
The first is the ESEE CL1 Expat Cleaver. News on this actually broke last December but I somehow missed it up till now. I’ve long thought that a cleaver ought to make an excellent camping and food prep blade, and the ESEE takes that concept to the extreme with a handle borrowed from their Junglas chopper. I love it. Making it even more interesting, the knife is the first in a planned series of “Expat” knives, designs taken from and named for an active user on the ESEE Forums. How cool is that?
The second item was shared on the Bark River Knives Facebook group showing a prototype slipjoint folder with a caption indicating they ought to be coming this year. While Bark River doesn’t exactly fall into the realm of “custom” knives, they definitely play to the higher end of the market. Like the Benchmade above, the blade is a modified sheepsfoot. Like all Bark Rivers, it will probably sport a zero-convex grind. I really like the long pull on this design and the burlap micarta handles look really nice as well.