This year was no different. Braving some gawd-awful traffic on the north side (repaving work in I-285) that turned a normally one hour trip into a two hour ordeal my traveling companions Scott and Jason and I finally made it to the Cobb Galleria by noon.
The 2012 show had seemed somewhat anemic - fewer attendees than the 2011 show and fewer exhibitors. The 2012 show seemed to only fill about 3/4 of the Cobb Galleria convention center floor. I was concerned about how this year's show might indicate a trend of declining exhibitors and attendees, perhaps reflecting an overall drop in interest in knives. Well, I'm pleased to report that this year's show was packed. The convention center floor was jammed wall-to-wall and corner-to-corner with vendors, exhibitors and paying attendees. When we walked through the convention center doors around noon I was amazed at the sheer number of people. The place was slammed!
As usual I spent far too much time gawking and too little time taking pictures. There was just too much to see.
First, R. Lee Ermey (a.k.a., "The Gunny") was back at the SOG booth. This is the second time I've seen him at the Blade Show, and I've seen him at other venues for Glock. The guy is a prince. He'll stand for hours signing autographs and posing for pictures, and he's always got a few minutes to chat with veterans.
Here he seems to be discussing new ways to make watermelons suffer:
|"Let's see, if we stack 'em six high, bayonet AND machine gun them do ya'|
think they'll get the message?"
Next, I sauntered over to visit J.D. Davis, a knifemaker out of Fruitland Park, Florida who did a custom knife for me back in 2011 and made a similar model for me earlier this year, this time in CPM 154 and with orange G-10 handles. I arranged to pick the knife up at the show and he had it ready and waiting. I was not disappointed! I'll be doing a more in-depth review of this knife down the road after I get some use out of it.
|J.D. Davis drop point hunter in CPM 154 steel and orange G-10 handle scales|
A stop by the A.G. Russell booth is mandatory. A.G. has been in the knife business longer than most of us have been alive. Literally. He started in 1964 selling Arkansas whetstones and built a knife empire by showcasing and distributing the offerings from many of the world's best custom knifemakers and manufacturers. He's been a mentor to many and along with luminaries like Bo Randall, Bob Loveless, Jimmy Lile, Bill Moran and dozens of others helped trigger the post-WWII boom in custom and production knives. He helped establish the Knifemaker's Guild to foster and support the craft of custom knife making, helped establish trade groups that have made the knife industry stronger and better able to push back against some of the stupid anti-knife legislation that gets thought up by state and local law makers, and helped establish increasingly higher quality standards for production grade knives. If you want your products to be sold through A.G.'s catalog they had better be damned good, whether you are a custom maker or a volume manufacturer.
To the knife enthusiast he is The Lion in Winter.
|A.G. Russell (right) being interviewed by Adam Francis from Equip to Endure|
|A.G. Russell Clip Point Sowbelly Folder|
In time I moseyed past the Condor Took & Knife booth and found Joe trying to carve a dugout canoe out of a green twig. Clearly he needs closer supervision.
I've written about Condor in the past, both in this blog and on the knife-oriented forums I hang out on. I have a soft spot in my heart for the company based on my time spent in Central and South America. Condor is a brand name of Imacasa, an El Salvador based knife and tool company. For decades most of their products have focused on the needs of their local customers - simple workman style tools for the day laborer - machetes, butcher knives, etc. Nothing fancy, sometimes crude, but always a good value for the man who made his living using an edged tool. Several years ago Imacasa decided to try to break into the US market by developing a line of products aimed specifically at the outdoor enthusiast. They pay close attention to what their customers are saying and over time their product quality has improved and their line of products has expanded. Their products are not made of exotic steels (they mostly use 1075 carbon steel), nor are they highly finished. But they exhibit good design, are well made and are outstanding values.
|Joe and Richard from Condor. Joe is hiding the twig behind his back.|
|Condor Tool & Knife Village Parang|
Let me spend a few lines talking about my overall impressions of the show. As I mentioned when I opened this posting I was very heartened to see just how busy the place was and how many vendors there were. It's a great sign that the knife industry is alive and doing very well. The only obvious absences from the show were Cold Steel and Gerber, but I've never seen them at a Blade Show before anyway so they weren't much missed.
I also noted a clear reduction in the number of what I'll call 'tacticool' or 'zombie killer' equipment vendors. I'm hoping the days of the zombie hunter craze are over. This show seemed more industry focused, with a larger number of smaller displays from manufacturers that produce exotic steels, knife making tools and components. There were still a few vendors selling cheap Chinese produced samurai swords, battle hatchets, throwing stars and other crap, but the number of those types seemed to be down. I think the Blade Show organizers need to work to keep those vendors out. Let 'em go sell their junk at the local flea markets. Overall, however, the knife industry was very well represented.
|Lots of vendors selling quality knife making components.|
These folks had an impressive array of handle materials
|Just about everything you need to start making your own knives!|
One thing I did notice is that the individual knifemaker tables were really not getting the attention they deserved, and that included from me. The small individual knife makers are really the ones taking the biggest financial risk in coming to the show. They have to pay out of pocket for their travel, lodging and their table space in the hopes that they'll make some sales or pick up some future orders. They all bring examples of their best work and put their heart and soul out on the table for all to see. Unfortunately most of the attendees rush for the big manufacturer's booths and pass right by the gems sitting on the smaller tables. I've resolved that next year I'll spend the majority of my time looking at what the little guy brings.
I've about come to the end of this posting, so it's fitting I highlight the one vendor I stumbled on towards the end of my time at the show. Hidden away in the far left corner of the show floor was a display space occupied by a fairly new knife company called Southern Grind. I had heard about them but never had a chance to handle their offerings. Southern Grind is a business started by the musician Zac Brown. Zac is a local boy who made good, and he pours a lot of the profits from his band's music and associated businesses into his charity, Camp Southern Ground. The same goes for a percentage of the profits from his Southern Grind knife business. (And yes, Zac is a big knife enthusiast.) In talking with the guys at the Southern Grind booth I was surprised to learn they have moved their knife production to Peachtree City, GA, literally just a few miles from where I live. I got to handle their 'Bad Monkey' line of liner lock folders and was actually very impressed. So impressed I brought two home.
Southern Grind packages their 'Bad Monkey' line in these weird knife 'tacos'.
|The Bad Monkey taco|
Which unwraps to reveal this.
|A knife, a leather drink cozy, a key chain and a paracord survival bracelet!|
Can of V8 Juice is extra.
The knife uses the patented Emerson Wave knife opening notch.
|Note the 'Bad Monkey' logo on the blade pivot pin|
The 'Bad Monkey' is a great knife, and the fact that my purchase helps a great local charity makes it even better.
So that's it for Blade Show 2013. There was lots more I didn't cover but these are the highlight. It was a great show, we had a great time and I'll be back next year come you-know-what or high water!