In years past, BLADE Show was an industry trade show. Knife companies would show off new stuff for the coming year, and it would sit alongside showings from small batch and custom makers.
BLADE Show has evolved, though. SHOT Show has taken over a lot of knife industry developments. In many ways, that is a blessing, as it untethers BLADE from the yearly grind of new, new, new and instead lets the show focus on being an enthusiast gathering. Like Comic-Con before was the staging ground for the latest Marvel Comic Universe movie debut, BLADE is now purely for the fans.
A lot happened at BLADE Show 2023: annual awards, tribute releases, and great showings for smaller brands that are really starting to shape the knives we buy. Here is a recap.
Blade Show Awards
Every year, two sets of awards are issued at BLADE Show: Factory Awards and Custom Awards.
While the production awards are for things you’d expect, the Custom Awards always offer some truly mind-blowing and quirky items. For example, this year a custom marshmallow/hot dog fork was given some love.
The awards are something of a flashpoint in the knife community because they have a long history of big hits or misses in the Factory Awards and lots of Bowies in the Custom Awards.
Overall, I think this year’s awards are on pretty solid footing.
Factory Knife Awards
Every knife or accessory on this list is a solid design with some good reason to own it. There are a few highlights for me.
Overall Knife of the Year: GiantMouse GMX
The GMX is really GiantMouse flexing its capacities, and that is a good thing. The brand’s knives have such solid bones that seeing them really challenge themselves is a good thing. I am excited to see what else it can do.
Most Innovative American Knife: Buck 590 Paradigm
The 590 Paradigm is emblematic of a side of Buck that not everyone is aware exists. Sure, it makes 110s for everyone’s Walmart, but its high-end division produces some of the finest production knives made. This is one of them.
Manufacturing Quality: Spartan Blades Limited Edition Spartan-Harsey Folder
Speaking of manufacturing prowess, Spartan is a deserving winner in what has seemed like, at times, the Chris Reeve category. It is great for knife folks that there are multiple companies capable of hitting perfection.
Best Collaboration: We Knife Co. Solid (Collab With Gustavo T. Cecchini)
Gustavo T. Cecchini’s collab with WE is a match made in heaven — a producer that can hit the highest bar in terms of manufacturing prowess and a maker whose designs demand perfection.
Other factory winners are as follows:
- Best Investor Knife: Shirogorov Knives Mini Quantum CD
- American-made Knife of the Year: Benchmade Narrows
- Imported Knife of the Year: RoseCraft Blades Clinch River Swayback
- Best Kitchen Knife: MKM Prima
- Best Buy: Kershaw Iridium
- Most Innovative Imported Knife: Maserin W-Lock
- Accessory of the Year: Work Sharp Professional Precision Adjust
Custom Knife Awards
Because of how huge the custom world is, some of these blades are things I have never seen. And that makes this list incredibly exciting, like when a new trailer drops for your favorite movie series and there are new characters (or orange lightsabers).
Best Folder: Owen Wood
Similarly, Owen Wood has been kicking around the IKC for a long time, and his award-winning knife is a true stunner.
Best Slipjoint: Luke Swenson
Luke Swenson makes a mighty fine traditional knife, so his win comes as no surprise.
Best Miniature: Chuck Gedraitis
Chuck Gedraitis’s win here is awesome. I have known Chuck for a while, as he is a custom maker in Massachusetts that comes to my local knife show.
I loved his Shark Bite opener and fine folders, but in recent years he has been making a series of knives he calls Switch Army knives. They have the design aesthetic of Swiss Army Knives, but the cool action of a switchblade. And they sell like hotcakes, so seeing him win an award for a mini knife (which is about the size of a half-dollar when open) is awesome.
This is a hat tip to a maker with outstanding finishing skills, and Chuck fits that bill perfectly.
Most Innovative: GTC Knives Enigma
GTC’s folder can be completely disassembled without tools and, of course, shows off his knife-making genius and precision.
Best of the Rest: Will Stelter ‘Marshmallow Fork’
Who doesn’t need a Damascus marshmallow fork?
Check out the rest of the awards for custom knives below:
- Best in Show and Best Fixed Blade: Vince Evan
- Best Fighter: Samuel Lurquin
- Best Kitchen Knife: Lucas Gumbiner
- Best Tactical Folder: Grind Tactical Speartak
- Best Handle: Fabio Barros
- Best Utility Hunter: Oliver Goldschmidt
- Best Damascus: CAS Knives
- Best M.A.C.K.: Shirogorov Knives
- Best Collaboration: Raul Sartor Filho and Fabio Barros
- Best Art Knife: Mauricio Daletzky
- Best Bowie: Dionatam Franco
- Best Sword: Vince Evans
- Best New Maker: Zane Dvorak
This wraps up the awards from the show. From here, I’m going to discuss a few other show highlights from my time on the floor.
Michael Walker Tribute Series From CRKT
Most people that are familiar with knives, how to make them, and their history will tell you, Michael Walker is the greatest living knife-maker.
I’d remove the qualifier “living” from that praise and just say that Walker is the greatest knife-maker of all time (yes, even over Buster Warrenski and Bob Loveless; for more. read my take on why Walker is the G.O.A.T.).
As a celebration of that, CRKT released not one, but three different knives. This tribute series is yet another indication that CRKT has really embraced the high end of the market.
The Pursue is a stunning blade with a contoured carbon fiber handle and a highly decorative pivot. The Monument comes in two trim levels, one that is more practical and the other that sports a high-end Damasteel blade. The cheapest of the trio is the base Monument (MSRP $275) with M390 blade steel, classic Walker elements (like the wheel on the pocket clip), and, of course, a liner lock.
All of them look stunning, and they are a nice tip of the hat to a person who has invented more lock designs than the rest of humanity combined.
SHOT Show makes sense for the Benchmades and the Spydercos of the world but for small brands, BLADE Show gives them better exposure. They aren’t trying to woo REI or Walmart; instead, they’re trying to catch the eye of enthusiasts.
In that regard, BLADE Show is ideal. Lots of these small brands rely heavily on OEMs (original engineered manufacturers or companies that build things according to design specifications given to them). They design something and then send those blueprints to the OEM for production runs.
Most of the OEMs are in China, but a few can be found in Italy and elsewhere.
Vero Engineering, a brand started by Joseph Vero, became the darling of the Internet Knife Community with its Impulse design — an ultra-clean, fidget-friendly design.
He also produces similarly clean prybars. But this BLADE show was the debut of his first fixed blades. Designed to be carried in a sheath that tucks away into a pocket, they were notable for their true blind one-handed sheath (meaning you can take the blade out and put it back without looking).
The lines echoed his Wharncliffe design, the Axon, and so they were sold in a small batch as Axon Fixed Blades. A run will likely be available on his website soon.
Knafs Co., a knife brand run by Ben Petersen (full disclosure: Ben and I have been friends for years), debuted the Lander 2. This knife is a sequel to the very small and very affordable Lander that launched the company.
The Lander 2 has a 3.25 blade made of S35VN steel and features the Clutch Lock, a variant of the once-patented Axis Lock. I also have the easy swap scales of the original Lander.
The Lander 2 is now on Kickstarter and you can back it for $129 to receive a knife.
GiantMouse, famous for its Jens Anso and Jesper Voxnaes designs, showed off the REO, a long, slim folder with a 3.325-inch blade of Magnacut.
The knife’s big trick, aside from the steel, is its weight. It weighs in at just 2.7 ounces in the micarta-handled versions. This is GiantMouse’s second knife in Magnacut, as it released the heavier Tribeca in the spring.
The REO will come with a variety of handle materials and sells for $195.
As a small company, Spartan Knives doesn’t use OEMs; instead, it does all its manufacturing in the U.S. The brand debuted a Bill Harsey-designed fixed-blade kukri, which is made by Ka-Bar.
The knife sports the classic recurve blade shape that kukris are known for and a truly massive slab of 1095. It weighs in at 1.2 pounds, making it an absolute chopping monster. If you want to blast through some trees to make firewood, this is a good place to start.
The Spartan Harsey Kukri is available now at Spartan dealers for $235.
Three Rivers Manufacturing
Three Rivers Manufacturing (full disclosure: I am friends with TRM’s owners Les and Marianne) is a knife company out of Massachusetts that makes every knife it sells in-house. TRM brought a very special knife for the show: its first gentleman’s knife, the Comet.
Having handled the prototype last fall when Nick Shabazz and I did a factory tour, I can tell you that this knife will be a jewel. It is slim and light with a classic TRM slicey blade, but it has milling and decorative features that distinguish it from the rest of TRM’s lineup. If you loved the Neutron 2 (and you should; it is the best production knife in the world right now), but wanted some bling, the Comet is for you.
The Comet is not on sale yet. When it is, set your calendar because TRM knife runs last about the same amount of time a lap in F1 — seconds or minutes if you are lucky.
With another BLADE in the books, all of us knife fans get to wait and ready our wallets for an onslaught. It’s a problem, but sort of like Homer’s take on alcohol. Knives: the cause of and solution to all of life’s problems.