As a regular contributor to GearJunkie, my inbox is frequently beset by knife makers offering up new models for review. Now, this isn’t a complaint. I’m fully aware that, as an EDC hobbyist, getting to test the very latest is an enviable position. But when sorting through which offers to accept and which to decline, certain patterns jump out.
Take the new Civivi Qubit, for instance. When the email offer landed, I was initially intrigued. I looked at it — saw clean lines, attractive colors, and a form factor that’s as familiar as it is classic. But the problem began as I typed up my review pitch for the editors. Normally, we’re looking for some kind of hook, or a distinguishing feature that sets a new knife apart from the pack.
And though I tried my best, here’s what I came up with in the end:
“The Civivi Qubit is a new pocket knife. It has a blade, a lock, a pocket clip, and a handle. The blade is made of steel, and it can be painted black, or not. Heck, you can even get a swirly pattern if you’re feeling fancy. There’s also plenty of aluminum, which is the same material Bud Light comes packaged in. After carefully reading the instructions, you can use the thumb studs to open the blade and cut things! Boy oh boy, this new Qubit sure is a pocket knife.”
What I’m sarcastically getting at is this: Civivi makes some excellent tools, but the company also has a scattershot approach of releasing new products merely for the sake of, well, releasing new products. And while I’m picking on the Qubit in this instance, Civivi is by no means alone.
Gerber, Kershaw, CRKT: Many knife brands, especially those inhabiting the budget sector, come out with a glut of new offerings on the regular, whether there’s room in the market or not.
An Unsustainable Business Model?
I won’t pretend to understand the intricacies of multinational manufacturing and sales. But for companies like Civivi and its big brother, WE Knives, I don’t see how releasing new blades every month or so is a viable business model.
To be fair, out of the 557 total knives listed in the company’s catalog, 260 are listed as “Discontinued.” Makes sense. You produce a run of a particular model, and if it doesn’t sell particularly well, you retire the molds and make room for something new. But that’s still 297 active products, with more on the way every few weeks.
But think about it: the pocket knife hobby isn’t that huge, so who is buying all these new releases?
Are there really enough hardcore collectors out there to snap up every new offering that hits the market, and how many pockets do these people have? Perhaps I’m underestimating the target audience, but many of my friends in the field are similarly overwhelmed.
A Tough Spot for Makers
There’s another side to this coin, however. Some makers, such as Spyderco, Benchmade, and several of the high-end brands, have taken to focusing on revisions or subtle upgrades. The Spyderco Paramilitary 2 and Benchmade Bugout are the poster children for this, with more handle scale, blade steel, and color scheme options than some brands have in their entire catalog. And what happens when a beloved manufacturer sticks to remixing their hits? People complain.
I should know, because I’ve been one such whiner. “When are you going to do something new? Why are we getting another Para 3? Waaah, I miss when Spyderco was good!”
Such complaints also put knifemakers in a tough spot. It’s sort of a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation. The general GearJunkie public is interested in the new, the latest, and the (pardon me) cutting edge. But if a company’s output exceeds our attention spans, some of us tend to get cranky.
Step Outside the Practical, Have a Little Fun
So, what’s to be done? First, we need to realize how lucky we are to be living in an era of incredible choice. Some will argue that the “Golden Age” of EDC has passed. Bulls**t. Most of those all-time great items that lit the hobby’s spark are still on the market, available to buyers old and new. It’s the same as claiming, “All new music sucks, and the artists of the [Insert decade here] were way more creative.” This is false.
The problem, again, is bandwidth. With so much new content coming at you, sorting the good from the garbage is perhaps harder than it’s ever been. Though, there are plenty of gems worth finding. And really, do you want to spend the rest of your life listening to the audio equivalent of Benchmade’s Greatest Hits? I sure as hell don’t.
As both a reviewer and (semi-lapsed) hobbyist, my primary solution is this: go for the extreme ends of the spectrum. Push the bounds of practicality, and carry something either super-simple or bordering on the ridiculous. This is why the Artisan Cutlery Xcellerator (review coming soon) has been such a hit in my household. Look at it: big, heavy, and about 10 times the pocket knife I’ll need on any given day. But spoilers: its hilarious level of capability brought some pizzazz back into my review process.
As enthusiasts, we often get hung up on a single aspect of our kit. The ruggedness, the minimalism, polish, or price. But when it comes to EDC, perhaps the real message should be this: Do as much as you can, as many ways as you can, and have fun doing it.
If you find yourself discouraged by knife glut, but unwilling to give up on the hobby, try something different and silly. You might find that, by pushing the boundaries, you’ll discover a whole new perspective.