The last few months I’ve been looking for a new line of knives to add to the storefront. For too long I’ve depended on GEC to drive sales at TSA Knives and want to expand into other lines. While I’ve dabbled in a different knife lines, I’ve never felt I pushed the lines the way I used to push GEC back in the day.
It’s been interesting to look around and really see what all is out there. Just how many different knife makers are making knives really struck home a couple days ago talking to one of my customers He’s an avid GEC fan and a recovering Case/Schatt & Morgan collector. I’m mentioning different knives I’ve considered and he’s totally unfamiliar with the companies. He’s suggesting different knife makers that I’ve never heard of. We both had a good laugh about the incredible amount of knife makers currently in business.
Back in the early 80’s I owned a brick and mortar sporting goods store and knives were an important part of our business. I really regret not keeping some of the old wholesale catalogues from that period to compare how few ‘main line’ knife makers were available then. There was Buck #1, Schrade #2 and Case #3. Obviously there were other major lines but they were the ‘big 3’. Just the suggestion to a customer of bringing in a line from overseas was a guarantee of more then a few disparaging words. There was an incredibly strong leaning to made in America products.
There were few well known custom makers at the time. From the minimal exposure I had to any custom made knives at that time, they just weren’t affordable compared to the commodity knives.
Blade steels were relatively limited in the production lines. You usually had a choice between stainless or carbon. I don’t recall being asked more than a couple of times what grade of 440 was being used. If you were bold enough to start talking about D2, 1095, 440A vs 440C you’d most likely end up talking to yourself. Most customers bought knives based solely on brand name recognition or recommendations from friends.
Roll the clock forward 35 years and oh what a difference. The selection of blades steels is fantastic. High quality custom knives can be had for very reasonable prices. Consumers are increasingly accepting knives from China as reasonably priced, good quality products (with some exceptions). In an effort to stay competitive we’ve seen production of American Made icons like Schrade move offshore. Good or bad, accept it as we’re going to see more of it as time goes on.
Pre-internet we depended on sporting goods publications to keep us up to date on new products. The local sporting goods store or a local/regional collectors club were the places to go to get the latest info. For most of us, those days are memories. While much can be learned at the shows, the info available online is amazing. The advent of internet sales and marketing has been an absolute boon to both manufacturers and consumers alike. The internet has been the single most influential factor for all kinds of consumerism, knives included.
So taking all of this into consideration, you’d think it might be easier then ever to pick out a quality new line to retail. There’s tons of information available, a plethora of products, consumers are better informed, prices can be reasonable, quality and options have never been better. And that’s part of the problem. Way to many choices.
I’ve tended to move more towards more fixed blade knives then traditional folders or tacticals. My needs tend toward the fixed blades when I’m camping. I’ll never give up my folders but there are too many jobs camping that a folder is just too small for. There’s always a medium sized folder in the glove box of the Jeep but there’s also a fixed blade under the seat. If I take a survivalist approach to life, I’d much rather have too much knife then not enough.
The Hess Knives, Bark Rivers, Trestle Pine and Blackjack fixed blades have done well for me but I’m going to add another one anyway. Down the road I may look at adding in a line of folders, most likely something leaning toward the tactical side. While I’m not a huge fan of the tacticals I’m willing to give them a try. In the words of Red Green….“I am a man, but I can change. If I have to, I guess…”