This weekly update bears good news for the Northland. It is finally WARMING UP!!!!! Without a doubt, this has been one long cold winter and right now 50 degrees feels pretty damned good with promises of better weather yet next week. Exactly what we need to melt some ice.
I believe these were released in 2010. I’m not sure what the covers were but the Proto is smooth brown bone. Really a nice knife.
There’s another incredibly rare GEC that I came up with as well. It’s a Tidioute 362208 that includes a handwritten note of provenance signed by Ken. It’s been tucked in the safe for several years and I thought I might share it with you. Not quite sure what I’m going to do with it but it’s a shame to have it sit in the safe.
It’s always interesting to see what got tucked away and forgotten. Somewhere I think I’ve still got a copy of David Anthony’s Book on Great Eastern Cutlery signed by both Ken and Bill. That’s another hard to find collectible. Not sure how many got signed by BOTH Ken and Bill but I know it was only a handful.
I’ll remind everyone over the weekend that the deadline for entering the Ice Out Contest is rapidly approaching. You’ve got until midnite CST this Monday, April 23 to get in. There’s no charge to enter, you don’t have to be a customer, no secret handshake or code words required, overseas entries welcome! You don’t get put on a mailing list and if ya don’t enter ya can’t win. That simple.
This week the first of the GEC 71 Bull Nose run arrived. Best way to sum up the knife is, its a high quality, low priced knife built for EDC use. And it scores 100% on all three points.
There are a few more handle iterations coming through in the next few weeks. If you’re looking for value, its pretty tough to beat the Bull Nose. I didn’t set up an early order program for the Bull Nose but I have a good quantity of them coming in.
In the last week or two I’ve had a number of emails and calls asking when and if there will be an Ice Out Contest this year. If you’re new to the blog, the last few years I’ve held a contest open to everyone to try and predict when the lakes in my area will be free of ice. It’s meant to be a fun contest where everyone has an equal chance to win. That being said, there are a few folks that actually do a little research on ice conditions before the make a guess. If you want to check out the results of past contests, just type in the search term or click on this link: Ice Out Contest
Now, the answer to the question, will there be an ice out contest? Yes. I’ve drug my feet announcing it as we’re in a prolonged winter season up here and the ice out is (by all indications) going to be later then normal. A week ago we had day time high temperatures that were below freezing. Night time temperatures were in the single digits. This weekend we have another major snow event going through the middle and southern Minnesota with a 15-18″ of snow potential. With any luck that’s going to the south of me. That snow cover insulates the ice and delays thawing.
To put the delayed ice out into perspective, by this time last year the ice was gone. As of this writing we have roughly 3′ (that is FEET) of ice on many of the bigger lakes. This is what my front yard looks like this morning. So I’m thinking next week might be a good time to start the contest. Think of that…. this years contest STARTS later then last years contest ended. Damn. We need some warm weather soon and lots of it.
A couple of local inquiries have come in regarding the Spring Gun Show normally held at the National Guard Armory in Detroit Lakes. This usually occurs around the first weekend in May. Unfortunately, due to a remodeling project at the Armory it won’t be held this Spring. The sponsors have looked for another local venue without success so sadly, no show this year.
So just to play it safe, I”m gonna gas up the four wheeler, put the plow back on and be ready just in case. This is starting to get old.
I received a few of the 43 Stag yesterday and for the most part, they were a disappointment.
The 43’s were run in a very small quantity and two of the knives I received had pin cracks. What’s disappointing is they came through as ‘firsts’ and not ‘store’ knives. In good conscience I couldn’t run them through as first quality.
I don’t get concerned about a fracture line if it’s been stabilized and it passes the thumb nail test. Both of these had open fractures that were easily felt when you ran your nail across them. My hope was that I could exchange them but no luck. No discount either.
The quality of the stag as far as uniformity in thickness/color/texture is concerned was as good as you could ask for. The fractures were a real disappointment. Evidently the pin fractures have been an issue. Earlier this week I got an email that there were smooth camel bone and jigged bone 43 Store Knives available with pin fractures as well. I have few coming in for those of you looking for an economical EDC 43.
I failed to mention I received an order of the fixed blade Hess Knives last week. The Hess’ sell well and each time I reorder it seems like it takes a bit longer for them to fill the order. They’ve found there niche and I don’t see them trying to become a mega manufacturer. It’s a couple of guys building knives on their own terms.
By now I think everyone is aware that Queen / Schatt & Morgan is done. I received notification this week from the bankruptcy court that claims can be made until the end of May. There hasn’t been any notification (that I’m aware) of the date of the upcoming auction but it sure would be a sad but interesting auction to go to. I can’t imagine what all could be in the factory with historical significance for collectors. Sad to see it end this way.
We’ll see a bit of a lull with an SFO coming through first. Then, the Bull Nose will show up. Beyone that…. who knows!
Let me start by saying I was a little overwhelmed by the response to starting up the early order program again. I had discontinued it last year for a number of reasons, the major one being it can be a real PITA to keep up with. Even with the requisite deposit there were still a surprising number of ‘no pays’. Orders come through without the deposit, etc, etc. In addition, we saw the quantities (i.e. availability) of regular production knives increase substantially reducing the need to order early.
As soon as it became official the Whalers were going to be run once again, there was no doubt the interest was going to be sky high. For that reason I thought I’d try the early order system one more time and include the new 44 Gunstock and 15 Boys Knives. The volume of orders has been almost triple what I anticipated and the number of ‘thank you’ for reinstating the early order program comments was a surprise. Feedback like that is what helps steer the direction of TSA Knives. Going forward, you’ll see more Early Order offers.
I put a limited number of the Whalers up for early order and held some back in reserve until next Monday. Chris will have the final numbers on dealer orders and I’ll get confirmation on exactly how many Whalers I’m getting. Once I know where I stand, I hope to be able to offer a few more Whalers for sale but I don’t want to get overbooked. At this writing there are still both handle options available but only a few. If they sell out, check back Monday afternoon as I’m hoping I can release a few more.
I’ve been asked if the Desert Ironwood or the Muscle Bone Whalers has been selling better. Right now the Ironwood has a very slight edge over the Bone. Part of that is no doubt due to people not knowing what to expect with the “Muscle Bone”. Until you actually see it….??? As in the past, after we actually saw the Percheron Bone and early Primitive Bone, interest increased. I’m willing to bet we’ll similarly see interest grow for the Muscle Bone.
Early Orders for the new 44 Gunstock has the Northfield Autumn Gold running 2:1 over the Cocobolo and Stag. Cocobolo is running 3:2 over the Sambar Stag. The Northfields in total are out booking the Tidioutes 20:1. I’m betting the Cocobolo is going to look fantastic next to the Brass.
Over 60% of the early orders are for one of each handle in the Whaler. Almost 90%+ of the orders are for more then one knife. That may be 2 or more Whalers on an order or a mixture of 46’s, 44’s and 15’s.
Understand, the above numbers are my numbers. I have no idea what the mix is for anyone else.
It’s sounding more doubtful that we’ll see Queen revived any time soon. A number of people have continued to ask about the future of the Trestle Pine Knives. I’m exploring some options but am a very long way from anything certain. While I’m not getting my hopes up, I’m definitely not giving up just yet.
As we wait for the balance of the Great Eastern 43 Oregon Trappers to come through, I’ve been going through some boxes of knives that have ‘accumulated’, shall we say. The discoveries have been some nice new old stock knives.
Some of them have come from small collections I picked up and just never got around to listing. A few more are Queen and Schatt & Morgan old stock that I may have loaded up on in the past and didn’t restock in the store from my inventory. Here are a couple of examples.
A number of the listings sold within a couple of hours of being listed, so obviously, you’re paying attention! There are more to be listed, in fact quite a few more of the old stock knives. I just have to stay the course and keep working through them.
The 43 Oregon Trappers have been a booming success. We’ve got the Canvas Micarta and Rust Red Jigged Bone Tidioute’s to go and then we’re on to the Northfield’s. If I weren’t so taken by the newer powdered blade steel’s, I would be very inclined to carry one for a while. The overall size and weight make it a great size for anyone wanting an EDC knife that’s big enough for heavier tasks but not so big it takes a sheath to carry comfortably. I’ve spent some time comparing it to the 73 I used to carry and that slight increase in size really feels nice in hand.
I’m waiting on another order of Hess Knives to show up in the next week or so. I let them sell down and it seems like it takes a little longer each time I reorder to get the knives in. It sounds like they’re getting close to being maxed out on keeping up with orders which is good…. I think. For the money they make a great product.
No news regarding Queen yet. As someone else said, the longer this drags out with absolutely no word as to what’s happening, the more concerning it gets as to whether they’ll survive or get revived.
The weekly update is best summed up in one word. COLD! I’ll share a few pics below of how we celebrate the cold up here but business first.
The GEC 56’s two blade models have been coming through with regularity and have been well received. As usual, the interest in the single blade version that’s coming seems to be drawing the most interest.
The 56 is a great knife but personally, I’ve always preferred a Wharncliffe, Drop Point, Sheepsfoot or Clip (in that order) for a day to day knife. In fact, I’d like to see more Drop Points from GEC to lure me back into the fold.
Once the single blades are finished up in another week or so, I’m looking forward to the new #43. I’m not sure if GEC will squeeze the 71 Bull Nose in front of the 43’s but that should be a pretty short run in any case.
I added a few more of the Blackjack Knives to the storefront and am getting some feedback from customers. What I’m hearing is tracking pretty close to what I’ve felt. It’s a great knife for the price. I’ve played around with one a little but haven’t taken it outdoors to really put it through it’s paces. I’m particularly happy with the way that blade quickly thins to a narrower cutting edge from about the midpoint on towards the tip. What you might sacrifice in strength is more then made up for in utility.
I was showing a friend the stag handled 124 (above) and she immediately grabbed it with her index finger in the ricasso and thumb on top of the blade. Her first comment was how comfortable it felt. Have to agree!
No news regarding Queen this week. It seems that everything is still on hold and we all continue to wait to see what happens.
Now, regarding the cold weather…. I’ve been taking some pictures as our Ice Castle has been being built and last nite was the official lighting. The Ice Castle is the center point of our annual winter Polar Fest.
The Polar Fest is an annual event that lasts for about a week in an attempt to distract us all from the miseries of a north country winter and to stall off the effects of cabin fever. We’ve had sub-zero overnite temps since Christmas nearly every nite so we’re ready for a distraction.
Harvesting ice from Detroit Lake was the 2nd largest industry in our town. The last commercial harvest was in the 1970’s. Starting in the lat 1800’s, two competing ice companies harvested and sold ice to businesses from the midwest to the west coast and Texas with the Northern Pacific Railroad being the largest consumer. At the peak, they harvested up to 200,000 pounds of ice employing as many as 180 men during the peak harvest. There are some interesting video’s showing how the ice was harvested this winter and more info at this link if you’re interested: Ice Harvest on Detroit Lakes
Here are a few pictures I’ve taken over the past few weeks chronicling the harvest and construction of the Ice Castle.
The harvest begins.
400-500 pound blocks are floated to a conveyor lifting them out of the water onto the ice
The blocks were lifted into place and fitted by hand
After several weeks, the structure is finished with parapets in place
Flags are put in place with the names of the sponsors responsible for making this happen.
Last nite, February 8th, 2018 was the official lighting of the castle kicking off the Polar Fest
Just to give you a better appreciation of this event, I took the color pix last nite around 7:45PM with an outside temp of -2F finishing up at -21F this morning. We arrived late but evidently there was a large crowd present earlier to kick things off. All kinds of events occur during the next 10 days with a fireworks display set for February 19. Then….we’re ready for spring!
I haven’t heard from Queen since last Fall but I’m getting reports from several customers that have talked to people that should know, it sounds like Queen is on its way back. There haven’t been any definitive details I can repeat but the trickle of info is consistent and coming from multiple sources soooo…I’m left to believe there’s some hope. Appreciate the info some of you have shared.
The Great Eastern 56 Trappers have been arriving and going out about as fast as they come in. They’re every bit as nice as the original 56’s. I talked to Chris earlier this week and tried to add a few more to my initial order with limited success. My understanding is that some of the 56’s are being run in relatively small (100 pieces) numbers and as a result were actually ‘allocated’ to the dealers.
I know a lot of the runs are based on initial early dealer orders but sometimes it’s pretty obvious that the initial dealer interest may not reflect the demand. Often dealer early orders have to be submitted before much buzz is created on an upcoming pattern. In my case, I may order light based on early interest only to have my mail box fill up with requests for reserves after the info has spread.
When we get an early heads up (like we’re seeing more frequently) as in the case of the upcoming 43 Oregon Pattern it’s so much easier to anticipate interest. And no doubt it makes life easier for production planning at GEC resulting in easier access to the consumer.
I had an email last night regarding a dealer that has set up some sort of lottery system for early reservations and the writer was poking fun at the matter. I totally understand why the dealer might do it. In the past I took reservations and ended up with more pissed off customers than you can imagine. “Old” customers expected (rightly so) to be put at the top of the list for any new releases. Pretty soon it was only “Old” customers that were able to get on the reserved list. Then you had 10 old customers and you’re only going to get 5 knives. New customers were frustrated that they didn’t have a chance for some of the more difficult pieces. I finally quit taking early orders on almost all releases just to avoid the frustration.
Lets face it, GEC has an allocation program that rewards larger dealers with discounts and the lions share of some runs. Is that fair? Probably so, but it sure makes life tough for anyone starting out trying to expand or build a legitimate full time business.
I’ve kind of gone off on a tangent but I like to be up front about what’s going on and sharing some of the frustrations dealers can run up against. Be careful criticizing some of the efforts made to appease all of the consumers. Trust me, give it time and some of these high demand knives that have ended up with hyper-inflated prices will come back to earth and be available on the secondary market. When a $90 production knife turns into a $300+ collectible almost overnite, that’s not going to last.
The subject of these incredible prices for some of the GEC’s came up with a customer I have a high regard for in the knife industry. He brought up the point (and I totally agree) that in the next 5-10 years we’re going to see some of the aging collectors start to liquidate their collections. We were talking about collectors that have been acquiring since the 50’s and 60’s that hold some incredible older rare or interesting knives in their collections. Right now the current group of collectors are attracted to the most recent shiny new releases and pay scant attention to these older treasures. For now, historical interest or unique qualities aren’t a factor to many collectors. It’ll be interesting to see what happens down the road.
Today is the last day of the Shot Show in Las Vegas and the knife industry was well represented it sounds like! You can always count on some exciting new products coming out of that show whether its new knives, guns or hunting socks! A quick look at the web page for Knife News was pretty interesting seeing a few new products related to the knife industry. I haven’t had time to go through all of the offerings, but here’s a link you might like to check out. knife News
The have a ton of videos on the site with coverage of a lot of new releases. At first glance it appears that most are tacticals with a few traditional folders and of course, the bushcraft hunting knives as well. I like the videos because most are under a minute and give you a quick overview of the knife without a 10 minute sales pitch and 2 minutes of photos of the box from all different angles. If it’s something that looks interesting, I can make notes and do more research later. The point is, if your into sharp things, there’s bound to be something that catches your eye!
It’s really interesting how so many of the folding knives are taking on what I call a European flair. Let’s face it, there are a lot of knives coming in from overseas and the origins are reflected in the styles. Some I like the looks of and others, not so much. So much of it comes down to the blade steels and how it actually feels in the hand. Many of them seem to have a very slim profile which is great if you have a smaller hand or want a knife that will disappear in your pocket. Too often when it comes to using them they don’t feel comfortable.
A surprise arrived this morning in a box of Blackjack Knives I hadn’t anticipated seeing until next week.
As promised, I’ll get a few of these listed in the store hopefully yet today. In the meantime, I refer anyone interested to a recent post where I spent a little time explaining what I liked about the Blackjack line. In all honesty I haven’t spent a lot of time actually using one in the field and that’s going to change.
I like using the bigger knives like my trusty Fallkniven A1, That knife is a handful, capable of most any serious work including splitting firewood.
But I’m drawn to trying one of the Model 125 Blackjacks for a ‘medium’ sized work knife.
The Blackjack 125 maintains that long handle I like plus the mid portion of the handle features a hand filling ‘swell’ that really feels good. The long guard on the Blackjack combined with the long ricasso should really make for a ‘safe’ knife on detail work. Another element I like about the Blackjack is the relatively rapid thinning of the blade as you move towards the tip.
One of the dislikes I have of my A1 is the blade is quite thick it’s entire length. While that’s not really a criticism, it means that thin slicing isn’t a strong point for that type of blade. That thick blade is meant to split, not slice.
And I guess that’s why we need more than one knife, right? At any rate, I plan on spending some time using one of the Blackjacks and really get a feel for it. Always like a challenge!
Some of you have noticed I’ve been adding a few older GEC’s to the storefront this week. I had a small collection come my way and there are/were a few real gems in the mix. There will be a few more next week. Always fun to get an opportunity to pick up a collection when I can.
A final note is I see the first of the GEC #56’s has shown up on their website. Based on that, I’d anticipate we’ll see the first of them start to come through next week.
The primary question of this weeks update is what’s happening with Queen Cutlery? I don’t think most of us know anymore then we did a couple of weeks ago. My hope is that within the next couple of weeks we get and update from Queen to give us a little idea what the future holds for all of us.
In the meantime, sales of Queen and Schatt & Morgan knives have noticeably picked up. Some buyers admit they’ve never owned a Queen/S&M and figure they better grab one now if they’re ever going to get the one they want. Others want a “pre-reorganization” knife. And a few are speculating on a worst case scenario, buying in anticipation that the value of all of the Queen products to go up. At any rate, I like to see the folks that have never owned a Queen give them a try.
Fixed blade knives have been selling well. I’m not sure if it’s a growing interest in fixed blades due to the lack of ‘new’ traditional folders or if it’s just the time of year. Spring is coming and along with it camping, hiking and fishing seasons. The Hess brand has always done well for me and their knives are a fantastic price point considering the quality.
Another line I’ve carried but neglected to give much attention are the Blackjack knives. I keep a few of the #5’s (my most popular seller) listed in the store but for whatever reason, this has been a gunshow knife. It seems to sell best when a customer has the chance to pick it up and actually handle it rather than just looking at pictures.
It’s a brand that’s been around since the late 80’s in one form or another and finally found it’s footing in the late 90’s. Mike Stewart had started out with some of the Chris Reeve fixed blade patterns and finally settled on patterns with a strong influence of the original Bo Randall knives. They’re not necessarily copies of Randall’s but they have a definite Randall influence.
Part of the appeal to me is the size of the handles. I have a fairly large hand and like the extra long handle on a heavier duty work knife.
Another detail I appreciate on a larger knife is the long ricasso. Using a large knife for ‘detail’ work can be hazardous and clumsy at best. The ability to get your fingers closer to the working edge can be extremely helpful to maintain control when working on smaller projects. That long guard is added insurance your hand isn’t going to slip allowing your fingers to slide up the blade. (important for guys like me)
And finally, it’s made in the USA from A2 Tool Steel with a convex grind. Fit and finish on all of the knives I’ve handled has been excellent. As far as the price goes, coming in well below the $200 mark, they are priced right. My current inventory of the Blackjacks is low but I have an order coming in for the next gunshow and I’ll try to share more of them in the store.
Right now I’m expecting to see the Blackjacks in about a week to 10 days. Another couple dozen Hess‘ will be coming through in about 2 weeks. I’m guessing we may see the first of the GEC 56’s starting to show up in another week as well. In the mean time, let’s all hope we hear some good news out of Queen real soon.
I’ve been bemoaning the fact that 2017 was pretty devoid of much ‘new’ in the way of NEW products. So many of the new releases were just reworks of old knives we’ve seen before and the excitement level was pretty low. I hope that’s not the way of the future.
Probably the most exciting truly new item was the release of the Schatt & Morgan Express Knives. And in reality, this is a rework of another series of old knives but at least it was new to most of us. The acceptance wasn’t as wide as a more conventional traditional folder, but the guys into collecting the old auto’s seemed to love it.
When I got to thinking about neat older knives, a couple of pieces I’ve acquired this past year came to mind. Now they’re not necessarily anything I think needs to be re-released, their uniqueness is interesting.
The first piece that ranks high on the the cool list was the Cattaraugus King of the Woods “Yukon” that I picked up at an auction. I sold it this fall to a collector that was thrilled to get his hands on it due to it’s rarity. It was truly a big old workhorse of a knife.
Another work horse is the Western States lockback. It’s lock mechanism is very similar to the more recent GEC Bull Lock. Again, like the Cattaraugus, this is a big knife that was made to be used by the serious hunter, trapper and farmer.
I have to believe that in their day, these knives were met with wild enthusiasm by the serious outdoorsman. Today, knives like these would immediately be popular sellers but unfortunately most would end up in display cases. The world has changed and the need for a heavy duty work knife that will actually get used is rare.
From work knives, I have a couple of ‘fun’ knives. I’ve always liked looking at some of the smaller, miniature knives. This little hunter caught my eye primarily due to the chunk of stag used in the handle. The overall quality of the knife is great. The tang stamp is simply “Solingen”. Wish I had the original sheath. They may not be practical but I think it’s a holdover from my youth that they just looked cool.
And speaking of original sheaths, this little Mora is a true gem. I had a guy I’ve known for a number of years show up at a gun show and ask me if I was interested in buying it. It didn’t take long to say yes.
The quality of the embellishment on the sheath is fantastic. The knife has obviously been used and put away wet more then once without a good cleaning. It’s amazing the sheath is in the condition it is. Someday I have to work on cleaning up the blade. It’s not deeply pitted, just stained.
Not so long ago, I asked what would it take to create some excitement in the knife world like we saw 8 or 9 years ago. Personally, as a huge fan of the of the premium steels, I hope we see more manufacturers use them in more of the traditional patterns.
I hope the legislative changes that seem to be taking place across the country continues and we see a wider acceptance of practical auto’s. There’s definitely a place for more reasonably priced, high quality auto’s that are built with the sportsman in mind. I’m not talking about $250+ tactical style auto’s but how about a nice GEC #23 auto? Congrats to Buck for taking the step they did.
Wouldn’t it also be great to see more companies take the lead from Spyderco’s Mule Team project and put out some ‘experimental’ blades for folks to try? Spyderco deserves an award for taking the initiative and having the creativity they’ve shown with that project. I know it’s given me the opportunity and motivation to try some different blade steels without spending a ton of cash.
There are so many other ideas that are possible. All I can do is hope!!!!