I just finished reading the latest issue of Blade Magazine. It’s the Spring 2020 edition and well worth reading. Without a doubt, there is a low cost, high quality knife explosion in progress. In all the years I’ve been cutting stuff with a knife never have I seen the level of new products hit the marketplace that we’re seeing today.
And the ‘stuff’ isn’t just a redux of what’s gone before. While some of the items might look familiar, if you check out the blade steels, locking mechanisms, etc, you start to see some big differences.
The first knife that really hit me in the face is on the inside cover. It’s the Case Shark Tooth Flipper. I know its been out there for a while. Be honest with yourself and tell me that even 5 years ago you would have taken a bet that Case would sell an EDC knife with an S35VN flipper stone washed blade. Made in China. In the $200 price range.
Then we move onto the DEKA from Hogue with a CPM20CV blade. For well under $200 and made in the USA. Coming up in 2020 is the Bear OPs flipper with an S35VN blade made in the US for around $200. There’s the Sweetwater EDC from Fremont Knives with a 154CM blade coming from China in the $100 range.
Buck knives has brought out their own line of auto’s. It started around the base 110 and 112’s and quickly opened up a line of tactical style knives in the Buck Impact Auto’s. This shouldn’t be a shock as we’ve seen the 110 and 112’s offered in aftermarket conversions for quite some time. It’s one of those products that just made good business sense.
The amazing thing to me are the number of high quality, highly affordable knives coming in from China. Ruike, Artisan, WE are just a few of the more notable offerings. There are many, many more and it seems like more new ones showing up everyday. We’re also seeing more US manufacturers going to China for some of their production is increasing.
While the Chinese have had a considerable labor cost advantage for years, they have stepped up their quality tremendously. In the past, the quality was usually fairly good but it seemed like the blade steel was inconsistent. I’ve been carrying one of the Artisan’s for 4 or 5 months waiting for it to break and ….nothing. It has an S35VN blade that’s takes and holds a fantastic edge. Operation is smooth as silk.
Several months ago I spoke with one of the distributors I buy from and asked what impact the US / China trade agreement would have on imports. At that time, things were up in the air and price increase were anticipated due to the tariffs being discussed. With things looking more and more favorable that a new trade agreement will be signed, the price increase concerns are fading.
The competitive prices and greatly improved quality will no doubt continue to add fuel to the new product fire. This is going to put a lot of pressure on US manufacturers to do one of two things. Bring out more innovative products that are produced domestically. OR move more production off shore. I like the lower prices as much as anyone but I sure like to see that “Made In the USA” label.
I’ve become a minor steel snob and admit I love trying some of these new blades. For so many years I got by with what I had and didn’t understand/appreciate the difference in steels. Now that they’ve gotten more affordable, it makes my life a lot more fun. With the new offerings expanding exponentially, that just makes it even more fun!! Kind of like smoking good cigars. Once you start smoking the good ones, its kinda hard to go backwards.