The Sudden And Curious Culture Of Knives.

by Daniel Russ on August 11, 2011

The Knife Show

My wife and I watch the CutleryCorner Knife show on cable copiously. I can’t really explain why either. It’s funny but Todd Boone, Tom O’Dell, and Sheila Travis operate an entire cable channel cottage industry that sells inexpensive knives to collectors, to cooks, to hunters and campers and to ordinary people who just might like to carry a knife in their pocket. The knives they sell are not always the best quality and the blade steel itself lacks sufficient high carbon and other smelting techniques that makes a knife truly great and frankly expensive. The Knife Show by Cutlery Corner seems to be selling to resellers. Why else would you buy one hundred knives for $99.00? The people they sell these lower end knives to will resell each of them for upwards up 300% profit. Granted, one could probably get a great deal of use out of a knife purchased there, but their knife products tend to be on the lower end of the best production technologies and generally made of steel not that is not much better than you’d find in your dinner fork.


I was responding to a crowd sourced effort to market the product WD-40. WD-40 does basically three things, it lubricates surfaces, it cleans metal surfaces and it protects from rust. My idea did not win the day but it was aimed at an audience that is predisposed to buy and own a knife. It’s that simple. Here is what my research showed me and it was surprising. It surprised me because there are people who have garnered millions of web views and loyal audiences simply by reviewing the thousands of knives that are available for purchase. They use a simple digital cameras to record a review that might be a ten minutes long. They show you the knife from taking it out of the box it was shipped in, to discussing how its wrapped, how sharp it is, the locking type, the ease of use, how it fits in their hands, how much it costs, how long it is folded and unfolded, how much it cost and how much they like it. Nutnfancy has over 75 million views. Nutnfancy is 26 year old guy named Adam and he has expanded his channel to reviewing cameras, sharpeners, hot sauces, camping gear and hand guns. Selica is a young woman who started Peaksurvival, a You Tube channel that reviews camping and survival gear and even teaches survival. She is not your typical grizzled old outdoorsman. She is young and articulate and media saavy enough to be good on camera. She has over a million and a half views. Jess is the name of a guy who created Cutlery Lover and his You Tube videos have been viewed over 34 million times. There are online forums where people just talk about their knives and trade industry information. Knife Forums has a forum that has 15,000 topics already discussed and Blade Forums is also quite robust. It’s people discussing knives.


Today’s knives are decidedly not the spavined rusted old pocket knives in Dad’s drawer. These knives represent new materials technologies. The steel itself and the characteristics of each kind of steel are thought through to the mission of the knife. If you need a fixed blade knife sturdy enough for deep woods camping or hunting, the blade will likely sit inside a custom made sheath made of either good leather or hard plastic/fiberglass composite materials. The blade itself will determine how expensive the knife is. There is some cache as well with certain knife brands. If you are an executive that has to cut open packages, then you might need a slim knife with a handsome blade and a discreet color and something that would look perfectly normal in your hands, even if you had to cut a steak at a restaurant.


There are literally hundreds of brands. SOG, Benchmade, Cold Steel, Spyderco, Columbia River Knife and Tool (CRKT), Leatherman, Ontario, Boker, Gerber, Kershaw are all some of the high end brands. Each knife manufacturer has hit on one or two knife designs that sold very well and for that reason they expand those sub brands. Kerhaw is know for the Leek and the Chill. Benchmade is known for its Griptillian series. The SOG is known for the Trident, and this goes on forever. Most of these knives are sold online as no store could possibly stock all the popular lines of all the popular brands. It would be bigger than a Wal Mart Super Store. You might go online and type in Knife Center instead. There you will access to every brand of knife made that is worth having and then some. You will get the high end knives, the medium range knives, the custom knives made only in small batches and by hand somewhere by a craftsman who created a unique look or a niche in knife making. You might find yourself buying a Benchmade Presidio  520 SBK for $194.00. Or a Cold Steel Recon One for $67.00. You may choose a small brand like Anza, or Magnum. You might find yourself buying a 9 inch long Marbles Orange Bolo Camp Cleaver for $12; or a Kissing Crane Large Brown Mule for $14 or the Katz Alley Kat XT70 Fixed blade, You may even fork over $200 for a 2.5 half inch fixed blade Gentleman’s knife by Skalja, or a Lone Wolf Lobo With S30V steel and G 10 handles for $120.00 You may decide the Kerhsaw Half Ton is perfect for you at 2.5 ounces and only $12 with shipping.


A $500 MicroTech Folder


Once a rarity, now all pocket knives, or folders have one handed opening that range from the flipper open that puts a lever on the back of the blade that stickes through the handle when the blade is seated and a flick of the fore finger  literally flips the blade out; there is the ubiquitous thumb stud, and ambidextrous thumb stud that puts a small stud on either side of the blade close to the handle and one merely uses the thumb to flip the blade out; there is assisted opening, where one pushes the stud the release the blade and then a slight effort forward snaps blade into locked position and full out auto openers or switchblades. There are experimental opening systems created by CRKT where you push the handle forward with your thumb and the handle looks like it is falling apart but blade pops out of the handle and swings up, all one handed.


Also once a rarity, today virtually all folders worth owning come with a locking mechanism that will not allow the blade to collapse on your fingers during usage. The most popular is the liner lock. Inside the handle the blade is surrounded by two metal liners. One of them is tempered to bend in when the blade is not in the handle. The liner then essentially pops under the blade when it is fully extended and keeps the blade from collapsing. You have to use your thumb or other hand to move the liner back and re-seat the blade. There are axis locks that put a spring loaded metal stud under the blade when it is extended and require that a button be pulled back to re-seat the blade. There are lock backs and spring locks and  frame locks, ring locks, slip joint and lever locks.


The details of the knife are everything. Take the shape of the blade which turns out to be a big deal to knife lovers. There is a the dagger, double sided, drop point, tanto point, and in the reviews even the grade on the knife, or the angle taken to get from the back of the blade to the cutting edge is considered. A typical knife review will go through all these details including the grade of steel.


Steel is super important in knife making and it is the reason why a knife costs a lot or costs very little. There are things you blend in when smelting steel that affect it’s ability to resist corrosion or hold an edge. There is carbon and vanadium and molybdenum for example. There are popular variations on high grade steel that balance things like, how hard the knife is, how heavy it is and how it looks to the naked eye. 154CM Stainless Steel is popular and it holds its edge, is very strong but not brittle, it’s domestically produced, and resists rust. 8Cr14MoV is also quite popular. This is smelted in China with similar performance characteristics to AUS-8 and is excellent value priced steel for its performance. 440C is a high-chromium stainless steel with a good balance of hardness and corrosion resistance.


Everything you can do to a knife is done to these knives. And just to keep them all honest people will buy their products and test them on camera and post the results also on You Tube. Pretty much, these high-end manufacturers come out looking very good.


The handles are no longer just leather or deer horn or steel. They are made of high technology resins and fiberglass like G-10. The back of the blades often feature a series of grooves that are there to prevent slippage. This is called jimping. Some knives are specifically made for police and emergency medical workers as they feature serrated blades that will slide through a seat belt. Knife companies make rock stars of knife designers. Kerhsaw licenses knives from Ken Onion. Spyderco often promotes Bill Moran. Retail establishments have done quite well selling knives like Island Tactical in Las Vegas of New Graham in Bluefield, Virginia.


I don’t quite know how to account for the rise in knives. Only that it’s curious.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Corsair8X August 20, 2011 at 5:09 pm

Part of the trend is the popularity of the concept of EDC (everyday carry). It is part of a neo-survivalist movement based on preparedness. One of the key components in that system is a good knife. I think that has helped fuel this trend and popularity of knives.

I never go anywhere without my knife. Anywhere.

Daniel Russ August 20, 2011 at 7:27 pm

me too

Oh Hell August 21, 2011 at 3:47 pm

Because there are some places where you cannot carry your gun, and it is better to be arm with something, than nothing….

Cheech June 21, 2016 at 2:52 pm

Its probably one of the first tools made by man so its in our DNA. It’s about utility! I use mine 3-4 times a day.

Louis September 5, 2017 at 8:59 am

Had my first Swiss army knife given to me by my dad, when I was 15. Haven’t been without one since then. Although I had to remember to not put it on the carry on luggage when traveling by air.

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