Blade show 2019 report

BossDog

KnifeDogs.com & USAknifemaker.com Owner
I think I’ve been going to Blade for 12 or 14 years. I can’t be sure but this one by far had the most attendance I have seen on Friday and Saturday.
Some observations.
If you want to see where the market is at this is where you want to be. Not necessarily with a table but to walk around and see what people are doing, what is selling, what isn’t selling.
What wasn’t selling was anything Zombie. Zombie is dead. Good riddance.
Highly polished, mirror finished was slow also.
Folders in the $250 to $500 range owned the show. Plenty - a lot- of fixed blades sold also but folders were king.
Three piece knives had a huge range in fit, finish and grinding. The better sellers by far were the ones with clean grind lines, extra attention to handle shape and better sheaths.
The titanium pen guys did huge business.
The ABS section was busy and the ABS guys had a larger than past show assortment on their tables. It was not all Damascus Bowie’s. Several offered opening price point knives (for them) did well.
The tables that had makers staring at their phone were passed up to visit with the maker standing up, looking people in the eye and talking to potential customers first. I saw it time after time.
There was a lot of variety of handle materials. A lot. If you are using one type of handle material consider more types. Don’t be just a wood guy or micarta guy.
I spent several hours asking makers questions on how they do something. Coming to Blade is expensive but what learn if you ask is amazing. It will be the cheapest way to pick up knowledge.

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BossDog

KnifeDogs.com & USAknifemaker.com Owner
The mid tech and full on production booths seemed slow in some cases. Protec autos was an exception I noticed. They were loaded and when I walked by Saturday late they had been cleaned out.

The dealer/perveyors seemed to have more traffic this year. Not in the older 70, 80’s stuff but more modern collectibles.
There were several women makers and they all seemed to have done well.

The classes were hit and miss. I went to see Ron Lake - mostly to see Ron Lake. Luke, my son-in-law went to see Bill Ruple on slippies and said it was good. I thought Ron was good but I think his session went over a lot of the people’s head that were just starting out.

More and more teen boys were present with Dad acting as the bank buying or flipping balisongs. The Bali market will buy anything out there but the social media price is high. These 16 year olds will beat you senseless over the net if your quality is bad.

3 piece knife guys that used liners outsold the 3 piece guys with no liners hands down.

Many of the attendees were makers or serious collectors that know quality. I was shocked at how bad the fit and finish was on some. Those did not sell at nearly any price that I saw. Customers are educated better than ever before. They don’t have to settle.

Steel type mattered less than any time I have seen. It was all over the place and no one seemed to care.
Hamon’s ruled. If you forge put a decent hamon on. It’s almost expected now.

I saw a lot of sanmai knives. Most was purchased from one of the Damascus makers.
The cooler the Damascus pattern the better the knife looked. Random, raindrop or ladder isn’t enough anymore to be competitive.

The guys that didn’t like to make sheaths really showed that. The better the pants, the better the knife every single time.

The Russians were there in force with good looking stuff. The South African guys were absolutely killing it. The Japanese have really gotten away from kitchen knives into very high end, very dressy folders. One Pakistani table selling Damascus was shunned. Tough break for them but word is out on paki Damascus.

Guys that “reinvented” handle design because of their superior ergonomic knowledge were all talk. Hands haven’t changed and knife handle design has been settled for a very, very long time. Try not to discover a new, better handle design.

One design tables were slow. Tables that had a variety of designs had customers sticking around. Having more color or different wood on the same design doesn’t help that much. Not everyone skins a deer, is an “operator”, camps, bushcrafts, what ever. Assortment helps.

I saw a lot of women shopping with husbands. They wanted a knife. Make some women knives - what ever that is to you.

Rustic, hammer marked knives looked rough compared to forged knives all cleaned up. I did not see a lot of interest in rustic, 1800 style finishes.

More later when I get back home.
 

Heikki

Well-Known Member
Thanks for posting Tracy. That was very informative. I'm hoping maybe next year to make the trip myself.
 

BossDog

KnifeDogs.com & USAknifemaker.com Owner
More...

Tapered tangs felt better balance wise in your hand. There isn’t many out there. It’s an edge you can have. They aren’t hard to do, they just take time.

The handles with big random small wheel scallops for grip felt rough and would almost certainly create hot spots in use. The best ones I saw was small little, shallow scallops done with a dremmel tool. Soft edges on each scallop edge.

Avoid copper. Period. End of story and don’t tell me how you love copper. I love copper too. It doesn’t belong on a knife. It belongs on a Japanese sword - sometimes.

A lot of very well done slippies. Lots of frame lock flippers and after awhile they all looked the same - which is not great if that is all you make.

I talked to several guys that had used loveless bolts on handles but said they didn’t like how they looked. Loveless did not always use Loveless bolts. He did for awhile and then stopped.

The different composite makers are all working on new stuff. Some of it is very cool.

Every tom dick and Harry is selling stabilized wood. Most of it is quite good. Some was way over priced and sat unsold. But you have to ask, are you a knife maker or are you a guy that sells wood because you are pretty sure you won’t sell all your knives?

Tables that had key rings, beer openers, Ti gadgety stuff, jewelry, shirts, caps, stickers, looked like the souvenir shops at the front of a Cracker Barrel. When you are at a knife show, sell knives.

Makers that personally handed out brand stickers made friends. The ones that had theirs tossed out loose on a table didn’t.

Bored wives covering a table while the maker goes for a walk don’t sell knives very well. Most people have one day to see a knife show and they won’t come back later. They will buy a knife down the next aisle. Have the guy next to you cover your table. He will work hard to get you a sale. Give him your phone number.

Don’t rent a chair. Bring a high stool or high sitting chair. You will automatically be 16” taller than most everyone else.
 

Justin Presson

Well-Known Member
Good stuff Tracy, I really wanted to try and make it this year but with the new job and a slammed work schedule just wasnt in the cards. Thanks for the write up.

Forged in fire, knife or death TV shows hurt or helped the show? Helped makers who were on?
 

J. Doyle

Dealer - Purveyor
Fantastic posts. One of the best and most accurate blade show reviews I've seen.....ever.
 

BossDog

KnifeDogs.com & USAknifemaker.com Owner
The FIF guys I talked to all said their sales and prices went up after the show. I was talking to James the Burr King manager and I asked who he had doing demo grinds this year. He said a FIF guy name and I said you can swing a dead cat without hitting a FIF guy. The other guy standing next to us puffs up and says “thanks, season four, episode 3!” We all laughed.
The scared naked people were there but are now over shadowed by the FiF alumnus.

Good stuff Tracy, I really wanted to try and make it this year but with the new job and a slammed work schedule just wasnt in the cards. Thanks for the write up.

Forged in fire, knife or death TV shows hurt or helped the show? Helped makers who were on?
 

Gliden07

Well-Known Member
The FIF guys I talked to all said their sales and prices went up after the show. I was talking to James the Burr King manager and I asked who he had doing demo grinds this year. He said a FIF guy name and I said you can swing a dead cat without hitting a FIF guy. The other guy standing next to us puffs up and says “thanks, season four, episode 3!”
That's funny!! A friend of mine was on the show a couple weeks back and that's the way they all refer to themselves. Season X, Episode Y! He introduced me to a couple other guys that were on the show same thing. All the guys I've met from the show were all GREAT GUYS!!
 

Chris Railey

KNIFE MAKER
That is just gold right there Boss. I am starting to do some festivals and such with my blacksmith items. Knives are just a small part of wares I sell at shows but those tips I think will help any where. Especially since Blade was in Atlanta so you were basically with my constituency. Thanks for the run down
 

Casey Brown

Well-Known Member
Hey, Tracy. Set across from you at the Folders class, and saw you at the Bar-B-Que place Saturday night. Hope you had a good time. I know I did.

Casey
 

Cazador

Well-Known Member
Excellent review Tracy! This was the first Blade Show where I had a table. The one point that Tracy made that I can't emphasize enough, is stand at the table and greet people. I made several sales from people who were walking by who I'm sure would have kept on walking, if I hadn't greeted them. There were a huge number of people who I spoke with that were first timers at Blade. Sensory overload was a key term that I kept hearing. They were enjoying the Show but seemed almost grateful to stop and talk with someone for a few minutes. One of the other benefits in speaking with people, at least for me, were the number of folks who worked with some of the greats of the knife making world. Those conversations were priceless.
 

BossDog

KnifeDogs.com & USAknifemaker.com Owner
Hey, Tracy. Set across from you at the Folders class, and saw you at the Bar-B-Que place Saturday night. Hope you had a good time. I know I did.

Casey
Sorry I didn't notice. It wasn't intentional. Please say hello next time. I always like to visit with other makers. Honestly I was memorized by Ron Lake and wanted to take in every word. Thompson BBQ ribs were insanely good.
 
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