Machine Assisted Custom Knives (M.A.C.K.): What It Takes To Compete In This Class

Machine Assisted Custom Knives (M.A.C.K.): What It Takes To Compete In This Class

Machine Assisted Custom Knives (M.A.C.K.) are at the cutting-edge of custom knife manufacturing.

For many, a knife resides in one of two manufacturing categories—handmade or machine-made. In the world of custom knives, historically there hasn’t been a lot of middle ground between the two and occasional animosity. Understandable, especially for the folks ringing an anvil to wrought a dazzling creation from sweat and steel. However, times are changing.

To that end, Machine Assisted Custom Knives (M.A.C.K.) have grown in popularity from a number of intrepid pioneers who—for lack of a better description—utilize the best of both worlds. Quite simply, knives in this category aren’t completely handmade, nor are they 100-percent machine creations. Combining the two disciplines of the same craft has proven a boon for the knife industry, creating a diverse and wonderful center course—one BLADE® Magazine and BLADE Show celebrate.

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Starting at the 2023 BLADE Show Texas, the event expanded its Custom Knife Awards to include M.A.C.K.’s. And again, the Custom Knife Of The Year Awards at the June 2-4 BLADE Show at the Cobb County Convention Center will include this burgeoning category—most likely in all its glory. So, what exactly does it take to qualify a knife in the M.A.C.K. class? Certainly more than taking a production knife and scratching a design on its scale by hand.

We explained the category thusly in custom knife competition rules:

“The knife must be of the folding/locking, non-slip-joint, EDC variety that is first and foremost a cutting tool. It must be functional, beautiful and have great ergonomics, yet still have practical applications and uses. It must consist of both at least one handmade feature—such as hand-ground blades, hand-contoured scales, manually machined parts, etc.—and of automated features such as waterjet-cut liners/scales, CNC’d handles, etc. … The blade should open and close easily and smoothly, and lock open properly and securely. All aspects of quality folder design—line and flow, blade centering and clearance, proper fit and finish, a comfortable handle, etc.—apply as well.”

Of course, given the skill of the craftsmen who enter the competition, it’s potentially difficult for the judges—almost all Master Bladesmiths themselves, mind you—to tell the machined parts from the handmade. Thus, there’s a bit of a twist found in this category, as compared to others.

“Each entry must be accompanied by an informative, to-the-point description of which part/parts is/are handmade and how. For example, “I did the filework by hand with such-and-such type of file.” The description must be 100 words or less so the winner will be judged on the knife and not on his/her writing skills. The judges will assume that the knife’s parts that are not handmade are made through a machine-aided process.”

Already, in one show competition, the entrees have been stunning. At the 2023 Texas show Keanison Knives took home the hardware in the category with a stellar flipper in what proved a competitive field. We expect the pow-wow in Atlanta will produce an equally as hot, if not hotter competition in this class.

If you’re an exhibitor at BLADE Show, and you have a knife that falls in this category, you should bring the best of kinetics, aesthetics and handcraft to the custom knife competition. If you’re a knife aficionado and look to keep your collection at the cutting edge of the industry, keep your eyes peeled for M.A.C.K.’s when you’re walking the floor. The style of the knife is certainly progressing what’s possible in the knife world.

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