BLADE Magazine

Portland BLADE Show West Review: Fresh Faces, Excited Exhibitors, “Weird” Works

Custom pizza cutter

Wrapping up Oct. 7, BLADE Show West 2018 in Portland, Oregon, showed why times are good for knifemakers and knife collectors.

That starts with the fact that BLADE Show West is an expansion of the annual BLADE Show in Atlanta, but most knife fans already knew that. Here’s a recap of show highlights that you might’ve missed if you weren’t one of the lucky dogs at the Portland show.

Fresh Faces

Over and over again, exhibitors commented how refreshing it was to see new knife fans. In turn, knife fans in the Portland area said they were excited to see the BLADE Show come to this side of the country, and to this part of the Pacific Northwest in particular.

That should come as no surprise, as the greater Portland area is positively primed for knife enthusiasts. There’s a good reason so many knife companies call the area home. Now, finally, there’s an event that brings everything together in one stellar package.

Attendance: Hot Runs On Customs, Factory Fun and One-on-One

BLADE Show West took place on a Friday, Saturday, Sunday circuit. Like many knife shows, each day brought different sorts of people to the event.

Friday was a hot one for custom knifemakers, with a line to get in out the door that cleared tables once the entrance unlocked. Custom ‘makers who sold out had two days to explore Portland, visit friends in the industry and, of course, log some backorders. That’s proof that the knife nuts will turn up when the floor plan looks as good as it did. 

This Bradford 4.5 took home the Best Fixed Blade award for factory knives. Also making a strong showing was the Bradford 3.5.

Saturday veered toward the factory exhibitors, as is often the case with events that also bring in casual knife fans (call them “knife peanuts” instead of “knife nuts?”). Companies local to the area, such as CRKT, Benchmade and Kershaw/ZT, made a big impression.

But the local knife nuts weren’t content with sticking to local companies. They also veered off into new favorites like WE Knife, Hogue and TOPS, to name only a few.

The crowds tamed down Sunday, the last day of the event, as one might expect, but that didn’t put a dent in the experience. As one knifemaker told The Oregonian, he “met future customers.” And those future customers got to meet knifemakers.

Besides, where else can your favorite knife company sharpen your favorite knife?

That’s what knife shows are all about. There isn’t anything wrong with logging onto Instagram or a retail website and placing an order for a knife. But can anything replace the in-person experience of talking with someone one-on-one? That’s always been important, and it will become even more important as various online platforms bend toward prohibiting knife content.

Simply put, nothing replaces a good, live knife show.

“Weird” Knives Were a Hit

The “City of Roses” might be Portland’s official nickname, but many know that the unofficial slogan is “Keep Portland Weird.” What better way to tip the ol’ cap to a terrific host city than by featuring some “weird” knives?

Yep. It’s a custom pizza cutter from Ooak Forge. It also got people talking, and that’s a good thing.

Knifemakers, not one to shy away from, well, anything, were more than happy to oblige. Without a doubt, the biggest head turner of the “weirds” was the “Hurley” from Zombie Tools. This dramatic re-interpretation of a key component of a traditional Irish sport not only won the Best “Weird” Knife award for factory blades, but also brought in wide-eyed rubberneckers from other events in the convention center.

It goes to show that the “weird” factor is not only fun for those in the know, but also a way to reach new people.

Custom and Factory Awards Highlight Excellent Knife Crop

BLADE Show West in Portland might be a cousin of BLADE Show in Atlanta, but it holds its own. That goes for the show awards, too.

BLADE Show West bestowed awards for custom and factory achievement in folding, fixed blade, EDC, non-knife EDC and “weird” categories. That’s in addition to the “Best in Show.” 

The full list of winners is here. Pay close attention to the EDC and non-knife EDC categories. As with “weird,” those categories were new and exclusive to the Portland knife show. The Pacific Northwest, already a hotspot for knife companies, is especially primed for carrying knives and tools on a daily basis.

Red Hot Knifemaker to Watch: P.H. Jacob

BLADE already rang the alarms with the high-quality work P.H. Jacob produces, and BLADE Show West put another notch in that belt. 

Just look at this happy camper:

Phil cleaned up the custom awards with Best Folding Knife and Best EDC Knife. He’s probably still grinning about the double dip.

That’s another unique part about knife shows. It’s a chance to recognize knifemakers who spend a lot of time laboring in creative isolation. Not only does BLADE Show West hand out the awards, the brains and hands behind the knives are present at the event. As a knife nut, BLADE Show West is a golden opportunity to hold the latest and greatest knives in your hands.

Not Just Knives

BLADE Show West also focused on gear, both harder use and EDC. That’s different from the BLADE Show in Atlanta. Here’s a little taste from InnerBark Outdoors.

Where’s “The Pit?”

“The Pit” at the Atlanta BLADE Show, as seen in 2011, prior to things getting “Pit”-y.

One thing the Portland BLADE Show West didn’t have was the famous “Pit” from the Atlanta BLADE Show, or a rough equivalent. That should be remedied next year in some fashion, but can the legendary “Pit” truly be copy/pasted? Time will tell, because if there’s one thing the knife crowd knows how to do, it’s…it’s…let’s just say…respectfully hosting discussions about contemporary issues in the knife industry over adult beverages until early morning at reasonable volume. Yeah. That.

Will There Be a BLADE Show West 2019?

It would make some sense, wouldn’t it?

A 2019 BLADE Show West is in the works right now, and it wouldn’t be unless the attendees and exhibitors were asking for one. Stay tuned for dates.

BLADE Show West Attendee Videos

A few highlights from the great videos attendees shot while at BLADE Show West.

See More Photos and Videos from BLADE Show West

If you weren’t lucky enough to be at BLADE Show West, you can still catch the highlight reel here on BLADE‘s Instagram, Twitter and Facebook profiles. Also check out BLADE Show’s official Instagram account.

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