Great knives have face. I'm not talking about a face like on a Halloween mask, but a knife with a design or style that's recognizable by a large number of knife enthusiasts as having been made first by one knifemaker and one knifemaker only.
The face, in this instance, is the unmistakable knife design or style of the maker in question.
How the term came about I'm not exactly sure but I've heard it from or read it written about by long-time observers of the knife scene, including BLADE Magazine Cutlery Hall-Of-Fame© members Bernard Levine, Bruce Voyles and others. One explanation of face that applies here is that I may not know or remember a person's name, but if I know his or her face I almost always instantly recognize it. The difference in the instance of knives with face is that I recognize both the knife design or style and the maker's name.
There are at least two provisos: 1. To fully qualify as a knife with face the knife must be recognizable by a large number of knife enthusiasts. Now, there no doubt are great knives made by makers that one or a few enthusiasts may recognize as being the knives of specific makers, but the ones that really fill the bill are the ones many enthusiasts can look at and say, “Yep, that's so-and-so's knife.” It's effective in terms of a conversation starter among knife enthusiasts who are friends, or as a conversation icebreaker among those who have just met. They don't know each other but they do know great knives with face.
2. Some of the makers of knives with face have had their designs with face emulated by many others. Even so, if the knife has face those who recognize it will say that it's in the style of the maker who originated it.
Following is a selection of great knives with face and why they qualify. Enjoy!
- The Bob Loveless dropped or drop-point hunter. The Loveless drop-point hunter is one of the great knives with face on this list that meets Proviso 2 above. While it may not appear to be all that unusual, the drop-point style of the blade—where the blade tip falls below the plane of the spine—is something Loveless popularized in the 1970s and '80s, and it remains his signature style to this day.
- The Bill Moran style. Actually, as with Loveless, any number of Moran knives have face, though I've chosen one of my favorites: the ST-24. The flowing blade with a long clip point and ergonomically contoured dropped handle with silver wire inlay is unmistakably a Moran.
- The Michael Walker style. Walker's linerlock folder changed knives forever but he also makes models unlike anyone else. Outfitted with any number of his clever and innovative locks, each of which gives the handle a notably different look at the pivot, Walker's knives use the latest and most exotic materials, are embellished in any number of creative and ornate ways, and usually have some of the most interesting blade shapes you'll ever see.
- The Jurgen Steinau style. When I first saw one of Jurgen Steinau's knives, at first I wasn't even sure I was looking at a knife. The designs, angles and materials of his knives are like something from a book on intergalactic architecture. Suffice it to say, Steinau's great knives have face—and then some!
- Jim Schmidt's Goblin Folder. Schmidt's Goblin Folders have face in more ways than one. Not only do they have the face of a goblin on the handle's stag butt, but that face makes the knife unmistakable as the style originally made by Mr. Schmidt. A number of his other models have face as well.
There are others who make great knives with face. Which ones make your list?
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