The latest installment of the hottest makers’ hottest knives employs the expertise of leading purveyors who buy custom knives and sell them, and each has been doing it for quite some time. They know what’s hot and what sells. If they didn’t, they would not be in business for so long—and BLADE® would not be asking them what they think are the hottest makers’ hottest knives. In alphabetical order, the purveyors are Larry Brahms of Bladeart.com; Daniel O’Malley of BladeGallery.com; Les Robertson of Robertson’s Custom Cutlery; Paul Shindler of Knife Legends; Dave Stark of Steel Addiction Knives; and Duane Weikum of EDC Knives.
As with any dynamic category of well-made tools, the custom knife industry continues to evolve—and it must to keep pace with the demands of today’s sophisticated knife buyers. For instance, Stark indicated he deals with two categories that a number of leading makers are gravitating toward: tactical and dress tactical folders. “It’s a new slot for these guys Everybody’s doing both,” Stark said. “The dress tacticals come in Mokuti [a combination of mokume and titanium], mammoth ivory and damascus. Chad Nichols is the man in damascus now. He makes Mokuti and damascus in unique patterns, especially the Mokuti.”
Robertson seems to agree, though he calls them “hybrid folders” instead of “dress tacticals.”
“Tactical folders and hybrid folders are the hottest knives on the market,” Robertson opined. “Hybrid folders start out with a tactical design and then, in lieu of standard blade steels, titanium bolsters and synthetic materials, upgrade the base design with damascus for blades and bolsters, and other materials such as Mokuti and supercollider material for bolsters and frames. Lastly, the handle material is upgraded to high-end natural materials.”
O’Malley outlined several categories that are extremely hot: production/custom crossover makers (makers that are known both for their production knives and custom knives); art knives, that is, “carved artwork with an edge”; handmade hunting knives; gent’s knives with a tactical edge; and handmade kitchen knives. For Weikum, custom balisongs are gaining traction.
“The balisong market is heating up in 2012. We have makers who have been making balisongs for years and now produce the best balisongs there are, including Charles Marlowe, Terry Guinn and Chris Olofson of 29 Knives,” he noted. “You also have young makers coming into the market and setting it on fire such as Jeremy Marsh, G.T. Cecchini, Todd Begg, Brad Southard and Sam Eddleman.”
Robertson indicated specific knives in damascus also are in demand. “Another hot market sector is damascus hunters and damascus bowies—not just any damascus hunters or bowies, but those from the established makers featuring top-quality, natural handle materials,” he observed.
Shindler said Italian and French makers continue to be red hot on the art-knife side of the ledger, including Charles Bennica, Jean-Pierre Sucheras, Antonio and Salvatore Fogarizzu, Salvatore Puddu, Emmanuel Esposito and Fabrizio Silvestrelli. “This goes along with the usual Art Knife Invitational suspects—Michael Walker, Jurgen Steinau and Wolfgang Loerchner,” he noted.
“The current economic climate seems to have driven many collectors out of the $1,500-to-$5,000 price range, which is impacting just about nearly every high-quality knifemaker you can think of. The exceptions are the French and Italian makers who fall into this price segment,” Shindler said. “Long-time elite makers in this price range who are coming to shows with new ideas and patterns appear to be fairing much better than top-notch makers who bring the same patterns and models to shows they’ve been selling for the last 10 years. This will most likely change when there is once again an influx of new collectors who don’t already own those patterns—most likely after the economy is on the mend and everyday folks and collectors are back to work.
“From what I hear, there is no shortage of collectors for knives in the under-$700 price category, and the same may be said of knives in the $7,000-$10,000 category. Collectors are actively buying knives in that price range if you have exactly the knife they are looking for at a very competitive price. I see no change in the over-$15,000-per-knife market, where the same collectors continue to actively buy the best and most-sought-after models of the most elite makers—in the rare instances when knives by those makers become available.
“Hardly a day seems to pass without the appearance of new slip-joint and Loveless-tribute knifemakers into a market which is currently not growing overall,” Shindler continued. “As a result, more and more makers in these two categories are carving up the business into smaller and smaller pieces, making it tougher for even the best-known and most successful slip-joint and Loveless-tribute makers to do the business of even two or three years ago.”—By Steve Shackleford
Hottest Makers’ Hottest Knives
Maker Knife List Price*
Jens Anso Model 67 $675
Todd Begg Bodega $900+
Tashi Bharucha Deep Cover $675
David Broadwell Carved art fighter $2,000+
Michael Burch Platypus $1,000
Jim Burke Crusader $850
Lucas Burnley Kawaiken flipper $600
G.T. Cecchini Anything he makes $900+
Brian Fellhoelter FLG $500
Jerry Fisk Sendero $2,000+
Les George Rockeye $475
DireWare Solo $500
Allen Elishewitz Gordian Knot $950
Rick Hinderer XM18 $400+
Flavio Ikoma Harrier $2,000+
Korth Carved Sentry $2,400+
Schuyler Lovestrand Sub-hilt fighter $1,000+
R.J. Martin The Devastator $650+
Tom Mayo Persian flipper $800
Charles Marlowe S1 $1,600+
Jeremy Marsh Vanquish $1,200+
Scott McGhee Mamba $700+
Gerry McGinnis Peligro $675
Shawn McIntyre Damascus hunter $850
Jonathan McNees MCK1 $170
Fred Ott Stag hamon hunter $585
Todd Rexford Epicenter $1,000+
Phil Rose Survival/military fixed blade $475
Sniper Bladeworks DH $575
Tim Steingass AK Hunter $310
Mick Strider Anything he makes $900+
Andre Van Heerden M27 $1,025
Nick Wheeler Fighter $800+
Daniel Winkler WK II Belt Knife $350
Will Zermeno LR2 Azrael $325
*Prices will vary depending on whether knives are primary or secondary market, materials, configurations, etc., and are subject to change at a moment’s notice.
HERE’S THE POOP ON THE KNIFE BY STEEL ADDICTION CUSTOM KNIVES PICTURED AT TOP:
Maker: Lee Williams
Pattern: Dress tactical
Action : Flipper
Blade steel: CPM-154 stainless
Blade length: 3.75”
Handle: Mokuti by Chad Nichols
Special Feature: Bee Line kick stop ensures the flipper tab “disappears” when the knife is open
Insider’s Info: “Lee Williams’ Mokuti piece, the Horizon flipper with the Bee Line kick stop, is about as hot as they come.”—Dave Stark, Steel Addiction Custom Knives
Maker’s List Price: $1,600
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