If they were people: knife company personalities
Tony Sculimbrene 07.24.13
We are living in a Golden Age of Gear. The embarrassment of riches start with handheld photon cannons like the Zebralight SC600 Mk. II and proceed on to production blades that even custom makers carry, like the ZT 560 (there is a multisource rumor that Hinderer was sporting a 560 at the 2Blade Show last year).
In this age of plenty, knife companies have wide and diverse product lines, but there is still a soul to each company. These aren’t the faceless multinational megacorps that dominate the Fortune 500. These are companies that, in large part, are still propelled forward by the visions of their founder, and the founder’s ideas saturate their products, their designs, and their marketing. So here is my best attempt at reducing these company personalities to a few tongue-in-cheek stereotypes. These are, obviously, not facts, but just my opinions. Hopefully you will find them funny or intriguing:
You know that really smart kid in your high school class that did things his own way and somehow they always worked out? That’s Spyderco. He also carries a small pen case with an Exacto knife, some art pens, and one of those gum erasers along with a notepad in case inspirations hits. As a person, Syderco would be neat, concerned with design, and open to new ideas. They might also be a little snooty, until you get to know them and then you realize they are just always thinking about different ways to do things.
Case in point: The still odd looking but incredibly effective Spyderco Delica.
They’d be your friend that likes everything to be high end. They have a fancy car, a Saddleback wallet, and Danner Boots (very clean Danner Boots). Benchmade would also be the guy with the very organized garage–a pristine and visually appealing pegboard, lots of high polish, diamond stamped plating–and, naturally, a gleaming Harley.
Case in point: The luxe auto Benchmade Infidel.
KAI USA (ZT/Kershaw)
As a person, KAI would be the guy you know that constantly drops names. They would tell you of all the times they have hung out with celebrities, you know, like the famous artist so-and-so or the heroic athlete Mr. Whathisname. You start to think that you might be getting tired of it, but then, all of the sudden you find yourself hanging out with the Name Dropper and his famous friends. And it is AWESOME.
Case in point: the ZT 0560.
This one is easy–Cold Steel IS Lynn Thompson. Who is Lynn Thompson? He is perhaps the world’s most famous murderer of blue jeans stuffed with a side of beef (oh the tragedy…). He is also the President of Cold Steel and its spokesperson/spokesmodel in all of their gratuitous “Proof” series videos. These videos show you the soul of Cold Steel–awesome strong cutters, ridiculous scenarios, the design subtlety of a rhino, and a line of knives and swords so big only Klingons, Lynn Thompson, and teenage boys think they are awesome.
Case in point: the Espada XL. Because EVERYTHING needs to be XL
SOG is that friend of yours that comes to work with oldish clothes, slightly tattered stuff, and always calculates the tip at lunch outings to the penny. You think he is a penurious dweeb, but then he invites you to his house and you arrive to find a multi-million dollar mansion, stocked with high end, exotic stuff–an Eames lounge chair in the living room and a Runco projector in his home theater (yes, he has a dedicated home theater). He isn’t cheap at all, but merely keeps the best stuff for himself and his close friends. To those he just met he hands out the flimsy and wildly overrated SOG Flash I.
An inventor with tons of ideas. Not quite as quirky as Doc Brown from Back to the Future, but a tinkerer none the less. A few of the ideas from yesteryear are Nokia N-Gage quality (side talking or self-sharpening knife anyone?) and while others are simply brilliant. Oh, and, the inventor has just hit his stride, as the ratio of N-Gages to brilliant inventions is changing in a good way.
Case in point: the sleek and innovative Swindle
The knife equivalent of a “butter face”. You see her from across the room and think: “Yowza, who is that?” But as you approach, things get worse with every step. The closer you look the more realize that, well, she’s not actually that good looking. Oh and then you realize that she is wearing a wig….ugh. And finally, when you’re a few feet away, you see that she is wearing more make up than Lon Chaney, Jr in “Wolf Man.” At the very last second you veer off course and pretend you have to do something else.
Case in point: any one of a dozen or so cheap copies of famous customs
This is the guy that had a few good ideas and has been milking them for a while. Not that that is a bad thing, but he struck it rich three or four times and has been going back to the same well over and over again.
Your grandpa. He’s sort of a redneck, but not in the “I follow the Monster Jam circuit and take it seriously” sense or the “I have an awesome skullet that I have cultivated over the years” sense, but in the “I listened to Blue Grass before O Brother Where Art Thou” sense. He is also surprisingly polished and handy for his age. You expect, given his age, that he might not be the best worker anymore and then you look up to see that he is not only working circles around you, but he is twice as clean as you are.
Your grandpa might also have a bolo tie for fancy occasions with jigged bone inserts. Hell, if you look really close you might actually find nickel silver bolsters covering his shoulders.
Case in point: the Case/Tony Bose collaborations
This is the guy that tools around in the Pontiac Fiero. It looks like a sports car and performs like a Yugo. Recently he stepped up his game — ok not really, but it looks like it. He now has an aftermarket spoiler installed on his Fiero. It’s orange to go with the charcoal gray Fiero. He also has his eye on a Pontiac Solstice, because, you know, you can never have too many underperforming but good looking cars.
Deciding to be charitable you get into his car only to have the passenger door fly off while you are driving at 70 mph on the highway. He forgot to tell you–there were a few product recalls. In a fit of rage, you tell him to pull over, and when he does he tells you that he assumed everything would be okay because his used Fiero was the price of a well-built new car.
It didn’t help Gerber’s reputation that they launched a very slickly produced marketing campaign, complete with burly looking dudes, a grizzled voice over, and HDR video in support of their new standard bearer blade, the Instant, only to have to issue a voluntary recall a few months later. The Gerber of the 70s and 80s, with their minimalist aesthetic and bleeding edge steels is long dead.
Case in point: the finger guillotine marketed as a knife called the Gerber Instant
In an industry that is about to take steps forward, about to become players in the global marketplace, it is a good time to cement where these companies came from. I hope this humorous peek not only tickled the joke part of your brain but also matches up with your experience. And if you are a Gerber fan, please, for the love of God, try something different.