One to Watch: Tom Krein Shard Midtech
Tony Sculimbrene 03.04.15
The pattern is familiar by now. There is a well-worn path from modder to maker. Some guy in a garage or with a workbench decides to take apart his knife. In doing so he learns a bit about how they are made and eventually he makes some modifications. After all, if you have a workbench and are the type that takes stuff apart, then modifications are in your wheelhouse. Then he starts modding other people’s knives. They like it and he sees there is some money to be made in the knife business. Modding leads to some money that leads to some machines and eventually the modder makes the leap from modder to maker.
The transition is a perilous one, one that has taken more than a few people down. But if the modder is successful, he arrives at a different level of the knife making craft with the expectation of producing a custom blade. Between the business side and the craft side, there is very little time left for anything else. But eventually the maker’s reputation reaches a critical mass, and the person is selling custom designs. His books swell with future customers and eventually the close. Then the secondary market goes crazy and the knives that he is selling direct for $500 sell online for more than four times as much. The supply and demand cycle is a fickle beast.
How to fill that demand has become one of the biggest issues knifemakers face today. The market is not just hot, it’s scorching. But the impetus behind customs is the handmade side of the craft, and so there is a limit on what a maker can do. Still, money is left on the table. People want these designs, but they can’t get them. A maker has a few options. They can scale up and go production, like Rick Hinderer did. They can do a collaboration with a major production company, like many have. Or they can do something a bit different, something that is a recent innovation in the market. They can make a midtech.
Right now the premiere midtech outfit is Chad Nichols of Damascus fame. Chad has worked with a veritable Hall of Fame of current custom makers from Burch to Graham to Southard. In each instance, he batches out the parts, and the custom maker does the final finishing and assembly. The end result is a knife that has a lot of the feel of a custom but the price and availability of a production. My GMT Stubby Razel is one of these knives, and I can tell you straight out—it’s amazing.
The next maker to hop on the midtech bandwagon is Tom Krein. Krein walked the modder to maker path, but unlike a lot of folks, he has experience in the big league working in Bob Dozier’s shop. There he picked up Bob’s affinity for D2, his immaculate grinds, and his emphasis on working edges. Tom’s signature custom, the Alpha, is even in its blingiest iteration a working folder. And now, with his midtech, the Shard, that sensibility is coming to all of us.
The Shard is a titanium framelock flipper. Specs have not been released so I don’t know the size, weight, or steel, but it appears to have a blade that falls into the sweet spot—between 3 and 3.5 inches. The blade shape is a mix between a drop point and a wharncliffe, an excellent choice for all around EDC/utility tasks. If the past is any indication, the knife will probably retail around $350-$600. Tom’s Instagram has been filled with images of Shard parts and WIPs. Each time I get a little more excited. The midtech wave is really a boon for knife knuts, and bringing Krein’s approach to that part of the market is a great thing. Who doesn’t want a nice knife that can really do some work?