Ritzy foodies just love small batch, handcrafted local food (my grandmother likes local food too, for a whole different reason). But the Slow Food Movement is just one way in which people have turned to smaller economic networks in the past few very lean years. The emergence of CSAs seem to be the perfect exemplar of this push (see government involvement isn't ALWAYS bad). But as people that like gear, it is hard to find the equivalent. There are, of course, custom gear makers like McGizmo, and the hundreds of custom knife makers, but there is no central marketplace for these folks. That is, not one usually referenced in the gear community.
If you peruse the boards at EDCF, USN, CPF, or any other gear forum you will very rarely see a reference to a common marketplace for small batch custom goods, but there is one. Etsy has been in use for craft people, mainly women, for years now and if you take a look at their offerings you just might be surprised at what you find. If you are looking for small batch, custom gear, try Etsy.
Etsy is a virtual craft show, dominated by blankets and sweaters and other traditionally crafted items. Etsy will only list things that are either vintage or are handmade. The rule for vintage is straightforward--the item must be more than twenty years old. The rule for handmade is a bit looser as any form of post-production modification counts. There are a lot of junky things on Etsy that are "handmade" because someone engraved "Grandpa" on the side. But if you look carefully you can find some pretty nice gear. I am not able to vouch for this stuff, but there are signs the things are well made.
My sister in law (who makes extraordinarily nice custom baby linens, here; they make great baby arrival gifts in case the women readers or the Mrs. wants some ideas) pointed me in Etsy's direction. In the few weeks since I started looking I have found a wide variety of really interesting gear there, much of it at much lower prices than offered elsewhere (in part because Etsy, by definition, cuts out the distribution and advertising costs). Don't believe me that a virtual craft show has things that are interesting for gear geeks? Let me prove my point.
Looking for a custom knife? How about this blade:
Custom Lockback Folding Knife
Here is a pic:
Not my cup of tea, but it is interesting and looks well made. Definitely different and the eagle wing as a thumb catch is pretty unique and functional.
Here is another knife from the same maker, a little more in line with my tastes, though still a little out there:
Custom Lockback Folding Knife Sunburst
There are quite a few rescaled SAKs on Etsy as well, many with visually pleasing wood handles. There are even a few fixed blades. Honestly a lot of the stuff is total junk that is rendered "custom" (as required by Etsy's standards, either custom or vintage, more than 20 years old) by a cheap engraving, but digging and checking back can reveal cool stuff. I saw a damascus flipper two weeks ago (listing is long gone, people have to pay to keep things listed) for a very reasonable price.
Not looking for a knife, what about a pen?
Oh, Etsy has a ton of options for you. Most are turned wood on pen "kits" but the results are unique and gorgeous. Here is a really nice example:
Turned Redwood Burl Pen
The pen mechanisms look like a Rockler or Lee Valley purchase, and this particular guy uses Parker refills (meaning Fisher refills can work too) but the wood body is the thing that makes the difference. If you read the page you can see that this particular maker knows what he or she is talking about, referencing the high grit micromesh used to finish the CA coats. This has all the appearances of a craftsperson at work.
Here is another pen that caught my eye:
Kauri Wood Aero Style Pen
Kauri is a wood that I am familiar with from my woodworking projects. I find it really surprising that knife makers have, by in large, ignored this really dense unique wood for handle scales. Here is a bit more about it (if you even have a PASSING interest in woodworking, click that link and look as some of that stuff). Again, this is a pen kit, but the work appears flawless. This particular piece is listed at $50, a very good price for the materials and apparent craftsmanship.
No mighty pen or sword? How about a really nice bag or two:
The details and fasteners seem to be quite nice and the price is amazing, if the quality is there: $245 plus shipping. The information on the bag's ad again indicate a knowledge of leather and leathercraft.
Want something more gear-like?
Minimalist Icon Small Bag
Maxped PFII. There are two water bottle holders, one on each side, and a bunch of pockets. It has a worn look that will probably age well and the leather zipper pulls look cool. It is not made of super water repellant nylon, but instead cotton canvas. It also has a smaller price tag than the PFII, coming in at $45.00.
Alas, there are no real custom flashlights on Etsy (or none that I could find) but there was this:
Again, not my style, but still, at least it is something.
I am really quite pleased with the custom stuff I have bought off of CPF and other places, but sometimes I wish there was a clearinghouse for ALL custom gear. Until then, it doesn't hurt to check Etsy.