Friday, December 26, 2014

Gear of the Year Ballots, Part I

The adherence to the two rules and the seriousness of each ballot varies, but that creates some delightful humor and inconsistency.

Here we go:

Ben Schwartz's Ballot:

Overall Product of the Year:

I'll talk about it more down below, but I would nominate the modded production knife as the Product of the Year. Modding has been around for years now, I know, but this is the year that I saw the most, and the coolest, work done in that field. Custom knives are wonderful, but hard to get and expensive. To have a production knife you really dig turned into something unique that only YOU own is such a cool idea, and usually more affordable with less of a turn-around time, than getting a custom.

Company of the Year:

Kai. They've been really good for years now, but in 2014 they really crushed it, giving entry-level enthusiasts something to love with the Emerson collabs, catering to fans of the cutting edge and high-end with their bevy of cool new ZTs AND their limited release stuff, AND showing, once again, that they understand and listen to their customer base with the release of the G-10 Cryo. I've also heard nothing but good things about their customer service (I'll have some personal experience with that soon, as I recently broke the Speedsafe on my Cryo...) I think other companies have made individual products that are more striking, or that appeal to me specifically more, but for all-around market mastery and sheer proliferation of quality, I think that Kai just owned this year.

Best Value:

Kershaw/Emerson collabs. In my opinion it really redefined what an entry-level user can get for $30. Excellent work. On the other end of the value spectrum I'd nominate the Three Sisters Forge Beast. $300 for a custom knife of this level of quality is just insane. For something in the middle I'd pick Kizer Cutlery's stuff, for obvious reasons.

Best Production Knife:

Tough one. Maybe the Northwoods Knives Indian River Jack? It's been around before, of course, but the value proposition is hard to ignore, and the performance and people-friendly looks probably seal the deal. At the risk of sounding redundant I'm going to say as well the Kershaw/Emerson stuff is worth another mention. Benchmade's 940-1 is also super badass, and really needs to be seen in person to be appreciated; it totally bowled me over.

Best Custom Knife:

The huge caveat here is that I have little experience with customs; I only handled two this year: Tony's Fellhoelter Compact Dauntless and my own TSF Beast. That being said, I'm going to say the Beast has my vote: stunning quality and utility at a price that you just can't argue with. Broken record, I know...also relatedly, as I said above, I'd call 2014 the year of the custom-modded production knife: so many guys are out there making production knives that are easy to find unique and awesome with their work, and they probably deserve a mention as well.

Best Production Light:

Thrunite T10T.

Best Pen:

Tactile Turn Mover or Shaker.  Personally I like my Prometheus Alpha Pen better, but in all fairness I've had mine since last year, so this deserves the prize.

Best Youtube:

This year I really got into Average Iowa Guy's videos. I find the conversational pace and tone refreshingly different from so much of the gear review/discussion videos out there.

Andrew Gene's Ballot

Overall Product of the Year:

Bear Grylls Ultimate Pro Survival Knife.  I’ve finally found something to replace my hollow handled United Cutlery Rambo knife although sadly, this one doesn’t have a fishing kit in the handle.  The orange makes me feel clean even if I’ve been eating grubs and drinking my own piss in the jungle for weeks.  Staring into it on a rainy day reminds me of better times.  Not to mention the Ultimate Guide to Survival guide can help you find a Denny’s after a hard trek in enemy territory.  Outside of this I’d probably pick the ZT 0454 (sorry, no link; there is no product page) is it counts seeing as it really came out last year.

Company of the Year:

Shirogorov or CKF.  Awesome designs.  Current but distinct.  CKF has especially been putting out some interesting knives.  KAI would be a second pick as a very mature company who continues to innovate despite their established success in the industry.

Best Value:

Kershaw Nura 3 and 3.5.  If I were an Emerson fan I’d say the Kemershaws but I’m not.  A cheap KVT Sinkevich does seem like a pretty awesome deal.

Most Innovative Tool:

Maker Bot or 3D Systems Cube 3D printers.  3D printers are changing the way everything is tested and manufactured and will have a lasting impact on the gear industry as a whole.

Best Production Knife:

A couple of picks here. The Rockstead SAI.    LionSteel Ti Dust.  Well the Ti Dust is technically a prototype but it ties in nicely with the 3D printing bit.  For knives you can buy I’m not sure.  The 0454 was my favorite release but again, I don’t know if you can consider it of 2014.  Same with the 0888MAX.  The CRKT Hi Jinx would be up there too.  It was a super ambitious knife for CRKT. 

Best Custom Knife:

Hard to pick but one of Enrique Pena’s traditional folders with modern materials would get my vote.  I don’t think a flipper should win this category simply because there are so many.  Don’t get me wrong, I love a flipper but I like how these knives beat to their own drum.    I believe Marcin Slysz also put out some of these.  For more “fashionable” work I like the designs from Dmitry Sinkevich but I’ve never handled any of his customs so I can’t comment on the fit and finish although I’m sure it’s excellent....

Best Production Light:

No Idea, haven’t bought a light for years.  I do love the Jil Lite Constel though.  So practical as a general light source.  It comes with me everywhere these days.

Best Custom Light:

No idea, I’ve never owned or handled a custom flashlight.

Best Pack:

Lowe Pro Runner Pro 450.  I use this bag like crazy.  Lo Pro bags are pretty ugly but do an excellent job of holding camera equipment, or anything else you want to carry around.  They have been making affordable bags for people who rely on them professionally for some time.  No frills, decent ergos and last forever. 

Best Pen:

My old Meister Stuck Solitaire because I use it everyday and it was my father’s pen.  I don’t have any practical experience with any other pens.

Best Multitool:

I haven’t handled anything new in ages.  Again I’ll have to go with the one I use, the Leatherman Squirt PS4.

Best Accessory:

Vox Snail.  Soon you won’t have to buy one, they’ll be coming to your door trying to take over your house.  THEY’RE EVERYWHERE

Best EDC-related Crowd Funded Project:

No Idea but if was a movie I’d say Kung Fury.

Best Website/YouTube/Podcast/Instagram:

@knives for IG and Knife Thursday online.

Community Leader:

Chris Weinstein.  He really does the most outreach and KT is based on community participation.

Mario Contino's Ballot:

Overall Product of the Year:

Keurig 2.0. It is love. It is life.

Company of the Year:

Kai USA. Spyderco puts holes in their knives and Benchmade is boring.

Best Value:

Victorinox Alox Pioneer - This will be the norm forever.

Most Innovative Tool:

Overtone Labs' Tune-Bot drum tuner. I was pretty good before, but damn my drums sing now.

Best Production Knife:

Kershaw Carbon Fiber Skyline--hands down the coolest EDC-oriented knife that takes a budget platform and polishes it off with a fatty rabbit hole.

Best Custom Knife:

Bob Lessard's custom Swiss Army Knives. With a choice of tools in the alox 93mm platform, you can't beat this for custom made practicality.

Best Production Light:

Foursevens' Preon P2 High CRI Edition head. The body is lame though, it's best on a Preon P1 body.

Best Custom Light:

MBI Torpedo...the experimental build. Technically not a light yet, but mine is pretty great.

Best Pack:

12-pack of 16oz cans of Surge. Relive the soda of the 90s.

Best Pen:

Parker Jotter. Better than every other million-dollar pen.

Best Multitool:

Again, Bob Lessard's custom Swiss Army Knives.

Best Accessory:

Kershaw cadet cap.

Best EDC-related Crowd Funded Project:

No idea...

Best Website/YouTube/Podcast/Instagram/Community Leader:

CutleryBlubber, Gagkoo, fancyfeast, terracottamechanic, etc. Ya know, the usual.  

Mike Rixman's Ballot

Overall Product of the Year: 

This one's had me stumped. I think this should be more than just a flashy product; one that affects the entire industry with continued ripples after the big splash. With that in mind, I'm tempted to play Devil's advocate and say that the product of the year is Balzano's "knife" (Part I and Part II)(can't even find the name, since so many people are backpedaling and erasing posts to distance themselves).

Focus on the positive ripples rather than the initial impact of the turd. Many mistakes were made - both on his end as well as his customers who were naive, rushing blindly to be part of "the next big thing," and were too accepting of his excuses. I think that the lessons learned from these missteps have already positively affect how makers, modders, and customers interact. With any luck this situation will serve as a lesson that prevents a repeat.

Company of the Year:

Zero Tolerance - the 0801CF, 0562CF, 0620CF, and the 0454 - A string of hits, and it seems like they are printing money at this point.

Best Value:

Kershaw/Emerson CQC-6K. It is designed and built way beyond its price tag. I'd vote for the 6K over the 7K since the 8Cr14MoV won't hold an edge especially well, and this blade shape will facilitate sharpening.  I'd also nominate Spyderco Manix2 LW in CPM S110V

Most Innovative Tool:

My vote would be for the Leatherman Leap--they opened up a whole new market with a tool that maintains many of the best characteristics from other models, yet is tailored to the specific needs of children.  I'd also nominate the Lionsteel TiDust and the Klecker Knives Klax

Best Production Knife:

Spyderco Manix2 LW in CPM S110V - The design isn't new, but bringing such a premium steel to the masses in a non-sprint run, and at just over $ 100 is quite an accomplishment. Benchmade 940-1

Best Custom Knife:

Jens Anso's Mojo Extreme (check his IG) just absolutely blew my mind and now I can't think of anything else.

Best Production Light:

Version 2 of the Prometheus Lights Beta QR in copper. Same fantastic light but with a smaller and easier Quick Release mechanism. Last year's 2-mode has been in my pocket (without the quick release) uninterrupted for several months.

Best Custom Light:

Muyshondt Aeon II. Not exactly new, but this is the last batch that he will be making (again), so possibly the last chance acknowledge it.

Best Pack:

No data. Anything but the Eddie Bower POS that my wife bought me.

Best Pen:

Tactile Turn Mover. Wide array of refills and supreme fit and finish: it's the only pen that motivated me to buy a non-disposable pen.

Best Multitool:

Leatherman Leap if not selected for "Most Innovative Tool," and By The Numbers 4 if it was.

Best Accessory:

Nano-Oil
Aegis Solutions EDCi

Best EDC-related Crowd Funded Project:

Knife Thursday Podcast's Coffee Sponsorship

Best Website:

I'd nominate Blade HQ which has realtime inventory and full specs - usually the first place I go to lookup a knife.  Triple Aught Design earns a nomination for having a fair and reliable mechanism for distribution of limited quantities of a product - all the more significant given Kershaw's recent difficulties.

YouTube:

Edge Observer

Podcast:

I'd vote for Gear Geeks Live - really stepped up their game this year with improved sound quality and a string of great guests. Utility Talk. Knife Journal Podcast

Instagram:

@jimskeltontv - his photos are pretty spectacular and his feed keeps me amused.
@crossdraw_rob
@derk_razor_sharp
@tzvy

Community Leader:

Jim Skelton - the Diamond Jim's Live Knife Project attempted to bypass long wait times, closed books, and outrageous secondary market prices to put custom knives into peoples' hands.  Chris Weinstein - he does not merely engage and participate in the "knife and gear community," but actively tries to grow and cultivate it.

6 comments:

  1. Observation: There is a Gerber product on this list!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Looks like a tongue-in-cheek nomination.

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  2. Balzano's knife is a genius choice. It truly changed the community and will be remembered for a long time. Makers started doing things differently, buyers and users have a new mindset. No other product has had this kind of impact in the community, in the last years.

    Kai is having a lot of deserved attention. Although not EDC (unfortunatelly :-) ), Shun are timeless masterpieces, and the most efficient I had the privilege of trying.

    ReplyDelete
  3. The biggest shocker on this list is that someone actually said something positive about the Keurig 2.0....

    ReplyDelete