Monday, December 29, 2014

Gear of the Year Ballots, Part II

Continuing our trip through the various parts of the gear world, we land on some very thoughtful and interesting opinions. 

Here we go with round 2 (the final round, my ballot, comes out Friday):

Chris Weinstein's Ballot:

Overall Product of the Year:

Jarosz Knives Globetrotter Fixed Blades for around $100 - $120 with a leather sheath, you get an hand made custom knife with high performance AEB-L Blade steel. The coolest part about these is that every couple weeks, Jesse, does what he calls Sale Sunday where be blows out a dozen or so of a certain model. More often than not it's fixed blades. I had a chance to check out the Globetrotter I had for a giveaway. I'm not really a fixed blade guy but this things is just too much value to dismiss. The ergos are great and Jesse is notorious for making ridiculously scary sharp knives. For $100 the value is hard to dismiss. The reason I'd call the Globetrotter. "Product of the year" is it's within the reach of most budgets. If you are kind of on the fence and haven't decided if you are ready drop the money on a quality knife, $100 is a great way to test the waters. As far as an ambassador of quality knives, the Globetrotter is a great option. And if you have already made the jump to quality, take $300 and grab a few. One for the vehicle, one for the bug out bag and one to carry.

Company of the Year:

I'm giving this one to BladeHQ.  In 2014 Blade HQ has continued to be all things to all knife knuts. Yes it's true that BHQ is just a knife dealer but they do it so well and they make buying knives such an enjoyable experience that I feel they strengthen the knife community as a whole. They are not always the cheapest and they don't always have EVERYTHING in stock. But the Blade HQ brand has seemed to do more the hobby than anything that has come before them, be it product, website, gadget, or resource.

Best Value:

The District 9 flipper model from Reate Knives. I was able to borrow one for a few weeks from a friend. Yes I know we are supposed to be sick of ti frame lock flippers, and I am, trust me! But this knife was impressive, especially with the stigma that comes with a knife being "Made in china". From my experience the the knives coming out of Reate knives are made with high end materials, amazing fit and finish, function flawlessly and they are an incredible value.

Most Innovative Tool:

I'm going to give this to the the KEY-BAR. The inventor Mike Taylor is a good friend of mine and I'll admit that in the beginning I wasn't 100% sold on the KEY-BAR but I supported him and helped promote the concept to people who may find it useful. I only carry a few keys so I personally didn't see much use for it.

While titanium is relatively light weight, adding two slabs of it to my limited set of keys just felt counter productive and not very practical. Keep in mind, I had a generation 1 KEY-BAR, I installed my keys, tried to get use to it and I saw some of the benefits, but in the end I decided it wasn't for me.

Fast forward to 2014, I found myself up near KEY-BAR HQ in Savannah GA and had a chance to sit down with Mike for a podcast interview. I came home from that trip with a couple of KEY-BARs that Mike offered up as Knife Thursday giveaways. Long story short, I kept one, my wife saw me using it and said, "I want one" and I gave the other away to a friend.

Once I spent some time with the KEY-BAR as part of my every day setup it became more and more obvious that I would never go back. The KEY-BAR as a product has integrated itself so seamlessly into our every day lives that my wife calls her keys her "KEY-BAR". We have our keys set up exactly the same way, home, office, inlaws and shop keys all in the same place on each others KEY-BARS. We also, each have a small lock back SOG key knife that fits great with the system. Seeings how far the KEY-Bar has come over the past year I'd say the KEY-BAR is not only tool of the year for 2014, but one to watch for 2015.

Best Production Knife:

I polled some of the KT Ambassadors on this and they all are saying the Sebenza 21 & 25 are the undisputed king of the mountain unless it has to be a new product then they all say the Spyderco Chubby.

Personally I'll go with 4 choices based on what seemed to be the most popular in the community.

First, the Boker Kwaiken flipper designed by Lucas Burnley seemed to be a huge hit with modifiers.

Second, the newest generation of the DPx Gear Triple Black HEST [EDITOR'S NOTE: Lisa Pelton of DPx told Chris, in a follow up email, that there were a tiny handful of Triple Black's released last year...but whatever]. I like the fact that it's relatively sterile with very few logos on it compared to the standard HEST Oh wait was the current gen triple black HEST not a new model for 2014? Well... I equally like the HEAT from DPx Gear. Specifically the full ti version. It's actually a better knife but the blade is s tad bit too short for some EDC tasks. Either way I really like it.

Third, the QTRMSTR Spicoli QSE7 seems to be blowing people away. It has a lot of features that you would expect from a knife at a higher price point. There is no denying the appealing design and from what I hear the thing carries, cuts and flips like a dream.

Finally, the District 9 flipper model from Reate Knives. See more on this above.

With all that being said... Production knife of the year goes to the Chris Reeve Sebenza 21, any configuration, all day, any day, any year for the foreseeable future. The knife is so good as a folder that I think if a worthy contender arrives, it will be undeniable the second it comes on the scene. It has to be THAT good. For a knife to dethrone the Sebenza 21 it will need to literally make the Sebenza look like out-dated technology.

Best Custom Knife:

Demko Knives AD10. (Andrew Demko 2010)  In a sea of titanium frame lock flippers on both the custom and production sides of the aisle, it's nice to see someone doing something different and totally crushing it. Andrew Demko is a full time designer at Cold Steel and the originator of the Tri-Ad lock that is featured on his AD10 customs and most of the Cold Steel lineup.

He also has a wait a mile long with the secondary market on his folders double sometimes triple the table price. Recently Andrew listed a one off AD10 for sale on his instagram @DemkoKnives at table price and it was sold in seconds. The other reason i'm going with the AD10 here is that over the past year I've had the honor of spending some time with a very nice selection of folders from Andrew. Five AD10s to be exact.

I ended up adding one of them to my collection permanently. It's one of those knives that when carried, you just feel like the universe is aligned in your favor. This knife is such an incredible example of what a high end custom hard use folder can be, and you own it? It really does get any better. I just find myself thinking. What did I do to deserve this?

It used to be that Andrew was known as "The Cold Steel Guy" but more and more these days he has become known for the AD10. 5 seconds with an AD10 will silence any doubt you have. I've seen it happen, "Oh it's a lock baaaa... oh shit this thing is FUCKING BAD" That's normally how it goes.

Best Production Light:

The $15 Streamlight single AAA that I have bought 5 of this year. Kids keep loosing them. Plenty flashlight for my needs and cheap enough that I dont loose my shit when they turn up missing.

Best Custom Light:

Huh?

Best Pack:

I have one.

Best Pen:

Fisher space pen. Enough with the pens already.

Best Multitool:

I need to upgrade. I'm rocking a Leatherman Sidekick that debuted in 2012. I'm sure there are far better offerings available now tough, the Side kick does pretty well and has help up well.

Best Accessory:

Custom turned lanyard beads from @Scoopyloops on ig and @EdgeObserver. I'm not really a lanyard guy, but i've made an exception for a few knives. Once of which is my Carbon Fiber Knife Art Insingo Large 21 Sebenza which is currently sporting one of the classiest titanium lanyard beads I've ever seen. The bead that came on the knife was already classy, but the Edge Observer bead from Andrew takes it to a whole new level.

The Scoopyloops beads are massive. One of the cool things about Jon Brown's beads is that he makes them out of various materials including ti, brass and copper. Nothing beats small folder that has been "scoopylooped". The massive beads add a level of welcome utility to an otherwise small folder. For instance, my Microtech mini UDT didn't really have a place in my rotation until it was scoopylooped. Just a tad bit too small, the lanyard / massive bead combo rectified that.

Best EDC-related Crowd Funded Project:

Again, I'll say the KEY-BAR. While not crowd funded in the traditional sense of running a Kickstarter, the story of the rise of KEY-BAR is what American dreams are made of. Mike saw so much success with the popularity of the KEY-BAR in the Knife/EDC community that his life literally changed over night. This was largely due to the support of the community. Maybe the difference from the KEY-BAR and other crowd funded products, is that the KEY-BAR orders were filled as they came in and not in the way of perks down the road once a goal.

Best Website/YouTube/Podcast/Instagram

Website:

EdgeObserver.com I credit E/O for getting me into knives and opening my eyes to knives as more than just cutting tools. If it wasn't for E/O I may not appreciate knives and the topic of knives an an art form and base for content creation.

Youtube:

Terafanatic featuring the Wieners & Steel.  What Knife Knut doesn’t want to visit Clifton New Jersey and grab a Ripper while checking out $10,000 worth of custom knives with four of his or her closest friends?  Friendship & Knives with a side of Hotdogs, hold the bullshit. The Wieners and Steel crew is made up of  four of the coolest people in the knife community and possibly the world.  @froochie @fastbandit @menovade and @terafanatic have been cranking out knife hangout videos since June 6th 2013 when they published their very first episode on on Terafanatic’s youtube channel.  Terafanatic has been dubbed the “Head Wiener In Charge” or HWIC by the rest of the crew though he takes no credit for the success of the project. In fact, the guys are surprisingly casual about the show considering it’s popularity.  As far as the they are concerned it’s just hanging out with the boys. And THAT is why they are loved by so many of us.  I love these guys so much that I based our very first Knife Shirt on them. You can check it out Knife Shirt Club (shameless). And I also like Utility Talk. Like Gear Geeks :ive, Utility Talk are touching on a lot of different topics than knives. As you can imagine, I can easily get burnt out on knife chat.

Podcast:

Besides the obvious answers, I'll say that I do enjoy the Knife Journal even though those guys are into a total difference area of the knife community than I am.

Instagram:

I'm going to give this to @Derk_Razor_Sharp. He is a cool dude, he has a little girl, a hot wife, a sick knife collection and a epic beard. Plus he is Canadian so you know he's guaranteed to be super nice. But in all honesty, Derek and I have very similar taste in knives so I always find myself checking in on his IG to see what he's up to. My second and obvious choice would be @FastBandit

Community Leader:

I'll give this one to the Wieners & Steel guys along with the rest of the Knife Thursday Ambassadors. I chose the KT Ambassadors based on a few criteria, one of which was that they were good leaders in their own sphere of influence. They each have their own micro communities and best of all they are all really good friends of mine. Another criteria is that they must have made a few post or contributions to knifethursday.com in the past. This explains why Anthony is not on that list. Maybe we can rectify that in 2015.

Grayson Parker's Ballot:

Overall Product of the Year:

It's tough for me to say. Titanium framelocks are incredibly stale. I'm going to refrain from nominating anything, but I hope to see something other than $100+ Ti/Flipper/Framelocks. It's old.

Company of the Year:

Emerson Knives. This might sound weird, but what they're doing is honestly way more interesting than KAI. That collaboration was a two-way street, and if we're looking at this as a networking thing, the fact that EKI is improving their F&F issues (consumer complaint), offering more designs in the standard EKI line up (that consumers have pushed for: Hattin, Mini CQC7AW), moved into other markets with the KAI collab (see again, consumer pressure), moved into the multitool market with the Multitasker collabs, and still kept up a good name? That's not something I see a lot of companies doing. I don't think KAI did something new; to them, it's just another collaboration. But for EKI, it was a huge move.

Best Value:

Spyderco Native 5 Lightweight. Great ergonomics, blade shape, materials, and it's made in Golden. I haven't handled this one but I think it's a sleeper hit for the year. The Kershaw/ZT/EKI collabs I handled were underwhelming.

Most Innovative Tool:

DPx HIT Cutter. Solves the sheath problem, though I think I'll like the Skinner more. Haven't handled this one, so consider it a tentative nomination.

Best Production Knife:

Having handled the ZT0454 for awhile, yeah, it's the cutting edge of knives. However, there is no social situation outside of enthusiasts chatting where using that thing is appropriate. It has my nomination, but Manny and Mario are right, it's a prison shank.

Best Production Light:

Zebralight H52w, [EDITOR'S NOTE: Grayson did some post-submission checking and discovered that the H52w was released in December of 2013...close enough for me). While it didn't have the market impact that the SC52 did, the H52 fulfilled a request that a lot of customers were putting forward: the performance of the SC52 in an angled body. I've used it for night reading when no other light was available, looking for black widows when I'm in the garage at night, and most utility tasks. As a pocket light (sans clip) it's great, as a headlamp, it's great, and because of that it's my choice. There's not a whole lot of gear that operates in both the EDC and lightweight backpacking worlds, but this definitely does.

Best Pen:

I'd say the Tactile Turn Shaker in Titanium, but I backed the Kickstarter because of Tony and Brad's opinions, and mine hasn't been shipped yet. Sticking with my Kaweco Sport Al until then (not that I can nominate it). [EDITOR'S NOTE: Grayson got it and loves it.]

Best Multitool:

The multitool market is dry as shit right now. I don't care if Victorinox rebrands Wenger stuff or if someone finds another tool configuration to fit into the SAK/Leatherman shape. I'm going to say the Spyderco Clipitool, even though the ones I handled were a bit stiff. They're smart designs, really accessible, and well built. On top of that, they represent some fresh blood in the multitool market, which is really why I'm excited about it.

Dan Policastro's Ballot:

Overall Product of the Year: ZT 0454
Company of the Year: Zero Tolerance
Best Value: Kershaw Emerson Collaboration or Buck Marksman
Most Innovative Tool: SOG Blade Light (just kidding... no idea really)

Best Production Knife: ZT 0454
Best Custom Knife: Dustin Turpin Strife (or anything else he made this year)

Best Production Light: Not sure - haven't been following the market so closely
Best Custom Light: Not sure again

Best Pack: (No idea)
Best Pen: (No idea)
Best Multitool: Spyderco Clip It (thin pickings here)
Best Accessory:

Best EDC-related Crowd Funded Project: Obtanium Wallet
Best Website/YouTube/Podcast/Instagram: Average Iowa Guy
Community Leader: Tony Sculimbrene

Justin Laffer's Ballot:

Overall Product of the Year:

Strider Performance Series SnG – the evolution of the gold standard of the custom knife world – Mick has essentially made a custom Strider for 550 dollars – the fit and finish are better than any other Midtech in the knife industry bar none

Company of the Year:

Chad Nichols Damascus – they made the Southard, Burch and Graham Midtech – they single handedly made this the year of the Midtech, they more than ANY other company had the greatest effect on the EDC community

Best Value:

The Graham Stubby Midtech -350 dollars for a rock solid, razor sharp folder that one of the top maker in the game – totally amazing work

Most Innovative Tool:

The GTC Airborne – by far the most innovative and awe-inspiring knife/tool available – if you just want pocket tools than I’d have to go with the Rexford RUT

Best Production Knife:

The Sebenza 25 – truly amazing or the CRKT Hi Jinx – but I differ judgement on this as I’m not really a production guy

Best Custom Knife:

GTC Airborne – without a doubt the most incredible and innovative custom knife on the market. Runner up – the Munroe Sigil MK3 – the most perfect EDC folder ever created – totally amazing

Best Production Light:

Prometheus Lights Beta QR Copper light – so freaking awesome-

Best Custom Light:

Don’t know if Prometheus is considered production or custom. EDITOR'S NOTE: Jason, that's a good sign.

Best Pack:

GoRuck GR1

Best Pen:

Prometheus Writes Ti Pen with mont blanc refill

Best Multitool:

Rexford RUT

Best Accessory:

Joseph 76 MOA beads…I love the fact that Joseph makes these beads in so many configurations – my favorite is the Westinghouse micarta bead or the copper bead

Best EDC-related Crowd Funded Project:

The Hate Project – this EDC group by some of the finest people in the community have raised 151,000 dollars for charities this year.  That is unreal.

Best Instagram:

Dustin Turpin – his WIP threads are legendary as is his support for the community

Best YouTube:

Probably Edge Observer or Stick to Drums – both make excellently produced videos that thankfully are not 20 minutes long and filled with ramblings about prices

Community Leader:

Farmer Rob the founder the of the Hate Project.

4 comments:

  1. Way to recommend/nominate people outside your list of sponsors/friends Chris. How very shilly of you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's unwarranted. If folks I knew were doing awesome stuff, I'd call attention to it.

      Delete
  2. Overall Product of the Year
    I’m going to give this one to Instagram. Yes, I know. Instagram isn’t really a “true” product, nor is it super new. But I feel 2014 was the year it truly blew up. First as a connection between gear nerds. Second as a connection between consumers and knife makers- the glimpse into the behind the scenes of knife making is really interesting. It has really clicked the community together, and I can’t think of a better product of the year.

    Company of the Year
    KAI. Feels like I’m beating a dead horse here, but their push this year to put out an array of products makes them worthy. All the ZT offerings featuring the latest and greatest are really cool. Their budget line has really stepped it up with the numerous collaborations. They have (kind of) moved away from the swarm of knives with black g-10 and stonewashed 8cr13mov blades.Thank da lord.

    Best Value
    Spyderco Lightweight Manix 2 in S110v. For 120 dollars you get a lightweight, strong workhorse that will cut like a mofo. The overall utility you get is really amazing.

    Most Innovative Tool
    Leatherman Leap. The idea behind it is so simple yet unique.

    Best Production Knife
    The James Brand Chapter Knife. No, it doesn’t have fancy lightning strike carbon fiber inlays and the latest S10083028490 steel. But damn is it nice to see a slick design that seems uber practical for EDC. It has everything that you need, and nothing you don’t need.

    Best Custom Knife
    This year there was such a huge boom in the custom knives. I can’t possibly pick one. Not to mention I was very limited in what I could handle. *sad face*

    Best Production Light
    Thrunite T10T in neutral tint. Jack of all trades, master of none. The medium and high modes are good. The moonlight mode works well as a “I gotta take a piss at night and I really don’t want to blow my eyes out” mode. The tint is a nice change from the typical cool white.

    Best Custom Light
    Haven’t handled any. Want to snag a Haiku asap.

    Best Pack
    My old JanSport. I can already hear all the TAD users laughing right now. But as a student I have seriously abused this and it just smirks. Plus, I regularly use the leather bottom as a strop.

    Best Pen
    Lead pencils are where it’s at for me. Only pens I use regularly are 0.7mm BICs and a Waterman Hemisphere. On a side note, I can’t stand tactical pens. Almost all of them look like blacked out dildos with jimping, and I’m not particularly fond of blacked out dildos with jimping.

    Best Multitool
    The multitool market has been dry, and I really haven’t seen anything that beats my PS4 squirt. It punches so well above its weight. Also the Victorinox Alox Cadet. Holy snizzle it is the best 20 bucks I’ve ever spent. Apart from that the SAK modder SAKs look great.

    Best Accessory
    My 10 year old G Shock. Finally had to change out the batteries earlier this year. If Chuck Norris were a watch, he’d be a G shock. Nuff said.

    Best EDC-related Crowd Funded Project
    No clue.

    Best Website/YouTube/Podcast/Instagram

    Website: One site I really want to mention is morethanjustsurviving.com. Their gear reviews are extremely well done. Crisp, clean photos and detailed writing- a winner in my book. And the usual folks- Everyday Commentary, Bladereviews, and The Edge Observer. Thanks for cutting the bullshit and hype.

    YouTube: Randy at Solosknifereviews, and Kyle of Average Iowa Guy. Randy is a knife “pimp”, and I mainly watch his vids for the friendly atmosphere and discussions. For AIG, his handle discussions and cooking vids are awesome. Oh, and a special shout out to Edge Observer. I feel a strange, tingling sensation in my lower area whenever I watch one of his videos. What?

    Podcast: Gear Geeks Live. Good stuff with hilarious drunk knife talk at its finest. Knife Journal Podcast is also super laid back and informative.

    Instagram: As mentioned above, I’d just say the connective web the knife community has made. No single user really. I regularly hit the search and explore part to check out new stuff.

    Community Leader
    Non existent.

    Here’s to a 2015 filled with more awesomeness!

    ReplyDelete