Sunday, July 12, 2015

Trending: Q2 2015

Three months ago I thought it would be fun to cull through all of the forum boards and Instagram posts and figure out what was hot and what was not.  Its nothing formal or standardized, but just my view on what everyone is doing.  This is the Q2 version of that list.

Trending Up

Jesper Voxnaes's Zoo of OPMTs

Dan and Andrew both noted that Jesper's table was overrun at Blade.  His Instagram is blown up every single time he mentions either his Snailor, Seahorse, Ping or Owl.

(Who took this picture?  I want to give credit and can't find the source.)

All of these share a few common traits--they are a single knuckle (as in brass knuckles) with some kind other tool, usually a bottle opener.  They vary in size, material, and finish.  Some have stamps on them, some don't.  And regardless of what they look like, how they are finished, or what they do, they scarfed up by the gear community like contraband ice cream at a weight loss camp.  I have to say, I just don't get this trend at all, but there is no denying its power.  I imagine we are only a few months away from a production version of one of the menagerie.  I was going to make a joke about a Voxnaes Pog, but he just released a "Challenge Card" of the Snailor, so Voxnaes beat me to the punch--from gadgets with almost no utility to a gadget with truly no utility.  The Snailor Challenge Card seems like a new bar for gear/custom maker magical thinking craziness.  I know I will look back on this statement very soon and laugh at how naive it was, but I really can't see anything being sillier or more of a waste than a Snailor Challenge Card.  Its right up there with the GITD Glass Octopus from PDW.  Pet Rock anyone?

Modern Neanderthal Podcast

Gear podcasts are hard to do on a consistent basis.  Look around and you will see that iTunes is littered with podcasts that are on hiatus--the Personal Armament Podcast, the Knife Thursday Podcast--so when a new one came out, I was all in, automatically.  The fact that Nick and Austin have good chemistry makes it even better.  Their willingness to tackle controversial subjects, such as high end Chinese knives, makes it all the better.  So when you get a chance, go give it a listen.  Its quite good.   

Spyderco Rassenti Nirvana

Speaking of the Modern Neanderthal podcast, their discussion of this knife stoked my fires a bit.  I was so worried when that happened because I thought there was a chance that the knife would come in at around $500 street price. 

Image courtesy of Arizona Custom Knives (this is a custom Nirvana)

Fortunately, some dealers have pre-orders up and it looks like it will be a much more manageable (though still pricey) $350.  The combination of the cool design and amazing machining has me hooked.  If it lives up to the hype, this could very well end up in my year end awards.  And the hype train is strong with this one.  Visit a forum and you will see everyone talking about this blade.  I just wish it were a bit smaller.

Jeff Hanko

Hanko has long been the Tritium Master, but his new line of Zirc lights, the Twisted Tridents, shows that he has some serious machining prowess too. 

Image courtesy of

They are gorgeous, limited in number, and already scarfed up by the gear collecting cognescenti.  Its lovely to see a new custom light that is an immediate home run.  

Trending Down

Handmade Knives

Perhaps it is because of the Snailor madness, but everywhere I turn I see guys that make really awesome knives making OPMT instead. Panchenko, Voxnaes, and a few others have heard the sirens song of profits seem to have shifted their focus to the much cheaper to make, much more profitable OPMT market.  Why bother with the build and rebuild process of a folder when you can have a design laser or water cut, do some surface treatments and sell it for $200?  A Lucas Burnley Cypop with some sort of difference that only matters to about five people in the world recently sold for $600.  That's not far away from his table price on his folders and the Cypop, for all of its curved surfaces, is not as complex to make as a folder.  Atwood's stuff has been in this price tier for a while and he makes OPMTs exclusively despite the fact that some of his folders were amazing.  But money talks and when you can make 5 times more money on an hourly basis, why bother with the time sinks that custom folders represent?  Let's hope this isn't a trend that lasts long.  It would be sad to see folks go the way of Peter Atwood and stop making folders all together.  

Prometheus Design Werx

Seriously, where is the good stuff?  Its been more than a year since Patrick Ma's second venture was made public and aside from the SPD A2 Badger and the Jigged Bone version of their traditional folder, not a single item from them has moved me to reach for my wallet.

The GITD Octopus was one level of stupid, but the Versa Bear silicone squeeze bottles are even worse.  Perhaps PDW has gotten too deep in the business school marketing class project and become obsessed with their brand and its many logos, mascots, and icons (bears, octopus, some triangular logo thingy) or perhaps lots and lots of hardcore operators have a burning need for bear-shaped squeeze bottles.  I don't know.  Whatever the issue, PDW needs to find itself or it will die a terrible death once the public has its fill of patches, branded baloney, and half-hearted cobranded customs.  It is not a good sign at all when many of their "limited run" knives are still available months after release.  This is not a problem TAD has with its cobranded hard goods.  Ma is perhaps the most talented gear designer in the business right now, but PDW is a lost brand.

Law Suits

Boy, if you want to make people mad, sue someone.  The condemnation of Cold Steel on the forum boards and generally everywhere folks that like knives gather has been strong.  I am not convinced it is universal, RD and Dan both weren't terribly offended, but a lot of folks in a lot of places are not happy. I personally think the suit is bad for business and consumers.  Let's hope this isn't a long term trend and that the suit goes away soon.  How about Cold Steel get back to making knives?  I awarded them my Company of the Year two years ago and they were close last year.  This year they revamped their entire line up, but that has received painfully little attention since the law suit was filed.  

From Last Time:

Trending Up:

Traditionals are HOT: Still Up

Still trending up.  With more Northwood's releases and Queen getting a shot in the arm, I don't see this going in the other direction for a while.

Tom's Choice is Everyone's Choice: Way Up

Ha!  You thought this had run its course.  Well, they came in went in the blink of an eye and made there way on to the forums in about fifteen minutes.  

Tain is Killing It: Still Up

Still Killing It.

ZT is King: Still Up

The ZT0450 has been sold out and restocked since April, but I don't think I was the only one that noticed the weird lockbar issue.  Its not enough to dethrone the king though.

Trending Down:

Custom Flashlights: Now Trending Up

Enrique has a new a flashlight coming.  After writing that sentence I had to be taken to the hospital as my Wanter broke.  That, plus Jeff Hanko's new light, the stuff shown on Taclite's Instagram and the WASP head from Torch Labs and we might just have a turnaround on our hands.  Oh and Sinner is making some nice, inexpensive stuff.  Keep it going folks.

Hinderer Herd Needs Thinning: Leveled Off

The prices on XM-18s in the secondary market have stabilized. Its much lower than it was at the peak of the Hinderer insanity, like 1/3 the cost, at around $425, but there are still too many Hinderer designs and Hinderer knives out there for them to retain anything like their value even a year ago.  Don't expect this to reverse itself either--Hinderer is opening a bigger shop.  The days of flipping XM-18s may be over, but for $425 that's not a bad knife. 

Where is the Middle: Still Down

Did you SEE Spyderco's IWA line up? 

See you in October.


  1. I am right there with you on the knucks thing. Whether they are a stylized animal or a straightforward design, I don't get it. Don't get me wrong, I like OPMTs, just not one that is generally illegal to carry wherever you go.

  2. Great distillation. Once again, the knife stuff seems spot on (/smh at Spyderco's lineup) and the rest was educational.

    I had no idea that, in the words of Adm. Josh Painter, this OPMT business had gotten so out of control. People making these PokeOPMTs (feel free to take that one if you like) instead of awesome folders seems another symptom that we are entering the Baroque, or even the Mannerist Age of gear -- moving farther away from tool heritage into self-referential iterations of formalism.

    I have tried OPMTs a couple of times but always found them too big and/or poky. The Shard is too poky. The Brewzer is too big. I have zero interest in "collecting" the things. The one potential advantage they hold out is moving the bottle opener and a flathead off of my Alox Cadet and onto my keys, thus freeing me to rotate in a nice traditional instead of the Cadet as my "second knife."

    Cognoscenti: Is there a decent OPMT out there that is SMALL, FLAT, smooth, non-poky, looks understated, has a workable bottle opener and maybe one flathead/pry tool function? Think Tony-style minimalism here. Readily available online and under $50 would also be essential.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. The Prometheus EKO is in the right neighborhood. Small, flat and minimal. Only thing that holds me back is fear of pokiness. That looks like a pointy key. I normally have a big and a small knife on my person, so a box opener/snag edge on an OPMT would be a waste. I'd prefer an OPMT whose only sharp point is the cap lifter's claw.

      Honestly, some of the early, simple Atwoods seem very close to my ideal. (No wrench heads or other holes in the middle of the tool. Just open my Spaten, pry open a paint can, and we're good.)

      I wish I knew the market well enough to find a similar tool without the attendant hoopla.

    3. Yeah, I was thinking an Atwood would be perfect, but not the right price. How about this

  3. PS: How about an OPMT companion piece to the impressively vulgar ZT0999. Put a random, tiny carbon fiber cutout in the middle of the pry head. OPMT of the year y'all.

    (apologies if someone is already doing this)