As we move into the second wave of the Golden Age of Gear (boy did I get it wrong...have you seen Northwood Knives' Everyday Barlow? Go through the link to the right, please!) the issue of acceptable gear becomes more important than ever. The EDB is a perfect case in point. In 1095 this was acceptable. With CPM-154, well, holy moley. And look how gorgeous the EDB is:
If you had an infinite amount of money you wouldn't need to read reviews--you could just buy whatever you wanted or just have something made to your specifications. Likewise, if you have no money, you have no need for reviews because you can't afford anything. But if you are in the middle, especially if you are on the far end from wealthy like me (curse you daycare!), then reviews matter. And it matters how you spend your money.
After reviewing the Helle Didi Gigalu I began thinking about why that knife seems so bad. The reality is that it is not a bad knife. In fact, its far above acceptable. Its just not competitive. And that's a big deal. As we are treated to ever more amazing delights in the Gear World, competitive moves further and further away from acceptable.
This is all a long winded way of saying this--we could get by with a lot of things, things that us gear snobs look down on. We could, for instance, probably get by with any Case knife found at a Big Box or farm supply store. Unlike Gerber, which is equally widely available, Case has a much better track record in terms of recalls. Gerber, as a whole, is probably below what I would consider acceptable. Case, on the other hand, isn't. Case knives are quite acceptable. They are thin, sharp, sturdy, and if you take care of them, will last a long time.
But for the same price as a Case you get can something much better than just acceptable. Would you rather have a Case Copperlock or a Dragonfly II in VG-10? Set aside the aesthetic issue associated with traditional and modern knives, and just look at the steel. What if Case sold the exact same knife, one with Tru Sharp and one with VG-10, which would you choose? That's not a tough call and I, for one, don't like VG-10 all that much.
And so it is elsewhere. You can get a nice steel nib like on my Scheaffer Sagaris, but really the gold nib on the Vanishing Point is almost incomparably better.
That's an issue of price, but frankly, the gold nibbed Vanishing Point is probably five or six times better even though its just twice the price. Its even worse in the flashlight world. I didn't give the S1 a perfect score largely because I disliked the lack of a Hi CRI emitter. I know it sacrifices a few lumens, but the difference at 500 lumens is barely perceptible. The bigger problem is this--the D25AAA has a Hi CRI emitter and runs $30. For a $50 light not to offer it as an option is just silly.
And so we arrive at a place where I think it makes sense to complain about (or more pointedly, to critique) acceptable stuff. I thought the Gigalu came up short in comparison to something like the American Knife Company Forest Knife.
It was not really all that close, even though the Gigalu is definitely acceptable. Its why I feel like it is okay to say something like "The BK9 should really run 3V." I know Ethan Becker's position on steel is correct, metallurgically speaking (there are lots of good steels and fewer good heat treats), but this is not a question of acceptable steels, but whether something is worth my money. This is not an issue of what works out in the woods--both work fine, but what is the best way to spend my money. Put another way--why settle for 1095 in an hard use application when 3V is available for an insignificant increase in price? 1095 is definitely fine in a chopper, but 3V is simply better and the price increase is small compared to the increase in performance.
There are instances in which newer is definitely not better, and that is a different argument than the one I am making here. For example, I much prefer the grinds of traditional knives over the vast majority of the grinds of modern knives (the Dragonfly II notwithstanding). Instead I am merely pointing out that it is not mere snobbery that we reject things like Tru-Sharp steel and insist on Hi CRI emitters. This is the sign of progression and healthy development in the gear world. After all, we don't TECHNICALLY need power steering but no car company of a significant size makes a car without it. Its not laziness or snobbery--its the result of a thriving and competitive marketplace.
So when some crusty booger at a knife show scoffs at you because you "need" some fancy powder steel in your knife, don't feel bad. Its not irrational or bandwagonning a trend. Its about being reasonable with the money you spend. Why settle for less when more is available at the same or slightly higher price? Acceptable is just that, good is more, and right now goodness abounds.