Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Part III: Welcome Back to Reality

EDITOR'S NOTE: Every once in a long while my evil twin escapes and writes something that is funny but also terribly mean.  He last appeared here (though some would argue he also tore Anne Trubek's anti-cursive argument to shreds...that's not Tony's Evil Twin that is Cross Examination Tony, a perhaps equally inappropriate approach for an enthusiast website and someone my wife really hates).  Alas, he escaped just in time for the series on the collapse of the custom tactical market.  I apologize for him right now.

Hello Dummies!  I hope you're happy.  Your plan "investment grade cutlery," unsurprisingly, has failed.  I hope you weren't shocked.  You probably were, but whatevs...

Well, the custom tactical market turns into a smoking, fiery Super Fund site of overpriced, overbuild, same-same titanium turds, the production market has been chugging along. For those of you that have a few spare bucks after dropping $2,800 on a knife that both looks like and cuts like a brick, there are quite a few impressive options out there.

Remember before you "ascended" to the world of custom tactical knives? Remember when steel actually mattered because you actually cut stuff with your knife? Quaint, right? Well, production knives offer you a huge range of steels, some that are never seen in the custom tactical world. So put your acid/stone/tumble washed N690 away (even though it cost $1,500) and return to the world of performance steel.

Spyderco has continued to put out high end designs with uber steels. There was a run of HAP40 blades for their ever green knives and people really liked them. They also have updated quite a few knives with S110V, which is 75-80 more Vs than you get on most custom tacticals. The PM2 in S110V and the lightweight Native 5 in the same steel both look really great. Hell, they are even doing a run of Maxamet on sub-$200 knives, knives that, if you remember, worked well and were light enough to actually carry (the Manix LW and the Native 5).

ZT has decided to do custom tacticals without the spotty fit and finish (which you lauded as a sign that it was hand made) and the exorbitant price tags. You know that Sinkevich you have pined after? You can buy one of his designs for under $200. And guess what? Unlike the gorilla-sized custom, the ZT0450 actually cuts things AND fits in a pocket.

P1070206

Crazy, I know. And if that is not enough, they have Hinderer flippers that actually flip, RJ Martin knives that...well...I can't think of a snarky way to describe them...but look....RJ Martin knives that you can afford and are semi-available! And if you are really daring you can buy one of their Uber Triples, knives designed by Jim McNair and others, who, while lacking the name recognition of famous random guy with a garage grinder and IG account, are people that actually know how to design and make knives.  Its strange how that works--knife companies, unlike IG fanboys, require actual skill at knifemaking.  This is a wacky world we live in.

Bark River continues to plug along releasing at least one blade each week that hasn't seen use since 1910 when it last slayed a buffalo.

P1070392

But unlike the custom fixed blades you are used to, these quirky designs use, brace yourself, something other than O1 or A2. They run all sorts of steels--3V, M4, and lots of other letter number combinations you probably forgot about as you journeyed through the land of half-baked designs put out by some guy that has a beard, a grinder, and one tenth the talent of the guys on the line at Bark River.

One sad bit of news, though, Benchmade has pretty much become irrelevant to knife fans. When you left, their line up had five or six different brands, many of which competed with each other. Each year since you have been gone, they have either added or dropped a brand or both. Also, right before you left their line up was approaching critical mass with Axis locks. Well, they reached that critical mass about two years ago and the plant in Oregon exploded releasing one of those ring things like when the Death Star blew up in the updated Star Wars. That ring thing sent out a massive wave blades that, by design, have blade play and mediocre lock up. They also have sketchy fit and finish and grinds that look like they were done by a person with an inner ear infection. These are great features for you, as the sloppy craftsmanship can ease you back in to a world of knives where tolerances and fit and finish matter. You can start out with an Axis lock and the blade wiggle will remind you of the custom tactical you bought from the maker on Instagram for $700. Then, when you are more comfortable with the idea of precision, you can upgrade to a ZT or a Spyderco where there is no blade play. It will be a hard transition, but you can do it.

You could also look at some of the Chinese brands--Reate, Rike, WE, and Kizer.

P1070238

There you will find the exact designs you wanted from a custom maker that had a two year wait, but with better materials, equal fit and finish, and 1/8 the price. Its so amazing to get what you want without having 85% of the joy of knife ownership being found in waiting and anticipating the knife's arrival.

There are bevy of surprises waiting for you.  All with great steels, good designs, low prices, high availability and...guess what...you don't have to fawn over them on IG.  You can just buy one.  You don't have to be pretend to befriend a knifemaker or tell him he is an artist every time he posts a picture of an unattached pocket clip.  You can just buy stuff.  The dude a Spyderco grinding Maxamet blades has more important things to worry about than your IG likes (such as changing belts twice per blade).  So welcome back.  We missed you while you were out being stupid.  So sad about depleting your children's college fund though.  That's a bummer.

And for those of you that have moved on to watches...good luck with that.  I am sure it will turn out just as good as your investing foray into the custom tactical world.

17 comments:

  1. That was a post that totally suited my mood.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I enjoyed the piece, but in the interest of professionalism, I'd strongly suggest giving your material an editing pass before hitting the "publish" button. Content-wise, though, it's a fun read.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hate typos too, but #1 this is not my profession so I am not so concerned about professionalism, and #2 publishing 2 articles a week for six years with very few misses, even for a son being born, etc. means that I write on a pace that is hard to edit. I have tried one article a week with better editing a few times and the page views for the site went way down. I'd love to have an editor (I have tried a few people and again no one could keep pace for the pittance I could afford to pay them), but it is just not practical. When I do find typos I go back and correct them.

      Also, some articles, like this, come to me as a wave of inspiration and so editing these are especially difficult. In a review, where the format is set, usually only the intro is written in one inspirational burst.

      I do apologize for the typos, but it is not something I am all that worried about. If you have a solution, I'd love to hear it.

      Delete
    2. I'd like to offer my services as an editor.I enjoy your content and would love to make this small contribution to the community as a whole. Just for spelling, grammatical errors and general sentence structure. I imagine it working out that once you're ready to publish you fire off a copy to me, I go over it and edit as required and forward it back to you. Obviously this would be free of charge. If you're interested let me know.

      Delete
    3. At school we had to write 20 of these things per week and were expected to deliver them flawless, and still find time for all our other activities, groups, downtime, life, etc.

      A tip that might help you is to read your texts backwards before you post them; it can be easier to catch typos when you're not following the flow of the text you wrote. The brain tends to fill in blanks or correct mistakes when perceiving a text, more so a familiar one.

      Delete
  3. Please rip into the people who talk about the "provenance" of a goddamn watch. That term should be reserved for objects with actual significance, not as a justification for petty consumerism.

    ReplyDelete
  4. On a very rare occasion I'll see a boutique watch and think -- wow, that's amazing, and I want one. But mostly I see the same things repeated over and over. Standard ETA or Selitta movements (or even unknown Chinese movements) tossed into steel cases. I'll gladly buy a watch from a company that's been doing it for a long time before I buy a mechanical watch on Kickstarter. I do think there are some good values to be investigated in the small batch market, however -- MKII and Dagaz both seem like quality pieces that are good values to me. Not sure how you'd score a watch, but it would be cool to see some watch reviews.

    ReplyDelete
  5. To be fair, for serious collectors, watches aren’t EDC tools. The super high end watch market is more akin to the art market (right down to its iffy value proposition, bubble tendencies and use in moving money across borders). In that respect, provenance does matter.

    The reason watches are hard to review in the EDC context is that the EDC ethic is just one of many (many, many) reasons to wear a watch. If you wear a watch to tell time reliably, a cheap Casio will do. If you need certain specialised functions, get a G-shock. If you like the idea of a watch that doesn’t need a battery replacement, a Seiko 5, Seiko Solar or Citizen Eco-Drive will last you a lifetime. Right there there are enough choices to cover all your bases.

    Put another way, nobody wears a Patek to tell the time. Just like nobody *needs* a Sebenza to cut things. It’s a way for knife knuts and watch idiot savants to recognise each other, that’s all.

    I still think the provenance criterion is iffy in the EDC context, but it does have its uses outside it.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Tony, I'd be happy to edit the site for a pittance. I just sent an email to your edc gmail account.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I enjoyed the series but I think it might be a little overblown. The market is softening but the bubble is still there. Saw several auctions on IG crest well above $2000.

    Its the secondary market that has really dropped off.

    There's going to be a big correction and I think direct prices will come down and a number of new makers will get out of the game but I don't think it's as doom and gloom as you make it out to be.

    I'm more looking forward to the prices going back to normal than to 'rediscovering' productions. I'm a patient man. I have purchased one custom folder in the last 18 months because things for so far out of whack.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There's always a bell curve. I think we're seeing the bubble slowly dissolving. Some people will still buy high and sell high. But every day, it's more likely that you'll get left holding the bag if you bid on that $2000 slab-sided-flipper-framelock, with the intention of selling it off to the next greater fool.

      And I think the biggest point here is that for 99% of the world, production knives are simply a better choice. And those left over aren't actually buying because they need a knife.

      Delete
  8. A 2 year wait for a knife?
    I waited 6 years for one maker, and I waited 8 years for another. In both cases, the wait wasn't worth it.
    But the knife industry has gone through a paradigm shift toward knives meant to work and the blade steels are generally evolving and keeping up. Exciting times now, we aren't stuck wearing out fare from the local knife store, though some custom makers will blame you for actually using their uber-steel and sending it back because its crap.

    ReplyDelete
  9. This was spectacular. Well done, Tony. Well done.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Great write up, grammar included.
    The craziest thing I see. Is these custom guys working crazy hours building a knife to have some random dude buy and flip it for 3,4,5x the makers price. If I was Rexford, Martin, etc. I would flip my $1000 knife for $5000 and you wouldn't even know it. Integrity you ask? Tell your mortgage company or your health insurance if they accept integrity as form of payment. When I hear a maker say he can't afford his own knife that the lottery winner is flipping for $3500 I scratch my head.

    ReplyDelete
  11. GREAT FREAKING ARTICAL!!! Where did the REAL knife world go. I am yet to own a custom after years of buying knives. The reason is, they just cost to freaking much! Why in the hell would i pay $500.00 to $10,000 for a freaking knife when ZT, Kizer, Spyderco, ect... Make great freaking every day carry knives with great steel, and can actually be used like knives were made to do. If you are a filthy rich asshole who spends that on a knife to just sit in the box the rest of your life, shit, invest in gold or something. Because knives are made to be used, period! I personaly dont give a shit about seeing your fancy, non-usable brick of a knife, that will never, ever, have a place in your EDC rotation. If you by a knife for looks, fancy materials, and name of maker just to fondle and store away, then im sorry your not, nor should you be a knife guy, so to say. Much respect to all the real knife guys and gals who purchase knives to be used and abused, like there built for. Custom knives are way to overated and dont belong in the EDC world, they belong in the art world with a tag that says, "not to be used, simply made for looks"

    ReplyDelete
  12. GREAT FREAKING ARTICAL!!! Where did the REAL knife world go. I am yet to own a custom after years of buying knives. The reason is, they just cost to freaking much! Why in the hell would i pay $500.00 to $10,000 for a freaking knife when ZT, Kizer, Spyderco, ect... Make great freaking every day carry knives with great steel, and can actually be used like knives were made to do. If you are a filthy rich asshole who spends that on a knife to just sit in the box the rest of your life, shit, invest in gold or something. Because knives are made to be used, period! I personaly dont give a shit about seeing your fancy, non-usable brick of a knife, that will never, ever, have a place in your EDC rotation. If you by a knife for looks, fancy materials, and name of maker just to fondle and store away, then im sorry your not, nor should you be a knife guy, so to say. Much respect to all the real knife guys and gals who purchase knives to be used and abused, like there built for. Custom knives are way to overated and dont belong in the EDC world, they belong in the art world with a tag that says, "not to be used, simply made for looks"

    ReplyDelete
  13. Knives and watches are to some people much more than their intended purpose. Of course no one needs a $1k plus knife or watch to tell time or cut things but if you are in it for the art and appreciation of someones talents that is completely different. With custom knives the allure of exotic materials and hand built components is just too much for many to resist. Add to that the "one of a kind" tag and there you go. Price at that point is only relevant to ones own means. I haven't personally spent a bunch of money on customs. The closets I have came is some Olamic's and Shirogorov's. While to me they where all grail knives to others they where nothing special. It's all up to you as an individual to decide what knife means what to you. I have a modest collection and most of mine are production knives. ZT and Spyderco are definitely some of my favorites along with my Benchmades. But I have to tell you, handling and just staring at my Olamic's and Shiro's just does it for me. It is something that I can't put into words but it is what it is.

    ReplyDelete