The great thing about both the production and custom knife markets is their constant evolution to bring exciting new ideas and designs to users and collectors. Part of the fun in being a knife designer-developer is not knowing what's ahead and pushing myself as well as the other custom makers-designers I work with to bring it to the next level. I believe this is the same focus of all leading edge makers and production companies. The end result is better quality knives, materials and designs for consumers to choose from. Both Corduroy and Les have raised some good points here however no one has all the answers. As well Les, I don't agree on all points.
It's a fact that production companies have raised the ante for quality and by producing custom maker designs. Regardless there will always be several differences between a hand made knife and a production version of the same design. I own a Kit Carson Model 4GT and it is the very best made using knife I own. OEC is now producing a factory version of this same design. While both knives look the same they are quite different. The Magna is a high quality factory folder for under $100 MSRP but if you want the very best, I suggest spending $400 for an original Carson. If the maker is a good maker, the increased marketing from a factory version should enhance sales and awareness for that maker, not reduce them. For some of the 10%'ers who want something truly unique, collaborations may diminish interest for the custom version slightly, however the original is always the best. And remember, the custom knife consumer wants only the best, otherwise the would buy production knives. Les, I know Kit is one of the makers you promote and I am suprised you won't be carrying Kit's two best selling designs, the Model 4 and 16 since they are now being made by CRKT and OEC. I thought I saw these models on your table at the Guild Show however correct me if I'm wrong. Now that Buck sells the Intrepid, Kit's U2 design, are you discontinuing Kit's hand made version of this model as well?
You also mentioned "Every factory around the world is contacting any and every custom knife maker (who makes a tactical folder) to find out if they are intersted in collaborating on a knife." Not true. The only factories at I saw at the Guild Show were Spyderco, Benchmade and CRKT, a small handful compared to the 70 plus production companies who exhibit at the Shot Show. Although collaborations are popular this means very little in regards to the success of a factory knife. Custom makers can fill up a convention hall with knives, however there are still only a handful of makers with factory collaborations. Just because a maker sells well designed tacticals, does not mean a factory will be successful selling a production version. Today's consumer is well informed and there are so many good knives to choose from. If the factory version of a custom design is not made well and marketed correctly it will fail, bottom line. I have attended the Guild Show for the past few years to look for new designs and meet with the designers I work with. Each time I go I see many beautiful and practical knives but very few if any that I feel are interesting for OEC to manufacture.
You also mention "The factories are now relying on the custom makers for all the R&D." I myself have no less than 300 hours of engineering, prototyping and design work in modifying Darrel Ralph's hand made Krait design into OEC's Impulse production model. The 2-dimensional look of the handmade is the same as the production version however all other parts of the knife have been redesigned including the liner, handle, backstop, innerframe, clip and recessed clip pocket. I wish it was that easy to just take a hand made knife and put it in production but it is not. There are certain things a custom maker can do and a factory can not and visa-versa. The best marriage in any collaboration is to combine the best features of the hand made design with the benefits of modern production processes.
Getting back to the subject, since this thread is about trends, although I dislike the name, tactical is here to stay. This category covers a vast number of well made using knives. Putting the name aside, most forum members can agree that a good defense knife is a good using knife and therefore this category will never go out of style.
Along with the new tactical designs OEC is introducing, another focus is to offer something new and different outside the tactical category. As mentioned earlier, by year end (century end) we are introducing the Cosmos design by Ray Appleton. We are also working on a gentleman's folder designed by Japanese maker Koji Hara which utilizes his unique air-step design. Our goal in this knife is to offer a practical using pocket knife that is also unique and beautiful. The intent for these knives is not to start a trend. I would refer to them more as breaking ground to offer something different from the competition.
As far as what trends are ahead, who knows for sure? What I do know is it will always be fun and interesting trying to figure it out.
Outdoor Edge Cutlery Corp.
Visit our new web site at http://www.outdooredge.com
[This message has been edited by David Bloch (edited 13 August 1999).]