New Trends in Folders.....

Jul 14, 1999
What do you think the next trend in kniveswill be? IMHO I think consumers will eventually tire of bead blasted, G10 handled tactical folders, what will replace them?

I would like to see more traditional looking folders with wood(bone, horn, etc.) scales and metal bolsters, yet at the same time retaining some of the features that tactical folders have brought to the market.

What are your all's thoughts??

I think the trend in handmade knives will be away from the simple "tactical" pieces that many do today. Factories are getting too good at producing a no-frills precision folder in materials like titanium and G-10; it's already hard to tell some makers' work from factory pieces. I don't think people are going to continue to pay 2X-5X as much for these pieces just because they have an individul's name on them instead of a factory's. So I see the simple slap-some-Ti-together-and-beadblast-it end of the handmade folder market evaporating.

This will force makers to concentrate on what factories cannot duplicate: extremely high degrees of finish, lots of embelishment, and very radical designs that won't sell in large numbers. I think we'll see more exotic handle materials, more mirror polishing, more filework, and more damascus and mokume. All these things already exist and most "tactical" makers already do them on special pieces, but I think they'll start to make up an increasing percentage of the orders.

On the production front, we'll see increasingly precise and well-made folders in modern, man-made materials. This trend is already apparent. Three or four years ago Benchmade and Spyderco were just about the only name in this market; now we have other young companies like EDI, Outdoor Edge, and CRK&T making dedicated forays into this area, while older firms like Buck, Camillus, Boker, Gerber, and Kershaw make variously excellent or inept attempts to join, too. Basically, I'm saying that the current trend in production folders IS the future trend, because it is only just beginning.

Maybe this is how the industry will go, or maybe it's just how I'd like it to go. I feel personally that the talents of the knifemaker are wasted on simple pieces with bead-blast finishes and simple designs, so I have a substantial bias. Either way, that's my guess.

-Drew Gleason
Little Bear Knives
I think Drew is right on the money with the factory expectations. They tend to keep a very close eye on the custom made world, and attempt to capitalize on current trends in that arena, thats why the factory is usually about two steps behind the custom maker(s).
In the Custom made area, without a doubt, you are going to see color and texture incorporated with extremly high degrees of fit and finish.
The "using" market has changed little in the last 15 years. Those who make up the vast majority of custom knife purchases fall into this area, they will always be concerned with three things....Look good, feel good, & work good.

Ed Caffrey
"The Montana Bladesmith"

I see more and more variety in steel types. I think the cost of cnc driven equipment will fall. It may become possible that factories can custom make orders by just having the customer long on to their sites make choices and give inputs, such as sizes, materials, and shapes. After the customer gives his credit card the machinery would automaticly take it from there build and box knife.

I think that Corduroy has hit the nail squarely on the head.

If the Enemy is in range, SO ARE YOU!!

Corduroy seems to have covered most of it. To add my dimes worth, I think not only will you see different steels, but different blade materials all together. As industry and military find new and better materials, what was once only found in certain sectors, will be available to everyone. I think it won't be too long before you see a knife totally free of metal. It will be equal to or better in performance than any knife currently made. I think it was the late 60's when stainless steel hit the scene. Now we have ceramic blade, carbon fiber, titanium, cobalt etc.

In the quest for the next "original' design, I think you will see makers going way back in history to dig up more forgotten designs and try to modernize them.

About 6 months ago I came to the same conclusion as Cordury. The factory's are putting very highly quality product which should put the heat on makers to jazz up their offerings and people are getting tired of the black tac style but it is still very popular. I used to use strictly customs on a daily basis. Now I am carrying a low cost CRKT M16-04. The knife is very addictive. I have sold several at work and it's time to order several more. Outdoor Edge has a very nice Ray Appleton design coming out. It's not the black tac. style. I can't wait to get one to try out. The factory's are really catching up to the customs and handmade knives. It will be interesting to see what the future brings in the world of knives.


Tom Carey

Now selling fossil ivory, jade, amber, opal, sandstone, dino bone etc...
Email me for info. The new items will be added to cga online in the near future.

I for one would like to see more knives made with moden materials and production techniques that offer a real-deal using knife and a significant reduction in the fantasy department.

Though I have no problem with fantasy knives per se, we will have to eliminate a number of them to make room for real stuff.

Also, there's a lot out there that isn't fantasy, but just doesn't work as well as it could. I would like to see these refined.

The idea of customizable factory knives automaticaly ground out by sophisticated machinery is intruiging...
I'd like to see the move away from folders to the city knife continue to grow, and I'm doing my bit to help that trend along.

Too many folder handles these days are flat with corners! I think it's possible to make a knife that's comfortable to carry and yet still won't raise blisters if it's ever used for more than a few minutes....

I see more and more impractical blade shapes coming on the market (Microtech etc.) and I expect that trend to continue. Apparently anything that looks unusual sells and the more bizarre it looks the better.

-Cougar Allen :{)
I don't know about you all, but just having gotten my Emerson Commanders, I think that the wave feature is going to be the next Spyder hole/serration/liner lock. I mean that it has the great potential of being on a great many knives in the future.

This is great! Being able to grasp your pocket clipped folder, pull, and as it is being drawn from the pocket, the blade is being deployed for immediate use. Great in a timely situation. If needed for something more "mundane", simply use a little care and remove more slowly, being careful NOT to engage the wave, and you have a normal, closed folder in your hands.

Fast as a fixed blade, but a more compact, legal package. It beats auto's hands down!

Since I am in the Law Enforcement/Emergency Service/Security & Safety business, having a rapidly deployable, compact, hidden knife come from out of sight if necessary is a tremendous asset.

Just a thought,
AKTI member A000360
Interesting comments.

The custom makers have always been producing better quality knives than the factories. Most collectors just have difficulty going above $800.00.

No, the tactical knife market is not diminishing, nor will it. I think I can safely say this as I sell more custom tactical knives than any other one person in the US.

Embelished tacitcal knives are a waste of time and money. This is a stepping stone to higher dollar Damascus knives. Three to Five years from now, you will find it difficult to resell these "embelished" tactical knives.

The factories and custom makers will not differ much in the future on the introductory level tactical folders. The factories are now relying on the custom makers for all the R&D. Ever 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 colloborating on a knife. Look for this trend to continue for years to come. Short term it will be great for the factories and the makers. Long term it will be great for the factories and bad for the custom maker. If you can get a very similar design from a factory for $85.00. Will you pay the maker $450.00 for something that looks the same. True the materials are different and level of craftsmanship are different. But that pride in ownership has been diminished. I have told makers that once they sell their design to a factory, I will never buy the custom version again.

Additionally, the factories are contiunally raising their prices. This will hurt them in the long run. The closer the factory knife prices get to the custom knife prices, there will be no reason to buy a factory knife. Also, they are introducing their customers to the custom makers quicker than they would find them on their own.

Also, many collectors have now figured out that, while it is great to be able to buy a new knife every month or so. What is the outlet to get rid of these knives. Obviously, the dealer you bought them from has no interest in them. He can get all he wants for 50-65% off (depending on his level).

New customers don't want a used factory knife.

The same can not be said for custom knives. There is a large aftermarket for these. Generally, you will take a loss if it is a common piece. However, so many of the in demand makers have 1 -3 year waits, you can generally get your money back out of your knife.

Back to trends. The move to Damascus has slowed due to the introduction of the super steels.

BG-42, 440V, 420V and 3V. Once makers have exhausted their inventory of ATS-34 expect to see these steels to become common.

These knives will generally cost a little more. However, years from now they will not be "Dated" and will still be in demand.

New materials will be the main trend. There will be some decoration and use of wood, Ivory and Pearl on these knives. But that will be a small percent.

Tactical fixed blades are the biggest mover right now. Every day the demand for these knives grows.

The High Dollar Auto market has stalled.

The High Dollar Art Knife market is slow

The $1,000 - $2,000 Damascus folder market is on the rise.

The Tactical folder and fixed blade market continue to rise.

A category of knvies that was slow recently is starting to move again. That being Hunting knives.

These are trends across the custom knife market.

One thing to remember is that only 10% of all consumers will enter quickly into a new market. These are the trend setters that most of the other consumers will want to follow.

So for those of you who are on the "cutting" edge of knives. You will have to wait for the rest of your fellow knife knuts to catch up.

Knifemakes and knife factories make the majority of their money off of the 70% who are in that second level of buyers. So the designs and final product will always be geared to the majority of the market.

Ever wonder why the coolest knife you ever bought is difficult to re-sell in the aftermarket? Now you know why, you are a 10%.

I my-self am a 10%, which is why I was involved with the LDC knives and I will have a new line of knives come out this fall called the Van Guard series.

The trouble with following the pack, is stepping in what they leave behind!

Personally, I love this kind of thread. This really helps makers and dealers a like to know what the customer is really wanting.

Les Robertson
Robertson's Custom Cutlery
I thought I was wrong once, but I was mistaken.
Corduroy, I disagree with the statement that factory knives will or do basically match the quality of custom or handmade knives. Although factory production has gotten better, there is no comparison.

Mr. Robertson,

Thanks a bundle for giving us so much info on what's actually moving and shaking, instead of speculating (and wishing) as I and others have done. You are in an extremely privledged position to have that sort of info, and your willingness to share is generous and a mark of your character. I will be honest and say that the few times I have disagreed with you (and those to come), I have done so knowing that you are probably right, by virtue of perspective and experience. I air my opinions nonetheless, so that I may evaluate them by the way people respond, but I usually come away thinking "you know, he's right..."


I disagree because I have held knives by makers that I will not mention that have in many respects been inferior to their production counterparts. I have in my temporary possession right now a knife by a very famous maker that I feel would be indistiguishable from a factory piece if it did not have a hand-rubbed satin finish applied lengthwise to the blade. Besides this, if one were not familiar with current production and the knife were not marked, the only clues that I feel would point to hand-made origin are imperfections one would not expect in a factory piece.

I feel that factories are coming up fast in quality, but makers are also going down, not in all their work, but in their bottom-end pieces that sell to new collectors and serve as little more than vehicles for their stamp or mark. The "bottom end" now is much lower in handmades than I feel it was when I began working on knives four years ago - this goes double for fixed-blades, where the "basic using knives" of some makers are of much poorer fit and finish than the knives made by any respectable factory. I understand neither what the maker gets out of such pieces (yes, $, but I like to think people get some personal satisfaction out of what they make) nor how they expect to continue this sort of business with factories getting better by leaps and bounds. A month or so ago we saw a "handmade" neck knife get generally beaten in reviews against a factory piece - and both knives were under $30! I neither understand nor care to understand this end of the handmade market, as I feel it will be very short lived. Folks will stop paying for a "name" when they see factory knives offering more performance for less money.

I think many people are blinded by the glare of a maker's mark on the blade. Hold it up to the light. Turn it over in your hands. Look at the little details, like shoulders, grind symmetry, fit of bolsters and scales. There are some fantastic pieces out there, but there are many "handmade" knives that simply don't measure up to the better factory pieces now available. 90% of the times I have gotten to see a "big name" knife for real, I have felt thoroughly let down. The other times.... awe.

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.

David Bloch,

Visit our new web site at

[This message has been edited by David Bloch (edited 13 August 1999).]
Speaking of trends and maker/factory collaborations, I'm curious if some companies are taking the next step and "employing" makers as their R&D staff. Benchmade has now made 6 models with Mel Pardue (850, 330,350, 3500, 720, and the old 4" auto I can't recall), 5 of them still in production. They also have 5 Elishewitzes (875, 880, 910, 9100, 140). The Pinnacle seems to be their only in-house design in recent years (I'm counting the Ascents as variations on the AFCK). Kershaw is similarly producing everything they can by Ken Onion and not by anyone else.

I'm not sure what to make of this. It's definitely a change from the "single knives by many makers" idea that Spyderco and Benchmade began, and Outdoor Edge seems to be attempting (though they do like Mr. Ralph, with good reason!) My gut says I don't like it, but my head says I don't have a reason why. Somehow, I feel that more makers should be given a chance rather than relying on one or two for many pieces, and I don't like the idea that a company might stop designing any knives themselves.

But, as I said, I haven't been able to figure out why I should feel this way and I don't know what to make of this trend. Opinions?

The newest trend in folders that I really like is BIG FOLDERS!



Jim March

You need to get out more. At the Blade Show a knife designed by Warren Thomas won an Award for Beretta.

Also, Camillus is contacting several makers through a well known writer for the knife magazines.

Joy knives out of Taiwan (I think) has contacted Mike Franklin recently.

Micro Tech flew in Greg Lightfoot from Canada about 10 days ago to discuss a design with him.

CRKT recently signed up Lightfoot and Brian Tighe.

Ti Knives is looking at a collaboration with a up and coming maker. Not at liberty to discuss this any further.

Spyderco contacted David Broadwell some time back.

Roy Helton is also developing a knife for a factory.

So with Terzuola, Viele, Centofante, Boguzweski, Lum, Brend, Carson, Elishewitz, Pardue, Emerson, Reeve, Hammond, Crawford, Walker, Ralph, Vallotton, Harsey, Oda, and the aforementioned makers all involved with factories to some degeree. I think that lends credeance to my comment about all the factories looking to sign custom knife makers.

Guys, everyone is welcome to their own opinion. Each of us has reasons for their opinon. I cannot speak for what is going to happen in the future to the factories. I don't own factory knives, I don't buy factory knives and I don't sell factory knives. I have not for over a decade.

I base my opinons on what I know. Not what I guess, not what is in a magazine, not what one maker or factory thinks the truth is.

I live, eat and breath custom knives.

Yes, there are some very good factory knives as there are some horrible custom knives. I don't use or carry factory knives as I saw them fail time after time. My life may have depeneded on my knife. I could not chance it to something I had no confidence in.

I do have one question. What do you do with a used factory knife that you want to get rid of?

The dealer, distributor and factory won't take them back. David, do you take previously purchased knives back in trade on another knife? I do that with the custom knives I sell.

Obviously, there are knife buyers who for their own reasons buy either factory or custom knives. Some buy both.

As long as they keep buying knives, for those of us who's profession it is to sell knives, we are happy they are doing so.

Guys, the topic was "New Trends in Folders". I gave you my opinion. I belive it to be both an educated and correct one.

Buy what you like!

Les Robertson
Robertson's Custom Cutlery
I thought I was wrong once, but I was mistaken.