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One-For-All or All-For-One?

Apr 15, 1999
One of the hottest trends in factory knives of the past decade has been companies producing designs from famous makers of handmade knives. I've noticed that the trend seems to be shifting, though, from companies producing a single design by a certain maker to bringing that maker in as part of the "team" to design many knives.

Specifically, Benchmade has now produced 6 Pardue designs and 5 Elishewitz designs, and Kershaw is producing a steady stream of Ken Onion designs (Task/Ricochet, Mini-Task, the Blizzard/Whirlwind/Blackout series, and a limited-edition Speed-Safe knife whose name I don't know). This seems to me to be a very different arrangement than producing one or two knives by a wide range of makers, which Benchmade previously did, Spyderco contnues to do, and Outdoor Edge seems poised to attempt.

How do folks feel about this new trend of factory/maker "teams"? Is it a good thing or a bad thing? Are there long-term dangers to either party? Would you rather see designs by a wider variety of makers reach production, or rather see more designs from a select few?

On a related issue, I see a distinction between handmade designs "going production" and true "collaborations." The Benchmade Leopard is an example of the first situation - it is a design that Pat Crawford Makes himself, but it has been adapted to production. The Spyderco Goddard is an example of the second - Wayne Goddard doesn't make knives in this pattern himself, but he collaborated with Spyderco to produce the design. Is this an important distinction? Which do folks prefer?

These are the things I think about while doing filework and similar time-consuming tasks. I've been chewing on them for a bit and figured I'd bring them here and see what you all thought.

-Drew Gleason
Little Bear Knives
I don't get too interested in this trend. I think it is nothing more than a marketing ploy to trade on well known maker's name recognition. In the past, if you couldn't afford a custom Loveless (few could) then you could buy a mass produced Schrade, etc, designed by him. Doing one collabaration on occasion was fine and it introduced their name and talent to a wider base of knife folks. I greet the news that XYZ Co has introduced a line of knives designed by so-and-so with a yawn.

Dave R
If the final product is made from inferior materials such as either mystery steel or 420 whatever and not up to snuff presicion wise then I think the maker who put his name on it suffers. A collaboration should be an extension of the makers integrity and craftsmanship. If these aren't compramised,and within reasonable cost then by all means the collaborations are a sucsess.
I think that when a company such as Spyderco or Benchmade, ect. collaborates with the designer to come up with an original, affordable knife, it will in most cases be built well, with maybe none of the bells and whistles of a custom. Maybe not with real highend steels but with a quality steel just the same. Take for example, Spyderco Bill Moran,Veile, Wenger, Horn, Centofante.. or the Benchmades, even some designs may come from the input of others, such as AFCK, designed by an ex seal I beleive, or some type of ex military. So in most cases I think we benefit from these collaborations...and it also makes them more accessable. I really like the new Starmate too..just one of the latest from Spyderco.
My nickels worth..

I agree with the Bartman on this. By building a production version of a "custom", fills quite a niche for certain buyers. When I first heard of the CQC7, I had to have one, but it was way out of my league. Then I heard Benchmade built one and I was a happy camper. In fact, that's what helped me on the road to being a knife knut. A lot of people are happy with the factory made collaborations. I know I am!

"May you live in interesting times"

AKTI - A000389

Um, if folks want to turn this into a general thread on maker-factory collaborations, then that's cool. This is the only time I'll try to push it back towards the questions I wanted to see discussed. Those questions are:

Should factories do multiple knives with specific makers, or even employ one maker at the exclusion of all others?

Is there a difference between a "collaboration" and simply translating a maker's design into a production medium?

I've thrown enough threads off course that I won't try to stop any drift after this. But I just wanted to make one attempt in case my questions weren't clear.

I'm not sure I understand your last post directly above. I think there is a fine line between all of these.

If a knifemaker contributes a nice design to a factory, that is great. The factory ends up making a nice knife! What's wrong with that?

I don't like to see factories making exact duplicates of a custom maker's knife, even if the custom maker agrees. There should be definite distinction between a factory knife and a custom knife.

Drew, as to my opinions/answers to your questions:

I think that factories should continue to do multiple knives with a specific maker if the designs continue to be successful. I doubt that it would be wise for most factories to exclude other designers in favor of just one maker.

I think the major difference between collaboration and a production “translation” or adaptation is really on the most basic design level. A knife intended for mass production will have a different approach in design than one a maker plans on putting together one at a time, I would imagine, even if it is on a subconscious level.

I am unsure at this point if these collaborations will be a hindrance or a boon to knife makers themselves, but they most certainly good for the knife consumer on a budget that does not allow them to indulge in a custom made knife.

I think the buyer would lose if manufacturers were to use exclusives. There is a certain creativity that is lent the production designer when the custom minded individual is there with him, the more the manufacturer can bring on staff the more the buyer gains. I believe buyers already deal with exclusivity hampering market presentation in the form of manufactures feeling like they have to do "favors" or favor a custom makers ideas due to a sucessful collaboration in the past. Especially if they have to turn down maker so and so because the current collaborator is a stiff competitor.

Translations definitely differ from collaboration in that in a translation the manufacturer has to deal with "gee, now how am I going to this on the assembly line" and in a collaboration the manufacturer gets to say "gee, we really can't do that effectively on the assembly line" this difference effects the final piece.

I believe that a "translation" of a succesful high end piece is always a winner for us poor folks. As long as the quality control is maintained through the whole run of the model.



I agree with *stjames* here. He saved me some writing!

I need a bigger bucket.
What Stompy said.

The choices we make dictates the life we lead.