The Stagnation of the Knife Industry - See page 3 post

Jul 10, 2011
A ton of people have raised some great points in this thread, and it's been an excellent discussion to read through. I will state that my viewpoint is perhaps along the lines of "Why change what doesn't really need changing?" Knives by their very nature are simple both in design, and mechanically. I am not sure what new innovations are possible at this point that wouldn't just be variations on basic principles that have already been established. A new locking mechanism? I don't really see that as huge innovation. There are a ton of lock designs out there, so what's one more? Blade shapes? Knife materials? Deployment methods? I am not sure we're ever going to see some super game-changing new innovation at this point in the game (I could be wrong!), so given that, why should it be an issue that companies* aren't constantly producing new innovative and different products? CRK has been mentioned a few times, as an example. They sell every knife they make, why should they spend a ton of time and money innovating when they run the possibility of changing the product that they are A. known for and B. that brings the customers to buy everything they make? Chris Reeve isn't losing sleep at night because he doesn't sell flippers with ceramic bearings and blades of M4/M390 after all. The guy is selling all the knives he can make with a design and materials list that hasn't changed in years. I'd say that's pretty admirable, certainly nothing to be "knocked" over. Spyderco, they're doing great despite bringing a ton of knives to the market which are all essentially similar (Spyderhole, some sort of good steel, G10 scales, neat or funky design, rinse and repeat). Same with the rest.

I mean, I get that there will always be people out there who just want to always see new, shiny, and different. That's essentially the main drive that keeps the auto industry afloat, after all. But at least with knives, there should be no negative connotation applied just because companies aren't bringing out new game-changing technologies every year. Hey, maybe we'll have pocket lightsabers one day, which would be cool. Until then, it's either a fixed blade (a piece of steel with some sort of handle), or a folding knife (a piece of steel, and some sort of pivot and handle arrangement).

That's just how I see it. I enjoy seeing all of the new products all the companies are coming out with each year, and I recognize that they are all riffs on the fixed blade, or folding knife. Of course they are, that's what sells, and these companies are making money doing it.

Anyway, great thread.

*Companies are in the business of making money first, and foremost. Innovation is only one method by which to achieve that goal.

This explains my thoughts much better than I can.

At this point, I think innovations can only be meagerly incremental without adding a huge amount of complexity to a design. I am a fan of the Reeve Integral Lock, for example, because it is tremendously simple to implement, and locks the blade strongly enough for my purposes. I am an example of a customer who doesn't demand innovation, because to me (and for my purposes) the framelock has no negatives - immense lock strength simply isn't a concern of mine. While this might inspire complacency in some makers, I am fine with that complacency because a well executed framelock (which is still not universal) is unarguably a good way to make a knife.

One innovation I do suppose I am interested in seeing implemented more widely is a tool-less design, a la the Snecx IFS-20. However, I'm not sure this is feasible on a production level due to the insanely tight tolerances needed to have all of the parts interlock without play. And truthfully, I'm not sure how much better it is than a knife with good, properly hardened and tight fitting screws like the Sebenza.

People like me are probably why Chris Reeve continues to make very slight iterations on their existing knives, and I apologize to the people who this annoys :D
Jan 20, 2017
I think the real advances in custom knifemaking are being done in the manufacturing arena and not in design. CNC machines have hit the right power/price ratio and we're seeing guys like Grimsmo starting to take advantage of their unique benefits. I think as the technology spreads we'll start to see some real design innovation too, stuff that couldn't be done with traditional methods but is possible with CNC.

3D printing is likely to be an even bigger leap as it becomes more and more practical to make functional metal parts. A simple example of its potential would be Ti handles, which could be substantially reduced in weight without compromising strength by printing them with an internal lattice structure instead of machining them out of solid billet Ti. A more extreme example would be a complex lock mechanism or even a whole folding knife, printed in one go and designed in a way that would be impossible to assemble were it made in separate parts.
Jun 26, 2012
Absolutely love the thought and detail that went into the post. I have read the OP's entry, but have not delved into the discussion and responses as of yet.

My only response is in relation to the time-frame of the inquiry. Knives have been in use for about ~4000+ years? How many years were flint knives used before the bronze age, then before the steel age, then before the super steel age? The scope of this inquiry is limited to perhaps 5 years of what is a 4000+ year timeline, it's barely a blip on the map so to speak. We will see the bubble burst in the near future, many enthusiasts will move onto new hobbies and interests, and in a few years the cycle will repeat itself.

I'd guess that a larger cyclical pattern is always an innovative based improvement followed by years of lateral improvement, the bubble bursts and we wait again. Although I was in diapers in the 80's, from what I've gathered the OTF market was either born or saw significant 'innovative based improvements' followed by a huge bubble of dressy OTF knives (lateral improvements).

I'd also guess that knives as a hobby, and many hobbies for that matter follow the market and housing cycle to an extent. We are currently in the second longest bull market in history (stock market), interest rates are low, money is growing, investor sentiment is high. After the housing and market crash of 2008, many hobbies saw a massive decline in sales and interest as consumers went into saving mode. I would predict that interest in lateral improvements will be greatly diminished with the next market correction, and knife enthusiasts will be more focused on 'bang for buck' and 'innovative based improvements' at that point.

Anyhow, I definitely look forward to reading through the entire thread when I have more time. Apologies if I'm echoing points already made by another.
Apr 6, 2016
I just stumbled into this thread, a great read and good food for thought.
It may seem the knife design world is stagnant, but I am sure that many knife designers are still tinkering about how they cannot only make pretty knives based on proven functionality that sell well, but in the mean time try to innovate on functionality and join that initial list of names of infamous functional knife innovators.
There have been dozens of knife designs with rather unique opening and locking mechanisms over the years, with the majority labeled as gimmicky and lacking general adoption by the public. Why? Mostly because people don't like drastic changes. Any new innovation will only be adapted if it can fit in with the current "idea" of what a knife is and how it works. New ideas that are too extreme will never adopt.
Knife makers are trying, and some examples already have been mentioned before: Monolithic frames, tool less dis- and assembly a la SNEX or Fieldstrip. Also there are small features that have popped up over time, like lock bar inserts, stabilizers, heck even lock bar locks. All small inventions that improve on existing lock features. Or things like removable flippers or thumb studs, to cater for different legal requirements. Even some clip experiments have been done with retractable clips. Some failed, some worked. Lionsteel currently has a new knife in production where the clip is hidden when the knife is not clipped. It will definitely improve grip ergonomics, but we just have to see if the functionality is up to snuff.
Some of these small updates will be labeled gimmicks, and some will end in the realm of innovation based improvements. Ultimately the public and other makers will decide over this, and time will tell.

What I would like to see is self repairing and hydrophobic coatings, so my knives never get dirty again.