Heading for the Holidays

Nov 20, 2023

For most of us, this is a short week. With Thanksgiving on Thursday, the business world will effectively shut down on -or before- Wednesday afternoon. We’re no exception, and will not be pushing out normal wires on Thursday or Friday.

That’s not to say there won’t be anything from us showing up in your mailbox.

This year, we decided to offer companies the opportunity to reach out to our readers with Black Friday specials. We may seem a bit late to the party -I’ve been getting Black Friday notices in my email since before Halloween- but we don’t normally “do” extra offers. The new Black Friday Specials are short- limited solely to ads from various companies. No editorial, no news, nothing but ads. If something grabs your interest, you simply click the ad to see more. No unnecessary scrolling - and nothing after the holiday. Truly a one-off.

Just wanted you to know that the Black Friday piece really was from us. If you’re not interested, it’s a quick discard. If you find a deal, it’s a bonus.

Winding down another year is always bittersweet moments. 2023 has had its share of forgettable moments, but it’s another quantity of the irreplaceable sand that passes through all our respective hourglasses. As we head toward the finish line, this week is a good time to reflect, remember and resolve to make the most of the time we all have left. Time really is fleeting.

Last weekend, I checked out the Nashville Custom Knife Show. It’s one of those small events that I really enjoy. Despite the hassles associated with getting into and out of downtown Nashville (and paying $42.80 to park), it is a fun opportunity to see what the true artists of the knife industry are up to.

Creativity, when it comes to edged objects, is alive and well.

And there were plenty of custom makers in attendance, from Appleby to Zinker and nearly every letter in between.

The workmanship on the displayed knives is stunning. Whether it be a large sheath knife from Pennsylvania’s Robert Appleby (top) an award-winning folder from David Longworth (middle) or an Andrew Smith Damascus tomahawk (bottom) from Louisiana, the edged weapons were, as expected, breathtakingly well executed.

But the fun part of this kind of show is also the biggest threat financially: virtually everything on display is for sale.

These knife makers, while seemingly blessed with unlimited talent are, like the rest of us, faced with a finite amount of time each year. That’s why many of the knife makers quickly place “Sold” stickers on many of their displays. It’s also why some many of their future projects are spoken for, too.

Established makers have ready buyers, including their fellow makers. And there are always younger makers who attend to see if their work stacks up comparably with the recognized blade masters.

That’s why you can’t be asleep at the wheel if you’re shopping an event like this. If you’re not ready to pounce on what strikes your fancy, you could be out of luck before you know it.

The “youngster” whose work you admired this year, like Dutch Canadian maker Jacco Van de Bruinhorst, may quickly build a following. For the uninitiated, that means his knives will appreciate in value - quickly. Having talked with Jacco and seen his work first-hand, there’s little doubt among collectors in attendance: his will be a name you’ll hear in the future.

First-time exhibitor Jacco Van de Bruinhorst’s work stopped makers and shoppers. The Canadian maker’s love of his craft and willingness to talk with everyone made it obvious to longtime collectors that he would be worth noting. His work on a sword and dagger was well-documented (top) and the craftsmanship in his keyhole knife and serpent skin dagger (bottom) was meticulous. Knife image courtesy of jvbknivescanada.

I left the show with the same Doug Ritter/Hogue knife I had in my pocket when I arrived. But that’s not to say I escaped without at least earmarking some of my limited funds for future use. I couldn’t force myself to pull the trigger on a beautiful custom knife by Texan Johnny Stout, but I’m pretty certain I’ll take advantage of the opportunity to attend his School of Knifemaking. Especially after he told me that the model I was admiring was the very knife I could learn to make myself during one of his four-day classes. “When you leave,” he told me, “you’ll have a custom knife that’s totally one-of-a-kind because you will have made it.”

“And,” he grinned, “when you leave, you can call me anytime for advice or whatever, because you’ll be able to make your own knives, too.”

Did I mention he’s a pretty good salesman? I’m already looking for a week on my calendar in 2024.

We’ll keep you posted.

— Jim Shepherd