Looking Back on 2020: A Difficult Year for Everyone

Presented by: Work Sharp Knife & Tool Sharpeners

It hardly needs to be said: 2020 has been the worst, hardest year in our memory – and incontestably the hardest since we founded KnifeNews. COVID-19 changed life everywhere, for everybody, in tragic ways we would’ve had a hard time imagining back in January. And if we look towards 2021 with any degree of optimism, it’s only because it seems hard to believe a year could be worse than the one we are now, finally, concluding.

As early as the spring, knife shows began delaying and, eventually, outright canceling in light of COVID: IWA, the Spyderco Amsterdam Meet, BLADE and SHOT, The USN Gathering, and countless smaller shows were shuttered this year in light of the rampaging pandemic.

There were also changes in the industry apart from COVID; one of the biggest surprises came earlier this month, with Lynn C. Thompson announcing the sale of Cold Steel to GSM Outdoors. SOG’s founder, Spencer Frazer, stepped away from his company after a major brand refresh at the beginning of the year. Jon deAsis, Les’s son, stepped into the role of CEO at Benchmade after his father’s passing.

And indeed, obituaries are always the hardest stories to write. Tony Bose, TOPS’ Mike Fuller, and Benchmade founder Les deAsis passed away in 2020. We’re all richer for their having lived and worked among us, but poorer now for their loss.

It’s impossible – and not helpful – to imagine what the year’s release schedule would’ve looked like if COVID hadn’t thrown its massive spanner into the global works. But if this year’s releases were fewer and more restrained than they otherwise would’ve been, they were still of superb quality, emblematic of the leaps and bounds the knife industy has made in the last decade. Benchmade managed to celebrate the 940’s birthday in style with automatic and mini variations; Spyderco held up the standard of innovation that it’s known for with clever, quirky releases and the debut of their own SPY27 steel formulation; KAI kicked off a Sprint Run and Factory Special Series for Kershaw and ZT, respectively; and we’re pleased to report that new knife companies managed to emerge in this tumultuous year! We eagerly await more releases from Kansept, and Ray Laconico and Sanford Owens’s new Monterey Bay Knives.

There are reasons to be cautiously optimistic about 2021 – but it feels unwise to prognosticate. Instead, we’ll end this retrospective the same way we did last year: by thanking our readers. You make the entire KnifeNews project possible, and for that we are, now and always, incredibly thankful. We hope you’re happy, we hope you’re well, and we are wishing you all a better 2021. Thank you, and see you next year.


Monday, November 30thBest New Tactical Fixed Blade (WINNER: Spyderco Nightstick)

Tuesday, December 1stBest New EDC Fixed Blade (WINNER: Mora Eldris LightDuty)

Wednesday, December 2ndBest New Outdoors Fixed Blade (WINNER: Benchmade 202 Leuku)

Thursday, December 3rdBest New Kitchen/Culinary Knife (WINNER: Spyderco Wakiita Gyuto)

Friday, December 4thBest New Slipjoint/Non-Locking Knife (WINNER: Fox Knives Nauta)

Monday, December 7thBest New High-End Knife (MSRP of $300 or more) (WINNER: Chris Reeve Knives Sebenza 31)

Tuesday, December 8thBest New Value Folder (MSRP of $100 or less) (WINNER: Cold Steel SR1 Lite)

Wednesday, December 9thBest New Folder (WINNER: Benchmade 945 Mini Osborne)

Thursday, December 10th: Best Knife Upgrade (WINNER: Buck 110 Folding Hunter in Paul Bos S30V)

Friday, December 11thBest Overall Lineup (WINNER: Spyderco)