Looking Back on 2021: Smaller Makers Take Center Stage

Presented by: Work Sharp Knife & Tool Sharpeners

It’s never easy to summarize an entire year in the knife industry in a single article, but 2021 feels particularly difficult to encapsulate. So much happened, with big developments in every corner of the cutlery world – and that’s great news. Despite continuing difficulty knife makers big and small approached their work with dynamism, energy, and innovation.

Of course, we can’t avoid mentioning the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which resulted in the cancellation of SHOT Show 2021, among other shows. It was a discouraging start to the year, but didn’t stop the big knife companies from rolling out some exciting production knives. Benchmade came out of the gates with a massive revamp of the Adamas line, and we saw the most adventurous Buck Knives in years, with releases like the S45VN-equipped Onset and the Budgie showing that despite its legendary reputation as part of the old guard, Buck has no intention of resting on its laurels.

But if there’s one theme from 2021 we really want to highlight, it’s the rise of the small, independent production knife company. Tactile Knife Co. immediately established itself with the one-two punch of the Rockwall and Bexar – knives that reeled in accolades from many different quarters, including our own. Additionally, Monterey Bay Knives really came into its own, with the Sea Otter taking home one of the biggest Readers’ Choice Awards. Andrew Demko, now working apart from Cold Steel under his own private production knife label, wowed everyone with the AD20.5, an unforgettable release that was maybe the most talked about knife of the year.

2021 was also the year of MagnaCut. Larrin Thomas’s powder metallurgy creation captured the interest of knife steel nerds everywhere; it’s no wonder that we’re seeing it implemented on some of the indie darlings mentioned above, and all signs indicate it will be one of the stars of 2022 as well.

In 2020 GSM Outdoors acquired Cold Steel, and this year they followed up with the purchase of SOG Knives. These kind of business maneuvers can mean all sorts of different things, and, while we wouldn’t say things look grim for either Cold Steel or SOG at this point, obviously longtime fans of both brands are skeptical, and both situations will bear close observation this year.

If we listed every newsworthy event of 2021, this article would approach novel length. So we’ll put down the pen now, and end with our traditional thank you to our readers. KnifeNews exists for and because of the rich, welcoming knife community, and we’re proud to be a part of it. Here’s to a 2022 that exceeds our every expectation!

Complete KnifeNews Readers’ Choice Awards 2021

Best New Tactical Fixed Blade (WINNER: Benchmade 375 Adamas)

Best New EDC Fixed Blade (WINNER: LionSteel H2)

Best New Outdoors Fixed Blade (WINNER: TOPS Bestia)

Best New Kitchen/Culinary Knife (WINNER: Benchmade Station Knife)

Best New Slipjoint/Non-Locking Knife (WINNER: Tactile Knife Co. Bexar)

Best New High-End Knife (MSRP of $300 or more) (WINNER: Monterey Bay Knives Sea Otter)

Best New Value Folder (MSRP of $100 or less) (WINNER: Civivi Lumi)

Best New Folder (WINNER: Demko Knives AD20.5)

Best Knife Upgrade (WINNER: Benchmade 275 Adamas)

Best Overall Lineup (WINNER: We Knife Co. + Civivi)

Knives in Featured Image: We Knife Co. Saakshi and Civivi Lumi