Looking Back on the Highs and Lows of 2018

Presented by: Work Sharp Knife & Tool Sharpeners

“The new year will certainly bring a new crop of must-have models…”

Those were KnifeNews’s – maybe obvious – words at the end of 2017, looking forward to 2018. Obvious or no, the prediction came true. From January on, makers big and small kept surprising and delighting us with a seemingly endless string of knives as excellent as they were numerous. The knife industry seems to have hit that sweet spot where companies are large enough to streamline processes and reduce cost, but still small enough to lavish attention on details, finishing, and – most importantly – good design.

Work Sharp

The extraordinarily high quality marked a financial comeback as well. Knife sales were down in 2017 but, according to SSI Data, rebounded at the end of the year for many – but not all – companies. However, the threat of increased tariffs that do indeed target knife makers is still looming; it’s too early to gauge the impact of these tariffs, but it’s likely at the top of the list of concerns for many manufacturers going into 2019.

On a more positive note, the small batch production knife has became a juggernaut this year. As OEMs across the world become quicker and more capable, it’s now possible for a single person to produce the knife of their dreams and sell it directly to their customers. Boos Blades set the pace in this regard late last year, and we’ve seen Isham Bladeworks and Ferrum Forge, among others, take similar tacks. And of course 2018 saw the realization of a production model of Joe Caswell’s famous Morphing Karambit, which used popular crowdfunding platform Kickstarter to finance a similar project.

Coming in just under the yearly wire, so to speak, was Spyderco’s major change to their product announcement schedule. Rather than drop dozens of upcoming releases in a single mammoth product guide, they’ve switched to an ongoing reveal strategy similar to that adopted by Benchmade in recent years. Spyderco and Benchmade are two major trendsetters in the knife world so it’s likely we’ll see other companies switch to this tactic too.

It has been, and remains, a pleasure covering the knife world day by day. And the Readers’ Choice Awards gave voice to the most important aspect of the that world: its community. The knowledge and passion we see in our readers is both humbling and inspiring, and the entire team at KnifeNews wants to extend an enormous thank you to all of you who read our site and make this community what it is. And of course we want to thank our generous sponsor Work Sharp for helping us bring our vision of the Readers’ Choice Awards into being with style.

And in case you missed any of the awards, check out the complete list below for each of the ten announcements.


Monday, November 26: Best New Tactical Fixed Blade 2018 (WINNER: ZU Bladeworx Shrapnel)

Tuesday, November 27: Best New Fixed Blade for EDC 2018 (WINNER: TOPS Little Bugger)

Wednesday, November 28: Best New Outdoors Fixed Blade 2018 (WINNER: Benchmade 200 Puukko)

Thursday, November 29: Best Knife Upgrade 2018 (WINNER: Ontario RAT 2 in D2)

Friday, November 30: Best New Slipjoint/Non-Locking Knife 2018 (WINNER: Isham Bladeworks Blackstar)

Monday, December 3: Best New High-End Knife 2018 (MSRP of $300 or more) (WINNER: Zero Tolerance 0470)

Tuesday, December 4: Best New Value Folder 2018 (MSRP of $100 or less) (WINNER: CIVIVI Baklash)

Wednesday, December 5: Best New Manual Folder 2018 (WINNER: Spyderco Chaparral FRN)

Thursday, December 6: Most Innovative New Knife 2018 (WINNER: WE Knife Co. Double Helix)

Friday, December 7: Best Overall New for 2018 Lineup (WINNER: Spyderco)

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