View Full Version : What is "hot"

Les Robertson
02-14-2002, 11:03 AM
I think I have misrepresented what my definition of hot is.

I can see where most people would think I am speaking of what is selling today.

I guess I should describe this more accurately as what will be hot in the future.

Marketing Guru's around the world have found out through years of reseach that only about 10% of consumers are what they refer to as "risk takers".

These are the consumers who buy all the new stuff!

Most of us fall into that 70% that adopt a "wait and see aproach".

The last 30% are never going to buy a particluar product for any number of reasons.

That being said, I find it is no different in the custom knife community. The majority of what becomes hot is developed by the 10% of the makers out there who are the innovators. More times than not, they should be called the "experimenters".

These makers through their efforts develop new ideas, utilize new materials and generally become one of, if not the dominate force in their market. They will hold this position for as long as they choose to innovate!

The next 70% are the follower's. Once they see a knife or a material is being readily accepted, they try and gear up to take advantage of the market the other maker has created.

NOTE: There is nothing wrong with this, most corporations do exactly the same thing. Look at the state of factory knives today.

Collector's are the same way, most will wait till they read about it on the Internet or a magazine. Possibly they see the knife at a show.

However, there is lag time built into this process. The longer it takes to get the product to the market place and into the hands of the end user, the "cooler" it becomes.

Because of numerous production factors, the time from idea to final protoytpe can range from 6 weeks to 12 months. Then you have to have them available, market them and get them into the hands of your clients. Add another 2-4 months.

Many have said that Tatical knives are no longer hot. They still are, but not as hot as they once were. This is due in large part to the tactical knife market becoming a mature market.

Generally when you ask a knife maker what is hot. They tell you what is hot for them at that particular time. Because that is their view of the knife world.

Heat only lasts so long, Keith Montgomery (got it right that time Keith) brings up an excellent point. That in fact S30V is right now the hot steel. Few makers are currently using it (this will change). Most collectors do not know this steel exists yet (that will change).

But remember just a few short years ago, BG-42 was hot.

Then it was 440V and 420V.

Then Talonite.

For makers now is the time to be on the phone to CPM and get some S30V. As it has already started to cool off.

There are some laminate steels off in the distance that will our shores in about 2 years that will become the rage. The main problem is getting the price down.

I remember when Damascus first showed up on a reuglar basis...$100 an inch (including the handle).

How about the liner lock folder when Michael Walker re-introudced it.

Remember when Bob Loveless gushed about ATS-34!

This is not to say that BG-42, 420V, 440V, 3V and Talonite are old news...hardly. But they have become common place. Most of the top "Stock Removal" makers now use these steels on a regular basis.

Just as titanium and carbon fiber are not old news. But any professional knife maker can now use these materials. Due by in larger to better cutting, drilling and exahaust systems.

All of these once "hot" materials are now becoming common place. The market is maturing. Thats not a bad thing, that means that enough product featuring these materials was bought in order for the new market to become a mature market.

To say a knife that has been around for awhile is "hot" this is incorrect in the totality of the market place.

Now if you are going to give a beloved style of knife a new twist, now your looking at hot.

What's hot!

Double action auto's with a covert mechanism

Large fixed blades with S30V

Balisong Folders

Folders and fixed blades from makers that are difficult to get:

Ken Onion
Steve Ryan
Walter Brend
RJ Martin
Larry Chew
Bob Loveless
Bill Moran
Jerry Fisk
Harvey Dean
Tim Hancock
Kit Carson
Rob Simoinch
Greg Lightfoot
Darrel Ralph
Tony Bose
George Herron
Eugene Shadly
Ron Lake
Michael Walker
John W. Smith
Butch Vallotton
Ed Fowler
Ray Appleton
HH Frank
Bob Terzuola
Ernie Emerson
Strider Knives
Warrne Osborne
Frank Centofante
WD Pease
Phil Hartsfield

When you get some time, analyize this list. See what conclusions you can make. There is a common thread among these makers. While they make disimlar knives
they all have achieved a great degree of success.

For those interested in investing, I just gave you a list of makers to consider for your portfolio.

Custom knives go through a cycle, takes about 8-10 years. This happens because many of the things that were hot 10 years ago, have cooled.

That is until someone builds that knife of 10 years ago with new materials or changes the look somewhat, or many times makes it more affordable.

Many times a maker can achieve great success and not have to re-invent the wheel. By taking an established pattern and making it better than the maker who established this pattern. Then making it more affordable, this maker will open the door to great success. The down side is you run the risk of being called nothing more than a rip-off artist by your peers and some collectors.

So when you are considering a maker, look to the innovators. As down the road you will not be one of those people who say "I wish I would have bought his/her knives back a few years ago". You will be the person who did!

For knife makers, think outside the box. Experiment, try new techniques and materials.

How does a knife get "hot"?

I would recommend two books to knife makers out there

Anatomy of the Buzz

The Tipping Point

These books discuss how to utilize several different levels of marketing and advertising.

A couple of points regarding these books:

You have to read them (take notes as you do)

You have to implement their suggestions as it applies to your business.

You have to develop the network and spend the time (not necessairly the money) to establish your network.
There are no short cuts here.

Ok, let me step off my soap box and end this post.

There are endless opportunities out there for those who will take them.

02-14-2002, 01:20 PM
Les, talk about giving 110%. :)

02-14-2002, 04:48 PM
Awesome. Great points and uncanny perspectives. Spoken well.

Your list can't be complete, though. I see a few omissions: David Broadwell, Robbin Hudson. Two of my favorites. There are arguably *many* more....

Thanks for taking the time for this! We need it drummed in our heads regularly! :D

Coop (Who has only one of the 'list's' knives. And I bought it from...... LES!)

Win Heger
02-14-2002, 08:04 PM

That is one of your best posts. I believe you have hit the nail squarely. The "innovators" are the ones you want, you'll pay a bit more but will be rewarded in the end.

Please pay attention to this post, you will thank Les
in years to come.


02-14-2002, 09:54 PM
Les,I agree great post with alot of info to ingest.But as a maker, I have several questions.One being knife design.I have noticed that like steels.Many makers see something come out by a big name and immeadiately their knives change direction, eg.neck knives,tactical knives,etched blades,or tapered tangs.Sometimes this is good for the individual maker and may be good for sales.But I have also noticed on this forum that I really enjoy is a much higher degree of individualism. That in spite of what might be a good selling design or trick,the makers here seem to make simply what they like to make.
I agree that alot of the makers on your list are true innovators but some just simply refine technique to make a better knife.Ed Fowler for one,I personally don't know of many that put as much effort in perfecting his craft as Ed. But no fancy steels, no MOP, just 52100 and sheephorn.Nothing fancy but a good seller and quite possibly one the best hunting knives ever.If your definition of innovation is a refinement of technique using a basically old steel then I would definately agree with you.
I for one want to thank you for being here.Your business insight helps keep us on our toes.Dave