View Full Version : What makes a "Great" knife show?

09-12-2006, 10:14 PM
Is it the Sales? (Guess I'd put that at the top of the list, s far as the makers go, huh?)
Hotel or Convention Center?
Size/type of exhibit hall?
Time of year?
Number of days it's held?
Specific days of the week?
Friday, Sat. & Sun., or Fri.-SAt, or Sat.-Sun.?
Banquet, or not? Breakfast?
Awards? Yes, or no? Or....types of awards?

Any other characteristics that need to be considered?

I know I've got opinions on almost al of the above and will chime in later, after y'all have time to comment. We all have our little things that we like about this show, or that show. Be specific, if you will; even name the show and what you like about it, perhaps. Let's not bash anybody, since pretty much ANY knife show is good for knives and knife making, selling, buying, ect., IMO.

Brett Holmes
09-13-2006, 01:13 AM
i think a great knife show is judged on its proximity to me :) so with only 2 in the country it has to be melbourne for me.

09-13-2006, 09:14 AM
Good point Brett. With all those great makers in your country, any show would be a good one.

09-13-2006, 10:21 AM
I'll take a shot at this. I went to knife shows long before I started making knives and I think the perspective is somewhat different for a buyer vs a seller.

The Blade Show in Atlanta could be a model in most ways. I like the venue, large with plenty of free parking, several nearby hotels, close to the Interstate. Atlanta is a bit of a drive for me and of course I would like something comparable closer to my home but Atlanta is a good location for many as it connected by Interstates to cities in all directions. The downside is that traffic in and around Atlanta can be very bad.

For other locations, I would love to see a major show in my hometown of Louisville, KY. There are several good venues, lots of hotels, good access via air of car, lots of other area activities and attractions for families. Louisville is within 200 miles of Indianapolis to the north, Cincinnati to the northeast, Nashville to the south, Knoxville to the southeast and Lexington to the east. St Louis is 260 miles to the west. The nearest big annual shows are Chicago and Atlanta so it is situated about halfway between them.

Ammenities: Reasonably priced food and drink on premises, chairs and tables provided, elctricity a big plus, Internet connectivity for credit card authorization also a big plus. Show security during and after show hours.

Show hours: Personally I prefer Saturday and Sunday. Forget about Friday, it makes for too long of a weekend for sellers. The show shouldn't run past 3:00 PM on Sunday, the crowd has thinned by then and the sellers want to get on the road. I don't like the trend of allowing people to pay an extra $10 to get in an hour or two before the general public.

I think a Friday or Saturday evening banquet is a good idea. I would probably pass on the breakfast.

I definitely think a show should have awards. I think any knifemaker likes the recognition and it is a good promotional tool. I don't think they should too deep however. Off the top of my head;

Best in show: 1st, 2nd, 3rd place
best new knifemaker (less than a year making or showing)
best large fixed blade (over 10"),
best small fixed blade (under 10"),
best folder
best sword
most innovative design
most artistic
best new technology
best booth/display
best collection
best engraver/engraving
best scrimshaw
best carving
Best inlay?
Best sheath/leatherwork

I like to see a good mix of knifemakers, dealers, collectors, and suppliers.

Seminars and demostrations are always a plus.

For the sake of public perception, keep knife shows separate from gun shows. Promote knives as tools or artistic crafts, not as weapons.

Promotion is a huge factor. The promotor must be willing to invest in advertising.

Avoid holiday weekends, too many other things competing for the crowds. Taking advantage of crowds in town for a regional or local event is fine but hotels may not be available (Ky Derby?).

That's my two cents.

Don Cowles
09-13-2006, 10:31 AM
Steve, the Chicago show has been running for three years, and I have had the following immediate table neighbors in that time period:

S. R. Johnson
H. H. Frank
Buster & Julie Warenski
Lloyd Hale
Warren Osborne
Joe Kious
Ron Lake
Gray Taylor
Bob Lum
Ricardo Velarde
Tom Overeynder

With talent and drawing power like that, it doesn't take much else to make a great show.

Thad Buchanan
09-13-2006, 12:39 PM
It seems like there are so many things that figure in to making a good knife show and I can't disagree with anything that's been listed. If I were to try and boil it down though I would have to say it's about the people on both sides of the table. A room full of accomplished makers is a great start, but having people come through the door who are serious about knives and enjoy interacting the makers and dealers is an essential element.

The Chicago show was a good example. Lots of talent in the room and friendly people on both sides of the tables. I loved the Friday/Saturday hours, it just seemed more active and I like having Sundays free. That's the day of the week where I contemplate the things that really matter in life.

09-13-2006, 12:40 PM
It's funny, but when I read Steve's list, I thought to myself, the big names! An otherwise not so good show can be made good by having some of the top movers and shakers in attendance, both displaying and showing how they do their craft. Then I read Don's post and he has captured what I was thinking. Of course there are a lot more big names that anyone would like to see at these shows, but that aside, Steves list, and Mikes thread pretty much would be good study material for the making of a good show. I keep reading that some of the current yearly shows are not seeing the audience and sales as previous years. I think Johnny Stout mentioned that about the latest Texas Knifemakers show in Austin. Heat, humidity, fuel prices, it goes on and on.

Bob Warner
09-13-2006, 01:07 PM
I have never gone to a knife show as a buyer or seller, always a spectator. I was at a New York show about 15 years ago and although there were a lot of big name makers there I did not enjoy the show. The first person I talked to ruined it for me. He will go un-named but he was EXTREAMLY rude to me and basically told me that every things is a trade secret and there was no room for people that did not know what they were doing.

Although the rest of the people there were very nice, I was mad and it was all ruined for me.

After a lot of years of having no interest in knife shows and figuring things out on my own, the Spirit of Steel show came to the Dallas area. I went to the show and had a completely different experience. I saw people teaching people how to do things and explaining how stuff works. I had a question about a folder and Geno took one apart and laid all the parts on the table and explained the answer to my question.

Changed my mind about knife shows.

What makes a good show? The ATTITUDE of everyone there.

09-13-2006, 05:04 PM
Funny I'd leave out "Participants." Yes, that can make or break a show, both in the makers category and the buyers, or even just the lookers. Some folks will totally make you happy to be there, others, perhaps not - and that's sad. However....those types are, in the knife world, few and far between. The Guild has around 400 members. Not one on the rolls would I put in the "spoiler" category. The odds are good that the people there will make it a good experience. That's true in general, in life, I guess.

Bob, I had that exact same thing happen to me. It was the NRA convention in Salt Lake, maybe around 1967(?). I was so excited to actually be at the NRA CONVENTION! Then, the icing on the cake! I saw a man with a tag who's name I recognized as a "famous" knifemaker. I introduced myself as a budding knifemaker and he, by his words, "kicked me in the stomach." I'll never forget that feeling, though I did get over it and didn't drop out of the knife scene. I guess I'm "over it," anyway! Any psychiatrists out there???? The people can sure make the difference, one way or the other. Are they the determining factor? Probably not. Are sales the determining factor?

09-13-2006, 06:07 PM
Steve said: "Are sales the determining factor?"

Robert admitted: "Well, with no sales, the chances for a show in that same place is not as good. It could even be cancelled eventally. Have there been any big knife shows cancelled? I realize it's OT, but I'm courious because if there is or was, what was the determining factor to it's failure?

09-16-2006, 03:14 PM
I know of shows being relocated, but not of any being cancelled. The Guild show has moved around a bit, Las Vegas, NOL, but I'm not aware of any cancelled, bigger shows.

09-16-2006, 04:25 PM
Sales are always nice at knife shows but I think a lot of knifemakers do it for the exposure even if they don't sell anything at the table. The sales may come later. I know I heard more than one knifemaker say that the Blade Show was not a profitable show in terms of sales vs. the expense of the table, travel, lodging, time away from the shop etc. But then how many people took your card or will visit your web site? How many may never have heard of you but were impressed when they saw your work?

Then there are the benefots of networking with other knifemakers, see what they are doing and maybe being inspired to try something new, seeing what the buyers are buying and getting an idea of where the market is.

And, of course, the shows are great place to shop for supplies and see the new materials and tools that may be available.

09-16-2006, 11:02 PM
Well said, Mike. There are certainly many facets to any knife show. Seeing old friends, and, for anyone with an open mind, there are new, exciting things to see at any show. Shows are one reason that knives and knifemaking have grown so much over the years, many new people get to see what this business is all about. Thanks for the insight, everyone.