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Jeff Randall coments on knife industry.

Discussion in 'Knives' started by jackknife, Oct 2, 2016.

  1. jackknife

    jackknife Loaded Pockets

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    I was reading an interview with Jeff Randall and he was very, shall we say, Caustic on the knife industry in general. He stated that the industry is 99% B.S., and the knife companies are dishonest with the customers. He was responding to the question from the interviewer, and state that the only reason the knife companies come out with the different shapes and styles of blade is for the mall ninja to think it looks cool, and spend his money on. He went on to say, he grew up using a three bladed Old Timer and still prefers the pocket knife and a cheap machete as his blades of choice in his training adventures in the Amazon.

    All in all, it was a pretty hard look at the knife industry from an insider who specializes on making plain carbon steel knives of basic design for hard use.

    I've often thought the knife industry was overblown and over hyped, but thesis the first time I've heard an insider voice that view.

    Thoughts?
     
    Last edited by jackknife, Oct 2, 2016
    313 likes this.
  2. 313

    313 Uber Prepared

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    Got a link to the interview?
     
  3. jackknife

    jackknife Loaded Pockets

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    How Survival Knives Are Designed And Manufactured

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    What makes a $200 knife different from a $20 one? We asked Jungle survival trainer and knife designer Jeff Randall.

    Jeff runs Randall's Adventure and Training, where he teaches survival in one of the harshest environments on earth — the Amazon Rainforest. Along with co-founder Mike Perrin, he also runs ESEE Knives, producing no-:censored: tools intended for hard use. We asked him to explain how new knives come to be.
    [​IMG]
    What Big Survival Knives Are For And How To Use One

    Is there any cooler item of outdoors gear than a big, fixed-blade knife? Or a more misunderstood…Read more on indefinitelywild.​gizmodo.​com
    IW: It's a piece of metal with a pointy end and a handle. How hard is it really to design a knife?


    JR: Making a knife in the true sense of the word is easy; a lid off a tuna can will cut and slice just fine. But, making a knife that's comfortable to hold in your hand and use for long periods of time can sometimes take some work.
    The initial design is sketched out, a prototype is built from wood or plastic, design is tweaked to fit, a steel production prototype is built, then ESEE adds and extra step with the prototypes being tested for several months in the environment they are designed for. After that, final tweaks are made and production begins.
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    Jeff (right) with co-owner of ESEE Knives, Mike Perrin.
    IW: What factors are taken into account when conceiving a new knife?
    JR: Two things — wants and needs. We typically design knives to fit certain environments or needs. The ESEE-5 is a good example of this. Even though it is my least favorite knife we make, it had an interesting birth. A military survival school asked us to build something that wouldn't break in the worst wilderness survival scenario and also survive being beaten through a helicopter fuselage if needed. So, the ESEE-5 came to market.

    On the want side, knife users are always contacting us with their ideas for the perfect knife. Many times it will be a recurring idea, so a new knife is born. Our new Camp-Lore bushcraft series is a good example of that.
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    IW: How does a bushcraft knife differ from a combat knife? Why is there a need for task specialization in what is a very simple tool?
    JR: I'm not qualified to even speak about combat knives since I know a little less than zero about knife fighting or combat skills. But, from my observation of the knife industry, true combat knives cross over pretty well into the wilderness world. The old Vietnam-era Ka-Bar combat knife is a great example of this. On my first trip to the Amazon Jungle, I carried one and it performed every task I needed it to. With that said, there are purists in the bushcraft community that want Scandi grinds, rounded handles, leather sheaths, etc. It's true those would carve a little better than a Ka-Bar and I'm sure the long blade on the USMC would stab someone in the face better than a Mora, but we must never forget that a cutting edge's superiority comes from the hand holding it more than it does the knife itself.
    [​IMG]
    Win An ESEE-6 Survival Knife

    We're giving away a brand new version of our favorite survival knife, the ESEE-6!Read more on indefinitelywild.​gizmodo.​com
    IW: Knives have been around for thousands of years. What technical innovation is still possible?


    JR: Maybe on the material side of things we will see some innovations. There are a lot of exotic steels being used in the industry, but after using a lot of them, I really can't see where the extra cost is justified in terms of performance, especially when it comes to a simple field knife. I'm just waiting for a portable light sabre or laser knife. In the meantime, I will stick with plain old carbon steel cutting edges and be happy.
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    A much-loved ESEE-3.
    IW: In what ways does a quality knife differ from a seemingly identical one that's mass-manufactured?

    JR: I guess that question could apply to any industry that has custom shops as well as mass-production factories. Quality means controlling your processes, whether that's in a one-off piece or a mass-produced product. I've seen terrible quality from custom knife makers and exceptional quality from high-volume manufacturers. The reverse is also true.
    Quality knives will have symmetrical grind lines and edge grinds. They will also have exceptional fit and finish on mating surfaces such as where the handles meet the blade. Most important is the maker will have heat-treating processes down to a science and will do destructive testing on each batch of knives. Again, quality simply means controlling your processes and caring about the finest details as well as the overall picture.
    IW: How can a layperson tell the difference between a good knife and a garbage one?


    JR: In today's market, it's becoming increasingly difficult to know the difference. China is world famous for counterfeiting high-end knives, right down to the boxing and clamshell packaging. For example, if you buy a real Chris Reeve knife made in the USA, then you will get a piece that is visually and structurally perfect in every way. The Chinese counterfeit Reeve will look good on the surface, but the heat treat is typically horrible and the inner mechanisms of the folders are rough. So, to know the difference nowadays takes a lot of experience, work and education. Or, just stay away from the flea market guys and the gas station sellers and buy from a reputable knife dealer that knows its product line. There are thousands of good knife retailers online.
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    IW: How does heat treat work?
    JR: There's no such thing as magic, but there are proprietary processes. In short, heat treating is a process that brings the steel up to a critical temperature, thus causing a change in the molecular structure of the steel. If it's a steel that needs to be quenched, it's then dropped into a solution such as oil for rapid cooling. At this stage, it's too hard to be used as a knife since it will be brittle. So, it's "drawn back" or tempered in an oven at a much lower temperature to give it the perfect compromise between hardness and toughness.
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    Part Machete And Part Big Knife, Is This The Ultimate Survival Blade?

    At 16.5 inches, the ESEE Junglas is as long as a machete, but thick and sturdy like a knife.…Read more on indefinitelywild.​gizmodo.​com
    IW: There's so many different steels out there. How do you evaluate the abilities of each and apply that to knife design?

    JR: We don't. Carbon steels have been used to sustain life and wage war for a long, long time. It works, so why change it? The villagers and indigenous tribes of the Amazon use carbon steel every day to sustain themselves. They sharpen their knives on flat rocks and could care less about perfect edge angles, aesthetics or whether it's the latest fashion trend in steel.
    The only downfall to carbon steels is they will rust pretty quickly. And, while that doesn't bother us since it wears off with use and patinas up nicely, some folks are anal about keeping their knives pristine. So, we are answering that by coming out with a stainless steel line of knives.

    Me? I'll still be carrying carbon since it's easy to sharpen in the field and simply works for everything with a lot cheaper price tag. ESEE build simple, ugly knives that work.
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    IW: What trends are currently influencing the knife market?

    JR: In all honesty, the knife industry is about 99 percent :censored:. We sell knives every day to people who will never use them. Knife buying is more of a want than a need.
    I grew up on a farm carrying a three-bladed "Old timer" pocketknife. It did everything I needed and got used daily. All these new weird shapes and designs that keep coming out are made just to have something new and "tacticool." Most companies refuse to speak the truth and just say, "the reason we designed this is because some mall ninja would think it's cool and spend money on it."
    Once you get in the real world of knife use, whether it's butchering a deer or building a fire, you will see that a simple, basic knife design is all that's really needed to perform the task.
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    IW: What's the design process of a knife look like?


    JR: It usually starts with an idea by others or ourselves. In most all cases, this happens while we are sitting at a bar during a tradeshow, so a pen and bar napkins are the first tools of a new design. From there, we take it to a CAD process and then move it onto a 3D modeling process in Solid Works. Once we're happy with the electronic version, we either make a wooden model or a steel prototype so we can get an idea what it feels like in-hand before investing the time in a working prototype. After we tweak the models, it then goes to full prototype stage. Once those first prototypes are built, they get put in the environment they're designed for. Sometimes this means shipping them to testers who may be in the military, other survival instructors, hunters etc. We put them through their paces in that environment for a length of time, then do destructive testing on the prototypes. After we're satisfied with our results, it becomes a production knife.
    IW: What one knife would you want with you in a survival situation?
    JR: A low-cost, carbon steel machete. Easy to sharpen, superb cutting efficiency, it can be choked up on to clean game (we do it all the time in the Amazon), makes shelter work quick and easy and will do everything needed to build a fire. What else could someone want in a true survival situation? The bottom line is, a machete works for anything I need to do in the areas I haunt.

    IndefinitelyWild is a new publication about adventure travel in the outdoors, the vehicles and gear that get us there and the people we meet along the way. Follow us onFacebook, Twitter and Instagram.

     
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  4. The Sixth Beatle

    The Sixth Beatle Loaded Pockets

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    He's confusing "need" with "want". I have dozens of knives, all of which I bought because I like them.
    Some people collect watches or clothes or art; some of us collect knives.
     
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  5. Adahn

    Adahn Loaded Pockets

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    ...and some collect shoes and bags, try to ask one of them why they need another one.
    And no, they don't want it, they need it, I bet they say so ;)
     
  6. Gogogordy

    Gogogordy Loaded Pockets

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    I dont think this is knife industry-centric. I mean "artisinal" products abound these days with more and more diverse selections and "boutique" offerings which are more often than not more chic, than function. Not always better mousetraps, in fact often far from it.

    I'm talking beer, new age foods, even automotive aftermarket accessories. Now, more choices to pick from than ever and often the allure is having it, vs using it.
     
  7. 0dBm

    0dBm Loaded Pockets

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    The knife industry is just like any other industry. I'm not surprised at anything that is stated in this thread or what any "insiders" felt the need to say publicly.

    Ceteris paribus.
     
  8. jag-engr
    • Administrator

    jag-engr Semper Bufo!
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    A 3-blade pocket knife has three different blade shapes...

    I think the statement about blade shapes must be taken with a grain of salt, since ESEE knives really only come in one blade shape. It may be the shape that Mr. Randall finds most useful in his adventures, but varying knife shapes have been around for millennia for a reason. While some overly complicated grinds and shapes are "mall ninja", I don't think he can summarily dismiss thousands of years of human trial and error research because his company only makes one blade shape.
     
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  9. 9x19

    9x19 Loaded Pockets

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    Some harsh truths in that... while I have nearly 300 different sharp things, most are just laying in a chest. The old USMC pattern belt knife is still my favorite hard use outdoor knife, followed by the USAF pilots' knife then the Mora. The only thing that changes is I prefer the drop point style blade when field-dressing game, but it's a preference only as I have done the job with clip-points as well.

    Most of today's single blade folders differ more in aesthetics or exotic steels than they do in function, but I still ave well over 100 and most are just because I liked the style, rather than actually needed the blade shape.

    Truth: If I were on a much smaller budget, I could get by fine with a Victorinox Craftsman in my pocket and a OKC USAF belt knife.
     
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  10. DCBman

    DCBman Loaded Pockets

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    Interesting! I pretty much share Jeff's views almost exactly. Form should follow function, and where there is not function there is pretty much only fantasy. I've always believed very strongly in keeping things as simple as possible, and I totally agree that ergonomics is really the most important feature of a knife. I'm sitting here chuckling actually because I could go on, but I'd just be echoing everything already stated by Randall. I like it when someone calls a spade a spade. I think a lot of manufacturers out there are making some thing different just for the sake of being different (i.e. marketing), and frankly I find this particularly true in the area of steel types. Yes, there are some crappy steels out there, but you don't need a steel with fifty-four alpha numeric numbers after it to be good. And I'm fully onboard with just plain old good quality carbon steel.

    I guess it's no surprise why I like ESEE knives so much...and then to read this just confirms it.

    edit...maybe I'll just go ahead and buy that ESEE-4 I've been wanting!
     
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  11. F-Bobby

    F-Bobby EDC Junkie

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    When it comes to pretty much everything I'm Function over form 100%. When it comes to knives if you are planning on using it for more than small tasks around the house, then you NEED to be looking at function. A knife that looks pretty but can't keep an edge might as well be a paper weight in my book.
     
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  12. Jessie Carter

    Jessie Carter Loaded Pockets

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    I haven't had an ESEE or RAT yet, but I have had many different knives of varying shape, size and quality. I have to say part of what he said is true in my opinion, but I have to disagree with him on the march of technology when it comes to blade steels. While 1080 may be good, there are a number of newer steels that hold a better edge and don't rust because you look at them. That said, the knife is a tool that has taken n many forms around the world. Clip point, drop point, tanto...that's the fun in all of this, variety. I think I could reduce my knives down to two primary blades outside of a multi-tool, but what the heck is gonna make me do that?
     
  13. Buckeye Jake

    Buckeye Jake Loaded Pockets

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    His design is a older idea on Knives .That said it has served well for a long time . I have one of his rtak11. Mine was made by ontario.These are working man's knife and can serve as a machete ,small sword . As far as rust ,just wipe it off and don't worry about it .

    Jake
     
  14. Lightnig

    Lightnig Loaded Pockets

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    While I respect his opinions and experience, I disagree with much of what he says - for how it relates to me and my knife needs. Rather, I should say how it does not relate to me...

    Not to say his comments are not valid, they most certainly are for what he wants from a knife, the truth is that I do not beat around in rain forests for weeks at a time, nor do I ever find the need to carve and splinter up pieces of wood to make spears. And I certainly do not go around stabbing people in the face.

    I slice food. I cut paper, cardboard, and plastic. High fibrous content materials absolutely murder carbon steel and very quickly abrade cutting edges to rounded curves. I do not care to have to sharpen my knives every few days, my time is worth something (money) and the less time (money) I spend sharpening and caring for my knives the more time I can spend of more important things. The cost of upgraded materials on my knives is more than paid for by my not having to spend my time (money) excessively sharpening, cleaning, honing, or removing rust/oxidation from a blade.

    And even more so with food, I do not care to use a carbon steel blade in food preparation, nor to I want one that is coated in something that may find it's way into my digestive tract - no matter how minute the quantity.

    His opinions on blade shapes are even more myoptic. While I agree that many contemporary grinds are simply to suit the buying publics taste-of-the-day (many of which I also find useless and ugly), there are many designs other than the drop point that are truly useful. Esee's iteration of the basic drop point is certainly functional and versatile, but it is certainly not the end all and be all. There are literally dozens of tried and true designs that have been refined over centuries to fulfill peoples cutting needs. Yes, many are not all that versatile nor are they intended to be, there is no such thing as one size fits all when it comes to knives.


    To tell the truth, I am rather offended in that by his comments. I judge that he is looking down his nose at my needs and the cutting tasks I perform with knives I carry, and seems to imply that because I don't tramp around rain forests with machetes stabbing people in the face and butchering game brought down by a carved wooden spear that I am just another mall ninja.
     
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  15. callforfire
    • In Omnia Paratus

    callforfire Loaded Pockets

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    What would I love more than my esee-4? An S35VN esee-4. I like their stuff a lot. Even got a couple of those little AH1 arrow heads that I keep meaning to try out. For me this gets kinda blurry between my agreement with simple, functional, useful, and my distaste for what comes off as a knife manufacturer calling the industry :censored: for not keeping up with changes in the industry. I'm not living in the jungle with no other option but carbon steel. If those amazon villagers had a choice, would they stay with it? We have have that choice and carbon steel is falling behind for good reasons. Portions of his argument could just as well be applied to why move past flint and bone. The answer is just as simple and functional, it worked great for a time, then something better came along and replaced it.
     
  16. F-Bobby

    F-Bobby EDC Junkie

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    I'm reading these comments and wondering if you guys missed the Title of the Article. We're not talking about cutting food and plastic. He's talking about Survival knives. So take his comments in that context and it might change how some of you are responding to it. JMHO
     
  17. iacchus

    iacchus Loaded Pockets

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    This has been Randall's take on the industry forever now. Even on some of his own products. He said when they released the Junglas that it was stupid and nearly useless for real survival use outside of the scope of the folks who requested it originally (SA counter drug units, if I remember correctly). That its only saving grace was that it was cool and would sell, and they were only releasing it so people would stop bugging them to release a 10" blade (or re-release, really).

    To this day he still refuses to defend the knife.
    He has a very particular taste in knives and is not shy about it.
     
  18. 9x19

    9x19 Loaded Pockets

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    Conviction is so rarely seen these days, it's become refreshing... and a that's a bit of a shame.
     
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  19. yo mama

    yo mama Loaded Pockets

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    I agree with what he said, lots of general b.s going on in the knife community of late, blades from new makers in plus thousand dollar price tags, crazy steel alloys, and fragile egos

    That said, when a man has nothing to lose they tell you like it is. He's set, ESEE is going nowhere. So he can speak some truth and not care about hurting feelings.
     
  20. BklynBoy

    BklynBoy Loaded Pockets

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    I have never had a cheap Mora fail on me. I upgraded to the bushcraft model, but even the old 15 dollar companion model still works for everything I need a knife for in the outdoors. When I fish, I also sometimes carry a Mora fish filet knife and when I hunt for deer a Wyoming knife with a couple of extra blades.