*This article was originally published in the Blade Magazine July 2021 issue
“If you didn’t do good at that show, you’d better go home and look in the mirror,” said knifemaker Bubba Crouch of the 2021 Blade Show Texas held March 26-27 at the Fort Worth Stockyards in Fort Worth, Texas.
Bubba’s comment was directed at the exhibiting makers but it might have applied to anyone who attended the show, which was the first big break-out knife event since the pandemic had locked down many knife shows and cast a pall worldwide in early 2020.
“I think folks were ready to get out and spend some money,” knifemaker Roger Green commented, “and Texas is wide open for business!”
Many makers sold out and many who didn’t almost did, such as Carl Colson, who sold 13 of the 16 knives he brought. Most in attendance were impressed with the venue and promotion of same—and with the resulting patron turnout as well.
“Nothing is as great as the smell and taste of Texas and the true American spirit of freedom,” gushed knifemaker Michael Zieba. Michael, of course, was referring in large part to the total Texas atmosphere of the Stockyards and its herd of restaurants, watering holes, museums and other attractions with a heavy emphasis on all things Western. “The historic Stockyards for the venue was a great place to hold it,” agreed ABS master smith Bill Burke, who sold all six of the knives he brought. “The show crowd was lined up before the opening as with all BLADE-owned shows,” ABS master smith Bruce Bump wrote. “It was nice to see!”
“There seemed to be a lot more people at the show than in the past,” noted ABS master smith Josh Fisher. “The traffic each day was impressive,” agreed knifemaker Princeton Wong. “It felt busier than the BLADE Show at times.”
Crouch, who delivered two knives and sold seven, said he and knifemaker Bill Ruple agreed it was the best-attended show they’d been to since BLADE Show 2019. Crouch used the fact that his table was located so that he was back-to-back to Ruple as a yardstick for the show’s heavy traffic. “You know how much we talk,” he winked, “and we didn’t talk for more than 30 minutes all weekend it was so busy.”
Adding to the turnout was the pre-show promotion by Alicia Newton and the BLADE Show staff.
“The show did a great job of getting the word out and there seemed to be a lot more buyers all over the spectrum,” Fisher observed. Agreed Green, “BLADE did a good job bringing in out-of-state buyers.” Added Tommy Gann, “BLADE did a great job on advertising, billboards and Instagram.”
In terms of buyers, they seemed to run the gamut, though perhaps not as many low-end customers. “Most of the buyers [were] middle-of-the-road cost wise,” Burke wrote. “I didn’t get a real good sense of lower-cost buyers as I walked around—it seemed that there were a lot of lower-priced knives still on tables. There were some high-end buyers there judging by knives that I saw and were later marked sold.” Added Crouch, “There was a lot of money in the room and a lot of veteran-type collectors. I brought three or four customers who’d never been to a knife show and they were overwhelmed with all the talent.”
AWARDS & TWEAKS
The knives and knifemakers who won the annual Blade Show Texas Awards in the custom knife judging competition represent a veritable who’s who of artisans and knives. See the accompanying images for examples of their work and the list of winners in the accompanying sidebars (the Knifemakers’ Guild award winners at the show are included, too).
There were at least two tweaks for Blade Show Texas: a pair of new categories in the custom knife judging competition. One was the new Best Slip Joint Award, which went to Ruple, and the Best Of The West for the top entry in the field of cowboy art—custom spurs, silver work, Western-themed engraving and other like items.
Wilson Capron, who took home the inaugural Best Of The West Award for his set of custom engraved spurs, was all smiles.
“This was my first knife show and the experience couldn’t have been better. The knife community welcomed me with open arms and was very encouraging in many different ways,” he noted. “My work is certainly something new to the patrons of the knife world, but with some patience and persistence maybe an appreciation for the Western culture and the elegance found there will form.”
Capron was one of several such artists exhibiting at the show, and it is a genre Blade Show Texas hopes to expand on in the future. Since, as Crouch noted, the Fort Worth area features some of the best engravers and silver workers in the Western art industry, the genre’s future at Blade Show Texas seems bright.
2021 Knife Award Winners
Best of Show – Rick Dunkerley
Best Folder – Rick Dunkerley
Best Slip Joint – Bill Ruple
Best Art Knife – Michael Zieba
Best Fighter – Josh Fisher
Best Utility Hunter – Carl Colson
Most Innovative Design – Princeton Wong
Best Fixed Blade – Kelly Vermeer
Best Tactical Folder – Michael Zieba
Best Collaboration – Bruce Bump and Brian Bump
Best Bowie – Harvey Dean
Best Damascus -Tommy Gann
Best Kitchen Knife – Bill Burke
Best Handle Design – Paul DiStefano
Best of the West – Wilson Capron