Friday, May 29, 2009

Sharps: Ear to the ground

(Life in the KintlaLake household is, let's say, somewhat disrupted this morning, and it has nothing to do with the physical disarray brought on by our upcoming move. Yesterday a member of our family screwed the proverbial pooch, in a big way, and today we're all dealing with the damage done. We'll get it handled, one way or another. In the meantime, if only to give my mind a more pleasant place to be for a while, I'm going to retreat into a familiar subject.)

Bark River Knife & Tool and RAT Cutlery are two of my favorite knifemakers, and I've made no secret that I'm a fan of their products. They're very different companies, each with its own approach to edged tools, but they have at least one thing in common.

They listen.

Both host interactive communities on the Web -- you'll find RAT on
BladeForums and Bark River on KnifeForums, to name just two of several. The companies' principals aren't shy about getting into the mix, either, giving owners and potential customers a chance to chat directly with Jeff Randall and Mike Perrin about RATs, or with Mike Stewart about Barkies.

Okay, so it gets a little cultish from time to time, but great products often inspire loyalty bordering on fanaticism. And that's just fine, because the important thing here is that the people who make the knives are engaged personally with the people who use the knives.

Their presence goes well beyond tips and service, by the way -- both Bark River and RAT actively solicit suggestions for future products.

Notably, a few weeks ago RAT Cutlery launched "Design a RAT Knife." Users are encouraged to submit sketches and photos of their ideas, and BladeForums members will get to vote on the best designs. RAT expects to introduce the winner, which will become part of its ESEE series, at next year's SHOT show. Pretty damned cool.

On Tuesday, Stewart started a KnifeForums thread entitled "S&R Series 2009," in which he urges members to evaluate Bark River's popular Search & Rescue range. "Is there some other direction we should be looking on these?" he asked, and the community has fired back with dozens of ideas for 'tweeners, hybrids and completely new products. It's quite the creative group.

As relatively small American companies known for turning out high-quality products, RAT Cutlery and Bark River Knife & Tool deserve my support because, in my opinion, they represent our best chances for economic recovery and the foundation of future prosperity. That they pay attention to the seeds of commerce -- their customers -- both validates my support and, I hope, ensures their success.

Earlier posts
Sharps: RAT Cutlery RC-4P MB
Sharps: Heartland blades
Sharps, Part II: On the belt

Bark River Knife & Tool
RAT Cutlery Co. (BRK&T) (RAT)