Spirit of Steel 2010

The Spirit of Steel Show produced by Bruce Voyles and Knives Illustrated has previously been held in San Antonio, Texas. After taking a one year hiatus from the show last year, the show was moved to the Marriott hotel in Knoxville, Tennessee November 5-7, 2010.

Bruce Voyles is an experienced show promoter and in fact started what has become the biggest of all knife shows, the Blade Show. As editor of Knives Illustrated magazine, Bruce has the means and the contacts to produce, promote and advertise and first rate show. Although the were some shortcomings and oversights in the production of this show, Bruce did put together a very high quality show with a diverse mix of top custom knifemakers, production knives, knife dealers and purveyors, suppliers, collection displays and seminars.

Unfortunately, we built it and they did not come. In terms of the quality of what was on display and offered for sale, the show was excellent. In terms of attendances, traffic and sales, it was the worst show I have experienced in my three years of doing knife shows.

We started out on our 4 1/2 drive from Louisville to Knoxville before sunrise on Friday.

We figured this would give us plenty of time to get to Knoxville and set up our table before the show opened to the public at 3:00 PM on Friday. We made good time even though we did experience a little snow going over the mountains in Tennessee.

We got to the show venue and everybody was busy setting up their tables and visiting with friends.

I got set up and displayed my variety of knives that I brought to the show.

What we didn't know until later was that the show was only advertised for Saturday and Sunday. So what are we doing here on Friday?

Oh well, we closed down and went out for some diner and to get some rest for what we all felt confident would be a busy day on Saturday.

We went to Calhouns steak house on the river. We found a neat surprise when we saw the traveling replicas of Christopher Columbus' famous ships the Pinta and Nina docked next to the restaurant.


After a good night's rest I awoke to a beautiful view of the Tennessee River draped in fog.

We made our way to the show floor. Mark Zalesky, editor of Knife World, was at the ready at his table.

There were several very nice collection displays such as this one of Buck knives.

CAS Hanwei certainly had one of the most attractive displays.

Kershaw was on hand...

as were CRKT, Great Eastern Cutlery and several other manufacturers in the front hall.

Ernest Emerson was there and offered a seminar as well as manning his booth.

RW Wilson looks over the selection of exotic handle materials brought by Charles Turnage.

My friends Cliff and Sharon Fendley.

Gil and Linda Hibben discuss Hibben knives.

Bill Johnson chats with Billy Mace and Beverly Imel.

Evelyn and Gray Taylor made a rare appearance at a show.

By now you might have noticed one thing obviously missing... the crowd. Most of the weekend the show looked something like this.

Despite have tope names like Gil Hibben, Jay Hendrickson, Doug Casteel, Stephen Rapp, Mel Pardue, Gray Taylor, Gary Blanchard, Ernest Emerson, and many others, attendance and sales were generally dismal.

Karen and I had plenty of time to get to know Rob and Seur Anderson better since we didn't have any customer to deal with. Not that anyone even knew I was there since "Mark" Carter was listed in the exhibitor list instead of Mike Carter.

By 2:00 PM Sunday exhibitors were hitting the road in spite of Bruce Voyles threats to charge anybody who left early an extra $100 next year.

Nobody seems to know what the answer is for knife shows and I don't have the answers either. It has been a miserable year for knife shows. The aisles were more barren than I have ever seen them at the Blade Show and this one was extremely disappointing for everyone I talked to even though it was heavily advertised and promoted. The only really decent show I have experienced in over a year was at the Knifemakers Guild Show.

It really in not a matter of people not buying knives as my custom orders and website sales have been strong and even growing. But attendance and sales at shows have been in the tank.

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