Blade Show 2022: Reflections from a Balisong Flipper
Roughly ten days ago over 900 vendors flocked to the Cobb Galleria Centre in Atlanta, GA for one reason: Blade Show 2022, the largest knife show in the world. Forgers of swords and axes, edc and bushcraft companies, leathersmiths, craftsman, and of course knife makers all gathered to network and sell their wares.
Although butterfly knives are just a small subset of the knives that appeared at the convention, those that use, collect, and flip these fidgety edged tools have deep connections to them, and in some cases they’re the primary or only draw that brings someone to the show. Here we’ll have a look at Blade Show 2022 from the perspective of a balisong flipper - the vendors, the competition, and The Pit.
Even though butterfly knives only represent a fraction of the knives at Blade Show, the number of balisong makers and sellers that come to the convention has been steadily on the rise over the last several years. Because there were so many (not that I’m not complaining!) I wasn’t able to visit them all, but here is just a taste of some of the makers that were able to attend Blade Show 2022.
Biegler Bladeworks is a custom knife manufacturer out of Texas and makes swords, folders, and other edged weapons and tools in addition to butterfly knives. The balisongs they make are incredibly beautiful, and appeal not only to collectors because of the quality of the builds and aesthetic choices, but also to flippers due to the materials used, weight, and balance.
As one of the sponsors of Balicomp, this table was a must-visit. Although heavy flipping wasn't allowed in order to mitigate risk of damage to any of their custom balisongs, they still encouraged attendees to flip responsibly so that everyone could get a feel for the performance and quality of their products.
The balisong company that was founded by flippers for flippers, Bladerunners Systems did not disappoint this year. With plenty of balisongs both old and new, cases, swag, and novelty products, the BRS booth was a must-see for all flippers at the convention.
The first thing you might have noticed when you approached the booth was the giant wooden Barebones, the third butterfly knife ever produced by the company. Made by @a.lammers_furniture, this was also the third giant wooden balisong ever to have been made for Blade Show, all of which were raffled off after the end of the show. They even had some smaller (but still quite large!) wooden Alpha Beasts available for purchase.
Of course the main reason to visit BRS is for the real (i.e. metal) knives. This year they brought with them Alpha Beasts, Replicants, Barebones, as well as their new balisong the Nexus, which was released under their sister company Revo Knives.
They even had a very special treat for fans of their flagship balisong: a “Dirty Dozen” Alpha Beast. The “Dirty Dozen” were the first 12 Alpha Beasts ever produced and are highly sought after by balisong collectors, flippers, and enthusiasts.
One of the "Dirty Dozen" Alpha Beasts
With giant wooden balisongs, a Dirty Dozen Alpha Beast, new and old products, and plenty of accessories and swag, the BRS booth was a great place to stop by, look around, flip for a bit, and talk with their extremely friendly and knowledgeable reps.
Another custom knife maker, ELB knives produces extremely well-made balisongs that are well-regarded and highly sought after by many in the balisong community.
Like Biegler Bladeworks, ELB’s balisongs are known not only for their collectability and beautiful aesthetic, but also for their outstanding flipping performance. One of their designs is literally called the “Proflipper”!
Six Proflippers from ELB
Fellowship Blades made their first appearance in the balisong scene with the release of the Pit Viper - a titanium-handled butterfly knife that came in both trainer and live blade options. This knife was very well-received, performed and flipped well, and some came with striking blade coloration resulting from the heat-treating process.
This year Fellowship brought their newest balisong: the Medusa. Running on perfectly tuned bushings, with channel titanium handles and a mean looking blade shape, the Medusa is an amazing follow-up to the Pit Viper and is highly regarded among flippers as having top-tier performance.
This is certainly a maker that you’ll want to keep your eye on. With a great sense of design and focus on both aesthetics and flipping performance, it’s no surprise that the Medusas sold out so quickly this year!
Well-known in the balisong community for co-manufacturing the Monarch along with JK Design, Joseph Hansen attended Blade Show 2022 to sell his solo project, aptly named the “Solo”.
Hansen Metals' "Solo"
Although I was not able to visit the Hansen Metals table before all of the Solos were sold out, I had the privilege to handle a few different ones that belonged to some of the flippers that were lucky enough to get one. After just a few ricochets and rollovers with the Solo it became very obvious to me why they sold out so quickly!
The quality of Joseph’s knives has made his brand a staple and a stamp of quality in the balisong community. Whether it’s a Monarch, Solo, or any upcoming project that might be in the works for Hansen Metals, there is a high expectation of quality and performance that is expected, and his products are yet to disappoint.
The first balisong that came from Heed Industries was the "Relentless", made with channel-construction handles containing a signature bulge that helps it fit nicely in the hand. The design was simple and elegant, with repeating diagonal lines machined on the handles from end to end that added grip and a beautiful aesthetic.
The follow up to the Relentless was the SeaKnight - a butterfly knife produced with input from the flipping community, and containing a feature that only flippers would want: an adjustable weight setup.
The adjustable weights on the SeaKnight are different than most other knives with this feature. The MachineWise Serif has swappable end weights; the Embargo from JK Designs and Tsunami from Squid Industries both have pins that can be added and removed from the ends of the handles, and also configured in different positions to make small adjustments to the balance of the balisong.
Heed Industries took a totally different approach with the SeaKnight's adjustable weight system. With 8 individual weights that can be added or removed from a skeletonized slot on each side of the handle, this balisong allows for the flipper to use as many or few weights as they'd like, as well as slide them into different positions to change the weight bias to a much more specific degree.
Further, the weights can be adjusted without having to disassemble the balisong, allowing the flipper to experiment with different balance configurations without the hassle of taking the whole thing apart. The hardware used to attach the weights also uses a proprietary and eye-catching three-pronged bit, giving the weights a bit of style as well!
Conveniently located just across the way from the KPL booth, Heibel Knives came to Blade Show with their latest balisong model, the Menace, as well as some Menace trainers.
In addition to the quality of the build, tolerances, and flipping performance you’d expect from one of Adam Heibel’s knives, he has some of the most striking anodization work in the entire balisong industry. The aesthetic of his knives is unparalleled with vibrant colors, fades, and two-tone anos in colorways that are as flawless as they are beautiful.
Examples of the stunning finishes Heibel Knives are known for on the Menace live blade and trainer
But the Menace is more than a pretty face - it’s an outstanding flipper as well. Heibel Knives came prepared this year with demo models for both the Menace and Menace trainer, as well as foam tiling to safely flip over to try out their products.
Strategically located in “Flipper Alley”, the Hom Design booth was yet another unmissable stop on the Blade Show balisong tour. This was my first time getting to see his beautiful display case in person, which of course wouldn’t be complete without the signature cautionary sign that lives at the bottom of it.
Jerry Hom is a well-known and established balisong maker. With nine different models under his belt and over 10 years in the industry, Hom Design has dabbled in trainers, live blades, production runs and mid-techs, battle-tested flippers, as well as collectors pieces.
The I-Basilisk is his latest creation in his extensive line of butterfly knives. A variation on one of his most popular balisongs, the “I” stands for “inverted”, due to the blade shape being the inverse of the regular Basilisk.
As far as balisong makers to look out for, Jerry is near the top of the list. He continues to innovate with his designs, always experimenting with new materials and features that add both value to the balisong community and to the hobby of flipping.
Julian Klein is one of the most well-known high-end balisong makers in the industry. Although his knives may have a high price tag, each one is hand-made with incredible precision and attention to detail, and the quality of his products are worth every penny.
This was not Julian’s first Blade Show, but was the first one for his newest butterfly knife: the Embargo. This titanium-handled sandwich-style balisong has been in development for over a year and contains elements from several of his previous models, borrowing aspects from the Emissary, Orca, and LiteTech.
The Embargo also features what is perhaps the most visually appealing adjustable weight system in any balisong currently on the market. Although adjustable weights to fit a user’s preferences is nothing new, having the interchangeable pins at the ends of the handles visible and exposed allows the user to know how the weights are set up without having to disassemble the knife, and adds a beautiful aesthetic in addition to their function.
In addition to the Embargo Julian also brought with him some Orca trainers, which feature g10 handles and a titanium “blade”, as well as a handful of Monarch v2s, a live-blade collaboration between him and Hansen Metals.
The Knife Pivot Lube booth was one of the few places (if not the only place) that attracted balisong flippers despite not actually selling any knives. This is because although KPL does not produce balisongs, they provide several products that are essential to maintaining them and are avid promoters of the balisong community.
Almost every flipper knows KPL for their line of lubricants, which come in three weights/viscosities: heavy, regular, and ultra-light. This year KPL also brought Knife Shield, a cleaning and rust-preventative solution and the newest product in their line of knife care and maintenance.
One of the main functions of Knife Shield is as a rust-preventative. Although most balisong blades are made from stainless steels that are naturally rust-resistant, and most balisong handles are made from non-corrosive materials such as titanium and g10, butterfly knives with tool steels or high-carbon steels are much more prone to rust, such as the Benchmade 51 and Cold Steel Arc Angel.
Where Knife Shield really shines in relation to balisongs is in its ability to clean blades and metal handles. Over the course of the three day show flippers stopped by with their users and beaters, and were time and time again impressed with how easy it was to remove surface rust, tape residue, gunk, grime, and crud from their blades and handles that wasn’t even visible to the naked eye.
Knife Shield is water-based, so it also does not leave any oily or greasy residue after being wiped off with a microfiber cloth. All it leaves behind is a beautiful shiny finish that brightens polishes and makes Damascus pop, making your knife look brand new again!
Perhaps one of the most slept on KPL products that balisong flippers came by the KPL booth to see was the Ultra-Micro swabs. This is hands down the best tool to clean that little crack between the handles near the pivots of your balisong, and is a must-have in and flipper’s balisong maintenance kit.
Shop Soet is a brick-and-mortar record shop in San Diego, California, so what the heck were they doing at Blade Show?
As it turns out, Shop Soet is run in part by @drigk_, a flipper and active member of the balisong community that streams weekly interviews with some of the most prominent flippers in the hobby.
They are a licensed dealer for Ceroni Knives, an Italian balisong maker known for very high-end and striking butterfly knives with a signature style that makes them instantly recognizable as coming from Davide Ceroni. This year Shop Soet was showcasing Ceroni’s latest innovation in the balisong world, a trainer that can be loaded with ink in order to give the user visible feedback should they perform a trick that would have given them a cut had they been flipping with a live blade.
Shop Soet was also selling two of MachineWise's new products: the Prysma trainer and the Serif, their newest live-blade balisong. These were two of the hottest balisongs at Blade Show this year, praised by flippers for their incredible flipping performance, tight tolerances, nutty sound profile, and in the case of the Serif, the adjustable weight system.
One of the main attractions for flippers at Blade Show was the Squid Industries booth. Not only is Squid one of the most popular butterfly knife and trainer companies, but they also have one of the largest booths, fun novelties, and an area on the side of their booth that is specifically designated for flippers to hang out and flip in without being in the way of the rest of the event goers.
Squid’s product line consists mostly of balisong trainers, which makes them one of the most popular entry points into the hobby. Squid’s products aren’t just for beginners though - their wide range of balisongs at varying price points means that even though they produce very affordable plastic trainers, they also make extremely high-end knives that are top-tier competition grade flippers.
This year Squid Industries came to Blade Show with another special edition Kraken Raken, with serialized blades made from Damascus steel. They also brought their top of the line, the Tsunami: a titanium-handled chanwich design live blade balisong with an adjustable weight system that gives flippers flexibility to set up the knife according to their flipping preferences.
Krake Raken with a Damascus Steel blade
They also had three pre-production balis available to try: the Hydro, Swordfish trainer, and Madko trainer.
Of course you couldn’t leave the Squid booth without trying to flip the Megalodon, a giant and fully-functional metal balisong trainer. Although this was not the giant balisong that was flipped in the competition (spoilers!), it is surprisingly well-balanced for a bali of its size!
Finally, they included an additional section to the Squid setup this year, with a couple of employees working in a maintenance station. It was extremely interesting to get a small look into some behind the scenes of what it’s like to assemble, fix, and tune balisongs as they do at the factory.
There is a lot that goes on at Blade Show, but perhaps the most significant event for the balisong community is Balicomp. This was the fifth annual balisong competition held at the convention (with a year off in 2020), and was perhaps the most competitive and exciting one to date.
If you’re unfamiliar with balisong competitions or are interested in learning more about their development over the years, check out our previous article all about balisong competitions.
Balicomp 2022 was once again held in the parking lot outside of the convention center. A large tent was set up to protect the flippers, judges, and spectators from the hot Atlanta sun.
The high turnout was enough to fill up the bleachers, leaving some to sit directly on the ground and many more to stand in a ring that completely surrounded the outside of the tent. The audience was made up not only of flippers, but also by people who knew very little of the hobby and got some good chuckles out of the online handles that some of the competitors are known by.
Those who are familiar with prominent flippers in the balisong community would have quickly recognized the list of competitors as an all-star lineup. Former comp judges, former champions, and many more that have ranked in past competitions all gathered in Atlanta for one of the biggest bali comps of the year.
Competitors took their turns flipping one by one on an elevated platform in front of a panel of five judges. This year the panel consisted not only of balisong flippers and makers but also had a very special guest, the owner of Blade Show!
The tournament bracket contained 32 flippers, with 5 rounds of one-on-one flip-offs. The first competitor would take the stage for a 10 second routine, the second would follow, and then the judges would vote on which performance they thought was better. The winner would advance, and the loser would be eliminated.
During the 3rd and 4th rounds the remaining competitors would have two 10-second rounds each. Round 4 also contained an extra matchup to battle for 3rd place between those that did not advance to the finals.
As if things weren’t exciting enough already, the final round consisted of three 10-second performances from both flippers, giving the judges a plentiful sample of the competitors’ skills with a butterfly knife. Whoever the judges thought had a better collective three rounds would go on to become the undisputed champion of Balicomp 2022!
This competition could not have happened without the support of its sponsors, so a massive thanks to BladeHQ, BBBarfly, Biegler Bladeworks, Eldon Talley, Squid Industries, Benchmade, -=BRS=-, Spyderco, Hom Design, Bear & Son, Flytanium, Kershaw, and Franken Forge Blades for supporting Balicomp and the sport of balisong flipping!
One of the things that made Balicomp so much fun was the emcee: Guy of @wb.concept. With his relaxed yet captivating demeanor, his clear explanation of the competition format, his overall positivity, and his commentary on both the flips and the flippers themselves, the event wouldn’t have been nearly as fun without him on the mic.
Although there were many unforgettable moments throughout the comp, there were a few that stood out from the rest as being particularly memorable.
Already in round 1 we saw some unexpected things. Not only did @arthurgoins come in hot flipping his double edge Arc Angel, but @pivotscrews decided to flip the massive Megasong from OOAK Forge. His ability to control and actually perform tricks on such an enormous balisong, including an aerial to end his combo, won over the judges and earned him a spot in round 2.
Also, @knownlyrics15 got on stage and flipped with his right hand bandaged up. After speaking with him later it would seem that he sustained the cut about 15 minutes before the start of the competition because he was dared to perform a power aerial scissor for a group of people, which unfortunately did not go how he planned.
What was perhaps one of the best things to see was the overwhelming amount of sportsmanship present at the comp. Competitors cheered for their opponents, and the winners were congratulated by the flippers they had just eliminated. The vibes were extremely positive, it was obvious how supportive the community was of each other, and everyone had a much better time because of it.
Competition was stiff this year, and those that made it to the semi-finals really had to flip hard to make it that far. Ultimately at the end of round 4 @jameshill8520 beat @ollie_rev in a 4-1 decision, awarding James with the 3rd place finish.
The two that advanced to the finals were @knownlyrics15 and @ryykker, also known as Chase and Moiz, respectively. Taking turns with their three 10 second routines, some amazing feats were witnessed as both of these flippers battled for the Balicomp 2022 title.
Both flippers had outstanding flow and their own distinguishing style, Moiz with his effortless and clean routines, and Chase with his impressive speed and aggressive aerial catches.
Each performed a neck catch during one of their final rounds, as well as integrating other extremely difficult tricks that are impressive on their own, let alone under the pressure of live competition. Ryyker nailed a triple scissor, several behind the back aerials, and a foot bump; Chase performed a chest bump, a bicep catch to bicep catch aerial sequence, and a blade fan that almost caused an earthquake from peoples’ jaws dropping all the way to the ground.
Ultimately, in a 3-2 decision, Chase took home the victory and was crowned champion of Balicomp 2022! Before you scroll up, yes, this was the guy that got cut 15 minutes before the competition and persevered through the whole thing with his hand bandaged.
Left to right: @jameshill8520 (3rd), @knownlyrics15 (1st), and @ryykker (2nd)
Of course the flipping doesn’t end after the comp, it doesn’t end when the show closes for the day, but simply moves to “The Pit”: the ground floor of the neighboring hotel where Blade Show vendors and attendees gather to network, enjoy some drinks, and if you’re a flipper, flip!
Balisong flippers even have their own (self-) designated area of The Pit where they don’t have to worry about crowds like they do during the regular show. The flipper area is on the outskirts of The Pit on a carpeted area, which also minimizes the damage that can be done to peoples’ knives if dropped.
During regular show hours, flippers spread out throughout the floor to visit the booths and tables that they want to see, but The Pit offers a central location for everyone in the balisong community to gather after the show. It is here that people show off their balisong collections, flip with each other, talk about what they bought, want to buy, or wished they could buy at the show, and just generally socialize with the people they may only see in person this one time per year.
For makers it’s also a great place for people to get community feedback on new balisongs. Rather than organizing a pass around and requiring people to ship a prototype to different people around the country (or in some cases, around the world), The Pit allows makers to get their designs in the hands of dozens of flippers all in the same place.
The "Ember" prototype by @pyro_bladeworks making its first public appearance
Iowans have corn, Nashville has country music, and balisong flippers have Blade Show (please don’t re-read that sentence, just move past it). After spending years in the balisong community before attending this convention, I can confidently say that attending Blade Show should be written in all caps in permanent marker on every flipper’s bucket list.
Balisong flipping is a largely individual and remote hobby, and the community of peers is spread throughout the world. With the exception of occasional balisong meets, conventions are the only way for flippers to gather, swap stories, show off their knives and their tricks, compete for both prizes and glory, and make friendships with people from across the social, political, economic, and religious spectrums, all because of a few screws that hold together some flappy pieces of metal.
Did you attend Blade Show 2022? What did you think of the event? What balisongs did you buy? Did you get a chance to come by the KPL booth? Drop a comment below, throw some KPL products in your cart, and don’t forget to use promo code “BARKHANDLE” at checkout!!