Clothes make the man — at least, that’s what the old adage says. But while I like a guy in a bespoke suit as much as the next lady, I’ve learned not to make quite so much out of a man’s sartorial choices. A man’s style can tell you what a man aspires to be, just as his transportation tells you about his values and his grooming habits reveal his self-worth. But when we’re talking about sheer masculinity, the real tell is what kind of knife he carries.
It’s no coincidence that we write about knives in The Manual. Since earliest history, a man’s knife is his first, most instinctive means of survival. Fire may have been man’s earliest tool, but the knife was his first opportunity to engage the world and shape it to his liking. Even in our present era of comfort and convenience, having a reliable knife stowed in your pocket or backpack is a guarantee of safety and resourcefulness. Just feeling it there gives you a little more backbone when faced with the demands that come with being a man.
Around here, we regard the Gerber knife as the go-to for everyday carry. The brand’s array is comprehensive, with a blade, a handle, and an aesthetic for every lifestyle and taste. But this year, Gerber took things a step farther by launching a . Here, you can personally build the EDC knife that best serves your needs and represents your identity.
We caught up with Gerber product manager Karrson Koivisto to learn more about the idea behind the Gerber Custom Shop and get some insight on how anyone can build the best knife for himself.
The Manual: Where did the idea for the custom shop come from?
Karrson Koivisto: It’s 2020. People expect to be able to customize products that are part of their daily carry. It was overdue for us at Gerber. We are a lifestyle brand providing high-end gear for daily use, so it was only logical to embark on this journey. We didn’t just want to launch another custom shop, though. We aspire to exceed expectations for our customers, so we spent a lot of time designing a thoughtful customer experience that is uniquely our own.
TM: Gerber has a large and always expanding array of beautiful knives. Why let customers build their own?
KK: While we have a vast array of products that can be purchased off the shelf, people have their own proclivities. Whether it’s choosing a combination of favorite colors, or adding imagery of a beloved hobby, or simply lasermarking your initials, kids’ initials, or a quote you’re fond of, these knives are personal to each individual. All of the products we offer are built with performance top of mind, but we also recognize the importance of an emotional connection to the gear you carry.
TM: Describe the customer for whom the custom shop was designed.
KK: Whether your new knife is a gift for a significant other, a new piece for your personal daily carry, a promotional item with your company logo, or a slew of other options, the Gerber Custom Shop is relevant for nearly all people. We’ve even had a custom knife built for a marriage proposal. It’s pretty cool to think that we helped orchestrate a beautiful moment for a customer, and delivered a knife that person will have for the rest of their life.
TM: What should people consider when they get started in the Custom Shop, so that they end up with a knife they’re really happy about and love using?
KK: If they are designing a knife for themselves, think of what the most meaningful things in their lives are and make sure to lasermark them on the blade. It could be a marriage date, names of kids, moving quotes, cherished hobbies, monumental accomplishments. Then, pick out the right colors and materials for you – improve the steel quality, handle material, hardware, etc. Craft the knife right the first time, because it will last you a lifetime.
TM: Do you plan to expand the Custom Shop options in the future?
KK: We have HUGE plans! We have many, many more products coming to the Custom Shop this year and in subsequent years. Over the summer we’ll be dropping new upgrade materials and a variety of other features as well. We’ve already added more patterns than we started with. Some of these were inspired by dads, just in time for Father’s Day. As incredible as the program already is, this is only the tip of the iceberg.
When Gerber offered me the chance to try out the Gerber Custom Shop for myself, I passed the privilege over to the man in my life, with the condition that he let me document his design process.
1. Select the model
Right from the get-go, Gerber’s Custom Shop offers two ways to embark on your knife build. If you’re inclined toward one of Gerber’s already pristine knife models with some added personality and soul, you can choose from amongst the Sharkbelly (a solid folding EDC with a sheepsfoot blade), the Strong-arm (an innovative fixed blade knife perfect for the outdoorsman), or the US1 (a slim, stealth-weight folding that fits invisibly into the pocket). If you’re looking to build from scratch, your canvas is the Gerber Fastball, the brand’s signature finger-flip EDC knife. My man Bryan wanted to explore the full possibilities for design, so he opted for the Fastball.
2. Design your handle
Right out of the gate, the handle design feature on Gerber’s Custom Shop delivers all those kid-in-a-candy-shop feels. You can choose from anodized aluminum in solid colors or a graphic pattern, or machined G-10 steel. The advantage of the aluminum option is that it allows for a custom lasermark in a selected pattern (camouflage, animal prints, or natural textures like woodgrain or spiderwebs), an illustration, or a text marking. Bryan opted for simplicity with a steel handle tinted deep blue.
3. Choose your hardware
Tone, texture, and clip position may seem like minor details, but they help your knife stand apart from the crowd. Bryan went with the satin finishes on liner, axle, and fasteners, with a pop of orange on the backspace. No worries that this EDC knife will get mistaken for somebody else’s.
4. Design your blade
The most important part of the knife is the blade, and the Custom Shop lets you choose from among the formidable cleaver blade in two tones of tumbled steel, or the subtle Wharncliffe blade in five different colors. Once you’ve decided on blade shape and hue, you can add detail from a robust library of textures, patterns, and custom etching. Bryan opted for the simplicity of the Wharncliffe blade in black oxide, with just a single lasermark that bears the coordinates of his favorite place on earth.
After finalizing his design (and sharing its handsome profile with a few friends), Bryan received his custom-designed Gerber Fastball knife about a week later. With its light profile, smooth texture, and surprising heft, this knife is built for action … and, we hope, for helping teach our son what it means to be a man.