avid Rydbom of Kingdom Armory is teaming up with technical gear maker Mission Workshop for the Unagi, a small batch production knife. With an ultra-clean design and triple-checked quality, Rydbom and his collaborators hope to introduce new audiences to high-end knives.
Rydbom came up with the Unagi design working alongside Mission Co-Owner Jeff Roberts and Damascus maker/domestic mid-tech manufacturer Chad Nichols. Its simple construction and broad, three-inch CPM-154 blade hearken to traditional Japanese carpentry knives like the Higonokami. Even the mechanics are simple: phosphor bronze washers and a carbidized titanium lock face, no steel insert. The blade, scales, and pocket clip sport a clean, even stonewash, offset by matte finish hardware. “All Mission products strive for a minimalist, streamlined aesthetic. They wanted to see if I could hit that with this knife,” Rydbom says.
When the design was squared away, Nichols produced the parts in his Blue Springs, Mississippi shop. From there the parts went to fellow Mississippian maker Les George for laser engraving and rough-fit assembly. Then the knives went back across the country for Rydbom to sharpen, fit, and clean before final inspection at Mission Workshop in California. “There have been lots of sets of eyes on these things,” Rydbom confirms.
When we last spoke with Rydbom, he had no immediate plans to head back into the production world. But when Mission approached him with the idea of designing a knife for their audience – not necessarily knife enthusiasts – he decided to take a crack at it. “I wasn’t expecting to dabble in the production realm again, but it made sense, and it was fun to do.”
> > Keep your folders awesome. Grab a Pack of 5 Microfiber Blade Sleeves for $8.99 < <
Despite being designed by a high-profile maker and produced by a well-known shop, the Unagi targets a market outside of the knife community. “[Mission’s] demographic wouldn’t be your traditional knife guy,” Rydbom explains. Instead, they cater to customers with active lifestyles and an appreciation for top-notch performance in all their purchases, whether it’s a water bottle, a backpack, or a pocket knife. “The real goal was to bring new people into our world and educate them as to why this knife is worth $400.”
So far the response has been positive and sales brisk. Rydbom says further Mission collabs are a possibility, and that the new knife and new market is just the tip of the iceberg for Kingdom Armory in 2018. “I think this coming year will be exciting.”
The Unagi is limited to just 200 pieces and is available now. It costs $390.