SMKW CEO, Tyler Pipes (left) talks to Charles Darby (center) and the event’s engraver before the day gets started.

It’s hard to hear Benchmade Director of National Sales, Charles Darby over the hum and rumble of customers surrounding us at Smoky Mountain Knife Works’ Benchmade Days event, but he’s doing his best to talk to us and greet guests at the Benchmade counter in the massive SMKW showroom. To be honest, he’s actually doing it quite well, considering the popularity of his product and the amount of traffic that steadily flows by us.

Darby has been associated with Benchmade for nearly 20 years, so we ask him who carries a Benchmade knife. “There are really three types of Benchmade customer. There’s the collector, the enthusiast, and the everyday user. The collectors are into the limited edition stuff. The enthusiasts are simply die-hard Benchmade fans, and the everyday guys are folks who are looking for a solid, USA-made product that works and that they can carry everyday,” Darby tells us.

Customers slide by us again, and we ask Charles what’s done best for Benchmade this year. This isn’t an easy question. Benchmade knives generally sell well and there are over 375 products in their catalog. We ask him to name a few to make it easier.

Darby points to the the Benchmade 940-1. It’s considered one of the most quintessential EDCs of all time, Fore than a decade, it’s performed in just about any situation imaginable.


He also points to the Benchmade 162 – the 9.15″ Bushcrafter knife was designed by Shane Sibert and has 4.17mm thick CPM-S30V steel. It’s a great survival knife and has actually been used by ordnance technicians to cut plastic explosives.


His third pick is the Benchmade Crooked River, which we reviewed earlier this year. Darby tells us that Benchmade, “really hit the mark with that one.” We agree and both us stand their with knife lust in our eyes for a few moments thinking about the Crooked River.  We like it so much it’s actually in our top banner right now.


Darby also tells us about a knife that we can’t keep our eyes off of under the glass. It’s an automatic knife called the Benchmade Triage.  We can’t stop looking at it because it’s got a blaze/rescue orange inlay in the handle and blunt tip (pictured above left). It’s not what you usually think of as a Benchmade, but when you hold it and test the action, it’s clearly a Benchmade.  We were impressed that both the blade and the seat belt cutting hook were automatic, and the grip inlay was phenomenal.

We talk about the price point on Benchmade and Darby says that Benchmade’s niche is the retail space between $100 and $300. With the focus on the  “Three M’s” (materials, mechanism, and manufacturing) as well as the Life Sharp program and warranty, Darby feels like the price is exactly where it should be. He asks, “You can buy it once, or you can buy it several times,” he tells us.

Before we let him get back to his counter work at the event, Darby tells us that there is a great sense of integrity that goes with the brand. Benchmade never really finishes making a product. They’re always doing internal testing and revision – finding tweaks that refine a product and listening to customer feedback.  “We are continually innovating at Benchmade with our focus on our dealers and consumers,” Darby says, and when you look through the Benchmade catalog, it’s more than obvious that he’s right.