The world of custom knives is a fascinating one and as we shift from being simple knife users to becoming knife enthusiasts we start to move beyond the box store production blades and start to find custom makers styles that we like, and designs that we can’t live without. Unfortunately, our budgets don’t always allow us to jump right in to the process or there’s some trepidation about dropping a few hundred dollars or more and waiting years for a custom piece that you haven’t even gotten to handle yet. Thankfully with more and more knifemakers doing collaborations with production knife companies folks have some alternatives to just socking away cash and biding their time. A factory built collaboration gives an affordable option for folks to try out a custom design before dropping the big bucks on the real thing, and also gives folks who may never be able to afford a true custom the chance to still own a design from a maker that they admire.
Sean Kendrick is a custom maker out of Ohio and has been featured in the pages of Tactical Knives before. Sean’s shop motto is “innovations in aggression” and he has a full line of tactical blades in both fixed and folding variety. Sean now brings his years of design expertise as a custom maker to Hallmark Cutlery, and the end result is a full line of tactical fixed blades and folders under the Bad Blood name. I had a chance to talk with Sean as well as Jacob and Jessica Hall about the project earlier this summer. The Bad Blood knives are made for Hallmark overseas, but both Sean and the Halls keep a careful watch on the quality of what they get back. So, how is that quality? Quite good. I know at least one experienced industry writer who examined an early-unmarked prototype folder and didn’t realize that it was a production piece and not one of Sean’s customs. That was a common reaction that I found with folks handling the Bad Blood knives. They often didn’t realize they were production blades or at least assumed that they’re expensive, high-end production pieces. But they aren’t and that’s the beauty of the Bad Bloods.
Bad Blood Line
The Bad Blood line currently consists of three folders and three fixed blades knives. Manufacturers Suggested Retail Prices range from $54.95 on the folders to $89.99 on the Spartan fixed blade. Trust me — you’re getting a lot of blade for the money. The knives have some features in common including primarily hollow ground blades of 8cr14 stainless steel and black G10 handles. The fixed blade handles are smooth, matte finished and the folders use a textured finish. The three fixed blades are the Raiju Slim Line, the Partisan Nano, and the Spartan. The folders are the Spiraling Demise, the Fire Splitter and the Harbinger. The Raiju uses a 4mm thick, 4-inch, chisel grind tanto point and is the one deviation from the hollow grinds of the other blades. The Partisan Nano uses a 3.88-inch drop point, which is also 4mm thick, and the Spartan is a hefty 5mm thick, 4.75-inch recurved blade.
In folders we see a 3.63-inch upswept tip on the Spiraling Demise, a 3.88-inch spear point on the Fire Splitter and a 3.75-inch drop point on the Harbinger. All of the folders use 4mm thick blades as well, along with a set of thick stainless steel liners. Lock up on the folders is via a sturdy liner lock and all are equipped with wide, matte finished pocket clips set up for tip up carry. The Spiraling Demise and the Fire Splitter use a spine flipper for opening and the Harbinger features a set of dual thumb studs.
The technical specifications simply don’t tell the whole story on these blades. That comes when you get them in your hands and really get to examine them. The first thing you notice is the clean lines of Sean’s designs. They just seem to flow and present a sleek, modern tactical appearance. They feel good in the hands too. That’s a combination of solid construction and a comforting heft, along with good design features and a lack of any sort of sharp edges on the handle to cause hot spots or discomfort. When you look closer at the fit and finish you’ll continue to be impressed. Grind lines are clean and the handle material to tang fit is smooth and flush. You see a number of custom features as well such as the red liners on the fixed blades and even mosaic pins on the Spartan. That’s definitely not something I expected to see on a knife in this price range.
The sheaths on the fixed blades are worth talking about as well. At first glance you’d swear they’re Kydex, and some online retailers have them listed as such. They’re actually injection molded polymer, though but you’d be hard pressed to tell it looking at them. Each really mimics the lines of Sean’s Kydex sheaths well, and seem to have similar retention and fit. All are equipped with a sturdy belt loop, but the hole pattern will work with a large Tek-Lok as well. For MOLLE mounting I found that they also worked fine with a Bawidimann Blades PUP mounting plate. So the carry options on these sheaths are limited only by your imagination.
In The Field
I decided to pick two of the models to use for the bulk of my field-testing, one folder and one fixed blade. I chose the Spiraling Demise as it’s a little more compact than the other two folders and the Spartan, because I have one of Sean’s custom Spartans. The first question folks will ask is, “How do the production and custom models compare?” Well, they compare favorably. The production models are very well made, extremely solid and have very good fit and finish. With that said, they’re not handmade custom knives and you can’t expect them to be for the price. You can see the differences, especially side by side. Sean’s originals are a little cleaner, the handles are more comfortable, and you have the material differences involved. That isn’t to take anything away from the Bad Bloods though. Hallmark does a very good job of taking Sean’s designs and turning them into a very functional knife that’s affordable on just about any budget.
I carried the Spiraling Demise at work and while going about my daily business for around a month. It’s solid and you know you’re carrying it. At 8 ounces on my scale this does not fall into the category of a gentleman’s knife or one that you forget you have on you. With that said, the wide clip allows it to carry well without tearing up your clothes and the benefit that you get is that you have a super tough duty and defense knife that you can bring into play quickly due to the big flipper mounted to the blade. That flipper acts as a substantial guard when the knife is open as well and keeps the hand safely off the blade during thrusts and slashes. You know that category of folders that you say, “This is the folder I want when I can’t carry a fixed blade?” The Bad Blood folders are exactly what you’re talking about.
The Spartan is simply brutal. The recurve blade produced deep slashes in my test targets and the top swedge helped ensure very good penetration when stabbing as well. The 5mm think blade and 12 plus ounce weight sans sheath doesn’t hurt either. All of that mass is transferred into the slashes and stabs that you make with the Spartan. About ½-inch of pommel protrudes from my grip when using the Spartan and makes for an impressive impact weapon. Although slightly blockier than my custom Spartan, the G10 handle is still very comfortable and keeps your hand off the blade during defensive maneuvers. If you need something a little lighter and more compact then the Raiju Slim Line or the Partisan Nano will serve you well, but if you want raw power then the Spartan is the go to blade.
So, who do I see as purchasers for the Bad Blood line of knives? Three categories of people spring to mind. First off, there are the folks that would love to have one of Sean Kendrick’s custom blades but either can’t swing it financially yet, or maybe want to try out the style before they commit to spending the cash. The Bad Bloods are a great way to see what you like before sitting down with Sean and getting a full-blown custom. The second group of folks are those who already own Sean’s knives. If you’ve got the investment in the custom, there are always folks who have them and want to use them, but are afraid of really beating up their prized possessions. While I suspect Sean wants to see his knives used, it’s not bad a thing to have a production understudy to your custom for the times you really want to use the piece hard. Last, but certainly not least, are the folks who will appreciate the Bad Blood knives for what they are: well designed, rugged, take no prisoner tactical knives built at a price that anyone can afford.