Flylords caught up with Craig Baker, the Vice President of Business Development at Mayfly Outdoors/Abel Reels, to discuss the all-new Abel Reels + Spyderco Native 5 Knives. Check out the interview below to learn more about what goes into these machined knives.
Flylords: Tell us when and how this collaboration came to light?
Craig:We’ve had a knife collab idea up our sleeve for a few years now. Abel used to make a pretty nice knife, but we know there were better knife manufacturers than we’ll ever be. In fact, we looked at multiple partners for the deal, and Spyderco was certainly the best fit; and they’re a neighboring Colorado company. We met with their owners and left them a tricked out Abel reel to keep. They put the reel on their desk for the next couple of months, and according to them, everyone touched the reel and asked about its incredible finish. They knew they needed to do the collab with us. So we spent the next 9 months dialing in the shapes of the aluminum scales, the exact materials that would take our dyes correctly, and the blade steel. We love how they turned out. And they’re all made in Golden, Colorado, and anodized in our Camarillo, California art studio/anodize shop.
Flylords: Why did you choose Brown Trout Rainbow Trout and Tarpon Designs?
Craig: We wanted to start simple, with few SKUs. So we chose our two most popular freshwater patterns (Native Brown Trout, Native Rainbow Trout), and our most popular saltwater pattern (Bonefish), to appeal to the broadest audience. We have many more ideas, but we’ll see how these go.
Flylords: What made you decide to work with Spyderco on the collab?
Craig: We work very well together and really were impressed with their commitment to quality. Abel’s partner could only be top notch. It doesn’t hurt that they make these knives all in Golden, CO!
Flylords: These knives seem to be on the pricey side of things… Could you tell us about how much time goes into each knife?
Craig: Most people have no idea how much hand labor goes into the knife and don’t really have a sense for how much that costs. In addition to the costs of the high-end materials, machining, and labor from Spyderco, we spend more than 4.5 hours of human labor polishing and hand dying the anodized graphics into the handle scales. THIS IS NOT PAINT. We do use paint brushes to control the dyes, but the graphics are 100% embedded into the actual pore structure of the aluminum by our artists–kind of like giving the metal a tattoo. That being said, this is more of a passion project for us than a huge money maker. Profit margins are tight, but we think it’s worth introducing our unique artwork to a much larger audience. These knives aren’t for everyone, but the discerning customer will appreciate and cherish these beauties for a lifetime.
Flylords: Who paints the knives?
Craig: The knives aren’t “painted,” as described previously, but our Camarillo team of artists hand-applies anodize chemical dyes via paintbrush, q-tip, sponges, and dipping in tanks of permanent dyes. We like to call it “alchemy.” If you make a mistake, you basically start over with a new part, so we have to be extremely careful. Our artists are amazingly talented folks that can create astonishing effects in metal like no one else in the world.
Flylords:Can you tell us about the manufacturing and design behind the knives? Is this done in the Abel factory or in the Spyderco factory?
Craig: The design’s starting point was the already-great Spyderco Native 5®, but our engineering teams collaborated on some enhanced ergonomics and material selections. From there all knives are manufactured by the Spyderco team in Golden, CO. The anodize is all completed in California by Abel, then shipped back to Colorado for Spyderco assembly.
Flylords: Where is the best place for people to purchase a knife from?
Craig: The knives are exclusively available via authorized Abel Reels dealers around the world and at abelreels.com.
Flylords: Any other cool product collabs coming up for this year?
Craig: Stay tuned… 😉
Craig Baker is the Vice President of Business Development at Abel Reels. Be sure to check out Abel Reels on Instagram at @abelreels. Photos courtesy of Ivan Orsic of Trouts Fly Fishing. Trouts is an authorized Abel dealer, to get your hands on one of these knives check out Trout’s full selection online here.