Are you ready to buy a Custom Knife?

If you were bitten by the custom knife bug, you may have browsed around and seen custom knives. We discuss some of the practical steps you should follow to make sure you're getting the best bang for your buck.

So you want to buy a custom knife? Well, the custom knife world can be a difficult one to navigate, with its own etiquette and hierarchy that isn’t overtly obvious when you first start out. A Custom knife means craftsmanship, high-quality materials, and artful designs and is unique as the makers who craft them. They also come with big-ticket prices. Are you ready to hop into the world of custom knives?

What do you get in a custom knife vs production model?

If you were bitten by the custom knife bug, you may have browsed around and seen custom knives. In the upper echelon of custom knives, you can pay five or six figures for a knife.

A big part of the premium you pay for with a custom knife is time: the knife maker’s time and experience to make a product by hand, versus a production knife that is mass-produced by machines. Customs feature blades are entirely hand-ground and finished. They may come with more exotic materials, better fit and finish, and be created by a maker who has built a reliable reputation for excellent workmanship. A real collector’s piece!

With mass production blades, you can get just about any steel you want in a blade, usually, the price is an indication of the quality of the steel on offer. When you buy a custom knife, you aren’t paying for the blade steel alone, as handmade knives are more likely to feature high-end knife steels, as there isn’t any incentive for the maker to cut costs/corners.

Custom knives, in general, have a reputation for being more expensive than production knives, however, when you start looking at mid-to high-range knives, you will notice that the prices are largely in the same ballpark.

Do Your Homework

Research is an incredibly important part of the knife buying process. Do your research; What steel is used and why, understand what a frame-lock is, and why IKBS is cool before you start looking at knives that have them. Find out about the knife’s maker- where they’re from, who they’ve worked with, and more. If you can, get a recommendation from someone you know and trust who has purchased a knife from the knife maker you are considering.

  • Have a clear vision of how you will use your knife. What is its primary function: big game skinning, small game skinning, filleting, butchering, kitchen cutlery, or heavy-duty, general purposes?
  • Be sure to check on wait times. If you have a specific time frame when you need the knife, make that clear so that you don’t have a miscommunication on your knife’s delivery.
  • Give your knifemaker a budget. Don’t get far down the road on design options only to find out that you are out of your price range.
  • Make sure you ask about deposits and payment schedules for your custom knife.

The Knife Show Connection

Attending knife shows is high on the list of both the new and experienced collectors in helping to size up options before ordering.

“I think everyone who likes and collects custom knives should go to at least one knife show a year. It’s the way you get to meet all the makers, dealers and collectors. It’s also one of the ways you realize that this big, diverse group of people share your passion. It’s an incredibly nice group of people overall, and it’s always very fulfilling and fun to attend different shows.”

Carlos Lopez – Collector

In a practical sense, knifemakers and prospective buyers establish personal connections at shows, providing one another with reassurances that ease the ordering process. A discussion about materials, pricing, approximate delivery date, and other details can take place in a comfortable setting. Best of all, the collector can hold an example of the maker’s work in his hands.—by Mike Haskew

In KZN we have the annual Durban Easter Knife Show, which is the oldest running knife show in South Africa. It’s a great opportunity to meet our local knifemakers face to face.


Knife collecting can be a rewarding experience and can be a great way to meet people with similar interests. Get online and join the community, go to a knife show and meet some of the people that make the knives. Even if you only want one, heirloom piece, it’s still a worthy passion to pursue.

Keep the knives you fall in love with, because there’s nothing worse than selling something you were attached to.

Buy what you like, after all, it’s your money.

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