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 are 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?
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. But in the more sane price ranges, you should expect to spend anywhere between $100 to $1000 on a custom knife.
First things first, you need to decide what role you want a custom knife to fill in your life. Do you want a single heirloom piece, one that you’re going to carry and use every day, will it be handed down to your son and stay in the family forever? Or are you looking to start a collection of quality pieces or to simply try a bunch of different knives?
What do you get in a custom knife vs production model?
First, don’t expect performance to track price. A ten-fold price increase won’t get you ten times more stuff.
A big part of the premium you pay for with a custom knife is time: the knife maker’s time to make a product by hand, versus a production knife that is mass produced by machines. Customs feature blades are entirely hand ground and hand finished. They may come with more exotic materials, better fit and finish and 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 an incentive for the maker to cut costs/corners.
Even if you opt for a high-end production knife, which can match some of the refinement of a custom, you still can’t get a knife made, just for you. With a custom knife, you get a handmade piece of functional art. Knife-makers go about crafting each knife differently, nearly from scratch, to a level that a production knife cannot attain.
The Knife Show Connection
Attending knife shows is high on the list of both the new and experienced collector 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,” encouraged collector Carlos Lopez. “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 the different shows.”
In a practical sense, knifemakers and prospective buyers do establish personal contact at shows, providing one another with a connection that eases 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.
Buy what you like. 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.
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.
Keep the knives you fall in love with, because there’s nothing worse than selling something you were attached to.