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Fit and Finish - A Long Story

Discussion in 'Emerson Knives' started by Ernest Emerson, Jun 24, 2011.

  1. Ernest Emerson

    Ernest Emerson

    Apr 5, 1999
    Regarding the fit and finish of Emerson Knives-

    I've never built the knives for looks or for a fancy finish or for "perfection."

    You'll notice we never enter any of the "quality in manufacturing" categories at the Blade Show.

    We don't because we know we won't win.

    We have however, won the top award, Overall Knife of the year and several other awards including American Made Knife of the Year, along with a long list of awards from many, many shows.

    The thing about fit and finish is that, that is all it is, fit and finish. It has nothing to do with the function of the knife or the design of the knife.

    Now, I'm going to tell you that Chris Reeves is a dear friend of mine. Sal Glesser is a friend of mine and Columbia River well, I really don't know them personally. Having said that, I will now say that those are the knives that I am most often compared to. All of them have fine fit and finish.

    Now, with all due respect, I will also tell you this. None of those knives were present when (all) of the Somali pirates were taken down. None of those knives were present when Al Zarqawi was captured and killed.

    None of those knives were present when Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was taken captive. And none of those knives were present when Osama Bin Laden was shot dead. Yet, there were knives that were present at all of those and hundreds more firefights, assaults and covert actions. Anyone care to guess what knives those were?

    We make tens of thousands of knives a year. We get about 35-40 complaints a year about fit and finish, and it is less than a fraction of one percent of our total. The other tens of thousands seen to be just fine for our customers.

    Now, before all the business majors and other business experts come out and say "Ernest Emerson is not a good businessman. He isn't responding to the demands of his customers or evolving his business plan." I will just say this, "Like Hell I'm not." We haven't even had to advertise in almost 10 years. And yet our businesses (all 4) continue to grow and prosper.

    And before these same folks also come out to make statements like, "Emerson is just being lazy" or "design, performance and finish are all as equally important, he's just making excuses for his lack of consideration for our needs." Well, there is a big difference between wants and needs and sometimes the two meanings get switched. I don't make excuses. I never did and I never will. I will, though give you the reasons why I do as I do.

    You can say what you want about me or my knives, but you can never say that I don't know my customers. Hell, I know several thousand of them on a first name basis, and many are my friends. I know what knives they need and I know what they want and expect in an Emerson Knife. There are no other major knife companies with that close a relationship to their customers.

    Most of you know me. It's obvious that some of you do not. To me a knife is just like a good hammer. It is a tool. I just need it to work and work. People come to like Emerson Knives because that's what they do. And I'm happy that in that regard, I've done my job well.

    A little more about me. I've dealt with this same type of issue both in regard to shooting and in combat skills. I've had people say things like "Your feet were not in the "right" position. Your punch didn't turn properly. You didn't squeeze your knees together on the arm bar." I usually respond by saying "come here, put your hands up." And in a couple of seconds they are either on their ass or tapping out. I once had a guy tell me one time I don't know anything about weapon control in a knife attack. I had him come out and I said "I want you to "control" my knife." I hit him about six times with the knife, and kicked his right leg so hard that he buckled. I told him, You're lucky I didn't throw my left cross. your guard was down the whole time you were chasing my knife. I didn't want to hurt you." In a real fight you don't control the weapon. You control the man. The weapon will follow." By the way, he is now a good friend of mine.

    I can't tell you about all the different martial arts and the goofy names for all of their techniques. I couldn't tell you all the crazy "rules of fighting" that they all claimed you needed to know. I can tell you what it's like to get caught with a straight right and get knocked clean out. I can tell you what it feels like to knock someone out. I can tell you what it's like to break your knuckles on someone's face (more than once). I can tell you what it feels like to feel your nose slowly snap as your face is being ground into the mat. I can tell you what it's like to see cross-eyed for a couple of hours after being hit so hard you see stars. I can tell you what it feels like when your jaws and teeth don't align for a couple of days after taking a good hook to the chin.

    I can tell you what it's like to do roadwork in the snow in the dark at 0430 hrs before you start your morning workout in a freezing cold gym at 0500 hours for two hours, knowing that you are going to train for another two hours that evening.

    Most of the guys who always knew all the details about fighting arts just couldn't tell you those things.

    As to shooting skills, I know nothing about ballistics, wound cavities, foot pounds of energy, muzzle velocity, etc, etc. But I can hit a target. I can hit it under stress and I can hit it when someone is shooting back at me. And it doesn't matter if it is a pistol, a rifle, a subgun, or a shotgun.

    We could track a white tail deer in the Northern woods in -12 degree weather, shoot it, dress it out and eat venison if you would like. I use a 50 year old Remington 30-06 that used to belong to my Dad, to do the job. I wouldn't even be able to tell you what brand of bullets I was using.

    I have a friend who is a Navy SEAL Sniper who told me he was not interested in all the minutiae and details that revolve around shooters and their discussions of such. But, his Chief told him, son, you have to learn all that crap or you'll never be accepted into the "community" no matter how good you are. He was the top sniper in his class and has a long list of "accomplishments." He knows his dope but he still doesn't' know all of the facts and figures the others guys argue about constantly. And everyone wants him for their deployment.

    I was a pretty good athlete, a serious athlete. I played college football and pro baseball. In my high school we had a serious badminton competition every year and many of the competitors went out and purchased $150.00 aluminum rackets to compete with. They were very nice, very light, very tight and had a lot of spring. My Junior year I went down to our local hardware store and bought a cheap backyard badminton set for $29.95 with four wooden rackets. I took one of those loose wooden rackets, painted it red, white and blue, wrote the words "U.S. Bomber," on the handle and whipped everyone in the tournament of over 100 players. I did it to prove it was not about the equipment, it was about the player. You may want to read an article I wrote for Human Events, on the problem with weapons dependency for more insight into that mindset.

    When I played ball, I couldn't tell you all the stats of the major league players or who was in first place. I didn't buy a new mitt or cleats every year. But I can tell you what it feels like to catch a line drive hit so hard that it hisses in the air and your hand swells up for days after the catch. I could tell you how you can't sleep on either side at night because of the open strawberries on your hips from stealing bases. I could tell you the difference in the feel of a bat due to its grain and density when it contacts the ball. And I could tell you what it feels like to hit one "out of the park", and I never, ever, wore batting gloves. I still have and use the same mitt I bought in 1971. After re-lacing it dozens of times, it still catches as good as it ever did.

    The guys who always knew all the stats never got the chance to play against those major leaguers. I did.

    People are always trying to put me in a box, a conventional box along with all the other conventional knife companies. I get that. Problem is, we're not conventional. Never have been and never will be. I don't fit into a box - any box for that matter, and I never will.

    Some have even bragged, "I've got the balls to tell Ernest Emerson what's wrong with his knives. I'm not a fan boy." All I can say is if that's your definition of having balls then you've not had a very hard life.

    You might ask why is Emerson going on about all this stuff? It has nothing to do with knives or fit and finish.

    Well, it has everything to do with my knives because it is about me and who I am. My knives reflect me, the way I see them and the way I use them. The point being made is that some of you do not know me or even know about me. If you did know me then you would know one thing for sure, that I am about performance and performance only. Either something works or it does not. Either you can do something or you cannot. It does not matter to me how much you "know" about the subject or the fanciness of your gear. And whether or not the handles or liners line up perfectly or not on the ass end of a knife does not affect the performance of the knife in one single way.

    And in the end those other, highly finished knives don't get to go on all those crazy adventures that mine do. And selfishly, I'm damned proud of it. Maybe I'm doing something right.

    Maybe some of you know me just a little better now. And maybe some of you will now know why my knives are the way they are. And maybe some of you will still find fault with our knives, myself and the way I do things. I'm ok with that.

    My Best Regards,

    Ernest R. Emerson


    May 4, 2009
    Bravo sir.
  3. emel


    Feb 16, 2011
    Nice story but with all due respect how do you know which knives were present at the time of those operations you are summing up?
    Or are you the sole supplier of those Teams? Just a question..,
  4. IGotStabbed


    Jul 11, 2007
    Glad you posted it here too Ernie!

    I agree with what is said. But I can also see why some people would complain about the liner marks etc. To me, Emerson blades have some of the best finishes around bar-none.
  5. MikeyD

    MikeyD Gold Member Gold Member

    Mar 13, 2011
    are you serious?.....
  6. gomle

    gomle Gold Member Gold Member

    May 28, 2010
    I have never held or owned a Emerson knife. Mostly due to I'm new with knives. But If it don't fit, it don't work. Finish is another story. Thats my two cents after reading this.
  7. ssblood

    ssblood Banned BANNED

    Jun 20, 2002
    I've never seen a nicer bevel or had a sharper knife than my CQC10 when it came out the box. The F&F was on par with anyone else short of CRK.

    Haters are going to hate.
  8. softrockrenegade


    May 27, 2009
    Fit is very important !!! A knife must be tight , sturdy and sharp to be a quality tool ! Finish is nice and at certain price points expected .
  9. d762nato

    d762nato Gold Member Gold Member

    Dec 16, 2009
    Thats a great story Ernie, I think your knives are awesome i just wish i would have checked them out before i turned 50. I've got two 7's a pimped 10 and a custom 8. I'll have to say no folder that i've ever seen or handled is deployed faster and into action from the pocket as a Waved Emerson. It's like lighting and the best design i've handled for that speed of getting a knife into action. I've also noticed your knives are verrrry sharp!! with awesome grinds. Keep up the good work sir. :thumbup: And if you've got a CQC-6 laying around my birthdays coming in july. :D JK Ernie, great story and analogy have a great weekend and don't worry about the haters. ;)

    Regards Doug
  10. mongomondo

    mongomondo SUPPRESSING FIRE

    Sep 17, 2006
    Emerson knives are never in stock, you must be doing something right
  11. WLJ4163

    WLJ4163 Gold Member Gold Member

    Jun 9, 2006
    Well said!
  12. glockednlocked


    Mar 11, 2010
    Very Well said Mr. E. I have not led half the life you have but I have had alittle fun. The highest compliment I can give any knife is to trust it. In nice places and in sh!tty places I count on Emerson knives. Your knives "fit" me fine and I know they can "finish" whatever I start.
  13. 4Truck


    Nov 11, 2010
    I'd say the detractors need to understand the difference between fit/finish and fancy/luxury. I trust the shit outta my Emersons every day. Starting to sell off a lot of other to acquire more!
  14. IGotStabbed


    Jul 11, 2007
    Yeah I'm talking about the finish of the blade--from the grind to the stonewash contrast, it's stunning.
  15. zrfunited


    Dec 19, 2007
    @Gomle. They have a good fit where fit really counts and work perfectly.

    The finish isn't as refined as some other production knives, but that's really all it is; refinement. To me the argument seems a bit nitpicky. If the knife purchased is for use then it's a mote point. If it's bought as a collector piece and the refinement matters to the collector then they should have researched their purchase a little more carefully. If a person doesn't own an Emerson and has no plans for purchasing one then what dog do they have in this fight. If an Emerson model were the absolute end all be all model for someone but they couldn't get past the refinement issue and it queered their purchase of one, then I might be able to understand the argument. As it stands however, I really don't see what the big deal is.

    I own one Emerson and it is a rock solid knife that makes it into my rotation on a regular basis. There are only three models in his line that I would even consider purchasing. I'm not into tantos or recurves. The only issue I have with Emersons is the price. I think that they could be a bit less expensive. However, with that being said I can kind of understand the pricing structure given that these knives really are tough. There is nothing weak about these knives. They are well thought out designs that, in my limited experience, perform as advertised.
  16. gomle

    gomle Gold Member Gold Member

    May 28, 2010
    As stated I have never held or owned a Emerson. Just pointed out, what in my mind don't add up if you want perfection. Fit is everything in a knife in my book. As Mr. Emerson and other have written above I think the problem mostly must be finish issues and a few lemons amogst the thousands. If a maker states he don't care about fit I think he must think again. I just think Mr. Emerson used a wrong word. Because surly thousands can't be wrong. Fit in my mind has to do with lockup and suchs. Hope language barriers havent made me jump in the salad.

    Looking forward to try a custom Emerson in the future. No harm ment.

  17. d762nato

    d762nato Gold Member Gold Member

    Dec 16, 2009
    You'll be glad you did i've got a custom 8 and its very nicely finished imho and i could'nt be happier.

  18. JTR357


    Sep 10, 2007
    It has NOTHING to do with being a "hater".Why is everyone who disagrees a "hater"?I don't hate Ernie or his company.
    Every single Emerson I've bought(just under a dozen)had a sticky lock & the blade was so off centered it was rubbing against the liner,plus some other lesser issues.The only one I had that had perfect fit,finish & grind was a CQC-12 framelock.
    And NO,I don't have them anymore to "show you".I sold them at a lower price to someone who didn't care about these problems.
    And YES they ARE problems to most,but as long as there are people who buy them & look past these obvious FLAWS,or fix them their selves,there's no reason for EKI to address them.
    Last edited: Jun 25, 2011
  19. Mossyhorn

    Mossyhorn Gold Member Gold Member

    Dec 6, 2009
    Emerson knives are meant to be used. No sprint runs in blue or pink G-10, no exotic steel and no BS. Emerson knives lock up solid and will provide the user with pride of ownership and many years of service. I don't think Mr. Emerson needs to explain the reality of fit and finish but, I'm sure glad he did.
  20. 5.56


    Sep 27, 2008
    I've only owned one Emerson, a CQC-10. But I'll say it's F&F is on par with similiar Spyderco's at that price point.

    It's centered, with no play in the lock up. The grind is even. The only flaws I see are where the G10 meets the liner, it not perfectly flush, and the liners have grind lines.

    Oh well, neither of these affect performance. And this knife excels in the hard use department. In fact, I like this 10 so much, I'm looking for a Custom 10 now.

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