Custom Knives vs. Factory? Quality vs Price

Mar 14, 1999
On another thread there was some discussion about the value of a custom knife versus the quality of a similar knife produced by the factory. The example in the thread was the Benchmade 750 compared to the Chris Reeve Sebenza (I know, I know, no comparison).
Other examples would be some of the Spyderco Designer Series compared to the original versions. Has anyone actually done a side by side comparison, actually using the knives?
I saw some pictures online by Mr. Mattis showing the 750 and Sebenza side by side. I didn't notice that big of a difference, at least not $225 worth. But what about actual use and function? If someone would care to loan me there Sebenza I would be more than happy to put them through their paces and pass on a report. I could submit it to the future BladeForums online magazine. This could be my query letter. How about it?

BTW-Received my AKTI membership card today; do you have yours? #A000389
First of all, isn't the Sebenza actually a production knife? Regardless, the term "custom" means absolutely nothing to me. What means a lot is the quality of the individual knife. I have SPydercos that are probably better than many custom knives, while at the same time I have custom knives that I think the world of. If a knife has the word "custom" applied to it, that's all it is, a label. If a knife has outstanding quality, then who cares what the label is, buy the thing!

My Custom Kydex Sheath page
Palmer College of Chiropractic
On Two Wheels
It really depends. A quality production knife will probably preform just as well as a custom (handmade) knife. A Benchmade or a Spyderco, REKAT, Microtech can do what a handmade knife can do and will probably preform just as well in cutting and lock-up. I like the handmade knives I have because they feel nicer and more effort has been put into them to make the handle components flush, grind lines sharp and consistent and just overall better quality finish.

These qualities make a handmade knife worth owning. When it comes to simple cost benefit I don't think it's practical to buy a handmade knife but I'm willing to pay for a very well made knife.

I'd prefer the term "handmade" to "custom." a knife isn't custom unless the customer tells me how to do it - whether it's just what materials or an entire design on paper.

In a folder, I believe that since the current rage is for large, tough "tactical" pieces I'd go with a factory knife. These knives lend themselves to machining and precision manufacture rather than the exotic materials, decoration, and finishing skills of a custom maker. Spyderco, Benchmade, and others have the laser-cutting, CNC machining, and other expensive technology to make a fabulous "high-tech" piece, a lot of which most custom makers cannot do any better. I question whether those custom makers that do have such machinery are really not semi-production.

Some certainly are, like Chris Reeve. If you appreciate fine machining, that is the best of both worlds. Microtech is similar, maybe more on the production end of the spectrum but definitely blurring the lines.

Personally, I like to see hand-work, such as filework, fancy pins, and nicely fitted scales and inserts. But this is generally ill-suited to a "tactical" piece. I also limit my collection to production knives because that keeps it manageable. There are too many good makers out there for my wallet to survive an interest in handmade pieces.


(Why else would a bear want a pocket?)