Custom versus Factory knives

May 9, 2000
In the last while I have started to add some custom knives to my ever growing number of knives. I love them. What I like the most is being able to order them the way I want them to be.
What I have noticed over the last few years is that factory knives seem to be catching up in quality. Some are very good and in my opinion are giving custom knives a run for their money. What do you guys think?
I am sure that i am going to get some interesting views on this subject.
Recently it seems there's a trend toward custom collabortaions that actually look like the custom version. Case in point is most of the CRKT line, the BM 690 (I think that's the number) and the MT LCC. The tolerances these knives are built to are getting better and better. I have even heard it said the the MT LCC is a more precise knife than a Lightfoot custom.

While these custom collaborations are great, nothing can replace the experence of buying a custom knife, and the fact that a custom knife is (or should be) made by hand.


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In the last few years factory knives are getting better and better. And you have already stated that the reason you like custom knives is because you can order them the way you want. That is true custom. When you buy knives at shows or just a regular model the maker makes it is a handmade knife. What makes it custom is imputs from the customer on what he/she needs from the knife. Features that are not usually on the handmade model.
That is what seperates factory from custom. A factory can make thousands of the same knife and if people want them that is great. With the imput of custom makers the factory knife have become great. Just look at the LCC. It is a great knife. But I wish I had a custom one from Greg with some features that are not on the production one. I think in the future we will see even more custom touches on production knife. Just look at the new Benchmade Elisewitz. It looks just like one of his. But there will always be a place for the custom knife maker. The one who listens to his/her customers and imput thier needs into the knife.


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Short, and sweet Keith... Nothing beats a good custom knife!

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I've just started ordering customs because I can get exactly the knife I want. I'm looking forward to the release of a couple of custom colaborations because I know I will never be able to afford a handmade one. The production model may not compare to the custom, but I trust the maker and the manufacturer that they are producing the highest quality knife possible.
The way I see it is that the manufacturers are going to the best custom makers for their designs. The custom makers are pushing the creative envelope in new directions. The level of quality of both are getting better.

We reap the benefits, and all is right with the world.

"Will work 4 Knives!"
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CNC machining has added a level of precision to rival, and in many cases surpass custom makers. It has made a truly high quality piece that is in reach of the masses. However, a hand forged/ground blade seams to have a soul of it's own that a production blade can't equal.

There is ,certainly something to be said for the custom knife coming from the soul of the maker. That is why I will always have a special place in my heart for custom knives.
With the advances in [roduction methods us knife knuts really are benefitting. Look at the Camillus CQB and compare it with one of the ka-bar style knives they manufacture! WOW, WHAT A DIFFERENCE!

Having said that, ask will for maroon handles and a deeper finger choil and you won't get it. I'm thinking out loud here but I imagine that even thought the production market is doing very well, the split between custom and production will remain. I bought my Benchmade Sentinel because of the blue titanium liners and the spear pointed blade, not because it was an Elishewitz knife. If I had the $$ for an Elishewitz, I don't think I'd buy two benchmades instead! Custom knives are bought (I believe) for two main reasons. First of all, someone wants something unique. Maybe it is something simple like a depper finger cut out or a different colored handle, but whatever it is the custom maker says "no problem" and the customer gets a unique knife that they had input into. Secondly, I think people buy customs because they like a person's work. Sure Benchmade did a great job on my Sentinel, but it ain't no Elishewitz!! Custom knives are like paintings.

I think I'm rambling now!

"Come What May..."
You've got it right. Some of today's collaborations are virtually "custom" in quality, fit and finish. My new LCC is a prime example. We live in the best of times!
Have a good New Year. :)
A while back, someone pointed out that many of the first custom knives of the modern (1970's) movement actually emulated the factory knives of the same period. Now, it seems to some the tables have been turned.

Today, I don't believe that "factory knives verses custom knives" is as accurate a statement as "factory knives compliment custom knives." The factories get inspiration from custom makers and provide the public with good looking knives for a fraction of the cost. This appears to actually help the custom maker, rather than hurting him. Many times those who were weened on factory/custom collaborations are seen at custom knife shows looking for the custom makers who helped design those knives.

CNC's aren't the entire answer to the quality issue. Some "custom" makers do subcontract laser and CNC shops to make parts for their knives on a regular basis. Still, whether factory or hand made, it's the "people factor" that ensures the quality of the product. If you notice in those articles on knife factories, it's people who are putting them together - not robots.

Still, there remains a notable part of a custom maker's soul in each knife he makes. To him, it's not just a job. He remembers putting it together and wonders at the possibilities......


Tom Anderson
Hand Crafted Knives
I agree with the previous post in that a custom is like getting an original painting instead of a print. I recently traded for two customs: a medium sized Darrel Ralph Apogee and a Terzoula ATCF. The level of anodozing on the Apogee makes it a work of art, i just take it out and look at it to admire how pretty it is. The ATCF, I carry a bit although I try to keep from keys and sources of scratches. The ATCF to me is like a factory tactical taken to several steps highers. Specifically, the ATCF is like a super improved Spyderco Starmate in terms of its action and level of finish. In real terms, a Starmate or Military could do whatever the ATCF does and not miss a beat. In fact, for really hard use, I'd rather have an Endura, Cold Steel Voyager or CKRT Mirage because I can afford to replace them if they break. Still, as a collector who knows and appreciates knives, I'm glad I own some customs (handmades if you want to be technical) just for the love of the knife as an object of appreciation and fascination.
i'm kinda spoiled. i have several knifemaker friends can see some of their work in my link below. not only have i bought knives they already made, but i have had them make knives to my specs. i really like the fact that i can get what i want in the steel i want.i buy knives from other custom makers less frequently because i know the quality and workmanship that my friends put into their work, plus i can see the knives in various stages of completion.custom and handmade are the way to go for me.


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A few of my Knives
russ aka blade zealot