How Do Quality Productions Differ from Customs in Performance?

Nov 11, 1999
The title says it all. I was under the impression that there was a big differance in performance from a quality production/factory knife to a custom but I just recently had a conversation with someone who pointed out to me that the differances were minimal. I have also heard the other side of the argument that the differances are quite significant. Technically speaking how do they differ?
I only own one custom, and have not used it very much at I'm not sure I'll have the most informed reply.

My analogy to production vs. custom knives is like the difference between going to eat a buger from a fast food place, or going to a friends to have a BBQ. When you get one from a fast food place, they are mediocre, mass produced, and you can only get it in a few variations. When you go and BBQ some burgers at a friends place, he will ask you if you like your bugers thick/thin, rare/med/well, cheese/no cheese, get the burger exactly how you want it.

In either case, a buger will curb you appetite, just like a knife will cut something. But a homemade BBQ buger, just like a custom knife puts a smile on your face and is much more enjoyable overall.

I could take the analogy much further but I think you get the point. Although many custom knifemakers create their knives to be used, if I'm really going to beat up on a knife, I'll probably use on of my cheaper more expendable knives. Right now I wouldn't want to "abuse" my custom. Maybe I'm just not ready to totally appreciate my custom knife...perhaps if I wasn't so worried about it I would use it more.

Sorry for the rambling,
Compared to the high-end production knives, customs generally will have some preformance advantage, but not that extreme. Except, you can get a custom made to your specifications, so it's performance will be much better, as it 'fits' you.


Let me chime in & say that I believe that going the Custom route not only allows you to get all the features you want in a knife, instead of settling for most of what you want. It also allows you to have the most advanced materials out there. For example, very few of the factory knife makers are using the CPM steels,(CPM-3V, 440V, 420V, etc.) Also, you can add exotic handle materials & other special touches. It's like having the choice of driving a Porsche or a Escort. Both of them will get you where you're going, it's just the difference in the driving experience.


[This message has been edited by Hart (edited 08-01-2000).]
I second that Doug. U know high end factory knives are great and there is nothing wrong with them but if you had to ask then you probably wouldn't understand. There is nothing like the feeling of holding a knife that you wanted made for you and you only. True customs are base on customers specs. A factory can make millions of the same knife and that is great but a maker can make one to fit you. That is the difference. That is why some of us do spend more for true customs. Hope this helps.


Follow The Path of Fantasies.
RE: The B-B-Q analogy.

What about In & Out Burger in L.A.? They make some pretty decent chow!

What if you're a vegetarian?

Yeah, I figure they're a bunch of sissies who probably buy crappy knives packaged in a bubble pack from the hardware store.
Hi Donna. I believe the main difference these days is the personal customizing.

Factories use the same steels, have the same heat treating tricks, CNC equipment is cerainly at least as, and in most cases more accurate than hand made knives, etc.

The hand maker can detail his piece exactly to your personal liking. the factory cannot.

Just wanted to add another thought. I've always said that a handmade knife (or anything handmade, for that matter) has some of the maker's soul (or whatever word you prefer, if that one bothers you) in it. A specific person used his/her own hands to craft this. That means something to me. Not that factory knives don't have their place. Even though I am more interested in customs, I continue to buy factory knives, as well. Oddly enough, the knives I'm least interested in actually buying (value, that is) are the semi-customs, like CRK and Speedtech. I figure, if I'm going to pay that much, I might as well pay a little more are get a full custom.

Anyway, the point is that I prefer a knife with a soul to one without, but think that factory knives are nice for situation where there is a good chance the knife will be abused (my brother is buying a Spyderco Rescue for kayaking), or if the style of knife is more of a novelty to you (I don't, personally, consider balisongs 'practical,' so I wouldn't buy a custom one, but I'm getting a BM42 to play with). And, without quality production knives, I
probably wouldn't have gotten bitten by the 'bug,' and would never have looked toward the custom market.


Full Tang Clan,

Okay In and Out is pretty good...maybe they're like the smaller shops like CRK or Microtech (are they considered small?). You have high end production and regular stuff.

If you're a vegitarian I dunno, but my friends have me BBQ their vegan burgers before I bloody up the grill surface...guess I can't come up with an analogy there.

It's already pointed out in the previous posts that the "custom" knife is really about having it fit you better with the features you want.

Donna, as you know I am small guy. When I buy clothes, I almost always have to alter it. I wish I knew how to do that with a knife.
For now, a custom knifemaker will have to do that work for me.

AKTI #A000356
There are high end production blades like the Sebenza that are hard to equal in a customs of the same design let alone better. They are designs that have been refined for quite some time, have a custom maker behind them and the resulting quality is quite high.

However you should be able get a custom made to suit you better as all production knives include compromises in the design as they have to be usable for a wide range of people. It is fairly rare to pick up a production blade and have it be exactly what I want. In a custom there is no excuse for it not to be.

There are some very real differences in the heat treating of custom knives versus batch produced knives. Most air-hardening, high-alloy steels, (ATS-34, BG-42, A2, CPM-XX, etc) need to be air quenched as quickly as possible to prevent grain growth (brittleness). When you're doing a thousand blades at a time that just isn't easy. In small batches it is. I think this is what has lead to ATS-34 getting a bad rap for brittleness.

With any mass-produced product there are always design compromises to facilitate manufacturing (eg. thinner steel, slab handles, etc.) and to please the widest possible audience (eg. standard blade lengths, handle sizes, finish, etc.).

With custom-produced knives, there should be no compromises. Each is one-of-a-kind.

This is not intended to slam factory knives; we each serve our own mission. Each has it's own niche in the marketplace. The difference is usually reflected in the price.

Jerry Hossom
The Tom & Jerry Show
Originally posted by UW Mitch:
...going to eat a buger ...a buger will curb you appetite ... But a homemade BBQ buger ...puts a smile on your face... Mitch

Oh, dude... REALLY hungry, were ya? That must've been one massive, trophy buger, and what....did you run outta coke and decide to try BBQ sauce? ... ;-)

[This message has been edited by rdangerer (edited 08-01-2000).]
Donna go pick up a CRKT M16, a damb good knife. Then give MR. Carson a call for one of the M16 customs. I know that will answer your question easily.and you will have 2 nice knives to boot.
Jerry, I have heard that about the heat treat too,

Good to see you pop on here! What is your comment on the heat treat comment by Jerry which I have also heard from another maker.
I would like to say that I agree with Sal Glesser in saying that the main difference between high end fdactory knives and customs is the issue of personal specifications. Other than that, i think a modern CNC milled factory knife actually has a better fit and finish than a purely handmade knife. At least that is my experience with the customs I have seen as well as the one custom I own.
Factory production have produced fantastic knives. We have never had it so good in terms of quality, price and choise. But once you have a few of them, they become much of a muchness. You know its bad when buyers treat them more like stamp collections. Small manufacturers turn into larger producers and quality is invariably compromised. I find all too many "this years new" designs are made for the sake of it and give arguable improvement to the original wheel.

Semi-custom, like CRK, I really aplaud, because they cannot afford to compromise their standards as they have to justify the above factory prices. They also rely heavily on sound design which has proved its worth. They have a good wheel, so there is no hurry to change it. This is the kind sustained reputation I want when I venture beyond civilisation.

Customs give you as much or as little as you want. Fit, finish, steels, design, price and innovation to your hearts content. However, one offs have their own risks. What they may lose in consistency they gain in other ways. When we are all threatened my mediocraty, go for the custom route; its the best pick me up going.