How do you measure quality?

Sal Glesser

Dec 27, 1998
Quality in a knife has a wide range as any industry. What criteria do you use to measure quality? and why?

Mr. Glesser, that is a difficult question to answer. There are probably people more qualified that myself to answer that question, but I'll give it a try. The single one thing that communicates quality is fit and finish. This includes how solid the lock up is on a folder, is the action smooth or gritty? How well is the knife put together. Do the scales on the handle line up? Is the blade centered in the handle? How sharp is the blade? Is the grind line even? The materials that the knife is made out of also factors in to the equation, but the things I mention above are probably the first items that I look at. The only real way to know if you have a quality piece of equipment is to use it and see how it holds up. This will bring out any problems with the knife such as inferior heat treatment. I'm not sure if this makes any sense, but it is the best I could answer your question.
Hey Sal...

The way I measure up Quality is by looking at the workmanship of the product.. The Materials used, the Fit, Finish and Feel of the knife...

I also look at how it was engineered.. Was it well thought out?

Seen alot of products that I wondered if the engineers got their tickets in a box of Cracker Jacks...

How user friendly is the blade, especially to Lefties like myself.Is it Adjustable ?

Does it fit My particular Needs??

All of things I look for in a quality manufactured product...No matter what it is...

ttyle Eric....

Eric E. Noeldechen
On/Scene Tactical
Custom,Quality, Concealex Sheaths.

Leading The Way In Synthetic Sheathing.
The test of quality is the care used in construction and design. For instance, does the blade wobble in any direction? Did it come from the manufacturer with a razor sharp edge? Is the lock secure? As for design my concerns are the comfort of the handle and an appropriate design for the advertised purpose of the blade.

I must also say that materials are no indicator of quality. A maker can use an exotic steel and poorly heat treat it or inadequately grind or sharpen it. A low budget knife may have execllent quality like the CKRT Lightfoot Urban Shark or your Delica II.
I generally split 'quality' into three parts: design quality, construction quality, and the quality of the company.

As an engineer, the quality of the design is important to me. I want to see the all-important 'elegant simplicity.' As the complexity of a design increases, so does the likelyhood of failure. And even if the more complex design is somehow not more prone to failure (occasionally happens), I will still lean towards the simpler design. That isn't to say that all designs should be as simple as possible; elegant simplicity refers to making a design as simple as can be, while still properly accomplishing the task at hand. Removing the washers from a folder does simplify the design, but it sacrifices smoothness of opening, so it doesn't qualify. A frame lock (integral lock, monolock, whatever) is an example of an elegantly simple design; it accomplishes the task of locking the knife, while reducing the number of parts by combining the handle and lock (a single part doing multiple jobs is a good indicator of good design).

Compared to that, construction quality is pretty simple. Fit and finish. Are the tolerances good, are the finishes on various parts good, etc., etc., etc.

Quality of the company refers both to a company's reputation for standing by its products, the likelyhood that the company will survive to continue standing by its products, and the 'fairness' of its practices. Fairness means that the company doesn't falsely represent the quality, performance, or anything else, of its products. Fairness means that the company does not use deceptive sales practices like holding back product to build demand. Fairness means that the company doesn't steal the designs of others or act negatively (rather than saying "we're better than xyz," saying "xyz is really bad" or something else like that).

Quality isn't a simple term to define, in my opinion, as it seems to vary from person to person. The above is what I think of when I use the term, anyway. Hope this helps.


first of all....quality is in the eye of the beholder.....someone who has been around knives for a long time has a MUCH different opinion that a novice....and the bar is continually being raised both in education and in advancements in technology...having said become the final judge based on your own personal knowledge, as well as that of people you trust as being knowledgable.....Like some of the purveyors, the buyer must trust them to be good judges of quality....looking at a very nice bowie by a very good beginning maker and then one by a master may look the same to some... only time and experience can teach you to look for the finer points that display true Michaelangelo once said...details arent the most important thing, they are the only thing!!

[This message has been edited by tom mayo (edited 06-27-2000).]
Something people haven't mentioned is how well the design holds up over time, from the point of view of both aesthetics and durability. Is the knife still something you enjoy looking at every time you use it? Do you enjoy opening and closing the blade, or sheathing and unsheathing the knife? If so, the designed has managed to combine ergonomics, aesthetics, and construction in a pleasing manner. This, to me, is an example of high quality. I have several Cold Steel knives that I never use (kobuns, etc). Why? The construction is good, but a certain vital element is lacking. The geschalt of the knife is not pleasant to use. On the other hand, every time I open my Leatherman tool or my Spyderco Military, I am using a tool that is a genuine pleasure. Both of these do their jobs well.
I also believe that a hallmark of high quality construction is durability. A knife that withstands thousands of opening cycles without developing blade play, a knife blade that holds an edge and is easy to sharpen, a leather sheath that doesn't fade or fall apart are also important components of a a high quality product.
A good place to start is sustained, consistent customer satisfaction, as even with modestly priced products one should feel like it was a good buy and be willing to buy it again. The Opinels and Mora knives that I've picked up for less than $10 are good examples, and although I tend to prefer less expensive, traditional designs in carbon steel I think that my Dozier is also an example of excellent quality. Next you could consider looking at assumed/inherent quality, which could take awhile to build and which the customer should feel confident that the company has addressed. Examples would be heat treating, durability, fair pricing, and such. Apparent quality is used in part by a lot of customers to decide if a specific product is worth the asking price, and includes attributes like design, advertised materials, fit and finish, warranty, and such. The 'aha' or 'wow' factor is what distinguishes some products from others, and it could be a specific design feature like a thumb hole in a blade, a complete design like a Leatherman, the cutting performance of a thin, tough, sharp knife, the craftsmanship of a custom knife, or the availability of a desired collectable.
That's easy, a quality knife has to cut good, feel good, and look good, for a long time.

How you judge each of those criteria will vary somewhat according to the use and the user.

[This message has been edited by Steve Harvey (edited 06-27-2000).]

This is a very thought provoking question.

I just compare all knives to my Spydercos to see if they are well made or not
(But seriously, you do have a very good product)

I am going to echo the sentiments mentioned above for the most part.

I am an engineer and like simple. Fixed blades are, without doubt, my preference. I do tend to carry my Sebenza most all of the time, though (see related thread in this forum). I want a knife that is STRONG, SHARP, and COMFORTABLE. Adding features increses the likelihood to screw something up.

If a liner lock I will open the blade slow and then fast. Does the liner go to the same place? Is it beefy enough for this knife?

Folders in general - How smooth is it? If you squeeze the handle do you move the lock release? Is the lock release, clip, et al in a comfortable place? Is the blade easy to open?

Any knife - Is it comfortable to use in different grips? Does it have a good carry system? Is it ground well? I don't care too much about finish, but it should be even.

These are just a few ideas.

Hi Sal, My idea of quality involves a knife that has:- SHARP edge, even grind lines, Rock solid lock,Good fit and finish, Blade in center of handle, Minimum of 3 screws holding handle together and last but not least - solid customer support.

Very few companies even take the time to reply to customers questions/requests.

Thanks for taking an interest Sal.

I measure quality by the following:

1. Materials used. We are in the space age and in a folder I expect space age materials. G-10 at a minimum and preferably carbon fiber. Blades at of high quality steels like 440V, 420V, 3V, D-2, BG-42 should be minimum.

2. Functional design. Is the knife well suited for it's purpose.

3. Construction. Is the knife well put together. In a folder this is extremely critical. Does the liner lock in the right spot is the liner lock heavy enough for the use. Does the knife rattle when open or closed when you shake it. In a fixed blade, I expect strength of handle materials.

4. Ergonomics. Was the knife designed for my hand or for a mechanical robot. In other words does it feel like puddy and form into my hand or does it feel like a 2 x 4.

5. Special processes. What special processes were done in the manufacturing. Forging, machining from solid billets, cryo, or other good heat treat.

6. my final measure of quality is a good warranty showing that the manufacturer believes in his product.
And what everyone else stated would be on my list also.
Different factors make up a quality knife. Here are a few:

1. Finish-the finish is smooth and free of abrasions, the color is consistent and covers the entire designated area

2. Fit- The lock should have no play in it, meaning that the blade should virtually not move from side to side. The different parts of the knife should be very snug

3. Edge-although many people do not consider this a sign of quality, I do. The edge should be sharp and free of defects and have the same level of sharpness all over the edge.

I'm finding that for me, an important measure in terms of overall satisfaction is not just quality but also value.

Perhaps because I'm a casual knife user, it doesn't always make sense to spend twice the amount to get a somewhat better folder.

I'll suggest then, that being competitive on price is still an issue to consider in term of buyer satisfaction.

Sal, I could propose my own quality measurement without particular options like steel composition or number of screws holding handle together

I could mention two conditions of quality:
1. Design quality.
2. Execution quality.
First I would define how close particular knife design matches normal user's requirements for this knife.
Second I would define how close maker/manufacturer went to what he had intention to do.

Of course both conditions are very difficult to characterize in absolute data, very much depends on beholder's subjective opinion, here I'm with Tom Mayo. On the other hand, some things are pretty absolute, what the sense would be if someone would say: "I like weak and unreliable locks"?

However these two conditions are the basis for me, only fulfilling both it is possible to make qualitative knife of something else.
It is always easier to explain on negative examples

What is worth flawlessly executed handle if it doesn't match basic ergonomic requirements? - this is example of design quality fault.
What is worth exquisitely designed blade if maker/manufacturer can't to execute it as it is designed? - this is example of execution qualityfault.

Sergiusz Mitin
Lodz, Poland
The meaning of "Quality" is surprisingly hard to nail down. May I suggest "Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance" by Robert Pirsig as optional reading.

I once went to a company-sponsored seminar where they defined quality simply as conformance to specification. I was never really happy with that definition, and lean more toward Pirsig's more subjective view (herein extremely condensed) that quality "is what you like".
One doesn't have to look for meaning in quality in order for it to be useful, but it does seem to help. In occupied Japan radios were needed but the Japanese were having a hard time building reliable ones, so McArthur sent for a radio engineer to help them out. The gentleman put together a course on quality, attended by some who would become who's who in Japanese industry, and the lesson started out with a slogan from a shipyard, a slogan that impressed them. It went something like "We build good ships, at profit if we can, at a loss if we must, but we always build good ships."

What one actually ends up doing in terms of quality starts with what one wants to do, and with the ability to shop on a worldwide basis these days it is also driven by what one has to do in order to remain competitive.
For me quality means that the knife is well-designed, no visible flaws in the fit and finish, quality materials used and most important to me is how it cuts, how long and is it reasonable easy to re-sharpen.

No matter how perfect a knife is made if it don't hold a good edge it ain't no good for me. My 2 cents.