Poll - Customs 5x better than Production Knives

Jul 24, 1999
$500 vs. $100??? Or worse.

I'd have to say it's often not worth it. Production knives have improved dramatically over the years.

Moreover, I have many customs but rarely use them because of the price.

Worst of all, the finished product (if ordered by mail) is often different than expected and, sometimes poorly finished. My worst experience was receiving a custom folder with a faulty liner lock - from the satrt it wobbled and would loosen very quickly. The well-known maker was defensive and suggested lock-tite!

Of course, many custom makers are better than others and take great pains to satisfy the customer.
Before this even gets under way, I want to point out that 5x the money does not translate into 5x the product in a direct sense. Quality costs exponentially.

5x the money could buy half the knife by weight - some times that's a good thing.

5x the money doesn't mean 5x the edge-holding. It might mean 1.5x the edge-holding, but on a big job that's a big difference.

5x the money doesn't mean 5x the lock strength. Cold Steel tries to use this fallacy to sell knives often. A lock should be strong enough not to fail before its user's hand. Anything more is gravy, and may even be a waste of time and money, or may compromise other aspects of the design.

The same goes for blade strength.

If you feel that twice the price means twice the knife, I urge you to buy an $8 Opinel. I assure you that no $40 knife offers "5x as much", and no $400 offers "50x as much." But if you plan to carry one knife only, and you want it to be the best knife it can be, please abandon this mode of multiplication-pricing.

Not all handmades are created equal, but sometimes 5x the cost equals 100x the pride of ownership.

-Drew Gleason
Little Bear Knives
The place to post complaints about makers who do not satisfy is the Good Bad and Ugly.

In this day of instant communication the last place a maker wants to see his name is in that forum as a bad player. This is the reason so many makers try to deliver more than the customer expects and if there is a problem most try to resolve it immediately.
Recently I took back a special order knife and refunded the customer's money in full to maintain my image. I lost on the deal and have a knife on my hands that is not the normal thickness blade that I will have trouble moving but that is business.

If a maker will not go the extra bit to resolve a problem, why deal with him?

On the other hand if you order something that is outside the makers normal product line do not be surprised if the maker will not refund but will only offer to repair the defect. The maker is within his rights to offer repair of the problem only so long as it is done in a timely fashion.

Of course this is my opinion only.


Recently a friend of mine ordered a custom knife from a very well known maker, his first custom. When the knife arrived he was dissapointed and asked for a refund. Then the maker accused him of disassembling the knife; which he did not do. Even if he had disassembled it, the knife is meant to be taken apart, so this isn't voiding anything anyway. This surprised him and it surprised me as well. I dont think I'll ever buy a custom knife. I'm grateful I learned from my friend's experience and hope I never have to go through the same ordeal one day.

I'm not bad-mouthing custom knives. I'm sure there are plenty of awsome custom makers out there that make awsome knives. But after this experience I'm going to stay away from customs for a while.

Johnny & akula

One thing I'd like to make a brief comment on is that the assumption that custom = incredibly expensive. Not always. Some of my favorite custom knives were the same price as some high end production knives. As far as the other comment that you don't get what you want, I've found exactly the opposite to be true too (yes, I've been very lucky so far). Some of the production knives I've got turned out even better than I could have imagined. I'm very sympathetic to the fact that some of you have been seriously burned, but I think George had a good idea. Please post these maker's names on the Good Bad & Ugly forum, so we all will know not to deal with them.

There are many factors, some not immediately apparent, which can effect the quality of a knife. Heat treat for one. Most factory knives are extremely variable in how much heat a particular sized blade receives. Many companies err on the side of over hardening, and the edges are way too brittle. Blades of all sizes and thickness' pass through the ovens at the same time, which in turn have "sweet spots" outside of which a blade will get too much, or too little exposure. The steel itself is another variable. It may have a state-of-the-art name, but there are very different grades of, for example, ATS-34. A typical factory buys large quantities of cheaper grade steel, while a custom maker will usually buy the best grade possible. Personally, I see many factory knives as disposable tools. A good handmade is, in every respect, superior in design, materials, and workmanship. Sure, you can find an inexpensive handmade that might perform poorly, the bottom-of-the-line maker is where a lot of guys, used to factory knife prices, go for their first handmade. You get what you pay for. Try a handmade by someone like Carson, Terzuola, or Lightfoot etc., and you'll never look at another knife stamped out by machines again. You'll have found knife with "heart."
Points well taken. But given the quality of today's best production knives, I think, say, a 3x price relationship would be more appropriate. (That's not to say I won't be buying any more customs - there are some greaat ones out there! I'll just be very careful!)

Warm regards
There are different grades of steel? A cheaper grade of ATS-34? That's interesting. One thing I dont understand is, how can their be a cheaper grade of ATS-34 if all ATS-34 steels are made up of the same thing and go through the same manufacturing process? Or do they?

Hi and low grades of the same steel is a concept I picked up from Les Robertson. My understanding is that the higher the grade, the less impurities present. Doubtless, there are ways to cut corners and lower manufacturing costs on steel used in less critical applications. According to Les, the large factories buy up huge quantities of the lowest quality stuff. After all, you can't see the quality of the steel, at least not on a poorly finished blade who's surface has been "tactically" (and conveniently) covered up with a bead blast or black coating to hide the tooling marks. Steel quality and heat treat are easy to skimp on without anyone being the wiser. If a brittle blade chips out or breaks (Benchmade is notorious for this,) the corporate bean counters have ruled that it's cheaper to just replace it (if the customer actually goes to the trouble to return it), then it is to do it right the first time. Many factory knives are not as "good" as they might appear.