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.
Probably not intrinsically worth five times the price, no.

However, I find that it is special owning a knife made by a maker that has come to be a friend over time.

That gives it a value beyond just the dollars.

I can think of several that frequent this site that come to mind.

In fact, one of them is shipping me a new handmade today!


Live Free or Die

My own one-word answer is no.
I guess that depends on your definitons of "good", "better", and "best". It also depends on your preferences. If asthetics are REALLY high on your list of priorities, and especially if price isn't, customs are immeasurably better. Personally, I can't afford the factory knives I want, let alone a custom.
Even if I could, I don't see them as THAT much better. Of course both factory and custom knives do vary in price.

I guess I agree that in most cases no. But to have a maker who is well known make you a knife designed to your own specifactions would make 5X a bargain!

Darrel Ralph is making me a D/A Apogee based on his and my design. Now that makes it worth it!

Best Regards,
Mike Turber
BladeForums Site Owner and Administrator
Do it! Do it right! Do it right NOW!

The question assumes that usability is a linear relationship to the price...it is often not (I think its sublinear)! What you really pay for are the hours put into detail that the craftsman excels at, i.e., quality. Hence more people are willing to pay that. In fact, you are probably paying a lot less for those extra hours put in on those quality details than you expect! So you don't use that really well made custom knife because it exhibits craftsmanship that is hard to buy (or at least I find it hard for that reason). If you want a using knife then buy a good production knife. Just my opinion though...

JeffJ is quite right, and even where some measure of superiority is applicable, it doesn't have to be 5x better to be worth the price.

I use a $300 dollar knife almost every day in situations where a $60 dollar knife (there's your 5x) will just about always do. But its that "just about" that makes the difference. One day, I might encounter a need which will break the $60 knife, but which the $300 knife will survive. Note that it doesn't have to be 5x stronger to be worth its price, only *enough* stronger to do the job. That might be 2x or it might be only 15%, either way, it becomes worth its price.
In my dealings with Pat Crawford and Al Polkowski my answer is yes. The reason is that Pat has added many custom features on my knives which no factory would do. Both Al and Pat have made or will be making blunt training knives exactly modeled on their knives. This is not the same as dulling down a production knife in which the blade is still left thin and can still penetrate. The custom trainers have a very thick tip that will not cut.

Try to get a big knife company to make a trainer like that. That's why all my defensive knives are custom.

I happen to know a few custom makers and most of them sell their wares for less than $300.00. These are straight bladed "using knives" and if you want a blade length of less than 3", you could probably get several different styles for about $150.00 to $200.00. The reason that I like custom knives is that if they outcut a factory knife by 3 to 1, it saves me a lot of sharpening time during use and an even trade off would be 3 times the price. I normally carry 2 knives and I don't remember when the last time was that I sharpened them. You are right in that they usually cost more to acquire, but they are cheaper in the long run. There are a lot of local makers in your general area that are ABS apprentices or jopurneyman smith's in the ABS or just someone starting out in the knive making field. Their knives will be less expensive and if their style appeals to your taste, You could have a bargain. Even when I bought factory knives, I would generally make a few modifications that would make the knife more user friedly. As stated before, if you have input or was at the shop of a custom maker, the knife then has a story that makes it worth 5X or more. This is just MHO. Ray Kirk
Are handmade knives 5x better than production knives? No. But custom knives (meaning you influenced the design) are easily that. They are made for you and thus optomized for whatever it is you are going to be doing with it.

In general, no. There are some exceptions where I don't mind paying a lot more for a custom than for a production. Axel and a couple others are correct, it is the ability of the custom maker to build a knife to your personal specs. that makes the knife worth so much more. If you would be able to get a production company to make a knife to your specs, the price would take a significant jump as well.

Personalized knives aside, production knives are closing in on customs/handmades. I don't think production will ever be the full equal to most handmades, but they will be close.

Paranoia is only smart thinking
when everyone is out to get you.

Agree if you choose the options. But many makers have knife styles/sizes to pick from. "Want 3.5 inch, sorry it only comes in 3 or 4."

I don't consider that a true custom.

Look at it another way...

A race car can cost at least 5 times that of an average car. Does it go 5 times faster? Does it have 5 times better gas mileage? Does it perform 5 times better in crashes?

Look at professional athletes that make millions annually. Does the top athlete perform 5 times better than the average athlete? Do they endure 5 times longer than the average athlete?

What about that steak you like to eat at your favorite restaurant. It can cost 15 time more than a fast-food burger. Does it have 15 times the food value? ...well maybe that was a bad example.

Jeff and Brian:

Easy guys!

I do get it. In fact, I may own more customs than either of you. Might enjoy them more, too. Regardless, we're all friends and who owns more knives doesn't matter.

One question - where's your limit? Is it 20x the price, 40x - would that still work for you? What about watches? Would you spend $10,000 on a mechanical watch that is less accurate than an a Casio. I wear one. Do "you get that?"

I'm simply curious about the price differential given the vast improvement in production knives (and blade forumites opinion). Thus, one may purchase the knife not because its 20% better, but because of "intangibles." Just like a fine watch. Right?
What we're talking about here are intangibles. Something well made and elegantly done is always worth more than the "standard" but cheaper alternative. Perhaps they will both perform for a while, but which will hold its value better? Which will fetch a better resale/auction price? Does the sum involved in a higher price always equal the total value of the parts? Not usually. Then again, such a calculus is rarely made in this world. If it were there would be one knife in each category we would all covet at the expense of others.

I think the primary question is does the end user get the satisfaction of believing they have done better for themselves by going for the upmarket item? You bet. You might not get better representation from a lawyer costing $300/hour than one costing $150 per, but you sleep easier at night if you have the ability to pay the freight. Any of my Macintoshes are easily worth $500 per machine to me rather than having to deal with the ordeal that is Windows on a daily basis. I think a Sebenza is worth every penny over a Gerber Gator at one sixth the price point. The same premium goes for any Porsche over any Chevrolet car, inclucing the Corvette.

Quality is both objective and subjective. It is also worth a premium, just as excellent service is worth a generous tip or a premium price, and excellent service is something else you get with a custom blade if you choose wisely.

You can talk about money or you can talk about value, but only rarely are cheap and value properly in the same sentence. Expensive and value more often then not go hand in hand when one is talking about an item that will be seeing everyday use.

Please don't take me wrong, there is a threshold where expense and quality diverge again. Then we are talking ostentation. A Bently is a fine automobile, but it isn't worth what they are asking for it, because many comparable cars do its job more functionally and more elegantly at a better value, any one of which would be an equally satsifying choice. On the other hand, at the fourth basecamp on Mt. Everest I want that seemingly overpriced Bibler Bombshelter, which all of a sudden would seem inexpensive in that environment rather than any one of a hundred decent tents I could name. I believe knives are closer to that calculation than they are analogous to cars. What do you want in your hand if all of the chips are down and you find yourself in a survival situation? Go and pick your folder, your fixed blade, and your multitool on that basis and you will find yourself checking out customs or highest end factory products.

IMHO, there are precious few truly satisfying knives at a price point below $100 in the fixed blade or folder categories. It may be a cliche, but oftentimes you really do get what you pay for. It is too late to find out whether saving a few bucks was really worth it when everything is on the line.

IMHO, someone who is a serious user of knives and not merely a hobbyist, will at worst be able to count all of their knives on their fingers and toes. Why? 1) Because the original purchases were carefully thought out and researched. 2) Anything ultimately found wanting has been sold off to raise cash for more adequate replacements. I have no room in my safe for a knife or multitool I do not trust completely, whatever it cost, (Range: $25-450 and primary reason I do not have an MD TUSK or ATAK at the moment) Thanks Cliff!

[This message has been edited by lawdog (edited 14 September 1999).]
Like lawdog says...it's subjective too. Unless the knife is a very good investment ... better than stocks/bonds, etc., then my practical limit is about $500. I just can't afford the art knife, but I do like 'em. I see this limit as the most I would pay for a knife and still use it (if that makes any sense). So, I may not be considered a high-end collector since I stop at about 5-times. Maybe we should call this Akula's postulate.

I don't buy customs primarly because of intangible reasons, I buy them because I can get a better knife. Now how much I am willing to pay is basically how ever much free money I have. A knife will give me pleasure in using it, as any fine tool will, for a long time. I can go to the store, rent a movie, get something to eat and drink and pay $20. That is only a couple of hours entertainment. I can get years from a knife.

How much better performance can you get? Lots but it of course depends on the custom maker. Some do production models that you have had nothing to do with - these will not get you much beyond a non-custom work. However if you have a maker that works with you then you will end up with something very different. The blade geometry, steel, temper and handle ergonomics should be made to suit your needs. Once you do this then you will never ask "why custom?" ever again.

I recently bought two custom and two production fixed blades for about the same price of $ 90.00. I did not pay much (they are all small blades) so I did not expect much.

In my case those production knives were much better - especially the finish of the knives.

Lawdog, Jeff, Cliff, et al:

Very well said.

(1) The car will depreciate!

(2) I like the sound of "Akula's postulate!"

(3) Cliff - thanks for responding. Great analogy.

Hey Akula,

Not to be picky, but somethings of value, even cars, can appreciate. Wine, fine art, old swords, baseball cards, etc., all readily leap to mind.