I find it very hard to know if I'll like a knife until I have it in my hand and use it. So the process of building my collection of keepers has involved buying 5x that many, just to go through the process of experimentation and sorting. My taste in knives has changed because of that process and has evolved towards thin sharp knives, and hence towards steel types and heat treats that support a stable thin edge. My current favourites are AEB-L and vanax.
I think most of us tend to start looking at knives from the wrong end. The most important part of the knife is the part that mates with your hand. If it is wrong, uncomfortable or feels unsafe, then you should choose something else. You are unlikely to modify your hand, so if you start with a handle that fits right, the knife will be much more pleasant to use.
Many great posts so far. I see this becoming a great thread.
I would add after years of collecting and going through many knives that you'll find you let knives go you wish you still had in possession and in the collection.
You'll learn what features in a knife are most important to you........ergonomics, edge geometry, action, steel, comfort, edginess, materials, etc. For me I found the best knives are not cheap and are a great blend of ergonomics and looks. I'm less picky on steel and also interested in the knife in hand and what kind of vibe it produces and the various meanings that come forth. For example if you are into Chris Reeve knives you may enjoy the construction and appreciate the extreme detail and discipline that goes into such a near perfectly manufactured knife. This in turn could inspire you more throughout your daily life to be in-spired and discipline to achieve greatness in your own ways.
You can really enjoy carrying $30 knives as nearly as much as $700 ones and in some cases more so because you have less fear of mucking things up and really going all out using the knife.
The biggest thing I learned is there is no perfect knife out there, no 1 perfect knife. There are many knives with great aspects and features but if we are really honest, no perfect knife. Also learned that despite the great knife companies in the world, USA still makes the best knives on planet earth whether production or custom.
Kidding aside, I learned that there’s plenty of excellent user folders in the $100 - $200 range that will give you many years of service. That being said, it’s perfectly fine to spend north of $500 on a single blade as long as you don’t go into debt.
Use your knives often and responsibly. Cut stuff with them, sharpen them, change the scales, swap out the pocket clips, explore different edge angles, etc. You will find surprising depth and variety for a hobby that merely separates and pierces matter.
The most important thing I've learned in over sixty years of carrying a knife is always have one on you. I can leave the house without my wallet, I might turn my cell phone on once in two weeks; but there is always at least one knife in my pocket, whether I'm sitting on my recliner, out shopping, or walking the dog.
Weak detent is even more dangerous then weak lockup.
Good warranty is not always mean good Quality
Beefy knives is nice toys but poor workers
Using of high quality knives is more fun than looking on high quality knives
You can have whatever you like, but anyway you need a SAK (everyone need)
Learn a sharpening, if you understand principles it is no matter how hard the steel is
And last thing - don’t cut on the glass surface!
There is a big difference between want and need.
Well made yet inexpensive knives have a beauty all their own.
Tastes change, and sometimes change back. And then change again.
Opinions can differ and still be right.
Everything can fail.
There is no best.
Wow, many great replies here! It's very interesting to read all of your comments and I can see that a few people have reached the same conclusions as me over the years. Some have surprising answers too, I'm learning a few things.
I would love to comment about specific posts, but that would take a little while. Let's wait a little more and see what others have to say, then I'll add my 2 cents at the end of the day.