I try and not focus on any one feature. A good blade steel is important, solid lock up on locking folders and a secure comfortable handle. All are very important. I guess I can't really answer your question.
This is an interesting question. Since I'm no expert on anything related to knives my only criteria for judgement are based on the few knives I own and, most importantly, use. I have a Buck Hunter in 420-something-or-other, a Wegner jr. in ATS 34, and a Socom Elite in 154 CM. Oh yes, and several over the counter, middling so-so fillet knives. The proof that they're of middling quality is that I've got several. If I had found one that really did the job, that's the only one I'd have.
In my humble and limited experience the heart of every knife I own is the blade steel. Any knife, that I actually use for the cutting it was designed, is no better than the steel from which it's made. Everything else is just packaging of that blade. Jack
Being shallow as a puddle, for me the single most important feature of a knife would be Looks.
If I'm buying from a quality maker or manufacturer I'll let them worry about the steel used and the heat treat and the blade angles and all that stuff.
The main thing for me is the beauty of the design. I prefer; nice curves to straight lines, simple classic looks to gimmicks, and people when they see it to say, "Wow!" instead of "Watch out!"
I seldom find a knife that looks right to the eye to feel wrong in my hand, and that would be the second most important feature.
I'd have to agree with Matt Shade. Function is the most important thing to me. I use knives constantly at work and play and the blade must be one that I can use. Odd shapes like tanto , wharncliff, hawksbill, whatever would be totally useless to me. I think that's my main complaint about the MT LCC. It's just not a practical shape for me unless I was planning on killing something. And then I think I'd rather have the SERE.
Everyone here has brought up good points; but what about customer service?
I, for one, enjoy the security and piece of mind I get when I use (not abuse) a Chris Reeve or Buck knife though they may be on opposite ends of the price spectrum. Either cokpany will stand behind their product. I do not speak to the exclusion of other companies specifically, but only from experience and widespread consistant reports here at the Forums.
Who among us does not consider when purchasing a tool the "Craftsman" warranty?
toughness, in all aspects. I like a knife that'll stand up to just about any use I have for it (which, admittedly, are not TOO taxing, noonetheless ocasionally ask a lot...) and perform it with a reasonable degree of ease. it's vague, i know, but that's the most important thing to me.
I love great steel in a knife but that's not my overarching priority. Certainly the steel has to be able to take and hold an edge but for most of the high quality steels today, those are often pretty relative terms. Since I buy more hunting knives than anything, it's important that the handle be designed so that it is comfortable in a variety of positions for butchering. I often make cuts with the blade pointed up,and I want a knife that fits the heel of my hand comfortably. Nothing annoys me more than a handle that digs into the heel of my hand when I use it in the blade up position. If the knife is not comfortable to use, the kind of steel it has doesn't impress me.
For instance, I'm a big fan of Grohmann knives, not because they have stellar steel (they don't), but because they have a very "ergonomic" handle. Sure I have to sharpen it a little more often but that's a minor point from my perspective because I enjoy sharpening a knife, even in the field. Usually a few quick swipes on a small set of crocksticks or on a steel is enough to keep me going. But I also love the Busse Mean Street (and now the Lean Mean Street) because the steel is great and the handle fits me wonderfully. I've found the same is true for my Dozier Prof Guides Knife. Etc, etc.
If I ever find the time to start making knives
, I'd love to make a clone of a Grohmann in A2. That would be a dandy for me.
I get some pleasure from finding a relentlessly peaceful use for a combative looking knife.
I'd say that the most IMPORTANT factor for me would be the ability to hold a sharp edge. In fact, I often carry a large utility knife in addition to my pocket knife just in case I need that extra-sharp point. (I'm no master at sharpening, so my pocket knife is CLOSE but not quite as sharp as a utility knife.)
Also, because I wanted an all-around great knife that can take abuse well, I placed the order for the Himalayan Imports' 15" Ang Khola tonight.
Theory aside, most of my knives are cheap ones that fall into the $3-10 range because of their appearance. (They also take most of the heavy duty abuse that I wouldn't put, say, my SwissTool through, because they're so cheap.) For example, for $6, I picked up a neat-looking push-blade with 6 hinges, 10 parts, not counting rivets. I wouldn't count on it for much more than... ok, so I don't use it at all. The blade's about 1-1.5mm thick (with 2 decorative holes through it), and probably just plain stainless steel. But, I hadn't seen a knife like it before, so I picked it up. I'll scan a picture of it if anyone is wondering what I'm talking about.
Anyhow, I pretty much pick up whatever catches my attention, if I can afford it, but edge retension is the big issue with me. I seldom have to actually sharpen my SwissTool, and because of that, I can put a nice razor-edge on it without having to fix it every week or 2.
For me, it is mostly aesthetic, but functional as well.
For some reason, I am "drawn" to the types of folders designed by Greg Lightfoot. I would love to get one of his customs some day, but if I do so now, my wife will kiil me, after all that I spent at Christmas.
I like pocket clips, but don't "usuall" use them. Just on occasion, and at home or off of work. At work, my knives are burried deep in my pocket. I walk around with my hands in my pockets (kinda geekish huh?), and constantly rub the knife with my thumb. So, for me, it must feel good.
Also, handle style is a big one for me. I wish I had better words to describe it, but, maybe you can describe it for me.
I like the handles on my Blackout, UDT, Mini SOCOM and LCC. Many of my other knives are nice, and I like them, but they usually don't get carried because of that special handle geometry that somehow tickles my fancy.
I guess it would be the quality of the material and the craftmanship (attention to details). If I can see that the knife is put together poorly or has obvious imperfections I don't even bother seeing who makes it or what steel is used (this does not apply to antiques or oddities).