Why are knives so expensive??


March 6, 2008, 04:07 PM
Can someone explain this please? I mean come on. I have been a member of Blade and whatnot for years and have paid a lot of money for some knives but the truth of it is, "Why are they so damn expensive?" I mean for real, especially the mass produced ones. I can understand if it is a custom job or something done by hand warranting some major coin but some knives that are mass produced cost like $150-$300 if you so wanted to spend that much on one. Why is that? It is not like it is really difficult to make. Some are depending on the blade, metal quality, etc. but most are not. I mean I am all about having a good knife and I have had some TOPS knives, Cold Steel, Emerson, etc. etc. all the quality guys but the truth of the matter is I do not know why I have them. I mean I am not seriously going to go out and use a $300 knife in the field. I can buy a $40 knife to do the same thing a $300 knife would do in the field. You could argue quality but I have test a lot of them and IMO most of the time it is not worth the extra $$$$ unless you just want to collect them or like the design and whatnot. So, again why and where do some of these manuafacturers get off with these high $$$$$$ prices. Someone enlighten me here because it seems like knife prices have skyrocketed.

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March 6, 2008, 05:09 PM
I'll carry my $350 Randall every time I go into the field. One of my various Cold Steel knives is usually in a pack for a backup in case I should lose my Randall. I don't care what they cost, it's a damn great usable knife and I didn't buy it to collect dust (well, not that one, anyway - my Model 12-8 inch is collecting dust, but it's so handsome a knife.)

The Randall just has a great feel to it. The balance is better and I don't need to sharpen it dressing out a large critter. I have a mid 1960s mfg. Puma that also feels great, I don't use it much these days though. Makes me sad (maybe I should use it this spring going after bear.) Schrade makes a decent blade, Buck is a piece of crap but their company is great to work with if you have a problem, there are many decent knioves out there, but I don't want to have to question if my knife is going to work well. With my Randall I'm comfortable. My Cold Steel as well, it just doesn't feel quite as nice.

Basically I'm saying I see a difference in quality. You can pay $40 for a Buck that won't hold an edge worth a damn and is hard to sharpen when you need it. An Ontario knife works well and has pretty good steel but I just feel a difference in the quality of the knife. I'm sticking with my Randall.

Brian Dale
March 6, 2008, 06:03 PM
The price-vs-quality curve is not a straight line. The reason it's noticeable with knives is that an ordinary person can consider buying an absolutely world class knife.

The finest existing cars, airplanes and original oil paintings are out of reach for most of us, so the topic doesn't come up in discussion.

March 6, 2008, 06:05 PM

Have you opened a can of worms! :evil:

Folks are going to fall out into two major camps on this issue. The "I just don't see it." folks and the "Quality costs" folks.

I use knives. I collect knives. I used to sell lots and lots of knives. I still supply knives to a few shops, set up at the occasional gun/knife show and I still consult within the knife industry.

All I can say is that the general rule is that 80% of the price of a knife is in getting the last 20% of performance out of it. Roughly put, a $100 knife is pretty much only worth $20 if you just didn't insist on that last annoying bit of performance (balance, fit, finish, steel, grind, heat treat, QC, etc.). Look at the grind lines on a knife. Wavy, uneven grinds can be sharpened by the owner to perform with some time and effort. Even, balanced grind lines from the manufacturer take a lot less enduser effort. An inexpensive Chinese manufactured American knife company knife may have all the apparent functional features of it's more expensive Taiwanese, Japanese, Italian, German or American manufactured cousin at half the price, but examine the grind lines and test the heat treat and smoothness of opening of 100 of them and you may find them to not compare favorably to 100 of the non-Chinese knives. Use each of those 100 knives for 100 days and the value in the more expensive knife should become more apparent.

I carry a Sebenza almost every day, so you'd think I'd be deeply in the "Quality costs money" camp, but I also carry an $18 Vic Farmer and will carry a CRKT M4 or Kershaw Blur or an $800 custom Ralph. Quality can be found at a lot of different price points you just have to be able to sort trash from treasure regardless of price.

March 6, 2008, 06:11 PM
Supply & Demand.

Prices are where they're at because people are willing to pay the price.

If they don't sell, then the price is lowered -I get emails weekly of knife sales & "drastic" price cuts.

March 6, 2008, 07:27 PM
I admit I have an easier time seeing the price differential between high end and low end folders than high end and low end fixed blades.

A $385 Sebenza smokes every knife below that point in terms of fit and finish. The problem is, it also smokes knives costing nearly a thousand dollars too.

My favorite fixed blade is currently a $165.00 Bark River Bravo-1. In likelihood it will soon be a $200.00 Skookum Bush Tool. That said, I can pretty much do anything I want with a fixed blade with a $18.00 Tramontina machete or a $24.00 Mora.

In a folder you are buying refinement, toughness, or artistic merit above $200.00. In a fixed blade, anything above about $75.00 is generally buying a higher margin for abuse through about $400.00. Above there, it's back to art work and name recognition.

In the mass market, things like better steels, which go through more grinding material to produce blades out of, designer royalties, marketing, and other incidentals go towards the bottom line. As always, supply and demand plays their roles too.

March 6, 2008, 09:39 PM
First off, lets start with the most basic factor. Some makers just charge a fortune because they can. Another factor is saleability. Some of these makers can afford to put their knives out at 1/4 of what they actually charge, but then everyone starts thinking "at that price, it must be junk." Most business do test marketing to see what retail prices are going to get them the best income, in which manufacturing costs, volume sold, price per item etc. is all taken in to account. Whatever method proves to be most profitable at the end of the day is what they will end up using. Give you an example of all this. Buck can probably afford to have some of their high-end knives on the shelf for $50. Now, imagine if Buck actually released one of their higher end knives at that price. We'll have a few guys who discover what it really is and they talk about it. Sure, it'll generate some popularity, but compare that to tens of thousands of that model being sold each day, the advertising affects are quite small, and the real differences are going to come from some guy walking in to a store, seeing the $50 price and thinking "Oh, it must be a Wal Mart special" and end up paying double the money for a lower quality knife.
Another important factor is machine costs and upkeep. The sheer manpower required to maintain quality control in making knives can very quickly skyrocket. In addition, the machines required to make these blades multiply when you start going in to high end knives and when you start playing with higher quality metals, which have to be not just hard or springy, but tough, can wear the machines down considerably.
Another contributing factor is the material costs. An important part of this is WHERE the materials are made and where they are assembled. "Made in USA" is allot more expensive then "Made in China" and "Made in Germany" or "Made in Norway" is even more. The quality control in which the raw materials are made is a huge factor in both price and performance. Metallurgy for one can be an expensive and touchy process that requires well educated personnel and very tight attention. The Chinese have a very low currency, so their workers will produce more for less, but they also have a problem with giving their employees much incentive to do good work, much like the former Soviet Union, and national attention to quality control just isn't like it is here. Likewise, Chinese made metals are cheap to buy. At the same time, I don't know about you but I am a little uneasy about trusting a blade made out of metal produced by the very same crowd who use to heat treat their M-14 rifle bolts with a blow torch.
Most of the economies who largely pay close attention to quality control (a very important factor in metallurgy) naturally have a higher value currency thus, the sheer metal is going to be more expensive. Even in China, where quality control is competitive, the prices are too after you consider import costs. In this field, there is very little quality metal importation from China, so you can pretty much be sure that any knife or sword that has: "Made in China" printed anywhere on it is probably junk though there ARE a few exceptions.
The finish on a knife can also be a factor, though it's usually not a big one, unless the finish is an actual polish.
All these things contribute to the final retail price of a blade. Generally, I think the market research results are probably the No.1. These companies are out for profit, and they find out what is the most profitable market for their product, and market it accordingly. That, my friend is probably the most contributing factor in the final price of a factory made knife.

March 7, 2008, 12:43 AM
Hmmm, interesting thread. I spend more time than is good for me thinking about this topic, and I have to agree, knives are (in general, IMHO) costlier than they need to be. My latest sharp object of desire is this beauty:

the new Buck folding Kalinga with rosewood scales. Retails for about $100. Is it worth that? Beats me. I guess so, if you want it bad enough. Now, I know the quality of American-made Bucks, and they are a good a knife as I'll ever want or need. Still, just for the heck of it, I went an bought a couple of cheap beaters from the Budk catalog, and guess what? They work, hold up, and look just as good as some I own that cost 10-15 times as much. Go figure. I'm not saying they are of equal quality (they clearly are not), but I can't say that the 'better' knives are 10-15 times better.

March 7, 2008, 02:12 AM
I have been lightly studying swordsmithing over the past 2 years though admittedly I have focused far more on pocket knives then anything else combined. There is so much to blade smithing that so many just don't understand. To start, after about a year of equal use, you will really pick up an understanding for why that buck costs so much more though I strongly contest that if you turn to a quality custom made folder by someone who has a good reputation and really understands his/her stuff, and uses a good metal, then you will never turn back to factory knives again and these blades tend to be fairly reasonable, between $150 and $500 on average. It is sometimes hard to imagine a knife that's twice as sharp as a razer but tough enough to twiddle a 440 stainless blade, though it's been done before.
Regarding factory blades, take these things in to consideration:

It is a good idea to look up what methods the manufacturers use to heat treat their metal. The ideal ones are heat/cyro combo treatments. Most Chinese imports have a really poor quality heat treat.

What the metal is made of is highly important. I generally stay away from stainless steel. A good high polish is extremely affective, more then some forms of stainless in many ways. For instance, I have a piece of Damascus steel bar stock that I am building a blade out of. REAL damascus (not folded steel) being a variation of wootz, has a 1.9% carbon content. That means it's a rust magnet. In an experiment, I polished the piece of barstock up and carried it around in my pocket for a week without lubricant or any kind of protection. I also carried a 440 stainless Chinese import knife around throughout the same duration which had only been sharpened on a 1000 grit stone but otherwise untouched. After a week, both had a little corrosion on them but the corrosion on the Damascus was less then half as bad as on the stainless knife. These are some ideal metal grades to use: O1, D2, S7, S6. There are also a few people out there who make wootz steel but it's expensive and you may end up having to stand in line. The only person who makes Damascus to my knowledge will not sell to you unless he knows you and you have earned his trust. If you insist on using stainless, try to use 419 or 440C. Note that there is a difference between 440 and 440C.

I guess fancy stuff like Titanium finishes may be OK for underwater stuff but for every day use, just a good mirror polish is just fine. My experience is that a good mirror polish does more to protect against corrosion then anything else.

This is a little seldomly noticed factor that dramatically affects the blades ability to cut. The bevel should be as straight as possible from it's top down to the very tip of the edge. That curve commonly found on factory blades slows down the cutting process more then you know. It is also good to have a blade that doesn't have an edge line. For most uses, a 1/8 thick blade with a 20 degree bevel straight to the very tip is good. If the metal is too week to handle an edge like that, then you probably don't want a knife made of it.

The mechanism that locks a blade in place when opened should be thick and able to endure blade battering and still hold the blade firmly in place. This is one of those areas where we fail to notice why a $5 folder is a $5 folder. Kurshaw seams to have this down, so it is probably a good idea to look at how their blades lock in place for example.

Handles should be made of good and strong materials but be light weight if possible. Also pay close attention to how the frame is held together. Most $5 knives will literally fall apart before long due to poor assembly or frame design. A good hardwood like Cocobolo or Ironwood is obviously ideal. For metals, stainless frames are OK and brass or aluminum are good additions too. Aluminum is often seen as cheap, but at the same time, it holds up well, takes battering, it's light weight and non-corrosive.

Remember, one pocket knife is all you need. It's better to go spend $300 on one good knife then it is to spend $10 each on 30 junk knives.
That buck you have is actually a pretty good knife. I'd trade double the bucks price worth of $10-$20 knives for one of them, that is, if I were not doing my own knives. It's a good overall design, made of good materials, including a 419 stainless blade, looks like it has a good locking mechanism, bevel is little less then as good as you can put on 419 stainless, good finish etc. Again, after excessive use of both, you will really come to understand why your buck is worth so much more then your Bud-K knives.

March 7, 2008, 02:26 AM
Take a Haskel 45 @ $125 and a Colt 1991a1 @ $550 ( approx ) , is the Colt that much better ? Too me , heck yeah.

Same with knives , every thing / every body has a different perception of value. For knives made with S30v , titanium , etc , that stuff adds up. You have to ask yourself , what do I need this knife to do ? How often will I use it ?
If you aint a knife guy , sure that $30 Wallyworld Kershaw may last you a lifetime if you care for it ( I have one , it going on 4 years ).

Would I use a $350 + knife on a daily base, Yes , I actually do. Why ? Cause for me I feel I earned it to treat myself to some finer things. Do I feel I need that $350+ knife ? Nope , I also carry a lesser quality knife as well , usually a Case , Queen , Remington , Kershaw , Gerber , etc as well.

Some folks can tell the difference between a $50 set of audio speakers and a $500 set , I cant. Audio aint my thing , so stock factory GM speakers work for me.

Months ago I couldnt tell the difference between a $100 bow ( archery ) and a $500 bow , now I can.

All goes back to perceived value. Just like how beauty lies in the eye of the beerholder ;) , so does perceived value.

Anyone who claims knives ain't hard to make should try and do it , especially folders. Sure plenty make them , but making them right , so they last without falling apart , there's the art in craftsmanship.

Its the little things you dont see , until you are really into it , that you soon recognize , and then you suddenly say " Ok I get it now ".

Best thing is , right now , there are so many quality knives being put out by the manufactures , and at some very decent prices ( if you know where to shop ).

The Tourist
March 7, 2008, 02:49 AM
I'm in the knife service section of the industry.

As I work on a knife, lots of guys ask (right to my face) "why do you charge so much?" Despite the +$4K I have in tools and fifteen years in the industry, I've learned to keep my cool.

Here's what I've found. The same guy who complains about expensive knives is also the same guy who complains that knives are made in China.

The same guy who has spent a wad of money going to see those "Squatting Tiger" movies (and probably purchased a cheap katana) is again the same guy who freaks when I tell him that to actually put a polished edge on a real knife costs 15 to 20 dollars per inch.

The same guy who denigrated my Emerson HD-7 as an "over priced toy" is naturally going to be the same guy who snaps the tip off of his knife prying open a can of paint. Either that of he's the guy holding the Weatherby and demanding to see a nine-dollar knife.

You see the trend, don't you?

Now, I have no trouble sharpening a nine-dollar Chinese knife. You can even successfully field dress two or three deer with one. Many do just that.

However, if a guy can obtain a license to hunt and he is old enough to buy his own knife, then it follows that he is also old enough to do a little research.

March 7, 2008, 11:47 AM
You have my sympathy.

March 7, 2008, 01:56 PM
Everyone else did a bang-up job covering the topic, but my 2c:

There are quality and materials differences. There are name brands and generic brands and custom makers. There is supply and demand. There are also design issues. A heck of a lot of design and testing goes into a good knife.

IMO you can use most knives for what you use a knife for, without issue. Mine MSRPs like $70 and I couldn't possibly want more, plus I beat it around and don't worry about losing it.

Function-wise, there's a pretty low ceiling on price, I'm gonna say $100-150 for folders and not sure about fixed blades. Details-wise, you can probably go up to like $400 before you see diminishing returns. Unless we're talking gold and precious gems, I can't see spending more than $400.

March 7, 2008, 02:02 PM
Function-wise, there's a pretty low ceiling on price, I'm gonna say $100-150 for folders and not sure about fixed blades. Details-wise, you can probably go up to like $400 before you see diminishing returns. Unless we're talking gold and precious gems, I can't see spending more than $400.

My benchmade 610 cost me about $300. Its a great knife but Im not going to spend that much on a folder again. I'll go back to CRKT for the next knife I buy and only spend about $100.

March 7, 2008, 09:11 PM
$300 for a 610 ? Ouch , that is about $140 over what knifeworks.com has them for....

March 7, 2008, 09:40 PM
Because some people will pay for them. That is the honest truth. I grew up in a knifesmith shop. Dad makes some tremendous stuff, and some of it is quite expensive. Some stuff, he makes to a price point -- less time on finish, less expensive handle material, etc. It's an industry, and it is driven by what people will actually pay for.

March 7, 2008, 11:53 PM
My benchmade 610 cost me about $300. Its a great knife but Im not going to spend that much on a folder again.

I hear that. I have about 20 knives ranging in price from $20 to $250, and the one I carry and really value the most is my $30 Kershaw Scallion. It's been dropped, kicked, washed (twice!), and it keeps on tickin'. Holds an edge amazingly well, and lock up tight as drum. Were I to lose it, I would buy another without missing a beat. Can't say that about the others.

March 8, 2008, 12:01 AM
A decent pistol will run you $500 and a decent knife will cost $100-$150.

Seems those proportions have held true over the years?

With that in mind--the Victorinox alox lines are an unbelievable value at around $20.

March 8, 2008, 01:29 AM
Just for a laugh for you guys. I Just bought a Scallion and have a Buck fixed, both from Walmart. The Buck is like 5 years old and hasnt cut anything. Same for the Kershaw, probably.

March 8, 2008, 04:37 AM
I can't chime in too much, don't know enough. I do know that value is different for everyone. The Buck that I listed last cost around 30-40 dollars new, there is no amount of cash that could buy it now.

But what I carry in the field is a 15 buck Winchester or Remington(I forget) fixed blade knife with a gut hook. It holds an edge decent enough for what I do with it.

For Christmas, the wife bought me a Buck 119? Special from Walmart. It will be replacing the Winchester soon.

If I'm not in the field to hunt or check traps, I carry a Case XXX-Changer. Pretty nifty little knife that stays in the safe most of the time.

I have a rather large fixed blade knife that appears to be handmade. My dad used to do a lot of junk dealing, and buying unpaid storage building contents was one of the ways he acquired his merchandise. One day he gave this knife to me that he found in a storage unit. Pretty slick, all smooth without a defined edge. I'll post pics one day. I believe it will be an excellent field/atv knife.

In the pocket all the time is a Leatherman Blast, it's just good for everything.

Now for my sad story...

For Christmas 1999, my mom bought me a Buck folding knife that I had been wanting since I was little. Brown handle, about a 5-6 inch blade with a sheath. It was too pretty to carry anywhere, and I didn't want to scratch it up. I finally got over that and started carrying on September 1, 2000. I remember the date very well because that night(Sept. 2, 1:40am) my mom passed away due to massive heart failure. The knife hasn't left the house since.

March 8, 2008, 05:09 AM
Occam's razor (http://www.thehighroad.org/attachment.php?attachmentid=68954&d=1197453882): metal prices accelerated.

Why? Fuel prices and other reasons ...

March 8, 2008, 08:28 AM
If it is handmade of course it will cost a lot more, but much of it is the greatest fool theory. The more expensive something is the greater the profit margin. Does anyone really think a pickup truck is worth $50k+? Well some people are buying them for that. Sorry to get off topic, but the high cost of goods is like it was before the great depression. Back then people were enamored by all kinds of fancy over the top products, but then everything crashed. Sadly back then they had savings, not today. The depression coming will be FAR worse.

The Tourist
March 8, 2008, 12:22 PM
but then everything crashed

This is the great dichotomy I find between my clients and myself when working as a tinker. (That's the correct term for the part of the knife industry I represent.)

When I mirror finish a chef's gyuto (a kitchen knife that could cost 2,000 dollars), I get on average 15 dollars per inch of sharpened blade. A ten inch chef's knife cost him 150 dollars.

And yet a plumber (who makes much more per assignment than I do) will stand in front of me and tell me to my face I overcharge.

A folded Japanese laminate knife is not a nine dollar stamped steel blade that Sears imports from China.

I carry $4K in tools and I have spent more time learning my craft than most gunsmiths. The next time that you are at Borders, go look at a book at Japanese sword polishing.

Here's my point, I cannot even call myself a "polisher" because I do not have their credentials. I use their tools, even in the manner I clean them at the end of the day. I'm not even sure I could call myself a journeyman at this point.

According to Ben Dale at Edge Pro, that's where tinkers buy a lot of their tools, there's only about five of us who pursue this type of business professionally. One of us is in Canada.

If you want you knife prepared so carefully that you can see your own eyes in the bevel, an edge so sharp that it rivals a MA katana, if you want a 20 dollar K-Mart knife with a 100 dollar edge that splits a deer without any hand pressure, then I'm your guy.

But don't denigrate me for learning a craft with skills you do not possess. That idea is just sour grapes. However, if we ever meet in a Harley shop, ask to see my pocketknife. I doubt you could buy that edge without going to an ATM.



March 8, 2008, 12:25 PM
When I see people spending $500 on an iPhone and $300 on an iPod and other various electronic gadgets , to me that is a bit much , but to them its not.

Before you question the price on what someone else buys , take a look around at your own gear. Are you a high end audio guy , car nut , gun guy , watch guy , etc ?

Look at some expensive items you have and ask your self...would I be happy with the "generic" brand ? some are , some aren't....thats what it all boils down to.

I keep track of my gear , I havent lost a knife. I carry it daily so I am conscious of where it is at all times , perhaps more caring as I spent more for it.

Uncle Mikes nylon or Alessi , 5-Shot , Mitch Rosen , arizonagunleather.com etc.... both hold the pistol , is one better than the other...to me certainly !

March 8, 2008, 02:49 PM
Look at some expensive items you have and ask your self...would I be happy with the "generic" brand ? some are , some aren't....thats what it all boils down to.

I probably wouldnt be that happy with just the generic brand, but im a name brand whore.

March 8, 2008, 03:05 PM
sorry, i buy the most expensive they have at walmart. Just don't use them enough to understand the quality thing. It cuts well. Holds an edge well. But then again, i'm not a customized 1911 going for $2000.00 kinda guy. I stick with my xd45 such.

The Tourist
March 8, 2008, 08:01 PM
i'm not a customized 1911 going for $2000.00 kinda guy

And that's okay to say that, if those knives are providing real service to your life. Heck, there's a cheapo SuperKnife by our front entrance because my wife sells Pampered Chef as a part-time job. She's always whacking open cardboard boxes, and she likes that little knife.

My position is for guys who are cheap, know they are cheap, going to stay cheap, and won't pay me anyway. Sure, they'd love a polished edge, just like they'd love a Shelby Mustang, but the world somehow owes them a living.

The funniest guy I ever waited on came by to watch me sharpen, and then asked about Japanese knives and fees. I explained about laminates, what they were for and why they cut. So far, he was onboard.

As I mentioned fees, he seemed surprised, stating that a full-blown sashimi edge on his three inch knife would cost 50 bucks with tip and tax. I looked at his knife, nodded, and agree that there might even be the need for some minor knick repairs.

He wanted the edge, but clearly wasn't going to pay. He said to me, "Well, how about a demo first?"

I said, "Sure, no problem..."

I reached into my jeans, took out my Emerson and said, "Watch closely..."

I don't think I ever got a chance to put a stone on my own knife when he walked away in disgust.

The best man at my wedding is the same way. I can bust my butt under a harsh August sun casting bullets all day. However he only shows at the end of the day as I'm cleaning up--asking for some free spares...

March 8, 2008, 08:44 PM
I guess knives aren't that expensive - I took orders for 2 $400 knives today after it was seen in Blade magazine. These are buyers who won't even use the knives, they're collectors who think my stuff is cheap! :)

March 9, 2008, 08:29 AM
A dying dollar.

I purchased an Al Mar SERE (the smallest of the three folders) in the early 80s. Produced in Japan, the price skyrocketed due to the exchange rate change between the dollar and the yen.

It takes almost $1000 to buy an ounce of gold now compared to about $400 a short while back.

March 9, 2008, 10:41 AM
The poster who said 'what the market will bear' has it right. Up to a certain point you do get what you pay for, but beyond that it's al cachet.

I had knives for many years, and I'm sure that 'the tourist' will agree that 90% of the work is in the last 10% of the finish.

You can turn out an excellent and serviceable knife with very little effort. Cutting the profile, grinding the shape, heat teat, final edge are all basically straight forward. Not meant as a slam but knives like those from Strider are easy and cheap to make, and are in my opinion not representative of cost, but rather they charge based on marketing.

Now, if you look at a high end custom, that perfect fitting and mirror finish takes a lot of time and effort to obtain. On an art knife, I will easily put 20x the time into the finish as I do into making the actual knife.

Knife making is, like any other 'tool' manufacturing, most cost effective when done via mass production and with machines. Use the same steels and heat treat and there is basically no functional difference between a hand made knife and a machine made on.

On the other hand, a hand made or custom knife represents a lot of time - time spent by the maker one you knife. If you figure it out at an hourly rate, the poor knife makers isn't doing too well monetarily.

March 9, 2008, 10:46 AM
Valkman, did you ever sit down and figure out what you are making hourly? I don't see how the full time guys can make a living unless they have a 'name' and do many art pieces.

For those of you comparing knives to guns price-wise, consider this. How much would you pay for a custom made handgun? That is one built specifically to your specifications? I think you find that custom knives are quite reasonable, particularly since the gunsmith doesn't have to make the slide, frame and other parts from scratch.

Pax Jordana
March 9, 2008, 12:28 PM
The "I just don't see it." folks and the "Quality costs" folks.

Nay, sir, for I knowe in american manufacture that many passes are made oer the piece, of a high magick nature, and good magicks they are, endorsed by Mother Church, for the castings-out of many spirits, be they of the metalls themselfs or mayhap drawn in by a misfortune of the artisan, if mayhap he perchance to suffer a curse or some misfortune, or mayhap he glance with disdain on a poor widow passing in the road, if she be a gipsy or simply posessed of a weirding nature. But these passes are the mark of fine american artisanry, and of afore-mentioned high magick, with smokes and powders and suchlike, and thus set us and our artisanry apart from the darker arts of the east (where the goodly spirit of man and church is let out in favor of the cuttings-torch and the buffings-wheele; animated in sooth by those very spirits that ought be driven out) and thus the larger portion of your payment goes to those passes - an they not be passed, more's the pity.


Most of your money, in production knives, is going to exclusivity, materials or hype. In hand-finished or custom knives, you're paying more for skill and labor. Or so I think.

March 9, 2008, 01:00 PM
My background, how raised, doing my apprenticeship starting very young, dealing with people/ experiences from retail, wholesale, distributor, sales, and service and custom service...

People are basically nuts. *smile*

There a lot of variables in all this, and folks only want to see, or understand what they want to see. In any industry, including knives , there are bad representatives.

Oh you ask a question about their business, and some will come down on you and defend and give all sorts of reasons why "their" time and product costs as it does, just they cannot or will not have the common courtesy and respect, to respect your industry.

Tourist is a good example and I hope he won't mind me using him for example.

Tourist has invested time and money to get where he is and build up a clientèle.
Mutual Respect and common courtesy among craftsman. Tourist will pay a gunsmith to do work for him, he understand that gunsmith is like him in a lot of ways.

Now, Tourist and Gunsmith each need service for each other. They may pay each other or work out a trade.
If the Gunsmith has a grandkid with a inexpensive knife they messed in learning about knives, Tourist may choose to volunteer to "give me that thing and let me get the nicks out, heck I was kid and played mumbly peg too".

Tourist may find a old H&R Revolver and like one he had as a kid, fond memories.
"Gunsmith, I know this is not your thing, just this old thing is a sentimental reminder and what do you think?"

Gunsmith...no he does not do this sorta thing, still Tourist messed with a inexpensive for him and "give me that thing, I can clean it up and heck make a part if need".

Two craftsman, with mutual respect and common courtesy, and not taking advantage of each other.

Tourist may choose to show the gunsmith a trick on knife sharpening, and Gunsmith a trick on gun smithing...that is b/t them.

Cabinet Maker comes into both Tourist and Gunsmith place, and he/she made a neat wooden something for both of them to use in their work.

Cabinet maker has nice tools, and still pulls out a inexpensive knife..."I use this one not so much as a knife, more as a little spatula for glue in small places, or..."

Tourist is not going to think this guy is a cheapskate, heck Tourist probably has a rinky dink imitation wood cabinet he keeps junk stuff in.

Folks do not see or want to see the whole picture.
Some will get upset if you do not see their view though.

Apprenticeship in learning to do a craft , whether knives, guns, cabinets, is just like someone going to HVAC , Law School, Medical School, or anything else.

Time, years, tools and working up to where one finally gets paid for all the previous years they did not with long hours and eating peanut butter and jelly.

Sure, there will always be bad representative in any Profession or Industry, always has been...

March 9, 2008, 03:40 PM
Valkman, did you ever sit down and figure out what you are making hourly? I don't see how the full time guys can make a living unless they have a 'name' and do many art pieces.

No, haven't done it. I'm afraid I'll find out I'm making $3 an hour. :)

But I know what you mean - full time knifemakers had better have a wife that works because that's an awful tough way to make a living and not many can do it.

The Tourist
March 9, 2008, 03:42 PM
because that's an awful tough way to make a living and not many can do it.

This is correct. I lost money the first year I was a full-time tinker.

walking arsenal
March 9, 2008, 04:08 PM
Seven years ago my best friend stated "You need a good folding knife" and bought me one.

I picked it out.

It is a Smith and Wesson spec ops.

Cost him 50$

I have had that knife on me every day since and it has always worked.

I used it when I did search and rescue and when I worked security.

I use it for everything else now.

The only thing I do to it is clean the lint out of it once in a while and keep it sharp.

The finish looks like heck now.

Two years ago I bought a replacement just in case this one broke.

Its never been used and now sits in my Bug out bag.

The same knife now costs $25.

Quality doesn't always cost.

March 9, 2008, 08:36 PM
Valkman, The Tourist,

And think what happens when a full time maker gets sick and can't work for a month or a year? Loss of income and medical bills (just like any small businessman/craftsman.)

Most full time makers are either retired with good retirement, are married to spouses with jobs with benefits, or have big names who's knives bring big prices from a devoted and ardent collector clientèle. It's very rare that custom knife makers make ends meet outside of those 3 groups. I can think of 4 that I know that make a living for their families off their knives alone and who aren't big name makers.

The Tourist
March 10, 2008, 11:20 AM
Most full time makers are either retired with good retirement

I disagree. Becoming involved in the knife industry is the same, the exact same, as starting any other small business.

In fact, a few days ago I spoke to a woman at the gym who started a coffee and sandwich shop in a nearby town. Like any other smaller business, she lost money the first year.

She's not receiving Social Security, a trust fund nor is she married. More than one out of every three new businesses fold.

Granted, I was fifty years old when I started my business. And I had a leg up, I had been in business and finance the prior 30 years. I knew a lot of the pitfalls and how to blunt them.

But an interesting thing happened about two years into my little business. My wife and I would go out to a restaurant and she would pay the tab in crumpled fives and tens. I noticed she wasn't using the credit card much at all. Then, after a few more months, she told me she had to go to the bank and "get rid of some of this cash."

Naturally, I asked about this condition. She blandly stanted, "It's sharpening money."

That year I had to make an appointment with our tax guy to re-structure how we paid business and personal taxes. My little business was now profitable!

I didn't win the lottery or do anything different in the style of business I offered or in the quality provided. I got out of bed every morning and got my butt to work.

This condition and my work ethic have absolutely nothing to do with knives, or sharpening or innovation in that field. There was a niche' market that needed a quality service, and I applied an age-old concept in commerce. Sweat equity.

When I needed money as a teenager, my Father always said the same thing, "There's money laying all over the ground--bend your back and pick it up."

You can apply that principle to any field of business. Or you can hide behind excuses and say, "The market is against me." Here in this period of recession I just got hired to a better job.

March 10, 2008, 01:20 PM
by hso

Most full time makers are either retired with good retirement, . . .

by The Tourist

I disagree. Becoming involved in the knife industry is the same, the exact same, as starting any other small business.

While I agree with The Tourist that small businesses have much in common with one another, and that the primary component in all of them is showing up, I have to concede that hso has a point regarding knife-making in particular.

There are certain endeavors that are more time-intensive than others and which produce a result that sells to a very narrow market indeed.

I write software for a living. One of the most successful custom software writers I've met was a fellow who coded to a simple and (in my opinion) stilted model that allowed him to re-use quite a lot of his code from one client to the next. Each successive client required less time to write the application because more and more of the code was already done in advance.

I went the quality route. I was able to re-use a fair amount of my code, but my applications were more custom and more "tuned" to each client. He made more money than I did.

There comes a point in making things by hand where you run into the finite nature of hours-in-a-day. At that point, there are only a few things you can do to mitigate that limit:

work faster -- get more product done in fewer hours;
hire help -- put more hands on the job to get more product;
become a machinist -- make tools that make tools, machinery that reduces required time & effort.

To the degree that you insist on doing it all by hand and all by yourself, you will hit a limit that's defined by the maximum price you can demand and still sell product, and the amount of product you can make to meet customer demand.

Yes, you have to show up.

Even so, labor-intensive production is time-bounded and market-bounded.

Showing up -- at all -- vastly improves your chances.

Showing up smarter is what drives mass production.

March 10, 2008, 01:29 PM
As a fetish item, like cars, Harleys, Colts, desirable women, etc., they go for whatever the market will bear. Logic does not enter the picture. ;) JMTC

A KA-BAR is made in USA, good steel, sharpenable, durable, comes in many varieties and costs you $30 - $40 . Pretty much everything I need, but a knife is not a fetish to me.

March 10, 2008, 05:35 PM
I think the biggest requirement for a full time maker is that he has enough years in so that his stuff sells immediately and/or he had dealers waiting for whatever knives they can get. I don't know of any full time makers that actually put many knives up for sale - most don't even take orders. Their stuff is very expensive but when a knife comes up for sale it's snapped up immediately. Once you have that it's a matter of staying healthy and putting in the hours, as many don't even have health insurance. Like hso said, sickness and injury can be catastrophic and injuries are very common.

No matter to me though, I can only work a few hours a day on this stuff and it will remain a hobby. A hobby where some will look at my stuff and say "That's too expensive - I can a get a knife that'll do what that does at Wal-Mart" but others will say " For those prices I can have a custom knife that I hand down to my son and he can hand down to his." That's who I make knives for! :)

The Tourist
March 10, 2008, 07:18 PM
Valkman, there will always be detractors no matter what your line of work might be. The biggest complaint I hear is that I charge too much. These guys are still seriously cutting themselves, but they still complain.

Other than profits, we have to enjoy the work we do. If you spend any time listening to your friends as they commiserate, you'll find their jobs bother them as much as "the government."

I have achieved a place where I can work the number of hours I wish, the days I wish, and whom I choose to serve. I built my business on customer service--and it is The Golden Mean of how I wish to act--however, there's nothing stopping a client from going elsewhere if he chooses.

If he wishes a substandard sharpening, that's kind of his problem. But I'm not going to lower the standards of my conduct because a skinflint can't get a $150.00 edge for nine bucks.

If you dislike your job, begin building a business in the evening. It might take you a few years, but then, those years are going to elapse anyway. Learn a craft, and line up clients while you have a day job.

It's the best thing I ever did. I should have started this after college.

March 10, 2008, 07:59 PM
Yep, to be a knifemaker you have to really love what you do. We had a guy a while back on another forum asking about possibly being a full time maker - and he hadn't made knife #1 yet. He was told by several great makers that he should make some knives and see if it's even something he enjoys doing!

But that base of clients must be there. A new maker trying to do this fulltime would find it almost impossible - at 3 years experience I could not do it as I figure I know about 10% of what the great ones know about knifemaking. I would figure a minimum of 5 years and probably more like 10 would be required to be successful, and you'd better make folders.

My client base is slowly changing from people who are buying their first customs (I love dealing with them!) to guys who can buy anything they want but they order 4 or 5 of my knives to collectors, who I'm hearing from now since the Blade exposure. It's kind of a neat evolution that just happens as you get better and no one yet has complained about my prices.

I wouldn't deal with anyone who'd want to give me less than I think my knife is worth. I don't base my prices on how many hours I spend making it - I'd have to charge way more than they're worth. I base it on how my knives fall into line with more experienced makers - if they're charging $450 for a 4" hunter then I cannot charge anywhere near that. So I'll charge around $250 for the base knife and add on as materials dictate. As my experience grows and demand grows then I will be able to charge more, and buy better materials and machinery.

The Tourist
March 10, 2008, 11:34 PM
Valkman, you have learned "the riddle of swarf."

I cannot make you happy. You must discover that for yourself.

Good luck to you. Be sure to post lots of pictures.

March 16, 2008, 11:39 AM
Why does a Busse cost more than a Chinese
Buck???? :banghead::banghead:

Well, why does a Kimber cost more than a Lorcin??????:evil:

March 22, 2008, 01:27 AM
knives like the oned from ZeroTOlerance and SOG cost so much because the material and process used in manufacture.

top end knife makers use extremely high quality steel chosen for its hardness, and strength, the steel is heat treated, either drawn out or tempered and hand ground to a fine edge. but i have to agree with you, a knife that costs more than soem if the guns i own had better be a damn good knife...

March 22, 2008, 11:19 AM
The post from The Tourist about polishing an edge on a knife is $50/inch got me curious.

I got a couple of folders at home, so it tried to see if I can get a polished edge on one of them.

Well, let me just say that if I need to have a mirror finished edge, I will be gladly send it to The Tourist.


Bob R
March 22, 2008, 12:04 PM
Because you start with this:


and this:


And end up with something like this:


Something along those lines, maybe not the iron ore, but it has to start somewhere.

That's why some knives are expensive.

That plus the soul that some knife makers put into their blades.


The Tourist
March 22, 2008, 01:24 PM
mirror finished edge, I will be gladly send it to The Tourist

I wouldn't speak too soon.

Last week, Mandirigma sent me a titanium knife I had the devil's own time trying to sharpen. It was so difficult, that I had to call another professional sharpener for advice. We both have different sharpening disciplines, and I was ready to box up Mandirigma's property and send it to this other tinker.

I am still awaiting his critque.

March 22, 2008, 02:48 PM
Yep, what Mr. Tourist does has me intrigued also as I've never heard of sharpening knives to this extreme or making a living at it.

So last night I got done with 3 knives and went to sharpen them. Usually I use a 220 grit belt to make an edge and then go to the Sharpmaker. Here I made the edge at 220 and then moved to 400 and then to a 800 grit belt and believe I got them sharper than usual. It's going to take lots of practice, especially doing it by hand with no jigs!

March 22, 2008, 02:54 PM
I just sold the Larry Harley Damascus Double D Guard Bowie with Mastodon Ivory scales for $3k. The buyer was happy as a clam and even happier when Larry drove down from Bristol with the Knives 2007 book with the bowie on the cover and signed it.


Larry forged the damascus, forged the blade and guard and beehive nut to fit it all together. Hand carved all the file work. And them attached humongous Mastodon ivory scales to it.

March 22, 2008, 06:01 PM
I am still awaiting his critque.

Still waiting on it. :) UPS guy has a light knock that I don't always hear when I'm sleeping. Heck, sometimes I don't hear my phone thats right next to my head. (sorry I missed your call)

But its also Easter Weekend so I expect some delays.

What I can say is that The Tourist has been nothing but a pleasure to work with, very easy to talk to, and communicates well.

Please don't take this the wrong way, Tourist, but its kind of reassuring how much effort you've put into assuring my happiness with the sharpening. People that worry about what their clients think make me happy happy. Pride in your skills is a motivator for me.

And for those asking, I sent him a Beta-Ti Karambit. The Kbit design I have a hard time sharpening as it is. Let alone in Titanium. I never expected it to be this much trouble.

The Tourist actually apologized for not putting a mirrored edge on it. IFAIK to put a mirror finish on Titanium you must use HF acid in a difficult and dangerous process called attack polishing. (I didn't learn this until I talked to a friend after I mentioned sending the knife out for a professional sharpening.)There is no way he could possibly be set up to do this, nor would I ask him to.

Already know I'm going to send my other EDC to him (this time tanto style blade and its steel) I just didn't want to be without both my knives at one time.

Valkman, yes, I know what you mean! I thought I was doing good with my regular stones and sharpmaker, now I'm thinking about getting some more dedicated sharpening tools! EdgePro Sharpening system, waterstones...

The Tourist
March 22, 2008, 06:59 PM
I may have posted some of these before. I wish a mirrored edge photographed better.

I believe such an edge really is needed on Japanese laminate kitchen knives, and that's where most of the work goes. However, I do my personal knives that way for clients to sample, and of course, for my greedy friends.

It takes several grit levels of waterstones, buffing papers (sometimes a film knicknamed 'eel skin'), paste and a thick glass called "glaziers glass." No matter what system you use, most of this stuff is available from Keith at Hand American.


And trust me, the knives are razor sharp. We refer to them as "toasty."





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