A note about Chinese "clones"

hso

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No, not companies like Artisan, REATE, Kizer, WE, Kansept, Bestech, QSP, Flying Fish, Kunwu, Real Steel, or Ganzo or any Chinese manufacturer found on Blade HQ, Knife Center, Knives Ship Free, DLT Trading and their equivalent well respected USA internet retailers with a reputation to protect.

I'm just focusing on what we can get from Ali, dhgate, and even Amazon.

I've been following the Chinese clone knife manufacturers and Chinese manufacturers (and some of these respected companies may have started as clone makers) for almost 20 years.

Today we find the respected Chinese knife manufacturers making knives of completely respectable to the the highest reliable quality and materials and producing their own designs, or teaming with custom knife makers to produce designs licensed from them or even for the custom maker's "mid tech" brands.

BUT all of the above is explained to discuss the other companies found on Ali, dhgate, or Amazon (WISH isn't even part of the discussion since that's below gutter level stuff).

Even being part of Chinese knife discussion groups that advocate for clones as a bargain compared to "pricey" mainstream manufacturer knives, I have found it difficult to get reliable information about what "store" or manufacturer on Ali-gate-zon to fully trust at times. Predictably, if the dealer/maker is selling a type of knife that is of their own design (even if you can see elements of mainstream designs in it) it will be breaking the $100 threshold for good to great folders.

I've gotten some of these non-knockoff knives and my opinion is that these companies are working their way into the "daylight' with the same QC, materials, engineering, and design independence as the best of US, Europe, Japan, and the top Chinese known manufacturers. They're a bargain for what you're getting in quality, form, and function and will eventually enter the mainstream market at higher prices.

OTOH, when we focus on 'bargains' in knockoffs, it is risky because there are no assurances on quality, materials, engineering, or even function. That should be no surprise. Knowing the risk and trying to minimize it is part of participating in the pro clone groups I noted. Still, the Ali-gate-zon retailers don't always have the same quality and a lot of discussion goes on about which are consistent in selling the best made of the clones. I am currently sending an order back on of those highly recommended sellers because the locks were so poorly made that they were unsafe. This is after having gotten an example to examine and found the quality to be surprisingly good. This was inspired by Buck's 110, like so many USA made inspired knives, but not exactly clones. The example was just a bit smaller, in G10, used S30V steel, and had been made as an auto release with a traditional back lock. It made me wonder if Buck shouldn't make their own version of the Chinese knife.

Then the problem occurred when I ordered the same knife from the same seller again. Same bound in tape packaging with an excess of bubble wrap in the box, but this time the knives were in cheap leather sheaths and most were sprung open poking through the plastic sleeves and their synthetic bags. They also wouldn't reliably lock closed because the sere buttons were so poorly made that they kept releasing the blades to open unpredictably. Completely unsafe to carry or even handle. The sere buttons didn't even have the same quality appearance as the first example. I opened a conversation with the "store" and they were very polite and asked me to start the dispute process and they'd approve the return at no cost with a full refund (we'll see). What I didn't get a response to was the unsafe quality failure of the knives (even when I posted a video and pictures showing the unreliable locks/seres).

So, if you're buying off of Ali-gate-zon for a "great deal" on a clone of a trusted knife manufacturer, be warned that you may end up having paid for some unreliable knife of unknowable materials (in spite of the claims) even if you put in the time and effort to follow the discussion groups that are trying to identify the trustworthy sellers. The folks on the groups have no problem opening a dispute and returning bad product and posting about it, but they also tout sellers they like.

Caveat Emptor.
 
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Good point. I prefer to buy USA made, but there are some pretty decent Chinese made knives distributed by Kershaw, Spyderco, and others.
 
Well written, great info. If I ever get some disposable income I'm going to buy the brand name of the clone I had to settle for. The rest of my collection is American Esees, American made Gerbers and couple of Bucks. :confused:
 
there are some pretty decent Chinese made knives distributed by Kershaw, Spyderco, and others.
Those are a different, but related, topic. We get the advantage of "our" companies applying their quality control to the product made for them by Chinese manufacturing partners and our guarantees. Best of both worlds, so to speak.

Those manufacturing partners are probably the reliable quality manufacturers we know, and some we don't know. We know that Microtech is using Rike to make their Chinese made knives and they are superb (some say better quality than USA MTs) and that BM's previous Red Line Chinese made knives were good.

As for the ones this topic was about, any Rikeknife made product is expected to be high quality regardless of what label it bears.
 
buy the brand name of the clone

That is good since the clones are intellectual property theft.

Many of the Chinese clone buyers ARE "trying out" the American & European design before putting the money towards our knife. The caution there is the clone of the knife of interest is like the one you wish you bought in appearances only so don't expect the same performance. Example, a clone OTF I took apart the other day used a completely different internal mechanism than the American it "copied" so the performance wasn't going to be the same as the American. Not bad, just not as good. The No Limit OTFs I have are every bit as good if not better than most American manufactured OTFs. Clearly, there are Chinese manufacturers doing as good if not better job than "our" manufacturers. Just be aware there are many on Ali-gate-zon that aren't.
 
My experience with Chinese-made knives has, thus far, been uniformly bad. After several knives came that hadn't been sharpened, I quit buying them. (Note that I'm referring to Red Chinese knives; the ones I got that were of Taiwanese manufacture were all scalpel-sharp.)

It's been at least 12 years since I ordered a Chinese-made knife. Just a couple of days ago I ordered an Eafengrow 963 folder from Amazon, after hearing that the quality of Chinese knives has improved. We'll see how this one does. There are lots of glowing reviews on Amazon for the knife; I wonder how many of those are real.

I also wonder if the knife-makers receive government subsidies. Certainly, the steel-makers do; this might give significant cost advantages to cutlers using high-end steels.
 
I also wonder if the knife-makers receive government subsidies.
Nope

Heavy industries like steel do, but small businesses (and pocket knives is a small industry) don't. They're not a large enough export market. There's a lot competition in China among these companies.

As pointed out, you're buying a cheap knife off Amazon, but from a Chinese company that has been making good knockoffs for years so you'll probably get your money's worth. Just monitor the screws. Ef had a tendency to have small screws fall out.
 
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Frost Cutlery, need I say more? 😑

My Spartan knives SOCP/Benchmade SOCP clone purchase was due to factors including:

Buried in medical debt from 6 surgeries last year.

Disabilities and can only work part time.

I have significant neuropathy in my hands, makes it impossible to draw and open a folder with any speed.

The brand name is out of my reach. Price is high due to the name and the "tacti-cool" factor of it. It's a status symbol to many that own it.

I just can't justify buying a small, skeletonized knife/Dagger made of basic 440C starting at $120 and goes to $180 for the deluxe combo Dagger & trainer together.

The knife model type is a one piece design with no moving parts, I would never trust a cheap folder.

Also a big selling point for this configuration is that it allows transition to a pistol with it still in my hand.

So this clone perfectly filled the bill for my needs: cost, ease of use, availability, medical issues and filling a niche where there aren't many models with these selling points. Call it "the perfect storm."

I need no other clones as i have the knives i need that are all American made. I just felt i should post this to illustrate why i bought a clone for this particular type in the hopes its seen as reasonable.

👍
 
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When a company STARTS by stealing a company's IP, why on Earth would you expect them to be honest about materials, heat-treat or anything else? In the guitar industry, dissection of counterfeit guitars shows particleboard interiors, fatally flawed construction (misplaced bridges and frets) and other catastrophic errors. Why would you expect better from a company that is dishonest with their foundational premise?

"When do you carry a cheap knife? When you're wearing your cheap fingers."

Larry
 
Product made in China is only as good as the brand behind it. If you know it is made by Ruike, Reate or other highly capable OEM for their or another recognized brand, you will get a good knife or they will make it right. If it merely resembles a well-known design, it could be anything, but let's face it, few of us will ever wear one out.
 
Great post HSO!

Some years back ordered an Eafengrow among reviews at the time that stating there were issues with opening, locking, etc. My version was sharp though the locking and opening not very smooth. Lock engagement so-so. The blade was centered when closed and detent on the firm side requiring more effort to flip it. Refitted it and it works as expected. However after a handful of openings and closings the screws begin to back out so this knife needs regular torquing to maintain tightness. Thread engagement so-so so cut towards the lose-sloppy side. The pivot being the worst, a drop of thread locker will secure it. For $18 it was interesting.

This one retails at $25 range, unknown manufacturer. Taking it apart it is well machined and fitted. Real 6-4Ti so I dipped it to see if it would anodize, it did. Blade marked AUS-8. The blade sharpening is kinda hacked but it is sharp enough to cut as is. It is doing well so the heat treat has been sufficiently good. Had wanted to get more to potentially modify. Threads cut nicely so this budget piece is pretty solid feeling. Blade is about 2-1/8".

cheap-knife-June 21, 2023-0720 - Copy.jpg
 
I don't know much about knives, but I do know about purchasing from China. During my previous career in purchasing and manufacturing, I eventually had no choice but to deal with China. In my experience 10+ years ago, they could not be trusted. I would receive samples and first articles that were perfect. Only to later receive production quantities that were out of spec and sometimes not even made of the correct material. As a small manufacturer, this had the potential to cause production nightmares.

In the context of this post; large, well respected brands are able to refuse this type of behavior and only accept product they are comfortable putting their name on. Smaller, or less respectable brands may be forced to or knowingly accept poor quality product; either because they don't have options financially or they lack the integrity to care.
 
The Chinese can absolutely put out a quality product if they want to. The problem is getting them motivated and keeping them motivated. You just never know what you're gonna get. One good batch, then the next batch might be the same, it might be garbage, or it might even be better. It's always a gamble.
In the context of this post; large, well respected brands are able to refuse this type of behavior and only accept product they are comfortable putting their name on. Smaller, or less respectable brands may be forced to or knowingly accept poor quality product; either because they don't have options financially or they lack the integrity to care.
And that's the key. If no one is holding their feet to the fire, or if they lack the leverage to make them toe the line, the supplier is going to do what they perceive is best for their bottom line and to hell with quality control.
 
a drop of thread locker
This is a common solution to the sloppy fastener problems the clone groups find. Some of those folks seem to enjoy the challenge of taking the clone apart and cleaning, polishing, and reassembling with a bit of thread lock so they can "tune" the knife themselves. Something of a hobby.

Another interesting aspect of all this, once western shops started making replacement parts, clips, scales, etc., for popular western knives to upgrade them (this was done for polymer handled knives) the eastern (Chinese and eastern European) shops started making their own versions available so you could upgrade your western manufactured highly popular knife into a CNC engraved, flame ano, Ti alloy frame beauty. The irony is that the eastern made accessories were sometimes better than the western. The doubly ironic situation was that this motivated the western manufacturers to provide special editions of their knives using those same eastern modder parts. Gotta love the responsiveness of the industry on pocket knives at times when the customer starts demanding more.

As a PSA, if you ever find too good a deal on a Ti frame lock, Sebenza, Hinderer, etc., check it carefully against one known to be authentic. Even then there's no assurance that someone hasn't replaced fasteners with authentic ones ordered from the American maker. Any deal too good to be true is ... well, you know the rest.
 
My Eafengrow came today. It was not quite as sharp as I expected, given the reviews (and fairly dull toward the point), but I can touch it up myself. The rest of the knife seems fine; it opens very smoothly and locks tightly. The finish is good.
 
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This is a common solution to the sloppy fastener problems the clone groups find. Some of those folks seem to enjoy the challenge of taking the clone apart and cleaning, polishing, and reassembling with a bit of thread lock so they can "tune" the knife themselves. Something of a hobby.

There is a local guy ( I don't know him just through the talk of the group.) that does this and for the $250+ per he has constant incoming.
Another interesting aspect of all this, once western shops started making replacement parts, clips, scales, etc., for popular western knives to upgrade them (this was done for polymer handled knives) the eastern (Chinese and eastern European) shops started making their own versions available so you could upgrade your western manufactured highly popular knife into a CNC engraved, flame ano, Ti alloy frame beauty. The irony is that the eastern made accessories were sometimes better than the western. The doubly ironic situation was that this motivated the western manufacturers to provide special editions of their knives using those same eastern modder parts. Gotta love the responsiveness of the industry on pocket knives at times when the customer starts demanding more.

Yup. The customer buys a Benchmade, Spyderco, etc then spends another $100+ on parts to make it look different. Good $ in that aftermarket arena.

What I've seen of the clones, those are purposely run with low thread engagements around 50% and that feels sloppy at the onset let alone when the tap is worn. Very easy to strip the threads when there is barely anything there. Plus depends how good the screw was and not often very good to begin with.

The last batch of screws that shop produces screws for Spyderco. We'd talked a bit about how bad the dress-up kit parts are. Asked about some of the other USA knife producers and he stated some of them are buying imports. His shop also makes fasteners that go into McIntosh Audio products too. Really happy I found his shop and the prices fair. Bought a bunch of screws back when Les Halpern was making them, have enough to last beyond my lifetime.
As a PSA, if you ever find too good a deal on a Ti frame lock, Sebenza, Hinderer, etc., check it carefully against one known to be authentic. Even then there's no assurance that someone hasn't replaced fasteners with authentic ones ordered from the American maker. Any deal too good to be true is ... well, you know the rest.
 
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One good batch, then the next batch might be the same, it might be garbage, or it might even be better.
That is my personal experience. The knives I just returned were unsafe because there was clearly a change in the button for the auto release. Everything else looked the same so I am going to assume the maker switched to a cheaper source for the buttons and didn't bother/didn't care about what impact that made on the function of the knife itself.

This speaks to the importance of knowing who the manufacturer in China is and whether they can be trusted. Not the reputation of the retailer, but the actual maker.

So, if you don't want to put the time in studying this complex and constantly changing part of the knife industry don't expect to get consistent quality or function from anyone other than the recognized good manufacturers.
 
Mostly originals
I've seen that. Modders making custom changes for those that are willing to pay. Out of scope for this discussion, but certainly an interesting separate topic since I know a few makers for modders (and own a couple custom builds of production knives).
 
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