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Why are knives so expensive??

Discussion in 'Non-Firearm Weapons' started by SilentStalker, Mar 6, 2008.

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  1. SilentStalker

    SilentStalker Member

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    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.
     
  2. alaskanativeson

    alaskanativeson Member

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    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.
     
  3. Brian Dale

    Brian Dale Member

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    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.
     
  4. hso

    hso Moderator Staff Member

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    SilentStalker,

    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.
     
    Last edited: Mar 8, 2008
  5. CWL

    CWL Member

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    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.
     
  6. Boats

    Boats member

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    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.
     
  7. brigadier

    brigadier Member

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    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.
     
  8. jhansman

    jhansman Member

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    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:
    [​IMG]

    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.
     
  9. brigadier

    brigadier Member

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    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:

    HEAT TREAT
    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.

    METAL GRADE
    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.

    FINISH
    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.

    BEVEL
    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.

    LOCKING MECHANISM
    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.

    HANDLE MATERIALS
    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.
     
  10. JTW Jr.

    JTW Jr. Member

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    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 ).
     
  11. The Tourist

    The Tourist member

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    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.
     
  12. brigadier

    brigadier Member

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    You have my sympathy.
     
  13. conw

    conw Member

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    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.
     
  14. Darthbauer

    Darthbauer Member

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    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.
     
  15. JTW Jr.

    JTW Jr. Member

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    $300 for a 610 ? Ouch , that is about $140 over what knifeworks.com has them for....
     
  16. sixgunner455

    sixgunner455 Member

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    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.
     
  17. jhansman

    jhansman Member

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    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.
     
  18. rugerfreak

    rugerfreak Member

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    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.
     
  19. icanthitabarn

    icanthitabarn Member

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    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.
     
  20. possom813

    possom813 Member

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    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.
     
  21. AStone

    AStone Member

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    Why are knives so expensive?

    Occam's razor: metal prices accelerated.

    Why? Fuel prices and other reasons ...
     
  22. cornman

    cornman member

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    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.
     
  23. The Tourist

    The Tourist member

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    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.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  24. JTW Jr.

    JTW Jr. Member

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    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 !
     
  25. Darthbauer

    Darthbauer Member

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