If you are a knife collector and find yourself getting bored of production knives, be warned! Entering the arena of custom made knives tends to be a pretty expensive venture that requires quite a bit of patience. However the benefits can be well worth it depending on your priorities when purchasing your knives. Below, I will break down the pros and cons of custom knife buying and you can be the judge as to whether it is for you!
Pros to Buying Custom Knives
As you would expect, if you buy from a custom knifemaker, you are getting a blade that very few other people have. This is because most custom knifemakers sell handmade knives. Considering the hours required to make a knife by hand, a knife manufacturer of this nature simply can’t mass produce their knives. Most small time manufacturers like this will only make a few hundred blades or less per year which means there is a very limited quantity available to potential buyers. This in turn benefits you because you will be the only guy on the block with your knife; nobody else will have one like it.
Attention to Detail
Custom knives have the luxury of receiving personal attention from the maker, unlike production knives. As such, each feature can be perfected to the liking of the builder. This of course includes all of the functional elements of a blade, but also includes the artistic features and embellishments that production knives are not often afforded. This can include anything from custom knife engraving a logo to special finishes such as cerakote or duracoat to uncommon sheathing options like leather or kydex. Most production knifemakers won’t even entertain making personalized versions of their knives because there is simply not enough money in it for them.
Built to Fit Your Taste
One of the biggest advantages to going the custom route is that you get to pick your specs. You can pick the best steel, your knife shape, your blade profile (eg. drop point, tanto, or clip point), your blade grind type (eg. full flat grind, saber grind), your handle material (eg. G10, micarta, or wood), lock mechanism, colors, finishes, etc. This is a case where the sky (or more specifically your pocketbook) is the limit. It doesn’t matter whether you are building a custom hunting knife or a custom folding knife, you have the final say about everything. At the end of the day, you can get a knife that is built to perfection by your standard.
Support Small Business
Buying a custom knife gives you an opportunity to support small business. It is important to realize that these guys aren’t raking in millions of dollars per year. They build knives because they love it. As such, it’s always nice to support the passion of another person, especially when you have some of their work to show for it. Often times this has the added benefit of supporting someone local in your community which is nice because it allows you to personally connect face to face with the person building your blade. Don’t forget that sometimes the journey and the story are just as good as the product itself!
Cons to Buying Custom Knives
One of the biggest obstacles to buying a custom knife is price. When a large knife manufacturer like a Kershaw or Benchmade makes production knives on a machine, the actual machining processes take a matter of minutes if you were to average based on economy of scale. However for a custom knife where one person has to babysit the project from start to finish, the hours add up quickly. Unfortunately, you have to pay a custom knifemaker for their hours. When you figure that making a knife can take anywhere from 5 to 50 hours depending on the level of intricacy and detail, it’s easy to see how it could add up. Don’t forget material cost and operating cost for any tools. Some of the most expensive knives can get well up into the 1000 dollar range.
Compared to a production knife that is in stock and can be had almost immediately by going to a site like Amazon.com, you typically have to wait a long time to get a custom knife made. In general, a high end knife maker won’t start making your knife until you order it. As such, you can usually expect to wait a number of weeks or even months depending on availability and how quickly the work can be done. As you can probably surmise, making top quality knives isn’t a process that can be rushed. All the more reason to keep your expectations reasonable with respect to turnaround time.
Not All Knifemakers are Created Equal
Unfortunately, not all custom knifemakers are equal. Nothing has a greater effect on the quality of your knife than the know-how and care of the person making it. There are a number of processes that one must master to successfully build a knife including profiling, blade grinding, heat treat, handle shaping, and sheath making. Inexperience in any one of these aspects can ruin the end result. As such, it is extremely important to carefully vet your knifemakers before deciding to buy. There are several knife forums that cater well to finding a custom knifemaker that is well regarded within the community, such as Bladeforums.com, Knifeforums.com, and Knifenetwork.com. You can use these sites to seek feedback about a potential maker before moving forward with a purchase.
So now you know the beauty of owning custom knives as well as the trade offs you must make in order to buy them. Now you know what it will take next time you are looking for that custom survival knife or perhaps even a custom self defense knife. I hope you enjoyed reading and please feel free to add any additional insight into the comments section below as you see fit!