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namor Jul 22, 2012

  1. namor

    namor Huge member

    Why does this question come up over and over. Is that a 'custom' knife? Production? Or some other thing?

    In common usage, when talking about knives, the word "custom" usually means hand crafted by one guy. (That is why the Sebenza, which is a very high quality knife that is mostly put together by hand but by lots of different people's hands, is called a production knife.) To buy a custom knife is to buy the expertise of one person, his skills, his life experiences, his abilities, and his reputation. Thats why they cost so much - you are paying for that man's amalgamation of experience and ability. So a knife made by Tom Mayo, or Andy Fitz, or Mike Draper, for instance is unique: it may look like others they made, but each part was hand crafted to fit with only the pieces in that particular knife. That is the value added.

    Makers who rely almost completely on CnC machines to create their knives are also providing their lifetime experience in the design, and in a small part of the pieces of the knife. But that folder from Darrel Ralph, or Ken Onion, or Rick Hinderer, for instance has lots of parts that fit interchangeably with another one of that model. Still hand fitted and finished, still the work product of only one man, and still priced at the lofty custom levels.

    For most of the knife buying public, this distinction doesn't matter in the least. The blade was finish ground by the guy whose name is on the blade, and who designed it to begin with - thats good enough. And thats fair - its their money to 'vote' with however they wish. For a smaller populace, though, the idea of paying alot for a knife that was created cookie cutter style is anathema. Which is also ok, since they can spend their money how they see fit too.

    So, this question keeps coming up mostly by people for whom the distinctions between CnC knives and machine assisted knives is important. They just don't agree with the CnC=waterjet=bandsaw continuum arguements usually raised in this context. For them, the CnC machine represents a complete and utter break with the past methods of bladesmanship. In the end, there can be no resolution to this, and I think it should be added to religion, politics, and baseball as a subject unfit for decent discourse. Or not...
    Justin McNeill and Mr.LaBella like this.
  2. Guillermo

    Guillermo 7th Man of the 7th son Super Moderator

    I think that most people view anything new to be the devil. I remember when I was a kid most men I knew had carbon steel knives and stainless was not really considered a serious knife steel to them. Now just try and find a carbon steel knife at a retail store. I know that CNC equipment is nothing new but more common these days. It will be of little consideration to "custom" knives in a few years. Most uber cool looking folders these days have a good bit of computer aided work but in the end are fitted and assembled by hand.
    LorenzoL likes this.
  3. LorenzoL

    LorenzoL Rampaging Devil

  4. Chris_Himself

    Chris_Himself Bay Area Devil Alliance

    It all varies by maker. CNC is a tool to be used, not to be burned at the stake in my opinion. It's only more accurate than human hands and frees up time for the maker. Rarely do people do 100% handmade knives any more, but the quality hasn't gone down in many makers who have been in the craft for decades.

    Darrel Ralph knives are not customs. His custom knives are not always sole authorship.

    I think a mid-tech is up to the maker really. One person's handbuilt is another person's mid-tech. One maker will call something a mid-tech just because they cut one corner, another might just call a handground blade a custom (Microtech).

    Ken Onion's mid-techs are more cookie cutter but still having handfit parts.

    Chris Reeve uses his vast experience to build a damn fine production part with a handfit blade tang to lockbar.

    Rick Hinderers I think are pretty much just cookie cutter on the XM-18's I've had. They don't come apart because of how tightly everything is fitted though.

    Again, Les George builds a mid-tech of his own folder which is quite famous, the VECP. It's a more CNC for the handle portion, but as far as I know he has his hands on every single example, so it's technically more of a custom than Rick or Chris' knives by my own standards, but admittedly less love goes into them and thats why he calls them mid-techs.

    It's just confusing and possibly demeaning to some custom makers who do higher volume of a very good custom product that still involves their hands, but simplifying or refining some of their knifemaking processes.

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