The definition of custom knives is subject to constant revision in the knife industry. For many, when you buy custom knives, it means you commission a build from a maker instructing some changes in materials and configurations within reason to adjust to your particular needs and style.
However, many knife enthusiasts consider that what makes a custom knife is the fact that very few people are involved in their making. This gives makers a lot more control over the quality, finish, and overall performance of their product, allowing them to deliver something that is qualitatively superior to anything mass-produced in a factory.
In general, custom knives are a lot more resource-intensive, and they are produced in low quantities because of a slower process using hand tools and labor hours per piece.
You can notice the difference between production and custom knives just by checking the grind, the treatment, and the edges, as they usually exceed what you can expect even from high-end production knives. If you are like me, these elements can tell you a lot about the maker´s expertise as well.
Should You Buy Custom Knives Or Prefabs?
When taking their first steps into acquiring custom knives, many people can get frustrated with the whole process of dealing with makers who sometimes are not very communicative and have their own idiosyncrasy when translating what you want them to do into a finished blade. Some factors make it difficult for makers to offer completely customized products. Sometimes you´re dealing with just one or two guys running a small shop, so they can get overwhelmed with work and orders. You also have to take experience into account in case you want to order something that the maker has never done before.
So, if you´re not willing to get too deeply involved in the whole process, or you feel it will be difficult for you to create a bond with the maker so they can create the perfect blade for you, then you're better off buying something from the shelf that has been crafted with extreme attention to detail and not many people have.
One thing that we must understand when diving into the custom knives market is that not because a knife says “custom” it means it is better than all other production knives out there. In fact, there are a lot of brands that offer extremely well-made production knives with an amazing fit and finish that rivals many custom blades out there.
As a general rule, we have to be mindful of experience when buying custom knives from recent makers. Remember that we all make mistakes and sometimes their first versions are not the best they have to offer. Some of my favorite brands out there are at iteration three or four of their “model one”, with each version being better than the last one, and with improvements coming a lot faster when compared to mass producers. The reason is that doing small changes to their products does not require making changes to large chains of production, and the companies and names behind custom knives are unusually open to suggestions from customers and followers.
I'm really excited to see what they can come up with next and will be more than happy to buy from them.
You can also commission knives from many traditional brands for a premium. However, their regular products are so uniquely made, that most people just buy what they offer knowing that there won't be many more like these made.
I can find extremely well-made custom knives that tick all the boxes I mentioned above at The Knife Connection. Every time I visit their custom knives collection I find something I have not tried yet, and their staff is always happy to talk about knives and point me in the right direction. I highly recommend The Knife Connection to anyone who wants to buy custom knives.