Tired of seeing the exact same knife over and over again? Maybe it’s time to get a custom made knife. Major manufacturers such as Benchmade, Emerson, Buck and Spyderco will all do custom varieties of their knives from custom scales to custom designs on the blade.
There are plenty of independent artists out there, as well, who will modify blades or start from scratch on a completely unique blade for you.
As these are not stores, it is difficult to say what artist charges what, as it is not necessarily done by an hourly rate. Instead, you get a custom quote when you ask them to do a specific job for you. Materials chosen, intricacy of the design and the knife maker’s experience in dealing with the blade of your choosing all come into play here.
Therefore, I’ll try to focus on individual premade knives done by artists. This does not mean that this is the price to have a custom knife made by the artist, but rather a ballpark figure of what their premade knives go for.
And below, please take a moment to view some of the top knives on the market, and see how well they compare to the custom knife manufacturers we’ll discuss throughout this article:
|ESEE Knives 3P||$$$|
|SOG Flash II||$$|
|Ka-Bar Fighting Knife||$$|
|Kershaw Shuffle II||$|
|Spyderco Paramilitary 2||$$$|
When starting your search for a custom knife, you first of all have to figure out what you are looking for. Are you looking for a survival knife, folder, hunting or just something unique that you can use as a conversation piece or an everyday carry knife?
Certain artists have knives that go for well over $1000 for tactical folding knives, while others charge closer to the $300 range. It all depends on the individual knife maker, their skill, their reputation and what you want done to the knife.
Materials and the ease of the project will also factor in unless you are looking at going with one of the larger manufacturers. The major knife companies like to offer “cookie cutter customs.” What I mean by that is that they use one of their more popular blades, give you some options so you feel like you are involved in the design of it, and give you a finished product that you may already be familiar with.
Nothing is wrong with this, in fact it is a great way to make that perfect knife visibly yours. I do not know if I would go so far as calling that a “custom blade,” as I would more than likely refer to that more as a “custom finish” since they have gone to the work of figuring out which metals will be used, what design will be used and how to overall make the blade for you.
They will often allow you a choice in metals, finishes and edges, which gives you that feeling of control– which is certainly not a bad thing and you will end up with a beautiful knife at the end of the day.
Below, for the sake of comparison, please take a moment to view some of the best-selling fixed blade knives currently for sale on Amazon and compare them to some of the best custom-made knives on the market:
|1) Mossy Oak|
|2) Ka-Bar USMC|
|3) Cold Steel Survivalist|
|5) Camp Lore PR-4|
|4) Cold Steel San Mai SRK|
What do I need to find out first?
The first thing you need to figure out is where your blade is coming from.
- If you are looking for a manufacturer’s blade, but just want a specific design or engraving, then going to Benchmade, Buck, Emerson or Spyderco’s custom websites would probably be the best option. This is usually the cheapest option for buying a custom knife, as you are just getting a customized version of their well-known blades.
- If you are looking for a true custom handmade blade that follows traditional designs, then you’ll want to find a knife maker.
Custom knife makers can be found on sites such as the following:
As you can see, there are literally hundreds of knife makers out there and they do not have a flat fee or a base price to work off of, they start everything about your custom knife from scratch.
Who Really is “the best?”
There is no “best” when coming to custom knife makers. They are all masters of their chosen craft and medium. Just as HR Giger was a master sculptor and helped design the creature in Aliens, it does not mean everyone loved his work.
When looking at knives, it is a little less subjective when it comes to some aspects such as quality of materials, skill level and functionality; however, because they are custom knives, this is as individual as the person commissioning the knife.
Keep communication open
One of the key points to having a custom knife made for you is to make sure both of you are aware of what it is you want. Stay involved in the process of the blade’s development and design.
Although this may seem like a lot of work, it ends up ensuring the final product is what you were expecting. Often, you may not know 100% what it is when you start, yet the project will often take on a life of its own during creation and in the end it is something you could not dream of living without.
Without open and honest communication, mistakes that could have easily been caught and fixed beforehand can become permanent which will of course be an issue you will have to live with or potentially be forced to restart the custom knife making process all over again.
Custom does not always mean new
Custom knives are not always just a new knife being made from the ground up. Often, they can be someone’s grandfather’s knife that they either want restored to its former glory or even to change its design slightly to personalize the blade.
It is incredibly important that you research the knife maker who is going to do this for you and see work that they have already done. You do not want to fall victim to the one who claims that they can do the job—only to have realized you have grossly overestimated their ability to produce the results you desire.
Therefore, I recommend having the potential knife maker do a sketch of what your custom blade will look like. On top of that, ask what tools will be used, find out what damage this could cause to the knife and what would make them cease production on your customized knife.
The last question is the most important.
Regardless of one’s skill level or resources, knowing when something cannot be done is a very important issue, particularly when dealing with antiques. If the knife maker in question notices that when they are working on the blade that there is a hidden crack in the metal, for example, the responsible thing would be to stop and inform you of it and then talk about the options to fix it, what the risks are to continue without fixing, and if it is something that cannot be continued, what to do about the half-finished job so that it looks complete.
Unfortunately, some will ignore that small crack, continue to work on the scales, and then 4 months later when the knife is being used it snaps. Something which may have been preventable could now cost you additional time and money to fix or replace.
Does Popularity Mean Everything?
It is hard to believe that in this day and age that anyone could go without Internet or a webpage, but a lot of knife makers do just that. For a lot of them, this is their hobby and they are busy with a full time job a lot of the time.
There was one particular knife maker that was just like this when I was younger–the quiet, unassuming sort that I had never heard of. I ended up visiting their shop only to be blown away by their skills with designing new blades, as well as their ability to take an old, rusted and often cracked straight razor, clean it up and then make it into a true, functional work of art.
I would honestly have never believed him if he told me he could do this, as I wouldn’t have thought it possible for anyone to do. Yet there it was, staring me in the face with wonderful mirror finishes, which he went so far as to show me its perfection even under a microscope.
Was he fast? No.
Was he famous? Not at all.
But was he good? Absolutely.
I have never met a more thorough man in all my life, not a millimeter of the finished product was left to speak of the hardships it had suffered through neglect and time. These were truly pieces of art.
So this article may not have compared individual knife makers nor their prices as may have been expected, mostly because you really cannot put a set value to anything these artists do. Sure, with the bigger manufacturers, they have a table of how much every change will cost, and that is great as it lowers the barrier of entry for customers looking to own their first custom knife. This model cannot be used by those who do this from scratch however, as each blade is completely unique in its complexity, design, and materials.
As far as the answer to the whole thing: What is the best custom made knife? In short, it is the one you commission once you have found the right knife maker that you trust to provide you with a customized blade that you’ll love for years to come.
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