Why should I pay $25 to $400 for folding knife you ask? I can find one that looks just like the name brand one I want but for $8.95 at the swap meet or on the internet?
The answer is the same for all things: You get what you pay for. Secondly, if all you want is a knife for opening letters, packaged food products or to look cool on your desk, a cheap might do just fine. However, if you actually intend to use the knife as a utility tool, I strongly advise you to avoid buying a cheap knock off knife because it will break very easily, and the steel is often brittle or has a very low Rockwell hardness rating. Sharpening is also more difficult and the blade will not hold a sharp edge very long.
Another point to consider is the reliability factor. If you bought the knife for the wilderness, self defense or as an emergency tool, you want to have confidence in the strength of the locking mechanism, blade steel and general integrity of the construction. You do not want the knife blade snapping in half or popping right off the handles because of some minor lateral pressure if the blade gets stuck in some wood or other matter.
I had a few of these cheap knock off knives and they are junk. They are weakly made with poor quality steels. I go to gun shows a lot and frequently see a table full of knives advertised as “Any Knife $5 or $10”. The knives’ look as if the vendor simply dumped them out of a cardboard box. They are scratched up and the parts do not go together well there are gaps between parts that should be a tight fit. There is a reason the knife is only $5 or $10.
Think about this….. the knife was made in some foreign country then shipped over to a warehouse in the U.S. where some distributor bought them and sold them to retail knife vendors. Factor in the cost of materials, construction costs, shipping costs, warehouse costs, distributor costs and finally the retail markup and your $10 or $15 dollar knife actually has about $2 in material and construction value in it. So……. When you buy the $5, $10 or $15 knife remember that when you get into trouble you are only willing to spend about $2 to safely get out if it. Just something to think about.
I know the temptation is great to not spend a lot of money, but you do not really have to spend a lot of money to get a quality knife. Cynscorion Products offers a large selection of basic black two to three inch blade tactical folding knives that can be purchased from Cold Steel or CRKT for example for as little as $29 to $45. You do not have to spend $100 to $300 for the status symbol upper end semi custom designer folding knives. Some of the best knife values can be found in the Cold Steel Voyager or Gunsite series and the CRKT M-16 series. These are very strong, high quality and popular folding knives. I own several myself. My favorite carry knives are the CRKT M-1 and M-16.
Sheaths are another area to be aware of. Some fixed blade manufacturers sell knives with sheaths as a complete package. Some unscrupulous sellers may separate the knife from the sheath and then charge extra for the sheath. Check the manufacturer’s web site or call them and ask about the knife you are interested in. Does it come with any accessories? Cheap sheaths can also be dangerous. Look out for fabric sheaths without a protective lining. Think about this. Do you really want shoving a sharp knife into an unprotected fabric holder strapped to your waist or thigh? Try to get a good Kydex or similar material sheath.
The quality manufactures also warranty their knives’ against defects and will usually replace their knives very quickly when mailed in. Try returning your cheap Chinese made swap meet knife after it breaks.
Tests have been done on these cheap knives to see how much lateral and downward force is necessary to break the blade or lock. These knives always break with surprisingly little force. Remember, ……they were made to LOOK like the real thing, ……NOT WORK LIKE OR LAST LIKE the real name brand knife. Just like a knock off Rolex or Montblanc pen, the point is to LOOK like the original, and thats what you are only paying for ….. Looks. And some knock offs can’t even look that good.
You also need to be aware of some sellers trying to pass off cheap knock off knives as the real thing. If you are shopping for a quality knife and come across a potentially great deal slow down and look at the details. Check the following:
1. If you can, go to the manufactures web site of the knife you are interested in and down load all of the information on the specific knife. Check the specifications for construction materials, length, width, weight, colors, and blade types and down load any pictures of the blade and the point where the blade meets the handle. Study the information and take it with you when you shop to compare them to the physical knife.
2. Look the knife itself very closely. How closely depends on good a deal the seller is offering. Read the writing on the blade. Look for mis-spellings, inconsistent type face, and quality of imprinting. Look for blade steel type and county of manufacture. Compare the knife to your downloaded pictures and information.
3. Next check the box and instruction/owners booklet that comes with the knife. All the name brand manufactures provide a booklet on their warranty maintenance and safety. If the seller says there is no box or instruction booklet start to wonder and look very closely at the knife. Also is the knife being sold as new or used? A used knife may not come with the box or instruction manual.
4. Internet sales of cheap knives is to be avoided at all costs. You cannot physically hold the knife. The seller may provide out of focus pictures, or not completely describe the knife. Then there is the old, “I don’t know much about these. I am just selling it for a friend” excuse. Also look for the following phrases: “Cold Steel like” “CRKT like”, “CRKT style”, “SOG Style” or similar phrases. A knife is either a Cold Steel knife or not.
5. Lastly, listen to you inner voice. Do you feel uneasy or confident that the knife is genuine? And if you are in a store always get a written receipt that specifically identifies the knife name and model and find out the return policy.
Nothing is for sure. But buying a knife that generally sells for $49 dollars for $25 dollars should be a warning sign that something is potentially fishy.
Now back to the title of our story. Guess what happens after your cheap knock off knife breaks? Hopefully not after you get back from the hospital after the lock fails and cuts your fingers. You buy another knife! If the knife was only cheaply made then you could buy a dozen and throw them away when they break, but then your spending the same or more money for a quality knife and you do not need to worry about your fingers not mention that there is also a manufacturer who will replace you knife if it breaks and you did not abuse it.
Oh yes, please do not use you knife as a pry bar; it is a cutting tool not a screwdriver, pry bar, or hammer. That’s how almost all knives break and the manufacturers know it.
Buy a Multi-Tool if you need a knife/screwdriver/mini pry bar/pier tool.
So….. the moral of the story is you can’t buy a Ferrari for the price of a Chevy Cavalier or a Rolex or for $40. That isn’t reality. So do not expect to buy a good quality 2 or 3 inch folding knife for $16.
Now that I have explained why you should not buy a cheap knock off knife it’s time to give you a little information on buying a quality knife.
Whether you are buying your first quality folding knife or your 20th knife, it is an exciting experience but one also not an easy one. With the number of knives out there, its hard to know which one to select. I hope this brief discussion helps you.
Quality knives whether Tactical Folders or Fixed Blade combat / hunting knives can be expensive and you can quickly spend a lot of money. Whether you intend to just buy one or more knives you need to think through your knife purchase. Some people buy an every day knives, a dress knife, a go to the shooting range knife, a hunting knife and then just some more knives because they looked cool. This is fine as long as you can afford it. You need to decide if you are just going to buy one or two general purpose knives or start a collection and think about how you build that collection.
Before you decide to buy a knife or begin a collection think about what you will use the knife(s) for, and how any particular knife will fit into a larger collection. I am not telling you to not buy multiple knives, just to buy wisely so that you minimize the number of knives you will throw in a drawer to gather dust or give away.
When I initially became interested in knives, I started down this road, but fortunately caught myself before I got too far and started to ask myself why do I need this knife? I usually answered myself with….because it’s better than the last knife or it does “whatever” better then the last one. I soon realized that the knives I bought in the past were for the wrong reasons. I just bought them because they were in front of me and looked good. So…..Where is this going?
Before you decide to buy a knife or begin a collection think about what you will use the knife(s) for, and how any particular knife will fit into a larger collection. I am not telling you not to buy multiple knives, just to buy wisely to minimize the number of knives you will throw in a drawer to gather dust.
Key Knife Features to Consider
Buy the best quality you can. (duh!) All of the knives I sell are from high quality manufacturers. They are knives I would buy and own myself. In fact, I do own a few from some of these brands and will probably buy some more. So if you select a knife I sell you will at least buy a quality knife and take care of point one.
Fixed or Folding blade:
First determine the intended use of the knife. A knife for hunting, survival or the wilderness will most likely be best served by a 6 or 7 inch fixed blade knife. The way I look at it, large fixed blades are for hunting, fishing, soldiering and Bear hunting. They are meant for outdoor use in the wilderness, or mountains or for fighting and survival situations. Anyway, they are also typically impractical to carry around the house or in the City or suburbs in your pocket or attached to your belt. At best, other people will think of you as a nut case playing Rambo, at worst they will call the police. Large mean looking knives and a suburban setting do not mix. Moreover, these large bladed knives are typically illegal to carry concealed or in the open.
Folding blade knives are a much more practical knife to carry and use. Folding knives can be carried in a typical pants pocket without sagging or clipped inside the pants waist band, inside a purse or personal calendar. They are light weight and most of the time under the maximum legal blade length limit of the local government.
Important Point Here! Check with your local police either in person or check the local municipal codes online to find out what the maximum legal blade length is for your area. Almost always it’s less than 3.5 inches and could be as low as 2 inches. Get caught with a knife over the legal limit and it’s a concealed weapon.
Folding knives have made incredible gains in construction and design over the last few years. Locking mechanisms reflect the biggest gains in my opinion. Blade styles, handle materials and shapes are nice but do they really improve the knife?? Does a G-10 plastic handle versus a Micarta or Kydex handle really improve the cutting of the Knife? I believe that knife handle material is a mainly a matter preference, but does not create a measurable benefit to the knife or its cutting abilities.
Two of the latest materials Titanium and Kevlar bring a smile to my face. Think about it. Titanium. It’s lighter and stronger than steel and was originally developed for aircraft engine parts to withstand the extreme stress and heat of a jet engine. This material on a folding knife handle makes the knife better,…… how????? For the extreme cost of titanium versus saving an once of weight, I can’t see the benefit over say Aluminum.
Kevlar is used for bullet resistant vests but now it is being used for knife handles. Why I am still trying figure out. Question? What do you plan on doing with a Kevlar knife handle? Do you plan on deflecting a barrage of 15 bullets with your handy dandy bullet resistant knife?
When I choose a knife handle material I look for a material that does not slip when wet, does not chip or crack easily and is durable. Aluminum and any of the current wonder plastics are light weight and strong enough for my knife handle material needs and far cheaper to buy then Titanium or Kevlar. Wood has been the historic knife handle material as well as bone or stag. In fact over the centuries just about every material has been used for knife handles. Anyway I am limiting my discussion to the most likely materials you are likely to find on the modern tactical folding knife.
Just pick the handle design and material that appeals to you. A knife is a very personal choice.
Folding knife blades come in various styles and shapes and every designer/manufacturer wants you to think that theirs is the best. Well, I think that they are all equally good just of different design. Some may have benefits over others for specialized situations, but for general use I do not think a Clip Point, Tanto Point, Drop Point or modified whatever really is going to significantly matter functionally. Pick the blade style that appeals to you.
I believe it’s all a matter of design preference and a need for manufacturers to come out with something new each year.
I think the two biggest points to consider (pun intended) are steel and edge type.
These two features directly affect the cutting ability, edge holding ability and sharpening of the knife. Think about it. The purpose of the knife is to stay sharp and cut. Everything else is secondary or aesthetics. Important sure, but secondary. So……
First pick a quality steel that is rust resistant, holds an edge well and is easy to sharpen. There are numerous steels out there being used on knives right now, and some are junk. If you’re not sure of the knife’s steel type, ask.
Look for blade steel type and how prominently it’s mentioned in an advertisement. A knife from a quality manufacturer like Cold Steel, CRKT, or Benchmade will tell you the steel they use. The cheap knife makers or commerative knives just say stainless steel. Also 440 A and B are very different and of very low quality then 440-C steel. Ask to be sure it’s at least 440-C.
Many people have their own opinions on which knife steel is the best. Just like which truck, beer, or whatever is the best. I like 440-C, AUS-6, AUS-8, 154CM, ATS 34 and S30V. There are other equally good steel alloys out there some which I list in my information pages. All have various pluses and minus on edge holding ability, ease of sharpening and cost. I am not a steel aficionado, I am just attempting to provide some basic information and keep it simple. For more information on knife steels go to http://www.Cynscorion.com/informationdirectory.htm .
Plain or Serrated
What type of knife edge do you get? Good question. You have a choice of plain edge (What most people think of as a knife edge), fully serrated or partially serrated.
What’s it gonna be? Decisions, decisions.
1. Plain edge knives give nice smooth clean cuts, they are the easiest edge to sharpen and do not get caught on fibrous materials. However, they require a little more effort cut fibrous materials.
2. Serrated knives have been around for a long time but most people are still unaccustomed to them. Serrations can best be described as knife teeth. They typically consist of alternating concave large and small teeth to provide a small smooth cutting surface and ripping points. Fully serrated are great for cutting through fibrous materials such as car seat belts and other hard materials like wood twigs. This is because they basically rip through the material they are cutting. But they have some trouble on cutting small rope or string like materials then a plain edge knife because the rope or string rolls in the serration rather then across it. It will cut, but you need to work it a little better then a plain edge knife.
Serrated knives are also typically more difficult to sharpen without filing down the serrations. It takes practice and a special sharpening tool designed for serrations. There are lots of different serration styles out there so look at them all and decide what may be the best for you if you want a serrated knife.
3. Partially serrated knives are the most popular style because they are a good compromise between the plain and serrated edges. The serrations are still harder to sharpen then the plain edge but there are less of them to sharpen.
None of the three styles above are the worst or best designs. They are different designs each intended for specialized tasks. Before you buy a knife you need to ask yourself what cutting tasks you will most likely face and buy accordingly. You can also buy two of the same knife in different blade styles if you like the knife and have the money.
Back in the days when people referred to tactical folding knives as jack knives, the opening system was both simple and reliable. It consisted of an indentation at the top of the blade (where most knives now place a thumb stud) and your finger nail. To open the knife insert your finger nail into the indentation and pull the blade partially out. Then grab the blade with your thumb and index finger to fully open the knife. This system worked for many decades until the 1980’s. This system although reliable was slow.
When the jack knife became the Tactical Folder a new improved system was developed to quickly flick the knife open. The new device was the cut out and thumb stud. Both work on the same principle. The blade cut out style typical of Spyderco allowed the user to place the base or pad of his thumb in the opening and with a rotating pressure swing out the blade in one continuous motion. The other most common new style opening device is the thumb stud.
This is a small quarter inch metal protrusion at the top or spine of the blade that projects at a 90 degree angle from the blade. The user places thumb over the stud and with a single rotating pressure swing out the blade in one continuous motion. Cold Steel uses the thumb stud style of blade opener.
Two new styles of blade opening systems have recently come on the market by Kershaw and CRKT. Certain Kershaw knife models (Chive, Scallion, and Leek) come with a trademarked “Speed Assist” method of knife opening. It consists of a small metal protrusion on the top spine of the blade that serves two proposes. When closed it serves as the activation for the speed assist system which is a small metal spring that powers the blade open once you push on the metal protrusion. The spring will not open the knife without a good finger push.
Columbia River Knife and Tool Company placed on certain models (M Series) similar metal protrusion except there is no spring assist. It called the “Carson Flipper” It works in a similar fashion but requires a stronger finger action and a little wrist motion. The total movement is very minor. The Knife opens very smoothly and quickly. I have one myself and am completely satisfied and confident with it.
Look at all the different opening mechanisms and choose the one you like the best. Some people prefer the Spyderco system while other swear by the thumb stud or flipper style protrusions.
To stay in business knife manufacturers need to come out with new knife designs yearly (New and Improved).
The problem is that knives have been around for thousands of years. So there is very little that is really new out there. A knife is a low tech tool. So when you review the various designs ask your self is this new handle design, material or blade style really going to improve what I want to do with the knife. Don’t get caught up in this year’s shiny new model.
Now after you think about and you decide there is nothing wrong with the two or three knives you are thinking of considering, you then proceed to select one based which one looks and feels the best to you. Here is where the emotional connection comes in.
Knife collecting is fun but think before you buy. This way you do not end up having five or ten knives in a drawer gathering dust or on eBay selling for half the price you paid for them.
Robert Corsair is the president of Cynscorion Products an online retailer of tactical knifes, Iluminators, laser handgun grips, spotting and rifle scopes and emergency kits. Robert publishes his own blog “Tactical Folding Knifes and lasers” and is member of the NRA and Colorado State Shooting Association. For further information on knifes go to www.cynscorion.com [http://www.cynscorion.com]
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