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19
SEP
2022

What is San Mai Steel?

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San Mai steel, much like Damascus steel, is incredibly durable, even though forged and cut into blades. In addition, the cutting power, particularly of San Mai steel, is exceptional. The process, however, of making this type of steel is wholly different. The unique combination of the core of high carbon steel or Damascus and stainless steel is why it has such unique characteristics and looks.

San Mai steel originates from Japan. The Japanese term San Mai means three layers. And that’s the most accurate description because these blades consist of a center core made using hardened steel and two outer layers or edges made with more pliable, milder steel.

This forging method includes the best of both worlds – carbon steel and stainless steel. The carbon steel in the center creates a sharp edge for cutting and slicing. The stainless steel layers that surround the core provide excellent shock resistance—at the same time, preventing the carbon steel from being damaged. This combination of various elements is responsible for the unique attributes and legendary popularity of blades constructed of San Mai steel.

24
AUG
2022

Custom Knives: Collectible, Investments, or Just For Fun (part 2)

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continued from part 1

Mike Malosh forged Scagel style Skinning Knife Stag

Mike Malosh Forged Scagel style Skinning Knife with Stag $375.00

Custom knives are comprised of two large market sectors; fixed blades and folders. These move in cycles as smaller market sectors cycle within the larger market sectors. Before the internet, this could last a decade or more.  Today the cycles are there, but the knives in the smaller market sectors move in and out of favor much quicker. Within those cycles are even smaller sectors. They are the trends that can last anywhere from a couple of months to a couple of years. As I discussed earlier the matrix gave me insight into the pricing of custom knives. Let’s be honest, if you had the choice between two knives of equal quality and materials from makers of equal skill and reputation; you would more often than not buy the less expensive one.

The issue of buying what you like nagged at me as I knew from my own experience it would cost you money in the long run. This made no sense to me before I created my matrix and even less sense to me after. Given there are thousands of knives available worldwide at any given time, why would you buy a knife for your collection knowing when you sell it you would lose money? Conversely, the question then has to be asked why a maker would price their knives knowing that they won’t sell for that price.  In a business, environment pricing is not arbitrary.  An example of a basic pricing formula would include such costs as (material, shop time, etc.) + Labor + business costs (marketing, printing, etc.) + profit = price.  Other costs can be added or subtracted.  After talking with hundreds of knife makers I found few if any used any kind of formula. More times than not a fellow knifemaker helped them price their knives.   From a maker’s perspective that can make sense.  The advising maker has been around for a few years, makes a similar knife, and has a feel for the market. For you makers reading this, take heed to the lesson in the next paragraph.

Matias Funes forged Koa Hunter custom knife ABS Apprentice Smith Argentina.

Matias Funes forged Koa Hunter ABS Apprentice Smith from Argentina. $350.00

At the 1991 Knifemakers Guild show, I was standing at a very well-known maker’s table.  A new maker approached him and asked him to look at his knife and give him his opinion. The well-known maker looked the knife over and asked the new maker what he sold this for.  The new maker replied, “$210.00.” The well-known maker smiled and said, “you should be asking $325 for a knife this nice.”  The new maker beamed, thanked the well-known maker and went back to his table.  He promptly raised the price of his knife by 55% based on nothing more than his fellow makers’ suggestion.

In a few minutes, a customer approached the well-known maker’s table and asked about the $375 price tag on one of his knives.  The potential customer indicated he felt the price was a little high.  The well-known maker was quick to point out that his knives are a bargain at that price.  Pointing down the row to the new maker he was just talking to.  The well-known maker replied, “See that young man down there, he has only been making knives for 2 years. He has a similar knife to the one in your hand  and his price is $325.00.”

To say I was stunned is putting it mildly.  While you may not feel that your fellow makers are your competitor, the fact is that he or she is. You don’t ask your competitors to price your knives.  A custom knife maker should know their position in any given market.  If they don’t, it is incumbent on the collector to know.  This will keep you from overpaying for a knife.

As we all know or have at least heard, the value of anything is determined by what someone will pay for it.  This concept is exactly what can and often does skew the pricing for one maker or even an entire market.  There are buyers where the retail price does not matter. They will spend what it takes to get the knife often bordering on the absurd.  This is particularly true of the bid-up knives that have become “the show within a show” at knife shows around the world.  As the identity of the individual(s) become known and they buy more of a particular style of knife or maker they are sought out by sellers.  The ‘flips” begin and the “bubble” starts; more on this later.

Stephan Fowler ABS Journeyman Smith Forged 4-Bar Twist Damascus Bowie Rosewood

Stephan Fowler Custom Forged 4 Bar Twist Damascus Bowie with Rosewood ABS Journeyman Smith $899.00

Investing in custom knives does not have to be about getting enough Return On Investment (ROI) to pay for a child’s college education or a beach house.  For those of you who do invest you probably understand that seldom if ever you make enough off of one stock to accomplish the aforementioned goals.  I would suggest you invest in custom knives at an entry level. For this discussion, we shall compare investing in custom knives to the Certificate of Deposit (CD) offered by your bank.  As of this writing, my bank was paying 0.01% APY for a $2,500 minimum opening deposit for six months. Should you cash in that CD after one year you would receive $2,525.00.

Given the cost of a college education today or a beach house; doing the basic math on the equation above shows us that investing in CDs is not the way to go either.  Applying the same 0.01% to a custom knife you purchased for investment purchase  you bought a $500 knife and sold it for $505.00 you would get the same return as you would on a 6-month CD from your bank.  I don’t know about your bank, but mine does not have a 6-month CD with a minimum deposit of $500.00.  No, I am not taking into account shipping costs.  Just as I am not deducting the capital gains tax on your $25 profit from the bank. Being an investor can take a little spontaneity out of your knife buying/collecting.

Scot Matsuoka Viper Custom Titanium Tactical Folder

Scot Matsuoka Viper Titanium Tactical Folder Excellent Lock-up! $499.00

By this point, you understand that the custom knife market moves in cycles.  In the mid-1980s a new knife sector captured the collective imagination of the custom knife market. This knife was called the interframe folder.  Some of you may have never seen one or even heard of this type of knife.  A 440C blade, the frame was two stainless steel scales and generally a lock back.  In the scale or scales, a pocket was milled out and an inlay was put into this pocket.  Generally, Elephant Ivory, Abalone, or some type of Pearl was the inlay. The knives were clean, unique, and filled your hand with some heft and the collectors couldn’t get enough. It wasn’t long before the collectors wanted something a little different so embellishments were offered.  Engraving, gold inlay, and even gemstone inlays became available. This added to the delivery delay and increasing the demand.  The ever-increasing aftermarket prices were being paid by collectors in Japan.  As it happens this country’s economy suffered a significant downturn. The knives found their way back to dealers in the United States. The knives were sold again in the aftermarket with the buyers unaware that the bubble had burst. Leaving the owners with very expensive knives that would never return their initial investment.  The same can be said for the tactical folder of 2010 – 2018.  It was all about the name and the demand.  Many of these knives were poorly made.  They were sold almost entirely by the hype in the aftermarket.

Greg Keith ABS Journeyman Smith forged Ladder pattern Damascus Bowie

Greg Keith Forged Ladder Pattern Damascus Bowie ABS Journeyman Smith $1,250.00

Today in mid-2022 as you read this, many of you have no doubt been watching the upward spiral of forged blades in the custom knife market. This is due to exposure to forged blades on TV and fact that the work is done by one person and primarily by hand.  The forged knives seem more than fairly priced when compared to the tactical folders of 8 to 10 years ago. Unlike the tactical folders, there are no drawings with rabid buyers waiting to own the knife only long enough to flip it. However, most in-demand makers sell out quickly raising prices and the demand for their work. The consistent problem with this market has been in pricing by the mid to lower-level Journeyman Smiths.  Many ask Master Smith prices, for no other reason than they think they can get it. In some cases they do; however, that buyer will regret that decision when the time comes to sell or trade that knife in the aftermarket.  Homework is the key.  You, as the buyer, must know the maker’s position in the custom knife market sector and pay accordingly. My recommendation is that you view the previous two paragraphs as a cautionary tale.

Piotr Gosciniak Custom Explorer Tactical Fighter Survival Knife

Piotr Gosciniak Custom Explorer Tactical Fighter $395.00

Whether you are a collector, investor, or just buy an occasional custom knife.  I would suggest you do your due diligence about where the market cycles are and which way they are moving.  Understanding the makers’ position in a particular market sector will subsequently indicate what their knives should be selling for.  There is nothing that says the mantra can’t be changed to “I buy what I like, but at a value price.”  Who knows, maybe doing a little homework could get you that beach house!

About the author: Les Robertson https://bit.ly/3PySsRO

22
AUG
2022

Custom Knives: Collectible, Investments, or Just For Fun (part 1 of 2)

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Craig Camerer forged damascus lightweight hunting knife ABS Journeyman Smith! Additionally, he is a Forged in Fire (TV show) Champion

Craig Camerer forged Damascus lightweight hunter ABS Journeyman Smith and Forged in Fire Champion $375.00

“I buy what I like.”  This, of course, is the mantra of custom knife buyers around the world. In 1984, while serving as an Infantry Rifle Platoon Leader in the 101st Airborne, I bought my first custom knife.  I bought “what I liked” with the caveat “that I could afford.”  What I wanted was the Sly II by Jimmy Lile.  I ended up with a hollow handle fighter by Robert Parrish, an excellent knife in its own right. My first custom knife was bought to be used. The idea of a collectible or an investment with the purchase of the Robert Parrish knife was not something I even considered. As many of you know buying that first custom knife leads to your second custom knife. A fellow Army Lieutenant and knife collector asked if I had ever been to the Blade Show.  After responding no, planning started for our “assault” on Knoxville, TN to the 1985 Blade Show.  Then; as now, it is three days of heaven for knife aficionados.  It was at that show that the hook was set deep. Over the next two years as a collector, I bought, resold, and traded over $10,000 worth of custom knives. I was purchasing custom knives utilizing the mantra. Part of the joy of buying any collectible is that spontaneous rush you feel when you purchase or trade for that object of desire. However, it did sting a little every time I sold one of my collectible knives and lost money on it.  Something had to change. I had to attain a better working knowledge of the custom knife primary and aftermarkets. I was going to have to do some homework.  

Thad Buchanan Loveless style Custom Boot Knife $900.00

In 1986 I went to the best source for information at the time- Knives 1986. Then; as of now, this book is an invaluable resource.  Utilizing the different categories and numerous photos, the book helped me to focus my search.  Utilizing the index of makers in the back, I was able to get in touch with the makers I was interested in.  Information was gathered; materials, delivery times, and pricing. This allowed me to compare each knife to others in a particular category gaining what I thought to be a substantial level of knowledge regarding the custom knives market. In September of that year, I took the next step and became a custom knife dealer. Nine years later in 1995, I became a full-time custom knife dealer.

In 1993 while working on my Master in Business Administration (MBA), I was fortunate enough to be able to use my business model for many of my course assignments. It was during this time I created my custom knifemaker matrix. Referencing the maker index in the back of Knives ’93, I categorize each maker with the type of knives they made. Pricing for comparable knives was added to the matrix. What became obvious was the pricing was all over the map. To make some sense of this, I started with a base price  giving makers additional points for things such as awards, magazine articles, magazine covers, delivery time, aftermarket prices, etc. 

With no surprise the top makers of the day rose to the top of the list.   However, as we all know each custom knife category can have several hundred makers.  My objective for this matrix was to show the position of each knifemaker in a category based on my criteria.  Let me stress this was my criterion and the bias that came along with it. The matrix showed me which knives were: overpriced, priced correctly, or underpriced. As you can imagine this information would be invaluable to a fledgling custom knife dealer. This was some serious homework!

Gordon Romeis full tapered tangTactical Fighter

Gordon Romeis Tactical Fighter $500.00

Custom knives as investments have generally been received with looks and comments of derision. As I wrote earlier, I was a user who became a collector who embraced the mantra (buy what you liked that you can afford). As I paid for these knives I invested a substantial amount of time and money into them. My introduction to the aftermarket was the investment of $10,000.00.  No single person or group of people conspired to create the loss I encountered. The loss occurred because of the lack of understanding of the custom knife market. Perhaps the next few paragraphs can give you a better insight into the market that is custom knives. (see part 2)

About the author: Les Robertson https://bit.ly/3PySsRO

08
JUL
2022

Journeyman Smith – What You Should Know

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Journeyman Smith – What You Should Know

As you look at some of the custom knife makers’ work on our website, you will notice that some have the designation “Journeyman Smith.” So often, I am asked what this means, so I thought I would write a brief synopsis.

In the later 1980s, I was introduced to forged blades. What drew my attention were the custom Damascus knives made by some of the ABS Master Smiths.  The top makers were asking $100 an inch (including paying for the tang) for their knives, handle material, and a sheath.  For example, Master Smiths would routinely price a  10″ Bowie with a 5″ handle at $1600 – $1800 (depending on handle material.) Remember, this was the 1988 price!

Looking for a less expensive forged knife option led me to carbon steel knives. Not knowing what I was looking for, I became an ABS Associate Member in 1988.  Then I started to be educated on what the Journeyman Smith designation meant and why it was important to me.

Requirements for the performance test to become a Journeyman Smith (JS):

  1. Eligibility: The candidate for JS must be an Apprentice Smith member for at least two years. At this point, they can take their performance test with an ABS Master Smith.  However, they must have been an Apprentice Smith for at least three years before they can test for JS.
  2. Performance Test: The JS candidate can only test with carbon steel blades. There are guidelines for the knife to be used. This test is a 4-part event. The JS candidate must pass all four parts of this test to become eligible to test for JS.
    1. Rope Cutting: This aims to test the edge geometry and sharpness.
    2. Wood Chopping: Is required to demonstrate the edges’ toughness. A construction grade 2X4 is used for this test.
    3. Shaving Hair: This is to demonstrate the edge retention of the blade.
    4. Bending: Is done to show the applicant can heat treat a knife with a soft spine and hard edge. The differential heat treatment allows the blade to bend and not break. This type of heat treat could be an advantage on a hard-use knife.

 

Having met the time and performance test requirements, the JS candidate may now test for their JS Stamp (the JS in script you will see on their blades.)

The candidate will submit five knives with carbon steel blades for judging.  This testing occurs at the Blade Show and several other locations during the year.

Makers will be awarded the JS stamp and certificate upon passing the judging portion of the requirements.  For many, the next step is to become a Master Smith.

In addition to the performance test, most ABS makers will spend time learning this craft with other JS or MS makers.  Some will attend the Bill Moran School of Bladesmithing at Texarkana College in Texarkana, Texas.  Additionally, there are hammer-ins set up across the country.  These are usually done over the weekend and further enhance the attendee’s skills and abilities in making forged blades.

As you can see, custom knife makers with the JS designation have put a lot of time and effort into becoming Journeyman Smith.  The blade smith’s knowledge is evident in the custom knives they produce. As with any endeavor, some JS makers will be better than others.

Over the past 28 years, I have had the opportunity to visit several custom knife makers’ shops. It is always interesting to watch their “process.”  In addition, I have attended classes on making and judging forged blades, and I have had the opportunity to evaluate finished knives at several shows in the US and Canada.

At this point, I have developed a pretty good eye for quality work at all three levels: AS, JS, and MS custom knives.  Both their current work, potential, and the price the makers charge for their knives are also essential to me. Too many JS makers are asking for too much money for their work.

What I look for is:

  1. Quality: Their fit, finish, and flow are commensurate with the rating in the ABS and their time-making knives.  Example: Several JS makers are better knife makers than some MS makers.
  2. Position in the market: What is the makers’ current position in the custom knife market sector compared to the competitors?
  3. Price: This should be influenced by #2. Additionally, the materials used, the demand for their work, and how their retail prices hold up in the aftermarket.  Right now, too many makers’ prices are not commensurate with the position in the market.
  4. Improving Skill Set: Are JS makers improving their fit, finish and flow? Are they moving towards making Damascus, San Mai, blades with Hamons, and the materials used? Are they incorporating Stag, Premium woods, and Ivories as part of their handle material(s) options?
  5. Communication: Do they answer emails or return phone calls promptly? Do they make sure (to the best of their abilities) you are receiving the knife you want?  Point: Communication is a two-way street.  Both the customer and maker must communicate clearly and concisely.

When you see a knife maker with the JS designation on my website, you can be sure I have vetted them.  Over thirty-five years, I have developed the skills on what to look for in all aspects of the knife.  As a result, I feel I am working with some of the best Journeyman Smiths in the world. I would encourage you to look at their knives on my website and continually develop your knowledge of forged blades.

For additional information on what it takes to become a Journeyman Smith, I would recommend you follow this link the ABS website: http://www.americanbladesmith.com/index.php?section=pages&id=172

 

Robertson’s Custom Cutlery is your source for custom knives from today’s leading custom knife makers. We only feature the highest quality knives at value prices. Our custom fixed and folding knife selection includes tactical fixed and folding knives, presentation fixed and folding knives, bowies, hunters and skinners, and a large selection of forged blades. Les Robertson, author and owner of Robertson’s Custom Cutlery, is also a Field Editor for Blade Magazine and an instructor at Blade University. If you have questions about the content in this article or about any knife or maker on our website, you can contact Les directly at customknives@comcast.net or (706) 650-0252.

 

07
JUL
2022

Master Smith – What You Should Know

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Master Smith – What You Should Know

As you look at some of the custom knife makers’ work on our website, you will notice that some have the designation “Master Smith.”  So often, I’m asked what this means, so I thought I would write a brief synopsis.

In the late 1980s, I was introduced to forged blades. What drew my attention were the custom Damascus knives made by the ABS Master Smiths. The top makers were asking $100 an inch (including paying for the tang) for their knives, handle material, and a sheath. For example, Master Smiths would routinely price a  10″ Bowie with a 5″ handle at $1600 – $1800 (depending on handle material.) Remember, this was the 1988 price!

This led me to look for less expensive options, which at that time primarily meant carbon steel. Not knowing what I was looking for, I became an ABS Associate Member in 1988. Then I started to be educated on what the MS designation meant and why it was important to me.

Requirements for the performance test to become a Master Smith (MS):

  1. Eligibility:The candidate for MS must be a Journey Smith member for at least one year. At this point, they can take their performance test with an ABS Master Smith; however, they must have been a Journeyman Smith for at least two years before testing for MS.
  2. Performance Test:MS candidates can only test with a pattern-welded Damascus blade per the test knife specifications. There are guidelines for the knife to be used. A test is a 4-part event. The MS candidate must pass all four parts of the test to become eligible to test for Master Smith.
    1. Rope Cutting: This aims to test the edge geometry and sharpness.
    2. Wood Chopping:This test demonstrates the edges’ toughness. A construction grade 2X4 is used for this test.
    3. Shaving Hair: This is to demonstrate the edge retention of the blade.
    4. Bending: This test demonstrates the applicant can heat treat a knife with a soft spine and hard edge. This process is known as “differential heat treat.”   This type of heat treat could be an advantage on a hard-use knife.

Having met the time and performance test requirements, the MS candidate may now test for their MS Stamp (the MS in script you will see on their blades.)

The candidate will submit five knives. This testing occurs at the Blade Show and several other locations during the year. At least one of these knives must be an art knife meeting the ABS requirement of a traditional pattern welded Damascus European Quillion type dagger with at least three hundred (300) or more forge welded layers. The rest of the knives must be of different designs, varieties, and varying steel types to demonstrate the applicant’s ability to make a wide range of classic blades. While not required, a folding knife with a Damascus blade can be submitted as one of the candidates’ test knives for their MS stamp.

In addition to the performance test, most ABS makers will spend time learning this craft with other JS or MS makers.  Some will attend the Bill Moran School of Bladesmithing at Texarkana College in Texarkana, Texas. Additionally, there are hammer-ins set up across the country. These are usually done over the weekend and enhance the attendee’s skills and abilities in making forged custom blades.

As you can see, makers with the MS designation have put a lot of time and effort into becoming Master Smith.  The knowledge they have gained can be seen in their knives.  As with any endeavor, some MS makers will be better than others.

Over the past 28 years, I have had the opportunity to visit several custom knife makers’ shops. It is always interesting to watch their “process.” In addition, I have attended classes on making and judging forged blades. And have had the opportunity to evaluate finished knives at several shows in the US and Canada.

I have developed a good eye for quality work at all three levels: AS, JS, and MS knives.  In addition to the current work and potential, the price the makers charge for their MS-designated custom knives is also significant to me. Once a maker earns the MS stamp, there is no further testing required. Unfortunately, several MS makers are resting on their laurels. Many of these makers would have difficulty earning the MS stamp if they were to test today. With the prices asked for by some of the Master Smith knives. Collectors must know what to look for in an MS maker’s work.  Collectors should be more critical of mistakes on an MS knife than on a JS maker’s knife.

What I look for is:

  1. Quality: Their fit, finish, and flow are commensurate with the rating in the ABS and their time-making knives. Example: Several JS makers are better custom knife makers than some MS makers.
  2. Position in the market: Where is the maker compared to its competitors in the current market? This is especially true in the MS knife market. Considering there are only, according to the ABS website, 113 active Master Smiths worldwide, understanding each of these makers’ position in the market is the best way to get the best quality knife for your money.
  3. Price:This should be influenced by #2. The materials used, the demand for their knives, and how their retail prices hold up in the aftermarket. Right now, too many makers’ prices are not commensurate with the position in the market.
  4. Improving Skill Set: Master Smiths should be able to move comfortably between carbon steel and Damascus and all other forms of forged blades. Their fit, finish, and flow should be excellent. In addition, all should be able to incorporate a vast array of handle materials, including Stag and Ivories.
  5. Communication:Do they answer emails or return phone calls on time? Do they make sure (to the best of their abilities) you are receiving the knife you want? Point: Communication is a two-way street. Both the customer and custom knife maker must communicate clearly and concisely.

When you see a custom knife maker with the MS designation on my website, you can be sure I have vetted their knives. Over thirty-five years, I have developed the skills on what to look for in all aspects of the knife. As a result, I feel I am working with some of the best Master Smiths in the world. I would encourage you to look at their knives on my website and continually develop your knowledge base regarding forged blades.

For additional information on what it takes to become a Master Smith I would recommend you follow this link the ABS website: http://www.americanbladesmith.com/index.php?section=pages&id=172

Robertson’s Custom Cutlery is your source for custom knives from today’s leading custom knife makers. We only feature the highest quality knives at value prices. Our custom fixed and folding knife selection includes tactical fixed and folding knives, presentation fixed and folding knives, bowies, hunters and skinners, and a large selection of forged blades. Les Robertson, author and owner of Robertson’s Custom Cutlery, is also a Field Editor for Blade Magazine and an instructor at Blade University. If you have questions about the content in this article or about any knife or maker on our website, you can contact Les directly at les@robertsonscustomcutlery.com or (706) 650-0252.

05
MAY
2022

What Defines the Best Custom Utility Hunting Knife? Part 1

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If you are a knife maker wanting to enter a utility hunter for judging at the 2022 Blade Show, you should read this first…

 

Very popular in his home country of Slovakia, Jan Hafinec outfits his custom utility hunter (shown above) with a 5-inch blade of forged C105 carbon steel sporting a flashy double Hamon. The handle is made of Presentation Desert Ironwood.  Guard and sub hilt: stainless steel  Overall length: 10″  A custom leather sheath by the maker completes the package. Fisher’s price for a similar knife is $699.00 (Impress by design image)

When it comes to custom knives, the best utility hunters have many of the features outlined herein. (Note: There are two parts to this blog.)

Countless articles have been written about hunting knives. Primarily, the stories discussed which knife is best for which game.  The two main features that get the most coverage are the blade style/shape and the length. The knife referred to commonly as the hunter is more than likely a utility hunting knife.
No matter where you are if you are using a guide—hunting or fishing—more than likely your guide is the one doing the dressing of the game. Chances are, he is using a utility hunting knife with some of the following features.

Blade Steel
If you ask 100 people what the best steel is for a hard-use field knife, you probably will get at least 50 different answers. Why? End users are very loyal to steel that has proved itself in the field.

The two primary choices for blade steel are carbon and stainless. Each has its pros and cons. Stainless steel’s biggest advantage is that it is rust-resistant, meaning it will require less maintenance. Stainless is not code for “no maintenance.” Yes, stainless steel will rust.

Carbon steel requires maintenance. Many things will make carbon steel rust, several examples being the blood from the game that is being processed and some types of vegetation, including vegetables. However, the rust can be held to a minimum or eliminated simply by cleaning and oiling the knife after use. Keep in mind that storing your carbon steel knife in a leather sheath can also cause rust, especially on a wet blade, as the tannic acid used to process the leather can cause rust spots.

The winner of Best Utility Hunter at Blade Show 2018, ABS Master Smith Josh Fisher’s hunter (above) has a 4.25″ blade of 1084 carbon steel, a Ringed Gidgee handle, and a guard of brushed Stainless Steel. Overall length: 8.75″ The knife comes with a custom-made leather sheath. Josh’s price for a similar knife is $685.00. At that show, he earned both his ABS Master Smith (MS) stamp and the B.R. Hughes Award for the best knife submitted by an MS applicant.  (Eric Eggly/PointSeven image)

Karis Fisher (above knife photo) is the daughter of ABS Master Smith Josh Fisher. Karis not only earned her ABS journeyman smith (JS) stamp in March, she also won the Joe Keeslar Award for the best knife submitted by a JS applicant. The 4-inch blade is 1084 carbon steel and the handle is Vintage Micarta®. Guard: 416 stainless steel. Overall length: 8.5″ Sheath: custom-made leather.  Karis’ price for a similar hunting knife is $375.00.

While carbon steel can rust, it does have two advantages over stainless steel if the blade is forged. First, several blade smiths forge distal taper into their carbon steel blades. The taper removes weight from the blade, thereby making the knife lighter in weight and thus easier to carry and manipulate. Second, carbon steel blades can be differentially heat treated to give them a hard edge for sharpness and a softer back for malleability. The latter results in a blade with greater flexibility that is much more likely to bend rather than break under high stress.

The steel you choose for your utility hunting knife should be one that can be sharpened in the field and fit the requirements for what you want your knife to accomplish. Remember—it is always best to resharpen your knife before it gets dull!

Ideal Sizes

Having judged custom utility hunters at the Blade Show for over two decades, I can tell you there is no one ideal size. That said, most of the judging competition winners feature a blade between 3 7/8 and 5 inches in length. (For the makers reading this, please do not submit your 10-inch bowie or 2-inch miniature in this category for judging.) Among the accompanying images for this story are three past winners of the category at the Blade Show. Note the differences and similarities of these knives. In addition to dimensions, the importance of handle ergonomics cannot be overstated! Most handles will feature some kind of contouring and generally will be between 4.5 and 5 inches long.

The 5-inch blade of W2 tool steel with Hamon headlines a utility hunter by Jim Crowell. (pictured above) The handle is black canvas Micarta® and the guard is stainless steel. Jim made the leather sheath. Overall length: 10″ This knife was made for the author. Jim’s price for a similar knife is $850.00. (Impress by design image)

click below for the rest of this article. Thanks!

Part 2

01
MAY
2022

What Defines the Best Custom Utility Hunting Knife? Part 2

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Guards

For the most part, integral guards are utilized as a quicker, less expensive way to make knives. Most are simply squared off to give the illusion that they are somehow protecting your index finger/hand. I learned the hard way that such a guard is not meant for hard work. If you are going to use a knife with this type of guard, wear a glove.

Ben Breda Best Utility Hunter Blade Show 2019 Blackwood

Ben Breda won Best Utility Hunter at Blade Show 2019 for his model (photo above) in a 4-inch blade of W2 tool steel with Hamon. The handle is sculpted African blackwood with a bronze “S” collar and the blade is stainless steel. The knife comes with a leather sheath by Breda. Overall length: 8.75″ Ben’s hunter price for a similar knife is $575.00. (SharpByCoop image)

Most custom utility hunters have a single guard with some amount of curve built in to give you a better handle ergonomic. Additionally, it will provide some protection for your index finger/hand. The primary metals used for such guards are brass, nickel silver, and stainless steel. While brass is a favorite among factories and new custom makers, the biggest problem is it is soft.  It can be easily nicked or cut, making it uncomfortable to hold. Stainless steel guards provide the best protection and the least amount of maintenance for your knife.

Handle Material

If you are looking for a category of custom knives to collect or use that have diverse handle materials, utility hunting knives lead the way. Synthetics, wood, ivory, bone, antler, mother-of-pearl, and others—you name it, utility hunters have it.

Malosh Custom Elk Hunting Knife

Mike Malosh opts for an elk antler (above photo) with black and maroon Micarta® and stainless steel spacers for the handle of his utility hunter. The 6-inch blade is a W2 tool steel and the guard is stainless steel. Overall length: 10.75″ The knife comes with a leather sheath by Malosh. Mike’s price for a similar hunter is $390.00. (Impress by design image)

When many outdoorsmen dress their knives to impress, they want stag. Unfortunately, stag is experiencing two things simultaneously, and neither is good. Because of lack of supply, the quality is going down and the price is going up to the point that the ancient ivories are now becoming an alternative. After talking with knifemaker Mike Malosh at Blade Show 2021, I have started to order some hunting knives with elk. While not as popular as Sambar Stag, it is a great handle material and has a nice look.

My experience in the field has made me a true believer in synthetic handle materials. The two most popular are Micarta® and G-10. Canvas Micarta is my personal favorite. As the name implies, there are bits of canvas included when the Micarta is made. This gives the handle a little more grip when wet. Westinghouse Micarta is gaining in popularity. Often it’s referred to as “vintage or antique” due to the fact most of it was made before 1960.

Carbon fiber is five times stronger than steel, twice as stiff, and lighter in weight. This gave rise to numerous commercial applications, eventually finding its way into the custom knife market. Initially used by custom makers for scales on folders, you can now find them using it for fixed blade handles, too.

The advantage of synthetics over natural handle materials is synthetics don’t shrink and, for the most part, are impervious to the elements. That said, natural handle materials can dress up a knife.

Sage Advice

The custom utility hunting knife will be a workhorse in the field. Consider the factors I have outlined before you maker or buy one. What will you primarily use it for? What size handle is best for your hand? Will you be able to do the maintenance required for the blade steel? Can you sharpen the knife in the field and, if not, will you be able to practice how to do so before you get there?
I prefer a 5-inch blade as my experience has taught me that a big blade can do little knife chores, but not the other way around. As my 7th-grade shop teacher always said, “Use the right tool for the job.” Sage advice!

25
JUN
2021

Damascus Bowie Knife Defined

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(cont. from Damascus Bowies category page)

The Bowie knife is named after its owner who made the Bowie knife famous: Jim Bowie. Most think of a Bowie as a knife with a long blade. Variations of Bowies exist with a 4″ blade. These were a favorite knife of the river boat gambler. This knife was often referred to as a “Vest Pocket” Bowie. Bowie blades can reach up to 14″; however, the

The Damascus Bowie is reintroduced.
Many objects of legend and lore will fade after 189 years, but not the Bowie knife. Thanks in no small part to the American Bladesmith Society (ABS) and the men and women who form this organization. The forged knife has been kept alive around the world. Bill Moran, the patriarch of the ABS, is credited with the rediscovery of creating Damascus.

Damascus is basically the combining of two or more steels. In the case of most forged Damascus blades today, those steels are a basic carbon steel such as 1084 that is combined with 15N20. The nickel in 15N20 steel resists the acid etch and stays shiny. It is the combination of the etched and shiny that give Damascus its distinctive look.

The majority of forged blades are flat ground. Simply put, this means the blade tapers all the way from the spine to the edge from both sides. Doing so makes this a more difficult grind as the maker has to remove a lot of metal. The advantage gained is a lighter blade that maintains its integrity.

Another technique utilized with forged blades is differential heat treatment. Basically, this creates a harder edge and a softer spine. The blade will generally have a temper line showing the difference between the harder and softer parts of the blade.

The carbon steels that are used are too numerous to mention them all here. The primary ones used with forged Bowie blades are; 0-1, W-2, 1075, 1084, 1095, 5160 and 52100.

There are three basic types of handles. First, the hidden tang; which is exactly what it sounds like. A hole is drilled and shaped through the center of the handle material to make room for the tang. Epoxy is often used as the adhesive to keep the tang and handle material together.

Depending on the material and maker, the handle may or may not have a pin through the handle. This type of knife handle will also lend itself to the take down handle. The handle is built in a similar fashion, but to a higher degree of fit as no glue is used to secure the tang and handle material. The handle is held together with a type of nut or finial that screws onto the tang providing the necessary pressure to keep the handle secured. Generally, a tool is provided to remove the device that is holding the knife together.

Second is the mortise tang. The tang will be shorter and the handle material will be spit. The inside of the handle material will have a slot cut evenly on both sides. This will allow the tang to be sandwiched in between both pieces of handle material. This technique will almost always have a combination of epoxy and some type of pin through the handle. An advantage of this type of handle is the reduction of weight. This can really help with a hunter/skinner, as well as, aid in the balance of the knife.

Third is the frame handle. Basically, the tang is slotted into a frame and handle material is added to each side. When completed it gives the illusion that the knife has a full tang. Generally, constructed with both hidden and pins that show. This is the most complex method of the three. Expect to pay more for this type of handle.

While all Damascus is forged, how it comes to be on a knife can differ. Makers who forge their knives generally will make their own Damascus. While many makers who utilize the stock removal method, will purchase their Damascus from a third party who specialize in making Damascus.

Bowies created by the stock removal method primarily differ from forged Bowies in two main ways:

1) Steel: Basically, stainless steel is used as opposed to carbon steel.

2) Handle: Generally, either a full tang or hidden tang construction.

Robertson’s Custom Cutlery is your source for custom knives from today’s leading custom knife makers. We only feature the highest quality knives at value prices. Our custom fixed and folding knife selection includes tactical fixed and folding knives, presentation fixed and folding knives, bowies, hunters and skinners, and a large selection of forged blades. Les Robertson, author and owner of Robertson’s Custom Cutlery, is also a Field Editor for Blade Magazine and an instructor at Blade University. If you have questions about the content in this article or about any knife or maker on our website, you can contact Les directly at customknives@comcast.net or (706) 650-0252.

25
JUN
2021

Damascus Fixed Blades Defined

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(cont. from Damascus Fixed Blades category page)

The majority of forged blades are flat ground. Simply put, this means the blade tapers all the way from the spine to the edge from both sides. Doing so makes this a more difficult grind as the maker has to remove a lot of metal. The advantage gained is a lighter blade that maintains its integrity.

Another technique utilized with forged blades is differential heat treatment. Basically, this creates a harder edge and a softer spine. The blade will generally have a temper line showing the difference between the harder and softer parts of the blade.

Damascus fixed blades can come in all lengths and styles. (Click to see these examples)
Skinning Knives
Fighters
Damascus Bowies

While all Damascus is forged, how it comes to be on a knife can differ. Custom knife makers who forge their knives generally will make their own Damascus. While many makers who utilize the stock removal method, will purchase their Damascus from a third party who specialize in making Damascus.

 

Robertson’s Custom Cutlery is your source for custom knives from today’s leading custom knife makers. We only feature the highest quality knives at value prices. Our custom fixed and folding knife selection includes tactical fixed and folding knives, presentation fixed and folding knives, bowies, hunters and skinners, and a large selection of forged blades. Les Robertson, author and owner of Robertson’s Custom Cutlery, is also a Field Editor for Blade Magazine and an instructor at Blade University. If you have questions about the content in this article or about any knife or maker on our website, you can contact Les directly at customknives@comcast.net or (706) 650-0252.

25
JUN
2021

Slip Joint and Multi-Blade Folding Knife Defined

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(cont. from Slip Joint and Multi-Blade Folding Knives category page)

The majority of slip joint and multi-blade folders made today are based on designs from, in some cases, the 1880’s.  Handle materials such as, jigged bone, Stag, wood and even Ivory on slip joint folding knives is nothing new.  Steels and handle materials have been upgraded since then and today.

Two terms often associated with slip joint folding knives are “Walk and Talk.”

Walk

The polished part of the spring front where the tang end and torque point move when opening and closing the blade.

Talk

The sound a blade makes when it snaps open or shuts at the end of the walk, causing knife people to speak of the “walk and talk” of the pocket knife.

The custom versions of these knives started to gain in popularity in the 1990’s.  This was due in large part to the custom knife maker Tony Bose.   Tony is considered the premier slip joint folding knife maker in the world.

While slip joint folding knives may have been the preferred folder of your father or grandfather, these knives have nothing on the custom versions that are being produced today.   The quality, steel(s), tolerance’s, and material choices help to keep the knives from two centuries ago still relevant today.

 

 

Robertson’s Custom Cutlery is your source for custom knives from today’s leading custom knife makers. We only feature the highest quality knives at value prices. Our custom fixed and folding knife selection includes tactical fixed and folding knives, presentation fixed and folding knives, bowies, hunters and skinners, and a large selection of forged blades. Les Robertson, author and owner of Robertson’s Custom Cutlery, is also a Field Editor for Blade Magazine and an instructor at Blade University. If you have questions about the content in this article or about any knife or maker on our website, you can contact Les directly at customknives@comcast.net or (706) 650-0252.

25
JUN
2021

Hunters and Skinners Defined

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(cont. from Hunter and Skinner category page)

The smallest of the hunter group is a bird and trout knife. This knife features a small thin blade that can be used to field dress game birds and filet fish.

Perhaps the most recognizable hunter is the Loveless designed drop point hunter. This knife generally features a 3.5″ to 4″ blade. Most feature a single guard and a wide variety of handle materials. Among the favorite handle materials is Stag. Not only does this make your knife look good, the lands and grooves of the Stag antler provide an excellent grip, especially if your hand is wet.

“Skinners” or skinning knives are aptly named. These knives feature an up-swept blade that is designed to remove the fur or pelt from the animal.

As the game becomes bigger such as Moose, Bear, etc., hunting knives tend to get a little longer. This allows the hunter to quarter the game and pack the desired meat of the animal back to camp for further processing. There, once again, the hunting knife will become the primary tool for the final processing of the meat.

Robertson’s Custom Cutlery is your source for custom knives from today’s leading custom knife makers. We only feature the highest quality knives at value prices. Our custom fixed and folding knife selection includes tactical fixed and folding knives, presentation fixed and folding knives, bowies, hunters and skinners, and a large selection of forged blades. Les Robertson, author and owner of Robertson’s Custom Cutlery, is also a Field Editor for Blade Magazine and an instructor at Blade University. If you have questions about the content in this article or about any knife or maker on our website, you can contact Les directly at customknives@comcast.net or (706) 650-0252.

25
JUN
2021

Presentation Fixed Blade Defined

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(cont. from Presentation Fixed Blade category page)

Another aspect of the presentation fixed blade may be additional embellishment.  This would include engraving, blued fittings often with Gold inlay.  If the knife has a handle made from Ivory you may see it scrimshawed.  On occasion you may see any or all aspects of the knife with some carving.

The word Presentation can be misleading as it gives you the idea this knife is merely something to be put under glass or hung on the wall.  Make no mistake, the knives are fully functioning.  If necessary they would do exactly what they were designed to do.

 

 

Robertson’s Custom Cutlery is your source for custom knives from today’s leading custom knife makers. We only feature the highest quality knives at value prices. Our custom fixed and folding knife selection includes tactical fixed and folding knives, presentation fixed and folding knives, bowies, hunters and skinners, and a large selection of forged blades. Les Robertson, author and owner of Robertson’s Custom Cutlery, is also a Field Editor for Blade Magazine and an instructor at Blade University. If you have questions about the content in this article or about any knife or maker on our website, you can contact Les directly at customknives@comcast.net or (706) 650-0252.

24
JUN
2021

Damascus Hunter Defined

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(cont. from Damascus Hunters category page)

The size and type of the blade design will depend on the animal, bird or fish. The smallest of the hunter group is a bird and trout knife. This knife features a small thin blade that can be used to field dress game birds and filet fish.

Perhaps the most recognizable hunter is the Loveless designed drop point hunter. A damascus hunting knife generally features a 3.5″ to 5″ blade. Most feature a single guard and a wide variety of handle materials. Among the favorite handle materials is Stag. Not only does this make your knife look good, the lands and grooves of the Stag antler provide an excellent grip, especially if your hand is wet.

“Skinners” or skinning knives are aptly named. These knives feature an up-swept blade that is designed to remove the fur or pelt from the animal.

As the game becomes bigger such as Moose, Bear, etc., hunting knives tend to get a little longer. This allows the hunter to quarter the game and pack the desired meat of the animal back to camp for further processing. There, once again, the hunting knife will become the primary tool for the final processing of the meat.

While maintenance of your blade is always recommended. Damascus is more susceptible to rust than most blades. Once you are done using your knife. Wash it and wipe it off, then put a light coat of oil on it. After the trip, be sure to not store your custom made Damascus blade in the leather sheath. The tannic acid used to prepare the leather can lead to your blade rusting.

 

Robertson’s Custom Cutlery is your source for custom knives from today’s leading custom knife makers. We only feature the highest quality knives at value prices. Our custom fixed and folding knife selection includes tactical fixed and folding knives, presentation fixed and folding knives, bowies, hunters and skinners, and a large selection of forged blades. Les Robertson, author and owner of Robertson’s Custom Cutlery, is also a Field Editor for Blade Magazine and an instructor at Blade University. If you have questions about the content in this article or about any knife or maker on our website, you can contact Les directly at customknives@comcast.net or (706) 650-0252.

23
JUN
2021

Damascus Folding Knife Defined

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(cont. from Damascus Folders category page)

Precious gem stones such as Jade or Lapis Lazuli can be used for custom knife scales. Another option is reconstituted stone, such as dyed coral. Other stones such as Tiger’s Eye, Malachite and even Agates have even been used for Damascus folding knife scales.

There are many types of unique patterns created in forged Damascus like twist, ladder, swirl, mosiac, star, etc.

Locks can range from, lock backs, liner lock, frame lock, push button locks.

Clips may or may not be used. The issue with using a clip with a folding knife using natural handle material will be the drilling of the holes for the screws. This hole may lead to an immediate crack or one that forms years later as the handle material contracts and expands.

While all Damascus is forged, how it comes to be on a knife can differ.   Makers who forge their knives generally will make their own Damascus.   While many makers who utilize the stock removal method, will purchase their Damascus from a third party who specialize in making Damascus.

 

 

Robertson’s Custom Cutlery is your source for custom knives from today’s leading custom knife makers. We only feature the highest quality knives at value prices. Our custom fixed and folding knife selection includes tactical fixed and folding knives, presentation fixed and folding knives, bowies, hunters and skinners, and a large selection of forged blades. Les Robertson, author and owner of Robertson’s Custom Cutlery, is also a Field Editor for Blade Magazine and an instructor at Blade University. If you have questions about the content in this article or about any knife or maker on our website, you can contact Les directly at customknives@comcast.net or (706) 650-0252.

20
JUN
2021

Tactical Folding Knife Defined

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(cont. from Tactical Folder category page)

The criteria I came up with for the tactical folder category of the custom knife judging for the Blade Show is as follows:

The blade should have a non-reflective finish that can be bead blasted, acid washed, some kind of coating. Even a machine satin finish so the blade will not reflect light.

Bolster (if used) could be stainless steel, Titanium, Aluminum (yes, that used to be used for bolsters on tactical folders) or Zirconium. Again, your choice, but, as with the blade it should have a finish that does not reflect light.

Handle material will be of a synthetic nature. These would include G-10, Micarta or Carbon fiber, as examples.

If stainless steel, Aluminum or titanium are used for the handle and frame, then as with the blade, it will have to have a non-reflective finish.

At the time, no mention was made of opener’s, clips or locks. In 2018, the majority of tactical folders had a flipper opener, a liner or frame lock. Most have a clip that are now predominately set to the blade and is carried tip up inside the frame.

Well-known tactical folder maker, Bob Terzuola, wrote what is considered by many to be the definitive work on the subject: The Tactical Folding Knife: A Study of the Anatomy and Construction of the liner Locked Folder

If you have a chance to look on page 4 of this book, Bob gives thanks to all those who helped him with this book. Quote: “I would like to thank Les Robertson and Bob Neal for helping me define what a tactical folder is.”

Robertson’s Custom Cutlery is your source for custom knives from today’s leading custom knife makers. We only feature the highest quality knives at value prices. Our custom fixed and folding knife selection includes tactical fixed and folding knives, presentation fixed and folding knives, bowies, hunters and skinners, and a large selection of forged blades. Les Robertson, author and owner of Robertson’s Custom Cutlery, is also a Field Editor for Blade Magazine and an instructor at Blade University. If you have questions about the content in this article or about any knife or maker on our website, you can contact Les directly at  or (706) 650-0252.

20
JUN
2021

Tactical Fixed Blade Defined

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(cont. from Tactical Fixed Blade category page)

Guard (if used) could be stainless steel, sometimes carbon steel will be used. Generally, if that is the case, the guard will be coated with something like cera-cote or blued. Again, your choice; but, as with the blade it should have bead blast finish or one that does not reflect light.

Tactical fixed blades can also feature a metal feature at the end of the handle called the pommel, skull crusher, glass breaker, etc. This too should feature a non-reflective finish.

Handle material will be of a synthetic nature. These would include G-10, Micarta or Carbon fiber.

Tactical fixed blades are credited with the introduction of Kydex and Kydex lined Cordura nylon sheaths. Even today these are mainstays for tactical fixed blades.

Robertson’s Custom Cutlery is your source for custom knives from today’s leading custom knife makers. We only feature the highest quality knives at value prices. Our custom fixed and folding knife selection includes tactical fixed and folding knives, presentation fixed and folding knives, bowies, hunters and skinners, and a large selection of forged blades. Les Robertson, author and owner of Robertson’s Custom Cutlery, is also a Field Editor for Blade Magazine and an instructor at Blade University. If you have questions about the content in this article or about any knife or maker on our website, you can contact Les directly at customknives@comcast.net or (706) 650-0252.

25
FEB
2021

Bowie Knife Defined

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(cont. from Bowies category page)

The Bowie knife blades can reach up to 14″ in over all length; however, the sweet spot for a Bowie blade length is 9 – 11.”  Jim Bowie’s knife had a 9.25″ blade.

The majority of custom forged blades are flat ground. Simply put, this means the blade tapers all the way from the spine to the edge from both sides. Doing so makes this a more difficult grind as the maker has to remove a lot of metal. The advantage gained is a lighter blade that maintains its integrity.

Another technique utilized with forged blades is differential heat treatment. Basically, this creates a harder edge and a softer spine. The forged blade will generally have a temper line showing the difference between the harder and softer parts of the blade.

The carbon steels that are used are too numerous to mention them all here. The primary ones used with forged Bowie blades are; 0-1, W-2, 1075, 1084, 1095, 5160 and 52100.

There are three basic types of handles. First, the hidden tang; which is exactly what it sounds like. A hole is drilled and shaped through the center of the handle material to make room for the tang. Epoxy is often used as the adhesive to keep the tang and handle material together.

Depending on the material and maker, the handle may or may not have a pin through the handle. This type of knife handle will also lend itself to the take down handle. The handle is built in a similar fashion, but to a higher degree of fit as no glue is used to secure the tang and handle material. The handle is held together with a type of nut or finial that screws onto the tang providing the necessary pressure to keep the handle secured. Generally, a tool is provided to remove the device that is holding the knife together.

Second is the mortise tang. The tang will be shorter and the handle material will be spit. The inside of the handle material will have a slot cut evenly on both sides. This will allow the tang to be sandwiched in between both pieces of handle material. This technique will almost always have a combination of epoxy and some type of pin through the handle. An advantage of this type of handle is the reduction of weight. This can really help with a hunter/skinner, as well as, aid in the balance of the knife.

Third is the frame handle. Basically, the tang is slotted into a frame and handle material is added to each side. When completed it gives the illusion that the knife has a full tang. Generally, constructed with both hidden and pins that show. This is the most complex method of the three. Expect to pay more for this type of handle.

Bowies created by the stock removal method primarily differ from forged bowies in two main ways:

1) Steel: Basically, stainless steel is used as opposed to carbon steel.

2) Handle: Generally, either a full tang or hidden tang construction.

 

Robertson’s Custom Cutlery is your source for custom knives from today’s leading custom knife makers. We only feature the highest quality knives at value prices. Our custom fixed and folding knife selection includes tactical fixed and folding knives, presentation fixed and folding knives, bowies, hunters and skinners, and a large selection of forged blades. Les Robertson, author and owner of Robertson’s Custom Cutlery, is also a Field Editor for Blade Magazine and an instructor at Blade University. If you have questions about the content in this article or about any knife or maker on our website, you can contact Les directly at customknives@comcast.net or (706) 650-0252.

27
JAN
2021

Investing in Custom Knives: Part 2 of 5

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2. Position in the Custom Knife Market

A maker’s position in a market is not always so obvious. Early on, when I was primarily a collector, I noticed (after spending several-thousand dollars) that just about every knife I bought and later sold lost money. I was confused as to why this was happening, since I did a lot of homework. What I thought was “homework” was; in fact, doing a lot of research to pick out what was really my favorite knife, not which knife would hold its value or even go up a little.

Years later, while in graduate school, I developed a theory regarding the pricing of custom knives. I called this “index” the Robertson’s Maker Market Matrix. Basically, what it did was compare every maker who was in KNIVES 1992 to every other maker who built a knife in a similar category. Then price comparison started between the makers, followed by materials, time making custom knives, reputation, a few other variables and patterns started to form. By creating this matrix, I found I quickly started to separate the makers into strata within a particular market. Almost without exception, the top three to five makers in each stratum rose to that position because they offered value pricing for their knives.

Know the market; know the maker’s position in the market; determine if the knife is appropriately priced. If yes, purchase the knife, and then be sensitive to the factors driving a particular maker and/or his work in that market. The purpose of investing in a custom knife is to sell it for a profit. This sensitivity will indicate to you when the time is right to sell to achieve your goal.

A couple years ago a collector came to me at the Blade Show. He had heard that a collector had spent more than $100,000 on custom knives at the show. He asked which knives I would spend $100,000 on at the show? My reply was $50,000 cash and $50,000 in custom knives. Surprised, he asked why so few knives. My job is to buy knives that will resell for a profit. I replied that I probably could not get every knife offered in a drawing, so I would have to buy knives that are offered for sale to anyone. The number of knives (even at the Blade Show) that could be resold for a profit is limited. He asked why that was. I replied that it’s because the majority of custom knives are overpriced. Not with malice aforethought, but nonetheless, overpriced.

Pricing is difficult. Often, new makers will rely on established makers to give them pricing guidance, or merely look at a knife similar to the one they have built and estimate what their knives should sell for. This is why it is incumbent upon the investor to look for value pricing in their investment knives. Most collectors don’t know the makers position in the market, and apparently most don’t care, which is good for the makers. Consequently, they don’t know they have over paid until it is time to sell the knife. Then, the aftermarket lets them know how they did. Remember, your fellow collectors are the aftermarket.

This is a 5-part blog that will continue on Sat. 7/7 so come by to keep learning about collecting custom knives for investments.

Read:

Part 1     Part 3    Part 4    Part 5

 

Robertson’s Custom Cutlery is your source for custom knives from today’s leading custom knife makers. We only feature the highest quality knives at value prices. Our custom fixed and folding knife selection includes tactical fixed and folding knives, presentation fixed and folding knives, bowies, hunters and skinners, and a large selection of forged blades. Les Robertson, author and owner of Robertson’s Custom Cutlery, is also a Field Editor for Blade Magazine and an instructor at Blade University. If you have questions about the content in this article or about any knife or maker on our website, you can contact Les directly at customknives@comcast.net or (706) 650-0252.

11
JAN
2021

Investing in Custom Knives: Part 3 of 5

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3. Value Pricing  

Many people mistakenly think this means the best price or cheapest price. In fact, a value price is one that, given the maker’s position in the custom knife market, provides the buyer a value, regardless of the price tag. Basically, this price offers the potential for the knife to hold its value. In some cases, the purchase price will enable the owner to sell the knife for a profit.

Custom knifemakers are considered to be the primary market.  That is to say buying from them directly will eliminate any previous owner.   Whereas the aftermarket is specifically comprised of previously owned knives.  This ranges from a used/carried/sharpened knife to those who have never been used/carried/sharpened.   The custom knives in the latter category dominates the sector of the aftermarket where those who buy and resell or  “flip” operate.  You have probably seen videos or photos of the owners showing off their knives while wearing some type of glove on their hands.  This is especially true if something like Timascus is used.

The custom knife market moves in cycles.  From 2000 to 2010 forged blades seemed to dominate the market.  Starting in 2009 as interest waned in forged blades, tactical folders became popular again. Over the last 9 years, the tactical folder market saw buyers with the ability to “flip” a knife for almost an instant profit in the aftermarket. Starting in late 2016, the aftermarket started to cool.  Today for many that market has become stagnant.  The reason for this is and the waning market for forged blades in the early part of the 21st Century is the same.

Increased demand lead to escalating prices.  This led to more collectors being shut out of that particular market sector.  I have always stated that “collectors want to collect.”   Meaning simply collectors want to add to their collections.  If they can’t participate in a particular style or type of knife, they will turn their collector’s eye to another style or type of knife leaving the bloated (prices) behind for knives that are priced on the makers position in the market and not the hyped up aftermarket.   Unfortunately for many who either didn’t read my article about tactical folders in Blade in March 2016 (or ignored it), they now have knives in their possession that they will never get even close to what they paid for it.   While this may not be an issue for collectors.  It is an issue for investors!

There is short term investing and long-term investing.  With regards to custom knives, the best is probably short term collecting.   That can be anywhere from immediate re-sale to 2-3 years.   A mistake often made by investors/collectors is that they think the particular market they are in will keep going up.  In 2000 to 2007 flipping houses became all the rage.   Multiple TV shows,  books, magazines and commercials talked about professionals coming to your town to teach you the secrets.   Most of us were familiar with what happened in 2008.   Ten years later there are some people still underwater in their mortgage.  Generally, this is why short term investing is the way to go.

More on Short-Term Investing in this 5-part blog on Investing in Custom Knives.

Read:

Part 1    Part 2    Part 4    Part 5

 

Robertson’s Custom Cutlery is your source for custom knives from today’s leading custom knife makers. We only feature the highest quality knives at value prices. Our custom fixed and folding knife selection includes tactical fixed and folding knives, presentation fixed and folding knives, bowies, hunters and skinners, and a large selection of forged blades. Les Robertson, author and owner of Robertson’s Custom Cutlery, is also a Field Editor for Blade Magazine and an instructor at Blade University. If you have questions about the content in this article or about any knife or maker on our website, you can contact Les directly at customknives@comcast.net or (706) 650-0252.

09
JAN
2021

Investing in Custom Knives: Part 4 of 5

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4. Aftermarket Demand and Performance 

Selling for a profit has its own set of nuances. As a custom knife collector, you need to first and foremost buy the knife at the right price. This is vital. Just as important is to know when it is time to sell the knife.  The primary market is when you purchased directly from the maker. Where as, the aftermarket is when you purchase a previously owned custom knife. The aftermarket is also where you will sell your knife. This is why it is essential to utilize the information available in the aftermarket. This information is most readily available on the internet.

In the beginning of the century, knife forums started to appear on the internet. Primarily a place to discuss custom knives and their makers, bandwidth was made available to members to sell their custom knives. Visiting those sales forums many times each day I was able to start tracking not just trends, but which knives sold quickly and which ones did not.

In the past a sale was more of a private matter, now the particulars of the transactions were public. Today the internet is an excellent place for anyone to track trends and identify strong performers. Internet sites are best used to identify knives and makers for a short-term ROI (return on investment); however, searches allow you to go back for years. You can track how makers did with previous styles of knives over the years helping you analyze not only the demand for particular knives, but which of their knives sold the best. This is the type of knowledge that can literally pay off big when working in niche markets.

What you will have to determine is what percentage you want as your ROI? There is room for both short term and long-term gains among your knives. What we witnessed over the last 8 years were people buying knives from makers knowing they had the knife already sold. That is referred to as an arbitrage – good work if you can get it. With the help of the forums and social media many were inclined to post the photo on their favorite forum or sub-forum and let the bidding begin. Today, a popular outlet for this is Instagram.

Short term investing is an easier proposition. As trends of the day move it can be easier to “cherry pick” the more in demand makers or knives. Buy them at what you feel is a good price and flip the knife for a profit. A friend of mine introduced me to the phrase, “a quick nickel or a slow dime.”  In investment circles this is referred to as the “time value of money.” Getting your initial investment and a smaller profit, allows you to reinvest quickly and hopefully with the same results.

Long term investment is usually what you hear about.  The stories are out there for all to see or read about.   The person who bought the “famous maker’s knife” when he was new. The maker became a legend and their custom knives now sell for X amount of times over what they paid for it. Generally, these custom knives have been held for 30 or 40 years. (talk about a slow dime) Having set your ROI percentage, could you have sold these knives and continued to buy more as the opportunity presented itself? Over those 30 – 40 years would you have made more money?   It is interesting to contemplate which would have been the better investment strategy.

Read:

Part 1    Part 2    Part 3    Part 5


Robertson’s Custom Cutlery is your source for custom knives from today’s leading custom knife makers. We only feature the highest quality knives at value prices. Our custom fixed and folding knife selection includes tactical fixed and folding knives, presentation fixed and folding knives, bowies, hunters and skinners, and a large selection of forged blades. Les Robertson, author and owner of Robertson’s Custom Cutlery, is also a Field Editor for Blade Magazine and an instructor at Blade University. If you have questions about the content in this article or about any knife or maker on our website, you can contact Les directly at customknives@comcast.net or (706) 650-0252.

07
JAN
2021

Investing in Custom Knives: Part 5 of 5

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5. The Truth Changes 

Over the course of custom knife makers’ careers, some will emerge as the market leaders. As demand increases, so does the delivery time; and deservedly so, the price of the custom knife. Collectors, by their very nature, collect. If they cannot collect a maker or their work, they will look for a suitable substitute. While getting a custom knife directly from the market leader will provide the buyer with an opportunity to sell the knife for a profit in a very short period of time. This demand by so many buyers will decrease your opportunity to obtain one of these knives.

As one door closes, another opens.  The truth of this statement is evident today in the tactical folder market. Custom knives were purchased by many who were late to the game. Others just bought anything figuring there would be demand for this relatively unknown maker in the very near future creating for them a profit when they sold the knife. The lesson to be learned here is to do your homework before you buy the knife. While it is easier to listen to the forum “expert” or dealers, it is incumbent upon you to determine if they have the actual expertise they claim.  Failing to do so may cost you money in the short or long run.

As some of the pioneers of tactical folders reach a position of a prolonged delivery time, makers like RJ Martin are moving to the forefront of that market. If you want to talk precision tactical folders, then you are talking RJ Martin. With RJ, the opportunity to purchase an investment grade knife from him presents itself every year as he adds a new model every year!

In the financial world there is a saying: “Never fall in love with a stock.” Doing so can cause you to miss an opportunity to sell. This happens routinely in the custom knife market. We all know someone who has bought a knife and now cannot get anywhere near what they paid for it, should they choose to sell it. Often the blame is put on the economy or the “so and so” who sold me the knife, etc.  It is best to sell the knife and then; hopefully, not make the same mistake.  You pay to go to school.  Sell the knife, take the loss, and learn the lesson moving forward to the next knife.

What many call volatility, I call a “fluid” market; or if you like, the truth changes.  If you pay attention to the totality of the market, it is easier to know which knives to buy and more importantly when to sell to maximize your ROI (return on investment.)  Makers can get hot seemingly overnight.  I have seen makers show one of their knives on the internet and within a few days they have 50, 60 even 70 orders for that knife!   What the maker and the collectors forgot to take into account is that the maker does this part time.  Once they take into account the orders already on the books, and the knives they need to make for shows, they will be lucky to build 20 of these knives each year.  While the maker is happy to take the 60 orders, as the months turn into years, collectors start to forget they ordered the knife.  Even worse, with yet another 30 to build, number 27 shows up on the internet being sold for under retail.  One of those waiting in line decides that a pre-owned condition isn’t going to hurt anything and buys the knife.   As other collectors see this many cancel their orders.  The once hot knife and maker are no longer hot or in demand.  The truth as everyone knew it 16 months ago has changed.

Investing and collecting custom knives are not mutually exclusive.  They can work hand in hand to develop a collection that becomes an investment when the collection is sold. Even if you do not consider yourself an investor, following these five guidelines will enhance your collection and; ultimately, your enjoyment of custom knives, in general. If you are a collector in it to just enjoy the knives, it is much less complicated. Simply forget everything you’ve read so far. But remember, if you do decide to sell a knife down the road, forgetting what I have written here will cost you.

Read:

Part 1    Part 2    Part 3    Part 4

 

 

Robertson’s Custom Cutlery is your source for custom knives from today’s leading custom knife makers. We only feature the highest quality knives at value prices. Our custom fixed and folding knife selection includes tactical fixed and folding knives, presentation fixed and folding knives, bowies, hunters and skinners, and a large selection of forged blades. Les Robertson, author and owner of Robertson’s Custom Cutlery, is also a Field Editor for Blade Magazine and an instructor at Blade University. If you have questions about the content in this article or about any knife or maker on our website, you can contact Les directly at customknives@comcast.net or (706) 650-0252.

27
MAY
2020

Becoming A Custom Knife Collector: What Puts You On Edge?

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What can put a custom knife collector on edge? It can be a single attribute of the knife, such as Stag handles or blued guards. For others, it can be the combination of the material(s), design/style and/or the maker. For most collectors, it is about deciding what is in and what is out of their collection. They control the direction of their collection. What is it that turns someone to custom knife collecting? My experience over the last three decades has taught me there are four primary paths to becoming a custom knife collector.

Using Knife

Perhaps the most insidious path. The future custom knife collector decides to buy a custom knife to meet their needs. Putting their hands on the knife they appreciate the balance and the ergonomics. Their new custom knife is up to the test. I refer to this path as insidious, as while some may have the will power to buy only one custom knife; I did not.  

It is an appreciation for the quality of the custom knife that will lead this user to become a collector. Due partly to the relatively low cost and partly due to the number of hunters. Hunters and skinners make up the largest sector of user knives found in custom knife collections. 

Not Your Grandfather’s Knife

Generations of custom knife collectors remember with fond memories receiving a knife from their Grandfather or Father. This knife was more than just a knife. It was a signal that you were on the path to becoming a man or a woman. You were being trusted with something you must respect. This was not a toy. Often these knives were well-worn factory slip joints or multi-blades. 

It is often said of custom knife collectors that they buy their youth. Those things that they desired as children and for some reason could not obtain in their youth. While many of the well-known factories still build slip joints and multi-blades. It was Tony Bose who changed the landscape for collectors of these knives. He, along with his son Reese and other makers such as Eugene Shadley and Jess Horn re-introduced custom patterns. These knives have seen a renewed interest over the last two years. 

England’s premier knife dealer Andy Collins-Williams agrees. Due to the changing knife laws in England. The slip joint folder is gaining in popularity. He cites increased demand these folders from Bill Kennedy Jr., Phil Jacob, and English maker Paul Mason’s knives. 

Every day carry…EDC

In the late 1990s, some of the factories made a brilliant strategic move. They partnered with some of the premier tactical folder makers of the time. Kit Carson, Pat Crawford, Ken Onion, Mel Pardue and Bob Terzuola to name a few. These knives introduced the factory knife user/collector to the designs of some of the best custom tactical folder makers of that time. This combination created a confluence at shows like Blade. Where knife buyers could see the factory versions and the actual knives that spawned these factory copies. This created the EDC path. An example of the EDC is Joel Chamblin’s Maverick. See this knife here.

Joel Chamblin Custom Maverick Tactical Folding Knife Titanium EDC

Big Toys for Big Boys

The original path. The mystique of the Bowie knife has been around since the time of the man whose name it bears. Variants of the Bowie knife were the mainstay of the Civil War and the settling of the west. The 1900s brought smaller versions of the knife. Primarily, used in armed conflict. Introducing us to knives used by the military. Custom makers such as Floyd Nichols, Frank Richtig, Walt Kneubuehler, Rudy Ruana, to name a few. Most of us are more familiar with the factory elite of the time, Randall Knives, Ek, Marbles, Sykes-Fairbairn, to name a few. 

Bowies, Combat Knives and Fighting knives in all their designs, dimensions and materials have fascinated collectors for over 170 years. Today most of us would not think of or in most parts of the country could you legally carry knives with blades in excess of 6 inches. However, that does not keep custom knife collectors from wanting these knives. Larger knives, in particular, forged knives are once again gaining popularity. 

Lessons learned

Try to determine the direction of your collection as early as possible. With understanding, you are not committed to this direction for an extended period of time. The reasoning behind this determination will help your focus, saving you both time and money.  

Once you have identified the direction you would like your collection to take. This will begin your research and raising your knife IQ. While research is not required. You will find in the long run that you have done yourself and the custom knife making the community a disservice. As you may pass on a quality knife because you didn’t know what you were looking at. Conversely, you may purchase a knife that one day you may decide to trade or sell. Only to find out that because you overpaid for the quality of the knife. 

Knife IQ

Doing your knife homework will increase your knife IQ. Allowing you to get the best value for your money. This will allow you to add knives to your collection with confidence.  

I always recommend that you consider the Four F’s:

Fit: how does the knife fit together? Are there gaps between the blade and guard? Are the scales flush with the tang? These are examples of some of the areas to look at.

Finish: does the blade have a smooth even finish? Pay particular attention to the plunge lines area. No matter what style. This is where the grind moves down toward the choil area. They should be even on each side. The same equality should exist in the guard (if there is one) and handle.

Flow: the knife moves seamlessly from the tip to tend of the knife. Uneven grinds, blocky guards and poor ergonomics will detract from the flow of the knife.

Function: Is the knife designed and built to complete the task it is to accomplish? 

Spending time on our favorite forum, reading knife magazines such as Blade can help your Knife IQ. However, nothing can replace attending a knife show and putting the knife in your hand. This gives you the opportunity to apply what you have learned with regards to the 4 F’s. You will be able to calibrate your eyes to the sometimes-subtle differences between knives that are in the same category. 

Conclusion

Buy what you like. Enjoy what you have. Welcome, the hunt for the next piece of your collection.

Dietmar Kressler Integral Tactical Boot Fighter Custom Knife Stainless Steel
19
MAY
2020

Collectors Collect

Knife collectors collect. At the outset, it seems a simple statement. The real question is what does the knife collector collect and, and why? The best thing about a collection is that it is yours. You decide what knives enter and which ones leave. Often it is a combination of the design/style, material(s) and maker. Then again it can be knives with a singular attribute that makes up the collection. For the last 35 years, I have watched with more than idle curiosity the custom knife market. Most products move through what is called in the business world the Product Life Cycle. These stages consist of the introduction, growth, maturity, and decline. Some products move past this by repackaging the product so its life cycle starts over.

Televisions are an excellent example of this.

Cycles

Custom knives do participate in the product life cycle to a degree. Usually, this is found in the materials area; steel of the day, Wild Woods, Giraffe bone, Camel bone, etc. These and others are examples of materials that have gone through the product life cycle. Primarily custom knives are a cyclical commodity. The cycle is composed of two parts, folders, and fixed blades. Within the cycle are many smaller cycles. Most are moving separately but intersect with one of the two primary markets. Often, these smaller cycles are indicators of hot trends that will cool and more times than not disappear. An example of a solo cycle would be swords. While they are fixed blades, swords circle generally moves at its own pace. When I arrived on the custom knife scene in 1984 as a knife collector, I was oblivious to the cycles and circles. I needed a knife to use in the field. What I soon learned was that fixed blades were in their glory days. Makers like Buster Warenski, Jim Ence, Willie Rigney, Fred Carter, and Billy Mace Imel, to name a few were taking the custom fixed blade to new heights. At the same time, those who preferred folders were becoming aware of the interframe folders. The combination of extended delivery times and cost were slowing the movement of the fixed blade part of the cycle. This slowing of fixed blades provided the opportunity for the interfame folder. These folders moved the cycle to the folder part of the circle, and by the end of the decade would rule the custom knife world. These folders from Joe Kious, Jack Busfield, W.D. Pease, Steve Hoel, and many other world-class makers; combined their expertise with that of world-class engravers to create one of a kind art pieces.

These knives were so popular that a company named Barrett Smythe was created and specialized in these knives. The price ranges were $12,000 to $20,000 in the late 1980s.

Rise of the tactical folder

The 1990s found the combinations of the most desirable fixed blades being out of reach for most and the crash of the interframe folder market created a reset of the circles within the cycle. This gave rise to the new word and that word was Tactical! A group of makers led by Kit Carson, Bob Terzuola, Chris Reeve, Mel Pardue, and Pat Crawford introduced us to the tactical folder utilizing Titanium and bead blasting. These knives were the beginning of what was to become a trend that would never really go away. Automatic and Double Automatic folders were finding a niche with Butch Vallotton leading the way. This slowly gave way to the introduction of the Speed Safe by Ken Onion. The “gray turds” lead the way to put the tactical folders on top of the custom knife world. This was not for lack of trying as both makers and organizations alike tried to drive the metaphorical stake through the tactical folder heart. Not to be pigeonholed tactical fixed blades emerged with the introduction of the Tanto style blade by Bob Lum, the Japanese tactical introduced by Phil Hartsfield, the combat-oriented fixed blade with the new Kydex sheaths from Bob Terzuola and the continuation of the legendary grinds of Walter Brend.

Y2K

As we survived the crash of Y2K, the tactical folders did not. Their grip was relinquished and gave way to a group of knives that had been around for 30 years but was finally going to move the circle back in favor of fixed blades. The forged blade was going to rule the custom knife market for the next decade. This cycle began with carbon steel hunters which gave way to carbon steel Bowies. The cycle moved again and the focus shifted to Damascus hunters and then Damascus Bowies. Pattern Damascus beyond Ladder, Twist and Rain Drop started to appear. West Texas Wind, Dog Star patterns became knife collector favorites along with Mosaic patterns. The ranks of the American Bladesmith Society swelled due in no small part to the popularity of forged blades. Coupled with numerous Hammer-Ins and the opening of the Bill Moran School of Bladesmithing at the end of the decade. As the decade came to a close the demand for forged fixed blades so many bladesmiths decided to join in on a smaller cycle that had was enjoying a resurgence. Slip joints and multi-blades had become HOT. This was due directly to the efforts of Tony Bose. Many ABS makers moved away from the slowing forged blades to the slip joints. Unfortunately, the migration of numerous makers without enough knife collectors to support their work; brought about the end of these cycle(s).

Return of the tactical folders 

Starting in 2010 with the migration from forged blades the new materials and designs lead the way for the circle to return to folders. Flipper openers, bearing systems, Lightning Strike Carbon Fiber, Superconductor, Zirconium, Timascus, and Mokuti became the materials of the day. Tactical folders melded to become presentation/art knife folders trying hard to not overpower their roots. The demand and subsequent pricing in the aftermarket akin to the interfame folders of the late 1980’s have given many knife collectors pause to rethink their collecting. Pricing in both the primary and aftermarket prices have eliminated many of the former knife collectors from moving forward with their collections. The flipping of many of these folders has been replaced by trading.

As we entered 2017 the cycle is once again moved back to fixed blades.

What does all this mean for knife collectors? 

Generally, the end of a market cycle occurs to primary for two reasons; lack of availability of in-demand knives and aftermarket prices. This was true of the high-end fixed blades in the 1980s and the tactical folders of this decade. What does this mean? Lack of availability or price will cause a reset of the custom knife market. This does not mean that all other types of knives will be excluded. There will always be demand for folders. As the highly inflated aftermarket prices of folders come down. There will be buying opportunities here as well. But first knife collectors and dealers will have to come to terms with the loss before moving on. My point is that this reset will give rise to knife collectors looking for new takes on established designs, styles and materials used to create custom knives; in this case, fixed blades. There will also be new designs and materials that come out of this reset.

I find these to be exciting times for custom knives. New ideas, new makers, new materials and the confluence that will result will take custom knives to new places. Want to learn more about adding knives to your collection? Purchase my Custom Knife Buying Guide.

16
NOV
2019

No Restocking Fee

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Over the last few months, I have been fortunate enough to acquire several new clients.  I usually try to ask how they learned about us or why they decided to make a custom knife purchase from Robertson’s Custom Cutlery.  This time I received the same interesting reply from a couple of different collectors. They said, “Partly because you don’t have a restocking fee if I want to return something.”

I found it odd that a business selling custom knives would do this. Perhaps, this is more common than I know, but is something I have never done.  I have very few custom knives returned, but when you buy a knife from Robertson’s Custom Cutlery, you have a 5-day inspection period.  Within those 5 days, you may return the knife for any reason.  While you will have to pay return shipping, there is NO restocking fee as long as it is returned in the same condition it was sent to you.

fixed custom knives Gordon Graham damascus cc hunter knife with sheath Robertson's Custom Cutlery damascus hunters fixed blade

What is a restocking fee?  If you buy an item and are not happy with it, you can send it back; however, there will be a 10% – 15% restocking fee deducted from your refund.  Normally, I would associate this return policy with a large retail store that keeps thousands of items in inventory and has to pay the employees to replace the item.  If a business has that many items in stock, you may want to ask, what level of custom knife expertise do they really have with all those knives?

To help insure you will not need to return a custom knife, ask questions. If you’re having a hard time deciding between 2-3 knives on our website and want to discuss the pros and cons. The leading expert on custom knives, especially fixed blades, is happy to help. Les@robertsonscustomcutlery.com At Robertson’s Custom Cutlery, our priority is providing you with the custom knife that best suits your needs and interests so you will love your knife.

15
OCT
2018

Custom Knives; Is Your Education Lacking? Part 1

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Information on knife makers, styles, materials, and all things custom knives can be found in publications that are primarily knife related and those that have articles or include them in their stories.  Combine that with the amount of information on the internet and the membership levels of internet forums, one can argue you never have to leave your house to find out all you need to know about a custom knife. You could argue that, but I would submit to you that you are wrong.

BUGGY WHIPS AND BICYCLES

For centuries, buggy whips saw steady sales.  Businesses were built and careers were made crafting this necessary piece of equipment for everyone from the average person to the gentry. Then at the turn of the 20th century many of these stores closed up shop.  Why?   The introduction of the automobile changed the focus of what consumers wanted.   Many gave the public what they wanted and adapted with the times.  Some went into the bicycle business and even that morphed into something else.  A couple of friends changed the idea of the bicycle and their newest ideas can be seen today all over the roads and in their Headquarters in Milwaukee, WI.   A couple of brothers moved from Ohio to North Carolina and today you see their ideas; but you have to look up.

Today, custom knife making and collecting move at a rapid pace.  Techniques, materials, openers, locks from the past are morphed into updated versions of your Grandfather’s, maybe even your Father’s pocket knife. New makers seem to show up weekly if not daily. I routinely receive emails and phone calls inquiring about a new maker.  When I reply that I have not heard of them, I am often met with, “They have been making knives for 3 months and they are awesome.”  No doubt there are some knife makers that show great potential almost immediately with varied backgrounds, many with newly acquired machining skills from their job or a technical school.  While for most the learning curve is a little longer than 3-6 months.  In particular, for tactical folders, with the right machines and the training that curve can be cut in half.  That said, my curiosity is always piqued by the latest knife making savant.

Parts 2 

Part 3

 

 

 

Robertson’s Custom Cutlery is your source for custom knives from today’s leading custom knife makers. We only feature the highest quality knives at value prices. Our custom fixed and folding knife selection includes tactical fixed and folding knives, presentation fixed and folding knives, bowies, hunters and skinners, and a large selection of forged blades. Les Robertson, author and owner of Robertson’s Custom Cutlery, is also a Field Editor for Blade Magazine and an instructor at Blade University. If you have questions about the content in this article or about any knife or maker on our website, you can contact Les directly at les@robertsonscustomcutlery.com or (706) 650-0252.

08
OCT
2018

Custom Knives; Is Your Education Lacking? Part 2

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PIQUED CURIOSITY AND THE FIRST ‘V’

Hearing or reading about the latest and greatest begs a couple of questions.

First, who are the collectors who are touting the work of these makers?

A foray onto the knife forums will introduce you to hundreds of experts.  Spending time reading some of the posts can clarify for you that this member actually has extensive experience and speaks with authority on a wide range of subjects.  Then there are experts who have compartmental expertise, such as slip joint and multi-blade folders.   They can answer questions and usually point you in the right direction.  Then, there are the other experts; more commonly referred to as “fan boys.”  While in some circles, this is a derogatory term.  In fact, they can have their own expertise.  However, this is generally limited to only a few makers who in their minds feel that the makers they collect are the best.  Often basing this on their personal relationship with the maker and the amount of said makers’ knives in their collection. To quote Abraham Lincoln, “If it is on the internet it must be true.”

Second, what is it about the maker that has gotten the attention of collectors. The first “V” stands for visual, in the form of photos or in some cases videos. If done well, these can give you a good idea if the knife will appeal to you or not.   The 2-dimensional format of this media limit your ability to truly judge the knife.  Depending on the quality of the photography or video, they may hide essential items when looking at knives.   Example, is the maker left handed or right handed?   Close ups of the choil area and plunge cuts if not clear can obfuscate the collector’s ability to determine with clarity the quality of the maker’s work.  Case in point, while attending a show in Las Vegas in 2014 I was asked by a client to evaluate a new makers work.   The knife featured a blade, with two pieces of Titanium for the handle.  The entire knife had an acid wash finish.  I pointed out an area on the blade, the plunge cut.  This is the area in front of the ricasso where the edge starts.  Often, acid wash is used to disguise the scratches on the blade where the plunge starts and moves towards the start of the edge.  I pointed this area and the scratches that were visible under closer scrutiny.

Part 1

Part 3

 

 

Robertson’s Custom Cutlery is your source for custom knives from today’s leading custom knife makers. We only feature the highest quality knives at value prices. Our custom fixed and folding knife selection includes tactical fixed and folding knives, presentation fixed and folding knives, bowies, hunters and skinners, and a large selection of forged blades. Les Robertson, author and owner of Robertson’s Custom Cutlery, is also a Field Editor for Blade Magazine and an instructor at Blade University. If you have questions about the content in this article or about any knife or maker on our website, you can contact Les directly at les@robertsonscustomcutlery.com or (706) 650-0252.

01
OCT
2018

Custom Knives; Is Your Education Lacking? Part 3

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PERIOD OF ENLIGHTENMENT

When I conduct seminars at knife shows I always welcome those in attendance to the period of enlightenment.  What makes a knife show a period of enlightenment?  Let’s face it most of your friends and relatives to understand your fascination with these edged pieces of art.  Explaining it can be difficult, justifying some of the prices more so.  Often you will hear from your friends you could have bought a firearm or something else for that kind of money.  They generally want to refer you to the local store to peruse their $30 – $40 knives; they are not enlightened.

THE ULTIMATE COMBINATION OF RESOURCES

If being able to handle thousands of custom knives isn’t enough.  You can talk with the maker or a dealer and get instant knowledgeable feed back to your questions.  Many of those internet experts may be in attendance and be further utilized as a real-time resource.  Often these shows feature seminars from those who are recognized as experts in their specialty.  Now include the latest in knife magazines and an incredible resource that is the Knife Annual.  Lastly, you can utilize your Google-Fu to check after market prices and other factors that may influence your decision.

KNIFE SHOWS ALL AROUND THE WORLD

Knife shows can be found in Africa, China, Europe, South America and North America. Yes, you may have to do some planning and there will be some monetary outlay for attendance.  The question then becomes what is your education worth?   The reality is that most of us who have bought custom knives have overpaid or didn’t get exactly what you thought you were utilizing the internet only approach.

Knife shows allow you the opportunity to expand your knife education level that will pay benefits moving forward.   Usually these shows feature the work of makers from outside the United States.  South African Andre Thorburn travels outside his South African home to shows in both the US and Europe allowing you to experience his tactical artistry.  Having had the chance to handle and inspect different knives and another makers work.  This will allow you to confirm your desire for a particular knife, perhaps change your mind or even send you in a different direction of a makers work you were unfamiliar with.   This information could save you thousands of dollars moving forward with your collecting or even those who purchase primarily for use.

Part 1

Part 2

 

Robertson’s Custom Cutlery is your source for custom knives from today’s leading custom knife makers. We only feature the highest quality knives at value prices. Our custom fixed and folding knife selection includes tactical fixed and folding knives, presentation fixed and folding knives, bowies, hunters and skinners, and a large selection of forged blades. Les Robertson, author and owner of Robertson’s Custom Cutlery, is also a Field Editor for Blade Magazine and an instructor at Blade University. If you have questions about the content in this article or about any knife or maker on our website, you can contact Les directly at les@robertsonscustomcutlery.com or (706) 650-0252.

30
SEP
2018

Custom Knife Deposits Part 1

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Deposits for Custom Knives: Yes, No, Maybe?

The subject of whether to pay a custom knife maker a deposit or not, comes up on a regular basis. What I have learned (sometimes the hard way) over the last 34 years comes down to these categories.

COMMUNICATION

I cannot over emphasize that when ordering a custom knife, communication is key.  It is imperative that both the maker and the collector are on the same page as to the knife, the materials, estimated (note I wrote estimated) delivery time, price and when payment will be required. There needs to be clear communication when it comes to a deposit. Some makers will require one and some won’t.  Often those who require one do so because they have been burned by a client in the past. The main reason for this is poor or no communication.

My recommendation to both makers and collectors with regards to orders are pretty straight forward. The maker should contact the collector PRIOR TO STARTING the knife (not after it is built.) This allows both the maker and collector to discuss the knife one more time, especially if several months or years have passed. This lets the collector know the knife will be ready in a few weeks and payment will be do upon completion. This allows the maker to insure the email or phone number is still working and the shipping address is still accurate. This communication allows both parties to know exactly which knife is being built, when it will be completed and when payment will be due. While this sounds simple enough, you would be amazed at how many knives are built not knowing if the client still wants the knife, the email still works, etc.

Read

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

 

Robertson’s Custom Cutlery is your source for custom knives from today’s leading custom knife makers. We only feature the highest quality knives at value prices. Our custom fixed and folding knife selection includes tactical fixed and folding knives, presentation fixed and folding knives, bowies, hunters and skinners, and a large selection of forged blades. Les Robertson, author and owner of Robertson’s Custom Cutlery, is also a Field Editor for Blade Magazine and an instructor at Blade University. If you have questions about the content in this article or about any knife or maker on our website, you can contact Les directly at customknives@comcast.net or (706) 650-0252.

23
SEP
2018

Custom Knife Deposits Part 2

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Deposits for Custom Knives: Yes, No, Maybe?

Deposits, why?

What about makers who ask for a deposit?  Generally, there is no reason for a deposit; however, there are exceptions. Look at the 3 guidelines listed below to help you determine if the deposit is necessary. These are my 3 guidelines for knife maker deposits:

1) No Deposit: Many times you will be ordering a knife that is a standard model. This knife should not normally require any kind of deposit.

2) Partial Deposit: A deposit may be required if you are ordering a customized design or material upgrades to a standard model. These can come in the form of blade steel such as Damascus or San Mai. Bolster materials such as Damascus or Ti-mascus and frame materials such as Moku-Ti, Zirconium or Damascus as examples. You can expect to pay a deposit for additional materials such as precious gem stones or metals. Given the prices of fossil Ivory today, don’t be surprised if you are asked for a deposit to cover the cost of this.

3) Full Payment:  You should never pay upfront the full amount with one exception. If you are requesting a design or materials the maker doesn’t feel they will be able to resell to someone else if you don’t buy it. If it hasn’t happened to you already, it is only a matter of time before you find yourself looking at a knife and thinking or even saying out loud, “What the heck was the maker thinking?”  Occasionally a maker will push the design/material envelope on their own.  More often than not though, there is a collector behind this creation.

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Part 1

Part 3

Part 4

 

Robertson’s Custom Cutlery is your source for custom knives from today’s leading custom knife makers. We only feature the highest quality knives at value prices. Our custom fixed and folding knife selection includes tactical fixed and folding knives, presentation fixed and folding knives, bowies, hunters and skinners, and a large selection of forged blades. Les Robertson, author and owner of Robertson’s Custom Cutlery, is also a Field Editor for Blade Magazine and an instructor at Blade University. If you have questions about the content in this article or about any knife or maker on our website, you can contact Les directly at customknives@comcast.net or (706) 650-0252.

16
SEP
2018

Custom Knife Deposits Part 3

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Deposits for Custom Knives: Yes, No, Maybe?

I have witnessed a change over the last 30 years with makers attitude towards deposits.   This change seemed to coincide with the advent of the Internet.   Prior to that long distance phone calls were expensive and generally not made to check up on makers.   Today, those makers who take deposits have given (whether they realize it or not) permission to their client to check with them on the progress of their knife.   Sometimes this comes in the form of daily emails.  Often starting within a week of the order, even though the knife will not be ready for 6 months.  Unfortunately, many collectors become a nuisance wanting to know about every step of their knife build along the way.  Collectors, remember the more time the maker takes to answer phone calls and emails, the less time they are in the shop working on your knife.

Dude, where is my knife?

I just want to touch briefly on the shipping and paying for your knife.   You should ALWAYS pay for insurance.  The only thing worse than your shipping service of choice losing your knife, is losing the knife and not getting reimbursed for it.  Check with those who have been collecting for a while, no matter the service people have horror stories.   When paying for your knife, especially with a money order send the envelope signature required.  Should payment go “missing” you will have a date and name to start the investigation with.   Should you pay with a credit card you can file a charge back with merchant bank.  Time frames will differ with the bank the merchant uses.

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Part 1

Part 2

Part 4

 

Robertson’s Custom Cutlery is your source for custom knives from today’s leading custom knife makers. We only feature the highest quality knives at value prices. Our custom fixed and folding knife selection includes tactical fixed and folding knives, presentation fixed and folding knives, bowies, hunters and skinners, and a large selection of forged blades. Les Robertson, author and owner of Robertson’s Custom Cutlery, is also a Field Editor for Blade Magazine and an instructor at Blade University. If you have questions about the content in this article or about any knife or maker on our website, you can contact Les directly at customknives@comcast.net or (706) 650-0252.

09
SEP
2018

Custom Knife Deposits Part 4

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Deposits for Custom Knives: Yes, No, Maybe?

Possible Help

Because issues can arise, it is imperative for both maker and collector to keep their communications (particularly emails). Should something go wrong, if the maker belongs to a professional organization such as the US Knifemakers Guild or the American Bladesmith Society (as examples) you could file a complaint against a member in good standing. You will need communication records so it will not turn into a “he said/she said” situation.

Ordering a custom knife should be a pleasurable experience! Open and direct communication between the maker and collector will insure the makers builds the knife you order.  I don’t know a knife maker who does not want to do their best to get you the knife you want. Remember, it is best not to pay for the knife upon ordering it. Many knife makers have told me, “The hardest knife to build is the one that has been paid for.”

Read

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

 

Robertson’s Custom Cutlery is your source for custom knives from today’s leading custom knife makers. We only feature the highest quality knives at value prices. Our custom fixed and folding knife selection includes tactical fixed and folding knives, presentation fixed and folding knives, bowies, hunters and skinners, and a large selection of forged blades. Les Robertson, author and owner of Robertson’s Custom Cutlery, is also a Field Editor for Blade Magazine and an instructor at Blade University. If you have questions about the content in this article or about any knife or maker on our website, you can contact Les directly at customknives@comcast.net or (706) 650-0252.

15
AUG
2018

How and Why Custom Knives Appreciate In Value – Part 1

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If you ask most custom knife buyers they will tell you, “I buy what they like,” with all other considerations being secondary; including the knife’s ability to appreciate in value. That being said, what is it that makes a knife appreciate in value?  Innovators and innovations will always find their way to the top.

If you look at the majority of the “in demand” work today, the makers of said work have in some way made major contributions to their particular categories of knives. Innovation comes in four basic categories; Design, Utilization of Materials, Combination of “Art” Styles and Craftsmanship.

  • Design is composed of both the actual 2-dimensional design and/or the realization of that design in the form of a working knife.
  • Utilization of Materials is the ability of a maker either to create or work with new materials previously unused with regards to custom knives.  Examples of this would be Damascus, Titanium, Carbon Fiber, etc.
  • Combination of “Art” styles is the ability of a maker to incorporate other art forms in their knives.  Examples of this would be engraving, scrimshaw, utilization and incorporation of semi-precious gem stones.  The maker’s ability to actually do the work is often referred to as “Sole Authorship.”
  • Craftsmanship goes beyond a makes ability to build a custom knife.  This refers to an ability that is recognized not only by collectors but maker’s peers.  This craftsmanship is shown in a great variety of styles of knives.  This encompasses skills with hand tools, other machines and the ability to incorporate natural materials into their work.

One thing all these makers have in common is they thought “outside the box” when it came to their knife making.  Many makers become knife makers after handling a knife and thinking to themselves, “I could make that” or “I could do better than that.”  However, for a maker’s knives to rise to the level where their knives will appreciate in value; both the artistic and business side has to be explored.  Ultimately, the maker’s ability to create “buzz” about their knives will be essential to their success.

Prior to the Internet makers were limited in the amount of people they could meet.  Knife shows and knife magazines were almost without exception the only way to see knives.  While some makers offered a catalog (most did not), they were almost always black and white photos. The notable exception to this was Nordic Knives; they offered color photos with their catalog. The knife shows lent themselves to the strengths of many of the top makers confident in their abilities combined with the demand for their knives.   Because these shows were such major events and there were a limited number they acted as a sort of filter.  The majority of those at the shows were “pre-qualified” as buyers.  With the majority of the makers being part-time (the same is true today) they, along with the full-time makers, would enjoy very brisk sales.  For the most part, there were fewer makers and fewer buyers.  Most makers would sell out and have a waiting list… some as much as 6 months to a year!  Some of the more in-demand makers had longer delivery times than that.

Active collectors have always sought out their favorite makers work.  As the delivery times became longer and longer the first rule of economics, “Supply and Demand,” started to take hold of the custom knife community.  As the magazines and knife organizations did their jobs more collectors were introduced to the world of custom knives. Subsequently, the demand for the top makers’ knives increased.  This gave way to the “Purveyor.”  These were a small group of businessmen who were contacted by collectors to look for a particular maker’s work or a particular knife.  Dave Harvey with Nordic Knives, AG Russell and his “Cutting Edge” newspaper and the man everyone sought out at every knife show…Paul Basch to name a few.

Now, in addition to the makers and collectors, there was an alternative way to get the knife you wanted and in some cases….right now!  Generally, this came with a price…called a “premium.”  Each maker had their own pricing structure, some gave a discount and others didn’t.  This coupled with the “demand” for a particular maker’s work would be figured into the premium.  While this concept is by no means new…in the early 1980’s within the widening custom knife market the concept took hold.

Custom knife makers for the most part have always had difficulty “pricing” their knives.  One of the benefits the makers received from working with purveyors/dealers was in this area.  As the makers now had access to something they never did before…pre-approved pricing.  The prices that collectors were willing to pay were no longer a “guessing game.”  For many makers it was the dealers who showed them what the market would bear.  Therefore, makers would raise their prices rewarding themselves, their collectors and dealers alike.

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Part 2    Part 3    Part 4    Part 5

Robertson’s Custom Cutlery is your source for custom knives from today’s leading custom knife makers. We only feature the highest quality knives at value prices. Our custom fixed and folding knife selection includes tactical fixed and folding knives, presentation fixed and folding knives, bowies, hunters and skinners, and a large selection of forged blades. Les Robertson, author and owner of Robertson’s Custom Cutlery, is also a Field Editor for Blade Magazine and an instructor at Blade University. If you have questions about the content in this article or about any knife or maker on our website, you can contact Les directly at les@robertsonscustomcutlery.com or (706) 650-0252.

08
AUG
2018

How and Why Custom Knives Appreciate In Value – Part 2

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Next came the “Drawing!”  No, not a picture, but those events that are now common place at every major knife show in the United States.  My first experience with this was in the 80’s watching Michael Walker have a drawing for his knives (usually a single knife.)  Anyone who has any experience with sales will tell you “money talks.” It is no different with the custom knife market.  What was starting to happen is certain individuals would start to buy every knife on a makers table.  Now you can’t argue with the maker for wanting to get paid for their work.  However, those who were second, third, etc. in line were a little, shall we say “miffed.” Not having an opportunity to purchase one of the maker’s knives.  Once the maker seems assured all their knives would sell they went to the “Drawing.”

It was at the drawing where one could witness an interesting phenomenon.  As soon as someone paid the maker for their knife…there was another person waiting to buy the knife from the individual who was just selected in the drawing.  Viola, instant appreciation.  This is a regular occurrence at every show that has a drawing.  Keep in mind many collectors will have driven or flown for many hours to get to the show to get a knife from their favorite maker.  A premium of several hundred to several thousand dollars is not going to get into their way.

For decades the way a maker got to the point where their knives would appreciate in value was to work in anonymity for about 5-7 years.  They built a collector base primarily through attending the major shows, word of mouth and perhaps an article in knife or firearms magazine.  Then after 10 years they became an “overnight sensation” or so it seemed.

In the late 1990’s the custom knife market was introduced to the Internet.  Subsequently, custom knives were taken into the 21st Century and the rules changed.

As I wrote in the first part of this article if you ask most custom knife buyers they will tell you, “I buy what they like.”  This mantra of the custom knife collector would be put to the test as custom knives entered the 21st Century.   While a few web sites popped up towards the late 90’s, information was still obtained primarily through the phone, knife magazines, knife shows or writing the maker directly (usually asking for a catalog.)

Not surprisingly the appreciation of custom knife values prior to the Internet was slower than it is now.  The custom knife market has moved from primarily direct sales from the maker to the collector to a series of outlets that allow the collector better access to a potential buyer.  Knife magazines stepped in to provide an outlet looking for those who wanted to buy or sell custom knives.  Subsequently, the advent of a dealer network gave an additional outlet.  Finally, in the 21st century the Internet through collectors/buyers introduced custom knives to a worldwide audience with real time information.

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Part 1    Part 3   Part 4   Part 5

Robertson’s Custom Cutlery is your source for custom knives from today’s leading custom knife makers. We only feature the highest quality knives at value prices. Our custom fixed and folding knife selection includes tactical fixed and folding knives, presentation fixed and folding knives, bowies, hunters and skinners, and a large selection of forged blades. Les Robertson, author and owner of Robertson’s Custom Cutlery, is also a Field Editor for Blade Magazine and an instructor at Blade University. If you have questions about the content in this article or about any knife or maker on our website, you can contact Les directly at les@robertsonscustomcutlery.com or (706) 650-0252.

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