The Differences Between Factory Knives and Custom Knives

The Differences Between Factory Knives and Custom Knives

Posted by Clayton on Jan 28th 2016

Do you know the difference between a custom knife and a factory knife, and why we say that custom knives are the gold-standard for knives? Of course, it isn’t necessary to have the quality as the #1 most important element to having a knife. Sometimes functionality is important too, and, in this sense, for a knife to work well enough to get the job done.

Overall, though, we want you to understand the differences between the two, and make the right decision when it comes to investing in a knife. 


What Is a Factory Knife?


A factory knife is a knife that’s made in a factory. Often a factory will purchase many parts from an overseas company and assemble them in the United States. Here are a few none too pleasant factors to factories that make knives:
·       Blades and materials used to make knives are outsourced.  What this means is that children very well could be working under inhumane conditions to develop these knives.  You also might get alloys or materials that are unregulated. If something goes wrong, there are no laws in foreign countries that will admit to liability for failures. It will just be expected that you replace the current knife that you own because it’s only meant to last for a short time period, anyway. ·       Profit is front and foremost.  Profit is the most important thing. So the steel that they use will be the cheapest product they can find. Design won’t be important, either.  They don’t care about art, or creating something that is a standard in innovation, or creativity. ·       A knife might be stamped with misleading information.  A misleading designation might be ATS-34, and, at the very worst, they can claim that they had no idea that it wasn’t correct. ·       The factory might list something to make it look more “official.  Stainless steel might be listed as “surgical” or “solingen.” It’s a marketing ploy to make somebody think that it’s more serious. A factory also might create a number/letter designation and say that it’s a special steel for their product. The point will be just to sell knives, and, meanwhile, the product still has a poor design or is badly finished. 3 ·       A factory knife will list the steel 440 Stainless, which means nothing.  To the untrained eye, it looks like quality, but to professional knife makers? We understand that it is an umbrella term that includes all qualities of steel. 440a is actually the highest quality, with 440c the lowest, so a knife with this phrase really could just be using 440c and hiding behind the term to look like it’s using a higher grade of steel. ·       A factory might use a steel designation from another country. How would anyone with an untrained eye know what it means, anyway? ·       The knives might use a steel that is low quality. Many factory kitchen knives use 420 stainless steels, which are low quality. 5 ·       A factory will advertise a knife as rust free, which it is, but there will often be another problem as a result.  The truth is that it might be using a softer stainless steel, such as 316 stainless steel. This is used for pipes, for example, that work with acids or caustics. This type of steel can’t be hardened properly to develop a strong knife blade. ·       Factory knives might advertise titanium blades, but it’s not possible to harden it to what it will need for a knife. It can’t hold an edge. It’s lightweight and doesn’t corrode. It has a great toughness, but a good blade it does not make. ·       Factory blades use automated machinery, meaning that there is nothing customized about the blade.  There’s no finishing or variation in style. Also, blade grind geometry isn’t accurately controlled. Custom knives have better blade geometry with a better finish. Factory knives lack in polish, as well. ·       The blade grinds are too thick.  Blade grinds are left thick, in particular, for defense and hunting knives. The point is that the knife will look strong, but, after sharpening a few times or using it, you can’t sharpen the knife without using special measure. The factory knows that because the knife was purchased at a low, factory price, you’ll just go back in and buy another one, since it wasn’t expected to perform for more than a few years, anyway. ·       Knives don’t have truly sharp cutting edgesThey use a hard buffer with a light abrasive to roughen the edge. Then out it goes. This can be dangerous because dull knives require more pressure to make a cut. If you have to achieve more pressure, and then slip, there’s more of a likelihood that you’ll get injured. It’s easier to slip with a dull knife. ·       Factories try to back their product with respectable names of custom knife makers.  What this does it gives them more credence because customer knife makers are innovative. Some people relent, and others don’t. Others get a small percentage of the sales. ·       Factory knives fit poorly.  Just like in engineering or architecture, geometry and angles are important to have a well-performing knife that lasts for years. How can a knife have parts that are assembled accurately when one part might not be the exact replica of another?  There’s too much room for error with factory knives. 4 ·       The finishing is never done well.  The factories go for textured finishes because they’re faster and cheaper. ·       There’s no personalization or artwork. Why would a factory personalize something when they need to make many of the same thing for a profit?  Of course, there are exceptions to the rule on holidays and special occasions, when they might unveil a commemorative edition. ·       They don’t use bolsters as much as they need to.  The knife isn’t framed with durable materials. ·       They don’t make sheaths.  They don’t consider it a worthwhile accessory. It’s forgotten and not considered important. Custom knife makers, however, understand that this is a part of the knife-making trade. 6 ·       Nothing is every specialized with rare or unique materials.  They rarely work with gemstones, metals, or a material with limited availability. ·       Factories work to hide imperfections through cutting, scarring, jiggering, and texturing.  What that tells us is that it’s probably easier to hide imperfections than invest in making something as ideal as possible for the client. ·       They don’t complement the design of a hand.  Custom knife blades, through contouring and rounding, will try to fit a person’s hand and grip as best as possible   through rounding or contouring. These methods help to fit a person’s hand for a better grip. ·       Accessories are an afterthought or no thought at all.  There aren’t any display stands or cases for the knife.  



What Makes Custom Knives Superior?


Now we’d like to share the four ways in which custom knives excel in comparison to factory knives. Custom knives work to have excellent design, finish, fit, balance and accessories.



8Design is probably one of the most obvious factors of custom knives. After all, a person who wants to have a knife designed for them personally will have an input into what he or she wants the knife to look like. Custom knife-makers will always have design over a factory simply because humans have the ability to create, and machines don’t. This is why a factory might want to have a customer knife-maker back their products, because of the allure to a customer knife-maker’s innovation.

One, it will be important that a knife-maker makes real the design that is on a piece of paper. A design will have to go from two-dimensional to three-dimensional, and the truth is that what looks good on paper might not always translate well to a three-dimensional design. So a custom knife maker will also be willing to make adjustments along the way―something that a factory won’t do because they might not be willing to take the hit financially.

Another element to having the ability to design is that the skill must be cultivated for years. This is how a person develops a style that sets them apart from others: through practice. The style of the blade should also match the type of handle.

9For example, if you have a combat knife, a stick handle just won’t work. You’ll need a handle with a strong grip.  While all of the technical factors must be present, design is what gives a knife the undefinable “it” factor, the factor that says that you’ve just got to have this blade. It is the factor that lends itself most to the untrained eye. Someone might not know much about the types of materials, but he or she knows that they love the way it looks.

Are you familiar with the custom knife maker Peter Martin, who is famed in the world of knife-making for his craftsmanship?


Finishing a knife is when a material is treated at the end of the knife making process. To master the art of finishing, a knife maker undergoes research and then practicing this technique for many years.

High chromium is one great steel that has a beautiful mirror finish. Gems, in particular, have a special uniqueness to their finishes because they take a longer time to complete. They shine the brightest when they’re polished, which allows their luminosity to come through. Who doesn’t enjoy a beautifully polished gem?  There is a regal, mythic quality to it.

The reason why factories don’t properly finish materials is because it takes time, the type of time that a manufacturer just won’t invest in many individual knives when the goal is to make a profit through mass production. What factory wants to go through an exacting grinding process that must still keep the geometry, grind lines, and contours of the knife?

4What a custom quality finish shows to a client is that you care enough to follow through completely on your product.  It is like the period at the end of a sentence—no knife is complete without the proper finish. A factory knife just won’t have a finish that says custom quality.

Have you seen the custom knife from Anthony and Sean Marifone, with a DLC apocalyptic finish?



All pieces of the puzzle should fit together, meaning everything should fit tightly. There should not be any gaps, not between bolsters and blades nor between the guards and handles. It should look the part of a custom knife; meaning, when you give it a look over, it should be flawless. A knife can easily fit poorly if it’s factory made, because when you have pieces that you’ve purchased in bulk, once they’re assembled, there is no guarantee that each knife will have the quality of fit needed. One part might be slightly off, and even small imbalances can make a huge difference when it comes to the work done by someone who’s studied a craft for many years.

It makes a knife stronger and keeps moisture from getting into the knife and destroying it. A knife with a strong fit will last for ions, as opposed to a few years. A knife with a great fit can be passed down from generation to generation, and, in doing so, you’ll be sharing the gift of great knife craftsmanship. There is no story to a factory knife, but, to one that is handmade to fit the uniqueness of an individual, the story can be told for generations.



Balance refers to the look, function, and design of the knife. It refers to a person being drawn to it to want to pick it up. Every knife maker has his or her own style. Some knives have handles that are lightweight, while others have heavy handles that balance well with the overall design of the knife.

Do the angles of the knife work well with the weight of the handle? Does it look uninviting?  Does it look complex, but simple to pick up and use? The problem with factory knives is that they are notorious for developing knives that lack in balance.

Have you ever held a kitchen knife, for example, that is just plain uncomfortable and awkward to work with? You’re cutting carrots, and you think, “Gee, this knife really isn’t working for me. I should have used the peeler instead.” Well, one of the goals of a good customer knife maker is to develop a knife with a balance that works well for the hand and design of the knife.



5A factory most definitely will not add the accessories that can make having a knife an experience. So say goodbye to special accoutrements such as scabbards, cases, displays, sheaths, flashlights or sharpeners. When declining to invest in a custom knife, you should also make sure that the knife-maker is as skilled in making quality accessories that go along with the skill used to develop a custom knife. You don’t want a low quality accessory that goes with a high quality knife.

Check out our page of accessories and see which one matches the knife you’d like or already have.

You need to have a nice display case to match your knife, one that is made of fine materials and has the same aesthetic appeal as your knife. You also need a sheath, too, and one that isn’t cheap.  A manufacturer might use an inexpensive covering such as nylon, which just won’t do any justice to a well-functioning knife that you have invested a lot of money in.

The accessories should speak to the caliber of your knife. It should say that this is a knife that someone puts a lot of care into and really is worth a pretty penny. It is a well thought out and innovative piece of art whose use is unparalleled.

For more information on custom knives, check out this article about top knife designers, as well as this YouTube video.

Now we hope that you understand that custom knives are going to just be better investments. A human hand in terms of craftsmanship is a much more accurate, personalized, innovative, and artistic creation that are made to last for a lifetime and for progeny.