In today’s disposable world, where most luxury items are used for several years and then discarded for the next latest and greatest innovation, whether it is a new car, phone, or computer, the custom knife cannot be improved on. You never have to worry about a handmade custom knife going out of style or being replaced with the newest fashion trend. People buy custom knives for the same reason they buy handmade custom fitted shoes. They want something crafted for them and them alone, something that will stand the test of time. Unlike shoes, a custom knife can come in a vast diversity of shapes and styles. A loyal companion, the knife is there when you need it.
There are several things to consider when shopping for a custom knife. Is the knife maker well known, do they have a reputation for quality work and do they make knives in a style you admire? If you can, closely examine knives the knife maker has made before. Some knife makers make rustic functional knives and others make sleek, stainless steel creations. Some people only buy knives as an investment, counting on their rarity to increase their value; for others knife collecting is a hobby, and their collections are their pride and joy. The centerpieces of a collection are usually old and rare handmade custom knives.
Traditionally, bone, ivory, or stag (antler) forms the handle of the handmade custom knife; but hardwoods have been used for decades. Ebony, mahogany, ironwood, rosewood, and more recently, a colored birch and resin composite called Pakkawood. Leather, mother-of-pearl, tortoiseshell, amber, semi-precious stones, plastic and hard rubber have also been used for handmade custom knife handles.
In the book, “The Walking Drum” by the late Louis L’amour, the protagonist, Kerbouchard, leaves his native land with little more than his prized Damascus knife. Today Damascus steel still holds its allure. In order for steel to be called “Damascus” it must be forged and folded at least 512 times, giving it the characteristic rippling sheen only found on this type of steel. Following Damascus steel in order of precedence is high carbon steel and stainless steel. Stainless steel is the least suitable blade material for handmade custom knives because, shiny as it may be, it lacks the ability to take a keen edge and keep it. However, bolsters, pommels and hilts are perfectly suited for stainless steel, though traditionally these are made from sterling silver or brass.
Equally important to the purchaser of a custom knife is the shape of the blade. Drop point, and leaf point are just two examples of knife tips; you also have curved skinning knifes, thin filet knives and straight bladed hunting knifes and the double-edged dagger style found on the “Arkansas Toothpick.” Once the blade style has been decided on, do you want the knife flat ground (the most common style) or hollow ground (the concave grind found on straight razors); serrated blades have become increasingly popular as well.
When most people think of a handmade custom knife, they think of fixed blade hunting knives. While most knife makers begin their craft by making hunting knives, many have learned to make pocketknives and lock back knives as well. Any handmade knife is just that, a “handmade” knife. These knives are not mass-produced by perfectly calibrated machinery; instead, a lone artisan or small group of artisans expertly creates custom knives. Many start at a young age, making knives out of old or broken machine shop files and gradually mastering the skills required to forge a blade.
Once you have imagined the perfect knife in your head, it is time to talk to a custom knife maker about turning your vision into a masterpiece. Of course, with so many handmade custom knives available through the internet, one is bound to catch your eye and become a treasured heirloom. Many men carry their grandfather’s knives and seldom wonder what long dead craftsman made those knives for their grandfather at the turn of the century. Those same men will respond with indignation at the thought of trading in those knives for a new store bought mass produced knife;” they don’t make them like they used to!” Few knives are made like they used to make them, and those creations are what we call, “handmade custom knives.”