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Hey all, the ASH knife discussion got to the topic of the definition of "custom" knives, which a lot of people likely missed simply because they didn't read all of that thread.  I'm guessing this topic has come up for discussion before (while I don't recall seeing this topic discussed in recently, I may have missed it, life's been pretty full in recent years).  Regardless, it seems it could use it's own, new thread.

I take particular interest in this topic because I have long been a proponent of truth in advertising and an opponent of deceptive marketing.  However, I also realize that sometimes the "custom" label is placed on a knife in error, due to a simple misunderstanding of what constitutes a "custom" knife. 

According to A Pocket Guide to Knives, there is often confusion between the terms "custom," "customized," "factory custom," "custom design," and "limited run" knives.  http://apg2k.hegewisch.net/custom.html 

Factory custom knives, according to this definition, is essentially a production model of a knife with specific components chosen by the customer, while custom design knives are factory produced knives designed by a certain designer. Limited run knives are obviously specific versions of a knife produced in a limited quantity.  To knife people, these are pretty obviously not custom knives.

The confusion that seems to crop up even among knife people, in my experience, is between custom & customized knives.  I will even add a third confusing term, & that is "handmade".

A Pocket Guide to Knives defines "customized knife" as "taking a factory made knife and making after market alterations."  Unfortunately, while the author makes certain to point out that there is a definite distinction between "custom" and "customized," the author does not offer much of a definition of "custom," which I was a bit frustrated by. 

Here is the paragraph in which the author attempts to define a "true custom" knife:  

"Custom knives are normally made one at a time by hand. The may be made by an individual craftsman or in some cases made by a team of craftsmen. In some cases the knife maker may make several specific models, but the production of the knife is normally based on a customer's order. Some custom makers may even make multiple copies of the same knife based on its popularity and probable demand. The value of a custom knife is almost always dependent on the knife maker and his/her reputation. In some cases, some custom makers become so popular that their business expands and they need other knife makers to assist in production. At that point, you could technically say the knife is a "Factory Custom" For Example Bob Loveless produced custom knives, Bo Randall started as a custom maker but the company he founded now turns out Factory Custom knives."

This paragraph nails handmade & customer-based order components of a "custom" knife, but then seems to apply the "factory custom" & "customized" standards, presumably the difference being that there is one individual maker involved (& ironically almost seems to recognize the error at the end of the paragraph, but then just doesn't see it).  What's really missing from this definition is the direct design input from the customer, which leads, at least at first, to a truly unique knife.

Since the author wraps up the article by stating, in a section titled "The Gray Area," "[t]he problem for the knife collector is that no two people will ever agree on any of the categories I've listed here. And even those who might agree to a point will argue that the categories overlap or that I have left out crucial details. In the end it will be up to you as the collector to decide what is custom and what is just customized." 

Yes, I argued that there was overlap to the author's definitions, but not because I came up with my own definition of "custom".  The solution to understanding the definition to a word is to learn the definition, not make up a new definition.  There may be differences in definitions from different sources, but usually the core meaning is the same, because there is a general agreement as to the standard definitions of most words in any language.  Take it to heart when I say that a civil society will be impossible without our ability to agree on simple definitions of words -- it's the only way we'll have a chance to understand each other.

According to the Google dictionary, the word "custom," in this sense an adjective, is defined as, "made or done to order for a particular customer."  This is basically the definition I learned as I came to understand the knife world.  In other words, without customer input on the original design of a unique knife, a knife does not meet the more strict definition of "custom".

Unfortunately, I think there are plenty of sophisticated knife manufacturers & sellers that are very much aware of this difference in definitions & simply exploit their customers' lack of knowledge to sell a standard pattern (possibly even mass-produced) knife as "custom".  And that's deceptive marketing that really angers me.  

Also unfortunate is that the more strict definition of "custom knife" has become an ever rarer one in the same sources in which I learned the definition in the the last ten years.

Admittedly, this discussion became much longer than I'd originally intended, and provided a more assertive argument than originally intended.  But this is still a discussion, and since you're still reading, I can only assume you have some thoughts on the matter as well -- please add those thoughts below!

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Well done amigo!

I loved that you named book, chapter, and verse as sources for setting a standard of understanding the term(s) as applied to knives and knife making. 

I think I can support the author's final comment the best - "In the end it will be up to you as the collector to decide what is custom and what is just customized." 

I'm going to have to bookmark this post and reference it often in future discussions. Thank you for taking the time to write and post it.  As a result of it, my understanding has been expanded, and so I stand corrected. 

DLKG,

LOL at the last paragraph!

While I agree with most of what you have posed, I have to be that one with a different point of view on custom.  Like you I agree whole-heartily with the other descriptions from our author (by the way did you know he is a member?)

In your scenario : According to the Google dictionary, the word "custom," in this sense an adjective, is defined as, "made or done to order for a particular customer."  This is basically the definition I learned as I came to understand the knife world.  In other words, without customer input on the original design of a unique knife, a knife does not meet the more strict definition of "custom".

Merriam-Webster:

Definition of custom-made

: made to individual specifications
It does not appear that a customers specifications are necessary just an individual.  At my house a knife begins as a round bar of steel, it is forged to shape,heat treated to the specs necessary for the steel.  Then off to the grinder, handles...well you get the picture.  Not only is this knife handmade, it is custom as the individual that chose the specifications for what this knife would be is the maker. There will never be 2 exactly alike as it does not work that way.  Each piece that comes out of the forge is made to individual specifications since Donnie does not take orders.  He makes what he wants to and the steel tells him too.
So there is my thought process for why custom does not require customer input

Obviously no one can make anyone subscribe to any certain definition of any word.  We're human, and we choose to subscribe to definitions or we don't (even if we choose not to analyze the choices we make out of habit or perceived necessity), or at least this is likely true if you subscribe to the concept of free will (& there are plenty of people who do not believe in free will at all).  However, there can be quite a bit of benefit to having common definitions of words & terms.

To address your point, Jan, I would define Donnie as an artist -- he doesn't take orders & he makes what he wants, much like many sculptors.  Sometimes a sculptor is commissioned to make a piece for someone, usually with specific traits, aspects, or characteristics.  Only when the sculptor agrees to the terms of the commissioned & begins to make the sculpture, the commissioned sculpture is a custom sculpture. 

The definition of "art" is not without controversy, & I say this as someone whose senior paper in college was about a certain definition of art.  If you'd prefer the term artisan or craftsman, that's fine too, I think the same definition applies here, or at least close enough -- but it will also likely have the same problems.  But this is not purely academic. 

Hypothetically, imagine a knife maker makes knives to his or her own specification, without regard to anyone else, maybe because it's a hobby or because the maker has made a very successful career of it.  The maker decides to sell these knives as "custom" knives, even though the maker never takes anyone else's input on any of the knives.  A state's attorney general ("AG") hears of this and, in an effort to protect consumers or to suppress knife sales or pit knife people against each other, the AG decides to bring suit against this knife maker for some sort of violation by stating that the knife maker is not selling custom knives.  The AG then says the state has chosen a different definition, one that maybe the state had not even defined until bringing suit against the knife maker...

This is the kind of scenario where the definition of "custom knife" is central to the case, & is arguably going to be very important not only to this knife maker but also to every knife maker, buyer, & seller in that state, & maybe everywhere in the country.

And of course (you likely know where I'm going with this) we know this is exactly what is happening in New York, with police & AG Cyrus Vance defining "gravity knife" basically as any knife that at least one police officer can open with a flick of the wrist.  

Jan, I know you've seen this video, but for those who haven't, here's Knife Rights' Doug Ritter discussing the gravity knife case with the progressive news organization Vice:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S2S_4G103Ik  

It's very informative because it's so simple.  I've read briefs & filings & articles, but Doug Ritter really sums it up perfectly in this video.  Yes, I'm a language enthusiast, a philosophy major, a writer, and a lawyer, and I likely place more emphasis on definitions than most people.  But obviously I'm certainly not the only one to whom definitions are important...

Oh, I should also confess that I've had a lot of coffee this morning, & I wrote more & faster than intended.  I certainly want to apologize if I offended anyone or spoke harshly, that wasn't my intent at all.  I'm glad this discussion is occurring, specifically because is no consensus.

Have a good Saturday, all!

And this is why I enjoy iKC...look at all the extra stuff we get here for our money! Interesting debates, videos, philosophy, a mini-course in law, and most importantly, a broadening of knowledge and understanding (if one looks for it and allows themselves to be open to new ideas). 

Good coffee output DLKG. 

Just to stir things a little - at what point does a "custom" knife become a "customized" knife? Here is what I mean; I make a custom knife to someone's specifications, then for whatever reason they decide not to buy it. I post for sale to the general public. All you see is a photo and a description. Is it still custom or is it a customized knife? 

Many will say that it is still custom-made, but where's the proof? So in that sense, how would anyone know if Donnie's knives are custom or customized (being an artisan notwithstanding?).

I'm not really looking for an answer here....it was just a thought I had while reading your comments above.

Jan - you're up.

Lars, that is an excellent question & I would respond that a custom knife is always a custom knife, regardless of what happens to it after it's made.  I think there are plenty of knife makers who have made a custom knife for a customer only to have the customer back out on payment.  At that point the knife maker is smart to sell the knife off to someone else.  In this case, the knife maker can legitimately claim it's a custom knife, even if the knife wasn't made custom to the actual buyer's specs.

As far as having proof, to take an approach from moral philosophy, something Immanuel Kant might say, is that the thing itself is its own proof (the "Ding an Sich").  The maker knows it was made to the specifications of a certain customer.  As far as convincing a skeptical buyer is another issue entirely, & it's up to the maker to determine if he or she wants to bother.  Though I suppose the maker could go about doing so in several ways.

However, if the actual buyer requested the maker do something like add or remove a blade coating, or change the handle scales to some other material, etc., at that point, the custom knife has also become customized.

Also, I would say another twist would be the actual buyer of the knife requesting another knife identical to the original.  I would say that the second knife would also be a custom knife, but made to the spec's of the second, actual buyer  The spec's may be an exact copy of the original, but it was the second buyer that ordered the specs, & so it is that second buyer's spec's that make the knife custom.  (This adds a layer of complexity that I'm not quite as certain of at the moment, not having completely thought it through since it was an example that occurred to me as I wrote this response; I may or may not think about this a bit more, & of course everyone's input is welcome).

I should also add to the original conversation that defining "custom knife" really isn't as likely to be as important as defining "gravity knife"simply because the latter is a criminal issue, & the former never has been quite as pressing as a criminal matter, at least not as far as I know.  Which is of course why Knife Rights focuses on definitions like "gravity knife" & "switchblade", & not definitions like "custom knife".

G'night, all! 

as far as I know a custom knife is one guy (Well Known Designer or not), making a knife from start to finish, using his various tools, possibly some machining in some cases it's also his own timeline when ever he's done is when he's done.  when he is done you are left with a beautiful work of art! usually completing "The one piece" possibly never to be seen again in some cases.  in other words the buyer is purchasing a one of a kind! in my opinion it is the holy grail of metallic cutting art and is an honor to own! =) does that sound about right? or is too romantic?? =) =)

Also since these pieces are special, They are usually very expensive on average possibly $1300 and up? and yes people backing out on payments is not good, which is probably why knife designers go to production companies to make a living! they get to work with a well known company taking there original designs and recreating metallic art using the collaborated ideas sometimes restraints of there own designs? I assume it does take some getting use too! on the other hand, there is no shame in collaborating an original design and there are some advantages as a designer you are now promoted! people know who you are as designer and your personal designer work gets a leg up. I suppose in the end there is some give in take, but it's all good! we take the good with the bad =)

Omar Calderon said:

as far as I know a custom knife is one guy (Well Known Designer or not), making a knife from start to finish, using his various tools, possibly some machining in some cases it's also his own timeline when ever he's done is when he's done.  when he is done you are left with a beautiful work of art! usually completing "The one piece" possibly never to be seen again in some cases.  in other words the buyer is purchasing a one of a kind! in my opinion it is the holy grail of metallic cutting art and is an honor to own! =) does that sound about right? or is too romantic?? =) =)

Speaking of which =) does anyone here own the new zt Hinderer zt0393? Damn that's a hansome knife I heard the scales are thinner than his original design but so far no is complaining =)

Interesting. Leveraging your comment (hopefully not out of context), "The maker knows it was made to the specifications of a certain customer", I can conclude the real debate is to define the "customer", and not whether a knife is "custom" made. While I understand what you are implying with that comment, one could argue (as Jan stated) that the maker him/herself is the customer who is defining the specifications. 

I think we have just gone full circle....no?  :-) 



dead_left_knife_guy said:

Lars, that is an excellent question & I would respond that a custom knife is always a custom knife, regardless of what happens to it after it's made.  I think there are plenty of knife makers who have made a custom knife for a customer only to have the customer back out on payment.  At that point the knife maker is smart to sell the knife off to someone else.  In this case, the knife maker can legitimately claim it's a custom knife, even if the knife wasn't made custom to the actual buyer's specs.

As far as having proof, to take an approach from moral philosophy, something Immanuel Kant might say, is that the thing itself is its own proof (the "Ding an Sich").  The maker knows it was made to the specifications of a certain customer.  As far as convincing a skeptical buyer is another issue entirely, & it's up to the maker to determine if he or she wants to bother.  Though I suppose the maker could go about doing so in several ways.

However, if the actual buyer requested the maker do something like add or remove a blade coating, or change the handle scales to some other material, etc., at that point, the custom knife has also become customized.

Also, I would say another twist would be the actual buyer of the knife requesting another knife identical to the original.  I would say that the second knife would also be a custom knife, but made to the spec's of the second, actual buyer  The spec's may be an exact copy of the original, but it was the second buyer that ordered the specs, & so it is that second buyer's spec's that make the knife custom.  (This adds a layer of complexity that I'm not quite as certain of at the moment, not having completely thought it through since it was an example that occurred to me as I wrote this response; I may or may not think about this a bit more, & of course everyone's input is welcome).

I should also add to the original conversation that defining "custom knife" really isn't as likely to be as important as defining "gravity knife"simply because the latter is a criminal issue, & the former never has been quite as pressing as a criminal matter, at least not as far as I know.  Which is of course why Knife Rights focuses on definitions like "gravity knife" & "switchblade", & not definitions like "custom knife".

G'night, all! 

I do believe your correct in that we have gone full circle.  Yes those creating the knives are indeed artisans and a customer of their works, in my humble opinion.

Also in my eyes anything that changes the original state of the knife is customization.

As for the definitions we all need be concerned with right now, DLKG is very correct in stating that the fight for switchblades, automatics and gravity knives concern us all.  Say you are a traditional collector, you collect custom sowbellies.  This is not a pattern that has been adopted/modified by the more modern knife makers and designers, so why does this fight concern you? The age old question of "what next" comes to mind immediately to me.  Let's face it, there are only so many designs a knife can practically have, so "whats next?"  Custom knives could easily fall into that category.  The same folks that came after the other knives could now say something we would find ridiculous, they are stealing someone elses design!!

There in lies our slippery slope!  We need to ban together support the 2 groups that are supporting our rights in the background.  Find one you like the methods of, step up and help support the fight now or we will all be fighting it at some point as our friends in the UK are.

I dont know about you, but I dont want to fight with anyone over my tableware LOL

Coincidentally, just a couple days ago Samantha Bee did a not so favorable profile on Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance on her weekly show "Full Frontal".  Just goes to show that us liberals have plenty of reasons not to like him either (though he's done some good things in his role).  Prosecutorial discretion may be legal, but that doesn't mean it's always right -- as Cy Vance himself seems to acknowledge in the video.

I don't want to turn the discussion here into left versus right politics.  To the contrary, I mention it because it shows that we all still have plenty in common as people who share a common background, which also means a common sense of morality.  We may argue who is hurting who -- but we all tend to agree that hurting others is simply wrong, and I think that's where we have incredible foundations on which to build bridges between the disagreements.  

I won't post the link here in case that would be "a bridge too far," so to speak, but if you're interested, you should be able to find it pretty easily by going to YouTube & searching for "Samantha Bee" & "Cy Vance".  Oh, she's pretty free with her language -- just a heads up, in case you have kids in the room...

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