On the heels of AG Russell's statement...and my own blog on "Where does that knife come from?", this blog posting attempts to tackle another controversial issue; Chinese-made knives. Before I really get into answering the title's question of "When is a Chinese-made knife NOT ok?", I should probably lay a little groundwork:


* I have Chinese-made knives in my collection. I do. They are from a variety of manufacturer's brands. Some are liner locks. Some are slip joints. Some are frame locks. I've got 'em...and my purchasing of most of them was very PREMEDITATED. Unfortunately, I can't say that I only own Chinese-made knives because some con-artist got the better of me. I knew what I was doing when I bought the knives...and for the most part, I don't regret buying them. Of my entire collection, Chinese knives make up less than 10%. The vast majority of my collection is American-made with Japanese-made blades probably coming in second-place (in total quantity).


* As I stated in my blog post of "Where does that knife come from?", I consciously buy American-made knives before any other. Though I'm reiterating what I said in the previous blog, I do this to help keep Americans employed and I fervently believe that every dollar spent in this country is more valuable than it would be spent abroad. That's why I buy American; it's not that I necessarily believe that "American-made knives are best!"...because that really isn't true.


Ok...those things now out of the way...let's get rolling. What are my favorite Chinese-made knives? Well...that's a good question. Hands-down, they are the ones that Spyderco markets. It's as simple as that. After that, probably my Benchmade Nagara. Then some Bokers and a few Bucks. The fact of the matter is that these knives make good users (with the exception of the Nagara; which is too pretty to use). They play a very practical role in my EDC...because they are decently made, very effective, practical and inexpensive (meaning that I can loose them and not be chewing railroad spikes angry). Yeah...my reason for having these is very "practical". That said, I have to confess that I'm very pleased to see that the prices of Chinese-made knives are climbing. Why on earth would I be happy about seeing the prices increase? It puts more pressure on the Chinese companies to make "better" knives...and it starts to level the playing field for manufacturers from other countries (not just America).


Now you may be thinking, "So. You have some Chinese knives. Those nifty Spyderco's don't seem to cause you any shame, do they?" Nope, they don't. Frankly, I have no problem with the Chinese knives made from Spyderco, Boker, Benchmade (though only some of the HK's are still made in China), CRKT, Kershaw and Buck (very few of their knives are now made in Asia). As far as I'm concerned, those Chinese-made blades are just fine to import and sell here in the US. They don't really do much to hurt US knife manufacturing as an industry. At least not at this point in time. That said...there comes a time when I do have a HUGE problem with Chinese-made knives. What I'm going to talk about next gives me a MASSIVE case of heart burn!


Spyderco, Benchmade, Boker, CRKT, Kershaw and Buck are all still "alive and well". Boker isn't a US company, but I certainly appreciate them as a German company...and what they've done for the cutlery industry overall. As for Kershaw...well, they are a Japanese-owned company that has most of it's manufacturing done in the US. CRKT is a marketing and importing company...and I think that 100% of their blades are Asian-made.  However, Chinese-made knives are being made and sold under the brand names of Schrade, Camilus, Kissing Crane, Marble...and a few others. I have a SERIOUS PROBLEM WITH THIS. In fact, I outright detest it! I consider it downright criminal. Rotten, rotten, rotten...and totally unethical.


So...what's the difference between a Chinese-made Spyderco and a Chinese-made Schrade? Schrade is out of business! A once proud and vital company...that employed thousands of US citizens is gone. It can't be argued that Chinese-made knives were a contributing COMPETING factor in the demise of that company...and Camilus...and others. Fairly...or unfairly...it really sticks in my craw that a marketing company (aka Taylor Brands...I think) is picking the carcasses of these defunct companies...AND BENEFITING FROM IT.


Yes...foreign competition isn't the only reason that Schrade, Camilus, Kissing Crane, Marble and the like went out of business. Certainly, management errors played a role. Business is tough...even during boom markets. I don't totally blame Chinese knife manufacturing for the demise of these once-great companies. Still...I am bothered...greatly...by the idea that somebody is leveraging the hard-developed brand value of these companies to line their own pockets. That is just plain wrong.You may be thinking to yourself, "Yeah...but those companies are out of business. Why does it matter is somebody sells knives under those names?" It matters...and here's "why""


How many Chinese knife manufacturing companies have a successfully developed brand identity? Can you name a single one? I can; Cas Hanwei. There's one and they are the exception to the rule. While I appreciate the hard work and dedication that some of these Asian manufacturing companies put into producing knives for their American corporate customers...I don't like that they copy/steal technology and knowledge to make their money. I don't like that they can't build a brand....quality brand...100% on their own...without borrowing from another company's hard won identity. Brand identity...brand VALUE...is hard to come by. It takes years...even decades...for a company to create a valued brand that consumers recognize and appreciate. It takes blood, sweat, tears, elbow grease, soul, passion,inspiration, sacrifice, dedication, endurance, perseverance...and more...to build a brand that people like enough to buy over and over. I simply can't respect a company that can't build their own brand...and has to "borrow" value from the efforts of another company. In a way...that a company can build a knife...and market it as a Schrade, Camilus, Marble...and the like...is a legalized form of theft. Selling those "imitations"...with the implied persona of brand legitimacy...is just as wrong in the knife industry as it is in any other industry (watches and clothing are much plagued by the criminally-produced imitation industry).


I like foreign-made knives. I have a bunch of Bokers that I enjoy. I have a number of CRKT knives that I like. I really enjoy my Fallkniven blades. I dig my Opinels. Every single one of those companies has a reputation that THEY BUILT themselves. With that said, I'd rather buy a Chinese-made knife that had a Chinese company's name on it...than one that said "Schrade", but wasn't a Schrade. For what it's worth to know, I've purchase some Chinese-made Schrade knives...solely for the purpose of comparing them to the Schrade originals. Guess what? Close but no cigar! The originals are certainly nicer and better made. An original beats an imitation any day of the week. It's been that way for eons...and it will always be that way. You just can't beat the real thing...

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Tags: China, Chinese-made, US, copy, cutlery, imitation, industry, infringement, knives, vs.

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Comment by KENT GABLE on January 10, 2012 at 0:16

Chris-please keep in mind that our corporate tax rate stands at approximately 38% while most other countries such as France charge only 25%. We have the second highest corporate tax rate of any country in the world next to Japan. No wonder manufacturers are forced to make their products overseas and once again, our government does absolutely nothing to make manufacturing in our country more attractive. This is just one more reason that we are not competitive in the world market.

Comment by Billy Oneale on January 8, 2012 at 21:55

Well said, Chris and Leopold.

Comment by Chris Stookey on January 8, 2012 at 14:55

I really enjoyed your posting Leopold! At the end of the day, I think that an "excellent" knife can be made anywhere in the the world.If anything, Spyderco's Taiwanese-made knives are definitive proof of this (and the prices for this aren't much lower than we see with US-made knives).

Varying regional economic factors impact whether or not knives made in one country may cost less than those made in the USA. I think that China...and our own government have facilitated an interaction that does cause an imbalance in costs. Most people think that the only reason that Chinese-made knives cost less is because the labor costs in China are much lower than they are in the US...and while that is true, knives made in China incur logistical costs (transporting materials and the knives themselves) that aren't nearly as high for companies manufacturing in the US. Some of the "cost" difference is certainly currency-based (Chinese money isn't equal in global value to the US dollar).

The logistical cost that I mentioned above is significant. Transport a container of material to China...and then transport a container load of finished goods back. That costs quite a bit of money. However, China doesn't penalize manufacturing with politically-driven restrictions, fees and taxes. Truly, the US government unfairly burdens US manufacturing (I know this first hand). That heavy weight isn't solely due to Uncle Sam standing on our backs...it's also the nasty behavior of various states within the US. Washington, as an example, is one of the least business-friendly states in the country. Interestingly, it's the metropolitan Seattle area that enables this bizarre arrangement to continue. What I've generally found is this; the populations of urban areas seem to recognize the value of having businesses employ the people of the region...whereas as the populations of the metro areas seem oblivious to this value simply due to the "mass" of general activity around that comes with living in a hive. If anything, the kind of ignorance that I'm referring to seems to breed (actively) in cities. These are the same people that would go "bug nuts" without big brother paving the way for their every move. 

The penalty that I've mentioned to has absolutely NOTHING to do with being global citizens. It has everything to do with allowing government to continue to operate in such a catastrophically irresponsible manner. The blank checks that the government continues to write need to be taken away from the politicians. The current administration campaigned upon "change" in 2008. They used phrases like "fundamentally transform America". People got sucked into that political doublespeak. I hear certain would-be Republican presidents using the same type of language and, frankly, I'm so bothered by the Obama experience that I absolutely cringe at the very sound of the phrase "fundamentally transform...". You want to know what needs to change? The American people need to stop being so apathetic. They need to tune in and speak up. More than that, they need to hold the politicians ACCOUNTABLE. Big government...and I'm speaking of both sides of the isle (Democrat and Republican)...needs to SHRINK, SHRINK, SHRINK. The government has become more of a burden to the American people than a benefit; the scales have tipped and it's time to bring a balance back into the picture. Big government needs to STOP standing upon the throats of the American people and the American companies that employ them. Doing this can "level the playing field" in the knife manufacturing industry...and many other economic areas as well.

In Memoriam
Comment by Leopold Lacrimosa on January 4, 2012 at 18:17

Wow, what a discussion! But truly it amazes me how many people get very angry over a "China" made knife. I go to a lot of Guns shows to sell my wares (knives) and I'll get a non-customer come over and tell me he wouldn't buy anything made in China because of where its made. No other reason. Yet this same person has on blue jeans that where made, (guess where?). That's right, China. My answer to those fools are to tell them I'd bet them a $100.00 if I walked in their home right then, I'd find at least 10 products in their home made in China in less then 10 minutes. Hell, I can do it probable just visiting their kitchen.

Now on my tables, I sell knives made in USA, Germany, Japan, China, Brazil, Argentina to mention a few countries. The knives I sell are all quality knives by reputable companies; Boker (who has plants in Germany, USA, Argentina and China), CRKT, Case, Queen, SOG, Paragon, etc... As well as many handcrafted custom made knives.

Now, I will gladly show one knife against another no mater where it was made. Many times you can see some what of a difference in the way the knife was made. Sometimes not. But today we really live in a global market. What economy happens in Europe does effect us here in the US. This also goes for Asia. Now if you have pride in your country, of course you want to "buy" American made products as much as possible, but economically that is not always feasible.

So when it comes to owning a knife in which you want to purchase, where it was made is one consideration. Others are design, feel, weight, what you will use it for and of course price. Not everyone can afford a $50 + Germany made Tree Brand Boker, but many can own a $15 version of the same knife made by the same company with the same quality controls but made in China.

Last, I remember as a kid growing up in the late 60's early 70's I heard the same exact arguments about the Japanese "Junk". Now Japanese knives are bought a a premium.  

Comment by Jay Todd on November 10, 2011 at 12:26

come on that was FUNNY - lol

In Memoriam
Comment by Robert Burris on November 8, 2011 at 18:47


Comment by Jay Todd on November 8, 2011 at 18:16

When is a Chinese made knife NOT ok? Apparently when it's better than one made in the U.S.A. - LOL

Comment by Shlomo ben Maved on November 8, 2011 at 17:09

Firstly, Chinese knives and other products are not crap!  They are made to strict tolerances established by the American or European makers and if not met are rejected.


Being Canadian and not having a great commercial knife making manufacturing base means that nearly everything comes from either Europe, Asia, South America or the USA...Yes we have a great maker, Grohmann and numerous, excellent custom makers so we can buy local made if we want.


What I don't understand is this logic of buying American?  All that is supposed to mean is that is was made in the USA but it does not attest to the quality of the item only its [supposed] location...There is a lot of pure unadulterated crap with that label on it.


Does a, let's say, European company, who opens a plant in the USA to assemble their products using entirely imported materials from that country's stockpile with all the profits leaves the country and the only thing that remains here is some wages and taxes paid; Does that constitute a "Made in the USA" label?


Think of all the companies who are supplying the US law enforcement community and the military with their products with the proviso that they had to open a plant in the US to quality--HK, Beretta, Glock etc. but few of the parts or the materials that make the parts are actually made in the USA.


What if it was an American company importing all their products from abroad only to be assembled in the US, does that get a "Made in the USA" label?  Cold Steel has never made a knife--ever!  They are strictly designers and importers only and always have been--yes, there were some blades made in Oregon when they first started--but everything now is imported primarily from Taiwan and Japan.


Benchmade's Red Label line (now discontinued) was Chi-comm made...Gerber (owned by Fiskars), Buck, CRKT, Camillus, Ka-Bar, TOPS, Kershaw, Leathermen etc., etc, etc. all have had knives made out of the USA yet are considered to be "Made in America" companies.


It's very doubtful that many of the companies purporting to be "Entirely hand made in the USA" are...Why, because their materials are imported (in lots of cases)...Buy American!  GM imports at least 70% of their car parts from overseas; Ford and Chrysler are no better.


You can't get away from imports and "Made in the USA" isn't entirely, always, completely, true--actually rarely!


Comment by KENT GABLE on October 27, 2011 at 13:16

Shlomo, Don, Jan, Stephan & all y'all, I do agree with Shlomo in that SOG makes very fine, high quality steel knives. Even the Randall that I own is made from European steel because quality Asian steel seems impossible to come by? When A.G. Russell decided to have his knives made in China, as the company explained, it is with regret but no longer economically feasible to produce the same quality here and be competive.

Regretfully, I believe Buck, Case XX, GEC, Canal Street & other American hand made knives will be forced to send even more American jobs to China. Far more jobs than just knife making.

I am also sorry to see an informative web like iKC become a political forum but I suppose it was just inevitable?This is what I believe and I will continue to try to buy American made products as often as possible? If some of you are offended by this and think it is because I hate other nationalities  you are wrong.

Comment by Jan Carter on October 22, 2011 at 12:49
With all that has been said, it is all why I beleive personal choice is so important.  Being able to make an informed decision to buy a knife created in whatever country IS important to our hobby

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