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Evaluating a $40 vs $400 Knife - Explaining Expensive Knives

By | 2016

American knife manufacturers and consumers are rapidly discovering that the knife industry is not immune to the aggressive prices offered by overseas manufacturers. With the plethora of low-cost labor options and availability of cheap materials, Chinese manufacturers in particular have ramped up their production of cheap knives. Sometimes it can be difficult to choose between a cheap $40 knife and a well-made $400 knife.

Resisting the Temptation to Purchase a Cheap Knife

While the price of these knives may be alluring compared to American-made knives, consumers must pay close attention to the sub-par materials used to produce many knives overseas. You simply cannot compare a high quality American-made steel blade to a low grade steel blade that is affixed to a flimsy plastic handle. Below are the key factors that help buyers distinguish between a $40 knife and a $400 knife.

Selection of Materials

One of the key predictors of the longevity of a knife is the selection of materials used to construct the knife. The selection of materials is important in the following three primary knife components:

  • Blade construction
  • Handle production
  • The construction of bearings, fittings, bushings and pivots

Below is a look at each primary knife component and the vast differences that exist between high quality American-made knives and poorly constructed budget models.

Blade Construction: Why the use of High Quality Steel is Critical

A high quality blade is the cornerstone of a dependable knife. Specialty knife manufacturers in the U.S. tend to employ American-made performance steel that require additional time to heat treat and manufacture. The result is a high performance blade that features the following key attributes:

  • Superb strength, or the knife’s ability to withstand applied force
  • Excellent resistance to corrosion
  • Blade sharpness
  • Proven ability to resist wear and tear
  • Toughness, or the steel’s ability to sustain force before fracturing
  • Hardness or resistance of deformity as measured by the Rockwell Scale

In contrast to the high grade steel used in high quality American-made knives, many low-end knives are constructed of 420 steel that is very soft and unable to resist corrosion or wear and tear. Blade sharpness is also compromised, and users find that they must re-sharpen a blade after only a few minutes of use to obtain desired results. The steel used to construct a $40 knife blade simply cannot compare to the particle metallurgy used to manufacture of a $400 knife.

Handle Production: The Advantages of Using Titanium and Carbon Fiber

The materials selected to construct a knife handle help to determine the weight and strength of the knife itself. While the use of high quality base materials raises the cost to the consumer, the use of high quality handle materials will prolong the life of a knife. In general, the material chosen to construct a knife’s handle is indicative of its overall quality:

  • Titanium or carbon fiber are frequently used in the construction of high quality knives
  • Aluminum, rubber or plastic are often used to construct inexpensive knives

In particular, titanium possesses greater strength and increased ability to withstand wear and tear when compared to aluminum. Titanium handles are also advantageous because of their lightweight construction and resistance to corrosion. Accordingly, titanium handles are often more costly, contributing to a higher overall price for a knife.

The use of aluminum handles, on the other hand, is a hallmark feature of cheaper knives. While aluminum is less costly, it is heavier yet softer, resulting in a knife handle that is much more susceptible to dents, scratches and dings. Aluminum is also prone to fractures and breaks due to its soft composition. Accordingly, knives with aluminum handles are not nearly as durable as knives with handles made of titanium or carbon fiber.

The Significance of Using High Quality Fittings and Other Components

When evaluating knives, many people only consider the quality of the blade and the handle. They fail to look at the quality of the key components that hold a knife together. Below are the key components that contribute to the overall efficacy of a knife:

  • Fittings
  • Bearings
  • Bushings
  • Pivots

When these components are made of subpar materials or without attention to precision, the result is poor operation and durability

The Impact of Quality of Craftsmanship

The importance of precision in the design of a knife cannot be overstated. High quality American-made knives are usually produced by skilled manufacturers with a high attention to detail. As a result, the overall quality and performance of higher-end knives is elevated. Below are some of the ways that high-end knife manufacturers exhibit the craftsmanship and precision required for a top-performing knife:

  • Considerably tighter machining tolerances
  • Blade grinds and heat treatment to exacting standards
  • Uniform finishes on the knife
  • Opening and closing machinisms fine tuned

Failure to use high quality components and ensure that all components are precisely aligned can result in poor results or injury to a knife owner. By investing in a high quality American-made knife, these pitfalls can be avoided.

The Importance of Quality Control Procedures

American knife manufacturers are subject to quality control procedures and regulations that are often absent in overseas companies or fly-by-night operations. Additionally, American-made knives are more likely to be built with accurately listed materials and components that can be warrantied. The end result is a more sound knife with an intrinsic or collector value.

Choosing the Best Knife to Meet Your Needs

Please contact us if you would like to learn more about the differences in quality and performance that exist between a $40 knife and a $400 knife. We have the expertise to guide you in your selection of a high quality knife that will best meet your specific needs.