Are you wondering “what is the best knife brand?” Well, I used to wonder that too. Basically, if you are new to knife shopping, all these choices, manufacturers, models, and variations make buying a knife a big deal. Like, should you go with carbon steel or stainless steel? How do you know that this $100 knife is better than this similar-looking $40 knife–they both look and cut just as well in the store.
First thing’s first, a quality knife does not usually mean an expensive knife. Knife brands are usually divided by target demographics; some knives are meant to be cheap whereas others are meant to be expensive. However, the quality of the knife depends upon the knife’s use. If a $200 knife can not do the task that a $20 knife can, the $20 knife has more utility than the $200 knife.
With that in consideration, you should first consider what you want to use your knife for. Are you looking for a good every day carry knife? Or, are you looking for something a little bit flashier? Or are you just looking for a good knife to have in your bugout bag?
The Truth About Modern Knife Making
The knife you will buy today will 99.99% of the time be mass-produced. What this means is that it won’t have the craftsmanship that a custom made knife will have. Yes, it can have cool features and benefits, but it won’t be like a custom made knife.
You see, back a few hundred years ago, every knife must be handmade by a blacksmith. This meant that raw metals were handled and processed by one person. This allowed for a lot of time-intensive honing techniques that are impossible in today’s mass production era.
As an example, some knives featured multiple layers of hard and soft steel. The features of hard steel is that it is hard to dull but it is also easy to break. The features of soft steel are that it is flexible but yet easy to dull. By combining multiple layers of hard and soft steel, the blacksmith could create a knife that was flexible and yet maintained its sharpness.
A common swordsmith test was to chop blocks of wood to dull the knife and see if it was still sharp enough to cut a tomato easily. Then, the sword was subjected to a flexibility test to see if it could survive being bent 90 degrees from tip to handle without snapping.
No modern knife can withstand such a test.
What Really Counts in a Knife
If you haven’t checked out the other guides on the site, I highly recommend you do so. Depending on your needs, you can do well with a survival knife, or a machete, or a hatchet, or just a simple Ka-Bar (one of my favorite).
Some considerations are: will you use it for camping? will you be hiking with it? will you have it on your waste or in a bag or in a car? or will you use it as an EDC?
If you don’t know what you want to do with a knife, go and figure that out first. Then, go and read our articles on that type of knife. We review only the best, top-selling knives on this site. Well, in most cases that’s true, but we also feature some lousy options (and we tell you so) so you can steer clear of them!
But, here are some general guidelines about knives if you are completely new to knife buying:
- Blade: the blade can be made of carbon steel or stainless steel. Carbon steel is harder than stainless steel and will retain an edge longer. This means that you can cut more without needing to sharpen your knife. However, this will also make the blade brittle and more likely to snap if there is a lot of force upon it.
Stainless steel is softer than carbon steel and will go dull sooner. Stainless steel has the advantage of being more rust resistant than carbon steel. (However, you can get around this issue by buying a carbon steel knife that is coated. You can also use proper maintenance to prevent it from rusting–read below). There are still some stainless steel knives that are sharp, however. It is just rare to find.
- Handle: look for a handle that has a good grip and fits well in your hand. The tang is the part of the blade that extends into the handle. Most of the time, no matter what your purpose is, you would want a knife with a full tang. A full tang gives the knife a longer life. A full tang also gives the user more control.
- Sheath: if you are going to buy a knife, make sure the sheath it comes with is good. Some companies provide good leather or polyester sheaths whereas others provide flimsy sheaths that won’t last a short hike. Having a sharp knife but a lousy sheath is the recipe for a huge disaster.
How to Make Any Knife Last Forever
When you have purchased your knife, you can do some quick maintenance to make sure that the knife will last for years. Simple things as using Loctite on your non-fixed blade knives will keep the screws from falling out. Other things like oiling the blade every so often will protect the knife from rusting. A good oil to use is mineral oil. (You can also use it to protect your wooden cutting board in the kitchen).
What Are Some General Brands to Look For?
Well, this is a hard question. Not all brands produce products of similar quality. For example, Gerber is a so-so name in knives but yet makes great multi-tools. Gerber also contracts out its knives to third world manufacturers under a licensing agreement. This results in sub-par knives that I hate. Yes, a lot of Gerber knives that I’ve tried just suck. However, some of their stuff is really good.
Other companies like Ka-Bar produce some knives in the USA whereas other knives in China. Obviously, the American made knives are much better than the child-labor-made-knives.
If you are looking for a trusty name, I highly recommend SOG. They were started by veterans who wanted to have a great knife. Every knife I’ve seen from them rocked. And, the best part is that they are somewhat affordable as opposed to other excellent brands that are not affordable like Zero Tolerance, MicroTech and Esee!
Another great brand is Benchmade, but you have to choose carefully or you’ll easily get diverted into their “expensive” section which rivals the other expensive companies I mentioned. This company brings craftsmanship back to knife making and brought the Balisong tradition to America.
I don’t have time to list other brands here but, if you have a brand you like, write about it in the comment box below. I’ll be sure to post it.