Economics of USA made folding knives?

Discussion in 'Knives, Gear, Guns And Other Tools' started by skx013, Dec 4, 2020.

  1. skx013

    skx013 Member

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    I’ve been looking for a ~3 inch, USA made pocket knife much like the rat II, Chaparral, zancudo - basic user knives - and have noticed a few things.
    1. USA made pocket knives are a significant up charge over overseas made vs their fixed blade counterparts. A USA made folder is quite often 300-400% the price of a foreign made counterpart where a fixed blade may be 50% more.
    2. The USA made market is dominated by more fashion, Instagram, type configurations vs normal use (color pallets, super steels, carbon fiber scales, etc).
    3. #2 makes #1 even worse as often USA made offerings are limited to more fashion type configurations which drives the price up even higher. For one very popular manufacturer, it’s become frankly nauseating to see the uncharge placed on their knives and the inability to get a base configuration of a simple dark handle + an uncoated blade.

    I don’t mean this to bash, but honestly curious what’s substantially different about making folding knives in the USA vs fixed blades that leads to this? Of course, it’s always possible I’m just an outlier and the market for USA made “user” folding knives just isn’t there. . .

    Also, ESEE, please save the world and make the zancudo in the USA :)
     
  2. TerryD

    TerryD Member

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    Due to wages and other requirements in the US, its just as expensive to make a simple folder as it is an elaborate one. And you're not gonna pay Benchmade prices for a Zancudo.

    In foreign markets, the materials are usually the manufacturer's largest cost where in the Americas its the employee. We expect to make enough money to eat and pay our light bills and buy ourselves some toys occasionally plus many are required to carry insurance and most pay vacation time and sick leave.

    A full time employee usually costs a company at least twice as much per hour as that employee makes due to all these requirements. Without trying to get too political, its why big businesses have pushed to move their workforce to part time and let the government pick up the tab for medical and food with social aid programs.

    So, the short of it is if you want a simple US made folder, grab what you can find that suits your needs and get it! If you don't think the American workforce's general quality is worth the extra cost to keep people in your country working and fed, grab another Chinese burner and move along.
     
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  3. skx013

    skx013 Member

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    This is where I’m confused. If this were true, how do we explain a $25 440c buck 112 slim vs a $212 BM Bugout w/ 20cv and g-10 scales? Just simply as an 800% mark up?
     
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  4. C99c

    C99c Member

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    Your point would be better made between the 112 Slim and the base Bugout. Adding trendy upgrades will always up the price a lot.

    And even then, although I'm not a Bugout (or generally Benchmade) fan and like the 112 Slim, I'll readily admit that the two tools are not equal.
    Do I think the $80-$100 difference is warranted? I'm not sure.

    Besides the manufacturing cost difference in the US vs other places(if you've never worked in manufacturing you have no idea how much it really takes to produce a product in the USA these days):
    The Bugout materials cost more and the lock is totally different. Buck makes a lot of knives in China which helps their bottom line while all of Benchmade's current production is done in the USA.

    Benchmade spends a ton of money or PR, advertising, etc.

    They're like the Toyota of folding knives: their products are popular enough that they get away with charging basically whatever they want.

    As with most things it comes down to personal preference and where your value/cost lines intersect.

    Take for example Chris Reeves Knives. A good quality, made in the USA line of folders. Other than the company that produces them there's not a single thing I like about them. And I feel like the price is ridiculous for what you get. And then there's the whole "spa service" stuff that makes me want to smack people in the head.
     
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2020
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  5. skx013

    skx013 Member

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    So what is reasonable to expect to pay for something like a made in USA rat II? I’d gladly pay $80 (double) for the current version or even $125 in s30v, but it seems that’s not exactly realistic.
     
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  6. C99c

    C99c Member

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    In that situation I think it's not realistic because a company usually needs to pay for the new tooling and make some sort of profit for them to consider it. On something like a USA produced RAT folder or other fairly simple, non flashy product without the latest and greatest steel and lock there would be a market for it but it would likely be small.

    It would be difficult to recoup the development costs, especially because for every one person that would spend the $80 there would be five that would order the Chinese produced version to save $20. Five more would order the knockoff from Alibaba for $20.

    I understand your frustration.
    I spent almost two decades looking for an American made "Spyderco Delica/Endura".
    I'd find knives that were close but never one that ticked all the boxes. The reality was that there just wasn't enough people asking for and willing to pay for what I wanted.
     
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2020
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  7. TerryD

    TerryD Member

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    Looks like even Buck offers some single blade, S30V, G10 liner lock knives with the nice bearing pivot in the $100-125 range.

    My first "nice" "tactical" folder was $96. It's a US made Kershaw Blur in S30V. It's a bigger blade than my Zancudo by a bit, but I like it.

    I've had a couple Benchmade knives. I like my fullsize Freek better than either the Griptilian or Northfork I've had. I would like to pick up a Bugout, I really like the size and shape of that knife. I feel like their quality is worth the price IMO.

    Again, the US built Kershaw blades and the US made Buck offerings are all nice knives and the tactical, single blade, one hand versions seem to fall in that $80-125 range depending on options.

    Now. Do I like my Zancudo? Yes I do. It's a great little knife to have in my pocket. I think it's reasonably well made and works great. But I wouldn't compare it's construction to my Freek or Blur and I'm happy I've spent the money on the other knives to support my fellow American workers.

    I'm a Union member so things like that matter to me. I spend my money on things other Americans make whenever possible in the hopes that my fellow Americans spend their hard earned money in the things I make.
     
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  8. rileybassman

    rileybassman Member

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    I know it's more of a hypothetical question then a "specific model" hunt... the ones that come to mind to me would be PM2, Para3, Griptillians, various bucks, some kershaws, I think some SOGs?... but yea, they are definitely more... US manufacturing is just more expensive. And materials do account for some of that.

    US knives tend to hold value better in the market - used a decent shape used Hinderer or CRK will pretty much never drop below 75% of it's new value and is usually more like 80-85% (my limited experience) - Benchmades, Spydercos, ESEE, Bark River etc etc... seem to be similar. I have had a We (nice knife) that I got like 50% when I sold it - and it sat forever YMMV but this seems to sorta be the case. ... they (US brands) are appealing as warranty claims all stay in the states - I know I'm preaching to the choir... but "some" of the associated cost goes toward warranty etc I would think as well.

    Pretty much my entire collection is US made now... mostly due to American pride and resale value... you lose enough money in this hobby... any way to get a little more back selling used knives is helpful lol.

    Also, it's not just knives IME... I'm a guitar nut... a "US" made strat... easily 2-3x a mexi strat... gibson, PRS, Martin, Taylor etc etc... there's a "similar" markup in that world. Same with Flashlights... Guns... maybe not as large of a markup it seems but still there.. sorta an interesting anomaly actually comparing Springfield XD-M, Glock, M&P, FN...

    So yea... part of it does seem like it's excessive... but comparing my different "hobbies" US made just costs more. I will say that US tends to use higher quality components "most" of the time - Hinderer mills all his own screws, standoffs, and pivots - for example.

    Interesting reading the CRK comment above... I used to feel that way as well - but I have had an inkosi and 3 different sebenzas over the last year or so... and 2 XM-18s (3" and 3.5") and there is really something intangible that is more then the sum of the parts with some of these knives... machining, tolerances, warranty, action, aftermarket products... all adds up.

    Not much to really add to this just some of my observations.
     
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2020
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  9. C99c

    C99c Member

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    It's the opposite with me on the CRKs: the sum of several things make's me dislike them even though I like the company and their fixed blade knives.

    I don't like liner locks.
    I prefer hole to studs.
    I don't like folders that can't be easily carried left or right handed.
    I don't care for ornate or decorated tools.

    If I thawed out of iceberg, went looking for a folding knife and walked up to you and you had a PM2 (which I also don't care for) and told me "this one costs three shiny rocks" I'd be like, ok.

    If you showed me a Benchmade 940 and said this one costs 5 shiny rocks I'd be like ugh, maybe ok.

    If you showed me a CRK and said this one cost's 11 shiny rocks, but you can send it in for a Spa treatment and might be able to snag one made on your birthday I'd be like "him ugly and dumb, but might make ok wife". If you started describing the "hydraulic" feel of it opening I'd probably club you and leave you for dead.

    This is all just based on my preferences and nothing in this post was meant to offend anyone, but if it did I offer my most sincere apology to any caveman trapped in an iceberg...

    Also, I think the Junglas is a waste of steel that could have made several useful knives...
     
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2020
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  10. rileybassman

    rileybassman Member

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    Haha! All good man... that's funny :)

    Noted - I will avoid talking about the "liquid moving in a confined space under pressure" feeling then ;-)

    Lock type matters less and less to me these days... I'm cautious with any lock type and if it needs to be that heavy duty... I grab a fixed blade.

    Hole, stud, flipper... also matter less to me anymore... I used to hate studs - but now I have some I really like. I even had a "modded" inkosi that had that studs removed and a spydie hole drilled... I was hoping for it to feel like a "substantial spyderco" - it didn't... it felt like a "weird CRK" lol. I pick a knife now on the ergos, blade type/steel, construction etc... if it's a flipper, thumb stud, slip joint etc... I don't really care as much as I used to.

    Left hand has no real value to me... I'm pretty hard core righty... and if I want a lefty knife I'll grab a axis lock or something completely LH (not to mention CRK does make lefty versions)

    I take pride in ornate and decorated tools lol... for me half of the experience is the "pride of ownership" I know it's dumb... it's just a tool... but I do get enjoyment out of things like that. It's not for everyone that's for sure!!!

    Not trying to sell CRKs... I actually participated in a big "31 lock rock" issue and was not super happy with some of their response... but they ironed it out and I'm back on board. I don't think they do everything perfect... not even close :)

    No offense at all taken man - I appreciate opposing viewpoints! I think you were funny... I don't like big knives... if I need a knife over 5" I'll grab an axe (I live in northern rockies... if you are tropical then a machete), I agree Emerson's are ugly, jeeps... eh... I'll take a toyota ;-)

    Blessings!

    Edit to add: I don't really care for spa treatment either lol
     
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  11. Gunn

    Gunn Member

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    Hilarious. That feeling comes up at least once a day.
     
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  12. C99c

    C99c Member

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    I knew you wouldn't take offense.
    And I like hearing the why's and what's of other people's preferences and experiences, especially if they are counter to mine. It'd be a dull world if we all liked the same things.

    I removed the Emerson comments so I don't get any threats from passing by pipe hitting bad asses on their way to operate on the internet. It's actually happened before.

    I removed the Jeep part so that @Andy the Aussie wouldn't disown me..
     
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  13. Andy the Aussie

    Andy the Aussie Moderator of the Century Staff Member

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    ....... you do know I can read EACH version you post right..... ;) ;) :D ??!! And you were going sooooo well there till the end.... ;)
     
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  14. skx013

    skx013 Member

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    maybe it is simply a case of me being an outlier (it wouldn’t be the first time) in wanting a fairly simple, USA made folder. . .

    I assume there is not a Rowen equivalent in the USA for contracting out production of folding knives?
     
  15. ASH

    ASH Member

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    If there was we would have ESEE folders.
     
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  16. C99c

    C99c Member

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    Well I do nooowwwww...

    As @TerryD mentioned above Buck makes some fairly simple, well made USA produced folders that aren't overly expensive.
     
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  17. daizee

    daizee Member

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    Yeah, price difference doesn't equal performance difference in a direct relationship, ALTHOUGH, USA manufacturers do try to keep an edge (haha) in quality, materials, and options. Labor is expensive. Low volume is REALLY expensive.

    I think the Spyderco PM-3 is an *excellent* 3" blade and a solid value.
    I'd prefer to keep my USA dollars in-country for my fellow knifemakers/manufacturers. I'm also struggling with the same issue in guitars. Right now I have only indonesian-made guitars, but once I settle on exactly what I want, plan to invest in a USA (or North America at least) made forever-instrument that checks all my boxes, funds-willing.
     
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  18. skx013

    skx013 Member

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    Following up on my own thread. I’ve had the chance to purchase and use a few Buck folding knives. I have been impressed with them and now use the 112 slim pro as my primary folder. It’s a simple S30V user that is made in USA and costs $80. It’s not Spyderco level of QC and it’s not pretty like a Benchmade. It’s not perfect, but it fits my criteria/needs just fine.
     
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