I have a soft spot in my heart for highly engineered folding knives, but some of the custom makers I admire are out of my league. Sure we all want full on custom knife from our favorite maker or makers, more than a few things hinder this. Firstly the maker may not be taking order meaning his or her books are closed to new orders, this alone would make it nearly impossible to to obtain an example, barring going thru the custom knife purveyor at an inflated selling price or getting lucky in a lottery at a show. The other way is to except a used knife from the secondary market at an where it will even be a more inflated price. I have seen knives from certain custom makers be one in a lottery and then within 20 minutes be sold to dealers or secondary customers at 2 or even 3 times the table asking price.
I for one don’t have the financial means to drop $500.00 to $2500.00 on a single custom piece. We knife collectors still ravenous fans of our favorite custom craftsman. We like the designs of these artists, but may never be able to own one of their masterpieces. Here is where the production companies have come to the rescue, enter the “Custom Collabarations”. By marrying the design aspects of a custom knife into a mass produced piece under the watchful eye of the maker, allowing us to have something close, but yet different. There are several companies that produce such pieces, Zero Tolerance, Spyderco, Columbia Knife and Tool, Benchmade and Kershaw just to name a few. There are even whole companies started by custom makers to service the market created by their custom knives. These companies produce what are called mid-techs, not full custom but not really mass produced production pieces. They can produce a higher volume of semi custom pieces than they could making one knife at a time, but less than a full on production company.
As a writer I depend on these collaborations to bring reviews and opinions to certain design aspects, custom makers don’t usually supply test items for review as they can only make a limited number of custom knives during a given timeframe. So without the collaborations or mid-tech versions of these knives I would not be able to expose my readers to the work of these craftsmen. Without the cooperation of the makers and production some people would not be able to enjoy the engineering that goes into a fine custom knife. What most people don’t know is that the large advances in knife design have come from custom makers., an example of this is the liner lock designed my Michael Walker, the frame lock that was popularized my Chris Reeve, the Axis lock designed by makers Bill McHenry and Jason Williams some of these locks are the strongest in the history of knife making. These are only a few of the advancements we have enjoyed in the last 20 or so years, so as you can see we need to have custom makers who can put in the R&D time to design because without them knife design may become stagnant.
In the pictures below you will see a few examples of Production/Custom Collaborations. Included are designs from Zero Tolerance/ Rick Hinderer , Spyderco/Ed Scheemp these are but a few in existence.