The Pink Plemmons store in Luck, North Carolina on a snowy day. Luck is in Madison County in the western, mountainous section of the state. To read a little about the store which closed years ago click the following link: http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1876&dat=19770611&id=s3YsAAAAIBAJ&sjid=v8sEAAAAIBAJ&pg=5658,2145959
As far as I can see there are two main ways that custom or handmade knives are referred to. They are “stock removal” and “forged blades” or knives made by bladesmiths. But to be accurate both types normally require stock removal to some degree. There is some dividing line between the two types, at the Blade Show in Atlanta these two types are separated from each other in the room as if to avoid contamination. Why this division exists within the custom knife world I don’t know but imagine that it has to do with egos, jealousies, insecurities, old hard feelings, etc.
When it comes to cutting, slicing, or chopping anything that most of us cut, slice, or chop, there are probably plenty of reasonably priced factory made knives that will do the job just fine. The fact is that relatively expensive custom or handmade knives are not needed by most of us to perform the tasks we normally use knives for. We don’t need them, we just want them.
Most of the custom knives that I have purchased over the years have been made by bladesmiths, and recently I began wondering what is it that draws collectors to the forged blade? I suppose that a lot, maybe most of it is the romance and historical aspect of the forging process. Perhaps the collector thinks that he is getting something that requires more skill or that more work is involved. Maybe he is attracted to Damascus or laminated steel. The collector might believe that the forged blade is a better blade when it comes to performance.
As to the last sentence in the above paragraph. I don’t know of any published, scientific tests performed by an independent laboratory that show a forged blade to be a better blade than a stock removal blade when it comes to cutting or edge holding. Claims are easy to make, proof is apparently not so easy to offer. Besides, the majority of expensive custom knives receive very little hard use if any use at all, and this fact is not unknown to makers.
When it comes to the amount of skill or work involved in creating the blade itself, I would say certainly that more work is involved because the forging process creates another step or steps, and it’s fair to say that additional skills are required to properly accomplish the forging phase. When it comes to Damascus steel, San Mai, or the carbon/stainless laminates that are popular today even more skill is required on the part of the bladesmith.
Collectors or users should probably keep in mind that most bladesmiths do their own heat treating and the better, more experienced among them probably know what they are doing. Often times though the maker has very little in the way of accurate temperature controls in his shop or a lot of experience under their belt. The processes of forging, laminating, or making pattern welded steels, and then heat treating them offers opportunities for things to go wrong. All knife makers including bladesmiths come in all levels of skill, experience, and aptitude.
On August 8, 2013 I posted about a Kershaw Leek that I had just received. Link to the original post: https://thenorthedge.wordpress.com/2013/08/08/kershaw-leek/ Since that time I have carried it almost daily and have formed some opinions as to its usefulness and overall desirability to me.
At the time that I first posted about the knife I noted that it was possible for a coin to get wedged between the blade and the handle making the knife difficult to open. Now I have revised that opinion. If I carry the knife in the same pocket as my change, it is not only possible that a coin will work its way between the blade and the handle, it is likely. Dimes are the worst offenders because of their thinness and relatively small diameter. It seems to happen frequently enough that it discourages me from carrying the knife.
One other thing that I don’t like is the very slick or slippery feel the knife has. I would prefer the handle scales to have some texture.
Other than the fore mentioned issues I like the knife; its keen point is great for digging out splinters and it is of a useful size for opening envelopes or packages, cutting twine or tape, and the other daily tasks that my small folders get used for. Its small size makes it a pleasant knife to carry.
Despite its good points I stopped carrying the Kershaw Leek after less than 5 months because of the coin jamming the blade issue. The annoyance factor is just too much for me to put up with since I own plenty of knives that don’t have this problem.