Saturday, April 14, 2012

China Knives and AG Russell

Had an interesting event at the April meeting of the WRCA knife club.
Call to order and a reading of the minutes

One of the officers stood up and showed off two very nice AG Russell knives he just purchased. 

No clip, no stud, no lock, but it felt very good in my hand.

He claims each knife was under $50 online.  The interesting thing was both were made in China.  I took a close look at the knives.  The finish was first rate, the handles and bolsters met nicely and I couldn’t feel any separation or mis-alignment.  They were very well made knives!

I really like the wharncliffe blade. And its nail nick is on the other side so you don't have to fight with the drop point blade to open it.  I see a lot of American knives without that feature. 
I really like the knives and that’s odd for me.  Very odd.  Neither knife locked open nor did they have a pocket clip.  And they both used nail nicks to open the blades.  This makes these knives totally un-natural for me.  But you know, if the blade locked open, I’d carry them.  I’d give up the clip and one-handed opening.  That’s how nice they were.

Many people at the meeting felt that any product made in China was junk.  I see that perception at my knife table at the shows.  But it’s not so.  AG Russell doesn’t sell junk.  Spyderco doesn’t make junk, here or elsewhere, nor does Ka-Bar, to name a few. 

True, some companies are bringing some of their lines back to the USA. I suspect this has two causes.  One, they didn’t have enough oversight watching production and quality slipped.  The second reason and perhaps the hardest to remedy, too much of their customer based is rooted in the equation:

China = Junk

I don’t think that equation is unconditionally valid.  I think quality companies can produce a quality knife in China if they choose to.  Of course, one should expect a relationship between cost and quality. 
A $2 dollar knife made in China or the US will be junk.  

A $30 knife made in China by a quality company will not be equal to the quality of a $150 knife made by the same company in the US, Germany or Japan.  It will match and perhaps exceed a $30 knife made anywhere else.  

I advise my customers to buy quality in relation to their needs.  Your 11-year old son in Scouts doesn’t need an $80 Benchmade, but a $27 CRKT might just be the perfect starting place. 

A three-month trapping expedition to Alaska merits a TOPS fixed blade knife and maybe several SOG or Cold Steel folders.  Scrimping on price and quality here could be disastrous!

So, who are the people opposed to quality Chinese knives?  I don’t know.  I suspect they had problems with a counterfeit product, or bought cheap and found out they only bought trouble.  Perhaps they see the Chinese worker as a direct threat to their employment. 
China is far from perfect.  I don’t like their government; I don’t like their economic system and some of their labor practices sound like indentured slavery to me.  But the Chinese want a standard of living approaching ours.  And they know that quality is the way to get there.

These subjects are far above my pay grade, but I suggest to keep an open mind about products and their country of origin.


Constantine La said...

Yeah, China = Junk because if a company is outsourcing to china, they are doing it to cut cost. Its a "you get what you paid for" kind of thing. Check out my review on the best machete.

Anonymous said...

China is a communist dictatorship. Their People's Liberation Army trains with the United States as the designated enemy. As early as 2002 they openly talked of conducting all-fronts war, a war in every way but actual military conflict. This includes hacking, theft of industrial, corporate and government secrets, copying and counterfeiting western products, and carrying on a propaganda program to convince the average American that China is "ice", just another economically rising Asian country. Unfortunately many American business' fell for the profits and many American consumers did as well. Now they talk of how Chinese products are "not bad". Truth is, some are and some aren't. But the Chinese military talks openly of "nuking" US cities. They talk of how the "Own Us" because they hold so much U.S. debt. Does that not bother anyone? Given a free choice I would much rather buy knives made in the U.S.A., or at the least countries that will be on our side when WWIII comes.

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that buying quality knives and other products could make the Chinese more comfortable in the world market and less likely to want to destroy the world. And do you? Do you actually buy the more expensive American products? Or does your mouth say one thing and your wallet another?