Fit, finish and function, the 3-F’s of the knife world.
One might ask does a pretty knife work better than an ugly knife?
By pretty I mean fit and finish. Does the knife use phosphor bronze washers, or plastic. Are grind lines polished out of areas you can barely see? Are the screw heads countersunk or a little proud? Does the closed blade sit even between the handles or does it touch one side?
|The Khyber is on the left, note the blade touching the knife liners.|
The Buck 110 Hunter is on the right and the blade is centered between the liners.
I see customers not purchase a knife because the closed blade isn’t symmetrical in the handle. In most cases it doesn’t affect the ability to open or close the knife or the sharpness of the blade. It isn’t pretty, that’s all.
Enough with the rhetorical questions and dialog.
When you buy a knife the only question you need to answer is, “What is it’s purpose?”
|Pro-Tech Rockeye Auto Skull, reigning queen of my safe|
I have very nice knife from Pro-Tech. I paid more than I normally would, but its beauty spoke to me. The fit and finish is superb. I don’t plan on ever using that knife, it’s a Safe Queen.
I also have a Khyber I bought 40 years ago. It was before the current tactical knife age but just after flint knives. The blade doesn’t have washers; it rides on the metal liners and opens with a nail-nick. I built a lot of camp sites with that knife. It’s a tool.
Nick Shabazz in his words “...A reviewer and gripper in the cutlery world…” splits his opinion. On budget priced knifes he suggests that fit and finish is less important than it is in $100 plus knife. Nick sees fit and finish as hallmarks and guarantees that the manufacturer knows his business and has produced a quality knife. Part of Nick’s gig is to act as a gadfly to encourage makers to put the little effort in to improving their knife.
|The coarse marks on the top of blade's spine are mill marks.|
Early Spyderco Salt H-1 steel 10X magnification
|The fine stippling is the top of the blades spine. |
SOG Spec Elite 10X magnification
I like Nick’s writing and I understand his point. I can buy a Buck 110 hunter with a leather sheath at Walmart for under $57. I can live with a slight misalignment between bolster and wood scales. The spring bar at the bottom of the blade channel shows faint mill marks. I accept this as I know the manufacturer needs to make a profit and the extra 3-4 steps to make the knife perfect would push the price out of many users reach. But when I get to $150 plus mark, I want the fit to be perfect and all the machining marks polished out. But more important, I want durability!
But here’s the thing. My pricy SOG Spec Elite and my Buck 110 hunter perform the same for me. I shave wood, build fires, cut rope, chunk meat for cooking, and open envelopes with equal versatility.
Earnest Emerson sees it differently. In his blog from April 2013 he states “I’ve never built the knives for looks or for a fancy finish or perfection.”
His knives are often compared to the knives of Chris Reeves and Sal Glesser and Emerson admits they have fine fit and finish. But he goes on to say (let me abridge this) none of those knives were present when Somali pirates were killed, when Al Zarqawi killed, when Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was captured and Osama Bin Laden was shot dead.
I also realize that Emerson knives carried by elite teams are purchased by the military. You don’t think the SEALs roll out on a mission with anything other than authorized primary gear, do you? So perhaps Ernie’s claim needs to be illuminated with that light. Still there is no question Ernie makes great, dependable knives.
To Ernie, a knife is tool and needs to be up for the work it faces. If you are about to embark on an adventure, you want in Ernie’s opinion, a suitable tool.
|Olamic Busker, a gentleman's knife|
I understand that as well. I would never take my Olamic Busker white water rafting, but my Spyderco Salt would be clipped in. But I wouldn’t take an Emerson knife either. The possibility of losing a $200 plus knife when you have to pay for it alters your perspective.
3-Fs: Fit, Finish and Function. These terms only are defined by purpose. I marvel over art knives. I own one, but I’d never use it at the range to pop stables out of a target or move meat around in a skillet.
My work knives aren’t always the prettiest but they are tools. I guess it means I’m pragmatic.