China or Not to China?
I’ve heard it many times,
“I don’t buy Chinese knives!”
There seems to be a rising tide of knife buyers (especially in the U.S.) that are abhorrent to purchasing knives made in China. Check out any knife blog, and you’ll find a similar sentiment – usually shared by several of the site’s surfers.
We are going to examine this point of view to determine the actual meaning and intent behind such statements…the analysis may surprise you. Plus, we are going to look at the products China is producing these days and see if they really do deserve a look after all.
First, what is the intention of these anti-China buyers. The statement “I don’t buy knives made in China” typically applies to an American buyer, where the tide seems to be rising. These buyers, in my experience, are often a knife enthusiast who knows somewhat about knives and what makes a knife a good knife. They are meticulous shoppers looking for a good use of their hard-earned dollars. They are adamant that the best knives are American made, and no other place can produce this level of quality. So, really the statement is better conveyed as “I only buy knives made in America.”
I Only Buy American Knives
Now, this is quite a different statement than the first statement – it means, from their perspective, only America produces knives of great quality, while dismissing: Japanese knives, German knives, Swiss knives, and the like. This seems to be a huge oversight! These countries (along with many others) do produce significantly quality cutlery – they have for a very long time.
So, what is the message that is being conveyed by phrasing the issue in the negative (against China) and not in the positive (favor of American products)? I think the emphasis on the negative is an attempt at dismissing a huge segment of cutlery based solely on the experiences of a few.
I Have Used Knives Made in China
Embarrassingly most knife users have at one time or another actually used a Chinese knife, knowingly or not. Many of the anti-China group have had some bad experience (either their own or someone they know) with a cheaply made Chinese knife. Now, this is a bit more complex to delve into, because there are several issues at heart: 1) applying product opinions in the majority based on a minority, 2) these experiences typically tend to be with the very cheap knives, 3) some horror stories told by these aficionados entail the use of a knife (even though cheaply made) in ways that knives should never be used, and 4) sometimes these reflect a bias against the country of China.
The previous last point goes without comment or analysis – it is the right of every consumer to be able to choose products that they simply like or avoid because they’re not liked.
Judging the Many by the Few
It is just not a good practice when evaluating products to judge entire segments based on a few, minor examples. Most who now avoid anything with China associated with a product have had individual experiences with a few Chinese knives, and then they apply that product evaluation onto whole product lines (and companies). It seems to me when critiquing knives judgment should rest solely on experiences with a particular knife.
Experience Not a Good Judge of Quality
After understanding a more proper testing scenario is based on individual knives, it is also better to realize that random experiences alone are not the best basis for knife inspection. This is especially true when that experience is based on using a knife in an improper manner. A thorough examination would typically include many aspects of a knife’s performance, along with the analysis of the knife’s singular features. This analysis would produce a better judging criterion for that knife.
I have often heard horror stories recounted as evidence that a knife is a poor performer. Using a knife as a pry bar in your lap, and then breaking that knife because the angle of prying bends the blade in an unnatural direction which snaps the blade causing injury. For many in the anti-China crowd, this would be evidence that a knife is made of poor quality…since it broke while being used. There just isn’t any consideration for the application and way the knife is being used.
A note: Why would you use a “cheap” knife (quality reflected by its pricing) to handle some non-typical knifing activity, instead of using something robust and better made to handle the task at hand?
All knives should be used with proper care and judgment, regardless of their quality. As a matter of fact, if it is suspected a knife is of questionable quality, certain types of tasks should be avoided with that knife.
Chinese Quality Knives
There are so many Chinese knives in the market now, it is often not known when a knife has actually been forged and crafted in China. There are a slew of manufacturers across the world who use Chinese manufacturers for some (or all) of their knife lines. It is a strong possibility that you have used a Chinese knife and not even known it. So, now, there is a problem when evaluating a knife if the country of origin is not always known – this inadvertently affects the overall evaluation of a knife and may influence the perception one has for that knife line (or manufacturer).
Using Chinese Manufacturers
As a matter of fact, Chinese workmanship is so good in certain sectors that several American cutlery companies use Chinese manufacturers to fulfill certain model production. This is high praise for the Chinese knife – American knife companies tend to be very conscious of quality and workmanship. American knives are among the best in the industry, after all!
Some of these companies are Buck, Schrade, MTech, Beretta, Boker, Brous Blades, to name a few…and not just knife manufacturers, but also knife accessory companies like AccuSharp, etc. And not just American companies, but Bastinelli Creations from Italy (and others) do the same. Then, there are voluminous accords of manufacturers who make high quality cutlery exclusively made in China – companies like Real Steel, Artisan, Bestech Knives, etc.
Now, while we have been looking into the Chinese manufacture of cutlery, we do not want to neglect to mention that the American companies really do make top quality product; it’s just that some China companies do as well.
Cutlery in a Modern Global Economy
Today in a global commerce and economy, knives come from all over the globe…some are quality, some are not. The real discriminating consumer uses his best tool in knife evaluation = knowledge! This is the key to finding the right knife for the right job – not just a binary choice of whether it is made in China or not.