It is a question that we have asked in various ways over the years. There is the the quality angle. Sometimes from a purely price point of view. And we have examined the balance between cost, innovation, and place of manufacture. I was clearing out some old links I had emailed myself and found this excellent piece from EveryDay Commentary that I had forgotten I had come across. It is perhaps the most concise and understandable treatise I have read on the subject.
It is an older piece and I did a quick search to see if Chris had covered it before my tenure as Editor. Ben from CRKT actually mentioned it in the comment section of another post. Otherwise it fell through the cracks and it is a good time to remedy that.
I have to break the news to you: we are not the folks that keep gear companies afloat. No matter how much we spend we aren’t a large enough market to sustain a company any larger than say, Chris Reeve Knives. If that is your game then great, but for the KAI USAs and the Spydercos of the world to survive they need to produce gear for a wide range of audiences. Sure we all like the blank check, blue sky, cost no object production knife like the Jess Horn Spyderco or the Kershaw Tilt, but if we want these products to be made in the future, they have to be subsidized by the production and sale of the Tenacious and the Cryorespectively. This is not a purely gear industry issue, either. Studios wouldn’t survive on Oscar movies alone, they need the big budget explosion fests that we are treated to this time of year to pay the bills and make those movies possible.
He goes on to cover several categories of reasoning including production capacity, higher profit margins to support lower margin products, and the realities of modern distribution and consumer shopping patterns. In short, with few exceptions modern business requires at least a portion of a large companies blade line-up be imported.
“There are some exceptions to this trend–Leatherman has done an amazing job keeping almost everything in the US and still selling to Big Box (one of a dozen reasons that Leatherman is beloved by both the Big Box patron and the enthusiasts alike). Then there is the entirely custom made market. Podcast cohost and custom knife connessieur Aaron will probably never buy another Chinese made knife. But in large, we need to face facts–overseas made knives are a requirement of the modern market. We can still get USA made stuff, but if we want knife companies to survive we need to realize they are business first. As a business, they need to maximize profit and going overseas is the only way to do that right now. Things will change in the future, they always do, but for now we have to accept and embrace cheap overseas blades. They make the stuff we like and love possible.”
I know where many of you all stand on the issue. What I would like to know is if your opinion has evolved along with the knife industry or not.
Personally, I still prefer USA made blades. That being said, I have carried several Chinese knives as well from various price points and the world is still spinning. It may be going to hell in a bucket, but imported knives are purely a symptom and not the by any stretch the cause.