More and more Knifemakers are branching out from strictly being “Custom” Knifemakers.
A Custom Knifemaker in my opinion, creates a knife beginning to end. The only exception would be having their knife blades sent out for commercial heat-treating.
As an ABS Mastersmith I do all facets of Knifemaking including heat-treating. Many stock removal makers (non-forgers) utilize the services of an outside heat-treater. As long as the maker does the rest of the work on his or her Knives, I would still consider the end result to be a Custom Knife.
My Views on Benchmade Knives
Benchmade Knives are typically designed by the maker but many (or all) of the steps involved in creating the Knife are done by a helper (or helpers).This allows the maker to provide a quality Knife (of his or her design and materials) in a quantity great enough to mass market.
Generally the maker oversee’s the operation’s done by the helpers. Some of the time the maker will do one or a few of the steps in making the knives (e.g., final sharpening, quality control, etc.). I do not find anything inherently wrong with Benchmade Knifes unless the maker tries to market the knives as True Customs.
With the many labor saving tools and machines used in many of today’s Knifeshops (Mills, Lathes, Surface Grinders, etc.) there is much controversy concerning what is and what is not a true Custom Knife. Can makers use laser cut blanks? Can apprentices profile the blades?
I will leave those questions for all to ponder. Of course I have my own opinions.