A while back I asked how much would you spend on a pocket knife and received some great answers. This question is a little different: How much should you spend on pocket knives?
An anonymous reader asked this, and I’m not quite sure how to answer it. The quick answer is whatever you’re comfortable spending, but that’s going to be different for everyone.
The question seems to beg for a dollar amount answer, but that seems impossible to offer without knowing more. Intended usage? Size? Edge quality? Features? Still, if I have to make a generalization, I’d say that $35 is about as low as I’d go these days.
Cheap knives are inexpensive, but not all inexpensive knives are cheaply made. Inexpensive knives aren’t bad, but there are problems you can run into. My Coast Skeleton knife (reviewed here) is a great example of a cheap knife. It’s hard to open and uncomfortable to use. I wish I returned it for a full refund when I still had the chance.
One sub-$35 knife I could confidently recommend is the CRKT Shenanigan Z that I reviewed last Fall. It’s currently priced at $29 via Amazon. The Shenanigan Z is inexpensive, but does not feel the least bit cheap.
Leatherman and Victorinox multi-tools are typically safe bets as well, even those priced under $35.
It’s hard to find good quality knives for under $30-35, but they’re definitely out there. Good knife designers and experienced manufacturers won’t make design sacrifices to achieve a good balance between quality and price, they make compromises. That said, sub-$30 knives can be a gamble.
But it’s not just about quality, but about options. Lower-priced knives are often basic models that aren’t much different from each other. You might buy a $30 knife that works well, but it might not necessarily be the best for your needs.
Knife selection really opens up when you get to the $35-65 range. Something like the Spyderco Delica4 ($60 via Amazon) is a good choice for anyone that knows they want a good quality knife but can’t decide on specifics.
Bigger budgets of course allow for an even broader selection of pocket knife brands, designs, and features, as well as better quality, but I like to consider $75+ as territory that should be climbed into slowly and cautiously.
This is because higher priced knives will not always be one-size-fits-all, with better purchasing decisions being based on research or experience. Don’t spend more on a pocket knife unless you know what you’re getting.
I mention this because in the past year I purchased a great quality knife that doesn’t really fit in with my usage habits and personal preferences. This is not uncommon, and is one of the downsides of shopping online. Others made the same mistake and instead of recognizing that the problem is with user-knife matching, they sought out forums and message boards to denigrate the product.
For me, the ~$35 Kershaw Leek (which I reviewed here) was my gateway knife, and I still use it from time to time despite having better featured knives at my disposal. The more you spend the more you get, at least usually, but the Leek is a great example of how quality doesn’t necessitate a high price tag.
In short, how much should you spend on pocket knives? I’d say ~$35 to start.
For daily use knives, I go cheaper, because they have softer metal, which makes them easier to sharpen and I don’t cry if they break (read: around $20). In fact, I’ve got a handful of small spyderco knives that I use all the time – all around $10. For survival equipment, on the other hand, I spend more for the harder, thicker metal and higher quality construction ($50 neighborhood). Either way, I think the key is a good fit in your hand and simple mechanical operation.
I would say roughly 1/2 your cutlery budget on pocket knives, 1/3 on straight knives and the rest on books so you begin to actually know what you are looking at and where they all come from. But that’s just me.
Many people spend the whole budget on straight knives and couldn’t care less about folders!! heehehe
I know you don’t want to hear it, but once again you are a sucker if you buy any knife retail, ever! There is a knife show going on somewhere this weekend. And if you wait, one will come near you at least once a year.
2 steps inside the door of any genuine knife show you will see more and better and cheaper knives, than you will see if you live your entire life inside a shopping maul that houses nothing but sporting good stores!
Knife collectors –really– know knives, and they have dozens to many thousands to choose. Starting before the revolution and going all the way to finished this morning knives.
Factory and custom knives galore, like you have never, ever, seen.
PS you need to let me add a picture or two here Stuey
There’s no way to add images in comments, but if you have then in flickr or elsewhere online you can link to them. Or, if you can attach them in the “contact” email form, or send them to me directly via email, I’ll include them in a quick followup post.
I’m starting to research options for a small EDC. I have a list of criteria I think I’m looking for, but the knife show suggestion sounds like a great idea. Buying online sight-unseen is a big gamble.
As to the question, of course it depends. If you are rough on your tools or prone to losing them, think about replacement cost. For me, I’d be fine spending $50-100 because I think I could make it last a number of years.
My latest purchase was the $1 knife at Wally World in the camping section. I didn’t expect much but for only a buck it has proven adequate and decently built.
One of my better buys was the Buck Bantam knife. Still made in the USA for about $18.
I use the Milwaukee fastback for my everyday folder.
I am an engineer in a factory, so i do not need a long blade. Because it is a replaceable razor blade, it is always sharp.
I like the distinction you created between “would” and “should”. Knives are like flashlights, which are like potato chips, you can never have just one. Through the years I’ve collected all kinds of them. Some are gorgeous examples of tactical knife making that can punch through a car hood, and others shipped free with online orders when I spent over 25 bucks. Over the past few years I’ve come to the conclusion that I do stupid things with knives that dulls and can damage them, like prying things for instance. I decided I’d feel bad if I damaged the high end specimens. So for every day carry I settled on the Leatherman c33x. Decent enough knife, includes a Bottle Opener/Carabiner Clip. Plus on sale you can pick one up for $12. After I discovered I liked it, I bought 2 more, so I rotate through 3 of them and then sharpen them all at once. So I came up with a rule of thumb. an EDC knife “should” cost no more than what you’d pay for lunch, without saying “Damn that lunch was expensive.”.
That is a great way to look at it
For me, this depends on the country of origin, the brand and I truly need this item. Now I personally only own one 100% American made pocket knife by the Case company, but I bought this for only $8-10 dollars and this has served me well when I need this tool.
But what I truly appreciate about Case is that all the knives I’ve seen from that company are 100% American made and aren’t unreasonably expensive as well.
Initially thought of buying a Buck brand pocket knife, but not all their knives are American made and for what I would use this for, is out of my price range.
$20-$40 is more than adequate for a good quality knife. I’ve always had a problem with the idea of spending many $100’s on a knife. I’d be afraid to use one that expensive myself. I’m 42 and have owned a knife since my father gave my my 1st Old Timer and Uncle Henry on my 7th birthday. I have a few fixed bladed knives but, for EDC, I carry a simple folder. Typically a more expensive SAK Swiss Champ. But, Case Knives, even Schrade(now made overseas) make a decent folder that will do anything you need it to do. Why people seem to need a $60-$500 “Tactical” folder to open a box or cut a piece of rope is beyond me. Also, sometime, not too long ago, people seemed to start believing that the blades have to be some kind of exotic metal to worth anything. Plain old Carbon Steel is an amazing knife blade when cared for and worked properly. I’ve bought Case knives, Ka-Bar fixed blade knives, just to name a couple and would be more than willing to put any of them up against any more expensive knives out there. I think, the most I’ve ever spent on a knife was about $60 for my KaBar and it has served me well. Even in real combat.
I should start by saying I’m not a ‘knife guy’. That is to say, I carry a blade daily and I keep it sharp and on my person at all times, but I’m not a collector who has a hundred blades in their original packaging, and who gets excited when the new Kershaw catalog comes out.
I’m a big fan of the Byrd line from Spyderco, actually. I was surprised to like a blade made in China so much, but Spyderco imposes some tight quality control over there, and I’m more than satisfied with my $24 Byrd Crow in G10. I have carried it everywhere for 4-5 years, and more importantly, I have *used* it daily and worked it hard (garage, hiking, and home use). It has an edge that holds up decently, it’s rock solid when open (no wiggle), and it opens with the flick of a finger.
It’s quite unobtrusive when worn (I carry at college, albeit in a department where almost everyone’s a hook-and-bullet outdoorsman with a knife of their own in their pocket); but it’s got a slightly -Ihesitatetosayit- ‘tactical’ look to it that might just give a mugger a second thought. My favorite comment on it came from a 60+ year old female birder I met on a field trip, who was asking if anyone had a knife for her apple; I flicked open my Byrd, and her eyes popped wide as she said, “Wow, now *that* is a knife!!” lol
I digress…my point being, that my sub $30 or even sub $25 Spyderco Byrd knife (if you shop around) has been a versatile, well-built, EDC blade for me for nearly half a decade. How much *should* you spend? Enough that you can and will use the blade. Frankly, if I was scared to damage your knife by using it, it would be worthless to me. If I was scared to use the knife lest it damage me (through a failure or by not doing its job), it would be worse than worthless. I think you can procure a perfectly serviceable EDC blade for well under $35, and I don’t see much point in going too far above that price point for EDC.
I’m partial to Benchmade and Spyderco knives. The entry point for these are generally $60-$80.
I’ve always been pleased with their offerings and feel I get a lot of bang for my buck.
My EDC is an inexpensive Victorinox Swiss Army knife. It’s small, versatile and stays sharp reasonably long. I have used the knife, screw drivers, awl and even the corkscrew on it 😉 On the weekends I frequently need a sturdier knife. The ubiquitous utility knife aka box cutter comes out regularly. Recently I decided to get a sturdy folding pocket knife for weekend duty. I ened up getting a Kershaw assisted opening knife that I really like. It’s a sturdy knife with a fantastic blade. It cost about $60. Based on my experience with this knife, I would say my knife sweet is between $50 to $75.
I like kershaw pocket knives that are made of aluminum. They’ve pretty much discontinued them. Very light and ez to open.
Pastor C . R O G E R C A R R O L L
I have paid from one dollar to twelve dollar for the best of the Best Knives I only buy at flea market or yard sales 🙂
I also have had good luck with Swiss Army knives (the real Swiss ones, not the knock-offs) in terms of day to day usefulness, edge retention, and are a good value, especially if you watch for sales. They have so many models available, you can get one as small and simple, or as big and feature filled as you want. Great for general utility work, and precisely made. However, the ones I own are not what I’d call heavy duty. For hard use, I like something more substantial. I paid from $7 to $30 for Swiss army knives, but for heavy uses my $90 Emerson folder or $40 Ka-Bar fixed blade knives are the ones I use, and are us made to boot.
For EDC, I generally carry a small, but sharp knife in my pocket, and use a blade on whatever Leatherman tool for utility use. Often the small knife is one of those minimalist folding knives that use a utility knife blade (about $10-$12). One thing I like about them, is that they only expose half the blade, so providing you have a new blade in it, if you chip or sullen it, you can still reverse it in a minute or so, and have a sharp knife again.
In the what to spend, in my opinion, it takes $20+ to get a decent blade, and $40+ for a good one. Up it to $80 or so, and things can get interesting. In a moment of weakness, I bought a $95 Benchmade, and it holds an edge like you wouldn’t believe, while still being easy to sharpen.
My everyday carry is an SOG Powerlock Multitool. I paid less than $50, but retail is a lot more.
I keep a diverse mix to suit my needs. There are many good quality $30 dollar range knives which I like to keep in the truck, tackle box, tool box etc. where I may be beating on them a bit and won’t feel too bad jacking them up. As far as EDC, I’m a big Benchmade fan. I work in sales for a tool manufacturer, and I have a real penchant for tangible materials quality at which Benchmade really excels. I also frequent industry trade shows, and I was at one last week where a few guys saw my Benchmade 950 Rift and uttered a Crocodile Dundee esque “now that’s a knife”. There is also quite a nice brotherhood amongst guys who prefer high quality knives, just like those who prefer quality tools, firearms etc. as it says a lot about what you value.
I’d say $35 is about the top of what I would spend on an EDC. I personally carry a Leatherman skeletool and love it. I randomly found it on clearance for right about $35 and would probably replace it if I ever lost it since they go for about $40 now. I also have a couple of the $1 wal mart folders for when I go out drinking and have a high chance of being patted down and toss it.
I usually get my guys at work $20 Kershaw or Crkt because they either lose them or break the tips off them within 3 month. Kershaw actually has an assist opener at that price.
As far as Multitool EDC its very hard to beat the Leatherman Wingman. $25 with a lifetime warranty.
I have plenty of fixed & folders, but my EDC has been all SOG for a few years now. I had a Flash II and now a Trident, both half serrated, and the Powerlock that I’ve modded a little and changed from the stock attachments.
I like the seal pup better than my ka-bar. I also have a cheap ka-bar clone that is even better than both but that’s my brother’s now.
The leek isn’t bad, but it just feels small to me, especially for the weight. I still have it, but I don’t carry it. Same with the gerber paraframe, but the paraframe mini is a decent design (just a crap blade)
After I broke my last leatherman, I won’t buy another. Apparently I’m too hard on them or something.
As far as actual dollar amount, I think the right answer is you have to spend something to buy what you think you want and carry it for a while to see if you were right. I’ve had friends and relatives that we’ve traded among each other to get what we ultimately like best.
I am not a knife snob, but firmly believe in buying quality. As the old adage goes, “Don’t buy a five dollar knife unless you have five dollar fingers.” Blade steels, lock, and handles can and do fail, especially on cheaper knives. You get what you pay for. Cold Steel makes good affordable knives. I willingly spend more $$ for a good knife like Kershaw. But $$ depends on the tasks should be done. For me pocket knife is very essential tool.