Since I put the post up regarding Artisan Cutlery I’ve had a number of conversations with customers about the Chinese Cutlery industry. Surprisingly, most of conversations tended to be at least somewhat accepting of the fact that Chinese Cutlery is rapidly becoming a fact of life. A fair number were outright enthusiastic about the line.
To put it bluntly, I’ve not been a fan of cutlery coming out of China and have avoided it like the plague. For years the Chinese had a reputation of putting out low end, inconsistent quality cutlery. A lot of the Chinese Cutlery we saw were novelty knives that fell into the sub $10 retail range. Blade steels seemed to be basically ‘mystery metal’ that could be anywhere from 38 to 50 Rc. I know I’m overstating the facts but that’s how I felt.
Then a friend suggested I get my hands on one of the Artisan’s and I’ve started to re-evaluate my attitude. I’m really glad I did. You can read the original post if you missed it first time around. In short, it made me recall the 1970’s when there was so many negative feelings about products coming in from Japan. Poor quality was the major concern and some of that had to do with pricing. How could a less expensive product be good quality? It didn’t take too many more years before we all started embracing Japanese produced electronics, fishing equipment, firearms, etc as not only good but high quality products.
In spite of the economic and political differences we have with China I think we’re at the same point with them as we were with Japan in the ’70’s. A lot of merchandise already comes in from China but I think we’re seeing some major inroads being made in the cutlery industry. For some time, we’ve seen knives with names formerly associate with US made products coming out of China. I think we’re going to see more and more higher end, mass produced knives coming from Chinese manufacturers without US company ties. And from what I’ve started to see, quality is going to match US quality.
I don’t think US Manufacturers like GEC are under threat from the competition. To me, GEC falls into the category of hand finished traditional cutlery catering primarily to a collector market. The CNC, mass produced Chinese Cutlery will appeal to guys like me who are ok with somewhat plain jane reliable tools for EDC use. Carbon Fiber and G10 will never compete with Stag for appearance but it will take a beating and come back for more. The point is, I’d rather trade off the cost of a handle material like stag for a higher end blade steel and wrap the package in G10.
While I’m not ready to fully embrace everything coming out of China, I have no doubt we’ll see more high end cutlery coming in. It’s going to be interesting to see what kind of impact they make in the market.
Right now there seems to be an almost endless choice of cutlery at a wide range of price points. Proof of this is obvious if you’ve seen a catalogue from Blue Ridge Knives. Not that many years ago their catalogue page count was around 1000. Their most recent catalog is just under 2000 pages. Their selection of cutlery is coming from manufacturers all over the world.
In the last few years we’ve seen new companies pop up and old, established companies fall by the wayside. We watch the knife laws of some countries getting more restrictive. That applies to some of the larger cities in the US where certain knives are restricted. Sooner or later everything achieves equilibrium which leaves me to wonder what the future of the knife industry will look like in another 10-20 years. When you factor in a player the size of China it expands the potential for change exponentially. The big question will be, ……can the number of consumers grow as fast as the selection of products. If not, which companies are going to survive?