Choosing the custom knives that are best for you can be a tricky proposition. There are a number of things to consider, including how much money you have to spend, whether you’re buying the knife to use, collect or resell, and other factors. Especially if you’re new to the market, looking to change the focus of the kinds of knives you buy or simply unsure which knife is best for you, a custom knife purveyor (also known as a dealer) is out there who can help you.
There are a number of different types of custom knife purveyors. Some specialize in one type of knife only, such as art knives or tactical knives. Since tactical knives have been hot for a long time, there are probably more tactical knife purveyors than any other type.
On the other hand, some purveyors may specialize in two or more knife genres, such as tactical and handforged, for instance. Others may sell one maker’s knives only, such as those made by BLADE Magazine Cutlery Hall-Of-Fame© member Bob Loveless. Still others may sell the knives of a select iconic few, such as Loveless, Jim Schmidt, Cutlery Hall-Of-Famers Bill Moran and Ron Lake, and a few others.
The serious ones have websites with professionally photographed images of the custom knives they offer for sale, and/or advertise their purveying service in knife magazines and/or other media. A sign of a purveyor who is in business for the long haul is one who advertises consistently over an extended period of time. (The latter also goes for knifemakers.) Still other purveyors may photograph their knives for marketing purposes—with some being quite good at it—own a brick-and-mortar retail knife store, and a very few produce/coordinate their own knife shows. Some purveyors do two or more of the preceding and at least one does all three.
To find out which purveyor fits your needs, ask around at knife shows, knife discussion forums, social media sites and other venues, check websites and knife magazines, etc. Talk to your friends or acquaintances who buy custom knives or ask them for the names of others who buy custom knives. Tell them what kinds of knives you’re looking for and ask them which purveyors are the best at providing such knives and offer the best customer service. Get as many opinions as you can. It’s better to have more information than not enough. Whittle the purveyors down to a select few you think you might want to work with and call them and feel them out. Go with the one you connect with best—in other words, go with your gut feeling in picking the one you want to use.
Before we continue, some fundamentals on how purveyors obtain the knives they sell is in order. It’s really pretty cut and dried: the purveyors attend select knife shows in search of the top knives and makers and/or establish relationships with those makers—and a select knife show is always a great place to both meet the maker and see some of his/her best work. The best purveyors work with proficient makers who are good at meeting deadlines on the knives they agree to make, offer good customer service if something goes wrong with the knife, and who, in general, appeal to custom knife enthusiasts of most all stripes. The purveyor will reach an agreement with the maker to buy one or more of his or her knives and then sell the knife/knives at enough of a markup to make a profit, stay in business and buy more knives for sale. That’s pretty basic, but that’s essentially how it works.
Why should you buy from a purveyor instead of a maker? Actually, if you can bypass the purveyor and buy directly from the maker, you probably should. However, that’s not always possible and is where purveyors come in. (Besides, as noted, if you’re new to the market or unsure of what to buy, the guidance a capable purveyor can provide in buying a custom knife can be invaluable.) Through the working relationships they establish with leading makers, purveyors have access to knives from those makers that most individual custom knife enthusiasts do not. Many makers have to struggle to make deadlines for other custom orders and knife shows, and often cannot fill your order quick enough or before the knife loses some of its luster and is no longer “hot.” Purveyors, on the other hand, may have the knife in question in stock or something from the maker that will fill your needs immediately.
As an aside, if you look around enough, you will no doubt hear from some that one purveyor or another is prejudiced in favor of a certain maker or makers. Whenever you hear this, take it with a grain of salt because most all purveyors will indeed be prejudiced in favor of makers that are a) easy to work with and b) make deadlines—traits that you would probably like in a maker as well.
These are just some of the things to look for in a custom purveyor. The more you look and ask around, the more you will find other traits that will make the custom purveyor the best for you and your knife needs.