I get a lot of questions from readers about my knife review methodology, how I pick the knives I review and why I won’t review x, y, and z. Elise has responded to a number of these questions in our FAQ, but there were plenty more asked that needed to be answered, so I figured I would break it all down today so whenever someone asks, I can just link them this article.
I think some of my readers imagine I just buy a knife one day and review it the next but in practice it’s a smidgen more complicated than that.
When I started MTJS with Elise, life was much simpler. I already owned 100+ knives, the bulk of which were Spydercos and I just reviewed what I already had. With the bulk of my collection reviewed, I started buying knives that you wanted me to cover like various Cold Steels and Benchmades. The reality is that I don’t often get excited about new knives. This isn’t because I have super specific tastes or because cool new knives don’t exist, but rather because in one shape or form (after having accumulated hundreds of knives), I already own it.
Cold Steel Finn Wolf Scandi EDC Pocket Knife – Amazon / Blade HQ
This is the reality. I review knives for you guys. When it comes to blades – I own at least one (more like five) of everything. I have every size, material, lock type, crap steel, supersteel, traditional styling, uber modern styling, etc. knife. Sure, new models come out every year, but the fact of the matter is, I already own something similar to it somewhere in my closet.
I review new knives because my readers don’t have my collection and I believe my reviews honestly reflect what I have in my hands. Consequently, I approach every knife review with a relatively open mind.
The one thing that I really love and value about cranking out so much content on this blog is the response from you, my readers. I have a super engaged readership (even if you don’t always agree with me) and I like to think I do my best to respond to all questions (and criticisms). In the past 4 years as of today I have responded to thousands of comments personally. That’s a lot of opinions, but it puts me in an odd situation because I often discuss knives with people with maybe a few dozen in their collection. Contrast this with my collection, where I’ve have broken the 600 mark, easily. I get a lot of flack for speaking assertively about performance, especially when it goes against popular narrative, but the thing is folks, I have a literal closet full of hardware (two if you count the fact that half my knives are still in Canada) so when someone says, “No, an x-brand knife can’t cut as well as a y-brand knife,” it’s almost surreal because I can quite literally walk a few feet and test out this theory with dozens of models from x and y.
This weird position as someone who both loves knives and yet has more steel than he needs has made me frankly ambivalent towards most new releases, and has changed my purchasing habits.
So, now that you understand my position on the matter (or at least I hope you do!), let’s talk about the knives I buy, the knives I review, and those I ignore (after all, I have to ignore something!).
Ontario Rat-1 Jeff Randall Design Folding EDC Knife – Amazon / Blade HQ
Choosing the Knife
When choosing to buy a knife to review, the biggest consideration I make is if a reader requests it. Every time I get a comment about a specific model, I add it to a spreadsheet (or with some that get asked over and over, I just make a mental note that I really need to snap that one up). If a knife gets enough “support,” on my community or in the forums, I will no doubt do my absolute best to snap it up even if I have my own reservations. This was the case for the Schrade SCH304 review – I kept seeing them pop up everywhere and you guys kept asking me to review some of these inexpensive Schrades, and hell, you broke me. Interestingly, the biggest impact on my knife tastes has been you folks. Before MTJS, I never bought a single Cold Steel because I always thought they were mall ninja fads (I am happy to say, I was wrong) and if nothing else, I learn from my prejudices. I started off this knife journey as a Spyderco fanatic almost exclusively and now because of you, I have sampled, owned, and reviewed something from pretty much all large manufacturers.
No regrets. I was wrong to be dismissive of Cold Steel – super tough, well made knives at an industry leading price point and I shouldn’t have ignored them for so many years.
So, recommendations from you all is the biggest motivator. As I’ve hinted at about seeing a knife appear a lot in the forums, I also look at general popularity. Every once in a while, digging for something new, I’ll browse Blade HQ and sort by most popular, latest, and of course, check out what’s on sale; some of the knives look good, others don’t but if they are super popular, I figure I will give them a shot.
Another example would be the Ontario RAT-1. Always had reservations about the styling, but its popularity made me make the jump and I bought it. Spoiler alert, once again I was wrong – it’s a great knife.
Why no customs or rare knives?
I very rarely review custom knives. I think I’ve only done the L.T. Wright Genesis on here, though correct me if you think of another I’ve done. Why?
First of all, because they are prohibitively expensive and I just don’t have the budget. Secondly, availability is questionable and if I review something, I want you to be able to get your hands on one if you want to.
This is the reason why I own quite a few rare knives, but I haven’t, nor will I ever review them. For example the Spyderco Dodo is one of my favourite knives (I’ve even listed it in my Top American Knives & Top Spydercos posts) but it’s no longer in production so no review. I also own a cool titanium and G-10 friction folder by Quartermaster made exclusively for the UK market. It has a badass Union Jack anodized into the titanium scales and a bunch of nifty lil’ quirks, but even though I own and love it, I shan’t review it because you won’t be able to get one (limited run of 300).
Another example are knives from the late 90’s and early 2000’s that I own like a cool bowie by Muela from Spain. It’s just disrespectful (in my opinion) to be like – “This is a great knife, amazing fit and finish, etc. etc. .. Oh, and you can’t have one :) “.
I also own some quirky knives like this weird bone handled double carbon steel blade friction folder that just doesn’t generate any interest and thus, whilst I own and sporadically carry it, it’s unlikely to be reviewed.
What about knives from this new company?
Alright, so let me be clear on this because this gets asked a lot. At this point in my life I have handled literally thousands of knives from hundreds of manufacturers. I point blank refuse to work with some of them (call it a boycott if you will) for ethical reasons or because they have in the past made knives that are just too much like someone else’s design. For that reason you will never seen an SRM, Ganzo, etc. knife review on my blog. They have knives that were outright plagiarized or were heavily “inspired” by the original model from legit Western companies to the point that I cannot in good conscience give them a platform. It would in essence be legitimizing theft.
As for all the new manufacturers out of China, they are just too new. I know nothing of them, the people behind the factory, or their longevity in this industry and as such I am still watching to see how this will unfold.
Muela Mouflon 18 Fixed Blade Knife – Amazon / eBay
Reviewing the Knife
So I pick the knife, buy it, and now I have the blade in my hands and you probably think I review it almost instantly right? Well, no.
I generally keep a knife in my review draw for 3 months to 2 years (sometimes even longer) before I review it. Shortest has probably been a month or so. When you see the pretty photographs in my knife reviews, they are taken by Elise, the majority of times before they are tested, so they often look as they would in the store. The reason I do this: I have broken knives in the past and making a review with only photographs of a broken blade is just silly. Also, I’m not re-buying it just for pictures if it breaks. If it breaks, I mention it and the photographs of the breakage, but I want some “intact, untarnished” photographs for reference.
Another reason I do this is because I love my wife. High quality photography is a lot of work and it’s even more work if you do one knife at a time every once in a blue moon. So we take the “stock” photos in batches. We do it this way to spare her sanity, because frankly she would go crazy otherwise and I don’t think I’d find someone else to put up with me to this extent. I know what you are thinking, “Thomas.. have you forgotten that she likes the Spyderco Pingo?”
I know, I know, folks – I never said she was perfect, but she’s pretty damn close.
Why no rating?
We follow a review format here at MTJS, because after God-only-knows how many reviews, we need some consistency. With that said, we do not use a star or x/5 rating as the knife world is always evolving and so are materials. Consequently, if the review had a set benchmark in 2012, it would be meaningless today in 2017. That’s just life and manufacturing improvements. And it’s a good thing.
Back when I started on my knife journey as a kid, it was easy to find a crappy knife. These days? Very difficult. 99% of knives on the market from a reputable vendor will perform decently. Maybe there will be some fit and finish issues or iffy ergonomics, but when it comes to steel quality and lock up, most knives are relatively solid compared to the crap I owned in the 90’s.
Think about this folks: Randall chose 440B as a blade steel for their stainless, heavy duty combat blades. Now, it would be laughable to use such a steel when we have CPM-S35VN or any other modern stainless powdered steels. This is the reality of the knife world, it’s always changing so a knife that will be 4/5 stars today, may only be worth 1/5 stars tomorrow. A good example are the Chinese made knives – they used to be utter garbage, the steel was glorified pot metal, but now, the quality is honestly mind blowing for the price. Pick up a G-10 CRKT Drifter or a Spyderco Tenacious and tell me it’s a badly made knife!
Why Not Just Review More Knives?
The reality is that at most, I crank out 1 review a week, and even then, one a week is pushing it. The reason why is because I own and use every single knife I review. It’s just not possible for me to give an honest review if I only handle the knife for a few days and just put it back in its box.
To illustrate this point, here is a small sample of knives I currently own and plan to review, but have yet to get round to. Just to give you some perspective.
- SOG NorthWest Ranger: Decent knife that I made much better by grinding the guard off. Very lean with a very nice handle. Will most likely be ready for review at some point next year.
- Cold Steel SRK: Also a very cool knife, highly unlikely to be reviewed before next year.
- Becker BK2: Absolute monster, no ETA on review
- Cold Steel Finn Bear: Unreal value as usual from Cold Steel – expect this one to be reviewed this year.
- Tops Lite Trekker: Not 100% sure if I will review it, but it’s likely because I have yet to review a Tops knife and I feel bad.
- SOG Seal Pup: Still on the fence about this one.
- Spyderco Bill Moran Upswept: I have owned this mean slicer for nearly a decade. Still haven’t gotten round to reviewing it even though I actually EDC’d it for nearly 6 months in 2011.
- Schrade SCHF9: Bang for buck, probably the best heavy duty beater available.
- Boker Gnome: I have the limited edition carbon fibre model. Very neat, but in my opinion after owning it for over a year – not very practical for daily use.
- Spyderco Reverse: Unbelievable blade in terms of potential for carnage. It oozes bad intent and will 100% be reviewed.. eventually, once I figure out a suitable review format.
- Boker Rhino (stag): A knife Elise actually picked out for herself. I EDC’d this knife back in 2013. Great quality and above average ergonomics. No idea why I haven’t review it yet.
- Spyderco Stretch 2: It’s so messed up that I still haven’t reviewed this one. For the span of about a year, I could’ve sworn I did, but nope, no review up. I own the Sprint Run Super Blue edition and it’s freaking amazing.
- Boker War Toad: Another quirky knife Elise picked out for herself. Just plain weird, definitely gonna get a review, just don’t know when.
Also some of my favourite knives that I bought, but for whatever reason will not be reviewed (again, a very small sample of my total collection).
- CRKT Hisshou: Very cool blade. It cost a stupid amount of money for a “knife” (more like a small sword) that objectively, I will never use. I keep considering how to review it, but frankly, I wouldn’t even know where to begin.
- Buck 406: I love this knife but sadly, I shan’t be reviewing it because availability is scarce. If you can get your hands on one, do so.
- Spyderco Spot: Weird neck knife, been discontinued for years. I bought it when Spydies were still sold in grey boxes.
- Spyderco Dodo: Bought the blaze orange G-10 version when it came out. It’s been in a few of my pocket dumps, but due to its rarity, I shan’t be reviewing it.
Anyway, just scribbled out this list so you can understand the sheer number of knives I have in the pipework. The messed up thing is – due to how many knives are released each year – I almost consistently buy more knives than I can feasibly review year after year. I currently own around 100+ knives that I am/was planning on reviewing (that’s like 2 years worth of reviews!), but time constraints mean they get lost in a drawer. Sometimes a knife gets released and y’all clamour for me to review it, so I buy it and it gets bumped up the list. That’s how a great knife like the Cold Steel SRK can be in my possession for so many years, and still not be published as a review.
Quartermaster Barney McGrew Flagged Folding Knife
Crazy, I know. But that’s what its like for me, as someone who writes reviews from experience instead of just writing up the marketing brochure and calling myself an expert. Gotta make decisions about what gets shown and what doesn’t because at the end of the day I only have time to review at most 52 knives a year (and I have never once touched that number).
So that’s where we stand here at MTJS with regards to the knife situation. I hope this has answered questions that some of you have had and if you want to know anything else, just chime in down below as always!
I see both sides. I do read the reviews and take your advice especially on knives I can afford. I recently bought the Spyderco Roadie based on your review and am not at all disappointed. Great little knife when you want a nice blade in a real small package. Never would have given it a second thought but the review swayed me. Got the red one… Also hoping (fingers crossed) that the Cold Steel Rajah 2 will be opened for Father’s Day.
On the other hand a short round up of some unique knives I will never get would also be a fun read.
I really appreciate the honesty and the work both you and Elise put into your site. I was active in the forums for a while but work/kids have taken most free time so I just lurk and read the posts now and comment when I can. Thanks again for what you do!.
Thomas Xavier says
That Roadie is a neat lil’ tyke right? I am super happy that you appreciate what we do here, honestly, its folk’s like you who keep us motivated. As a side note, I have decided to do a quick round up of some interesting knives (mini reviews) for you all to enjoy since it seems you like the idea of it.
I’ll do 5 at a time and maybe make it a regular feature. My super rare stuff is still in Canada (vintage Bucks, disco’d Spydies etc.) so I expect this to be a regular thing (as long as the reception is positive)
Did you end up getting the Rajah 2?
Thanks again Todd, comments like yours make our day!
It appears that your reviews are often based on less expensive knives, which is a service to those on a limited budget that need a knife right now. I am of the opinion of purchasing the best knife I can afford. If I can’t afford it right now I will save a little longer. Just my humble opinion. A well made knife that is well cared for will last a surprising number of years. I have friend (Retired federal agent) that purchased a Benchmade folder when Benchmade first came to Oregon City, OR. It has metal handles, is pretty worn but still 100% functional.
Thomas Xavier says
Aye, I try to do 2-3 “entry pricepoint” knives for every £150+ knife I do. It helps that I buy 99% of the knives I review, as there is no way I could afford to review every midtech/top shelf production knife out there! Couldn’t agree more with a good knife and its longevity. Its how i feel about my Benchmade Osborne and SOG Vulcan.
dan seven says
I have a custom knife maker type that is a great blade..paid $400 for it used and it has more than doubled in price in a few years.. Awesome for deboning chicken, splitting coconuts.
I also have a Buck 110.
Yesterday I made a stir fry and cut the beef and chopped all the vegetables, and generally used the heck out of the Buck. A couple of strokes off the ceramic, put away dry.
You can make yourself a sandwich with the Buck. Spread Butter, cut a big tomato, slice salami, peel cucumber, and even slice bread with this blade. Try that with a SWAK.
Is it ever good to use around the kitchen. What I am saying is that I really enjoy these blades, and while I have great kitchen knives, i use them around the kitchen daily not that i can sharpen them, but for me to stay sharp with them.
Training the hands to become second nature with the weight, the feel, the balance, the angles, the pressures, even adjusting to fatiguing angles after extensive use is all awesome when it comes time to depend on it as your only option afield if necessary.
How many are going to toss a Chef’s knife roll bag into the BOB anyway..
Thomas Xavier says
If I remember correctly, you also have a kickass Busse, which makes me insanely jealous. How is it that after so many years I still don’t have some sexy INFI?
Buck 110 is a legend for a reason, absolutely love mine and I 100% agree with your assessment. You get used to a shape, weight and balance to the point that it becomes an extension of your hand.
As always, thanks for the support mate.
Congrats on four years! I enjoy your reviews, and knowing you use your knives in general for a long time really gives weight to them for me. Thank you for the investment of your time. It’s almost unfair that weeks or months or years of your time boils down to a brief beneficial read for me to make a decision on what essentially now is a luxury purchase. I have nowhere near as many knives, but the “few” that I have are frequently remarked as being more than I need!
On another note: I was curious if Kizer knives fall into your “won’t review” category? I admit I’m unsure if they bagan by stealing intellectual property, but since I’ve noticed them they seem to look legitimate and seem to be garnering designer support. I bought and really like one of their knives (no name, just a handsome carbon fiber titanium vg-10 sanmai folder with some weird number string as an identifier). The knife I have my eyes on these days is the Megatherium, released by them this year. People I show pics of it to seem to think it just looks weird. I think it looks great and actually think it would be a great work knife… especially stripping coaxial cable. But pricey for a work knife, but I need excuses like that to grow my collection :)
Anyway, if you have time I’d like to hear your thoughts on that knife if you have any. If not, know I still appreciate your work here. Thanks again!
Thomas Xavier says
Thanks for the support John, I try my best to represent my views honestly, even if it sometimes riles people up (Manix 2 FRN review comes to mind).
As for Kizer, they appeared out of nowhere, over the past 3 years I have seen them build momentum and their designs look interesting- with that said, I don’t know who owns them, where the factory is, how they got started etc. I don’t want to invest time in a company if I don’t know if they will be around in a decades.
Has anyone dealt with their warranty department? Have they been truly tested in the real world and not just in the hands of collectors? Lots of questions, as is expected for a new company.
I imagine if they keep cranking out knives and feedback keeps being positive, that I will eventually review a Kizer knife. In the meantime I have an enormous backlog from established manufacturers to get through!
(as for the Megatherium, it looks super cool- no doubt.)
I appreciate that reviews are not done on knives that are either absolutely or relatively unobtainable.
This is what I do when I am investigating the worthiness of an acquisition:
Sometime, someway and somehow, a potential acquisition is suggested.
1. I review the youtube videos on the knife. The most useful videos are those in which the presenter has actually used the knife and may also do a side by side comparison with a competitor’s product.
The videos which merely present the opening of the package are useless.
The videos which reflect knowledgeable modifications of the knife and/or sheath are helpful.
I am not trusting of video reviews made by a person who clearly has not owned any other knife and wants to justify his purchase by extolling its virtues without having used the knife.
2. by doing google searches – “best hunting knife under a zillion dollars”
a. I tend to reject the reviews by outdoorsey magazines which solicit and accept advertisements from the companies whose products they review. Will Rogers once said that he never met a man that he didn’t like. Gun and knife magazine writers will write an article and say that they never met a gun or knife that he didn’t like – and then you find a full page ad in the magazine for the product.
b. I seriously look at the Amazon ratings on a knife and read all of the negative comments. Most of the extolling comments are worthless. I also seriously read the series of questions and answers.
c. I look at the product on the manufacturer’s web site to confirm the dimensions/grind and accessories. And, here is why. Last week I purchased what was described as an alarm clock radio from a seller on eBay. There were multiple merchant ads saying the product was a clock radio. When it came it, the product (and by the model number) was not a clock radio. It was an alarm clock. So there are a lot of sellers who simply copy the sales pitch from another guy. If it is important to you that the blade grind is “flat”, then get the actual model # from the manufacturer’s website and confirm that it is a flat grind. You may know the difference between a 5 inch and a 5.5 inch blade length. Don’t assume that the retailer is accurate in his or her description.
3. Discipline yourself to check your prejudices. Many, many years ago, I was in the market for a vertical mill. I spoke to the “manufacturer”. Oh, the production had been shifted to Red China. Good grief! A inch precision machine being made by people versed in metric and without experience in making precision machine shop tools. (PS- I have been to Red China a number of times). Pass. Now, in the knife business, there is currently one Red Chinese manufacturer who makes quality knives for 8 US importers. Some are household names in the knife retail business. So, there is quality available. If you insist on buying a no-name knockoff of a current hot design being marketed under a name brand, then if you cannot find a good review, you should understand that you are taking a big risk.
4. Be realistic. Take two knives of the same pattern and size. If one sells for around $10 and the other sells for $65, there probably is a reason. So, you want to go on vacation and put one in your unlocked luggage to be inspected by TSA and the luggage goes up a ramp and into the bowels of the airport. Which one would you put in your luggage. (Hint, it took me about 4 months to get back my laptop at LAX). Also try to understand the application. There is a knife on the market used as a survival knife for aircraft pilots in Sweden. Is Sweden a cold place? Do you wear gloves there? So, I watch a knife review by an expert. It is the middle of summer and he is in a short-sleeve shirt. His main complaint is that the grip/scales are too narrow or small. Hmm! Let’s understand this. It is the middle of the summer and the reviewer is not wearing gloves.
Thomas Xavier says
Number 3 really hits home, I often get it weird emotional arguments with people who despise Chinese knives. Now, personally I am fine with people who prefer to buy “local” but at the same time I think its disingenuous to think its out of “performance concerns”.
If China can build satellites, they can make knives. ;)
Really good point about knives designed for specific environments too- i’ll remember that when I do some true scandi blades!
Explanation appreciated (and just FYI, I’m a lurker not generally a poster). Suggestion: for the knives that are limited runs and we just can’t get, doesn’t that also mean that the only way we’ll ever even know about some of them, see pictures in their natural habitat or learn about actually using and holding one or whether they work as advertised is if you do a quickie on the “Unobtainium” blades? You seem reluctant to appear as if you are bragging about the fact that you have one and about 6.9 billion people in the world don’t, but that’s just life and sharing the knowledge and joy is still appreciated.
I mean, that’s not going to happen anytime soon and certainly not this weekend and all, but something to keep in mind.
Thomas Xavier says
Aye, I don’t really want to be seen like I am bragging about owning rare stuff and I also think people appreciate reviews of stuff they can eventually get. With that said, I will 100% do a round up of some of my more interesting blade and possibly accompany them with a quickie review since it seems some of you will enjoy it!
Thanks for sharing your thoughts mate, I really appreciate it