A Pocket Guide to Knives

Where can I go to purchase a good knife?
      a) Shop @ Home (Television)
      b) Online & Mail Order Shopping
      c) Brick & Mortar Stores, Flea Markets, etc

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Disclaimer: I have provided numerous links to places that sell knives. This action does not mean I endorse the company or that the company has endorsed me. Any opinions expressed are my own.

Online Shopping:

There was a time when knives were sold just about anywhere. Hardware or outdoor sporting good store were probably the most common place to find quality knives.  Most department stores also sold knives.  In some cases, you can still find knives in these places but your choices will be very limited.

Today, better options can be found online or through catalogs.  However catalog and online shopping can be full of pitfalls. The obvious online place to search is eBay.  I will discuss in detail a little later. Of course the largest online retailer is Amazon.  For the novice, this might be a good place to start.    You may also want to look at Bass Pro-Shop, Cabella’s and Eddie Bauer’s, three of the largest chains of outdoor sporting goods. They offer more choices online than in their brick & mortar stores. However, the choices will remain very limited especially compared to Amazon.

If you don't want to use Amazon or chain store you may want to try web sites devoted to just selling cutlery. Some of the better known online knife realtors I have used include:


Of the sites listed, Smoky Mountain Knife Works (SMKW) is unique in that is also has a brick and mortar store located in Tennessee as well as a monthly paper sales catalog and a TV show. SMKW offers products from over 50 name well known brnads as well as it house brands. Another well known site which I have not had business with is, Cutlery Corner Network (CCN) They also sells items via a Television show and small retial warehouse. CCN primarily sells Frost and Frost trademarked products. you should also try the home page of the various knife makers. If you like a particular brand of knife, try searching for the company name online.  Almost every company is online these days.  Even many custom knife makers have their own web site.  Look for them, visit their sites, and see what information they have to offer.  See if the company is forthcoming about their products. Many company web sites will give list their retail price.  This will give you an idea of what your maximum price should be when buying a new knife. Just about any knife maker will have a web page and will either sell directly or offer links to authorized dealers.

Mail Order Catalogs

Bud-K and Kennesaw Cutlery are probably better known for their print catalog but they also have an online presence. They are best known for selling inexpensive imports, fantasy and show knives but also offer a selection of quality made traditional and tactical knives. However, Smoky Mountain Knife Works also has a monthly sales flyer The SMKW catalog offers knives from a variety of knife makers with Case, Buck, and Taylor Brands as well as the SMKW house brands being well represented. They also offter a wide variety of Tactical knives including some of the high end makers. Sheppard Hills Cutlery, an authorized Case dealer also offers a monthly print catalog. I have also received catalog directly from knife makers such as Bear & Sons and Randall Made Knives. However their catalogs our product catalogs normally produced annually and give a retail list price.Cutlery Corner Network (CCN) does not have a print catalog per-se but has a monthly pdf download which allows you make a mail order purchase. This is a practice of many knife manufacturers as well.

The joy os a print catalog is you have something physical that you can use as reference tool even is you don't order anything. Also, ther are no hidden charges. When you fill out the form you see exactly how much shipping will be. The problem with a mail order is it will take longer. Of course if you don't like giving people your credit card information, most mail orders can be done with money orders which provide the most secure way to make a long distance sales transaction

On the negative side, once you get a catalog mailed to you, you will probably get other catalogs of a imilar nature also sent your way. For instance I've only requested three knife catalogs however I now receive about six different catalogs and five or more catalogs related to camping or outdoor living. Also, if you do not order something from a catalog you will eventually get dire warnings that this will be your last issue unless you order something.

Knife Discussion Groups

You may also want to join an online forum that discusses knives. Such groups as I Knife Collector, Blade Forums, and AAPK (All About Pocket Knives) have sections devoted to selling or knife swapping. They also offer a great places to learn about knives.   Most groups have a FAQ or Frequently Asked Question page. Assume that your burning question is one of them and read the FAQ beforeasking your question. Remember also, that just because someone is selling on the list, doesn't necessarily make them an honest person.

In every case, the deal made on the Discussion Group is made between two individuals and is not sanctioned by the discussion group. The gorups set up areas for the transactions to take place soley to provide a place for the transaction to happen away from where other knife discussions are taking place.

Things you as a buyer must look out for are when on a Mailing List:

Is the person a regular contributor on the list? If they are new to the list and have just dropped by to sell stuff how do you know you can trust them? The only way you can know for sure is if you are regular member of the list. Join the list, participate and learn about the list. Otherwise your buying opportunity is about might prove as trustworthy as buyign a Rolex out of the trunk of car in an alley. Know who you are buying from before you buy it.

Has other people dealt with the person? Again who can vouch for the honesty of the person. Have other people on the list dealt with this person and had a positive experience?

Are they a dealer or just another collector? Is this a person who runs an eBay store or Flea market booth and is just fishing for a new market or is it another collector who is looking to sell or trade because their tastes have changed. When they ask for the payment are they giving you a personal name or a business name. What type of address are you mailing the payment to? Are you doing a PayPal transaction? Again, know who you are dealing with.

Have you seen pictures of the item you plan to buy? What guarentees have been offered? Do not buy an item if the person cannot provide pictures of the product. Ask if you can return it if you don't like it. Ask about mailing charges. Normally shipping charges are something that you will be stuck with. So find out as much as possible before sending a person money.

Is the seller a Nagging Nick? Once you asked about a knife does the person start sending unsolicited offers to your email? Does he continue to do it even after you have asked him to stop? Report him to the list administrator and report to your eamil provider as Spam. Don't be forced into buying simply because you emailed the guy about a knife.



Of course the most likely spot to get a great deal on a knife, especially an older knife is eBay.  In order to use eBay, you will need to create a user account.  You will also quickly realize that most dealers will only sell to you, if you have a PayPal account. These measures are done to make sure you are reputable buyer or seller and that you will pay what you promised.  

eBay sellers will either post items for sell at a specific price or will offer items up for auction. In both cases, sellers will give a price for the item and then an additional charge for shipping and handling. The process for purchasing an item is straight forward.  If the item is listed with a “buy it now” price and you are happy with the price, simply enter the price, click on the button and then confirm that you wish to buy the item.  Remember the buy it now price does not include the shipping charge.  That will be assessed on top of the buy it now price.

Auctions are different.  They go on for a specified number of days. Often they will start at an extremely low price but as the auction ends, numerous bidders will increase the price. Experienced eBay users will search for items and then choose to watch the bidding on the item, waiting until the last few seconds to actually place a bid.

When you place a bid on eBay you should always bid the amount you are actually willing to pay for the item.  For instance, if the current bid on a knife is $15.34; the minimum bid required is will probably be $15.84.  If you are actually willing to pay $20.00 for the item then place this as your bid.   You may not have to actually pay $20, but if the maximum amount you want to pay is higher than anyone else that has already bid, you will be assured of having the high bid.

This is because eBay uses a system of silent auctions in that the current high bidder has also put in a maximum bid.  If the amount you enter is lower than their maximum bid, you will be immediately out bid.  If your maximum bid is higher than their maximum bid, you will only have to pay the needed increment over their high bid; The rest of your maximum bid becomes the new silent high bid.

For instance the current bid is for $15.34 but the current leader has entered a maximum bid of $18.50.  You are prompted to enter a bid of $15.84. If you enter $15.84 you will automatically be outbid by an amount of  $16.34. and be prompted to make a bid of $16.84.  If you do this, you will be out bid again.

If you were to actually enter the amount you are willing to spend, in this case a maximum bid of $20.00, you would leap frog past the silent bid of $18.50 and be informed that you have the high bid of $19.00.  At that point you will be prompted to increase your maximum bid. You can either increase the maximum bid or hold pat and pray you’re not outbid.   You will have to $19 unless someone places another bid that forces your bid higher.

I find it best to bid near the end of the auction. If the item is still under your maximum bid amount and there are hours to go when you entered your bid, a lurking bidder may wait until the last second to outbid you.  However if you wait until the last few seconds and place your maximum bid, you may be able to outbid the current high bid and stave off all other lurkers and win the bid.  But if you bid too early others may do likewise, creating a bidding war.  You may win the war but you may also wind up spending much more than had you been patient.

If you start bidding too early you may find yourself increasing your maximum bid in 50¢ increments and paying many dollars more than what you had wanted. The best way to save your money and your sanity is to bid near the end of the auction and hold fast to your maximum bid.  You will soon realize that the one of kind eBay item will be available again next week, possibly at a lower price!

Of course when you are buying on eBay, you are buying items sight unseen.  Yes, there is often a photo of the item but you are relying on the honesty of the seller to give a photo of the actual item, and an accurate description.   A good dealer is going to describe the item, inform you of any problems (cracked handles, worn springs, dull blades, etc);   other dealers will give only minimal information.  It is your right and as a buyer to ask questions about the knife in question.  If the country of origin is listed and that is important to you, ask the dealer.   If the brand name isn’t listed, ask the dealer.  Ask what type of steel is used in the blade. Ask about handle material.  Ask about any markings on the knife.  A reputable seller will give you the information.  If you don’t get a response, assume the dealer is hiding something.  

Many sellers will say they don’t collect knives or don’t know about the product. Don’t believe them.  They wouldn’t sell it if they didn’t know about it.  Ignore the hyperbole in the items description.  Almost any knife that is not NIB (New in the box) will be vintage, antique or a great collector’s item. 

Many knives will have a starting bid of 99¢.  This is the highest price an item can be listed on eBay for free.  If the seller is asking for more than $3.00 for shipping on a pocket knife he is doing so to increase his profit without having to have a higher initial bid price..  Most pocket knives can be shipped anywhere in the United States for under $3.00. Fixed blades can normally be shipped for under $5.00. Thus if someone has a stating bid on a pocket knife for 99¢ and shipping is $10.00 understand that you are being overcharged by almost $8 for shipping. You should always consider high or outrageous shipping charges when placing your bid. Most reputable eBay dealers will offer fair shipping charges or offer the item with free shipping and increase their minimum bid to cover the shipping costs.

Where can I go to purchase a good knife?
      a) Shop @ Home (Television)
      b) Online & Mail Order Shopping
      c) Brick & Mortar Stores, Flea Markets, etc

Caring For Your Knives
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