Chinese Knives in 2019
more_vert
search
(Left to right across the bottom: Land 912, Ruike P-801, Firebird FH41 CF, Y-Start LK5016, TwoSun TS112 Knight. Left to right across the top: Real Steel Black Cat II, Kubey KU166) Looking around Drop I see some love and rather more hate for Chinese knives. It's one of those things where everyone's coming to the table from a slightly different direction and has their own reasons for feeling how they do. Not too many people are neutral on the topic. Sparks fly. Me? I'm a big white Midwesterner, born in a small-ass flyspeck of a town 20 miles south of the edge of nowhere. I've traveled some, but never to China; I've worked for Chinese businessmen, but only in the US; I don't speak the language beyond ordering food and I have about as many natural connections to the Chinese knife industry as I do to the man in the moon. I grew up seeing the cheapest things stamped 'Made in China' and knowing people who had fought, when they were younger, in the Korean War against Chinese 'volunteers'. (Which most of us learned about watching MASH.) To us, China was shady, an enemy, a punchline - a place where cheap BS got made, and if you would have asked me even as late as three years ago if any decent knives were made in China I might have still said no. I might have said 'maybe Taiwan. Not the mainland.' But I don't think I'd have ever said an unqualified yes. So that's where I'm coming from - the long way around. I'm just some dude that's been long since fed up with how lousy some things are made in our society, that one day stopped and took apart his $16 Chinese knife to see why it worked so well, and in the process began slowly but surely changing his mind about Chinese knives. If hearing that is enough that you're already prepared to disagree, and you're gearing up now and you're just looking for something to rebut - don't worry. It's cool. I know I won't change your mind for the same reason that I'm the only one that could change mine. Most people don’t change their mind, period. How it is. But some of these facts might surprise you a little all the same... 1) Most Chinese knife makers got their start taking orders from Western firms, with whom they still directly work. A lot of them are OEMs for the Western firms and they make the very knives that they're later accused of ripping off. The deals are made with the understanding that after a noncompete period passes the OEM will be free to market their own variations of the design, within a set of constraints that both parties agreed to in negotiation before finalizing it in the contract. Western firms don't draw too much attention to this sort of thing. They know that by and large their market segments are different anyway. They also, it must be said, keep going back to these OEMs. The deals are lucrative. So while they're generally pleased to see that their fans see them as being victimized by their OEMs, they aren't victims. They're volunteers, and they're taking your money to the bank. 2) Chinese knives sold in the West are commissioned by Western brands as the cheapest priced offerings they plan to sell that year, and their quality level reflects it. You, as the consumer, are supposed to want something more expensive - no matter how expensive your thing already is, no matter what you're buying or you've bought, you're supposed to already be wanting the next, better, more expensive thing that you couldn't afford. You're also supposed to think all Chinese work sucks. Even though you buy it. That's how captive markets work. It's the bottom tier of what's available to you in the store. That's also why when it's really a good piece of work, one that'd make you go 'whoa, this was made in China?' and maybe start thinking that the Chinese are making good stuff nowadays? Often you have to work hard to be able to learn that it was made in China. That’s down to the importers, because they want more money for what they sell. To most folks, Chinese still means cheap. It's only been in the last couple years that the best Chinese names like Reate and WE Knife have had the chops to ask for and get Western pricing for their high quality knives. 3) China has a whole city in its most populous province devoted to pocket knife and scissors manufacture, and they have operated it around the clock since the 1990s. It's called Yangjiang and it's where the majority of Chinese knives are made. They encouraged knifemakers to move there and set up shop. How many cutlery manufacturers are there in Yangjiang? Over 1500. That's not a typo, the city has over one thousand five hundred factories making knives or parts for them. It's the Chinese Solingen. The cost of this investment from the Chinese government was more or less paid for a thousand times over by all the orders from the West it's fulfilled in those decades since. Some of those operations are content to just keep making cheap stuff, because it's what they do. And there's cheap startups that are essentially a building full of parts, stock, CNC machines and people with no secondary education or training in knives churning out knives made with boutique designs and materials but no craft. All that exists. But nowadays in Yangjiang, you also have a core residency of machinists and smiths and designers that know knives, that live and breathe them. Like we do. Like fat guys love pie. It's in the blood with these folks, their parents and sometimes their grandparents made knives. If you ask them what they do, they wouldn't say factory worker. They'd say craftsmen, you understand? They would not be wrong. They know about grinding. They know about heat treating. They know about ergonomics. And they don't want to do cheap work or be known for cheap work anymore. They want to make the best knives anyone can make, and their government has their back. (Google 'Made in China 2025' if you want to understand more about this.) 4) The majority of Chinese knives aren't even intended for Western markets, especially clones. And the people to whom those clones are marketed aren't people who were ever going to buy the original. We get outraged like it's all about us, and these knives are made to be snuck onto our own shelves in an elaborate bamboozle or something, but we only get them over here because enterprising people go get them and resell them in the West. IIRC only about 10% of Chinese branded knife production goes to the US. A large chunk of it goes to Eastern Europe, where Western brands aren’t established or are nalyevo. An increasingly larger piece of it stays in Asia to feed the demands of the new and growing Asian middle class economies. At times like this it's worth remembering that in terms of world population, every seventh person on Earth is quite literally a Chinese farmer, and those people aren't ever gonna buy the original Sebenza. The guy who wanted to buy a Sebenza to impress all his coworkers and buddies isn't going to go 'wait, I have a better idea, I'll impress them more with this $14 version'. And one more point: as many Western designs as the Chinese appropriated without paying for them? They have a ways to go before they catch up to the number of times Western designs have been used by Western companies without properly paying the designer, because of some contractual sleight of law, or just because they're bastards who don't always pay for things either. Let’s not forget that. So while the theory's fine, in practice a lot of the outrages about 'clones' end up being about as victimless a crime as home grown doob. It's what comes up when people discuss their issues with China, because people feel that talking about cloning and intellectual property won't get them accused of racism or whatever, and talking about other things might. The truth is, we usually don't like or dislike things for deep, meaningful, rationally well thought out reasons that we can reliably translate into words when someone asks. Babies like and dislike things. The process really doesn't mature all that much. We just pretend it has. And when you point out a few problems about the outrage over the knife ‘cloning’ issue, it generally doesn’t dissuade the outraged. 5) That's because it's not really about cloning or property rights for most folks. They see that as something that is wrong, not THE thing that is wrong. And folks don’t want to say what THE thing is, out loud, but it's pretty simple to understand: they feel threatened by the Chinese. The only real cultural analogue for this in the American social consciousness is war, which folks run with in their minds and share their words, because they feel an existential threat from the Chinese worker. It's all over their TV, it's what they talk about, they feel like China is a threat to them and many, many people they care about. It's one of the reasons some folks will never in a million years agree to anything I'm saying here -- they'd find it disloyal to their peers and to their kinfolk who used to work in factories that long ago shut down and moved production overseas. It's a social issue. And you know what? Misplaced as I might find it in this case, I respect honor. I get it. Like I keep saying, I don't expect to change anyone's mind. There's just one thing I want to ask you: all those shuttered American factories and workers out of their job.... you know how many of them got closed down because the Chinese came in, bought up and shut down, threw all the skilled laborers out of work, stole their retirement, hauled off everything of value, and went and set up shop back in China so they could make a killing selling us the things we used to make? Folks, this is important -- that has happened zero times. The Chinese, a Communist foreign power and the most likely nation to displace the US one day as the world's greatest superpower, our economic competitors and occasional battlefield enemy, the 'Red Chinese Menace' still never once did that to us. Neither did the Mexicans, neither did the Canadians. How'd those factories shut down? That was all Americans. Our own people. Remember back in the 90s all that stuff about the WTO? That was us. 'Downsizing', 'offshoring', and 'outsourcing'? That was us too. 'Service economy'? Yup -- us. "International supply chain" - us, with bells on. And we let ourselves get away with it, because whenever anyone objected the wealthy trotted out practiced 'free market' arguments, as though these markets are really free anymore, and not largely controlled by a comparative handful of unspeakably wealthy people born from old money and new industry, who were making an absolute filthy killing in the modern marketplace. They made it seem like the people who wanted to keep their jobs were just backwards, and needed to go off to college and learn how to be a software engineer instead. Now here we are, with large social groups of people, majority and minority, who feel like they can't get a job and they don't have a safety cushion. Your friends. My friends. There's a lot of rage and no small amount of fear. And it keeps people from looking around for the man behind the curtain or the large bag in his hands, which happens to be full of all the money everyone else is missing. But we don't see that guy, and we want someone to blame for everything. Enter the Chinese. So we have this narrative in America about cheapass Chinese labor, but the reality has been a little different for some time. The truth is if you buy a SRM or one of the affiliated brand names, or a Ganzo, or a TwoSun or any of the other Chinese brands that are trying to establish themselves in the West, and you open it up and look inside - really look at it -- you're going to see what I saw. And if, like me, you at the time had no particular reason to believe it until you saw it, it's probably going to be a little disconcerting. The build quality and parts are not just a little better than anything the Western brands provide on their budget models (invariably cheap white nylon washers). They're way better than that. Because you literally have to buy and take apart a midtech knife to find better than the sort of washers on a $16 SRM knife. And it goes onto the more expensive knives. If you open up a $25 SRM instead of a $16 one? You find caged ceramic bearings running in milled pockets in the blade. Up and down the cost spectrum they're adding value. When you can buy a precision made titanium and M390 frame lock with ceramic bearings turning on race washers for $70, you stop being as interested in paying several hundred dollars for the American version, and you start wondering exactly what's going on. Once you see it you can't unsee it. Our manufacturers have been selling us short for a while now, by comparison. They figure a wink is as good as a nod to the blind man. And we've all been falling for it. So yeah nowadays this loyal and patriotic American owns a lot of damned good Chinese knives (and a few shitty ones that snuck through the wire....I suggest avoiding Eafengrow, OerLa, WTT, Canku and Albatross in general). I'm happier for that. My Sanrenmus and Ganzos and Harnds and TwoSuns sit right alongside my US knives and UK knives and Spanish knives and Italian knives and German knives and Japanese knives, Nepalese knives, Swedish knives, Pakistani knives, El Salvadoran knives, South African knives, Filipino knives, Finnish knives, French knives. Even got a Swiss knife someplace. They’re knives. I buy them. There are limits. There's still plenty of junky knives coming out of China and I do a little research before I check out a new manufacturer. I seek out proven manufacturers when buying and avoid third parties whenever possible unless they're large enough to be held accountable. I won't buy an outright clone because even I can recognize in that case there's a meaningful property rights issue. That's money I can see coming out of the designer's pocket. But I'm OK going with legal definitions of different. So long as it's made of what it says it's made of, and there's visible design differences and it's got the maker's real logo on it, no fake logos, the law generally doesn't consider it to be a counterfeit item. If we've got that and it's well made, I could honestly GAF if it resembles a wildly successful Western knife. Chances are good I own that one too. By most standards my knife collection is modest but you'd still have to hunt pretty hard to find a US knifemaker who could gripe about my buying habits. If someone can build me something solid and true in this day and age of perfidy and bullshit ephemera, coming from every direction? I’m interested. To me, that's its own honesty. That's where I come out on this. How about you? If that sounds good to you, check out the comments and you'll see a wide range of specific Chinese made knives I've bought and analyzed from an EDC use perspective. And as always -- if you liked this thread, and you have a Chinese made pocket knife that you think is cool, snap a quick pic and share it in the comments!
(Edited)
thumb_upJanitorOnMars, 99cuts, and 211 others
213
297
remove_red_eye
20.7K
bookmark_border

search
oneyeopn
2
Aug 2, 2020
bookmark_border
I have these two Chinese knives I can't fully identify. I know the folder is a RiMei 5981. Both my wife and myself love these knives. I could stand to replace the nylon washers in the folder but if the quality and durability of these companies i would not be afraid to buy again.
Aug 2, 2020
reswright
2552
Aug 2, 2020
bookmark_border
Ri Mei is a brand marketed by Guangdong Jinda Hardware Products, Ltd. Seems like they might be newer to the scene. https://jdrimei.en.china.cn/about.html

https://ri-mei.en.alibaba.com/ Do you know anything at all about the fixed blade knife? All I see on it is some kind of trademark.
(Edited)
Aug 2, 2020
reswright
2552
Aug 2, 2020
bookmark_border
Aaand that's a Mantis logo on the fixed blade. Didn't recognize it at first. :) Looking it up, it's a Mantis MF Slimline III. https://www.knifecenter.com/item/MNTMF3/mantis-mf-3-slimline-iii-fixed-blade-knife-black-drop-point-black-molded-sheath Drop occasionally runs Mantis knives.
(Edited)
Aug 2, 2020
oneyeopn
2
Aug 2, 2020
bookmark_border
search

Aug 2, 2020
reswright
2552
Aug 2, 2020
bookmark_border
I think I'd quibble with this guy about one or two things (edit: and there's many steels he doesn't rank) but by and large I think he's on the right track. Good article on choosing a knife steel: https://www.marineapproved.com/best-knife-steels-guide-with-charts/
(Edited)
Aug 2, 2020
reswright
2552
Jul 20, 2020
bookmark_border
Harnds Giant Silkworm 14C28N/G-10

search
TL;DR badass inexpensive axis locker. Smooth, balanced, ergonomic, and I love the trailing point. If Harnds isn't on your radar now's the time to fix that. Longer version: I've been aware of Harnds for a few years now when I picked up a couple knives; a mid sized, wicked, long thin folder called the Assassin, and a small knife called the Knight. The Assassin was flat out awesome in every respect once they put a clip on it, but in some ways the Knight garnered just as much of my attention -- because even though it used 8Cr steel and was a smallish pocket folder compared to the 14C28N and long lines of the Assassin, it was well and truly overbuilt. Thick liners, stout screws. The Knight has five different standoffs between the liners; that's about three more than you usually see, even on larger knives. I liked that and started paying attention to Harnds. Cut to the present: they've started releasing a new lineup of knives over the last year that really shows they made it to the next level. The Wind's a nice, fast clean lined flipper; the Wolverine's a gorgeous, ergonomic beast with a lunging stance to it; the Beak's a lot like a Spyderco Dodo but with an axis lock and a longer blade; and just now they've released the Giant Silkworm, 90g and 7 3/4 inches of axis locking shank, 3 1/2 inches of which is the 14C28N Sandvik blade, available for under $40.
search
Thumb studs, jimping, ergonomic grip, reversible low profile pocket clip, lanyard hole, phosphor bronze washers, aaaaaaaaaaaaand oh, yeah, that blade I mentioned?
search
In a word, that's proper. Nice, proportionate choil and the trailing point's just bang on. I'm seeing more trailing point knives these days and this one, with the swedge, is a beaut. Great fidgeting blade, but more to the point (so to speak) it's quite sharp as well: it'll trim curls from the edge of a Post-It. With the last series of releases I think Harnds has officially cemented that it's working with the same level of excellence SRM brings to the table with its budget lineup, and although Harnds models usually cost a few bucks more than a similarly size SRM model, that still places their lineup at a very attractive price point for what they offer you, and you are getting enhanced ergonomics and a better hand feel for the dough. So if you need a budget axis locker and have been hankering for a nice trailing point folder, the Giant Silkworm is your homeboy. I love the Land axis locker; I'd rather have this. Five star knife.
(Edited)
Jul 20, 2020
Beowulf45
22
Jul 5, 2020
bookmark_border
Well written. Do the research.
search

Jul 5, 2020
reswright
2552
Jun 26, 2020
bookmark_border
TwoSun TS241 - S90V/CF YX Designs. YX may stand for Yon Xanadu. Most of their blog is written in hanzi so not sure. tl;dr innovative and cool, for people with a modicum of knife skills. People just starting out with knives won’t know what the big deal is.
search
in the longer version, I can tell you this: they made a bad ass little top flipper. And it's a detent lock - which is kinda like a slipjoint you can fidget with. Imagine if each side of a liner lock had its own lockbar and ball bearing detent, but when you opened it, instead of disengaging the detent bearings from their detent holes and sliding off the tang when the liner lock engages, the twin detent bearings just snap into another set of detent holes instead on a detent lock -- and the 'liner lock' lockbar never actually engages, beyond providing spring pressure on the detent ball that makes the ‘lock’ work. Simple system, ends up giving you something functional and you end up handling it like a light slipjoint in terms of the care with which you use it. Except it is a top flipper, which can be front flipped or top flipped open with a glide and snap.
search
SRM has been doing detent locks for a while but this TwoSun is the first one that I've seen that you can top flip OR front flip, let alone both. Front flippers are for two kinds of people IMO; people who hate flipper tabs and people who like mastering skills. In the latter sense, to craft a syllogism, they are to knives as BMX and skateboards are to getting from Point A to Point B. Being showy is part of the appeal. people who want something easy to open usually pick something different. Also a slight whiff of danger because most people can’t open a front flipper without the blade coming pretty close to the meat of their palm as it flips open.
search
Cuts can happen. That gets your attention. Top flippers are loads easier for most folks to open because it’s a lot more akin to how you open a normal flipper and only takes a slight modification of the grip that doesn’t put your hand in harm’s way.
search


search
Like so. It's got a nice generous flipper and the detent lock is easy on the fingers. See those three screws in a row like the belt of Orion? That's how far back the detent lockbars are anchored into the CF frame -- keeps the detent balls gliding instead of dragging.
search
also? It's light - 53 grams. Not even two ounces on this. And it's small but not tiny:
search
Looks like it's about 2 3/4" blade and a little over 6 1/2 fully open. That’s a nice size for a lot of folks. And it's scary sharp -- TwoSuns are always sharp as fuck but their S90V seems to be juuust a little sharper than that and this easily trims curls down the edge of a post-it, which is kinda my fast and dirty standard for 'properly sharp out of the box'. I don't piss about with hair whittling and stuff like that, I leave it to other people, but this knife might be capable of it OOTB. Is there anything wrong with it? Yup. It doesn't have a clip. Looks like it could be fit with one with a little work and care. Should it have one? I think so. But understand this isn't exactly a pocket knife so much as it's what I call a 'tuck' knife -- a small folder that can hide in a fold of cloth, or a watch pocket or a even up a long sleeve, meant to be discreet. Again, this knife doesn't even weigh two ounces, so it's an option for ultralight carry or a small hideaway. So the lack of a clip isn't a dealbreaker. This isn't just a good knife. For what it is, it's great, clip or no clip. And they aren't going for that much right now on the Bay.
(Edited)
Jun 26, 2020
weinwolf
15
Jun 19, 2020
bookmark_border
Jun 19, 2020
reswright
2552
Jun 22, 2020
bookmark_border
https://ganzoknife.com/knife-firebird-by-ganzo-fh41-carbon/ More people ask about it than any other knife in that picture.
Jun 22, 2020
Aumank33
4
Jun 16, 2020
bookmark_border
Okay so I just got myself a norseman clone or tribute however you chose to look at it and man o' man is this thing buttery smooth and beautiful! I was bidding on ebay for it and won the auction for a little over $100 and I would happily pay double or even triple that for this quality of knife... The edge wasn't much to speak of but I personally like to sharpen all my own knives anyway so no biggie there, it has since been hand sharpened on venev diamond stones and stropoed on kangaroo leather with Ken schwartz cbn 1mic then .025mic and it will whittle hairs or top a free hanging hair with ease, i do believe it to actually be M390 as it says and it came in a hard pelican style case with a card like many customs do... I believe the maker is "HILBERG KNIVES" which I also own a cruwear hoback clone from them and though the blade is a bit chippy it too is a beaut....
search
search
search
search

Jun 16, 2020
reswright
2552
Jun 14, 2020
bookmark_border
Twenty Six Suns or thirteen Two Suns, whichever you prefer
search
search
search
search
search

search
search

Jun 14, 2020
JMAldo
2
May 26, 2020
bookmark_border
Well thought out and well said! Just need to look no further than the Potomac to understand the USAs woes. Both sides of the aisle! My best Chinese blade is a 6 year old edc District 9 Paladin. As good as many of the US made blades in my brood. Oh, and did I mention M390? 250.00 US back then, wouldn’t part with it for anything. Well okay perhaps a custom shiro. Regards JMA
search
search

May 26, 2020
reswright
2552
May 26, 2020
bookmark_border
Both sides of the aisle! Yup. The thing is, though, for the last 20 years American governance has been little more than a reflection of the will of business and financial enterprises. Not much happens in Congress without that say so. Popular opinion has proven to matter little to whether policies are ultimately passed. By all means, let's keep the government accountable. But don't let that keep you from realizing that our current government is only a tool and it's the hand holding it we need to look out for. It is what it has been made by the wealthy and powerful, who are quite happy to see us blame the government and not them, as it makes it even easier for them to do as they will. Also -- nice knife. District 9 knives are siiiick.
May 26, 2020
JMAldo
2
May 26, 2020
bookmark_border
We can peel back the onion further on the topic of allegiances and tribute to others. Treason for sure but so long as the gatekeepers tow the line the money will flow and they remain protected. Hope to wake up some morning and find out that someone cloned Andrew Jackson. The battle is centuries old—and it sure is getting interesting. Anyhow, appreciate your take on the Chinese knife makers perspective.
(Edited)
May 26, 2020
Showing 15 of 159
keyboard_arrow_up
Newest
159 OF 159 POSTS
Aug 4, 2020
keyboard_arrow_down
Oldest