zaterdag 9 mei 2009

Does it matter where it's made?

Many Americans are fussy about where a product is made. This being a blog dedicated to The Nutnfancy Project, this applies to knives specifically.
There are a few reason why a person would care where his knife is made. Let me enumerate them here.
  • Quality
  • Local economy
  • Bigotry
Two of those are rational reasons, and I will discuss them. If you don't like a knife because it was made by people with eyes different from yours, or a skin color different from yours, then please just go elsewhere.

Many Americans (and some Europeans too) believe that products made in their own country are inherently of better quality than those made in the far East. This is of course a fallacy. It was once true that stuff made in Japan, then Taiwan, then S-Korea, now China was of inferior quality than that made in Germany or the US, but that was at a time when those same products also cost just a fraction of their European/US made counterparts. Cars, watches, electroncis, you name it, it was dirt cheap compared to local-made stuff. So you got what you paid for.
Nowadays, it's different. Chinese personel are trained to a high degree, and foreign companies (like most knife manufacturers) have their own quality control staff resident at Chinese factories.
The simple fact of the matter is that computers and robots do most of the work, and they do not belong to any ethnicity. Where people do come in, it's not essential to the level of quality, but it does greatly affect the cost of production. A Chinese worker makes on average about US$ 6000 a year. That is slightly more than 1/8 of what an average US worker gets.
This translates directly into the cost of producing. There is no reason to assume that the work a Chinese laborer does is inherently of less quality than that of a German or American worker. But even if there were, quality control - if applied strictly, as it apparently is by most US companies - will prevent bad apples from reaching the finish on the assembly line.

Local economy
A lot of people feel that buying foreign is tantamount to local job loss. No one can argue with this, it is true. If people want to voluntarily subsidize American workers, they are free to do so. I just want to give them this argument to chew over: There was a time when the US and Europe were so techically advanced that the rest of the world could only do the simple stuff. Assembling quality cars or TV's could only be done in a few Western countries, which had a population with required skills, training, education and experience.
In those fields, first the Japanese, then the rest of Asia caught up with us, and in some respects, overtook us.
My question is, do we really want to compete with people who are happy to work for six thousand dollar a year, doing much the same work that we do? What happened to our technical lead? If we insist on artificially sustaining local industry by stealing from our own wallets, don't we in fact admit that we can't do better than them?
Isn't that contrary to the very spirit of capitalism, the very spirit of what made the US great?
We shouldn't WANT to compete on dumb labour. We should compete on what we're best at: Innovation, ingenuity, cutting edge (pun intended).
So make your purchases based on whatever criteria. But don't kid yourself into believing that your knife is better, just because it was made in your country. Because that comes close to reason #3.

donderdag 30 april 2009

Factory VS Custom

Knives can be bought from as little as 5 dollars to as much as thousands. This goes for both folders and fixed blades. The most expensive blades are invariably custom knives.
So what IS a custom knife?

A custom knife is a one-off. It's a knife that - ideally - is made entirely by hand. For that reason, there can never be two exact identical versions of it. No bladesmith can produce two knives that are exactly alike (and most don't even want to).
Because knives like these takes many hours to make, often over longer periods of time, and require huge amounts of skill and experience before they can be made expertly, they are expensive.
You only need to take the example of a factory-made car and a hand-built custom one to appreciate the difference.

So that explains the price difference. Knive factories - like car factories - design a knife once, set up a production line once, build a supply line, and press the button. From that moment on, very little human attention goes into the process, although crucially, the bit that does go into it is pretty vital.
A custom knife smith has the same expense every time: His time, multiplied by his skill and experience. On price, he cannot compete.

So is it worth it?
Well that depends on what you value in your knife. By the way, this debate is as old as factory knives themselves, but I do think I can show you the factors that are involved in knife pricing. And they're not all rational ones...

First the tangible criteria. For the example I will discuss a fixed blade knife with an 8" blade, the purpose of which (PoU) is survival/combat use. It will see hard use and must be able to withstand punishment and even abuse. How to select such a knife? There are a few criteria, but for the example they're not very relevant, because they would be the same regardless of wether we choose a factory-made knife, or a custom-made one. The question is, can a knife factory like Cold Steel, Spyderco or Benchmade make a knife that can do everything a custom knife can do, do it as long and as well? Even after years and years, will it still take an edge, still perform?

All custom knife smiths will tell you that it cannot. Read the article I link to for a detailed argument, but the core of it is that factory knives do not receive the amount of attention and thought that a custom knife does, and therefore is always inferior in quality.

I say this is an incorrect argument, and here's why: If it were correct, factory-made cars would always be inferior to custom-made ones. And factory-made watches would always be inferior to custom-made ones. Etc, etc. And they're not.
I can make the case that custom-made items run a greater risk of individual flaws, after all, once a production process has been perfected, the chance of errors are minute. The Japanese and Germans, and even Koreans have shown this to be true. So why would a person spend US $30,000 on a watch, when a $200 one tells the time just as accurately, is just as reliable and rugged, and will last just as long?

This question brings us to the less-than-rational motives for our purchases. I own a few high-end Swiss watches, and I bought them because I think they're beautiful, they're exquisitely made, and they afford me a certain status - I won't deny it - that my other watches don't. I also own Citizens, Casio's and Seiko's. The Japanese watches are even more accurate than the Breitling or the Omegas, they're as waterresistant, and they even have more features. I have no doubt that they will last a lifetime too. Rationally speaking, there was no reason to pay more than the $250 or so that my most expensive Citizen cost me. And yet I gladly paid thousands for my Breitling. Not rational, but I still did it.

Custom blade Jay Fisher puts it this way:
"I'm in this business to make the best knife I can for your money. Factories are in it to make the most money they can for the cheapest product."
This is a very disingenuous thing to say. He makes it sound like custom knife smiths only make knives 'cause they love you, and their trade, and companies like Benchmade, SOG, Cold Steel and Spyderco are only out to rip you off. Can we just stipulate here that Jay Smith likes to make a buck as much as anyone, and that the people who founded the above-mentioned companies take pride in their products and work too?

Custom knives are NOT better than good factory-made knives. In fact, even most high-end factory-made knives are not or hardly better than well-made inexpensive factory-made knives.
Don't believe me? Go to and check out how Youtube member Noss4 tortures knives to death. Some of the strongest and most durable knives cost less than $20. Some knives costing up to $400 don't last half as long as a 15 dollar Cold Steel GI Tanto. There is no way the best custom knife in the world will outlast the Busse-made knives that rank at the top at, it can only hope to equal it (but the odds are against it).
This revelation shook even me a bit. I also own a few knives that are well over $200, and odds are I will buy others. Of course, the best-made knife in the world will cost more than the GI Tanto. However, paying more is no guarantee that your knife WILL indeed be better, chances are the reverse is true. But the real question we should ask ourselves is: Why do I want this knife? Don't kid yourself that it's the quality and durability that make a knife worth its price. 99% of all people don't need more than the $15 GI Tanto. There are many valid reasons to pay whatever you want to pay for a knife. But don't let custom knifemakers - or even producers of most high-end factory knives - fool you into believing their hype, that their knives are in fact worth 20x the price of a well-made inexpensive factory knife. You will end up wasting money and be disappointed. And in a scrap, you might even end up empty-handed, where a Cold Steel GI Tanto would have lasted.

So here's a challenge to Jay Fisher, or any other custom blade smith: If you can make a knife that
significantly outperforms the Scrapyard Scrapper 6 (a $100 knife) I will reimburse the cost of the knife. And your reputation will be set for life.

zondag 26 april 2009

The Sheepdog principle

Nutnfancy uses the term 'sheepdog' to refer to a person who considers guarding and protecting other citizens a personal responsibility. It applies to carriers of both knives and firearms.
This concept is completely alien to most Europeans, but this is more telling of the fact that there are only sheep in Europe, no sheepdogs, and that European governments have succeeded in monopolizing the legal carrying and use of weapons for purposes of self-defense.
In the U.S. too many people are unaware of the situation most Europeans are in. We are defenseless, unless we are willing to break the law ourselves just so we can defend ourselves and our loved ones and property.

Europe is proof of the age-old adage "If guns are outlawed, only outlaws have guns." Of course, police have guns too, but they are rarely used to protect citizens; it's just impossible for police to always, or even just occasionally be present to catch criminals red-handed. People are mugged, raped, robbed and killed, and they are not allowed to arm themselves for self-defense. No guns, no knives, no pepperspray, no taser. Nothing.

In the U.S. most people still can, but because the citizenry there is to a large degree unaware of this right and privilege, or unwilling to make use of it, most choose not to, and even frown upon those who do.

I am a strong believer in personal responsibility, and fully endorse the concept of the sheepdog. In fact, I think every citizen should be taught from childhood how to protect themselves, and the skills and responsibility that go with it. Of course, for me, living in the Netherlands, it is too late to act on this. I am by law prohibited to carry a gun, even though I am more proficient at using one than 99% of all policemen. I cannot even carry a knife that might be effective for defensive purposes.
What I CAN do is urge Americans to make sure the liberties and rights they still enjoy are not lost. Governments always tend to enforce tighter and stricter control over their subjects, even at the cost of delivering them to the wolves.

The effectiveness of an armed citizenry is not subject to debate. Time after time, studies have proven that armed citizens stop more crimes than do police. Neither can it be denied that towns and counties that have no or lax gun laws are safer and suffer less crime than areas that prohibit guns. Washington D.C. is the best example of this.

In Europe, Nutnfancy's sheepdog has become extinct. Americans better make sure that doesn't happen in their country.

zaterdag 25 april 2009

Philosophy Of Use

Nutnfancy has coined the term Philosophy of Use, by which he means "In what capacity are you going to use item X?" This is an important question for those of us who own more than one knife, or handgun, rifle, axe, tent, flashlight, etc. When considering a purchase and evaluating the merits and drawbacks of (for example) a folding knife, you want to be realistic and determine some boundaries on what can reasonably expected of that knife.
This also means that you will automatically be faced with the limitations of a given knife, after all, there is no knife that fits all purposes. PoU then is an important consideration, both when purchasing and when choosing for carry.
Nutnfancy uses categories to define the PoU of a given knife. He does allow for a knife to be in more than one category, and he also acknowledges that a given knife may have to be used in a capacity outside its categories, but still this category/PoU concept does sometimes seem to present us with a bit of a problem: According to PoU, I should carry knife X, but I really feel more inclined to choose knife Y. Why is this?

I can only speak for myself, but I've come to the realization that a knife that is suited for tactical use is most often also quite able to do utility chores. View for an example of what I mean this clip:

At about 3.40 he compares the subject of this review, a Cold Steel Voyager Tanto XL, to a small Spyderco. Nutnfancy calls the diminutive Spyderco "still defensively capable" and finds the 5" folding Tanto not so suitable for EDC. If you take the categories he has defined and apply them rigidly, almost literally, I would agree. But I've been carrying that exact same Cold Steel for months now, and it is an excellent EDC knife (apart from the fact that its size and appearance sometimes causes frowns on people's faces.

Where do the differences in opinion come from? To find out, let's discuss the two characteristics in question.

What makes a good EDC blade? In MY opinion (and please remember, that's the opinion of a city slicker with no weight constraints on his mind), it should be comfortable to carry, easily deployed, and able to do just about all the cutting chores I may come across. That's about it.
Defined this way, the Cold Steel folder performs excellently, and I speak from experience.

Nutnfancy basically gives the Cold Steel in this review an all-thumbs-up for defensive purposes, and as folders go, I couldn't agree more. Where I disagree with him is that a 2.5" Spyderco is still "defensively capable." I think the best that can be said about such a small blade is that it is better than nothing. But I am also sure that any would-be attacker would not be able to keep himself from smiling if you drew that in a confrontation. I'd do it if I had nothing else, but...

What's my point here? Most of us that carry a knife at all should have considered PoU when choosing. Should we ever totally disregard 'tactical' (ie defensive) purposed in our criteria? I say not, certainly not if we only carry the one blade. And if not, shouldn't we always choose a knife big enough to make us feel secure enough to use it in that capacity?
What is big enough will be different for everyone. It's quite possible Nutnfancy feels comfortable carrying an EDC folder with a blade smaller than 3" and still regard it as a usable emergency tactical blade. I for one would not be. These days, anything less than a 4" blade doesn't do it for me.
But as Nutnfancy always says "Your mileage may vary."

First post - How and Why

This is the fist post on the unofficial The Nutnfancy Project blog. Nutnfancy is a reviewer of items such as knives, guns, tactical- survival- and military gear on Youtube. He also posts clips on camping, survival, and a general philosophical outlook on life that I generally agree with. His mission is to supply objective and relevant information about these items to interested people. For more information about Nutnfancy please visit his Youtube channel, but in short, Nutnfancy is a professional soldier and parttime law enforcement officer in the US. He therefore speaks with authority on the issues he chooses to post about.

I am starting this blog for a few reasons, being:
  • I have a personal take on the subjects Nutnfancy discusses, and they may not always be identical with his.
  • Nutnfancy's posts often need a bit more discussion among his fans and readers, and I think this would be a good spot for it.
  • This blog allows me to supplement Nutnfancy's posts where I think they can use it.
But most importantly:
  • I feel Nutnfancy and his views deserve a larger audience, and I hope my posting here will contribute to that end.
There are many other reviewers active on the same subjects that Nutnfancy deals with. However, in my opinion Nutnfancy distinguishes himself because of the extensive use most if not all of the items he reviews have seen. In other words, he speaks from hands-on experience, often under harsh conditions, unlike most other reviewers, many of which are mostly collectors and occasional light users.

On a personal note, Nutnfancy's reviews reignited a spark in me. I once served in the Royal Netherlands Marines and was an enthusiastic outdoorsman, camper and survival practitioner. That was more than 25 years ago however, and I had settled down with a wife, a career in IT and two beautiful sons. I've always stayed fit, and current with guns, but neglected to instill in my sons the love of the outdoors and the ability take care of one's self in the wild. It was not too late to do that, and I thank Nutnfancy for reminding me of the responsibility of, as well as the beauty in raising your kids to be responsible and self-reliant people.

As this blog progresses I plan to add reviews by other reviewers, if they are about subjects that fall into the same general categories that Nutnfancy addresses, and if - in my opinion - they reach the same level of quality and objectiveness. I will take the liberty of including these in what is after all called The Nutnfancy Project blog because they will adhere to the same general outlook on life, and because Nutnfancy cannot hope to review all the subjects that are worthy of it. I may also attempt to do some reviews myself, and I will explicitly use Nutnfancy's format if and when I do.

Lastly, I will use this blog as a 'coathanger' to write about related issues such as self-defense, preparedness, gun ownership as compared between the US and Europe (particularly the Netherlands), and anything else that has relevance.