Bring on the Clones
CLONE - "A person or thing regarded as an exact copy of another"
Some time ago everyone I knew had a "hooky" Rolex Submariner, you could pick them up for a $100 in Hong Kong and apart from its weight on your wrist and the movement of the second hand you could hardly tell the difference from the £2500 real thing!
More recently it was the turn of Handbags. The must have "IT" bag from Prada came with a huge $ price tag, its demand easily outstripping its availability! So as often happens in theses scenarios, the counterfeiters jumped in and within a couple of weeks you could buy an almost identical copy for 15 quid on Camden market!
Recently I unwittingly became the recipient of a clone. A folding pocket knife sent to me to review. I wasn't told it was a clone. In fact I wasn't told anything about the knife. It turned out my latest acquisition had just arrived from China. The original knife is was copied from was designed by one of the USA's top knife maker's, Mick Strider. Yes, my latest Orange handled aquasision is supposedly a Strider SnG, one of America’s most popular blades!
After a few hours research on the Internet it's obvious these Chinese clones are very popular on the Western Market, ranging in price from £10 to £160 depending on the style and the materials used in its build. A real Strider by comparison starts at around the £599 price tag for a regular production model and spirals into the £1000's for a custom knife.
So, I'm guessing if I compared a real Strider to the fake one in my hand, I'd be very disappointed!
But for just a minute lets forget we know anything about the real Strider knives. Lets look at the knife in my hand as a £10 knife. For all intents and purposes its just an everyday, cheap folding knife. A pocket knife that cost's £10. If you do that, in purely those terms then, it's an amazing knife!
While I was testing this knife it made me think what actually makes a good knife? I guess it’s down to build quality and ergonomics. The latter is very much a personal thing. The materials its made from should be dictated by what the end user intends to use it for and the environment they use it in.
In my case I use my knife for all sorts of things on a daily basis. It's got to fit well in my hand and feel like it's something I can work with wearing gloves. It's also got to be durable enough to do what I need it to do, which is a lot more than just cutting! So if your knife cost you £500, £1000, £2000 upwards then your going to think twice about using the tip to prize off that hub cap from your Van when you get a flat, well at least I am!
So, what do you get for £10? Well on the surface you get a folding frame lock knife with a very sharp blade made out of "some kind of” metal. An orange plastic sculpted handle which may, or may not be G10, well at least one side is, the other, the lock side is made from stainless steel with a stonewashed finish. The official specs read something like this:
Length: 20.6 CM
Folding length: 11.5cm
Blade length: 9.0 CM
Blade Width: 3.0cm
Blade thickness: 0.4CM
Blade Steel: 5Cr13Mov
Handle: Orange G10
However, after reading a lot of online reviews of this and similar knives it seems the “Specs” are rather open to interpretation, so who knows what the blade is actually made of, but for ten quid does it really matter so long as it does the job!
For me this £10 knife fits my hand very well, the ergonomics are perfect and that has to be attributed to Mick Strider who originally designed the knife, because he was the person that put all the "R and D" into producing the "Strider SnG” the model my Clone is copied from. Obviously all knives derive from a basic pattern, a handle and a blade. First came the fixed blade, later the folder. The handles and blades have evolved over the years, in part as modern materials and techniques advanced.
The more exotic the materials used in the construction of a knife, the more expensive that knife will be, and this single point, for me at least is a bit of a conundrum. Because the more expensive the knife is the less likely it is to get used. The very best knives, made from the most exotic materials tend to end up in the padded cases of collectors! Only occasionally do they see the light of day, taken out, opened and closed a few times, perhaps carried in the pocket for a short walk, but most likely not, for fear of scratching it. But certainly nothing that involves cutting!
In my opinion there's certainly nothing wrong with collecting something you love. When I was a kid I collected comics. Anything that was collectable came in sealed bags, you weren’t supposed to open and read them, the moment you did the value halved! I’m afraid I didn't make much of a collector, I wanted to read my magazine, thumb through the pages, look at all the amazing drawings, smell the ink, I’m a very tactile person.
It's the same with knives, I carry a knife for practical reasons, I want to carry it, take it out and use it, in the extreme conditions I often need to work in. In the last week I haven’t done anything that could be classed as extreme, but I still got to use my knife for chopping vegetables in my camper van on a short road trip. I’ve also used it for cutting rope and nylon webbing slings while rigging a climb I was going to photograph. As well as taking advantage of the knifes "spear point tip" to open up cans of Beans and punch out holes in a 100 hessian labels for my latest organic T-Shirt range. In the studio I’ve opened up cardboard boxes, sliced through sheets of plastic and even used it to build slabs of cheese covered with fig jam onto crackers, my blade was sticky sweet for days!
I guess the crux of all this is that I used my “Clone" for what it was intended, to cut things. After all surely that is what knives are designed to do, cut things! In my humble opinion the greatest compliment you can pay a knife maker is to use the knife. Having said that it would be interesting to talk to the likes of Direware, Yuna, Bodega, Hinderer, Medford, Reeve, Strider et al and ask them whether they build knives for the collector or the user! I guess the answer would be both!
If you want to see some fabulous high end custom folders look no further than prolific collector Jim Skelton's YouTube channel, some amazing knifes presented by Jim who's a real character and obvious passion for knives shines through.