“Made in China”
For many in the knife community, those words indicate an inexpensive, low-quality knockoff pocket knife—but is it time for us to reconsider the prejudice against knives made in China? It’s true that many knives made in China were fakes and poorly built; on top of that, other concerns about materials authenticity, labor conditions, and questionable ethics have deterred knife users from expanding their collections with knives bearing that infamous stamp.
But times have changed, and so has China’s manufacturing industry.
While knockoffs and poor-quality scam products will always exist, don’t let them blind you to the top-quality, high-performance knife industry that has blossomed in China. With improved ethics, precision manufacturing processes, and legitimate materials (including steel types like CPM S35VN that they import from the USA), the knives they produce meet and sometimes exceed the bar set by many American knife manufacturers. For brands like WE Knife Co., Reate Knives, Kizer Cutlery, and others, those three words—“Made in China”—have become a mark of pride.
Below is a list of China’s top nine knife brands in no particular order.
WE Knife Company / CIVIVI / SENCUT
WE Knife Co. (WE) was initially founded in 2000 to provide OEM (original equipment manufacturing) services. The WE brand and its first product line launched in 2016 to provide the very best quality cutlery with a steady stream of new, innovative designs. To realize this vision, WE has joined forces with many of the knife world’s iconic designers, producing knives with names like Ostap Hel, Ben Petersen, Ferrum Forge Knife Works, and so many others! WE’s company motto is “Made Better,” and their knives live up to the slogan. A constant stream of innovation, beginning with models like the Practic and the Elijah Isham design Eschaton, and continuing with Ben Peterson’s Banter, which it their current best seller. With so much success, it spawned a new company in 2018 to meet the market’s needs. The brand was named CIVIVI.
The name CIVIVI is visually striking and somewhat baffling—but don’t worry! The name has meaning. In Chinese, the characters “CI” and “VI” mean “happiness” and “joy,” respectively. So CIVIVI means “Happiness, joy, joy.” Since its creation, CIVIVI’s goal has been to provide you with an innovative, high-value product that puts a smile on your face every time you use it. The highly successful CIVIVI Elementum flipper knife and the Baby Banter are prime examples of this. But to stay relevant, you must improve your product; to improve your product, you must spend more; to spend more, you must make more; and to make more, you must increase your prices. With CIVIVI climbing to the top-end of the budget knife price spectrum, they introduced a new brand, SENCUT, to make knives with the highest value possible.
These three brands each offer a different product at a specific price range. Still, they all have something in common: attention to detail, exceptional machining, and excellent quality control. Though some use less expensive materials, they treat those materials with the same care as the more expensive ones. Whether it’s WE, CIVIVI, or SENCUT, you can rest assured that you’ve purchased a quality tool that will last.
Kizer began in 2013, making it one of the first big-name knife manufacturers out of China. They made their mark by challenging American quality, producing pocket knives and fixed blades with unique designs made from top-shelf materials; many of those materials were and still are imported from the USA or Japan. The resulting cutlery makes a stark contrast to knives associated with the “Made in China” stigma. Like WE Knife Co., Kizer works with knife designers worldwide to keep their offerings fresh. If its premium products are out of your price range, Kizer Vanguard is its more budget-friendly line and has some incredible knives to choose from. Kizer is the way to go if you want a stand-out, high-quality knife from a company that has been doing it right for over a decade. These are some of the models that helped make Kizer what it is today: the Begleiter, the Feist, and the Sheepdog in all its different sizes.
Reate Knives is a company dedicated to quality and customer satisfaction above all else. It’s no secret that any knife made by Reate is the best of the best, featuring some of the tightest tolerances in the industry, only the most premium materials, and unparalleled quality control. Reate makes knives under its own name, like the Reate EXO, but specializes in bringing your designs into reality. Big brands like Chaves Ultramar, Pena X-Series, and The James Brand use their services, as well as renowned designers like Jared Oeser. You’ll be hard-pressed to find pocket knives made better than those produced by Reate.
Artisan Cutlery / CJRB Cutlery
Artisan Cutlery really puts the ‘art’ in ‘artisan’ with its product lineup. It began in 2018 as a small USA-based company working directly with its manufacturing facility in YangJiang, China. Since then, Artisan has expanded and become more than just another knife company. Honoring its name, Artisan Cutlery puts itself out as a platform for artistic expression in knifemaking. Here is a quote from the company’s “about us” page on artisancutlery.net: “We don’t just make knives; we make knives for people who love their knives.” They employ modern manufacturing techniques to produce the highest quality knives possible, with designs that speak to you. And to accommodate those knife enthusiasts on a budget, Artisan introduced a budget brand, CJRB. These knives are made with the same attention to detail as Artisan’s higher-end knives but use more affordable materials that still promise to perform well. Artisan Cutlery got our attention at SHOT Show one year with their incredible Kinetic Tools, which are a glorious mix of a butterfly knife, a multi-tool, and an automatic knife. Aside from that, Artisan’s Arroyo and Biome models have been a smashing success!
As you may have guessed, the name ‘Kansept’ is a re-spelling of the word ‘Concept.’ The name is fitting, as Kansept Knives strives to realize the best knife concepts by fulfilling OEM and ODM (Original Design Manufacturing) orders and producing their own in-house models. Some of these models include Kansept staples, the Foosa, Main Little Main Street, and the fan favorite Korvid. The Kansept logo, a stylized UFO, embodies a core philosophy of the company: to fly into the future. Each Kansept knife is made with cutting-edge technology and a streamlined process, reducing costs without compromising quality. Unlike most other brands, Kansept uses printed graphics on the scales of some of its knives, giving them fun holiday- and pop-culture-themes. Kansept, like many Chinese knife manufacturers, is located in YangJiang, the “city of the knife in China.” Making full use of its natural advantages and employing a team of experienced workers, you can be sure any knife wearing the Kansept name is a great one.
Bestech Knives is a team of professional machinists, artists, and designers from around the world, all dedicated to bringing you the best knives possible. They maximize their production by using modern, high-tech machinery to consistently make exceptional pocket knives and fixed blades. The Texel is one of Bestech’s more popular models and helped them become what they are today. In addition to knife manufacturing, Bestech offers premium OEM services. Bestech is growing rapidly, and with that growth comes improvement. You can’t go wrong with a Bestech knife, and chances are you can afford one.
Before QSP was QSP, it was just involved in OEM and ODM manufacturing. The QSP brand launched in 2017 with the purpose of bringing excellent pocket knives and fixed blades to the market at a great price without compromising on quality, which can be summarized in the company’s name: QSP stands for “Quality, Service, Price.” QSP offers budget-friendly and premium series knives to meet the market’s needs while it continues its OEM and ODM manufacturing, using the modern world’s finest knife manufacturing machines. If you want a fresh, high-quality knife without breaking the bank, a QSP knife could be what you’re looking for. We recommend the Penguin and the Parrot, models that helped secure QSP’s foothold in the market.
Petrified Fish is new to the scene, offering tremendous value to anchor itself in the market. They may have a strange name, but they make affordable knives from high-performance materials and cutting-edge technology, manufacturing nigh flawless cutters. Petrified Fish offers various designs in several colorways to ensure you can find a suitable knife. The Beluga and Forward are two of its bestselling folders, with knives like the Victor showcasing their innovation (it has a finger cut-out just for Spydie-flicking!). With this brand, you can add a top-end knife made from affordable materials to your collection without angering your wallet.
Kunwu began in 2019 on Kickstarter with their first knife, the Orion, which was an instant success! A group of people with long-time involvement in the knife industry started the company. They banded together to bring something remarkable to the market: top quality at bottom dollar; that is, premium knives made from premium materials produced in such a way that they can be sold for a hitherto unseen price. Since the Orion, they have expanded their selection with the popular Tao and Zen models and several others. And they’re now sending knives out to retailers, like Blade HQ, for us to sell. If you don’t want to choose between paying rent and buying a great knife, get a Kunwu.
In conclusion, it’s fair to say that knives bearing the words “Made in China” aren’t necessarily knives you have to worry about. As always, ensure you’re buying your knives through official channels, from brands you can trust like Blade HQ. You’ll have difficulty finding knives of higher quality and value than those produced by the companies above. Without question, a knife from WE, Kizer, Reate, Artisan, Kansept, Bestech, QSP, Petrified Fish, or Kunwu is a knife you can be proud to carry, use, and count on to meet your cutting needs. “Made in China” means something different than it used to. If you’re not convinced, pick up a knife from one of these companies and put it to work. It’s worth having at least one model from one of these excellent knife manufacturers in your collection!