The Kizer Gemini I have is just superior to the custom counterpart I owned the Laconico Jasmine.
Here is the Gemini:
Here is my Jasmine (really just as proof that I owned one):
Let's just go down the specs:
Jasmine: Flat machined handles
Gemini: Contoured handles
Jasmine: Polished Washers
Jasmine: More than $500
This says nothing about the fact that the Jasmine I handled had significant blade play in all directions and the Gemini is air tight. Assuming that both were made to the same level of fit and finish, the Gemini is still better, and that's before you factor in price.
I have talked about this before, when I referenced Magical Thinking, but here the comparison is so stark. I have tried to figure out why and then it hit me, especially after a comment by Andrew Lang. With so many of the custom knives out there they are just not sufficiently complex, innovative, or interesting to compete with production versions of the same knife. There are, after all, only so many things you can do to a simple framelock flipper. You can put holes in the handle or work on the blade shape, but in the end, these are changes at the margin. At some point when you are making minimalist knives, like the Jasmine and Gemini, you run out of ways to differentiate the custom from the production in any meaningful sense, especially when Kizer's fit and finish is so damn good.
Thus I have come to a point where I think a lot of folks are at right now--questioning whether the horde of titanium framelock flipper midtechs and customs are worth the money. When you look at something like a Rassenti integral or the Flipperless Flipper you see craftsmanship or innovation. When you look at some of the more basic custom knives you see something that any sufficiently equipped machine shop can make. The Jasmine/Gemini happens to be the perfect place to illustrate this point. Kizer's machining capacities are world class (in the knife world) and Ray's original design is elegant but very simple. And so it is easy to see how the production can surpass the custom. Ray might be able to add some flourishes--damascus steel and the like, but there is nothing on any of the Jasmines, even the newer ones with updated features, that Kizer can't do.
I don't think we are at the point where production companies can replicate any custom perfectly. But its not a matter of capacity anymore, its a matter of profit. In a world where we can mass produce high complex cars and make things like a Gamma Knife industrial machining capabilities far exceed even the most complex custom designs. The thing holding production companies back from making perfect replicas of Van Barnett and GTC knives is profit not prowess. Can they make these uber complex knives and sell them in numbers and with margins sufficient to justify the production? The answer is almost certainly no. And so they remain the exclusive property of the custom world.
But this leads us back to the Jasmine. This is not a complex knife. It is much less complex than a GTC or a Van Barnett. And it is orders of magnitude less complex than your iPhone. Compared to high end computers or medical equipment is almost impossible. The issue with a production version of the Jasmine is that there is not much to do. Its not hard to make a perfect copy (or better) of a knife as simple as the Jasmine.
And there are a tidal wave of customs that fall into this category--relatively rudimentary knives that could easily be made on production scales without diminished quality. As the hobby expands, the number of makers increases, but the skill necessary to make the GTC/Van Barnett level knives occurs at the same rate (this is true of almost every scarce resource, scaling up grows the overall number but keeps the ratio the same). When the boom busts its these newer makers that will suffer the most. The Ron Lakes and Michael Walkers of the world will always have an audience. Folks that are pumping out one titanium framelock after another with only minor cosmetic differences won't survive.
This isn't to bash Laconico. I love the design of the Jasmine, even if my personal example was lacking and it has since been updated. As a production knife the Gemini is easily among the best blade released in 2015. Ray Laconico has talent, there is no question of that. But his talent might be in design more so than innovation and building. My issue is that the knife community obsesses with new makers regardless of their skill. There is no real assessment of custom knives, but brutally harsh criticism of production blades. And there is, for some odd reason, a gag order on criticizing custom knives and custom makers.
Any ideas why?
Jonathan, is this enough of a spur? Let's do the debate series.