Custom Knife Collecting – The System


Five years ago. Michael Donato and Richard Mattei made a business decision. They were introduced to handmade custom knives and found a career.

When the 28-year-old Donato and business partner Richard Mattei chose to invest in hand-made knives and earn their living as purveyors, it quickly became clear that their money was precious.

In order to discern the best values and build inventory that would be attractive to buyers. Donato and Mattei developed a “system” for making the right knife choices.

“In order to be successful in any venue, you really need a game plan,” Michael explained, “and as a purveyor we took money out of our own pockets and wanted to invest as wisely as possible.

Since there are so many makers we wanted to differentiate between those who have extraordinary talent and those who don’t—and whose work we wanted to showcase at knife shows and in an open forum available to the public.

It’s also important to be an educator to your clientele and show them who a certain knife maker is and why we choose to display his or her work. This is why we created the system.”

3 Basic Principles

Michael’s system rests on three basic principles:

1. The influence a knife maker has on other makers;

2. The maker’s design must meet the collectors demand; and;

3. The fit and finish must be of the highest quality.

“When I started in the knife industry I was looking at many knife makers and the knives that caught my eye had common attributes,” “The knife has to be symmetrical, both open and closed,” Donato related. “It has to be well balanced and appealing to the eye.

Every knife should have personality. It should be one of a kind. I will always handle the knife to experience the way it opens and closes, walks and talks”. The fit and finish, Mattei asserts, is the single most important factor in judging a knife maker’s proficiency.” This will determine the difference between a $700 and a $2,000 knife,” he said. “Fit and finish is considered the final presentation, which showcases the maker’s work ethic and skill.

The knife will be perfect if the blade drops dead center on a folder, the grind lines are mirrored, presentation-grade matched scales are used in the handle, the seams are tight, the lines are nice, and the action is silky smooth.” Joe Kious, Scott Sawby, Warren Osborne, and Jeff Harkins are in my opinion some of the finest knife makers today.

When you examine their knives, they receive high grades in all of the above attributes. Other makers of this quality include, Stephen Olszewski, Steve Hill, Owen Wood, Don Hanson III and Tom Overeynder.

Efforts to educate and promote handmade knife collecting keep the industry fresh and alive. Borrowing from existing approaches and adding some of its creator’s own touches; Michael Donato’s and Richard Mattei’s system is a positive addition and enhances the overall experience.