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Keith Nix Knives FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions
Knife Making FAQ


"How do I get knives sharpened at Keith Nix Knives?"

Custom knife makers are asked a lot of questions. Let's face it: unless you're a knife maker, you don't know the process. Some questions I've answered often enough to think we need this Knife Making FAQ page to save us both some time.  I want you to be informed, and it's fun and enjoyable for me to talk with a customer who is really interested in how their knife will be made! However, I'm a very slow two or three-finger typist, and trading texts or emails isn't a face-to-face conversation. So, if I can answer the most common questions once for everyone, that's a good thing! If you don't see the question you wish answered, please take a moment and contact me, and "Ask The Knife Maker"

Dive in now and learn how to order a knife and how they're made. Learn about caring for your knives, how to get free sharpening, and how to order personalized knives. We can fill you in on heat treatment, our philosophy on customer support and customer service. And straight up right now, we NEVER turn scrap metal into knives!

  • Are Keith Nix Knives Made in the USA?
    Yes! All Keith Nix Knives are made here in Black Mountain, NC, using new, KNOWN steel purchased from USA based suppliers. We purchase bars of steel up to 6' long, and of the appropriate width and thickness. We then cut these bars into the correct lengths for the knives we are making. After that we profile, heat treat, grind bevels, polish, and apply the knife handle, and give it the final sharpening before pickup or shipping. Additionally, we purchase the steel we use from American distributors.
  • Who is Keith Nix?
    Keith is a Black Mountain native, machinist/tool maker, former Internet Sales Manager, and knife maker. He grew up in Black Mountain, and has roamed these beautiful Southern Appalachian Mountains and valleys and worked here all his life. You can read more about his roots in WNC here: Or enjoy this short video made by the Carolina Photo Journalism Workshop(Yes, THAT Carolina!!)
  • How long is your backlog?
    I am currently delivering knives in 28-32 weeks. No, I can't fairly put your blade in front of another. No, a cash bonus won't buy more hours in a day or a spot closer to the front of the line. Yes, I absolutely understand {insert holiday} is right around the corner, it's why I'm so busy! In my wildest dreams, I never expected this level of interest in my work. I'm grateful to everyone who has made Keith Nix Knives a success! I would love to make you a knife or knives, but I ask for your patience. It will be rewarded...
  • Can I bring my own design and commission you to make it?
    Generally the answer will be yes, within these guidelines: I won't knowingly copy the work of another knife maker. I won't make "fantasy pieces" that have no practical use. I won't make fighting knives, daggers, swords, and such. I make practical, USEABLE cutlery for kitchen and outdoor use. Beyond that the door is open!
  • Do You Require a Deposit?
    No. NO! I have seen websites of other makers in this area who charge as much as 50% of the price of their product as a NON-refundable deposit just to put you on the books for a custom blade. I refuse to do that. I can't imagine taking your money and then you lose your job, or someone gets sick, or your car breaks down, and you can't complete a transaction you and I initiated 3-5 months ago. So I'm supposed to kick you while you're down and keep your deposit? no. No. NO! NO. I don't take deposits from anyone. A couple of people have prepaid me, and I didn't like the feeling of "owing" someone something. It is stressful enough to be 24-28 weeks behind. I WILL NOT hold your money that long. You may pay on delivery, or walk away if you don't like my work. The only exception I'll make to that is if you request an exotic, really expensive steel, sheath, or handle material, I'll ask you to pay for those materials in advance, or provide them yourself.
  • Are you able to personalize my knife with a name or date?
    Yes. Personalization is as easy as choosing the phrase, name, or date you wish to have engraved on your custom knife. There is a small upcharge for the service. Laser etching is only available through me on knives that I have made, but I can refer you to my provider...
  • What makes a good hunting knife?
    A hunting knife is a tool, in fact a multi-tool. Typical classic designs try to make the hunting knife a tool to gut and clean a carcass, skin it, break it down into primal cuts, debone the primals, and fillet a few trout for dinner, after the knife is used to process enough firewood to last all night. Of course no knife will do all that well, and it makes no sense to even try to make one I do make a "classic" looking hunting knife(left), I make it thin enough to actually serve as a knife, and not a small axe like object for splitting firewood! It's a simple 4-4.5" drop point, with a handle that fits just right. I offer another blade, smaller and more agile than a standard hunter. A friend commissioned this blade and we designed it together, called "The Pig Skinner". He uses this 3" blade to skin the feral hogs he hunts in SC. A third hunting knife I offer is a 5" or 7" fillet/skinning/boning/camp kitchen knife. Another great friend and I designed this one, around his love of an old fillet knife to skin deer. It's thin and flexible similar to a fillet knife with enough heft to still be useful skinning large game. It would also be great in the camp kitchen! My thinking is that a "hunting knife" should actually be a "Hunting Set", with three or four more specialized knives to do all the tasks needed to move game from the field to the frying pan or freezer. Do you have a need for a specialized hunting knife? Let's talk about it and get it built for you! Call Anytime, Keith 828-337-7836
  • Are handmade knives better than "store bought"?
    The short answer is yes, usually. The long answer is a little more complicated. A custom knife maker has the ability to give more attention to details like custom heat treating protocols, cryogenic treatment, special precise grinds, and hand sharpening. Plus you get to choose your own handle material! These details ensure you a harder, tougher, sharper, better looking knife right out of the box. At major knife production facilities, quicker is often better, and the corporation won't go to the time and expense to cryogenically treat or hand sharpen your knife with a progression of stones. They often deliberately make knives thicker and heavier than necessary to avoid warranty claims. Their sharpening procedures are designed more for speed than accuracy. At Keith Nix Knives, I heat treat every blade myself. Every blade is double or triple tempered AFTER spending a few hours in liquid nitrogen at -320F. I hand sand the finish on every blade, epoxy and pin the handle, hand sand the handle to 2500 grit, and apply the finish myself. If it doesn't meet my standards, I start over. It is this kind of attention to detail that gives the custom knife maker the edge over mass produced, assembly line blades. .
  • How do I order a knife?
    Preferably the process starts with a phone call, text, or email. If you like one of the styles on the store page, we only need to pick a steel and handle material, and I'll get you on the list! If you want a "made from scratch" custom knife, we should spend some time getting the design right! Get in touch soon! I can be reached at: PHONE/TEXT: 828-337-7836 EMAIL:
  • Who is the knife maker in Black Mountain?
    That would be Keith Nix Knives. We make knives from raw steel and wood, and professionally sharpen your existing knives.
  • Where is Keith Nix Knives?
    Keith Nix Knives is located at 244 Cragmont Rd in Black Mountain NC. We're just a little west of downtown, and less than a half mile from Lake Tomahawk!
  • How do I order a knife from Keith Nix Knives?
    It's really simple. Just call, text, or email Keith and have a short conversation with him about your knife, how you use it, what you like, and the kind of handle you envision. Keith Can be reached at: Call or text: 828-337-7836 Email:
  • How should I take care of my new knife?
    That's a great question and one I've paid extra attention to. It's so important I devoted an entire page to Custom Knife Care! Click the box to visit the page.
  • May I choose the steel for my knife?
    Most of the time, yes, absolutely! What I won't do is make you a knife from a leaf spring off great grandpa's old Model T. I use only new known steel for knives. When we discuss your knife and agree on price, I'll quote your knife in the steel of your choice. I have chosen the steels I use for their well balanced characteristics, machinability, and of course cost. While steel "A" might add a cost of $10 to your blade, steel "B" might add a cost of $110. There truly is that much difference!
  • What is hardness and why does it matter?
    WHAT IS HARDNESS?-- First, let's clear up a common misconception- in steels, hardness has nothing to do with stiffness, and vice versa. A steel part may have a high or low hardness, but it will always have the same stiffness. To make a knife more flexible, it is necessary to thin the blade so we're actually bending less steel. Hardness happens when a steel is heated above a transformation temperature and changes to a phase called Austenite. On the atomic scale carbon and iron interact in a different way in different phases. Austenite has a much higher capacity for carbon in its crystalline lattice than room temperature ferrite. When rapidly cooled, this richer carbon relationship is "locked" into the steel and a new phase is created called Martensite. This new martensite is much harder, stronger, and more brittle than previous states the steel has been in. It is also under enormous internal stress. That hardness translates to more strength and better edge holding for you, to a point. All knives must be "tempered" as part of their heat treat protocol. The blades must be reheated to some lower temperature specific to the steel to relieve these stresses and slightly soften the knife. Only then will it be a trustworthy kitchen companion! There are several ways to measure the hardness of hardened steel, but the most common is the Rockwell C test. This test measures the depth of penetration of a diamond cone under 150Kg(330.693 lbs) load. While I know what my heat treating recipes should produce, testing the hardness of every blade guarantees that human error and failure of my ovens or cryogenic quench have been eliminated.
  • How do you heat treat steel to make it hard for a custom knife??
    That's a really good question, and the answer is different for every steel I work with. There are some basic steps though, that apply to nearly all steels. Read about them in the link to the Keith Nix Knives Free Learning blog post about heat treating!
  • Can you make me a custom carbon steel chef's knife?
    I sure can, and would be happy to do it. The carbon steels I offer have an excellent balance of properties and are capable of supporting the thin, fine edge needed in the kitchen. The carbon steels I have in stock are A2, 52100, and 26C3. Either would make an excellent chef's knife. Read about each by clicking on the steel name!
  • Why do you offer so many different steels?
    Each steel I offer has a different set of characteristics and properties. Some are tougher, some offer a little higher working hardness, some have better edge retention or abrasion resistance, some offer better stain or rust resistance. Each steel in my inventory has a good balance of properties, but each is better than the others in at least one area that is important to knives. So having a selection of steels allows me to tailor your knife to your needs, rather than saying "My knives are made from XYZ steel, because it is the best at EVERYTHING!" Which would be a lie.
  • Are forged knives better/harder/stronger than stock removal knives?
    Some people think so, but this is mostly a myth, and there's scientific proof. Let's talk about "edge packing" as an example. This is where the knife smith hand forges and "cold forges" the bevels in the knife to "pack the steel", or make it denser at the edge. Those same smiths will brag about their multi-step normalizing and grain refinement cycles, where they alternately heat and then slowly cool their just forged blade to reduce stresses introduced by forging, thus eliminating the "packed" edge and returning the steel primarily to its original atomic state. Moreover, beating steel with a hammer, hot or cold, doesn't pack the atoms closer together. The "work hardening" phenomenon is a different mechanical state, which is also eliminated by normalizing and grain refinement in subsequent heating cycles. When knife steel is made at the foundry, it is molten, poured into a mold, and becomes a cast ingot. It could be round or rectangular, but it is always many times larger than the finished product. After that, the ingot is reheated and forged either by presses or rolling mills from a thickness of several inches down to the 1/4 inch and less used by us in the knife industry. So the steel for your knife has been forged and reduced many times more at the foundry than the typical bladesmith would do. Additionally, there are many things that can go bad in a forged knife. Forging too hot or too cold can ruin a piece of steel forever. Scale and other impurities can be accidentally driven into the steel, creating "inclusions", stress risers, micro cracks, and weak spots. A coal or propane forge heat treatment at the wrong temperature can never bring out the best of any steel. And it's virtually impossible to heat treat tool steels and stainless steels in a forge without MULTIPLE YEARS of experience. There are other reasons, none of which have anything to do with trained journeyman and master smiths who know what they are doing and do it well. A final fact about the very best/strongest/hardest knife. Regardless of the steel your blade is made from, several things need to happen. First, the steel has to be in the proper state before it is austenitized (hardened). The steel could require a normalizing cycle, then a grain refinement cycle or two if it is a simple carbon steel. This generally places the steel in a fine pearlite structure if done correctly. A DET anneal after grain refinement creates a structure of finely spheroidized carbides. For optimum toughness and heat treatment response, temperature control is critical. A pre quench or temper anneal can help refine grain size and increase toughness for tool steels and air hardening steel types. Smiths do not typically forge these steels, but a few have the knowledge, equipment, and ability to do it correctly. My favorite reference, Dr. Larrin Thomas, has a few words to say about it, and his father Devin (Devin Thomas Damascus), is one of the finest bladesmiths in the world: "Forged vs. Stock Removal Blades at Knife Steel Nerds"
  • Why Do You Use Liquid Nitrogen in Your Process?
    The short answer is it makes your knife stronger and harder with only a slight reduction in toughness. The long answer is a little more complex. I wrote about liquid nitrogen and why I use it in this blog post. Check it out for a more in-depth answer" "Why Cryo Treat Knives?"
  • What will you use to make the handle of my knife?
    I'll use the material you choose! And to help you choose we've written a page about different handle materials. You can read it here:
  • How do I get knives sharpened at Keith Nix Knives?
    It's simple really. Just call, text, or email Keith to let him know you need sharpening. He can tell you how to drop off your knives and how long it will take to get them back. Keith can be reached here: Call or text: 828-337-7836 Email:
  • How do you sharpen knives?
    Because I make knives, I have a lot of equipment and tools specialized for putting that first, "perfect" hand finished edge on your custom knife, so why not offer sharpening service to individuals and businesses? I've written extensively about sharpening in my blog, so just follow this link for the in-depth answer: How I Sharpen Your Knife Professional sharpening services are available in Black Mountain, Asheville, Marion, and surrounding area!!
  • Can you sharpen my scissors?
    Yes, I can! I have an attachment to hold shears and scissors on the Hapstone fixed angle sharpener. This enables me to set and hold an exact, precision angle as I sharpen scissors!
  • When you sharpen my knives, will they stay sharp longer?"
    The short answer is no. That is the short answer for every knife sharpener out there no matter what they say. My sharpening protocol cannot change the steel or the heat treatment of a knife, or the inherent edge retention of that steel your knife is made from, or your care of the knife, or your habits of use and storage. However, edge geometry plays a small part in edge retention. When I sharpen your knives, I make sure the "thickness behind the edge" is appropriate for the knife and its intended use, and the angle of the apex, or edge, is appropriate as well. This greatly affects the "keenness" of the knife. So while the edge of your knife will deteriorate in the same amount of time it did, there's a possibility your knife will FEEL sharper for longer because I thinned those first few thousandths of an inch of your blade for you! Contrary to what others might say, there is no real magic in sharpening knives. It is science...
  • Can you sharpen my knives if I bring them by today?
    If we have previously discussed that you'll be bringing your knives to me for same day professional sharpening service, then yes, I'll do them today, if you are able to keep your appointment time. If it's 5:00PM and I don't recognize your name, the answer is generally no. Proper knife sharpening takes time and cannot be rushed without potential damage to the steel your knives are made from. I will help if I can. But, please be considerate. I promise you I will.
  • What Does Professional Knife Sharpening Cost Near Me?
    What Does Professional Knife Sharpening Cost Near You? Knife Sharpening In Black Mountain Fair Pricing- Full-Service Sharpening Every Knife receives this attention: 1) A full inspection of your Knife to check for cracks in the steel and other safety issues. 2) Measurement of "thickness behind the edge," the key metric in keenness. 3) Edge thinning is usually 10-12 degrees per side for kitchen knives and higher for heavy-use blades. 4) Final HAND sharpening, on a fixed angle sharpener (Hapstone), at a final sharpening angle appropriate for the Knife, its use, and the steel quality it is made from. We utilize a progression of diamond sharpening stones from 80 to 2000 and a 3000-grit ceramic for final polish and deburr before hand stropping. 5) Final Hand Stropping on leather loaded with 1 micron diamond paste to polish the apex of your Knife and remove the burrs created in the sharpening process. 6) Measurement of the sharpness with the Edge on Up Sharpness tester. 7) Final clean up and wipe down with isopropyl alcohol to remove residues. 8) 100% satisfaction guarantee! All for $1 per blade plus $1 per inch of edge (serrated blades, $2 per inch). So an 8" knife is $9, a 6" knife is $7, and so on. What are you waiting for? Call or text 828-337-7836 to make your appointment!

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