Knives of Distinction - Made to be Used
It's the things you can't see that matter most.
Since a knife is first and foremost a tool, strength and edge holding are paramount to its utility. The factors most influencing these traits are the steel selection and the quality of the heat treating. Both are things that you can't see and have to take the makers word for. I use only factory new steels in making my knives and Damascus. No used or "mystery" steels are employed. Currently, I make my knives from O2, L6 and W2 tool steels.
I perform all my own heat treating. Nothing is left to chance with outside venders. By using modern salt bath and cryogenic techniques I am able to get the highest performance possible out of my knives.
The hidden details of construction can also affect the performance of the knife. The types of adhesives used, reaming and lapping holes instead of just drilling them, etc. all have an influence on the performance of the finished knife.
Although a knife can mean many things to many people, a knife is first and foremost a tool. Even if a knife is beautiful, if it does not cut what it was designed to cut, or if it hurts your hand when you hold it, it is useless. Function -- concentrating on strength and edge retention -- takes first priority in all my work and designs. This is not to imply that a functional knife cannot be beautiful: some of the world's finest craftsmen have applied their talents to creating knives, for use both as tools and as weapons. I strive to make my knives as beautiful and interesting as they are functional.