Great response above from DM. I think when the topic's arisen before my impression is that non-J makers have sort of circled the wagons, so this was an interesting read coming from a US maker. (DM said 'US' makers too, but I'm assuming that he meant non-J makers generally, even if most he encounters are from the US. Geography teaches us there are other countries, and other non-J makers exist too :dazed Especially interesting admission on the non-US never doing a truly great job, as well of course on 'those everything but the kitchen sink handles' which I'd agree with. I also like the comments about how e-marketing is an advantage non-US makers use. In Jpn makers generally market themselves very little if at all. Indeed, many just do their knifemaking and that's it. Tough to imagine some of those octogenarians fussing on new websites, for eg, and the ones I've met have definitely been the down-to-earth craftsmen sort, and perhaps not the type to think in terms of international promotion or be interested in such a thing. Local reputations still seem to play a big part and loyalty too (suppose that's not always a good thing) while I have no doubt knives sell country-wide a lot more now than the old days due to e-sellers and the odd big shops that promote different makers. (Shigefusa, for eg, seems to do well.) Personally, I don't like being marketed at, and so with knives I like the idea of makers being good due to their work and performance, and the idea of craftsmen doing what they do best without self-promo and bling-erising their knives is comfortable to me. I'd be suspicious of a maker that seemed to be putting in lots of effort into sales and image and snazzy web promotion. Of course, this idea doesn't depend on country of origin and seems there are several non-J makers that would be like this too. Another warning sign to me would be 'those everything but the kitchen sink handles' because I'd wonder how much time/effort is spent here vs getting the actual blade correct, which is something you can't see over the internet and which has to be where experience - probably best guaranteed through the Japanese apprenticeship customs - would play a part. (To be fair, though, I imagine that non-J custom makers might do handles like this and deluxe finishes because customers that go for non-J customs just tend to request these more than other knife buyers might; the maker himself might not always care for the designs but will still end up doing it for this type of customer.) Tying things back to original/earlier topics, I'd think that some new makers are attracted to knifemaking because they're into design and creating cool-looking stuff, maybe like the fellow who did the Nguyenesque handle, and maybe this is what they're best at. Or they have a knack for a bit of sales and self-promo, like the $450-selling fake 'apprentice'. However, I'd sort of worry they'd be less interested in the hours and years of practice and work that you'd expect are necessary to become a fully-fledged, consistently great maker.