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Les Voorhies
04-13-2010, 12:54 PM
I've been thinking about writing this since this new knifemaker area opened but it's hard to put this kind of thing down in writing and not have it offend someone. I've told Jake (my apprentice) about this subject and he was not offended but that was verbal, so I hope I can get this down without making anyone mad at me.

I saw a statement in a thread here the other night that reminded me of something that happened to me. I doesn't matter who said it because this is not about that person (I've never even seen his knives) but he mentioned that someone told him his knives looked better than some makers who have been making knives a long time. That's a great compliment for a new maker and many times it's true, but what worries me is the effect it has on the new maker.

Here's what happened to me, When I'd been making knives a few months I was getting compliments like this and it went straight to my head, I had local makers tell me they would sign my knifemakers guild application, so before I had been making knives a year I went to the guild show to show my knives around and get at least one signature from someone I didn't know personally, by this time I sort of thought I was pretty hot stuff, my head was growing like a melon. I got the signature (or the agreement for a signature, there was a snafu with getting the app.) and continued around the show. I ran into a well known maker that was not in the guild but was visiting someone there and started talking to him and showed him my knives, he warned me that he was going to be brutally honest and that many times, makers have been told by family and friend how nice their knives are that they might have a somewhat inflated view of their work, but I let him look them over anyway. He did not unduly rip into my work but he did pick them apart thoroughly, my head was pretty well deflated by the time I walked out of there, but that wasn't a bad thing, when I got back into my shop I had new goals, I looked at other knives with a new awareness of the subtleties in fit and finish and I work hard to this day to try to achieve that goal.

I didn't actually learn my lesson at that time, I'm still learning that lesson. At one time I thought I had advanced pretty well but I noticed that some dealers who carried mostly customs of a higher quality would walk by my table, look briefly at the knives and walk on, I got the message after a while, I wasn't in that league yet, I'm still not. My head has been inflated and deflated so many times I probably have stretch marks on my scalp.

Another component to this happens with a new maker that really is quite extraordinary, someone who came out of the gate making very excellent knives, maybe they had some other career or hobby that translated quickly to knifemaking or they are just extremely talented, big name dealers buy some, the mag's write articles and the maker is a superstar almost overnight. To see the bad side of this, just look up Brad Duncan.

So what all this boils down to for the new maker is... try not to get a melon head, any time you spend thinking you have arrived or don't really need to improve is wasted time. In my opinion it's an excellent idea to be your own worst critic. Compliments are a strong drug, don't let them lull you into contentment. A little humility can save you a lot of trouble in the long run, that's really the jist of this thread but if someone had just come up to me 15 years ago and said "have a little humility", I would have just scratched my head and gone on my marry way, that's why I wanted to explain why it's important.

Jeff Pearce
04-13-2010, 01:22 PM
Great post...very true ...thanks for you thoughts

murphda2
04-13-2010, 01:40 PM
Great advice Les. Thank you for sharing it.

James Terrio
04-13-2010, 02:00 PM
Excellent advice for almost anyone, no matter what they're doing in life. Please let me share a little phrase I learned from a fellow who taught me a lot about quality in general:

"Good, better, best
Never, ever rest
Until your 'good' is better
And your 'better' is the best"

What he meant was that we all have room to grow and improve.

Curtiss Knives
04-13-2010, 02:50 PM
Les, great post. 2thumbs By the way, have you been sneaking around my shop and found my "Bucket of Bad Blades"?:rolleyes:

Mike Carter
04-13-2010, 03:23 PM
Good post Les. Family and friends will usually say nice things about the knives you make. Encouragement is good and everybody likes a pat on the back a little ego boost. But honest critique will always serve the knifemaker better even if it is a little hard to swallow sometimes.

That's one of the things I like about the Knifemakers Guild. I knew my knives would be closely inspected by accomplished knifemakers who would give me an honest assessment and tell me what I needed to work on and improve. When it came time to have my work inspected again for my voting membership I knew I had to be on my game and show them what I had learned.

pocomoonskyeyes
04-13-2010, 03:57 PM
Les I believe that was my post you read that in. I can assure You I appreciate everything you just posted. I am not better than Buttermilk Biscuits!! (Yum Yum!!):o To be honest I think just the Opposite, I think someone was being nice to me and trying to not discourage me, but to keep me trying to make knives. I have already asked some opinions of others, One a Collector, and One I would think (As I think many others would also think) is a Master Maker. I asked them to be Totally honest.

The Collector, told me many things that I needed to improve on. He was very nice, and I believe he was a little Too nice. But he gave me some pointers on areas to improve on. I thanked him.

The Master Maker, Also told me some things that I need to improve on. He was also very nice, I Really Appreciate his time just to look at my pieces of Amateur work. I'm being honest, They are amateurish. In a Year I will probably be ashamed for anyone to see them ( I hope anyway). No Offense was taken by this thread, or by the "Reviews" of my knives.

Being Totally Honest, I've made two knives. Just Two. I'm working on #3 now. Which will be followed by #4, #5,etc...... I'm not going to stop making knives, because of anything said to me. My knives may only be good enough to leave in the barn and Cut Baling twine with, But I'm gonna' keep on trying, And listening, and hopefully learning/improving.

I can/will speak only for myself. But if you see something about anything I make - Be it a bookcase, a handle for a hoe, or a knife, that I can improve on, PLEASE let ME know. I'm Asking you to tell me what I need to do, to make my work better. I can Promise you none of you are likely to be Nearly as harsh as My Drill Sergeants were all those years ago. If I Really and truly want to learn, I'll listen and apply it. I just want to learn how to do this and do this right. That means listening to input from those who "have been there".

Your Apprentice was right. There was nothing to worry about offending. Jake is a lucky individual. I'll bet he knows it too. If he wants to trade, tell him I'll trade places with him. I'll bet he says "No way".:D

I've never been one to take compliments very well. I usually think someone is just being nice. I said that in hopes someone would take a look and tell me something like, "That's fairly good.... for a first knife. But if you want to be better try this on your next one......." I wasn't fishing for compliments, I was fishing for suggestions.

I want to say I think all of you are a great bunch of guys. I trust you all to lead me towards bigger and (Hopefully) better things. If I didn't, I would move on to other areas and pursuits. Whether I have Talent or not remains to be seen. Anyone can get lucky once or twice, but not 100 times in a row.:D What I mean by that, is this - All of you have those 100 knives that are Good... That ain't luck. I've got 2 OK knives (they cut anyway), So far I'm lucky! Lead me, I'll listen. Teach me I'll learn. Give me constructive criticism, I won't be offended.

Byron
04-13-2010, 03:58 PM
No offense takend at all. It's actually the opposite for me atm...I get offended when they tell me they are good as I know what a good knife feels and looks like and mines simply arn't there yet. The only person in my family who showed some honesty is my cousin telling me how my 2nd knife's porportion is off.

pocomoonskyeyes
04-13-2010, 04:03 PM
No offense takend at all. It's actually the opposite for me atm...I get offended when they tell me they are good as I know what a good knife feels and looks like and mines simply arn't there yet. The only person in my family who showed some honesty is my cousin telling me how my 2nd knife's porportion is off.

Exactly!! That is why I'm here, to learn. BTW Welcome to Knife Dogs!!

Les Voorhies
04-13-2010, 04:23 PM
poco I think you are right, that it was you that said it but I just want to make sure you and anyone else who looks at this understands that I didn't write this because you said it, it just reminded me of when someone said that to me and the problems that come of it (of my own making of coarse)

Ernie Swanson
04-13-2010, 06:37 PM
Great Write up Les,

I know I have been told by a few people that my knives are better than a lot of makers that have been doing this for a long time.

I do appreciate the compliments but I also know that they need improvement, They always will. I do not let me head swell(heck its already to big).

BossDog
04-13-2010, 07:07 PM
Les,
great post. Who ever gave you an honest critique that first time is a trusted friend...


I've been thinking about writing this since this new knifemaker area opened but it's hard to put this kind of thing down in writing and not have it offend someone. I've told Jake (my apprentice) about this subject and he was not offended but that was verbal, so I hope I can get this down without making anyone mad at me.

I saw a statement in a thread here the other night that reminded me of something that happened to me. I doesn't matter who said it because this is not about that person (I've never even seen his knives) but he mentioned that someone told him his knives looked better than some makers who have been making knives a long time. That's a great compliment for a new maker and many times it's true, but what worries me is the effect it has on the new maker.

Here's what happened to me, When I'd been making knives a few months I was getting compliments like this and it went straight to my head, I had local makers tell me they would sign my knifemakers guild application, so before I had been making knives a year I went to the guild show to show my knives around and get at least one signature from someone I didn't know personally, by this time I sort of thought I was pretty hot stuff, my head was growing like a melon. I got the signature (or the agreement for a signature, there was a snafu with getting the app.) and continued around the show. I ran into a well known maker that was not in the guild but was visiting someone there and started talking to him and showed him my knives, he warned me that he was going to be brutally honest and that many times, makers have been told by family and friend how nice their knives are that they might have a somewhat inflated view of their work, but I let him look them over anyway. He did not unduly rip into my work but he did pick them apart thoroughly, my head was pretty well deflated by the time I walked out of there, but that wasn't a bad thing, when I got back into my shop I had new goals, I looked at other knives with a new awareness of the subtleties in fit and finish and I work hard to this day to try to achieve that goal.

I didn't actually learn my lesson at that time, I'm still learning that lesson. At one time I thought I had advanced pretty well but I noticed that some dealers who carried mostly customs of a higher quality would walk by my table, look briefly at the knives and walk on, I got the message after a while, I wasn't in that league yet, I'm still not. My head has been inflated and deflated so many times I probably have stretch marks on my scalp.

Another component to this happens with a new maker that really is quite extraordinary, someone who came out of the gate making very excellent knives, maybe they had some other career or hobby that translated quickly to knifemaking or they are just extremely talented, big name dealers buy some, the mag's write articles and the maker is a superstar almost overnight. To see the bad side of this, just look up Brad Duncan.

So what all this boils down to for the new maker is... try not to get a melon head, any time you spend thinking you have arrived or don't really need to improve is wasted time. In my opinion it's an excellent idea to be your own worst critic. Compliments are a strong drug, don't let them lull you into contentment. A little humility can save you a lot of trouble in the long run, that's really the jist of this thread but if someone had just come up to me 15 years ago and said "have a little humility", I would have just scratched my head and gone on my marry way, that's why I wanted to explain why it's important.

pocomoonskyeyes
04-13-2010, 07:41 PM
poco I think you are right, that it was you that said it but I just want to make sure you and anyone else who looks at this understands that I didn't write this because you said it, it just reminded me of when someone said that to me and the problems that come of it (of my own making of coarse)

Les, anything you can say to help me, is GREATLY appreciated. Somehow I doubt my tenth will look as good as your first. I just Trashed my knife #3 !! I thought I would add a swedge to a Drop Point I was making. I don't think I will be trying Sweges for a while!! I need more Practice!!

Les Please do not worry about saying what needed to be said. I appreciate it. I'm not just paying "lip Service" either, I really and truly mean it. I was flattered that someone thought enough of me to say that, But I look at it as just trying to "keep me in the Game", Not wanting me to give up. I see a primitive looking blade, in what I have made so far. Pretty because of the woods I used, But Primitive still.

I'm more frustrated at seeing what I WANT to make, and falling so short of what I want to make. I'm probably my worst critic truth be told.

Bennie Lovejoy
04-13-2010, 10:45 PM
Great write up Les. Thanks2thumbs. This has got me thinking that I was headed in the "swelled head" direction. Lots of people (mostly family) have told me how nice my latest few knives look. I know now that I need lots of time to perfect this craft to the point that i'm happy.

Bennie

Cubane
04-13-2010, 11:57 PM
Great thread. The more real feedback you get, the better you can get at being your own critic. As a knifemaker I am always trying to push my limits in the fit and finish I can get on my knives but I know that having only made 20 or so knives in the past couple years I am a long way behind plenty of other makers out there.

Also have a look at other makers knives when they ask you to critique them and give honest feedback. Then try to do the same process on your knives. I can tell you plenty of things that I would like to have improved on my build off knife.

Alistair

halloween
04-14-2010, 01:25 AM
Great thread Les.

rgoad
04-14-2010, 06:41 AM
Just a thought. Maybe some of the pros here could do that with the knives posted here. Just a thought.

Archer Moon
04-14-2010, 06:59 AM
I have 8 months untile the Boise ID knife show. I hope to have a few blades ready to sell by then. Let us hope that there are a few makers of good standing who will look at the newby blades. Great idea for a workshop. Have a panel of judges who look at the knives of newe makers and offer imput. I don't know who is running the show but it would bw a great thing to do at any show.

Chris Martin
04-14-2010, 08:22 AM
Couldnt agree with you more, Les. I am only 5 months into this. Made knives for friends and family and they all rave at how well I have picked this up. My buddy is a Stryker instructor and got my first. Showed it to his buddies and they all want one. At the same time I still sit here and think......Why would anyone want a blade from someone so new? Maybe because I try to be different from the norm, or maybe they just want to show some support. But, I know my knives are far from perfect and I am as open as possible before taking any orders.

My head will never be swollen. I am blown away when I get positive comments. But, I still get very nervous when I post them on the boards for people to give there opinions. Good or bad, its how we grow as a maker!

I think when it all comes down to it, I enjoy giving away knives more than I do selling them. Especially being so new.

Just be honest with yourself and potential buyers and things will be just fine. Mr. Bill Coye gave me that advice and all has worked out good so far!!2thumbs

Very good read, Les and really put things into prospective for a lot of us:D

Thanks for taking the time, Les.

Chris

Fletch Helical
04-14-2010, 11:15 AM
Good post Les. I recently completed my first, have 2&3 ready for HT (plus 2 more I'm not sure if I'll shelf a while longer or not) and will be cutting out another shortly. Plus I have one I'm forging in the works which I can only work on when I visit Aldo.... Come to think of it I really need to start completing more knives!! :p

I did my first as a WIP and posted the completed pics here (it's also in my avatar). I've gotten a lot of compliments on it both by people who have seen it firsthand and people who have seen the pics. While they're all well and good I would rather hear tbh, what needs improvement. There are some areas I KNOW are mistakes, I've seen them there the entire project. But I would always rather hear this looks good, that's good etc. BUT here is what can be improved more or needs to be improved more. Anyone who followed my WIP could've easily have seen I have a bit of a perfectionist streak in me and I obsessed over various stages. So I actually prefer to know what could use improvement opposed to what looks good. Basically it just boils down to constructive criticism is what I prefer most.

KB1SYV
04-15-2010, 12:15 PM
Hey Les,

That was an excellent writeup. I am brand spankin' new to this great art and I'm still swallowing the humble pie I've needed to cram down my throat. I think in my case, tasting the bitter bile of coming up short initially, will most likely offset any kind of puffed chest and arrogance on my part when I finally get it right. I'll tell you what though, that kid Kyle Royer, who is making some totally incredible knives at such a young age, I am surprised that he hasn't succumbed to the big head syndrome. There are kids out there though, that are so talented and in their teens, but have the maturity of a 40 year old. I hope he has a mentor or father that is helping him along, because he is going to be our next great knifemaker for this century!!!

Jeff