Starting up

I'm currently in the process of starting up a knife making business. I have experience making my own home style knives, but in order for me to progress both with my skill and paperwork, I need to know more about professional equipment. If anyone could provide me with a list of equipment and/or pricing (hopefully balancing cost and quality), that would be wonderful. I'm looking at doing leather working for sheaths as well, and have been unable to find supplies cheaply.
 

BrandonM

Well-Known Member
Professional equipment and cheap don't belong in the same sentence. Are you planning to forge or do stock removal?
 

Ed of all trades

Well-Known Member
I am a newbie and am just finishing up a 2 x 72 grinder "build". I looked around a lot before I settled on the grinder in a box from polar bear forge. all of the main parts are there and bolt together. You need to clean up the edges and drill some holes and tap some holes. Get your own motor and wheels and 1 1/2 square to mount your attachments to, but it is mostly done. I am using an under HP motor for a little while until I can afford a larger one and a VFD. I have not counted it all up but I think I will have around $800 in it until I go to the VFD. Look around and you will see what people are doing. Ed
 

TacticallySharp

KNIFE MAKER
When I decided to do this full time. The first thing I did was take an American Bladesmith's Society Introduction to Bladesmithing class.

I got a Phere grinder basic package with VFD and a reasonable motor, $1,200 shipped. Good used drill press $100. 14" cutoff saw, $200. 110 lb anvil, $600. 3 hammers to start with, $200. 2 sets of tongs, $100. Used post vise, $130. Propane forge $400. 6 new metal files, $75. New 10" Craftsman Bandsaw for cutting handle materials, $205 with extended warranty. Drill press vise used, $10. Built a quench tank out of an old fire extinguisher, $20.


Those were the basic pieces I got. I spent another $2,000 dollars in materials, supplies, and small tooling items. Important to note I had a lot of junk tools and stuff from my hobby days.

To truly make this work full time you will need all the time saving tools you can afford. Buy the best you can afford. DO NOT try to save money by buying a cheap grinder that's one size fits all. Time is money. A common mistake fora business person to make is not including their time on equipment builds. Yes you don't pay for it directly but, unless you built tools before your time can make you more money doing what you know. Buying the tool gets you into production quicker. Don't get me wrong because I do build a lot of my tools. Just not the ones that I really need to succeed with.

Oh, if you're going to be making a lot of knives that require guards and slotting a mill with tooling will become a necessity. Mill, $1,500. Tooling to start, $750. You will spent more on tooling for than you would ever believe as you use it.

I haven't included workbenches, chairs, fans, dust collection, personal safety equipment, and a good first aid kit.

This was the start of my journey.

Wishing you success on the journey! It's hard work but, fun!!!
 
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flatblackcapo

Well-Known Member
If you have any full time makers near you, contact a few and ask if you can come by and and take a shop tour. I wish you the best of luck.
 

J. Doyle

Dealer - Purveyor
Do you mean to say that you want to try your hand at making knives? Or did you really mean that you are starting a knife making business (as a part time student with not a lot of money to spare)?

If it's the former, the guys above gave you a good place to start. If it's the latter, I think you have a really skewed perception of how this knife making stuff works. Knife making is very seldom a 'get-rich-ever' business. I don't know of any knifemakers that are rich. It will never ever be a 'get-rich-quick' deal. Never.
 

wall e

Well-Known Member
@IronwoodKnife Im a stock removal hobbyist maker and have talked to many of these gents who are advising you on how to go forth in this craft, they have advised my wide eyed eager self to think about what I am doing and want to do. No one is here to discourage you from your decision we all are wanting you to be advised there is no getting rich as knife maker. It is either a hobby or a job full or part time. If your debating on making it a go as a profession and wanting to be budget minded it will be a massive challenge. I have a family and an odd hr job so time an money is limited like most.
Your going to have to figure in the materials for the knives,handles,guards then there are the consumables, epoxies,pins,belts,sheets of sand paper, acetone,shop towels. Also clamps and if your making sheaths, the cost of kydex,rivets, and the rime and materials for the molding press. If your using leather,sinew,needles, stamps,leather working tools,stains, and glue.
It will be a journey to get your dream into fruition.
 

EdCaffreyMS

"The Montana Bladesmith"
Been away to a show, but thought I would offer my input. Along with what everyone has advised, my input is that the custom knife business is unlike any other "business" a person can get involved with. Custom knives are more a "craftsman" type of industry, were it takes time to establish yourself. While it may seem as simple as "build a knife and sell it", nothing could be further from the truth. The vast majority of custom knife buyers base their purchases not only on the visual qaulity of a knife, but moreso on the level of reputation its maker possess.

Custom knife sales are also a very "up and down" market. Lets face it, nobody NEEDS a custom knife. It is a buying decision based on "WANT", along with disposable income. If the general public has disposable income, then knife sales are generally very good. If the public does not have, or preceives they do not have disposable income, then custom knife sales tend to be poor. My advice to anyone considering becoming a full time knifemaker is simply DON'T. Unless you are already financially stable, and have a spouse with a really good job. :)

I generally talk to a couple of people a week who call, wanting to become a "Full Time" knifemaker, many are fairly young people, who are married, with small children. Most do not consider all the down sides to being a full time knifemaker.... YOU are IT....you have to handle all aspects of the "business" from making the product, to packaging, shipping, advertising, cusomer service, accounting, etc. There are no "days off", no insurance provided, and worst of all, you simply cannot count on any type of a "steady" income. In all honesty, I can say that were it not for my military retirement, and a wife with a really good job, I would not be a full time knifemaker, and would be working a job in addition to making knives.

OK, all that being said, back to the "equipment" issue. Although a person can make knives with simple hand tools, its just not at all efficient, and is VERY labor intensive. Most of us have to save up for, then purchase a piece of equipment, and so on. Very often its a matter of the making and selling of a knife, being the support for doing it. Personally, I "robbed" from the family checkbook for about 7-8 years before knifemaking started paying for itself, and another couple of years before I actually realized any profit. As the old saying goes..... The best way to make a million dollars in knifemaking, is to start out with two million. :)
 

J. Doyle

Dealer - Purveyor
... Most do not consider all the down sides to being a full time knifemaker.... YOU are IT....you have to handle all aspects of the "business" from making the product, to packaging, shipping, advertising, cusomer service, accounting, etc. There are no "days off", no insurance provided, and worst of all, you simply cannot count on any type of a "steady" income.
I wanted to clip this part from Ed's response and highlight it. There may have never been a more REAL and HONEST statement than this one. I can't drive this point home enough. Ed's SO right. You are IT! So many people think, "Yeah, work from home, set my own schedule and my own hours....AWESOME!" NOT!!! Not hardly. It is nowhere near what it's cracked up to be. I do this full time and have three kids, two of them young boys and it is work all around.

In addition to the things Ed mentioned about the business itself, it's the other things in life that add to the chaos too. If the driveway needs shoveled, your wife's car defrosted, a pipe breaks, the toilet gets clogged, the kids need lunch, you have to run to the store, take something out for dinner, put something in the crockpot, clean up this spill or that mess, go get the dog when he gets loose and goes to the neighbor's.......or anything else that can happen in the day, you're it. You're home and have to deal with those things. And you don't have a shop full of employees to carry on the work when you stop to take care of these things. Every one of these situations is real and every one of them robs you of time away from making knives and time is money.

When you stop, your knifemaking stops. Period. There is no one else. And believe me, when you work from home, your wife, your parents, your siblings, your kids, neighbors and friends will all think, "I'll call John. I'll get John to help me. He's home anyway." And you'll try to help them out because you're a good person. Really think about all this. It's real and it happens to me all the time and it will happen to you too. Think about how much actual time you'll get in a day to make knives and how much real quality time you'll be able to spend with your family. You have to be SO VERY disciplined to make it work. And I'm not always that disciplined and I get burned by it.

Like Ed said, I would advise anyone who is going to quit their job and become a full time knifemaker, DON"T DO IT! Unless you really, really, really have your finances and your mental state and discipline absolutely together. It is a terribly tough way to make a buck, and even a worse way to make a living. I get burned by these things all the time.

Just wanted to share my experiences and encourage folks to really think if it's the best solution for them or not.
 

EdCaffreyMS

"The Montana Bladesmith"
when you work from home, your wife, your parents, your siblings, your kids, neighbors and friends will all think, "I'll call John. I'll get John to help me. He's home anyway."
I know its getting a bit off subject...... but man, oh man, does that ever ring a bell! For about the first month after I retired from the Air Force, and went full time in the shop, my Mrs. would have a LIST of stuff nearly every day that she wanted me to do. As well as everybody else calling on me because I was "home". It took a while to get everyone else to understand that even though I was "at home", I was still "at work". As for my Mrs., we had a little sit down talk, and I just had to flat tell her "this IS my job now".... After that my "work" days are 5:30am-4:00pm, sometime later, and sometime weekends and holidays. :)
 

malignity

Well-Known Member
I've only made a few knives, so I have no room to talk, and don't do this as a job.

They say though if you do what you love, you'll never work a day in your life. I genuinely hope that both John and Ed fall into this category. The moment something becomes a chore, it's time to re-evaluate. I'm just starting out myself, though I'm new, I can't wait for the wife and baby to go to bed so I can get out in the shop and spend a few hours every night working. I love it. It's something I think about all day, and something I long to learn more about.
 

CAJones

Well-Known Member
I hate to be the pessimist, but with 2 total posts on KD(both in this thread), no photo examples of your work, and posing the business question in "New to Knifemaking", I'm going to go out on a limb and say you aren't ready. As the other, more experienced gentleman have alluded to, it is work and hard to do. And this is coming from guys who went full time as established makers, one of whom is an ABS Mastersmith.
I'm only a hobbyist maker and have no desire to go full time anytime prior to retirement, but I'll relate this to my experience a bit. I started making what I had thought were knives about 3 years ago. in this time, I have spent at least twice as much on the laptop reading and researching as I have in the shop. The first year I made about 25 of what I now know as knife shaped objects. The following year I made about 40 knives, at least half of which left something to be desired in fit and finish. Now I'm nearing 100 blades made and can make a decent knife. After considering time and expenses I might make minimum wage on a knife I sell, IF IT SELLS. I know without a doubt, I couldn't sustain my family with this. I could literally make more per hour mowing yards or cutting firewood.

I know it is an old cliche, but time really is money when it comes to a business. You have to be doing well enough to pay yourself a decent wage. This is where a business is different from a hobby. In a hobby, your time doesn't count. If you make enough to offset your expenses it would be considered a profitable hobby. A business doesn't even break even at that point. No one is trying to be a naysayer, we just want you to have the best experience possible and we want you to succeed. Unfortunately, and it may sound harsh but this means pointing out the many concerns. If you are truly serious about making this a business, I would try and speak with Andy Roy of Fiddleback Forge. Of guys who made of go of a knife business early on, he is one that stands out to me and has made it work.

We truly do wish you the best of luck,
Chris

Edited to add...
I just spent Saturday at the International Custom Cutlery Exposition, as an attendee, not a maker. One would be hard pressed to put together more talent in 1 room that was at that show. Most of the stuff on display was just mind boggling. I will say, I did see some work with a quality and price point I think I could match. These were not the pieces that were selling at this show.
 
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J. Doyle

Dealer - Purveyor
...They say though if you do what you love, you'll never work a day in your life.
I can about guarantee you that if you take any hobby or interest, be it hunting, fishing, making knives, racing cars....whatever it is that you love and make it a real day in and day out job, your love for it will change to some degree. Your perspective on it will change also.

Don't get me wrong, I really enjoy making knives and I'd rather to this for a living than about anything else. But my LOVE for making knives has been altered somewhat. There have been many days that I've wanted to quit and do something else. Even a day or two where I've "speedily and aggressively rearranged" anything that wasn't fastened down. :D I do love making knives but as a full time job, every day isn't roses and candy.

Which ties in with: I agree about talking to Andy Roy if you really want to discuss the business end of it. I'd bet Andy will tell you that he isn't quite as in love with making knives as he was when he started out. ;)
 
@J Doyle; I'm not doing this a s a get rich quick scheme. I want to combine two of my passions into one so I can gain more real world experience for both. I love making knives, and I love business. I'm setting up this company in order to challenge myself and learn more about both, because I do my best work under pressure. Also, as a business major, I can learn the textbook side and the real world side simultaneously. Do I plan to make this my life's work? No. Do I plan to make it the concentration of my life for a while? Absolutely.
 

CAJones

Well-Known Member
So being a business major, what % of start ups do your textbooks claim to fail? 80%, or higher? How many variables are you dealing with in your scheme that your textbooks claim to cause this high failure rate? Do you realize that forcing yourself into this will very likely destroy your passion for knife making? Why if you don't plan on doing this long term are you even considering doing it as a business? Are you even proposing a true business, or just a passion or hobby with a means of offsetting its expenses? The differences and likelihood of success are huge.


Write up a detailed business plan, take it to your professors and see if they would, or know of someone who would like to invest financially into your business. You'll likely get answers you don't want to hear.

My advice... you are young, enjoy college and enjoy knife making, as a hobby.
Chris
 
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Justin Presson

Well-Known Member
Another newer maker here. I will go back to your original post first. You want to know more about professional equipment, elaborate on that. Are you talking about production equipment that can replicate the same knife over and over? Or are you talking about grinders, heat treat ovens, forges, mills, drill presses....that most any full time or part time maker is using day to day.
There is a ton of info on here and other sites on what grinder to buy and how much they cost, along with most of the other equipment I listed.
Now for the other part that these guys touched on I couldn't agree more, the thought of me going full time has not even crossed my mine. I would have to kill a lot more deer or I would starve to death. I have a good full time job with full benefits and retirement. In 18 years when I can retire...absolutely I hope to be still making knives and able to take it more seriously.
 
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