Too many orders...not enough play time...Experienced Opinions Please

#1
So I've come across the odd dilemma that I'm hoping to get some advice from some experienced people here. This may be more of a ramble session / trying to voice my thoughts as well.

I'm one of the typical hobby knifemakers that has a normal daytime job and really like my job because it will offer a great retirement. Between my family, my work and regular life, it leaves little time to spend making knives. I've also worked hard and long at research and study to try and learn this craft and really want to expand my work into forging but also to have the freedom and liberty to take my time on a single piece to take it to that next level of craftsmanship I see so many of you have accomplished. With my craft, I've always prided myself on having researched what I don't know and managing every aspect of my products myself.

I have plenty of orders to keep myself busy through the rest of the year. With such little time afforded to making knives, by the time I finish 1 or 2 orders, another one pops up and I'm on to that one with no time to try new things. A few other KD members have commented about not taking orders anymore and I'm seriously considering that avenue for at least next year, if not a few years.

At this point I guess I'm looking for input from some of those out there who may have some insight as to the pro's and con's. Sales are not a concern at this point as I have a few avenues to hit up when I feel I need to sell something.

Any input is greatly appreciated.
 

bladegrinder

Well-Known Member
#2
Orders are great if you make knives as your sole income, I have a fulltime job like you and I got to say I'd rather design, make and finish knives of my own design and timeline, customers sometimes want design tweeks and changes that I don't like sometimes and when I get those I usually don't enjoy making that knife as much as just making what I want to. their hard to turn down though, your loosing money, a customer and word of mouth for future sales. sometimes I say I'm not taking any more orders, then a week later I take one. I had a surprise order I REALLY didn't like last week.

A customer that bought a lot of knives off me about 12 years ago called saying he lost the sheaths for six of them over the years somehow and wanted me to make replacements.....hard to say no. I really don't look forward to making just six sheaths and no new knives for them but I'm half way thru them and I could use the extra cash to spend at Blade show in June.
 
#3
Your story sounds about the same as mine. I stopped taking orders until I can work on other knives and gain more knowledge. I can't tell you if that is going to hurt me or not. I have only been making knives for a short period of time. At one point I had more knives sold then I had made. I still enjoy making them. But it would be nice try other styles and expand beyond basic hunters.
 
#4
I used to make knives full time and began to hate it because I could never make what I wanted, I spent all my time filling orders. It's a luxury problem, to be sure, but a problem none the less. I tired of bladesmithing, and as a result, went into other work and quit making knives for a few years.
I recently begun to work in my shop again and have re-ignited my love of the art!
My solution: take only the orders you want, some may still be disappointing, but over time you'll learn what jobs you prefer and which you don't.
I know the minute I receive a request whether it's something I want to do, or not. Some orders I get very excited about, and some can help me be a better craftsman.
And Don't deny your own passion, make sure you have time to get all those ideas out of your head and on to your bench!
Good luck, and have fun!
 

John Wilson

Well-Known Member
#5
It's a catch-22. If you stop taking orders then your revenue stream dries up and you end up dipping into the real bank account to buy belts and supplies. Take too many orders and you end up being stuck in a creative rut.

Put YOURSELF on the waiting list. Have a project that you work on while you fill orders. That way when you take an order you can say "there are five people ahead of you" when those five people are actually three orders and your own knife twice.
 
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#6
Thank you for the input guys. I think this is exactly what I was looking for. The orders have allowed me to get to where I am and have the tools that I do now, but I might just step back a bit and do my own thing for a little bit. Taking in all of what you each said has helped to understand where I'm at now. I got into this for my own desire to try my hand at something I've been wanting to try since I was a kid. There are a few customers that have been amazingly supportive and I may be extremely picky on the orders I want to take in the next few years. Most of them know that the best products come from when I'm allowed to "speak to the steel" and bring out the greatness that is in it.

My mentor/friend who got me into this and does it for a living and has been at it for 45+ years was telling me that all he does is prepare for shows and try and fill simple orders. He doesn't do anything new anymore. I'm seeing that having the luxury to take my time and be more creative allows for the passion to live on.

Thanks again for the help.

(Other people's input is still appreciatated.)
 

J. Doyle

Dealer - Purveyor
#7
Some of it boils down to what YOU want to do and what you want in the future for your 'business/hobby'.

If you have another way (full time job) to pay the bills, and you're wanting to learn and grow as a knife maker, then by all means....take some time off and do that. Others may feel it necessary to keep trudging through the order backlog and are comfortable (or at least willing) to stay where they are.....and that's fine too.

For me, I stopped taking orders recently and pushed some of the ones I did have back indefinitely so that I could expand my horizons and learn new skill sets and make some stuff that I wanted to make. I make knives full time for a living but when you start every single day feeling like your caught behind the 8 ball with a whole slew of orders, that's no fun and you'll suffer burn out pretty fast. I wasn't content to forever build knives for folks that I'd already learned how to build and build well and just stay on that plateau for the rest of my career.

Yes it meant that I no longer have guaranteed steady income and what I make because I like it may or may not sell but there's a whole lot of value to being happy with what you're doing and re lighting the passion for your craft. Having passion and caring about what you're making is the only way to ensure that the work you're doing is the very best it can be.....and both you and your customers deserve that.

Besides, if time and mood allow, you can always make something on your order list and reach out to the one who ordered it and offer it up for sale. There's a pretty good chance they won't turn it down.

It's the best decision I've made in a long time and I'm not looking back.
 

EdCaffreyMS

Forum Owner - Moderator
#8
I've been at this long enough that I have come "full circle" several times. During my military career, when Uncle Sam literally owned me, I would work all day at the base, and come home, change clothes, and work until 10pm-midnight every night in the shop..... burn out comes quickly when you're working like that.

Then I retired from the military at ago 40, and became a full time knifemaker.... and worked my butt off in the shop for about 10 years.....then my lung issues happened. After the first lung surgery, and going through a bout of depression, my attitude changed. It was the point in my life that I realized I'm finite, and that there were still many things I wanted to to/experience both inside and outside the knife shop. My attitude changed towards knifemaking. These days I only accept those orders that are interesting and challenging for me. Otherwise when I walk into the shop, I make the knives that I want to make, then either send out pics to folks on "the list", or post it on the website and if it sells fine, if it doesn't that's fine too.

I always make it a point to young makers who call asking me my opinion of "going full time"..... If you have a full time job, with benefits, then stick with it! Few, if any are prepared for what comes when they quit a "day job" in order to become full time makers. All they see is what they assess is the glamour of being a full time maker.

Let me spill a little secret.... I used to think the people who are full time had it made.....but I've learned over time that the majority of them live "hand to mouth".... I learned this at the Blade show, when I was chatting in a group of some of the "top" makers....and listened to them talk about how they had to take out a loan, or a line of credit just to attend the Blade Show...... it really opened my eyes. You're only here for a single lifetime, and tomorrow is not promised. So be the best, most happy person you can be, every single day. Nobody other then you can decide how to accomplish that.

Maybe this will help..... Knifemaking is what I do....it's NOT who I am.
 
#11
Supply and demand... I know a taxidermist who worked himself nearly to death. His price doubled, after 3 increments, he now works half as much and makes the same amount of money. Just my opinion.


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#12
Thank you all for the input and a great thank you to Mr Doyle and Caffrey for the in depth input as well. You've both hit my intent on the head where potentially taking only certain "interesting" and "challenging" orders will be the future. Since I do have a great career right now and it allows me the luxury to take my time on each piece to provide the top end quality that I'm looking for. My friend who is a lifetime maker spends all his time filling orders but does live a humble life. For myself, it is not about the "making a name for yourself" but more the art and beauty of the craft.

Thank you all again for the input. I've grown more fond of the KnifeDogs pack here and feel lucky to be part of it.
 
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