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dav
03-22-2012, 06:37 PM
Obviously I'm very new to kitchen Knives and was wondering why a few select makers knives sell for such high prices.

From what I've seen there are numerous makers who will undertake to manufacture a custom knife using the best materials and highest levels of workmanship for say $600 whereas others are able to charge much much more. Obviously the cost is not in the materials or labour/time spent producing the knife when you see some of these going for 4,5 and in a few cases many times more than some of the "top" custom makers on here.

Obviously they are no more functional or higher performers, and I'm sure many can claim to "secret" processes etc...

So is it just hype which has created a desirability factor where collectors have set the goal posts as I'm sure many/some of these knives will never see a chopping board and will just be an investment which I believe is a great shame.

In the carpentry world there is a British maker of Planes called Karl Holtey - if you've never seen his work you really should as the beauty and functionality of them is astounding. The work that is involved and the product putting any knife to shame (600hrs labour for a large plane). but these "works of art" sell for circa $10k which taking into account the man hours is a veritable bargain. I'm guessing Knives have a much higher desirability factor as an investment than a hand tool lol.

Also Holtey uses S53 steel for his blades which is an extremely high tech aerospace steel alloy maybe a new steel for knife makers to try out??

kazeryu
03-22-2012, 06:47 PM
I can get a pretty darn good quality plane for around $500, so surely for $3,000 dollars I would definitely be getting "the best materials and highest levels of workmanship". So what's the difference between a $10,000 plane and a $3,000 plane?

Or is it "just hype which has created a desirability factor"?

slowtyper
03-22-2012, 06:50 PM
Capitalism

dav
03-22-2012, 06:57 PM
Re the plane I was just using as an analogy with the knives, as in the man hours warrants the price whereas for example a custom knife for say $600 would take just as many hours to produce as one costing 3-4 times that. Fair enough yes I agree "capitalism" or desirability creates the conditions and I guess a group of people have decided that a knife by a certain maker/s is desirable and will make a good investment but I just find it an interesting concept.

With the plane analogy go read his website the precision and materials will surpass anything else out there at the present time. So its not just desirability but the work and quality of materials used (unlike the knife). Even the steel he uses for the blades is new and apparently it is claimed once its tempered to his requirements is both tough (at Rockwell 64) and will hold an edge a number of times longer than A2.

But I digress I was just using it as an analogy to the knife question.

Ultimately I'm trying to say is it the asthetic/appearance of a Kramer for example that warrants the value as from my limited viewpoint the materials/man hours involved are no different greater than many others. Whereas in the Holtey planes these factors do differ for example.

jmforge
03-22-2012, 07:12 PM
There aren't really many "secret" processes in the custom knife world anymore. It is all about reputation. Materials and labor time are pretty close. Damascus will obviously cost more because it cost more money and take more time to make, as do fancy features like a true integral, high end handle materials, etc. It is not unusual for a knife maker to drop as much as $400 on a particularly fine piece of mammoth ivory in an rare color like red.

Andrew H
03-22-2012, 07:27 PM
Re the plane I was just using as an analogy with the knives, as in the man hours warrants the price whereas for example a custom knife for say $600 would take just as many hours to produce as one costing 3-4 times that. Fair enough yes I agree "capitalism" or desirability creates the conditions and I guess a group of people have decided that a knife by a certain maker/s is desirable and will make a good investment but I just find it an interesting concept.

With the plane analogy go read his website the precision and materials will surpass anything else out there at the present time. So its not just desirability but the work and quality of materials used (unlike the knife). Even the steel he uses for the blades is new and apparently it is claimed once its tempered to his requirements is both tough (at Rockwell 64) and will hold an edge a number of times longer than A2.

But I digress I was just using it as an analogy to the knife question.

Ultimately I'm trying to say is it the asthetic/appearance of a Kramer for example that warrants the value as from my limited viewpoint the materials/man hours involved are no different greater than many others. Whereas in the Holtey planes these factors do differ for example.

Kramer isn't the best example. The reason his knives sell for as much as they do is because they are popular with people who aren't knife knuts. He's been in GQ, Maxim, Saveur, etc. He makes a certain number of knives per year (200 IIRC) and thousands want one.
A better example would be someone like Bill Burke. His knives go for ~2k, but he spends 40-60 hours on each knife. Much more time than many other makers. Another factor to think about is if knife making is actually making them any money. Many makers also have other jobs, which lets them price their knives lower than they would be if they made their entire income from kitchen knives.

dav
03-22-2012, 08:24 PM
Andrew that's very informative, and agreed so its more around "desirability" of for example a Kramer knife whereas there are some knives which may be functionally better and/or have involved more time in their production. I guess for the "knife knuts" I'm guessing there is a greater appreciation around the functional aspects, innovation, etc...

chazmtb
03-22-2012, 09:14 PM
Capitalism Natural law of the invisible hand. Supply and demand.

Salty dog
03-22-2012, 09:21 PM
It's about showing off.

SpikeC
03-22-2012, 09:46 PM
Supply and demand is a hoax. The suppliers manipulate the supply.

Andrew H
03-22-2012, 09:50 PM
Andrew that's very informative, and agreed so its more around "desirability" of for example a Kramer knife whereas there are some knives which may be functionally better and/or have involved more time in their production. I guess for the "knife knuts" I'm guessing there is a greater appreciation around the functional aspects, innovation, etc...

Having the cool, hard to get, item is fun. What is true is that most members on KKF would use and appreciate a Kramer more than the average auction Kramer buyer.

steeley
03-22-2012, 09:56 PM
[img]http://www.limepic.com/img/kitchenknife2.jpg[/IMG

I buy for brand name.

l r harner
03-22-2012, 09:56 PM
spike a maker that floods his own market is a bit silly
i rotate my production to not only make sure that people can get one opf my neckers but also have a chance to get a razor or slicer
the other side for me is that it keeps things interestign for me as a maker

it would kill me to make only one kind of knife

ecchef
03-22-2012, 09:57 PM
Sometimes it's as simple as "M.S." :whistling:

l r harner
03-22-2012, 09:58 PM
Sometimes it's as simple as "M.S." :whistling:

hahahahahhah

SpikeC
03-22-2012, 09:59 PM
I wasn't speaking of small makers.

jmforge
03-22-2012, 10:56 PM
But many times it is not. Guys like Vince Evans get top dollar for their work without any stamp. Vince is a member of the ABS and has been for years. He just never saw the need to test.
Sometimes it's as simple as "M.S." :whistling:

jmforge
03-22-2012, 10:59 PM
What IS different about the kitchen knife guys (for now) is that they will pay a fair price for a good product even if the maker doesn't any letters behind their name. That is oft times not the case in the "collector" market.

tk59
03-22-2012, 11:05 PM
What IS different about the kitchen knife guys (for now) is that they will pay a fair price for a good product even if the maker doesn't any letters behind their name. That is oft times not the case in the "collector" market.On the other hand, they will pay an exorbitant price for a mediocre product that looks pretty, just like everybody else. That doesn't bother me though. What is bothersome is some people are willing to pay for something of quality with the idea that they will learn to squeeze all of the performance out of it but then don't end up getting the quality they expected and not realizing they got screwed until way down the road.

Andrew H
03-22-2012, 11:35 PM
On the other hand, they will pay an exorbitant price for a mediocre product that looks pretty, just like everybody else.

Indeed. Almost everyone here is a collector; we just happen to use what we collect.

Seth
03-22-2012, 11:46 PM
OP is asking a question about two of the main theories of economics; one being that value is created by adding the cost of materials to labor and entrepreneurial profit. That is the value that most here seem to favor. Value in capitalism is created by supply and demand even when supply is artificially limited or demand is based on hype and marketing. Last time I checked, the Kramer list had 8,000 people on it so it's no surprise that the price is driven up. Many of us like to support the talented knife maker who is making a living doing things right; they should be making a good living in my opinion though our society doesn't support artists and artisans as much as civilized countries. I've handled the Zwilling version of Kramer and I don't think it is so special compared to Shig's, DTs, Marko, etc. and I would much rather give my money to them. (I have a secret wish that the bottom should drop out of the Kramer market. I am sure he is a nice guy and more power to him, but $10,000,000 a year or whatever for a knife maker......)

Eamon Burke
03-23-2012, 12:03 AM
Kramer's knives cost what they do because they are in an economic bubble. People are buying them to re-sell them, the end owner usually being someone who has less sense than dollars.

As far as that plane maker goes, you don't need new, special steel, and you don't need new, fancy techniques. Kitchen knives are about considering the new world of cooking and food and applying the wisdom that WAS ancient knowledge, and got lost in the last 50 years. You'd be a lunatic to pay the price for a good knife today, 150 years ago.

The point is, many makers here on this forum make knives that are easily what those planes are. It's just different. No, it doesn't take 600 hours to make one. But I say if it takes a guy 600 hours to make a planer...he should either find a new line of work, a new process, or get used to the fact that he is making a product that is essentially exhibitionary.

jmforge
03-23-2012, 03:20 AM
Most of the famous knife makers do not make as much as you might think. A couple of years ago when Don Hanson got super hot, his knives were typically selling for over $2000 and some of the damascus pieces were going for as much as $3000. I asked him how many knives he made a year and he told me that he was averaging about one per week. I calculated that he was bringing in about $120K a year. He said that he took home about half of that. Overhead, taxes, materials, etc ate up the rest. I believe that because he had one of his MS test knives that was for sale for over $2000, but he had $400 invested in the ivory handle scales alone. A LOT of guys, even ones like Bob Kramer, sucked wind for a number of years before they got hot. Bill Moran sold his first knife in 1939, but he didn't get out of the dairy business and become a full time knife maker until 1960 and it really wasn't until after he showed his first damascus knives at the 1973 Guild show that his prices started going up. A fair number of soldiers carried his knives in Vietnam, so he couldn't have been priced much higher than Randall or Ruana knives were at that time. I own one of those old 1960's fighters. I know there have been some folks who appear to be "overnight sensations" in the custom knife game, but a lot of them were either ringers in that they had been an artist or skilled craftsman in some other area, like John Perry, John White and one or two guys on here, or they just labored in obscurity as a knife maker for a good while before they were discovered by collectors . Don Hanson started off with inexpensive fishing knives and then moved to folders. He did that for years before joining the ABS and getting famous for big, sleek bowies. I have only met a couple of knife makers who went from a beginner to hot seller in a relatively short period of time, Josh Smith and Kyle Royer. They both started as teenagers. Josh got his Js stamp at 15 and MS stamp at 19 and Kyle went from a newbie to getting well over $1000 per knife in about two years and got his MS stamp at 20. Haley Desrosiers is one of the newly famous knife makers that has the makings of a prodigy, but don't tell her hubby that. LOL

Chifunda
03-23-2012, 09:38 AM
I'd rather have a Holtey than a Kramer. I love my Lie-Nielsen planes, but a Holtey infill smoother? Oh baby! :EDance2:

http://www.holteyplanes.com/images/A13_5481th2.jpg

dav
03-23-2012, 11:42 AM
Kramer's knives cost what they do because they are in an economic bubble. People are buying them to re-sell them, the end owner usually being someone who has less sense than dollars.

As far as that plane maker goes, you don't need new, special steel, and you don't need new, fancy techniques. Kitchen knives are about considering the new world of cooking and food and applying the wisdom that WAS ancient knowledge, and got lost in the last 50 years. You'd be a lunatic to pay the price for a good knife today, 150 years ago.

The point is, many makers here on this forum make knives that are easily what those planes are. It's just different. No, it doesn't take 600 hours to make one. But I say if it takes a guy 600 hours to make a planer...he should either find a new line of work, a new process, or get used to the fact that he is making a product that is essentially exhibitionary.

I was simply using this as an analogy as to the perceived value relating to the best materials and labour (by the undisputed greatest maker on earth) being reflected in a "fair" price. Not wanting to take of topic but his planes are a work of art and highly functional too. If you know anything about carpentry and different woods you would understand how newer steels can be beneficial if Holtey's newly discovered plane steel for example saves on down time for sharpening (its considerably tougher and holds an edge much better than A2 which is a superior tool steel) also for a top artisan for example violin or cabinet maker then those tiny differences in tolerance that only his planes achieve can be both felt and will make a difference to a very high end commission. I had a conversation on the net with one of the worlds top violin makers, he used Holtey planes as he both understood the reason/passion behind the tool which he said inspired him and pleased him to use (which he says made a difference when making a very expensive violin) and also that indeed the small improvement of manufacture from say a Lie Neilsen or Veritas plane made all the difference in his products so $5000 was in his eyes a small price to pay.

As some have elicited to the most expensive knives are so due to a perceived value which obviously doesn't reflect the functionality, material cost or labour time, whereas the Holtey plane does in every category, and also from an asthetic and engineering point of view they are unrivaled masterpieces.

Andrew H
03-23-2012, 11:46 AM
I was simply using this as an analogy as to the perceived value relating to the best materials and labour (by the undisputed greatest maker on earth) being reflected in a "fair" price. Not wanting to take of topic but his planes are a work of art and highly functional too. If you know anything about carpentry and different woods you would understand how newer steels can be beneficial if Holtey's newly discovered plane steel for example saves on down time for sharpening (its considerably tougher and holds an edge much better than A2 which is a superior tool steel) also for a top artisan for example violin or cabinet maker then those tiny differences in tolerance that only his planes achieve can be both felt and will make a difference to a very high end commission. I had a conversation on the net with one of the worlds top violin makers, he used Holtey planes as he both understood the reason/passion behind the tool which he said inspired him and pleased him to use (which he says made a difference when making a very expensive violin) and also that indeed the small improvement of manufacture from say a Lie Neilsen or Veritas plane made all the difference in his products so $5000 was in his eyes a small price to pay.

As some have elicited to the most expensive knives are so due to a perceived value which obviously doesn't reflect the functionality, material cost or labour time, whereas the Holtey plane does in every category, and also from an asthetic and engineering point of view they are unrivaled masterpieces.

But I'm guessing there are some planes out there that aren't worth what they get in turns of function. It's true for everything.

dav
03-23-2012, 12:00 PM
Indeed Andrew you are correct, I was just using the Holtey planes as a good example as they are the most expensive planes v the most expensive knives. I guess its all in the perceived value to the purchaser. I understand how the markets work etc... just found it interesting from a knife point of view (which I'm new to), that there are comparable or even possibly better makers out there who can't compete on price. I'm also guessing that for example a Kramer's value is based more on the US market?

I guess we all have different tastes I'd love to purchase a great knife made in Sheffield for example as for a Brit it evokes something - I will in time when I'm ready purchase a Will Catcheside knife, as they look great and I'd love to support a great British artisan. Now I know that this is subjective but I also love the traditional aspect that comes with some of the Japanese makers such as the rustic finishes. I've little to compare to but am sure that an individual maker leaves their "stamp" or identity on a knife and I also find this intriguing.

AFKitchenknivesguy
03-23-2012, 12:33 PM
I've handled the Zwilling version of Kramer and I don't think it is so special compared to Shig's, DTs, Marko, etc. and I would much rather give my money to them. (I have a secret wish that the bottom should drop out of the Kramer market. I am sure he is a nice guy and more power to him, but $10,000,000 a year or whatever for a knife maker......)

You've handled a manufactured version of a custom knife, so you can make a supported judgement that it's not special compared to custom knives? Hmm... I have no doubt Bob makes good money (after struggling for many years mind you), but $10 million is crazy talk. I've spoke with him, and he does not support this "bubble" with his knives; he made me promise not to turn over the knife for quick profit when I bought mine. Wishing his success to burst, which I am sure you did not mean, only hurts the other makers you mentioned above, as well.

Salty dog
03-23-2012, 12:42 PM
I don't know about planes but many kitchen knives are purchased for "collections" as well. Which will drive up the value. Hence my "showing off remark". When your granite counter top is garnished with some cool knives it makes for a conversation piece. After all, everyone has granite counter tops and the latest gadgets but who can tell the story of an exotic knife in that sur la whatever knife block. Yeah, you show off your planes to your buddies but knives have a more universal sex appeal. Plus it makes you look like a ninja in the kitchen.

At least that's why I buy them.

tk59
03-23-2012, 12:46 PM
You've handled a manufactured version of a custom knife, so you can make a supported judgement that it's not special compared to custom knives? Hmm... I have no doubt Bob makes good money (after struggling for many years mind you), but $10 million is crazy talk. I've spoke with him, and he does not support this "bubble" with his knives; he made me promise not to turn over the knife for quick profit when I bought mine. Wishing his success to burst, which I am sure you did not mean, only hurts the other makers you mentioned above, as well.+1. It's not anyone's fault but the buyer(s) that the knife is that expensive. If no one buys the knives, the prices will come down or knifemakers will find something else to do. I don't feel like I'm missing out for lack of a Kramer. Frankly, I'm pretty confident that I have experienced ultimate cutting performance (or pretty damn close to it) in it's various forms and it doesn't cost anywhere near $1k. If a knifemaker can get a million bucks for a knife, more power to him.

jmforge
03-23-2012, 01:16 PM
Ummmm, if A2 is the "superior tool steel" starting point in the hyper expensive plane business, many of us knife people might be just a tad suspect about how much of an uber hi-tech advance Mr. Holtey's new super steel actually is. Just saying. In our world, A2 is considered by many to be the bargain option for impact resistant steel and is outperformed by a good many PM tool steels.
I was simply using this as an analogy as to the perceived value relating to the best materials and labour (by the undisputed greatest maker on earth) being reflected in a "fair" price. Not wanting to take of topic but his planes are a work of art and highly functional too. If you know anything about carpentry and different woods you would understand how newer steels can be beneficial if Holtey's newly discovered plane steel for example saves on down time for sharpening (its considerably tougher and holds an edge much better than A2 which is a superior tool steel) also for a top artisan for example violin or cabinet maker then those tiny differences in tolerance that only his planes achieve can be both felt and will make a difference to a very high end commission. I had a conversation on the net with one of the worlds top violin makers, he used Holtey planes as he both understood the reason/passion behind the tool which he said inspired him and pleased him to use (which he says made a difference when making a very expensive violin) and also that indeed the small improvement of manufacture from say a Lie Neilsen or Veritas plane made all the difference in his products so $5000 was in his eyes a small price to pay.

As some have elicited to the most expensive knives are so due to a perceived value which obviously doesn't reflect the functionality, material cost or labour time, whereas the Holtey plane does in every category, and also from an asthetic and engineering point of view they are unrivaled masterpieces.

jmforge
03-23-2012, 01:23 PM
Okay, i am a bit puzzled. How is S53 a superior TOOL steel? It has 14% cobalt, but only .21% carbon and is designed as a high impact structural steel for applications like aircraft landing gear. It is apparently known primarily for its strength and corrosion resistance so that it can enlace cadmium coated steel.

Eamon Burke
03-23-2012, 02:26 PM
I used to think that high-dollar customs were too expensive. Can't you get a great knife for a couple hundred? The rest is just hype, right?

Well, first off, no pair of knives is functionally worth $50,000. That has happened once. Most of Bob's knives are going for about $15k, and his are an exception because a lot of people ARE buying them because of the pricetag...it's a financial item, like a diamond studded watch.

Everyone else that isn't experiencing a strange economic/marketing phenomenon? Murray Carter, Devin Thomas, Michael Rader, Bill Burke...Those knives are 100% worth every penny. Every penny! They DO THINGS that are worth $2k. If you want a knife that is exactly the way you want it, tip to butt, stores the way you want it, performs the way you want it, looks the way you want it, maintains the way you want it, and finished with unrelenting care--completely worth the money.

If you are a pro cook that is going to be doing this forever, or a SERIOUS home cook who has a few hundred dollars discretionary income a month, going with a high end custom is a sensible decision, and a pragmatic one. Just because it is beautiful and makes you feel damned good to own doesn't mean that it is a decoration.

If you consider what a great relationship/interaction with your knife can do for a pro cook for getting your work done, feeling good about your job, working in an ergonomically correct manner, performing efficiently, reducing food waste/spoilage, creating status and showing that you care for your profession(which can land you a job...it did for me), and be a lifetime purchase that your children can inherit--a pricey custom from a talented maker will save and make you money in not a long time.

Johnny.B.Good
03-23-2012, 02:32 PM
Nice post Eamon.

Makes sense to me.

Salty dog
03-23-2012, 02:39 PM
I used to think that high-dollar customs were too expensive. Can't you get a great knife for a couple hundred? The rest is just hype, right?

Well, first off, no pair of knives is functionally worth $50,000. That has happened once. Most of Bob's knives are going for about $15k, and his are an exception because a lot of people ARE buying them because of the pricetag...it's a financial item, like a diamond studded watch.

Everyone else that isn't experiencing a strange economic/marketing phenomenon? Murray Carter, Devin Thomas, Michael Rader, Bill Burke...Those knives are 100% worth every penny. Every penny! They DO THINGS that are worth $2k. If you want a knife that is exactly the way you want it, tip to butt, stores the way you want it, performs the way you want it, looks the way you want it, maintains the way you want it, and finished with unrelenting care--completely worth the money.

If you are a pro cook that is going to be doing this forever, or a SERIOUS home cook who has a few hundred dollars discretionary income a month, going with a high end custom is a sensible decision, and a pragmatic one. Just because it is beautiful and makes you feel damned good to own doesn't mean that it is a decoration.

If you consider what a great relationship/interaction with your knife can do for a pro cook for getting your work done, feeling good about your job, working in an ergonomically correct manner, performing efficiently, reducing food waste/spoilage, creating status and showing that you care for your profession(which can land you a job...it did for me), and be a lifetime purchase that your children can inherit--a pricey custom from a talented maker will save and make you money in not a long time.

Not to be obtuse but how many of the aforementioned knives have you tried out?

dav
03-23-2012, 03:24 PM
From a carpentry perspective/context A2 is a superior tool steel to most of the plane blades available, you have *** plane blades which are harder but on balance they are considerably more delicate (I've used them for many hours so can attest to this)so in the context I was quoting it is a good choice. When it comes to steel for a plane blade no one will know their stuff better than Mr Holtey, he would know all options and chose what he considered to be the best current material. He is a world leading expert on the subject and a skilled engineer. He has the standard hardness of the steel he uses upped from HRC54 to HRC64 so I guess he's looking to improve on the qualities of the given material for his application.

******* why be so pedantic go ask Mr Holtey I'm sure he'll give you an answer, geez I was just using as an analogy to my expensive knife query which has been well answered and provided some interesting responses. Cutting wood is somewhat different to cutting a tomato, for example some revered knife makers use 01 steel (I'm sure a good choice) whereas for a plane blade A2 is in normal circumstances a better choice.

I've various Japanese chisels made from different steels, the A2 steel chisels I have in real world applications for me (as someone who used to make a living out of using tools) proved more durable and easier to work with, thus a better choice, I can sharpen an A2 chisel or plane blade so it will shave hair and pass any of the "sharpness" tests most knife people use, its easy to sharpen and holds an edge very well, doesn't crumble and even when cutting very dense and hard knotty woods doesn't chip (partly to do with the angle of the working/secondary bevel - higher for tougher wood).

DeepCSweede
03-23-2012, 03:48 PM
"pedantic" - THAT is my new word for the day. No need to watch O'Reilly tonight.

I don't know what I love more about this thread JM Forge's pedanticness or Salty being Mr. Technicality on Eamon

dav
03-23-2012, 03:50 PM
Lol I'm glad I've made your evening.

DeepCSweede
03-23-2012, 04:21 PM
Lol I'm glad I've made your evening.

Hey - It's Friday and I still have a full day of work tomorrow - I have to take humor where I can get it!

tk59
03-23-2012, 04:46 PM
I used to think that high-dollar customs were too expensive. Can't you get a great knife for a couple hundred? The rest is just hype, right?

Well, first off, no pair of knives is functionally worth $50,000. That has happened once. Most of Bob's knives are going for about $15k, and his are an exception because a lot of people ARE buying them because of the pricetag...it's a financial item, like a diamond studded watch.

Everyone else that isn't experiencing a strange economic/marketing phenomenon? Murray Carter, Devin Thomas, Michael Rader, Bill Burke...Those knives are 100% worth every penny. Every penny! They DO THINGS that are worth $2k. If you want a knife that is exactly the way you want it, tip to butt, stores the way you want it, performs the way you want it, looks the way you want it, maintains the way you want it, and finished with unrelenting care--completely worth the money.

If you are a pro cook that is going to be doing this forever, or a SERIOUS home cook who has a few hundred dollars discretionary income a month, going with a high end custom is a sensible decision, and a pragmatic one. Just because it is beautiful and makes you feel damned good to own doesn't mean that it is a decoration.

If you consider what a great relationship/interaction with your knife can do for a pro cook for getting your work done, feeling good about your job, working in an ergonomically correct manner, performing efficiently, reducing food waste/spoilage, creating status and showing that you care for your profession(which can land you a job...it did for me), and be a lifetime purchase that your children can inherit--a pricey custom from a talented maker will save and make you money in not a long time.

You're laying it on pretty thick and deep, dude. A TKC ($250) is still 95% as good as a custom from anyone UNLESS edge retention or appearance is your main criterion for quality or your main knife is some unusual design.

Salty dog
03-23-2012, 04:53 PM
How many people do you know that has had them all? Minus the Burke in my case. Throw the Kramer/s in there to. (Did I just name drop?)

Sorry, just saying.

tk59
03-23-2012, 05:08 PM
How many people do you know that has had them all? Minus the Burke in my case. Throw the Kramer/s in there to. (Did I just name drop?)

Sorry, just saying.I'm not sure if you're calling me out but you don't have to own or even use a knife from all the American custom makers to get a very accurate idea of what a knife is capable of doing.

And even if you did, knifemakers might still be tweaking their designs so you really don't know what you have, necessarily.

jmforge
03-23-2012, 05:13 PM
Well, if it is "pedantic" to wonder why a particular brand of tools can sell for up to 7000 pounds for a single example when they appear to be, at least in part, CNC machined(which the maker appears to tout as a superior way of doing things compared to how other makers do it) and offered with blades made either from a fairly pedestrian tool steel or an alloy not designed for cutting tools, then color me guilty. :biggrin: With that said, people are apparently willing to pay that kind of money for them so that is what the tools are worth, even to the point of paying 300 pounds extra for a decorative element made from a sliver of some unobtanium Asian hardwood.. The same argument could be made for the knives that appear to be puzzling the OP. The planes are worth up to 7000 pounds because he believes that they are. Other people feel the same way about custom knives.
"pedantic" - THAT is my new word for the day. No need to watch O'Reilly tonight.

I don't know what I love more about this thread JM Forge's pedanticness or Salty being Mr. Technicality on Eamon

jaybett
03-23-2012, 05:13 PM
The glib answer is supply and demand. While it is a easy answer, I think it is difficult for a maker to create demand for their product. A few years ago, it would have been unthinkable to sell a knife to the general public for more then a $100-$150.

Cook's Illustrated did one of their periodic knife reviews, but in one of them they had a small blurb about new knife from a maker named Bob Kramer. While hesitant about the cost of the knife, they said, it was the sharpest knife they had seen in their test kitchen. Say what you will about Cook's Illustrated, but when a magazine with a Consumer Reports like reputation, makes that kind of statement, people notice.
A limited supply and high demand, have led to some fantastic prices being paid for a Kramer knife.

What Kramer knives have done is reset, what the general public thinks is a fair price for a high end knife. Sur la Table is selling knives now in the $300-$400 range. I find it interesting that Sur la Table, feels that it can raise the price of their Zwilling Kramers. If the general public is now willing to spend $400 for a knife, then its not far jump to purchase a knife custom knife, which is good news to the small knife makers.

The fly in the ointment comes, when we ask is a knife worth the the price? The craftsmanship and materials in a Kramer, Burke, Carter, Radar, Thomas, justifies knives justifies a high price. Do their $2000 knives, cut better then a $1000 knife or even a $500 one? Maybe, maybe not. Products that are pushing design boundaries, a 2-3 percent increase can be huge.

A job or task, can be a deciding factor in value of a knife. Does the average carpenter need a $10,000 plane? No, but a violin maker, might find the extra 5 percent of control, invaluable. The same would hold true with a knife.

Jay

WildBoar
03-23-2012, 05:21 PM
Getting a great performing full-custom knife means really knowing what you want with respect to profile, grind, etc., and having a maker who can not only hit all those marks, but who also is expert at getting the most out of the selected steel. I suspect in many instances customs are not as great performers as some of the better 'production' (or well-made Japanese knives) knives because either the buyer, maker or both can't get one or two of the aspects quite right. Let's face it, most of us have not been able to work with several dozen 240 gyutos in order to really nail down all the parameters that make up their perfect blade, and many of the makers have not produced enough (and had enough feedback from experieced knife users) to truly know what makes a makes a blade as good as it can get. Based on write-ups from several pros on this and other forums, Devin Thomas and Bill Burke seem to be at the highest level, while several others are working on small refinements that are helping to close the gap and still even more are really just starting to understand. But for the most part, a full custom seems to generally be more about looks then obtaining a blade that eeks out the last 2% of cutting and edge retention potential.

On a personal note, the 'real' DT 240 gyuto I picked up a couple months ago performs a bit better then the ITK gyuto I bought last year. There are some definite advantages to getting a blade made by a maker who really knows his stuff backwards and forwards. But a DT 240 gyuto is not a $2k knife, unless you get it in damascus. And at that point you have more then doubled the priced yet not received any improvement in performance. No, you ponied up the extra $ because a DT damascus knife is a work of art that performs really, really well. I'll admit I'm skeptical that a $2k knife from one of the best custom makers really performs better then one of their $700-$1,000 knives; if I desire the $2k knife it is likely because of the looks.

jmforge
03-23-2012, 05:25 PM
Okay, i will admit this. There are people out there who would probably like to have a block full of Kramers sitting next to their La Cornue range that rarely gets used for anything other than as a place to put take out containers. My younger brothers refers to that as the "d-bag market" and as much as some of us might look down on those people, they are potential customers and I, for one, would not turn down their money.:doublethumbsup:

Salty dog
03-23-2012, 05:28 PM
I'm not sure if you're calling me out but you don't have to own or even use a knife from all the American custom makers to get a very accurate idea of what a knife is capable of doing.

And even if you did, knifemakers might still be tweaking their designs so you really don't know what you have, necessarily.

STFU,, it was directed at Eamaom. You're getting sensitive.

jmforge
03-23-2012, 05:29 PM
Damascus if kinda funny. It obviously involves a LOT more labor, but even if you look at the cost of the raw materials, you see some significantly increased costs. A big stack of 1084 and 15N20 pieces for one large billet can cost up to $50. That is before you start adding in propane at $5 a gallon or more, grinding belts, weld in materials, etc. By the time that you are done, you may have as much or more invested just in raw materials as you would if you used one of the super PM steels.
Getting a great performing full-custom knife means really knowing what you want with respect to profile, grind, etc., and having a maker who can not only hit all those marks, but who also is expert at getting the most out of the selected steel. I suspect in many instances customs are not as great performers as some of the better 'production' (or well-made Japanese knives) knives because either the buyer, maker or both can't get one or two of the aspects quite right. Let's face it, most of us have not been able to work with several dozen 240 gyutos in order to really nail down all the parameters that make up their perfect blade, and many of the makers have not produced enough (and had enough feedback from experieced knife users) to truly know what makes a makes a blade as good as it can get. Based on write-ups from several pros on this and other forums, Devin Thomas and Bill Burke seem to be at the highest level, while several others are working on small refinements that are helping to close the gap and still even more are really just starting to understand. But for the most part, a full custom seems to generally be more about looks then obtaining a blade that eeks out the last 2% of cutting and edge retention potential.

On a personal note, the 'real' DT 240 gyuto I picked up a couple months ago performs a bit better then the ITK gyuto I bought last year. There are some definite advantages to getting a blade made by a maker who really knows his stuff backwards and forwards. But a DT 240 gyuto is not a $2k knife, unless you get it in damascus. And at that point you have more then doubled the priced yet not received any improvement in performance. No, you ponied up the extra $ because a DT damascus knife is a work of art that performs really, really well. I'll admit I'm skeptical that a $2k knife from one of the best custom makers really performs better then one of their $700-$1,000 knives; if I desire the $2k knife it is likely because of the looks.

Pensacola Tiger
03-23-2012, 05:37 PM
Thanks, Eamon, for articulating how I can justify some of the knives I have.

Rick


I used to think that high-dollar customs were too expensive. Can't you get a great knife for a couple hundred? The rest is just hype, right?

Well, first off, no pair of knives is functionally worth $50,000. That has happened once. Most of Bob's knives are going for about $15k, and his are an exception because a lot of people ARE buying them because of the pricetag...it's a financial item, like a diamond studded watch.

Everyone else that isn't experiencing a strange economic/marketing phenomenon? Murray Carter, Devin Thomas, Michael Rader, Bill Burke...Those knives are 100% worth every penny. Every penny! They DO THINGS that are worth $2k. If you want a knife that is exactly the way you want it, tip to butt, stores the way you want it, performs the way you want it, looks the way you want it, maintains the way you want it, and finished with unrelenting care--completely worth the money.

If you are a pro cook that is going to be doing this forever, or a SERIOUS home cook who has a few hundred dollars discretionary income a month, going with a high end custom is a sensible decision, and a pragmatic one. Just because it is beautiful and makes you feel damned good to own doesn't mean that it is a decoration.

If you consider what a great relationship/interaction with your knife can do for a pro cook for getting your work done, feeling good about your job, working in an ergonomically correct manner, performing efficiently, reducing food waste/spoilage, creating status and showing that you care for your profession(which can land you a job...it did for me), and be a lifetime purchase that your children can inherit--a pricey custom from a talented maker will save and make you money in not a long time.

WildBoar
03-23-2012, 05:38 PM
I understand why damascus costs what it costs. But as a knife consumer, the decision to go with it is mainly based on appearance and not performance. So the extra $ is aesthetics, and we make a conscious decision to pay for that element (add in nice-looking wood handles here as well). I've happily payed for two damascus knives so far, and am on lists for a couple more. For me, it's about getting a piece of highly-functional art. I can't even say it's showing off (like Salty says), as none of my family or friends knows or cares about kitchen knives. I think when people see one of them, they assume it's one of those super-expensive (i.e., $150) Shuns :biggrin:

jmforge
03-23-2012, 05:57 PM
Absolutely. I readily admit that the whole "damascus cutting effect' is pretty much urban legend, especially the way the stuff is made today by combining steels that are very similar but for slight difference on one or two alloying elements. It's all about how it looks as the performance of the steel will be, at best, the sum of its component steels and at worst, not as good if you mess up.
I understand why damascus costs what it costs. But as a knife consumer, the decision to go with it is mainly based on appearance and not performance. So the extra $ is aesthetics, and we make a conscious decision to pay for that element (add in nice-looking wood handles here as well). I've happily payed for two damascus knives so far, and am on lists for a couple more. For me, it's about getting a piece of highly-functional art. I can't even say it's showing off (like Salty says), as none of my family or friends knows or cares about kitchen knives. I think when people see one of them, they assume it's one of those super-expensive (i.e., $150) Shuns :biggrin:

AFKitchenknivesguy
03-23-2012, 06:02 PM
I understand why damascus costs what it costs. But as a knife consumer, the decision to go with it is mainly based on appearance and not performance. So the extra $ is aesthetics, and we make a conscious decision to pay for that element (add in nice-looking wood handles here as well). I've happily payed for two damascus knives so far, and am on lists for a couple more. For me, it's about getting a piece of highly-functional art. I can't even say it's showing off (like Salty says), as none of my family or friends knows or cares about kitchen knives. I think when people see one of them, they assume it's one of those super-expensive (i.e., $150) Shuns :biggrin:

Isn't that the truth! For all the money I have spent, no one cares but me.

kazeryu
03-23-2012, 07:19 PM
As some have elicited to the most expensive knives are so due to a perceived value which obviously doesn't reflect the functionality, material cost or labour time, whereas the Holtey plane does in every category, and also from an asthetic and engineering point of view they are unrivaled masterpieces.

I'm not sure if you can really hear yourself talking, so I'll be more blunt this time. You are exactly the same as the knife buyers that you profess to not understand.

You think Holtey is the coolest guy on the planet and that everyone who knows anything about planes should be able to see that his planes are totally worth the price tag. Anyone who doesn't think they are worth it just doesn't know enough about planes and what goes into their construction.

The person who buys super-expensive custom knives also thinks that <insert knifemaker here> is the coolest guy on the planet and that everyone who knows anything about <insert type of knife here> should be able to see that his knives are totally worth the price tag. Anyone who doesn't think they are worth it just doesn't know enough about knives and what goes into their construction.

jmforge
03-23-2012, 08:07 PM
Okay, I have another question. The OP says that a Holtey plane can take up to 600 hours of work. The Holtey website says that they can take up to 200. Let's split the difference and say 400. Assuming a 40 hour work week, that means he can make 10 per year, yet he has different 13 models listed. Whats up with that? How can his planes be so popular? Hoe many people can possibly own a set of them? The implication is that he makes them all himself.........well, except for the uber-secret heat treatment of his super steel blades. He admits that he outsources that.:biggrin:

SpikeC
03-23-2012, 08:51 PM
I have resisted the urge to point this very thing out. The Holtey planes are not the be all end all of wood working tools. Low production is responsible for high prices. There are other hand planes that perform just as well.

Eamon Burke
03-23-2012, 11:05 PM
Oh! I missed two pages!


Not to be obtuse but how many of the aforementioned knives have you tried out?

All but the Kramer. Too rich for my blood, and nobody wants to share! I've had the fortune of handling knives from pretty much everyone, sharpening most of them, and putting many through the paces at work.

I stand behind my comments. It is totally worth it to me, and I am frugal as well as poor. Consider that at my day job, I make less money than these knives cost in a month.

I have gotten a job before because of my knives.

Having a nice knife that you love creates a sense of care that inspires you to do better in other aspects of your job. It's like putting on a really nice, new pair of shoes--your other clothes better be up to par or you'll feel funny and head back to the closet and dress it up a little.

I think a chef that makes $1500 a month, if it is his chosen lifelong profession, has every good reason to spend $3k on knives. For the same reason that landscapers spend 4 times that on equipment, or smart small time actors hire a good agent. It provides tangible returns that can make your whole life better, if you are spending hours out of every day with it.


The key here is made to specifications. If you find your dream knife on a shelf somewhere, more power to you. But it's been my experience that everyone has wants/needs that aren't going to match up with anyone else's. This is the meaning of compromise.

jaybett
03-24-2012, 12:59 AM
Okay, I have another question. The OP says that a Holtey plane can take up to 600 hours of work. The Holtey website says that they can take up to 200. Let's split the difference and say 400. Assuming a 40 hour work week, that means he can make 10 per year, yet he has different 13 models listed. Whats up with that? How can his planes be so popular? Hoe many people can possibly own a set of them? The implication is that he makes them all himself.........well, except for the uber-secret heat treatment of his super steel blades. He admits that he outsources that.:biggrin:

I also have a question, why do you keep belaboring the point?

Jay

dough
03-25-2012, 12:05 AM
haha the real question how do you get knife nuts worked up?

Salty dog
03-25-2012, 12:24 AM
If you want a custom knife, great. They are worth the money. But you're not necessarily buying performance.

JohnnyChance
03-25-2012, 04:01 AM
If you want a custom knife, great. They are worth the money. But you're not necessarily buying performance.

Fin.

dav
03-26-2012, 06:27 AM
^^^ The above was pretty much what I wanted to know, now not wanting to "resurrect" the Holtey thing lol ( I can't take anymore pedanticness :wink:) but it still has me wondering about what was the essence of what I was originally asking and maybe in hindsight not getting across very well.

I like to buy the best I can afford and until coming to this site knew little about the world of Kitchen Knives or Knives for that matter. I've now got 3 nice knives, well they seem to be to me, my latest purchase from Shinichi Watanabe arrived today - lovely knife very sharp and Shinichi is a fantastic person too. I'm now looking at future purchases and still have the question as to what really are you paying for when you pay say 1,2 or $3k is the money tied up in the materials and additional labour and finishing or are you paying for the reputation/name?

I've been comparing Devin Thomas, Dave Martell, Will Catchside etc.. etc... with others such as Heiji and at the upper end of the price bracket (without the obvious Bob Kramer) Nenohi knives which are $1k plus. Now I'd consider buying these but why so expensive?? (which was my original question). After inspecting the Watanabe knife I can't see why (other than a standard handle) as steel is top quality, its as sharp as anyone could need it looks great and works as I would wish it to! Fit and finish is near perfect - although I'm coming to the conclusion now with my limited experience that I really like a knife with a few "imperfections" as this for me anyway signifies hand made (probably silly) although not imperfections that could effect performance.

Thus once the material costs and labour are included are the knives produced by Nenohi any more expensive to make than say a Watanabe professional or Devin Thomas knife? I guess taking Salty Dogs last comment into account I want the best functional "tool" I can afford but also something that I can feel and enjoy using. I'm also starting to find my "taste" when it comes to kitchen knives which I guess must add to the appeal on a personal level too.

Andrew H
03-26-2012, 08:09 AM
When you're paying for the 'reputation' of a maker there is generally a reason. For DT, Martell, Will, Marko, etc. you are paying for the quality. Now does that mean they are putting more time into each knife? Not necessarily. It just means they are more skilled than other makers, which is why their knives are worth more money.

It's not like there is a fixed price for labor across the knife making market. Some makers make more per hour, some less. It stands to reason that makers with long wait times can increase their prices because people want their knives. If you're taking Nenohi for an example not many makers in the U.S. can make single bevels, less can make them well.

dragonlord
03-26-2012, 09:23 AM
(I'm sure everyone already knows this but to state the obvious.) Well standard supply and demand is that you increase/decrease the price until you either can't afford to do it any cheaper, or people stop buying your product. If you've got a big reputation, then your prices will go up and if you've got no reputation then your prices will have to go down until people start reporting about the quality of your product.

The twist in this story is that once you get to a certain price bracket, you're now expensive enough for your product to be worth looking at for a large section of the market (the same one that BMW, Mercedes, Lexus, etc. market to) but this segment of the market doesn't really care about the quality as much as they care about the prestige of the item.

JohnnyChance
03-26-2012, 02:37 PM
As far as the custom makers go, the newer guys are usually in the sub $1k range. Dave and Marko for example have gyutos just under $500. After the cost of materials, any outsourced work (heat treat, blank cutting, etc), overhead (shop space rental, power tools, hand tools, belts, bits, stones, etc), there really isn't that much left for labor. Guys with more experience and reputation can increase their cost because even at the increased cost there is a line of people waiting for knives. So why not charge what makes a comfortable living, or at least one that affords you to create at a comfortable pace?

Peco
03-26-2012, 04:22 PM
So I have to ask this because I have no idea - or just a vague one. I think I heard at one point that a japanese blacksmith could make one knife a day on average. If that's the case with western blacksmiths howcome they "don't earn" anything. If materials are half - then $500 would give a $250 paycheck.

jmforge
03-26-2012, 04:43 PM
I may be wrong here, but my impression is that Japanese bladesmiths mostly made blades and not the other parts. Also, the expectations for the fit and finish and the quality of materials other than the blade steel are higher for a custom knife. With that said, some knife makers can grind out twenty or moe simple bushcraft blades and have them ready for heat treat in one day, but not many.
So I have to ask this because I have no idea - or just a vague one. I think I heard at one point that a japanese blacksmith could make one knife a day on average. If that's the case with western blacksmiths howcome they "don't earn" anything. If materials are half - then $500 would give a $250 paycheck.

Peco
03-26-2012, 04:49 PM
Wel I'm pretty sure that western makers don't work on one knife at a time. So grinding, heat treat etc. would be bulk I guess. Then what's left is the handles ... which should be kind of the same process or?

tk59
03-26-2012, 05:05 PM
...the expectations for the fit and finish and the quality of materials other than the blade steel are higher for a custom knife...These expectations are self-imposed. I don't think it's so much "quality" of materials but fanciness of them. I would guess it's more of a cultural difference. Japanese knifemakers generally emphasize function. I would guess they can make something with great fit and finish but they don't care about that as long as it works great. I would also guess that their opinion on what is pretty is far different than what you see on a lot of American pieces. What's prettier, an intricate but busy-looking burl or a clean but plainer-looking wood?

The other thing is I get the impression that a lot of Japanese makers make excellent kitchen knives all day and start out as apprentices to someone else that makes excellent kitchen knives all day, everyday from the time they are able to swing a hammer. Most American knifemakers start out piddling in their garages a bit here and there and don't go pro until a lot later and don't make kitchen knives until only recently.

WildBoar
03-26-2012, 05:14 PM
So I have to ask this because I have no idea - or just a vague one. I think I heard at one point that a japanese blacksmith could make one knife a day on average. If that's the case with western blacksmiths howcome they "don't earn" anything. If materials are half - then $500 would give a $250 paycheck.5 knives/ week x 49 weeks (2 weeks vaca and one for sick?) = $61,250. That is probably best case, assuming none have issues and need to be remade.

Now subtract out health insurance ($350/ mo average, could be quite a bit more for family plan), $ for equipment and rent/ mortgage on the shop space (could easily exceed $1,000/ mo), and that sure does not seem to net that great of an income unless you live in an area with a very low cost of living.

WillC
03-26-2012, 05:20 PM
Making knives is no different to any other business. A target hourly rate is calculated from overheads
Rent, rates, electric, coke, propane, welding gas, consumables, vehicle, office, advertising, insurances etc etc etc.
To this you add a wage for yourself.
Each job is then priced on a prediction of the hours involved, plus materials and any subcontracted services involved. If the market/or customer will take it, you are in business, if not, think again. My biggest expenses most to least.
Workshop time - as this includes all the above expenses, including consumables like abrasives and propane.
Handle materials
Steel
For me doing something more at the bespoke end, the steel is probably no more than 1/20th of the cost of the job, as bespoke work eats up hours, which eats up money in the form of all of the above.

Peco
03-26-2012, 05:28 PM
5 knives/ week x 49 weeks (2 weeks vaca and one for sick?) = $61,250. That is probably best case, assuming none have issues and need to be remade.

Now subtract out health insurance ($350/ mo average, could be quite a bit more for family plan), $ for equipment and rent/ mortgage on the shop space (could easily exceed $1,000/ mo), and that sure does not seem to net that great of an income unless you live in an area with a very low cost of living.

Compared to what many others earn that seems pretty good. Add another $100 per knife and it looks even better :D Health insurance etc. well what can I say, that is the same for the guy working at McD for $5 an hour. Concidering your tax rate I think it's good - we pay 50%, a liter (not a gallon) of gasoline is about $2.5 at the moment, day care is $500 or more - I could go on. Still many here earns less than the number you just calculated for me. So to be honest I can't see why one would "complain" doing what they like and earn "good" money on it.

WildBoar
03-26-2012, 05:39 PM
Sorry, but netting <$45k isn't 'good money' in a heck of a lot of areas, especially around cities. I'd be willing to bet most on this board who earn in that range would admit it is not that good of a living, especially if they have a family -- unless the spouse has a better income.

Peco
03-26-2012, 05:46 PM
Sorry, but netting <$45k isn't 'good money' in a heck of a lot of areas, especially around cities. I'd be willing to bet most on this board who earn in that range would admit it is not that good of a living, especially if they have a family -- unless the spouse has a better income.

My bad then .... I just compared with other "jobs" around and it seemed like that number were better ...

Marko Tsourkan
03-26-2012, 06:07 PM
This thread made me to take a look at my costs. So I thought of sharing it.

It takes me about 15 hours to make a 240 knife. (With a saya, it will be 17-18 hours).

I do all of the following processes myself
-cutting blanks and profiling
-heat treating
-grinding
-tuning edge/bevel on water stones
-hand-rubbed finish
-handle/saya work

I do about 30% of all work by hand, not very efficient approach, I agree, but it is what it is at a present time.

Shop rent, utilities and insurance is about $1000/month
Liquid nitrogen - $120 every two months.
Tool addition and replacements normally $50-100/months, but last month I had to replace a buffer and VDF drive at cost of $700

I use about $25 worth of belts and abrasives per a knife
steel $7-20/ knife
wood - $10 - 35/knife
horn, N/S spacer - /$5-20/ knife

My capacity is 3 knives per week at the present time.

Say, I gross $1350/week making 3 x 240mm knives with premium wood handles (no sayas, to simplify calculations)

My cost per week to make these 3 knives
- $250 rent w/utilities and insurance
- tools, abrasives, LN use -$115
-handle materials (wood, horn, N/S) - $125
-PayPal fees on payments (4%) - $54
-shipping to customer (included in price) $45

On $1350 revenue, I make $761 pre-tax income, for 45 hours of labor. That will probably put me in 19% tax bracket, so my net taking would be $615 per week, or about $14/Hr.

I didn't factor a return on investment in tools I purchased (and continue purchasing). If I do, my hourly rate would put me on the level of what some of you guys make in a pro kitchen, about $10/hr (my approximate cost of tools is close to 7-10K).

Kind of an interesting exercise for myself.

M

Peco
03-26-2012, 06:09 PM
I wonder if anybody makes 2 or more knifes a day on awerage .... $90K + ..... hmmm, maybe I should go into this field lol

Peco
03-26-2012, 06:16 PM
This thread made me to take a look at my costs. So I thought of sharing it.

It takes me about 15 hours to make a 240 knife. (With a saya, it will be 17-18 hours).

I do all of the following processes myself
-cutting blanks and profiling
-heat treating
-grinding
-tuning edge/bevel on water stones
-hand-rubbed finish
-handle/saya work

I do about 30% of all work by hand, not very efficient approach, I agree, but it is what it is at a present time.

Shop rent, utilities and insurance is about $1000/month
Liquid nitrogen - $120 every two months.
Tool replacements normally $50-100/months, but last month I had to replace a buffer and VDF drive at cost of $700

I use about $25 worth of belts and abrasives per a knife
steel $7-20/ knife
wood - $10 - 35/knife
horn - /$5-20

My capacity is 3 knives per week at the present time.

Say, I gross $1350/week making 3 x 240mm knives with premium wood handles

My cost per week
- $250 rent w/utilities
- tools, abrasives, LN use -$115
-handle materials (wood, horn, N/S) - $125
-PayPal fees (4%) - $54
-shipping to customer (included in price) $45

On $1350 revenue, I make $761 pre-tax income, for 45 hours of labor. That will probably put me in 19% tax bracket, so my net taking would be $615 per week, or about $14/Hr.

I didn't factor a return on investment in tools I purchased (and continue purchasing). If I do, I would have made even less.

Kind of an interesting exercise for myself.

M

Well M, you have been in the experimenting stage for quite a while. Now that you are all set I would imagine that your speed hopefully will progress a lot = more $$$ earned, faster turn around etc. You will hit the $45K mark which for me is not bad at all. Heck, many people here don't even earn that before they have to pay 50% in tax = 22.5K left.

WildBoar
03-26-2012, 06:22 PM
I really do not think you can compare incomes between two different countries like that. Where my wife's parents and brother live, $15k/ yr is considered very good. Here in the Washington DC-area, it's hard for a family to exist on less then ~$75k -- and for that money you will be a good distance out from the city, or living in a very poor part of it. $2,500/ month will get you a run-down townhouse or a 2 BR condo somewhere outside the city -- so housing alone will eat up $30k/ yr. Sure, a single guy who can live in one room can exist for a bit less, but add in a fmaily and that really changes things.

Marko Tsourkan
03-26-2012, 06:26 PM
I wonder if anybody makes 2 or more knifes a day on awerage .... $90K + ..... hmmm, maybe I should go into this field lol

Try it.

Johnny.B.Good
03-26-2012, 06:33 PM
Interesting Marko.

I don't know what the answer is...if you work faster, quality may suffer, if you charge more, you could lose customers. I suppose you will get faster in time as you become more practiced and efficient (and maybe with better/more expensive equipment), and that as your reputation grows you will be able to increase your prices. I hope you have a good accountant (or know what you're doing yourself) that can help you maximize your income tax deductions.

Crothcipt
03-26-2012, 06:33 PM
I have been thinking of making knives for a living. This thread has pretty much brought me to what I have thought about the profession so far. What hasn't been said yet is the time away for promotion of your work, either. There is time taken off for selling at craft fairs, ect.. But compared to opening a restaurant there seems to be a lower start up cost. I see the hardest part with this profession, along with going into business for your self is the promotion of said business.

Peco
03-26-2012, 06:37 PM
I really do not think you can compare incomes between two different countries like that. Where my wife's parents and brother live, $15k/ yr is considered very good. Here in the Washington DC-area, it's hard for a family to exist on less then ~$75k -- and for that money you will be a good distance out from the city, or living in a very poor part of it. $2,500/ month will get you a run-down townhouse or a 2 BR condo somewhere outside the city -- so housing alone will eat up $30k/ yr. Sure, a single guy who can live in one room can exist for a bit less, but add in a fmaily and that really changes things.

Well I think I can compare. I got half of my family in the States so I know a little about it. If I buy a car I pay 180% in tax on top og what the company sells it for. So a $20K car in the US would easily cost approx 40-50K here and then I even have manual shift. Gasoline you get a galon where I get a liter for the same price. Housing is rediculous here, same with day care, insurance etc. I have 2 kids to pay for and my wife earns what´s average. My salery sucks - I just started as an apprentice at the age of 43 and still I manage to get by without sacrificing anything. I can buy knifes, I have a car, my children got clothes on their body etc. So to be honest - saying that 45K net is not a big deal - well in my world it's pretty darn good - especially if it's an income from 1 person only.

Peco
03-26-2012, 06:39 PM
Try it.

I'd rather cook :D

dough
03-26-2012, 06:43 PM
depends what the cost of living is...

if one lived in new york city 45K is basically poverty.

not bad to you and not bad to someone else always depends on standard of living.

likewise 22.5K could be upper middle class or rich in some places.

why bother to debate what money is worth like this? i dont see what you are going to learn... if you want to go into business making knives and think you can make more money then you currently are then you can do it.

bill burke himself talked about working another job because he had to provide for unexpected medical bills.

anyway this is all seems off topic in this thread.

btw peco average cook makes around 22.5k in my area before taxes. most need welfare to support their families.

Peco
03-26-2012, 06:46 PM
btw peco average cook makes around 22.5k in my area before taxes. most need welfare to support their families.

Man that sucks, sorry to hear that. That said, now $45K sounds even better - guess I got a point.

PierreRodrigue
03-26-2012, 06:48 PM
I agree with Markos numbers. Thats why I still have a full time job on top of knife making. A lot of good points have been made. Reputation, experience, materials, overhead, and yes even supply and demand all go towards the price. Will you always have a better quality instrument going custom? Some will say yes, some will say not necessarily, even no. For those who have gone the custom route, and continue to do so, they hopefully get what they want, taylored to them, using unique materials so at the end of the day, they have a top performing, one of a kind knife. Others will say a $150 240 mm knife of choice will cut as good as a custom damascus $1200 to $2000 knife, will for most purposes be right. The knife may not be as comfortable, or use the same quality materials, or even be as refined, but will still do the job. Why pay more?
Why do people want a Denali, Cadillac, Lexus, BMW, Mercedes, when a Ford Escort, or Prius will do the same job? It will still get them to WalMart, still has 4 wheels and air conditioning. I for one beleive customer service, warrenty, top notch materials, and the care taken to do it by hand goes a long way to offset the viewed cost of a given knifemakers product.

Bishopmaker
03-26-2012, 07:00 PM
Ive always wondered how the full time knife makers got by. It takes alot more time then most would think to make a high end knife. Most makers who don't have a big following actually mass produce cheaper 100-200$ knives with machine finishes and cord wrap handles or simple g10 handles and a quick kydex sheath. They can mass produce these easier then say something needing hand sanding and a mirror finish. Also materials would be cheaper then ironwood or ivory or other nicer materials. Now Im sure these knives are still pretty nice and perform very well but its not the same as someone who spent 30-40 hrs on a really nice chef's knife that is close to a piece of art with very nice materials.

dough
03-26-2012, 07:05 PM
Man that sucks, sorry to hear that. That said, now $45K sounds even better - guess I got a point.

you may have a point but just because you think making some amount of money for your profession is good or bad doesnt make it good nor bad. this is not about a product anymore nor even really a profession but only opinion. you have certainly made yours loud and clear.

Peco
03-26-2012, 07:18 PM
you may have a point but just because you think making some amount of money for your profession is good or bad doesnt make it good nor bad. this is not about a product anymore nor even really a profession but only opinion. you have certainly made yours loud and clear.

First of all I wanna say that I respect the knifemakers and all the work they put into their projects. My point has nothing to do with the time spent on a piece or how much each make ... if it's a $1000 net per knife fine by me - we all wanna get paid right ;) I personally think the $45K sounded like a reasonable - if not good - pay - doing what you like to do. I will redraw from this thread because we all have different opinions about this issue and I'll bet we never agree anyways. Roger/over ...

dav
03-26-2012, 07:19 PM
Wow some great responses, very interesting particularly from the makers themselves! I used to be a carpenter and enjoyed the more prestigious work so to a degree can relate to some of the things already mentioned. I guess its a balance as I had to give up what I loved doing (and getting paid for it) as I needed to earn more money which still bothers me (money good job stressful/boring). Anyway some of the answers have given me a greater appreciation of what some of you guys put into something that you obviously have a great passion for. I have always preferred "functional beauty" over a museum piece but I guess people have different tastes, I love the patina for example that builds up on my planes and tools as it tells a story etc... I set out to buy some nice knives and that was all but I guess I'll go the same route I've gone with all my other "tools".

One thing I've taken from this thread is that there are some great "bargains" out there - knives that represent excellent value when all factors are considered. Not being Partisan but it also surprises me how few makers there are in the UK considering the wonderful heritage we had here for tools etc...

JohnnyChance
03-26-2012, 07:20 PM
Man that sucks, sorry to hear that. That said, now $45K sounds even better - guess I got a point.

You are comparing McD jobs and entry level line cooks to that of a skilled artisan/craftsman making luxury items. And just because the cooks are underpaid doesn't mean the salary $45k is acceptable.

I believe there are less than 10 knife makers in the US who's only job is knife making and are their families primary source of income. And I am including all US knife makers, not just those who make kitchen knives. So if it were that profitable, you would see more full time knife makers.

Eamon Burke
03-26-2012, 07:31 PM
Yep. You can't feed a family making knives all by yourself anymore.

My wife is a busy photographer, and I make dirt as it is. So yeah, it looks like a good deal from here.

But who is going to trade making a stable living somewhere for grinding/banging out knives? People who are nuts, and love to do it.

l r harner
03-26-2012, 08:47 PM
while i do ok in truth if kelly was not makign good $$ i woudl have to get a real job (shudders that thought ) its braking the bank to put up my new work shop and its one an 18k shop (then you add all the other stuff and it adds up fast i ll be 30-40K and thats not including insulation and wall finishing

Marko Tsourkan
03-26-2012, 08:53 PM
while i do ok in truth if kelly was not makign good $$ i woudl have to get a real job (shudders that thought ) its braking the bank to put up my new work shop and its one an 18k shop (then you add all the other stuff and it adds up fast i ll be 30-40K and thats not including insulation and wall finishing

What would we do without our wives? :) Except mine is still in a grad school, can't wait till she graduates. One more year. Whew.

M

Dave Martell
03-27-2012, 12:35 AM
We are a one income family, my wife raises our 2 (pre-school aged) children, we have no health insurance, and we live just above poverty.....but.....we're as free as can be since we have no debt and answer to no one but the bill collectors. I love my work but it's not going to make me a rich man anytime soon.

I don't wish to get into the debate of who charges what and if it's worth it etc but I do think that there's ways to be more productive and there's little niches that can still be filled.

FWIW< I think Murray Carter is the genius kitchen knifemaker in the US and he's got the model that I'm most interested in driving towards. According to his admission he forges up to 10 knives per day for probably a few days a week, then takes some time to grind in bevels and burn on handles and sharpen and out the door they go. He sells his smaller knives at what I charge for larger knives but he has the ability to make 25+ more per week than I can and he likely uses less consumables. His model just makes a lot of sense to me and IMO he might be the only one actually making some money in this game...well besides Bob K.

mattrud
03-27-2012, 01:44 AM
I wrote out this response, it was kind of long, but I deleted it because I dont care to start an argument, I frankly don't have the time.

So in the end of the day, don't talk **** on things or people you don't know.

and personal opinion can greatly vary among everyone, and the value of something is different to everyone.

Peco
03-27-2012, 02:06 AM
You are comparing McD jobs and entry level line cooks to that of a skilled artisan/craftsman making luxury items. And just because the cooks are underpaid doesn't mean the salary $45k is acceptable.

Hm, I got to comment. I didn't compare what people did or do - I said that McD workers etc. had to pay medical insurance like everyone else, rent and so on - if they can afford it on a $5 salery!

That said, I obviously had it wrong when I imagined that a smith could make a knife a day. The numbers I see here shows that it's a hard way to make a steady living/good income. Sorry for that.

andoniminev
03-27-2012, 07:45 AM
[img]http://www.limepic.com/img/kitchenknife2.jpg[/IMG

I buy for brand name.
That one I like. I should get one for my wife :)

NO ChoP!
03-27-2012, 09:50 AM
I'd like to clarify what, at least my idea of a "pro kitchen" is. It is a high end establishment with a hierarchy of trained chefs. No disrespect meant to any individual, although a cafeteria or sandwich shop may be a great place to get started, I don't consider it a "pro" setting. That being said, aforementioned $10 an hour is about the starting point for a prep or garde manger. A sous or executive working 60+ hour weeks can easily surpass the $45k point also mentioned.... Years back I worked at a top, local country club where the exec cleared in excess of $200k. It is really a business where hard work and perseverance to climb the ladder pays off.

As far as customs go, I think we have different levels... Many have spent $200 to $300 for nice Japanese knives. You have makers like Dave and Marko who are making customs for just above that, and with prices increasing across the board, these customs are becoming more desirable. Yet you have other makers who are priced above the likes of Dave and Marko, and I believe these are niche makers. To say that buying one of these high end (or simply higher priced) knives for a "pro" would be a smart investment is silly to me. I have a Konosuke HD that I use for many hours each week. It fits the bill for its needs perfectly. But, after being sharpened many times it is no longer pristine and will someday need to be replaced. I don't think a Bill Burke would last a life time in my day-to-day use. I don't think it would last three years.... so it is conflicting to classifying it as a heirloom, and say it's a good investment for a pro.

Lefty
03-27-2012, 10:45 AM
Wow, I just read all 10 pages and I have a few little things to say.

I agree with Dave in regards to his Murray Carter comments. Essentially, what Murray has done is taken the Japanese blacksmith's model and tweaked it to suit his needs. Where a lot of time comes in is not in making a beautifully functioning knife, but in creating a physically beautiful one. Murray's handles tend to be average at best, and the same can be said for his finish sanding on his blades. However, they cut like nobody's business. We all know that Murray CAN make gorgeous handles and perfectly finished knives, yet for the most part, he chooses not to. Of course, when he does, he reminds us he has an MS stamp by charging us accordingly.

I, as you all know, support Pierre Rodrigue and as long as he continues to make knives, I'm sure I'll continue to buy them from him (when the wife, bills and life allow). Why do I support him? Easy - his knives cut as well as my Carters, look even cooler, are one of a kind, I had a hand in the process and...most importantly, he's shown me that he is a good guy who LOVES making knives. He gives me tips and advice to support my hobby/passion of "creating" and expects nothing in return but to bounce back the excitement and desire to try something new. Many of you feel the same about Devin Thomas, Marko, and to a certain extent, Randy and Dave. We all have makers we believe in, and I think everyone here deserves the backing of all of us on KKF.

What it comes down to is paying what we feel is fair so we can get excited/inspired when we use it. I'm not a collector, I'm a hobbyist who gives a crap about my tools. I take pride in everything I own, from my golf clubs, to my shaving gear, to my woodworking tools, to my knives, instruments, house etc.

Let's face it, we're all just big kids who want toys that for a moment take us to a place that doesn't have mortgage payments or a monthly insurance bill. If I need to pay $1000 to remember how to enjoy the simple things in life, then it's a small price to pay. For what is money, other than a means to make life comfortable and enjoyable for yourself and the ones you love?

Deckhand
03-27-2012, 10:55 AM
+1 on the Rodrigue comments? And the rest was spot on as well.

jmforge
03-27-2012, 11:06 AM
Johnny, the numbers that I have seen for the number of all people, not just kitchen knife makers, who do this full time is around 10% of the total number of makers out there. The percentage of knife makers who make knives full time without some other means of support like a spouse who has a job, a military pension, etc. is supposedly closer to 3-4% of all makers. If you apply those numbers just to the ABS knife maker members, that would mean that maybe 120 make knives full time and for perhaps as many as 40 of them, it is their sole source of income.
You are comparing McD jobs and entry level line cooks to that of a skilled artisan/craftsman making luxury items. And just because the cooks are underpaid doesn't mean the salary $45k is acceptable.

I believe there are less than 10 knife makers in the US who's only job is knife making and are their families primary source of income. And I am including all US knife makers, not just thought who make kitchen knives. So if it were that profitable, you would see more full time knife makers.

Michael Rader
03-27-2012, 11:42 AM
I don't think a Bill Burke would last a life time in my day-to-day use. I don't think it would last three years....

Really?
~M

NO ChoP!
03-27-2012, 01:21 PM
Saltys favorite knife is a Mizuno suminigashi that's probably the only one in existence. He has used it so much the geometry has changed, and I think he has been looking for that perfect replacement to no avail. As we all know, he is a rare breed to use such high end knives in his environment (Seems to me like bringing a Ferarri Enzo to the drag strip). Any knife used in a real work setting will not last forever.....

DevinT
03-27-2012, 01:36 PM
Most knife makers make knives for the love of knives and not for the money. There are a lot of knife makers that spend all of their disposable income just to make knives. The problem is that unless we sell them we will go broke and or have a very large collection of knives.

Knife making is an incurable disease, so to fund our nasty habits, it is necessary to sell them.

My wife says that I am very talented, she says that I can make anything but money.

The high price of some knives seems to offend some people. There are no rich knife makers, and only a few that can make a living at it. Even the mighty Bob Kramer drives a car with over 280,000 miles on it. He is a good friend, makes a living making knives, but does not have a lavish life style.

I think that most people on this forum buy knives for the same reason that makers make them, the love of knives. If money were an issue, we would buy inexpensive knives. But what fun would that be?

I love knives and I'm glad that we have forums like this to share that love.

Love and respect

Hoss

Marko Tsourkan
03-27-2012, 01:39 PM
The edge on a properly heat treated knife should last up to 1 month (or more) in a pro kitchen with regular stropping. I think if you maintain your knife, it should last for years even in a pro environment.

M

NO ChoP!
03-27-2012, 02:00 PM
Marko, I 100% agree; that being said, 12x a year sharpening, and several years of monthly sharpening will eventually wear even the best made knife down. You can only thin so much before you end up with a petty knife, lol...

My only argument was that these can't be considered "heirloom" if to be used in a "pro" environment, because eventually it will become worn; making them instead, simply expensive work tools.

And my comment pertaining to a BB lasting three years would mean that would be the sole knife in which I used, as we all know this would never be the case, as I love knives too much to settle on just one, so it probably would last much, much longer as it would be part of a rotation....

...and I love DT's comment from his wife; they always seem to put things in perspective, d*#% women!

HHH Knives
03-27-2012, 02:09 PM
Devin, you nailed it! Thanks Hoss for putting this back where it belongs, Its about a love for sharp stuff, and the people who appreciate and use them!

Its not money that drives us!! Theres something else that fuels the addiction. Its the passion and a love of the craft, and the tools we make. Its the pride of creating something useful, and beautiful.. Its overcoming new challenges, and learning and gaining experience from one another and out of our own trials. Its trying to make every knife better then the last. And for me, most of all, its the pleasure of dealing with amazing people that share similar interests and passions for sharp stuff!


God Bless YA
Randy

El Pescador
03-27-2012, 02:22 PM
The edge on a properly heat treated knife should last up to 1 month (or more) in a pro kitchen with regular stropping. I think if you maintain your knife, it should last for years even in a pro environment.

M

Yeah, we should all eat right and save for retirement! Optimally this works. But in a pro environment, they don't get sharpened when they should, get abused, used for the wrong task, etc. If a 240mm gyuto is 50mm tall and you remove .5mm at a sharpening it becomes a 40mm tall suji in about 1 1/2 years. This is not counting fixes for chips etc.

JMJones
03-27-2012, 02:51 PM
Another huge hurdle that full time knife makers have is that the vast majority of knife makers are hobbiest. Therefore they are usually willing to charge a much smaller hourly rate than if they had to use thier knife making wage to pay their bills. It can be very diffucult to compete with someone who is willing to almost work for free.

Bishopmaker
03-27-2012, 03:00 PM
Wow, I just read all 10 pages and I have a few little things to say.

I agree with Dave in regards to his Murray Carter comments. Essentially, what Murray has done is taken the Japanese blacksmith's model and tweaked it to suit his needs. Where a lot of time comes in is not in making a beautifully functioning knife, but in creating a physically beautiful one. Murray's handles tend to be average at best, and the same can be said for his finish sanding on his blades. However, they cut like nobody's business. We all know that Murray CAN make gorgeous handles and perfectly finished knives, yet for the most part, he chooses not to. Of course, when he does, he reminds us he has an MS stamp by charging us accordingly.

I, as you all know, support Pierre Rodrigue and as long as he continues to make knives, I'm sure I'll continue to buy them from him (when the wife, bills and life allow). Why do I support him? Easy - his knives cut as well as my Carters, look even cooler, are one of a kind, I had a hand in the process and...most importantly, he's shown me that he is a good guy who LOVES making knives. He gives me tips and advice to support my hobby/passion of "creating" and expects nothing in return but to bounce back the excitement and desire to try something new. Many of you feel the same about Devin Thomas, Marko, and to a certain extent, Randy and Dave. We all have makers we believe in, and I think everyone here deserves the backing of all of us on KKF.

What it comes down to is paying what we feel is fair so we can get excited/inspired when we use it. I'm not a collector, I'm a hobbyist who gives a crap about my tools. I take pride in everything I own, from my golf clubs, to my shaving gear, to my woodworking tools, to my knives, instruments, house etc.

Let's face it, we're all just big kids who want toys that for a moment take us to a place that doesn't have mortgage payments or a monthly insurance bill. If I need to pay $1000 to remember how to enjoy the simple things in life, then it's a small price to pay. For what is money, other than a means to make life comfortable and enjoyable for yourself and the ones you love?
VERY WELL SAID! I don't have near the experience of a lot of the makers you named but people put their faith in me and get excited when I do make them a knife and because of people like that it keeps me going.

add
03-27-2012, 03:27 PM
You are comparing McD jobs and entry level line cooks to that of a skilled artisan/craftsman making luxury items. And just because the cooks are underpaid doesn't mean the salary $45k is acceptable.

I believe there are less than 10 knife makers in the US who's only job is knife making and are their families primary source of income. And I am including all US knife makers, not just thought who make kitchen knives. So if it were that profitable, you would see more full time knife makers.

Having been a non-kitchen custom knife knut and enthusiast for awhile now, I believe this estimate to be waaay off... :wink:

JohnnyChance
03-27-2012, 05:52 PM
Having been a non-kitchen custom knife knut and enthusiast for awhile now, I believe this estimate to be waaay off... :wink:

That may be true. That was second hand knowledge, but it may be off. Does *******'s number of 40 sound more reasonable? It still isn't a lot.

kazeryu
03-27-2012, 06:15 PM
...
FWIW< I think Murray Carter is the genius kitchen knifemaker in the US and he's got the model that I'm most interested in driving towards. According to his admission he forges up to 10 knives per day for probably a few days a week, then takes some time to grind in bevels and burn on handles and sharpen and out the door they go. ... His model just makes a lot of sense to me and IMO he might be the only one actually making some money in this game...well besides Bob K.


Armouring (specifically medieval/renaissance/etc. armouring) is a field very similar to knife making... Many of the people who (successfully) do it for a living have said that this "batch method" is the only way to do it. Making one item at a time is much more fulfilling, but it is a really bad way to run a business unless you have people with fat wallets already lined up outside your door and down the driveway.

Noodle Soup
03-27-2012, 07:03 PM
For those that have never met Murray at a knife show, you will usually find him behind a table stacked with several dozen knives (many of which aren't catalog/website items) with more under the table. Go by most of the other custom makers posting on this website and you will be lucky to see two or three blades. I can see how that would work for those selling "art work" but for those making working tools Murray's model makes a lot more sense to me.

jmforge
03-27-2012, 08:24 PM
Johnny, that is just the guys from the ABS, which has about 1200 knife maker members last time that I checked. It doesn't include the Guild guys, the nonaffiliated types and foreign makers. Think about this. In the time that this little, narrowly focused 1200 member forum has existed, you have had maybe 7 or 8 guys who do knife stuff full time sign up for their own sub-forums.
That may be true. That was second hand knowledge, but it may be off. Does *******'s number of 40 sound more reasonable? It still isn't a lot.

Marko Tsourkan
03-27-2012, 08:33 PM
For those that have never met Murray at a knife show, you will usually find him behind a table stacked with several dozen knives (many of which aren't catalog/website items) with more under the table. Go by most of the other custom makers posting on this website and you will be lucky to see two or three blades. I can see how that would work for those selling "art work" but for those making working tools Murray's model makes a lot more sense to me.

In a business sense Murray's model is great, but it is not for everybody. I wonder if Bob Kramer (even when he was selling his western chef for $475) has ever sent out a knife with Murray's typical fit and finish. I doubt it.

M

Deckhand
03-27-2012, 08:37 PM
Most knife makers make knives for the love of knives and not for the money. There are a lot of knife makers that spend all of their disposable income just to make knives. The problem is that unless we sell them we will go broke and or have a very large collection of knives.

Knife making is an incurable disease, so to fund our nasty habits, it is necessary to sell them.

My wife says that I am very talented, she says that I can make anything but money.

The high price of some knives seems to offend some people. There are no rich knife makers, and only a few that can make a living at it. Even the mighty Bob Kramer drives a car with over 280,000 miles on it. He is a good friend, makes a living making knives, but does not have a lavish life style.

I think that most people on this forum buy knives for the same reason that makers make them, the love of knives. If money were an issue, we would buy inexpensive knives. But what fun would that be?

I love knives and I'm glad that we have forums like this to share that love.

Love and respect

Hoss

Thanks for the great post.

Noodle Soup
03-27-2012, 09:05 PM
In a business sense Murray's model is great, but it is not for everybody. I wonder if Bob Kramer (even when he was selling his western chef for $475) has ever sent out a knife with Murray's typical fit and finish. I doubt it.

M

I've been at shows back in the "old days" that Bob Kramer was also attending. I don't remember him ever having a table, let alone knives for sale. On the other hand, I own 15 or 20 Carter knives, many bought back when he was still living in Japan and visiting the U.S. just for shows.

l r harner
03-27-2012, 10:40 PM
with the fact that i now have 2 venders that sell my knives/.razors i hardly ever have any work to even put out for a show let alone have extras to keep under the table

i know of only one or 2 other makers that have "extras" under the table and no own that i know has a true retailer they deal with (porvyers do not count les they are making monthy orders)

tk59
03-28-2012, 01:53 AM
I just ground a knife. I'd say I used $10 worth of belts. The steel was expensive. Maybe $50-100 for a blade including HT? I don't have a handle yet but the materials I have would cost maybe $50 and another $100+ or so if I had someone make it. So just materials come out to be around $200-$300 in materials for a san mai knife. I probably spent 20-30 hrs on it for a fairly nice machine finish. No way would I ever sell a knife I made unless I had way better tools, lol. It's just not remotely close to being worth it.

jmforge
03-28-2012, 02:14 AM
Maybe closer to the $100 mark. Heat treat for a single blade will now cost you $25 a Peters. It ain't cheap. As you discovered, you can spend as much or more for belts if you are using a cheap steel like 1095. For a piece of expensive PM stuff for a gyuto or a full tang 5.5-6 inch field knife, you have better count on dropping around $30 just on the steel. In my case, it doesn't cost nearly that much in materials and outsourced services to make a carbon steel blade, but I have a press and an oven, which did cost a lot up front.
I just ground a knife. I'd say I used $10 worth of belts. The steel was expensive. Maybe $50-100 for a blade including HT? I don't have a handle yet but the materials I have would cost maybe $50 and another $100+ or so if I had someone make it. So just materials come out to be around $200-$300 in materials for a san mai knife. I probably spent 20-30 hrs on it for a fairly nice machine finish. No way would I ever sell a knife I made unless I had way better tools, lol. It's just not remotely close to being worth it.

dragonlord
03-28-2012, 02:26 AM
How many blades could you have heat treating at the same time and inthe same device/machine?

As each additional knife in the machine reduces the running cost of the machine per blade.

In break even chart sense the machine use could be considered a fixed cost as it should be the same whether you are making 1 item or 100 (i'd call it a semi fixed cost as when you're not doing any knives in it it doesn't cost you anything).

Out of interest has anyone actually sat down and worked out the running costs for all their tools?

geezr
03-28-2012, 02:52 AM
I've been at shows back in the "old days" that Bob Kramer was also attending. I don't remember him ever having a table, let alone knives for sale. On the other hand, I own 15 or 20 Carter knives, many bought back when he was still living in Japan and visiting the U.S. just for shows.

Back in the day I worked with a cool guy who collected knives, guns and 1st edition books of certain topics. Traveled a lot with wife – no kids - and went knuts 1st time in Japan. His knives mirror edges were polished with compounds. So he shows me a Saveur magazine with article about Bob Kramers kitchen knives and suggests that I may consider custom made kitchen knives - as folders, hunters, tactical customs he collected did not make sense for me. At that time Bob Kramer may have been the only knife maker focusing on custom made kitchen knives and living in the U.S.A.

Bishopmaker
03-28-2012, 06:48 AM
IM a hobbyist who makes 1-4 blades a MONTH with a fairly nice shop
2000$ for grinder with motor vfd and various attachments
2500$ for mill with dro and power feed and all the endmills needed
600 for metal lathe
300 for buffer and wheels
1600 for heat treat oven and various accessories
600 drill press, metal and wood bandsaw with blades
500 in various belts for grinder (i order 2-6 a month depending on knives made)
and then there is sharpening systems, waterstones, drill bits, micrometers, clamps, vices, and all kind of little stuff that come up

Then the guys who forge and make their own damascus and san mai can blow me away and this is just a hobby. I also got close to 800 for benches/desk and 240v wiring and lighting setup in my garage aka shop for everything.

Marko Tsourkan
03-28-2012, 08:15 AM
I heat treat 4 blades at a time. My heat treatment for 52100 is multistep process, and everything has to happen without any delay for optimal result. Between profiling and heat treating, it takes me a full day - 8 hours. So one day per week is set for heat treating 4 blades.

When you a one-person shop, right equipment will add efficiency to your work, but it will not turn you in a mass-producer, unless you buy one of those Kuka robots. I have spent so far about 10K on equipment, and still need to buy more to improve efficiency.

For instance, doing a distal taper on a blade by hand will take me 45 - 60 minutes. Doing it on a surface grinder (or with a surface grinding attachment) would take less than 10 minutes. So, there is a time saving, but you still do the rest by hand - grind, tune up on stones and hand-finish a blade as well as make a handle, saya and that is where most time goes.

M

dragonlord
03-28-2012, 08:25 AM
does profiling and heat treating have to happen at the same time, or could you profile 8 blades 1 day, and heat treat the 8 blades the next day?

Marko Tsourkan
03-28-2012, 08:36 AM
No it doesn't have to happen at the same time, but since I heat treat no more than 4 blades at a time, it makes sense to do it in one day - it occupies a whole day cutting, profiling and heat treating.

Heat treatment is a multi-step process - 6-8 steps (depending on a steel) and takes about 6 hours to complete, so I would need 12 hours to do two batches of 4.

Time saving here would come from having blanks laser or water jet cut. I might go that route, but I will do the heat treatment in-house, though I will add a molten salt pods to speed up HT process. I have a long list of equipment to buy, but unfortunately, can do it all at once.

M

l r harner
03-28-2012, 09:16 AM
i have about 10k in tools and god only knows how many belts i have ground to death

im building a new shop and thats going to be 30k but it should help me get my production up a bit

its a bit frightning how quick you can spend 1k$ on sheet PM steel and thats with even Carpenter steel being as nice as they are to me.

i hope to have some B52 soon and if its as good as i think i will be buying every bit of it that they have left in stock (its tripple melt 52100 and is to be the cleanest 52100 i have ever worked with ) that orderrr alone will be around 5K$ and thats more less jsut for razors

Marko Tsourkan
03-28-2012, 09:38 AM
I think 10K for a shop it's just a minimum equipment needed if you do things more or less efficiently, and that probably would not include equipment like a good metal-cutting bandsaw, 3K+ new, or 2x72" belt converted surface grinder at 3-5K. it helps if you don't have to rent a workshop, but still there is plenty of cost involved.

These posts are not to lament about the costs, but to show that there are some serious decisions (and risks) involved, to go this path.

M

dragonlord
03-28-2012, 12:26 PM
I'm guessing that heat treating is a task that requires a lot of attention to the job at hand, which is why something that makes it go faster (salt pods according to your post) or some way to do more of them to the same standard are the only ways to increase through put

Michael Rader
03-28-2012, 12:30 PM
And let's not forget the $650/yr needed to maintain our vendor status here at KKF.

And it's not about the time either. The little costs of running a business all add up.

So, where do I get about 10 of those Kuka robots for the shop?

~M

Craig
03-28-2012, 12:57 PM
Are razors more profitable than knives? I've always thought they must be, because they can cost about as much for a fifth the steel.

jmforge
03-28-2012, 07:45 PM
Add $5000 minimum for a new power hammer ( a very small one) if you are so inclined or anywhere from $3000 to $6500 for a good press and the same or sometimes much more for a rolling mill. Marco is spot on about the HT. Unless you have 2 salt pots for carbon steel at about $2k a pop if you buy them from Evenheat or 3-4 pots AND a cryo setup if you are trying to HT stainless from start to finish with salt, things can go kinda slow with the typical Evenheat or Paragon oven and you are much better off if you have TWO evens so you don't have to wait for one to cool down enough so you can temper when not going straight to cryo after quenching. Really good belts like Blaze or the other ceramics run $7-8 per belt. Yes, the typical PM steel that kitchen knife makers use can be 3-5 times as expensive as carbon steel, but steel doesn't become a HUGE part of your total cost until you start using pattern welded steel, assuming that you are using steel better than the cheapest American made stuff. If you look at Randy's sub forum, you will find that a Randy Jr. billet big enough for a gyuto typical costs north of $200 and goes up depending on the complexity of the pattern and IMO, Randy Jr. is charging VERY fair prices for what you are getting. If a guy like David Lisch is charging what he SHOULD charge for some of the very complex stuff you see Michael using lately , it might cause a little sticker shock.

l r harner
03-28-2012, 08:28 PM
i have a better time of making razors and the HT is a bit less complex then the SS alloys that i use for kitchen knives
also the temps that i need to run the kiln at are different and SS is much harder on the kiln cause its 2000f not the round 1500f that most "plain" high carbon steels need

in truth i can get a razor ground faster too as a kitchen knife will bend around the platten and only touch the edges of the belt ( i knwo in about an hour if i have ground a razor or taken a blank and ground it into junk )
kneckers are the fastest thing i think i make and it shows in price

RRLOVER
03-28-2012, 10:07 PM
Heat treatment is a multi-step process - 6-8 steps

M


6-8 steps??? Maybe you should put your equipment closer together:angel:



Very interesting thread......Like Hoss said,In the end you have to sell them.It really does not matter how many you can make but how many you can sell.

Eamon Burke
03-28-2012, 10:54 PM
Are razors more profitable than knives? I've always thought they must be, because they can cost about as much for a fifth the steel.

And 5x the scrap razor-shaped paperweights you make in the process! Razors are demanding and have a very limited, picky market.

That is exactly what people in the outdoor knife community say about kitchen knives though, so who am I to judge!

l r harner
03-29-2012, 12:22 AM
i have gotfairly good at razor grinding but still pitch my fair share inthe trash

jmforge
03-29-2012, 03:04 AM
Eamon, the potential market for custom kitchen knives may be larger than we think, but we will have to find out. Who would have thought that the market for pro-grade stoves sold to people who don't really cook much would have been so lucrative? ::lol2:
And 5x the scrap razor-shaped paperweights you make in the process! Razors are demanding and have a very limited, picky market.

That is exactly what people in the outdoor knife community say about kitchen knives though, so who am I to judge!

jmforge
03-29-2012, 03:08 AM
IN the case of stainless, I can think of 6 steps minimum. preheat, austenize, quench, cryo and 2 tempering cycles. that assumes do don't have to do an addition step for stress relief and multiple cryo cycles. For a forged blade, take out the cryo and add 2-3 normalizing cycles and maybe some kind of annealing before you even grind the blade. If you really want to get fancy, you can take it from normalizing and harden it, then do a subcritical anneal and grind and machine. Some folks do that on steel that has a habit of air hardening a bit during normalizing like L6.
6-8 steps??? Maybe you should put your equipment closer together:angel:



Very interesting thread......Like Hoss said,In the end you have to sell them.It really does not matter how many you can make but how many you can sell.

RRLOVER
03-29-2012, 06:44 AM
IN the case of stainless, I can think of 6 steps minimum. preheat, austenize, quench, cryo and 2 tempering cycles. that assumes do don't have to do an addition step for stress relief and multiple cryo cycles. For a forged blade, take out the cryo and add 2-3 normalizing cycles and maybe some kind of annealing before you even grind the blade. If you really want to get fancy, you can take it from normalizing and harden it, then do a subcritical anneal and grind and machine. Some folks do that on steel that has a habit of air hardening a bit during normalizing like L6.


Did my joke go over your head or am I not as funny as I think I am.

mr drinky
03-29-2012, 06:50 AM
Did my joke go over your head or am I not as funny as I think I am.

I thought it was a pretty good joke and got a laugh.

k.

Marko Tsourkan
03-29-2012, 07:29 AM
Did my joke go over your head or am I not as funny as I think I am.
:) Read is as a joke.

M

Michael Rader
03-29-2012, 11:34 AM
If a guy like David Lisch is charging what he SHOULD charge for some of the very complex stuff you see Michael using lately , it might cause a little sticker shock.

Oh yeah, that's $600+ right out of my wallet for some of that feather - out of the gate. I'm in the same camp as Devin T. here: lots of skill, but can't make money to save my life!!!

~M

Don Nguyen
03-29-2012, 02:05 PM
Did my joke go over your head or am I not as funny as I think I am.

Lmao, I thought it was a bit cheesy.

jmforge
03-29-2012, 05:57 PM
No, i got the joke. :biggrin:
Did my joke go over your head or am I not as funny as I think I am.

Crothcipt
03-29-2012, 06:52 PM
It took me a min. but I was thinking of something else at the same time. I loved the joke.

Johnny.B.Good
03-29-2012, 07:33 PM
I assumed you were joking, but since I don't know all of the steps involved in properly heat treating a knife, I wasn't sure. :O

Pensacola Tiger
03-29-2012, 07:37 PM
I assumed you were joking, but since I don't know all of the steps involved in properly heat treating a knife, I wasn't sure. :O

You put your right foot in,
You put your right foot out;
You put your right foot in,
And you shake it all about.

No wait ...

Lefty
03-29-2012, 07:44 PM
I think that might be something else, Rick....

Eamon Burke
03-29-2012, 08:38 PM
I think that might be something else, Rick....

It's sex, right?

PierreRodrigue
03-29-2012, 10:49 PM
No, Eamon, that is the emergency response plan for extinguishing the bag of burning dog crap Mr Richards found on his front step... (nevermind :goodevil: )

Pensacola Tiger
03-29-2012, 11:04 PM
What? Nobody's heard of "The Hokey Pokey"?

Lefty
03-30-2012, 09:35 AM
Yup, it must be sex.

Mike Davis
03-30-2012, 10:11 AM
HAHAHAHA!!!! As far as the making thing is concerned, i generally profile 8-10 blades at a time. then i heat treat them in batches of 4. If i forge a blade, which i think i will do primarily from here on out, it will increase the process by 3 normalizing cycles per blade. I am far from having a need to make 25 knives a month, so i grind blades in stages. I will do 4 blade rough grind, then work my way up the belts and do those 4 until close to final finish. I need to get a good system down for handles. I figure i put out about 10k in equipment, close to that again in handle materials, a chunk for steel, then propane and belts($200 a month in belts), It does cost a lot of money to operate. I have only sold a few knives so far, am not full time, and i have "blown my wad" financially, hoping that i do something worthwhile pursuing this hobby lol. I might decide to go full time in the near future, as the wife and i have been talking about it.

jmforge
03-30-2012, 11:09 AM
Didn't he call it POOP? :biggrin:
No, Eamon, that is the emergency response plan for extinguishing the bag of burning dog crap Mr Richards found on his front step... (nevermind :goodevil: )

Mike Davis
03-30-2012, 02:22 PM
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!
Didn't he call it POOP? :biggrin:

oivind_dahle
04-01-2012, 07:23 AM
If you want a custom knife, great. They are worth the money. But you're not necessarily buying performance.

+1

Pachowder
04-01-2012, 09:31 AM
I have no issue with whatever makers want to charge. If they get what they want and buyers are happy, then good for everyone. That being said I am pissed I couldn't spend a small fortune on knives :)

jmforge
04-01-2012, 11:08 PM
A small fortune starts one overdue rent check at a time.:doublethumbsup:
I have no issue with whatever makers want to charge. If they get what they want and buyers are happy, then good for everyone. That being said I am pissed I couldn't spend a small fortune on knives :)