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The Price of Certain Makers Knives

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dav

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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

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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"?
 

dav

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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

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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

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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

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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...
 

SpikeC

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Supply and demand is a hoax. The suppliers manipulate the supply.
 

Andrew H

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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.
 

l r harner

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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

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Sometimes it's as simple as "M.S." :whistling:
 

jmforge

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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I'd rather have a Holtey than a Kramer. I love my Lie-Nielsen planes, but a Holtey infill smoother? Oh baby! :EDance2:

 

dav

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.
 
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