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Is knife making worth it?

Discussion in 'Shop Talk - BladeSmith Questions and Answers' started by rodogg, May 5, 2012.

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  1. rodogg


    Nov 25, 2011
    Been considering getting into knife making for a while now. I'm wondering what you knife makers think about this? Is it a good idea? Is it a profitable business? I would have to invest time and money to get it started so I need advice. If I had the money I could simply try it out, but I don't.

    Thanks in advance.
  2. defaultuser


    May 3, 2006
    Profitable? Not for me. Barely covers my cost. The truth is even if I could not sell even one knife, I would make knives anyway. Just my 2 cents.
  3. RyanW

    RyanW Moderator Moderator Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Jul 17, 2009
    IMO NO... If you are thinking about making knives to make millions, invest your money and time elsewhere. If you want to make knives cause it is something you might enjoy doing for years, and cover your costs that is more reasonable.

    As the old saying goes: "If you want to make a million making knives, start with 2 million"
  4. jll346

    jll346 Knife maker Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    May 29, 2006
    If you want to get into knifemaking because you love knives go for it. If your thinking about it for the money, think again. If you are able to make enough money to support your habit you will be doing great. If you are extremely talented and in time can establish a good reputation you could make a living as many great makers do. Many great makers also have other jobs.
  5. 12345678910


    Jul 13, 2009
    No, it's not a simple money maker without a decade or two of investment in skills and equipment first.

    I think it is worth trying to see if you like it, or have the knack.

    have a look at these links, especially the "Cheapskate" ones

    To quote another forum
    For a simple money maker, you can always start a hotdog cart or a couple of vending machines and make more money.

    The full time makers I think of are selling:
    Damascus steel
    Wood and handle materials
    Tools, equipment and attachments

    and they have noticed a slowdown.

    You have to make, advertise, sell, collect $, ship something every day.
    Last edited: May 5, 2012
  6. Chuck Gedraitis Knives

    Chuck Gedraitis Knives KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Dec 10, 1998
    First off how much of a demand is there for custom knives in your area? Will you sell them locally or online? What will your target market and price range be? Where will you source your materials from? International shipping can get expensive. Will you build your own equipment or buy it? What is available in your area?

    It's not a matter of picking up a grinder, drill press and some steel and building a knife. Grinding takes practice as well as learning about fit, finish and heat treating.

    It's worth it for me but I have been making knives for 20yrs.
  7. Nathan the Machinist

    Nathan the Machinist KnifeMaker / Machinist / Evil Genius Moderator Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Feb 13, 2007
    The cost of entry is low. There are a lot of hobbyists at it. There is a race to the bottom in pricing. Any rational businessman looking at starting a business would choose a hotdog cart first. There is a big learning curve to become proficient at it and a master at the craft does not generally receive the compensation that masters of other crafts can hope for.

    That said, it is a fun, rewarding and potentially profitable hobby. If you can leave it as a hobby. I'm a full time, self employed "maker". But I mostly "make" other stuff and make knives as filler work. Otherwise I'd go broke.
  8. mrp


    Feb 22, 2012
    How can you not have the money to try it? A hacksaw, a piece of 1084 steel, some files, sandpaper and a drill should cost you $70 at most, $15 if you have everything but the steel. It would be silly to jump right in and buy/build at 2x72 grinder without having made a bunch by hand first. Give it a shot! Using only hand-tools is a bit tedious at times, but very fulfilling at the end.
  9. Frank Niro

    Frank Niro Basic Member Basic Member

    Sep 10, 2000
    I'm very heavy into making liner locking folders but just the oposite in making money. Frank
  10. javand

    javand KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Oct 17, 2010
    Is it worth getting into? It can be very rewarding on a personal level, as a hobby or obsession. As others mentioned however, if you're eyeballing it as a "career" that you expect to be profitable, look elsewhere.

    It can become profitable to varying degrees, once you have experience, equipment, and of course, *talent*. It's not a "trade" you take up like welding or nursing because it's a smart career choice. It's more akin to being an artist. Yes, some few do very well at it, most starve.

    Everybody I know that is *only* a full-time knifemaker is either a) retired, b) independantly welthy, c) supported by their spouse, or d) seriously struggling to keep the bills paid.

    I don't know a single person that only makes custom knives for a living that doesn't fall into those categories. If they paid for all their equipment, house, and debts from a previous job, they're retired in my book.

    You can certainly suplement an income with knifemaking if you're talented, and there are some few that make a good living at it, but its the exception to the rule.
  11. MKP


    Sep 25, 2011
    My take is that knives making is a money loosing proposition. However, I have a question to hobbyist knives makers who sell their knives. If you have to estimate, how much do the knives you sell cover the expense of your hobby? Is this a reasonable expectation for a hobbyist after 3-4 years (i.e. after the initial learning phase) to cover half of his expense selling his knives.
  12. Big Chris

    Big Chris SAHD/Knifemaker Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Apr 1, 2010
    I started making knives because I could not afford a custom. I worked at a maccine shop and got all my materials from there. My first knife was practically free in materials. Then I got a cheap chinese grinder and made a few more. I am able to cover material costs but not going to make at it. I make all my knives as though I will not be able to sell them, I like everything I make and want to keep it. This way I am also able to get and play with any of the supersteels at a very reasonable price.

    I wwould just do it because you like making things and not look at to make a living. Just my thoughts from my perspective.
  13. Dennis Paish

    Dennis Paish

    Jan 3, 2007
    Please DON'T ask this question to my Wife?

  14. Rick Marchand

    Rick Marchand Donkey on the Edge Moderator

    Jan 6, 2005
    If you are thinking of competing with production companies with production quality blades that can't be distinguished from every other cookie-cutter knife flooding the market today, then you might have a hard go at it. If you find a niche, establish your own style, market yourself and have the skill to back it, you can make a decent living. You also can't allow yourself to stagnate. There is a common theme in these types of threads that knifemakers are poor. If everybody is saying it, it must be true, right? I look at it this way... Lots of people can cook but only a few can make a living at it. Does that mean they make a better quiche than the home cook? Not necessarily. There is more to knifemaking than making knives... you need to know that if you intend on making a carreer of it.
    Last edited: May 5, 2012
  15. kc custom

    kc custom KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Apr 20, 2005
    I guess I'm blown away at the amount of people that think this is a magic moneymaker.
    As has been said it can be very rewarding. Going into it without some kind of mechanical
    or tooling background would make it tougher. A whole lot of expierience with the mentioned
    fields would be the best place to start. For myself it started with a dremel, a rockwell
    drill, 2" vise, and 1/2 of a kitchen Table in the early 1970's. Good Luck.


    Aug 17, 2010
    I am so happy this post came up. I now want a hotdog cart more than anything. It could pay for the damn knives.
  17. RyanW

    RyanW Moderator Moderator Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Jul 17, 2009
    Now you are thinking you need a job to support the habit! I was considering Delivering Pizzas, did the math and would make more money based on time spent.
  18. Daniel Fairly Knives

    Daniel Fairly Knives Full Time Knifemaker Moderator

    Jan 9, 2011
    Profitable... sure, I sell 'em all! :D

    Oh yeah you probably mean extra money above and beyond buying more supplies. Now that's impossible!

    OK enough silliness...

    You can make a profit but it is really tough. I have had other businesses and this has been a tough one. (but the best! :D ) I'd say an $8/hr job would bring you more money that 99% of knifemakers bring in.
  19. jonnymac44


    Sep 27, 2007
    HAHA! Erik, I'll go in halves with ya!!:D
  20. RyanW

    RyanW Moderator Moderator Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Jul 17, 2009
    I would offer to go in 1/3 with you guys, but I am afraid I would eat all the profits :D
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