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Clients and Makers and Deposits, Oh My!

Discussion in 'Custom & Handmade Knives' started by Rick Marchand, Jul 10, 2018.

  1. Rick Marchand

    Rick Marchand Donkey on the Edge Moderator Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Jan 6, 2005
    Hey Folks,

    Most of my potential clients ask if a deposit is required for a new commission. I never have and don't plan on going that route. My style is pretty simple. The materials are not exotic or hi-tech, space-aged stuff, so I'm not dishing out big bucks, upfront. I have seen the prices on high-end handle materials and completely understand asking for money upfront if a client specifically requests for Koala Shin scales or Depleted Uranium bolsters.

    Another reason why I don't take deposits or give due dates is that $#!T happens. People wait a long time to get a knife and a lot can happen in between... on both sides of the equation. There have been a few occasions were unexpected car/house repairs have blindsided me and I certainly won't begrudge a customer for having to back out for similar reasons. Heck, even if they simply change their mind, why would I want them to purchase something they are having second thoughts on.

    Keeping with the $#!T happens theme, what about the maker? Family issues, sickness, and life in general can get in the way of productivity and the last thing you need is a deposit hanging over your head. Some of you have pending commissions with me and must realize by now how horrible I am with timely turnarounds... It's even worse if I like you... and good luck if I consider you a friend... add a few years. In all seriousness, some jobs take longer than others, that's just how it goes when you are dealing with someone who's whole week can be shot if they suddenly have an idea as to how to organize the recycle bins with a simple yet highly effective, hand-forged sliding rack system. You guys should see this thing... its breathtaking... aaaahhh. Crap... lost my train of thought?

    I recently had a client fall off the face of the Earth. He was overseas on business for months and I happily held on to his blade. All I required was an occasional check-in. Well, we are at the 8 month mark, now and he has not responding to my emails for 6 weeks. I hope he is okay, but have to move on. I posted the available piece in a few places and got a couple "That's what deposits are for." comments. It kinda sucks but I don't mind carrying stock once in a while. I wish I could have more available pieces, actually.

    I'd like to hear your thoughts on deposits and delivery dates. Whether you are a collector, dealer, general customer or maker.

    AND ... while I have your attention....


    Yes.. I have no shame.
    rooster68, danbot, BenR.T. and 7 others like this.
  2. Storm Crow

    Storm Crow

    Apr 12, 2006
    I don't do deposits. Helps keep me honest, and when it takes forever to complete a knife, the customer isn't out any money.

    It's easier when you are at a point as a maker where you can pretty much depend on anything you make selling before long. If a customer disappears, not so much a problem.
  3. john april

    john april KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Feb 27, 2006
    i do not like the pressure of delivery dates. for me its more fun to make a knife and put it up for sale when its finished. i do not require a deposit, i have a few customers disappear over the years but the knife eventually sold. i have also had customers offer a deposit, which i declined.
    ilknives, danbot and Dawkind like this.
  4. jdm61

    jdm61 itinerant metal pounder Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Aug 12, 2005
    A while back, there was a kitchen knife maker who apparently ended up heading to the hills because of failure to deliver product that he had taken money for. Wasn't the first time in that universe from what I saw, j but perhaps the worst as he had built a reputation for making a pretty good blade. Recently, I saw that another relatively well known guy in that universe was in the same boat, but perhaps worse if he doesn't get things fixed quickly. In addition to taking deposits for knives yet to be completed, he had received peoples blades for mods, service, etc. and some of them had also apparently fallen into that black hole of delay. We saw that delay bug bite a small scale manufacturer here in BFC. I don't remember the exact circumstances, but I seem to recall that they were using payments or deposits kind of as "seed capital" to pay for their next batches. With this firm and the second kitchen knife guy, they both added insult to injury by selling "off the shelf" blades even though they had people waiting for their ordered blades to be delivered for a long time. We know that unexpected stuff happens (or that people don't plan for their unexpected success), but taking money up front for anything other than expensive exotic materials is a BAD idea, IMO. Ditto for continuing to take orders and MONEY when you are already way behind. Catch up and fund your new projects with the money for the ones that you have managed to DELIVER. Don't make you CUSTOMERS pay for your bad business decisions. ;)
    valknut and Dawkind like this.
  5. madcap_magician

    madcap_magician Gold Member Gold Member

    Feb 27, 2005
    Well, remember what they say... no knife harder to make than the one that's already been paid for.

    Also, it's not the depleted uranium that's expensive for bolsters, it's making the dust mitigation system for grinding it! :D
    ShannonSteelLabs likes this.
  6. Don Hanson III

    Don Hanson III KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Oct 3, 2002
    No Deposits, No Delivery Dates. But No Orders is even better. :ccol:
  7. Lorien

    Lorien Moderator Moderator

    Dec 5, 2005
    lol! Feeling pretty good about myself right now :) Cheers buddy!
    Dawkind likes this.
  8. timos-

    timos- KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Oct 22, 2012
    For exotic blade steels like custom 400$ bar of damascus and handles like 150$ rosewood burl I started having the customer purchase direct from the vendors and ship it to me. That way Im never out any serious money and if there is a problem I will just send em their stuff. Most of my customers seem to like choosing their own materials anyway. It seems to be part of the fun with custom work.
    olymon and Dawkind like this.
  9. sheathmaker

    sheathmaker Custom Leather Sheaths Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    May 18, 2005
    My policy is No money up front for any reason, period. Keeping stock inventory (including expensive exotics) is my problem, not the client's. I keep wait times very manageable and the clients seem to appreciate that. Normal turn around is about 48 hours or less from receipt of the knife in the shop. 100%, no questions, satisfaction guarantee, always. Rarely if ever have problem.

  10. Don Hanson III

    Don Hanson III KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Oct 3, 2002
    Paul you operate as any successful business should and better than any I know of.
    I also stock inventory, probably $200k worth, maybe more.:D
    Dawkind likes this.
  11. Jason Fry

    Jason Fry KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Jun 5, 2008
    I'm like Timos. If I need something expensive for a knife, I'll have the customer buy it and have it shipped to me at exactly the point I'm starting their knife. Otherwise, no deposits, ever. It has worked out for ten years so far. I'm not quite up to Don's inventory level yet, lol. I am fortunate to not have many customers bail out, but I don't take orders that I don't think I could sell otherwise. I typically quote delivery a few months further out than I intend to finish. Sometimes life happens and I'm late, but I don't have their money yet, so I can live with being late once in a while. No money comes to me till the knife is done.
    Don Hanson III likes this.
  12. Dawkind

    Dawkind Platinum Member Platinum Member

    Apr 3, 2000
    I recently finalized a terrible experience (not the way my Brother Sam means it either) from a very well known Maker. I reluctantly entered into an agreement to get in on a run of special knives at the tune of $200....that was 2 1/2 years ago....I think y'all know where this is going.

    Being the Wonderful Person I am... ;) ...I listened as, what I considered a friend, he tells me of his financial woes and needed a bit more of a 'deposit' for said work. I'd also requested the 'Show Finish' on this for an additional $350 on top of the base price of $600...that's $950 for you without a calculator handy. :D This is the 1 year mark and I've paid $500.

    At 1 1/2 years, the Makers cell phone takes a swim and would I PLEASE just pay the balance?!? Again, this is a 'friend' of many years and a number of knives. The wait continues and now it's 2 years....crickets.

    I've finally reached the end of my rope and finally demand the knife or my money back, knowing this guy doesn't have 2 dimes to rub together let alone basically $1K in cash I'm gonna get a knife, hopefully....fast forward 6 months.

    More excuses and BS but then I get a message that another REAL friend of mine has the piece to finish the handle, since this other guy evidently didn't have the wherewithal to finish the Godforsaken thing after jacking me around for 2 1/2 years! I FINALLY get said piece and what an abomination for $1K....no sheath or even blade cover, the 'DeluxeSuperDooper$350ExtraShowFinish' is a f'n cruel joke with fire-scale on the flats I could still chisel off if I wanted and the best part? The heat-treat absolutely sucks as the tip was overheated and is soft, the clip was never sharpened, and it's about 2/3 the physical size that it should have been....makes me sick!

    I leave it out just to remind me that, yes, even your 'friends' will run it in to the hair line....hard and dry. No names but you all can bet your very last cent with certainty that no money will leave my hands before it's time and it's BS exactly like this that have me backing away from my collecting passion of Custom Knives, albeit my fault for breaking 'The Deposit Rule', it ain't never gonna happen again.

    Again, I'm not going to divulge this guys name and y'all can cuss me all you want but that's how it is....don't give anyone any money up front and you won't have to worry about it. Like Rick and John have said, they will sell the knives they make if you stiff them but don't expect to place any other orders with them, I would be ashamed to even think I could at that point.
    valknut, cigarrodog, olymon and 3 others like this.
  13. mete

    mete Gold Member Gold Member

    Jun 10, 2003
    jdm61 , there is a company that does that and I don't see them , SK, ever getting out of the hole. I talked to them early on and warned him of the problems of that process but it continues.
    In a non-knife situation I spoke to a store owner about a distributor, who said they will be out of business in 6 months. She added that she had seen that happen many times ! !
    It's sort of a Ponzi scheme and when it collapses it's sudden .
  14. jdm61

    jdm61 itinerant metal pounder Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Aug 12, 2005
    You don't stock inventory, Smeagol. You stock THE PRECIOUS. :p
  15. jdm61

    jdm61 itinerant metal pounder Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Aug 12, 2005
    Yeah that was the small manufacturer that i was referring to. Ya know, you may better off if your scheme DOESN"T work like the play in The Producers was not supposed to be a hit. ;)
  16. jdm61

    jdm61 itinerant metal pounder Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Aug 12, 2005
    Sheesh! That makes my sell ya whatever I have in my sock drawer method not sound all that bad in comparison. :eek::D
    valknut and Dawkind like this.
  17. Phixt


    May 28, 2016
    I used to wonder why people buying higher end knives longer than I have refused to pay upfront and say things like, 'No maker worth his name would ask for money upfront'. Well, I've been finding out the hard way.

    Although I was able to back out after 3 years (receive refund) on several of my orders, there's a different maker I can't name (of course) straight rolling over his customers. All the way to changing customer chosen steels and his website, thus essentially clearing out confirmation order #s on his end. I've given him my full name, address, phone number and the response twice has been, "What's your order number?"

    Meanwhile, he's literally made and sold hundreds of knives since myself and many others sent him our cash to, 'Keep things running'. :confused:o_O Then where did all of our money go from over a year ago? Habits and pleasures, no doubt? Certainly not to the knives we custom ordered.

    :thumbsup::thumbsup: to you Rick Marchand for running shop the proper way.
  18. L.H.S

    L.H.S Gold Member Gold Member

    Jan 1, 2013
    I'm not a maker so I hope it's okay to comment here.

    I've seen a bunch of these discussions and generally don't agree with deposits. However, I recently ordered a custom slipjoint with particular carbon fiber and damasteel blade. The maker asked for a deposit to order the materials. He didn't give a delivery date, but it's been a bit (not too long, a couple weeks) longer than he estimated. I asked if he had any progress pictures, just cause I'm anxious to see it, a week or two ago and he said he was out of town but could send some when he was back in the shop but never did.

    I really hate to be a nag, as I know I can have a tendency to pester people with orders or warranty stuff, and I don't mean to rush his work... But I'm wondering if yinz think I should ask again for pictures?

    He's posted some other stuff in the mean time so I'm guessing he's just busy.
  19. i4Marc

    i4Marc KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Oct 19, 2011
    I never accept deposits. I also don't make knives I don't think will sell if the customer changes their mind. I feel bad when it takes me 3 months to finish an order but after hearing some of the horror stories maybe 3 months isn't that bad. I will offer update pictures if the customer prefers or give them the choice of waiting until they open the package. One thing I always do is give occasional updates via text or email to let them know I haven't forgotten about them and that I'm working hard to get it done as soon as possible. All my customers to date have been very understanding and gracious folks.
    danbot likes this.
  20. Rick Marchand

    Rick Marchand Donkey on the Edge Moderator Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Jan 6, 2005
    Jeeze, Lorien.... at this point, consider yourself immediate family!

    If you want out of the quantum singularity that is "Holy bawls, I still haven't done that.", please send your deposit cheque to....

    Lorien likes this.

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