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Cost of making a knife

Discussion in 'Shop Talk - BladeSmith Questions and Answers' started by C L Wilkins, Dec 26, 2002.

  1. C L Wilkins

    C L Wilkins

    Mar 18, 1999
    There was another post a few days ago concerning what or how prices are set on the finished blade. Let me give a quick run down of just the cost of materials. This is strictly for a knife made using stock removal.

    This does not factor in anything for equipment such as your drill press, grinder, bandsaw or anything else that may be used. This also does not factor in “well I had this little piece of stainless left over for the guard” either. In other words, if you were to go out to one of the knifemaker supply houses and buy what you needed to make a knife. Basically, if you are just starting out making knives. The prices I obtained were from one of the knifemaker supplier's website. You may or may not be surprised at the bottom line.

    Description ---------------------------- Cost
    1 ft. 440C 1/8" X 1 1/2" steel----------$ 8.00
    303 stainless for guard-----------------$ 7.50
    handle bolts (2 @ $2.25 ea.)-----------$ 4.50
    thong tubing --------------------------$ 2.75
    3/32" pin material----------------------$ 0.65
    spacer material -----------------------$ 0.75
    stabilized wood -----------------------$29.95
    60 grit belt ---------------------------$ 6.95
    120 grit belt --------------------------$ 5.25
    220 grit belt --------------------------$ 5.25
    400 grit belt --------------------------$ 3.75
    220 grit sheet sandpaper---------------$ 0.75
    320 grit sheet sandpaper---------------$ 0.75
    400 grit sheet sandpaper---------------$ 0.75
    600 grit sheet sandpaper---------------$ 0.75
    1200 grit sheet sandpaper--------------$ 0.75
    Heat treat ----------------------------$ 5.50
    Sheath -------------------------------$14.95
    Devcon 2 ton epoxy -------------------$ 3.25

    ---------------------------------Total $102.75

    I am sure that some folks will see this and think that you may be able to get this cheaper here or cheaper there, well, quite frankly, that is not the point. This is just an example of “a cost”.

    Granted, some material could be substituted such as the stabilized wood handle material but this should give everyone a rough idea. Like any other manufacturer, if you can save some here and save some there, then you are ahead of the game.

    As you can see, there is absolutely no labor whatsoever in the formula above. Now, the next time you make a knife, think about what the real cost is when you are thinking about making one for your wife's Uncle Ernie or specifically, pricing a knife to sell.

    C Wilkins

    (edited to line up the columns)
  2. tmickley


    Apr 4, 2001
    Last time I did a total like this, I came up with around $85. The difference between your total and my total came from minor estimate differences in wood scales cost and belt use. I figure I can get two knives from a belt.

    On a tangent to this, it would be interesting to start a discussion on where some economy can be gained. My example would be Norax belts. These start at 100x (around 200 grit) and I have tried to wear one out and haven't had much luck. I've gouged them and shredded the edges to where they have to be thrown away but I haven't been able to flat wear one out yet.
    Anyone got any other ways to economize?
  3. P.K.Hansen


    Aug 8, 1999
    I made a list like that to find out what to charge for a knife, and I came up with pretty much the same total - I don't use a grinder therefor I didn't have the belts, but maybe I should put a file or two on the list :D
  4. allan lanigan

    allan lanigan

    May 16, 2001
    I think you have hit the true cost pretty well,there are always variances and other costs but thats a part of our love of knifemaking . Some other costs could be drill bits, files,compound,waxes, oils and i,m sure others will chime in with other costs that we often care to overlook.
  5. tom mayo

    tom mayo

    Jan 27, 1999
    You dont have carbide drill bits, carbide end mills, lathe tools, hardened 440C pivot pins, 2-56 and 4-40 screws, tork screw drivers, bead blast media, electricity, etc etc etc.................
  6. Laredo7mm


    Jul 8, 2002
    Here is my analysis of my two knives that I have sold.

    Damascus Billet:------$2.58
    3 50 grit belts:------$3.00
    1 240 grit Belt:------$1.00
    Propane 1 tank:------$7.00
    Mosaic Pins:----------$2.25
    Handle Material:------$3.02
    Sheath Material:------$5.00
    1/2 sheet 600 paper:---$.50

    I make my own damascus, pins, and sheaths. I buy my handle material, belts, and leather in bulk to reduce price. I only use AO belts, bought 200 (150 50 grit and 50 240 grit) for $200.

    Anyway, total cost for the knife was $29.85
    I spent about 8.5 hours on it (including the sheath).
    It sold for $250.
    Works out to $25.90 an Hour.

    To see what these knives look like, click the link Triplets . Two of them sold for the same price and the third one was an x-mas gift for my Grandpa.

    Anyway, that is how much I think my knives cost me to build. Just my $.02 worth, but I don't want to get in to how much buffing compound I used, how much quenching oil i use, how many drill bits, how many dinners and drinks were consumed talking about knives to potential customers, etc. It is just not my style to do that. I would go nuts trying to figure it all out. Call it overhead or incidentals I guess.

    All I know is this, I would be making knives even if nobody bought them and the only way I will sell a knife is when someone offers me what I feel it is worth.
  7. Nathan House

    Nathan House

    Feb 14, 2000
    Mr Wilkins
    Have you ever drop from a 50 grit right into a X30 Norax
    it wipes the 50 grit scratches out.that would save some belts
    also from there go into a 400 cork belt then a 600 cork then
    and 800 cork.the cork belts work better the more you use them
    that will just about put you at a mirror finish.then if you want to hand rub you can start off with a higher grit sand paper and get
    the cost and time spent on the hand rubbing way down.Just a green horns thoughts ;)
  8. Peter Atwood

    Peter Atwood

    Oct 26, 2000
    Thanks for posting this again CL. It keeps us honest with ourselves. The truth is that it is darned expensive making any kind of handcrafted item. My hat is off to the makers who persevere and make this their full time vocation.
  9. rlinger


    Mar 29, 2002
    I worked it up, rather roughly, some weeks back and it comes out to about 53 to 55 bucks as I recall - including kydex sheath supplies. I do not however, knock them out in 8 1/2 hours. The heat treat, cryo and tempers cost me a couple days, not to mention drying times.

  10. tom mayo

    tom mayo

    Jan 27, 1999
    Maybe I better raise my prices!!!! :confused:
  11. Reg ELLERY

    Reg ELLERY

    Jun 22, 2002
    Just a note on damascus. Most of the makers I know locally say if you make a knife from carbon steel you add $100 if you put in a damascus blade.

    When I cost a knife I also allow for one of each belt in the price.
    The I use them for the give aways and profiling of letter openers etc.

    I have made my own damascus from free saw blade material and other free materials. It still costs me $15 in petrol to get it plus the depreciation on the car every mile you drive is costing in the long run. Forge gas costs $23 for a refil. Maintanance to the forge, initial cost of forge.

    My point is we can factor in and out all sorts of things. I consider a trip to scrounge or buy steel is my entertainment, same as making the damascus.

    Time is of no concern to me, it is a hobby. But at the slow speed I work I would need to charge such a high price I would not sell anything if charging by the hour. You professional makers amaze me with the work output you get. Best wishes to all of you its to hard for me to go that fast. I will only ever be a hobby maker .
  12. blackboogers


    Jan 16, 2002
    I buy my supplies in bulk but I think Larado in right in pricing. You have to shop to get the best deal for your materials. I get all my antler off ebay and rarely pay more than 15.00 for a 6 or 8 pointer. That's 2 crown's/ 2 stems and various tines which also can be stems if large enough. I just bought a piece of striped maple that has enough material for 5 knives for 50 cents at Rocklear.
  13. Gib Guignard

    Gib Guignard

    Jul 8, 2001
    Please enlighten me, there is something here that I
    don,t understand. Wilkens you use one belt of each grit
    per knife, from the cost you use for them the belts are
    high quality belts. What I don,t understand is why just
    one knife per belt, I use Norton Hoggers and for a 4"
    blade hidden tang knife, ATS34 steel, 36 grit to
    profile,60 grit to grind the hollow 120 grit to clean,
    up I get 30+ blades per belt and still have a lot of
    belt left. After heat treating I use Norax belts and
    still get over 10 blade for each belt grit.
    Please explain.
  14. Sylvester


    Jun 30, 2001
    I`m with you Gib.
  15. Reg ELLERY

    Reg ELLERY

    Jun 22, 2002

    I also said I consider that 1 belt each grit per knife. The give aways I refered to was not the belts but the knives I make with the belts after. I squeese as much as I can out of the belts.
    When grinding for a specific customer I always use new belts call it superstition, stupidity what ever it is just what I do.

    I don't wrip the customer off I sell for what the knife is worth I adjust the hourly rate to suit the value of the knife but I cover expenses first.
    $150 knife is still the same if you cost it $10 belts 140 labour
    or $50 belts $100labour I would not sell a $100 for 150 just to cover new belts.
    For me its also a taxation issue. I write the hole belt of on the job my hobby is paid for. I have to declare all earnings
    Death and taxes there is no geting away from it.
  16. R.W.Clark


    Apr 30, 2001
    Thats all fine pricing but you are forgeting a bit.

    Cost of grinders
    Cost of drill press
    Cost of buffers
    Cost of buffs
    Cost of compond
    Cost of electricity
    Cost of drill bits
    Cost of bandsaw blades
    Cost of marketing and advertising
    Cost of travel to aquire materials
    Shipping for materials that are not local
    The cost of what you pay yourself in labor
    and much much more.
    There is more to the cost of a knife than just the simple materials.
  17. Ferret


    Jan 20, 2000
    Thanks RW for adding in that crucial detail...factor all that (and the proto/junk costs etc etc) and then start looking at your hourly wage...then go apply to Maccas for a pay raise.
  18. C L Wilkins

    C L Wilkins

    Mar 18, 1999
    The purpose of the post was just an example of costs, from one random source since they have a website on line. This post was just "food for thought". The bottom line quoted would be a very expensive knife, in my opinion, to make. Sometimes we don't think how much we are spending and this was just a list of materials that a person may possibly use for knifemaking, that's all, nothing more.

    There were a couple comments concerning belt usage. At least it got you thinking, and that was the primary purpose of the post. What was alluded to in the post was if a new maker had to go out and buy materials to make a knife. Granted, the belts can be used for a few knives but that was not the point. This was just another expense. This cost could definitely be pro-rated but "if" Mr. Newmaker didn't have any belts, well, then you have to get belts. Once again, this was just a "one off" sort of thing and just an example.

    We all know that there are sources out there and we all know where the "better deals" are. This was just one example of "bean counting" on materials alone, thats all.

    C Wilkins

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