customer ettiquette


Gold Member
Aug 20, 1999
OK, I have a question that I don't know how to properly ask you knifemaking dudes (& dudettes)...
Y'all usually have your best, fanciest, prettiest blades on display (websites, brochures etc., especially purveyor's sites).
Now along comes a guy like me, I mean a guy I know...yeah that's it... I know this guy and he has a set dollar amount to spend (for the sake of arguement lets say $300)
I, I mean he likes one of your fancy decked out knives (Oosic, damascus, file work)that goes for more ($500?) and asks
"Can you make me one in that style for $300 if you leave off the frills?" (single steel, wood, no file work).
Now if you hear that, do y'all cringe and say "Oh cheese and crackers here we go..."
"This guys out to low ball me..."
And then things start off shakey.
Is this poor form on the customers part?
Would you feel better if someone came to you and said "I have x amount, what can you make me?"
I'm, a graphic artist and I'd rather hear the budget 1st. This way, I know how intense & 'carried away' I can get with my designs and production. Also I don't come up with grand ideas that the client can't afford.
Or am I (I mean He) overly paranoid & have nothing else to worry about at 1 am?
I don't see that as a problem at all. Usually those "fancy" ones were made without the bells and whistles to begin with. Ask away. In my experiance I have had no problems with asking a maker to change materials in the construction of a knife. However, I think thats as far as you should go. When people start asking to change the "design" instead of materials that's when they start to get annoyed. Although some makers will do both but they are few and far between.
Theres no reason I would be bothered by that. Truth be told, the reason those super fancies are on the table is to attract potential customers. Some makers are super grumpy (Loveless for one), and hate "special" requests outside of thier regular line. Most are happy to use many materials and will work with you to drop the price. Don't ask for too much out of a maker with a three year back order, but for guys like me with a two month lag, you can get away with alot.

I also don't mind SLIGHT changes to my designs. After all that is what custom is all about. Alot of makers advertise "your design or mine". So they are really open.

In the end, if a maker won't work with you. Think about finding another maker.

I agree with what's been said. The only hang-up I've seen is on somone wanting to redesign a folder when they don't understand the elements of one (like drawing a blade that would never fit inside of their handle design).

With fixed blades, I think it's good to make changes so that the customer is happy. Sure there are limits. But I wouldn't be offended by what you, er I mean your friend was curious abtou

The way I figure life is if you don't ask you don't know!

Some knives cannot be trimmed down because of the nature of the design but I think that most makers will work with a customer to meet a budget. Having said that I do not have any way to produce a sub $100 bowie knife. There is a limit of how low we makers can go.

The other thing is design, let the maker do the design work, he knows his product. Nothing gives me the giggles faster than a drawing done to aerospace standards and tolerances, the person making the drawing has never seen how a knife is made obviously.


I agree with what everybody else is saying also...
In my opinion the customer is the one that is buying my knives and if he has X anmpunt to spend and wants one of my knives I will bend over backwards to figure out a way to make sure they get one.Since I have no templates or real set pattern even if I do the same design a second or more times they are never really the same so what is the difference if we shorten it or leave stuff off or switch this or that and make something that is really nice that the customer can afford,Hay I got to make a living and turning a order down doesnt pay the bills...Plus changing things makes it more interesting at times....
My only problem is when I have a bunch of the same style to do in a row and I get burnt out before they are finished,so I have to slip something different in the middle of them whether its a order or not just to break the monoteny...
Ebbtide is a good case in point as to how far I will go to help the customer get something special to them..
Heck I still get excited just to know that someone likes my knives and even more when they inquire about making a order...

Bruce Evans Handcrafted Knives
The soul of the Knife begins in the Fire!!!!!
Member of,AKTI#A000223 and The American Bladesmith Society

[This message has been edited by beknives (edited 05-05-2001).]
I think it depends on the maker. Some makers I know would refuse to work with certain "low-grade" materials. Whether or not they would be offended would depend on whether you're simply asking or actually demanding certain criteria. Some makers might have a reason for never using certain types of materials. They also might not be able to build knives below a given cost, regardless of what materials are used.

Still, one could suppose that a knife with damascus and pearl could be built with G-10 and ATS-34 at lower cost.

Also, be aware that some makers like showing off photos of their fancier work just to illustrate that they can make upgraded models as well as "plain vanilla" versions.

Tom Anderson
Hand Crafted Knives
Your point on the ATS 34 is well taken Tom but the economies of scale often work aginst us. If a customer asked for black micarta as an option I could supply quite inexpensively because it is a material that I have in stock at all times. If however that customer was looking at a knifemakers supply catalogue and noticed another material at the same cost and requested that material instead the price would not necessarily be the same, in fact it could be significantly more when you consider the cost of ordering one set of scales, paying shipping costs and in my case sales taxes imposed at the border.

A case in point black micarta ordered in large quantities, shipped in large quantities, and cut from large sheets with very little scrap costs me about a buck and a half per knife, scales at $8US, shipping at $6US and 7% tax cost about $22.40 Cdn per knife.

The same economies of scale apply almost everywhere in the supply end.

I am sure knifemakers on the forum are well aware of this but I would like the end users present to understand why simple substitution is not so simple. A short while back a maker was criticized for charging an upcharge for different coloured handles of the same material, unfairly in my opinion when you consider the economy of scale again.

Don't think that I am unsympathetic to the realities of economics, in fact I am adding a line to my site called the "Wilderness" line which features many of my models stripped of frills and sporting plain black micarta handles with lower prices to match. These knives are not unattractive but are not anywhere near as pretty as their stag handled predecessors. They appear in the OUTDOOR KNIVES section of the site.


the reason i have the term custom in my logo is that i will make to order. with some limitions of course. i enjoy the fact that someone likes my talent enought to order their own one, and blade changes are o.k. as long as i explain what that change is really going to do. if they still want it thats great! its their money and i enjoy creating a knife just for them.

Laurence Segal
Hey all! Thank you for your quick and honest replies.
Bruce is a stellar example of bending over backwards to make a customer happy. I had e-mailed him as to what 'a bowie like sing's' would cost, he e'd me back with the price and I declined cause it was over my limit. He replied that it since it was Christmas he'd take a chunk off the price! And another chunk off if I could do without the filework. I believe his words were "I'd hate to disappoint someone who really wants one of my knives" Wow! that put the price right on my limit.
I might as well tell y'all the rest of the story too...
I was so thrilled, I started playing with logo ideas for Bruce, to kind of repay him for going the extra mile for me, he liked it and kicked my knife up a notch and I'd have another idea and he'd think of somethin' else for my bowie...In the end, we had a good ol' time 'one upping' each other. After the smoke cleared I had a breath taking damascus bowie that I would have never allowed my self to buy & Bruce has a bunch of graphic goodies for his business that he is happy with as well.
Phew, back to the original question...
I'll admit I'm a cynical New Yorker and I though Bruce was the exception to the rule. I guess I was wrong

My main concerns were not sounding like a jerk and not wasting anyone's time.
George, I understand about not being able to make a sub-hundred dollar bowie and substituting materials. Makes perfect sense to me.
And Tom, I hear you, I'd never ask a cutler to use materials that are below his standards...After all it is YOUR name on the knife and it will always be a reflection on you.
Thank you all, now I know that it doesn't hurt to ask (within reason). The worst that can happen is that I hear "No"...Yes?
Simple solution. If they guy with the pearl handled damascus knife will not make it in "using grade" materials go to a maker that makes using grade knives. I'm not sugjesting that you ripoff a design but make the changes, material and design you want incorperated into the knife, sit down with the maker and draw the knife or send pictures and ideas back and forth by E-mail.
I once had a customer send me a glued together picture of a knife he wanted, Handle like the knife this guy makes and blade like this model. With the bolsters of a none folder held on by a single screw like this picture. I didn't have the heart to tell him that the knife he sent the picture of was a folder and that was the pivot pin. But I did talk him out of that idea.
Every potential customer has a budjet for a said knife, they become customers when the maker finds that price level with materials that please the customer.

Flat Land Knife Works