Fiddleback Forge Changes April 2021

Fiddleback

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Fiddleback Forge is going to go through some changes starting in April, and I thought I would explain what is going to happen. There are a lot of reasons for this change, but basically, I'm exhausted. My body seems to be breaking down a bit and frankly I just can't keep this pace up. Working full time for Fiddleback Forge and part time for Pops for the last two years is really catching up to me and my hands and shoulders are constantly in pain. In addition, I haven't been able to take time off for vacations, or even sick days and Dr appointments. There are business and financial reasons for the changes as well.

What is changing? Well, I am reducing the output at Fiddleback Forge to what is manageable for one person. This is actually quite exciting for me because I will be able to put 100% of the work into each knife. It also means I will be able to experiment with things that I haven't had time to play with. More kitchen knives, Damascus, hamons, swords, and possibly even some metal bolsters.

What is very sad for me is that I can't keep my employees going forward. Letting Phil go is breaking my heart. And I feel truly sorry for having to do it. I consider Phil more than a friend. I know y'all love him too. I'm hoping he can forgive me and we can stay as close as we have been.

Outpost will have some changes to make to Fiddleback Friday. As that is Robert's business, I'll let him come up with a plan and give y'all the details. What I can say is that the Friday event will continue to happen, but will include more of the graduated apprentice knives, and may include knives from friends of the business that y'all will recognize.

I can't thank all of you enough for your support over the years, and I hope y'all continue to enjoy Fiddleback Forge knives. It was never, in my opinion, more about me and what I did than it was about y'all and your enthusiasm.

And finally, I hope to see y'all at Trackrock this week. I'm excited about it!
 

Choppaman

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I've been a part of the fiddleback family for some time now. @VANCE was the face of FBF and we will miss him dearly! Andy, all of us out here love you man. Love your knives and frankly can't get enough of them. We are here to support you as you make these changes! We hope to see you on the front lines more often as well! Here on the forum, Friday mornings! ,etc. Looking forward to seeing what comes about from this. More importantly, take care of yourself. Stay healthy. Thanks for letting us know what is going on.
 

jaz322

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Feb 1, 2015
Messages
721
Oh boy - Andy is going to have some time to get creative. Are you fellow collectors ready for that? I’m optimistic! @Fiddleback Outpost, (another brilliant team that has adapted to change in the past) you guys have been rock stars and will continue have my support. Hoping Phillip doesn’t stray too far from the forum. This virtual place has been a positive influence on many of our daily lives and @VANCE has been the point person for so many years. Thank you, Philip - it has meant a lot! Andy - thanks for filling us in. Take care of yourself. Here’s to future Fiddleback Friday’s!
 

Kismet

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Jan 30, 2002
Messages
7,198
Andy

You have been my friend for most of my internet life. I have celebrated your success and mourned your losses.
I suspect I speak for all who visit here: What ever I can provide to help you, just let me know. You combine talent, insight, and a style of courtesy that reaches back to the very prototype of a gentleman.
My best wishes for a smooth and satisfying transition to a new business model.

Be gentle with yourself.
 

Warrior108

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Apr 24, 2012
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3,601
+1 To what everyone else said!!

Andy,
You got to take care of you first, so you can take care of your family.

Phil,
By all means, let me/us know if you need any references on your customer service because that's where your heart has always been. You, Andy, and everyone else behind Fiddleback Forge have always put us customers first and your health and sanity second.

Thank you all!!
 

Comprehensivist

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Aug 23, 2008
Messages
2,628
Dear Andy,

This thread saddens me on many levels.

First off, I am sorry to hear about the chronic debilitating pain you feel in your hands and shoulders. That is a critical concern for someone whose livelihood depends on strength in those areas. None of us are close to our best working in pain. It adds a lot of stress and sucks the joy out of doing things we otherwise love to do. Pain also clouds our judgement for making wise and objective decisions. I hope that you ran the changes you are making by Leah and trusted counselors in your life to be sure you are getting buy-in and making the best decisions for your health and future.

The idea of letting go of Phillip is especially painful to me. I have been active here since 2013, so I have seen a number of personnel changes. When Ken Craggs left in 2015, that sucked a lot of the wind out of my interest in the brand for a long time. Phillip stepped into those big shoes with his own style and ultimately surpassed Ken as your best #2 ever from a customer viewpoint looking in. Finding a dedicated and loyal #2 supporter like that who is not trying to replace you as #1 is extremely hard to do. The Lone Ranger had Tonto. Batman had Robin. You have Phillip. It's hard to envision any of our heroes going it alone successfully in all circumstances. Everyone stumbles and needs a trusted partner to help you through the hard times. I hope you will reconsider this decision.

The idea of shrinking the output and going it alone sounds romantic, but it is not without its pitfalls. In effect, Fiddleback Forge will not be a business from a revenue generating standpoint. You will be self employed. A business generates income independent of you doing all the work yourself. As a self employed sole proprietor, your output and income comes solely from your labor. That is a precarious place to be when your health is worsening. I don't see how taking on all of Phillip's physical labor activities like profiling and hand sanding, etc., is going to make things any easier on your hands and shoulders. I have a hard time envisioning you working less hours to go it alone and still cover all the necessary activities to keep things rolling. You are in a Catch-22 situation where your body needs some serious time off to heal yet your revenue depends on you being there doing what pains your body. Tough choices either way.

I wish you well my friend wherever your endeavors take you.

Phil
 
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Steely_Gunz

Got the Khukuri fevah
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Andy, I get it, man.

Like Kismet, you have been a friend of mine on these boards and others for longer than many "flesh and blood" friends I have had. I have been more emotionally involved in your career and felt more in step with you as a person than many friends I had from college. Your journey has been an inspiration, and I say without the least little bit of hyperbole that you are the maker I am most proud to know, and if I ever make it to Blade I will openly brag about knowing Andy before it was cool;)

That said, I understand. It's funny you mention this when I was just having a conversation with my sister, our business' bookkeeper (yea! nepotism!), that I am tired of JUST being the face of our business. For 20+ years, I have JUST been that guy more than Jake the husband/father/terrible writer. I have devoted so much of life building myself up as the linchpin of the company that the people I am doing it for have had to suffer. The irritating thing, is that I hope that you feel that all of us here appreciate you and what you have done. Personally, I don't get that much appreciation, so I find myself swallowing my words more and more as I get older and wondering why I am answering the calls of entitled jerks at 9pm and going out to sell jobs on a saturday morning when I could be playing Mario Kart with my daughter while she still likes me;).

However, I get where you are coming from. Time is relative, and it is felt to be even more fleeting as you feel your days quicken faster toward your statistically probable end. This isn't meant to be doom and gloom, it's just the wisdom that you learn as life ticks by. It's a crossroads where you can make a choice, and it is a choice with no right or wrong answer. You have to choose: do you flame out in legacy? Crank at it until you are hunched and broken but leaving a clutch of some of the finest pieces work, your soul that will outlive your physical self? Or do you draw your line between who is Andy and who is Fiddleback? Realize that Fiddleback will be forever in some form. Your knives will go on, be passed down, and information of you who you were and what you were about will be found in odd bits of internet scrap and archives for generations to come. However, Andy Roy will only be here for as long as he is here. I'm refocusing a bit of myself away from just work and making sure I don't miss the little things as well. Work is work and important, but time is precious, and we have too little of it to fritter it all away on things that don't really matter when they throw in the last scoop of dirt.

I know enough about you to feel that I understand your character. I have never known you to be a person who halfasses anything. This is obvious to anyone who has ever held your work before. I know you are upset that is upends others. However, if you say that it is time to slow down, refocus, and write a new chapter in the same book, I will gladly support that (not that my support validates anything...ask my wife). If it means that you tighten your belt a bit in order to crank out your best work without sacrificing your body, then I will buy more of your knives. You don't work for us. You don't us anything. You have built something rare and successful because you did it the right way, and we should be grateful for getting to be a part of that.

So, at the end of the day, you need to do what is best for you. There is no reason why you can't ramp back up if you miss it too much, but maybe a shift in focus is a good thing. I'm super excited to see what comes next. I have a feeling the best is yet to come.
 

NoRest

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Nov 27, 2015
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Andy,
I'm sure this was a very tough decision for you. But like Comprehensivist Comprehensivist I too question your decision to let Phillip go. I really think its important to have a loyal #2 to lean on. Someone who can handle the responsibility of moving forward when you're not up to it or need to take a few days to recover. For years I ran my business without employees. Doing all the work myself before I finally found a qualified, loyal #2 who was up to handle anything the job required. Many times over the years I was forced to work through injuries and sickness because someone had to get the job done and I had no one to lean on. I'm thankful every day for the help I've found. Right now I'm feeling the wear and tear on my body that came from that time working without help. I only wish I would have found my "Phillip" sooner. Ultimately you know what's best for you and your business. I just wanted to share my thoughts with you. You'll continue to have my support and I wish you the best for the future my friend.
Greg
 
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Fiddleback

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I can appreciate the advise fellas. I respect each of you who posted concern for Phillip. The crux of this dichotomy is that there can be no cutting back and keeping employees. To keep them I have to keep up this pace. Simply put it takes 20 knives/week minimum to cover FF. If I take time off there is no production, only mounting expenses. None of this decision is due to Phillips work. He has always been a great employee and a good friend.

I know I'm letting him down. I'm sorry for it. But I'm not up to this pace. If I cut back I can't pay the staff and bills.
 
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Keeping your health is important. Chronic hand pain is extremely dangerous when your livelihood depends on handling sharp objects and power equipment. That recipe can lead to disability at the speed of a buffing wheel rotation. It sounds like everyone here is supportive of your life choice. We wish you and Phillip well in your new directions.
 

Steely_Gunz

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I can appreciate the advise fellas. I respect each of you who posted concern for Phillip. The crux of this dichotomy is that there can be no cutting back and keeping employees. To keep them I have to keep up this pace. Simply put it takes 20 knives/week minimum to cover FF. If I take time off there is no production, only mounting expenses. None of this decision is due to Phillips work. He has always been a great employee and a good friend.

I know I'm letting him down. I'm sorry for it. But I'm not up to this pace. If I cut back I can't pay the staff and bills.

I don't know Philip personally, but I have the utmost respect for him. I also understand your rock and a hard place situation. At the end of the day, a business must make a profit. This is a statement that sometimes seems cold or calculated and or greedy. It's really not. It's math. There is only so much capital to go around and only so much a company can bleed and still keep the lights on. Everything is finite. Everything costs something be it monetary, scheduling, or metaphysical. People buy your knives because they want a well built, hard use knife that they can rely on that sports a handle that, honest to God, I have never felt more ergonomic and "human" in design. It's something that can't be farmed out. It's something that cannot be boxed, branded, or crunched out by Roybot 5000. To keep up the quality of work/quality of life ratio, something sometimes has to give. This is what you get for getting OLD on us;)

I don't mean to keep interjecting my personal stuff in your thread, but I am having the same conversations with my brother. My dad is in the back half of his 60s and just starting to figure out that not busting your ass 18 hours a day can be just as rewarding. I'm 40 with a stable home life I want to keep enjoying with my wife and daughter at the expense of not being as wealthy as I could be if I put in more hours. My brother is 20. Sopping behind the ears but a good kid and better at doing our Dad's job than I will ever be. He is giving and gracious to a fault...which makes him expensive. Having a hard time living within his means is not an issue of being a spoiled brat but being a 20 year old with expensive tastes in clothes (He's a Guatemalan heartthrob) , several lady-friends to court (see Guatemalan heartthrob), and being the first guy that will grab the check off the table after dinner and take care of the whole bill. I've told him that I have never been able to live like that, and he's going to have to really learn to curb a lot of the spending in pretty short order. I don't WANT to live like that...well, being that I am not Guatemalan nor a heartthrob is besides the point. However I am doing just fine making what I make that keeps a roof over my head and my wife and daughter comfortable enough to be able to mostly do what we want within very conservative reason factoring in my wife's similar salary. Once dad steps away, I'm not picking up the mantle of being the guy that kills himself with work because it is generationally expected of him or required to keep his brother hip deep in Gucci. Also, unlike you, a good deal of my customers are nasty jerks;) I'm not giving up my health and the time I have for just a few more dollars from entitled people who really don't care if I make it to my daughter's martial arts belt testing. I've told my brother that we are going to hand select our projects and that I will sell only ones that are the most profitable or at the very least fun and for people of good character. To do this, we may end up having to cut our operations, trim fat down to the point that our workforce is the two of us and one other guy. It's going to hurt like hell if I have to scale back my guys and tell them that we are no longer needing them. These aren't software white collar jobs where they can float to the next firm. These are guys that generally have no choice but to work hard for a living. Guys I appreciate and worry about, but they are guys who I cannot be sure will land on their feet.

The fact of the matter is that I have never once sat up in bed at 1:43am worrying about making money, but I have had some lean times where I worried about the 10 other families counting on me to do my job to keep them busy and gainfully employed. I'm sick to the pit of my stomach thinking about scaling back, and I don't even see it as something I will have to decide on for 5 more years or so.

In short, I get where you are coming from. You are only so much butter to spread. So much hands, so much shoulders, so much financier. It's a hellova a concept to have to grapple with when you find the need to scale back despite your success. As said before, whatever you need, however the chips fall, you have a lot of fine folks in this room that have your back...busted and broken as it may be;)
 
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