Knifemakers Salary?????

Mar 19, 1999
Sorry to be nosey person for asking this, but i always wondered, how much do big time knife makers make a week, a month, a year. I asked this question along time ago on Knifeforums and got alot of crazy remarks. I do know that knifemaking is more of an art than job and like an artist, or musician, there in it for there own creations, i respect that, i to am an artist and soon to be architect/engineer(dont know which to go into), but i just want your thoughts and opinions on how much green$$$ these knifemakers profit on there beautiful creations. Lets say some in demand makers such as my favorites Allen Elishewitz, Pat Crawford, Ernest Emerson, Kit Carson, or any other "big time" knifemakers i didn't mention. What do you think they make, i always thought that if a maker has a long waiting list, they are full of work, and get alot of money because they always have a creation to sell. I don't mean to step on anyones toes here, but i'm just curious. Thanks.

"Without Creation, There Shall Be No Teachings"...

I know this wasn't quite your question, but...

I spent a year as a part-time knifemaker. I put about $2000 into my shop in equipment, plus about $500-$1000 was already there (my dad's). I figure I put about $1500 into materials, of which I probably still have $400 or so lying around. I worked 20-30 hours a week and paid no rent since the shop was in my parents' basement. My gross earnings from knife sales in that time were about $1000. Hehehe!

The experience was still priceless, and of course this is a "start up" example, where I was paid in lessons learned, not money I made on the knives. But all I can say is thank goodness I had another job and my folks were supportive of the endeavor. I hope some day I can get the shop going again (I'm in school now), but if I do it will not be for profit; it will be a hobby to enjoy when the working week is over.

They say that the way to make a small fortune in auto racing is to start with a large one. I think knifemaking's prettymuch the same way. That's why there are so few makers who don't have other jobs, and these few generally work like dogs. Yeah, maybe a few get big bucks, but I bet it isn't nearly what you'd expect, unless they set up a sub-production shop with folks working under them.

Just wanted to tell my little story. Thanks.


(Why else would a bear want a pocket?)
If you don't have 10yrs salary in the bank you wont make it.
And you will have to be really good to make it in that time, like perfect from the start.
All of the makers you mentioned have bin at it for YEARS.
I suggest you be an architect and do the knives on the side until you get a name and have a year of orders or win lotto.
IM not trying to discourage you but there is no pot of gold at the end of the grinder.
I know bin there and done that.
And all it takes is one muckup like you get hurt and your screwed.
OH and don't forget things like insurance, advertising, show costs, and supplies.
I think that you will find that almost all of the current knifesmiths started their businesses as hobbies. In other words, don't give up your day job.

Walk in the Light,
Thanks for all the replies people, just wanted to here your opinions, Thanks.
I hand forged out a small hunter once and when I was done I called my friend Rick Hinderer in Ohio and said `You guys don't charge enough! I know a few fellows that work at making a living in steel and it ain't easy! A lot of competion out there, and as you noted money isn't always the driving force, but if the money doesn't come in on time it forces things to go bad. Material comes in and orders don't or vice versa either way a person can get stuck. (no pun intended)

I always felt what another person makes is their business, if they can get the dollar for their work they will be around, if not, then they go away. If you don't want to buy a knife, don't buy it, that's pretty plain thinking, maybe Cowboy logic?

my (very small) .02

When a fellow says, "it ain't the money but the principle of the thing,"
it's the money.
F. McKinney Hubbard

if you do your homework and look around a while....a very large number of the knifemakers in america...are either retired with their houses paid off...their wives still working....and making knives as a third income....are retired and dont need the money....or are of the three..there is a very small percentage of the fourth catagory....making knives for a living...but im sure they fit into catagory number 3.....the guys who run the guild went down the list and guessed about 20 percent of the membership made knives full time... i do it when my real business is slow....
To answer your question without saying who makes what. The average TOP maker makes about $100,000 + a year. Some dealers make more than this selling their knives for them.

The really high end makers make $200,000 plus.

An average maker who makes a moderate living does anywhere from $36,000 - $60,000.

Best Regards,
Mike Turber
BladeForums Site Owner and Administrator
Do it! Do it right! Do it right NOW!

I studied your post and decided that I fit into the first three you mentioned, especially the third one.

I made knives for 22 years to suppliment my low enlisted salary in the Army. Been full time for the last 6 years and I have the upmost respect for a knifemaker that is providing the sole income for a family.

The last time the lottery was up to 96 million, I told my wife if I won I'd keep making knives till I ran out of money.
thats could buy a lot of steel with 96 million bucks....also maybe a laser cutter and a cnc machine and lathe and a couple of rednecks to run them and all you'd have to do is buy them beer.....hey...i like beer.....where do you live? if i gets really cold there im out....

[This message has been edited by tom mayo (edited 09 May 1999).]
Knifemakers actually make money???

Who forgot to tell me??

Actually all that knifemaking has given me is enough profit to keep making and improving my knives, And of course to meet all the fine people that are involved in knifemaking and such..That is the real profit IMO...

Knifemaking is a labor of love in most cases.
Most knifemakers with a good solid backlog can make ends meet and make a few bucks.
You have to like to travel to shows and work many hours a day but your the boss.
A real love for what you do helps also.
After 5 years of full time .. this year has been good for me anyway.
The first four are a killer. I was part time for 7 year first just playing.
After commiting to the knife making life it got better...... looking back its all been worth every day..

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