Please, help us prevent you getting ripped off because someone got their account compromised by reusing their email & password. Read the new best practices for using the Exchange FAQ page.

New here, question about career in making knives

Jan 5, 2007
Hi guys, happy new year to all!

I'm very new hear, and am actually very happy to find this forum so active... I do love knives for all the good reasons, and have been into knife throwing for a while, as well as learning a bit about steels etc which interests me.. .

Now, I never even considered turning a part time hobby into an actual career/living... which looking around this forum, quite a few of you guys seem to be doing! Which is really great to see..

My question is this...

How many people on here make knives for a living, how many people have turned a hobby into a living, and how rewarding is it making your own knives???

Its something that I have never considered, but after browsing a few threads on here, has litterally popped into my mind... and there are some hardcore enthusiasts here, which is great to see as well..

Thanks for any info that anyone can offer me... after enjoying various knives for years and suddenly finding a whole forum of like minded people, its really made my day...!


Welcome to Bladeforums! I'm going to move this thread to Shop Talk for you, where the knifemakers hang out, but we also have a Throwing Forum. :)

Wecome to Blade Forums hawkinsa21 :thumbup: If you love knives you're in the right place. If you want to become a Full Time Maker prepare to work very,very long hours, 7 days a week . And it takes some time to develop a customer base which can be tough when you have bills to pay. Rewarding ?? That isn't the right word , not for me anyway. I would say life changing . I could not imagine ever going back to a 9-5 job. I have met more people that I now call friend , mentor , butthead (you know who you are :D ) on Blade Forums than I could have ever imagined . I am just a pup at making Blades,there are some of the most talented Bladesmiths , Artists , Metallugist's and all around great guys (and a few girls too) that you will find anywhere in the world , right here ,everyday ! And let me tell you all , right now , it has been an honor and a pleasure to have learned what I have from so many here. Then there are the customers. I can honestly say I have not had a single bad experience to date. I must be lucky cause I'll tell you , some of my customers have been good to me , very good ! And I am proud to call quite a few of them friends too. Have I answered your question :) ? I think you are getting the jist of my passion for this lifestyle by now so I'll just say.......see you around Buddy :) BTW , before someone rips on you , fill in at least just a little of your profile so we all know who & what you're about. Trust me when I tell you that it will make a big difference when it comes to getting some help . ;)
To add a little different flavor to the mix I want to keep it a hobby. I enjoy bladesmithing so much that I could ruin it by trying to make it into a business. It's has happened before and this time I want to avoid it. Knifemakers are a very unique species. The full time makers don't seem to look down thier noses at us hobby makers. There are so many other crafts that have severe hobby vs. pro issues and stigmas but not here. In fact many of them devote alot of time and energy to teaching and helping newer makers.:thumbup: :thumbup:

I have great respect for the full time makers because I have a very good idea exactly whats involved. From my perspective I am not even sure how they manage to do it. Maybe in twenty five years when I retire it could prove to be an additional income to a puny Soc Sec check. But for now it's just my escape and sanity source. I will make a few for friends sometimes but nothing close to a business.
After doing this for a hobby/second job for 20 years now, I finally decided to do this full-time. Passion is a good thing when it comes to turning a hobby into a career, but you must have the dicipline to put the time in the shop that you would in a normal job. This may sound trite to some, but it is an important factor. In 19 years that I have worked for others I have only missed 1 shift I was scheduled for. I threw my back out getting out of bed and my chiropractor said that I was not to work that day. As for satisfaction, it is great.
I would suggest that you not give up your daytime job. I've seen several makers come and go on the forums, one in particular that had been in the business for years, and is in my mind a genuis. He gave up a high dollar job and jumped full time, with minimum equipment and tooling, into nothing but knifmaking. I really don't think that he "failed" at the attempt, but it just wasn't giving him the $$ and benifits he needed. As for myself I'm a full time woodworker, and would never consider going full time as a knife maker unless I had several years of good solid business ahead of me. The newness and excitment quickly wears thin, bills mount up, you get the picture.
My dream is to be a full time knifemaker, however that's what it is (for me), just a dream. If you decide to go for it, I say great! All of us on the forums will try and answer your questions as your in the learning phase, and there is a ton of material to learn, starting with the info Bob Engnath(I'm sorry for misspelling his name if I did) has on a site.
I sure don't mean to discourage you, and if I did then I appologize. Just start looking into all aspects of what it is you propose to do, how much money you'll need for equipment, how you'll get your customers, making as many shows as you can(a must do). Also, none of this means a thing if you don't have a good product. You must at first learn how to make a knife. I started in 87 with RR spike letter openers then graduated to other things. 'Re-read Del's thread again, and note that he had another job for 20 years before he jumped in, and Del is one of the best in my opinion.
Sorry to ramble, I just hate to see someone get into a bind with a quick decision. Let's see how it goes, and we'll look at this thread again on January 5, 2008. I'm hoping you'll turn into a great maker, and backlogged several years (some of the great ones are!).
Best of luck!
rhrocker said a mouthful . I'll second everything he said and add that I couldn't make it on my income alone at this point in time. This is a team effort when it comes to paychecks ( the wife and I ). And I don't turn down any small machining jobs or repairs that come my way either . Someone once told me that its not how much money you make,its what you do with it . Everyone has their own comfort level and only you know what you can live with and live without. I'm still dream'in,and I believe with hard work anyone can succeed and to succeed it's important,imperative in fact ,to love what you do. I got that one covered :) not only do I love making knives,I love making chips. My Grandpa was a Tool Maker,My Dad was a Tool Maker,as were all of his brothers. And by golly I'm a Tool Maker too ;) Its in my Blood :thumbup:
The thought of becoming a knifemaker crossed my mind briefly but then I decided that I should probably continue to pursue college lol.
You have to really like it to do it for a living. And don't expect to make much money either. Do it for the love of the craft and not for the money. I'm not full time but I'm "most of the time" knifemaker. I mean I have a part time job but I spend most of my time as a knifemaker. I'm used to being this way because before I did this I was an artist. I was always able to make do with little income. If you make a lot of money now don't quit your job because you won't be able to support yourself as a knifemaker unless you have a huge savings you can use.
ritzblitz if you're there you should probably finish :) Like Ray I do it for the love,the love of working with metals. Its all I know :) Its all I've ever done in one form or another. I'm hoping to always be able to make knives.
If my wife ever quit supporting me I would rent a one bedroom house and move my forge into the front room right next to my army cot and make knives until the landlord gets the sheriff to make me move. Knifemaking is that good.
Thanks Barkes for the good words , thanks a bunch ;) I'm with you Bruce :thumbup: Personally hawkinsa21 after all of the replys and thinking about this for the last day or two, I can't ever remember being happier and I would not change a thing. I will tell you one thing that no one has said , you will never be a full time knifemaker if you don't at least try , that is a for sure ! I would not try to discourage anyone from pursuing something they love to do. All you have to do is look around to see that some here have made it work. If you have yet to make you're first knife then you have a ways to go yet.Like rocker said , first you have to learn to make a knife. And that my friend is not as easy as it may appear. Good luck in whatever it is you decide to do :) I hope to see you around.
I'm not sure if Robert was talking about Terry Primos, but here is a guy who did FABULOUS work that users and collectors clamored over and had a waiting list of at least six months and had to quit full time knifemkaing because it wasn't paying the bills and putting food on the table because he coudn't make enough knives. I found it ironic and sad that Terry's dedication to the craft and extreme attention to detail and quality kept him from making a decent living because he wouldn't let the quality of his knives slip in order to increase his production. Even if I manage to do enough big real estate deals over the next five years or so that I don't have to work at it actively anymore, I will never make knives as a "job" because I just want to make the knives that I like in the style and at the pace I want:D My hat is off to the guys who do it full time, because they ain't gonna get rich at this game. You have to love the game even MORE than the restof us to do it full time:)
Well, it ain't easy.

First off, welcome to the forums Hawkinsa21!!!

As it was said before, you have to love doing this (probably beyond a rational level) to try making a living from custom knives. I'm speaking for myself since I know I don't work at the most profitable level. We don't have a boat or ATV or sattelite dish and we raise alot of our own meat and work more hours than I care to count but, that said, we've been going strong for almost 4 years on nothing but our knife sales (which includes the sheaths Tess makes for them...probably sell most of our knives, too). It is a wonderful feeling to look at my 3 year old boy and know I've supported him with my sweat and blood and what I've made with my own hands.

Of course the internet and forums like this and onther make it possible for myself and others to actually (in some cases) make knives as well as sell and ship them all around the world much easier. Working just at the forge isn't enough in my opinion.

Don't know if this helps answer any questions for you but, I'd be glad to answer whatever I can for you, if you'd like.
Mr J.
Does Tess make sheaths for other folks knives too?:D
Sorry but, no. Between me, our son Danny and remodeling the house, she's a pretty busy lady.
Oh my word!!! I can't believe that I managed to get this much info in one thread!!!

Firstly, thank you too EVERYONE for replying here, you've answered various questions I've asked, and one's that I didn't... !!

Well, I am very interested in the various types of metal, and different types and styles of blade... and even if I managed to just make one single custom knife for my own collection, I think I'd be happy... :).... I don't know much about the technical side yet, hence why I joined up here... but I believe that knife making is an Art... I've really liked the look of Chris Reeve's work and Ken Onion's work is also beautiful.. but I know that they are only the tip of the ice berg...

Again, thanks to everyone, I will be around here for a while.. new baby due yesterday lol so I'll be very busy, but will be reading up a lot of stuff around the boards, and again thanks for your warm welcoming!

Alex :D

Also I'd like to thank everyone for their kind words... I feel very welcome here, and its nice to see so many like minded people...
With that being said, and being a father myself (as I'm sure most here are), give it two months, and then come back and let us know your thoughts on becoming a full-time maker. ;) It will be far easier in some regards, and far more difficult in others.

It's a constant wavering between yea and nay. If you ever waver into the 'nay' at any point in a six month period when you're working with custom knives, the clock starts over, and you count for another six months. Any point. I've been working since 1993, and haven't made the jump. Seem to just keep getting a 'nay' thrown in somewhere on one project or another...

When it comes right down to it, my job working auto insurance claims is really fairly simple. However, as much as I often dislike what I do, it is a steady pay cheque every two weeks, and I have a full benefits package that I can take full advantage of when I've been a total numpty and been out grinding without my damned respirator on... Or when the anvil falls off the stand and lands squarely on the top of my foot, shattering my shin with the horn, when I'm testing the edge on a new knife and it goes through my leg (don't laugh, actually happened to somebody during their ABS test), when a belt detonates on the grinder and I get 60 grit in the forehead at 3,000 RPM...

Knife making is hard work. It's a lot less noticeable when you actually like to do it, and you look at a mashed-up $60 bar of damascus, and think, "Hmm, alright, what do I do with this? Maybe I can try... Or what about... Oh, wait, yea, wait a minute, why don't I just..." Whack whack, whack, and it works out. That's optimism. When you have a car note due in two weeks, and this is the knife that's going to pay for it, it's not quite so easy to be Johnny Sunshine. That's a 'nay,' start counting over. If you can go a full six months of things not working out the way you wanted, and you're still cheery about it, go to a Psychiatrist, and when you're done there, then you can think things through again.

Hope it all works out for you.


Darryl, that is an excellent post. Many thanks. I think that at this stage, being a full time member (as some mentioned above) is a dream, and just that, but I seriously want to make myself a knife, if its the last thing I ever do... lol..

I think that I'd be a great hobby to get stuck into... and if I'm not relying on it for the car payment.. ;), then it probably won't be as stressful.

I have a lot of reading to do... I know that if I made a knife, and never used it, I'd still want to know how to make it well balanced, feel right in the hand and also work well and be strong and practical..

Cheers guys, you've really put some inspiration into my mind :)