S35VN hard to find? - Reclosed

Discussion in 'Around the Grinder' started by Maineiac1, Dec 18, 2018.

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  1. nsm

    nsm Niagara Specialty Metals Dealer / Materials Provider

    155
    Jun 15, 2009
    Some of you have probably received a message today from Jessica at Alpha Knife Supply asking for examples of defective CPM steel. We tried to patch things up with Chuck at AKS so we could resume selling them steel. It obviously hasn’t worked out. Below is an exchange of emails and some background commentary between Chuck Bybee and myself which lead up to his mass email today. My emails are bold black, his are not bold and the comments are italicized. Warning, it is a long one.

    Thanks for listening,
    Bob Shabala


    Date February 15 2019

    Hi Chuck,
    My email was to address the claim you're making on your website and communications with customers in regards to the quality of CPM. Going through our records, we have one verified claim from Sweat Handmade Knives. He ended up coming to us directly and we resolved the situation. We also issued you a credit on our invoice number 105761 for some CPM S30-V and CPM 20-CV. These were both long thin sheets so I'm not sure if the length of the sheets were a problem or if there was an issue with the steel itself. Your note below indicating you can sell more CPM in 2019 also demonstrates that quality might not be the problem.


    I think the underlying reason for your claim is in regards to our decision to start charging a quantity extra fee for items under 300 pounds and because we quit sharing our inventory list with you. The original intent of providing you with a list of our inventory was for you to buy the remnant stock. As you state below, you ended up buying mostly full-size sheets. The average order per item from Alpha Knife Supply was 39 pounds and we did not charge you extra. To put it in perspective, the average order size from our other distributors is 350 pounds per item. They do this not because they need that much at a time, but to get the best price. It was not fair to our other customers to continue selling you one sheet at a time at the base price.

    I'm willing to reestablish business with AKS but it will be on the same terms as the rest of our distributors.
    1. The minimum quantity per item to get the best price is 300 pounds.
    2. We need requests that are more specific than every grade and every thickness available.
    3. We will supply you material if we have it in stock, otherwise, we will roll to order which takes 6-7 weeks. This may be a good opportunity to differentiate yourselves and offer custom sizes.
    4. We will not share our inventory list.
    This may not work for your business model but hopefully it does. If not, I wish you all the best.


    Best Regards,
    Bob Shabala


    We talked to Jessica at Blade because we were getting reports that they were telling people our steel was defective. I thought we patched things up and gave AKS assurances that we would be willing to sell them steel and treat them like every other distributor.

    July 12th 2019

    Hi Chuck,
    It has been over a month since we talked with Jessica about starting up a business relationship with AKS. We both had questions and concerns and I think we have all acted in good faith to help you resume selling CPM steel. My request that you remove your misleading statement about buying CPM from Niagara Specialty Metals is still on your site. Removing this link is one of the requirements we have to restart business with each other. If it’s still on your site by the end of business today then I’m withdrawing my offer to do business with AKS.
    Best Regards,
    Bob Shabala


    July 12 2019
    Bob,
    I want to work with NSM and sell Crucible alloys. However, before we can work together, there must be a process established for handling customer quality concerns.
    When I spoke to, and emailed with John Shiesley in February, he described the Crucible process for investigating problems. The Crucible investigation process is very thorough. I’ve CC'd John on this email so he is in the loop with our discussion.
    When we receive a complaint from a customer, we ask the customer to return the steel. After we receive the steel, we contact the mill and send it back for investigation. All the steel companies we work with keep us informed about the investigation until it is complete. The only exception is NSM/Crucible. When I approach NSM with a customer problem, I never learn the results of the Crucible investigation. There should be a process with a feedback loop to AKS with the results of the investigation. Can a process with a feedback loop be developed?
    You seem to be fixated on the AKS website text regarding NSM and Crucible. The text on the website is a chronology of events that occurred. It is not a statement and is not misleading. When John and I communicated in February, I posted the results of our communication and made a recommendation to buy Crucible alloys. I will also post the final result of our attempt to restore our business relationship. I would like the final post to be that we have reconciled our differences and developed a process for tracking customer quality concerns.
    By the way, we have not singled out NSM. Here is a link to a multi year problem we have with Bohler Uddeholm. Go to the link and click on "All the Elmax we sell is blanchard ground. Learn Why…” at the top of the page.
    https://www.alphaknifesupply.com/shop/elmax-stainless-steel
    There are other issues that must be addressed, but the new feedback process is the most important. It is your choice how we will proceed.

    Best Regards
    Chuck Bybee

    On Jul 15, 2019, at 9:03 AM, Bob Shabala <[email protected]> wrote:
    Hi Chuck,
    Sorry for the delay but your message was in my spam filter. We have never received a sample to investigate from AKS so how can you say there is a problem with handling quality concerns? Please let me know if I'm wrong and send me any information on a return you have sent here. We've had a customer of yours send us a sample because they said you were unresponsive. We took care of the issue by replacing the material to the customer’s satisfaction. When we receive a complaint, we ask for a sample or sometimes just a picture and if the claim is even remotely justifiable, we replace the material, plus some to make sure they are satisfied. Our reputation for customer service and quality is pretty high and we work hard to keep it that way. You mention below that we are not singled out. The issue with can on Bohler material has been documented by others so it’s a fact you’re stating to justify a problem. The inclusions you mention in our material make it seem like we are selling defective material which simply isn’t true and it is misleading. A final post discussing the future of our business isn't relevant if you're going to keep this in place. See below for the items I take issue with and why any references to inclusions should be substantiated or removed if you want to sell CPM.
    Bob




     
  2. nsm

    nsm Niagara Specialty Metals Dealer / Materials Provider

    155
    Jun 15, 2009
    Continued
    The following exchange occurred today, July 16th 2019

    Bob,
    Do you plan to develop a new process for customer quality questions? If yes, will the process have a feedback loop to AKS?
    Best Regards
    Chuck Bybee

    Chuck,
    No new process is needed. If our customer or customer's customer have a problem we fix it and keep everyone informed.
    Bob


    Bob,
    Your process does not work. You wrote in your previous email you handled a customer problem because we were “unresponsive”. You did not provide any information to us.
    Provide the name of the customer, date, alloy with problem, results of Crucible investigation and date you corresponded the Crucible analysis to the customer.
    Best Regards
    Chuck Bybee

    Chuck,
    Got the call direct from the knifemaker (Ernie Sweat) about this problem and I sent him replacement material (double the amount that he bought from Chuck).
    Knifemaker said that Chuck would not help him resolve the issue, blaming the mill for a lack of response.
    As soon as we talked, I responded with replacement stock.
    Bob


    Chuck,
    After consulting with our staff, we have decided to rescind our offer to do business with Alpha Knife Supply. We cannot have a distributor out there who claims the quality of our steel is the reason for not wanting to sell it. We tried to work this out with you but it doesn’t seem that it will be in anyone's best interest.
    This all started when you told customers you had problems with Crucible’s steel and you would not sell it until the problems were resolved. This continued at Blade when employees at the AKS booth were telling attendees that CPM had defects. The timing coincided with our decision to treat you like all other distributors and charge you fees for small quantities. You have never provided evidence that there were problems with our steel. Sweat Handmade is the only example and he came to us directly because you wouldn’t take care of him. The fact that we sell more CPM cutlery steel now than ever and the rejection rate has gone down is in direct contradiction to your claims.


    John, (Shiesley Crucible Industries.)
    Not sure how you want to handle this from your end. AKS list several CPM alloys on their site which directs you to a page that says they no longer sell CPM alloys and further goes on to say the reason is inclusions. These claims are slanderous and damaging to the CPM brand. The only CPM they are buying now are the drops of 10V and M4 they buy from Zapp. They are not selling it as CPM but rather Z-M4 PM or Z-A11 PM.


    Jessica,
    Sorry this didn't work out. It was a pleasure to meet you at Blade and I wish you all the best.


    Best Regards,
    Bob Shabala


    Bob,
    You should have received the email with our correspondence with Ernie. Does the email meet your criteria for “unresponsive”?
    Every time we interact, you sabotage the discussion with nasty remarks, statements that are not true and abusive comments. I don’t know if you are being pressured by somebody to talk with us, but your demeanor says you do not want to move forward with our business relationship. I have continually held back from my personal feelings and I’ve tried to work with you in good faith. You are not working in good faith.
    Decide the direction you want to go. If you cannot get past your personal feelings, recuse yourself and have someone in your office work with us.
    Best Regards
    Chuck Bybee

    Chuck,
    We talked to Ernie directly and he said you were unresponsive. I don't know what else to say other than he was very happy after our interaction.
    I was hoping for a better outcome but my decision is final and there is no one else here that is authorized to work with you. Nothing personal, I just think it's best that we all move on.
    Bob

    Here are my responses to his comments on his website.

    I’ve made the decision to discontinue purchasing Crucible® Steel alloys from Niagara
    We received multiple reports from customers of inclusions in Crucible
    steel. The inclusions are clearly visible. They are not “surface
    imperfections”. The inclusions are inside the steel. Most of the
    inclusions are found when grinding the primary bevels of the knife.
    (We have not seen multiple reports from you or anyone that would
    indicate there is a widespread problem to justify discontinuation of
    CPM alloys or products from NSM. Please provide evidence.)


    We informed Crucible and NSM that our customers were finding inclusions. We never heard back from Crucible.
    (Update - Click here to read the latest information) The president of
    NSM, Bob Shabala, denies knowledge of the problem even through he is
    included in emails discussing the issue. (You sent us a message about
    an issue, but we never heard more.)


    We also informed NSM that their sheet thickness had much more run-out
    than any other steel manufacturer we purchase from. We also told them
    their Timesaver grinder left a poor finish with excessive run-out.
    One piece of steel had .070” run-out across 1.5 inches. There was no
    response to our concerns about excessive run-out. (I won't dispute
    this but we have not used our Timesaver belt grinder since October
    2017 for grinding sheet. We now use a Mattison grinder that gives us
    much better gauge control. I suspect the runout you're describing was
    at the end of the piece where the Timesaver used to taper the ends.)


    Years ago Crucible had a problem with inclusions in their steel. The
    problem was resolved and I did not read or hear about it for several
    years. Now the inclusions are back. I do not know what changed at
    Crucible to cause the inclusions. It appears there has been a
    material and/or process change. . (We have not seen multiple reports
    from you or anyone that would indicate there is a widespread problem
    to justify discontinuation of CPM alloys or products from NSM. Please
    provide evidence.)


    Bob Shabala and I discussed the inclusion problem on-line in a thread
    at BladeForums. Here is a link to the thread.
    https://www.bladeforums.com/threads/s35vn-hard-to-find-reopened.16308
    As I wrote in the BladeForums thread, I hoped the inclusion problem
    could be resolved and we would restock Crucible steel. However, Bob
    has made his position about me and AKS very clear. The culture of a
    company goes from the top down. Until there is a quality, culture
    and/or management change at NSM, I will not supply Crucible alloys
    purchased from NSM. (I was made the CEO on January 1st and I'm only
    52 so I'm going to be here for a few more years. You would be hard
    pressed to find a company that takes quality and customer
    satisfaction as seriously as we do.)


    Bob,
     
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2019
  3. Rick Marchand

    Rick Marchand Donkey on the Edge Moderator

    Jan 6, 2005
    Stacy... did you even read what Bob posted?... this is so disappointing. You need to correct or remove your post.

    AKS sent out the email

    NSM responded to it

    Bob at NSM just posted a long explanation of what went down


    (From Stacy - Sorry, I got an email from each and just typed the intro wrong - I corrected it.)
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 17, 2019
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  4. Nathan the Machinist

    Nathan the Machinist KnifeMaker / Machinist / Evil Genius Moderator Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Feb 13, 2007
    Yeah I wasn't going to step into this thread again but as Stacy has demonstrated it is a long post and Bob is overestimating peoples attention span and reading comprehension.

    For the TL;DR crowd:

    Bob has shown what appears to be the REAL underlying issue here. And it isn't a quality problem, it's a problem with Chuck and Alpha. For those who couldn't process that long post here it is: Chuck wasn't able to continue to buy CPM materials at dealer discounts in the quantities he was ordering so he couldn't justify continuing to stock them. Rather than say "we're too small to do this competitively" he's claiming "oh, there's a big bad quality problem".

    There isn't a big bad quality problem. That is BS, IMO. We use thousands of pounds of 3V a year, and 3V is probably the worst offender for inclusions, and we only see a few inclusions a year. We also probably test to destruction more samples in this material than literally anybody and I'm comfortable saying there isn't a problem here. I think this "problem" is an invented problem.

    If you're doing mirror finishes or high satin and the risk of a small cosmetic flaw showing in your is an unacceptable risk you will probably have a higher success rate with a different metallurgical technology. But sending out a mass email about "defective steel" is, in my personal opinion, a bit disingenuous and disappointing.

    I think that Chuck has convinced himself of his cause here and is now tilting at windmills, but if he were honest with himself he'd recognize the real issue isn't the steel, it's the inability of his business to buy and sell it in the quantities he'd need to be competitive and profitable. And, of the people who received that email, probably only a small fraction will read this thread clarifying the issue. So the damage is done. And now we have this clusterfuc. :thumbsdown:
     
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2019
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  5. Rick Marchand

    Rick Marchand Donkey on the Edge Moderator

    Jan 6, 2005
    IMO, he needs a polite letter from a corporate lawyer, instructing him to either prove or retract his accusations. I'm not even sure if that will remedy the situation, at this point. Not a good situation for a small business to be in.
     
  6. Nathan the Machinist

    Nathan the Machinist KnifeMaker / Machinist / Evil Genius Moderator Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Feb 13, 2007
    An accusation of "there are inclusions in the steel" is easy to prove. All steel has inclusions. Two visible inclusions in a million pounds of steel would be enough to make that a true statement. And the email was carefully worded, so I don't think there's slander there. The problem, as I see it, is now he has (perhaps intentionally) created this nudging doubt in the minds of people who received that email and that is going to be harmful to the brand. I think it's unwarranted and unfair.

    I also think Chuck is putting himself in danger of being sued into oblivion. A couple of large corporations might squash a small one. We're getting ready to start folders here and where am I going to get my folder hardware when the get squashed? Hey Chuck, you listening? Pull your head out of your ass man.
     
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  7. AVigil

    AVigil Adam Vigil knifemaker working the grind Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Platinum Member

    Feb 17, 2009
    As Bob said "It is not a wide spread problem"

    That aside, it has been a problem .
    I know at least 3 knifemakers, one mentioned in the thread and 2 from the Costa Mesa knife show, a couple years ago, where 2 separate makers were showing knives they made had inclusions in CPM 154. Beautiful knives with inclusions that appeared on the main bevels that were not evident when they started.

    Stuff happens and it seems NM has resolved the problem with inclusions.

    So lets not pretend it did not occur.

    It happened an they corrected it.
     
  8. Ken H>

    Ken H>

    Dec 31, 2011
    Stacy, maybe I misunderstand, but don't you mean this note came from Alpha Knife Supply?
     
  9. Storm W

    Storm W KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    409
    Feb 19, 2019
    This is totally a sidebar question. What do you use the 3V for? You have said that knives are only a small part of your business so I assume its something else. I'm just curious. I need to get one of your 3V pieces just as a benchmark.
     
  10. Nathan the Machinist

    Nathan the Machinist KnifeMaker / Machinist / Evil Genius Moderator Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Feb 13, 2007
    You're correct, of course, there can be inclusions that show up in the wrong place that spoil the appearance of a finely finished knife (it's uncommon but it can happen) and there are other choices with less risk of that, but that doesn't appear to be the real underlying reason for this debacle.
     
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2019
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  11. Nathan the Machinist

    Nathan the Machinist KnifeMaker / Machinist / Evil Genius Moderator Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Feb 13, 2007
    Knives now make up 75% of our business, though we do have some legacy work from being a job shop that we continue. Most of the CPM materials we buy are for knives. We also use it in the fiber optics and high speed printing industries for things like crimp dies.

    I can lend you some test pieces for your reference if you'd like. Send me an email.
     
  12. Storm W

    Storm W KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    409
    Feb 19, 2019
    That is super generous of you. I am moving in a couple of months and other than finishing up a couple of obligations I don't have time to dive into some of my planned projects. I will take you up on the offer once I get settled in. It would be awesome to know what to shoot for with my heat treatment and performance. I would purchase the pieces of course. I just appreciate you making them available.
     
  13. Big Chris

    Big Chris SAHD/Knifemaker Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Apr 1, 2010
    I am a faithful Niagara customer.
    They have always treated me fairly.
    The first bar of 4V I ever bought had an inclusion at the end of the bar.
    They replaced twice the amount I had originally purchased and the turnaround was fast.
    I have bought from NSM almost exclusively for the past five years or so and will continue to do so!
     
  14. tsdevanna

    tsdevanna

    98
    Nov 2, 2005
     
  15. tsdevanna

    tsdevanna

    98
    Nov 2, 2005
    I chimed in earlier on this thread and I will repeat but keep it simple - NSM and Crucible Industries make quality knife steels which we have been selling for over 20 years. They stand behind their steels. We have had very few quality issues over the years and if a quality problem came up both NSM and Crucible were quick to take care of the problem to the customers satisfaction. We continue to sell Crucible/NSM knife steels and will continue to do so going forward. Quite frankly - we could not have a successful knife steel program without them. All the best to everyone - the knife steel industry is the best and is one of the reasons I continue to work. T.Scott Devanna
     
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  16. timos-

    timos- KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Oct 22, 2012
    sending a mass email looking for problems is a bit brazen no matter how you look at it. I wont stop buying from Alpha but I might if this stuff continues. Not that I buy all that much anyway but im sure many feel the same. In the plastics industry I deal with this scenario frequently. It is frustrating when a manufacturer wont admit to a problem, but clearly Crucible/NSM does back their stuff up! no worries there. Side note to any small business guys: asking for a price list with full price breaks on every single item is soooo annoying! lol
     
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  17. AVigil

    AVigil Adam Vigil knifemaker working the grind Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Platinum Member

    Feb 17, 2009
    Reading through the emails again it is kinda strange they claim "Going through our records, we have one verified claim from Sweat Handmade Knives"

    Yet Big Chris also said they took care of him when he found an inclusion.

    It obviously is more then 1

    Reading further back Bob said "We have sold about 460,000 pounds of CPM Cutlery steel over the past 12 months and recorded maybe 10 claims for defects"

    It seems to vary in the number of defects reported.

    This can make discussion rather frustrating
     
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2019
  18. nsm

    nsm Niagara Specialty Metals Dealer / Materials Provider

    155
    Jun 15, 2009
    Hi Adam,
    Chuck never produced any samples of steel with inclusions or any defects. He sent me an email but that was the last I heard from him in regards to any material defects. One of his customers had a problem, and he claimed Chuck would not help him. He came to us and we took care of him. I never said there has only been one return or claim. If you read earlier in this thread I fully acknowledge we have had claims in the past from other customers and we do our very best to make sure the customer is satisfied. Nothing strange about that, I hope.
    Bob
     
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  19. Nathan the Machinist

    Nathan the Machinist KnifeMaker / Machinist / Evil Genius Moderator Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Feb 13, 2007
    No offence to anyone in particular, but sometimes reading comprehension is an element in misunderstandings.
     
  20. Alpha Knife Supply

    Alpha Knife Supply Always Innovating Dealer / Materials Provider

    Oct 14, 1998
    I asked for the following:

    When steel from a customer is sent to Crucible for analysis, provide us with the results of the test. I do not understand why this is difficult.

    Regarding the "Steel Information Request” email, Bob requested the information. In post #42, Bob wrote "Please provide evidence” in two different places. The intent of the email was to collect the evidence Bob requested.

    Why resist sharing the test information? Crucible has an excellent testing process. Why not share the results?

    Any other discussion is a red herring to distract from my request.

    Chuck
     
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