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setting up home shop for small production run NEED ADVICE

Discussion in 'Shop Talk - BladeSmith Questions and Answers' started by holiday, Jun 20, 2012.

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  1. holiday


    Aug 27, 2009
    hey guys, I am a hobbyist knife maker who has tried many things (folders, full tangs, partial tangs, variety of materials, etc), but I am now considering getting set up for a small production run of a simple one or two blade slip-joint folder.

    I intend to gather all the materials, make all needed jigs and patterns and then start methodically going through the steps to put 100 or so pieces together and sell them piece-by-piece on eBay.

    I know some of the more advanced makers are doing this type of thing, and since I've never done it before, I thought I'd ask for some suggestions.

    The knife I want to make is a single spear blade, slip joint with copper liners. Some of them will have bolsters, some will not. I was thinking of doing two blade types just to have some variety (like maybe a clip or sheepsfoot).

    I want to get enough barstock in the closest width and thickness so I can just start scribing out the patterns and cut blanks as I go. I will also make a pattern for the liners and buy sheet copper for that.

    I will probably use NS for the pins. I might put shields on some of them but not all of them.

    Since this will be my first "production run", I think I will finally break down and order a stamp to mark the blades before heat treating. Any suggestion on who is best for pocketknife hand stamps?

    If anyone would like to share any suggestions about this type of production, please let me know. Thanks.
  2. Brian Ayres

    Brian Ayres

    Feb 4, 2011
    Uncle Al; Riverside Machine for a stamp but....
    Etching or a pantograph scribed mark would look better IMO.

    For the parts, why not have them water jet cut??

    Also, what kind of equipment do you have?
  3. Sam Salvati

    Sam Salvati

    Aug 6, 2007
    I agree get them cut out from plate by waterjet, you will lose all your money from profiling and cutting them out.
  4. 12345678910


    Jul 13, 2009
    Have you made ONE yet?

    I'd make 1, 10x after that you should know what you need.
  5. Stacy E. Apelt - Bladesmith

    Stacy E. Apelt - Bladesmith ilmarinen - MODERATOR Moderator Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Aug 20, 2004
    The count beat me to it. Make ten, one at a time, and then you should have the jigs worked out as well as all the procedures. The last one should have the parts traced/scanned/micrometered/etc. to make the drawings and templates for the water jet cutting.

    You didn't mention steel type or HT, and that may be a big issue. A batch of 100 knives will be best done as a HT batch to save money and get reliable uniformity. You can do the prototypes in smaller batches, but the final production run should be a mass batch as far as HT goes.

    Escutcheons look nice, but require specialized equipment to install. Not all that hard to do, but you have extra costs for the escutcheon inserts, the mortise template for that insert, and the inletting tools.

    As far as the questions;
    Water jet is the most viable option.
    Etch the logo.
    The pivot should be hard pin stock, or a barrel pivot if possible. While NS will work, it is soft for a pivot.
    Decide the blade types for the first order, and cut them all in the water jet batch. Say, 40 spear, 30 sheepsfoot, 30 clip. If a second run becomes necessary, you will know the popularity of which to build.

    This isn't going to be a cheap project. Have you worked out the business plan?
    You need to keep track of time and materials used in building the ten prototype folders. When you add up the projected cost of the waterjet cutting, steel, copper, scales and bolsters, escutcheons, pin stock, belts, jigs,HT costs, tool amortization,belts and supplies, labor, and profit you will get an idea of how much you should ask.

    Unless you have already made a name for yourself as a maker, it is hard to compete with China in the simple folder market.

    Make the ten prototypes and set aside the the templates, drawings, plans, and jigs in a box where they will be easy to find. Sell the folders at what the business plan says they must bring to make money. When they are all sold, you will have a little stake money to pay for a water jet run of blades and liners.
  6. Burchtree

    Burchtree KnifeMaker & Moderator Moderator

    Mar 15, 2002
    That's sorta running before learning to walk. Take your time and make a few and enjoy the process. It'll help you learn what works and doesn't and it'll give you time to build up your customer base.
  7. Mitchell Knives

    Mitchell Knives Knifemaker Moderator

    May 21, 2000
    Making a 100 of anything is a big undertaking; especially a slip joint.

    As other have stated, I'd make 10 or so and go from there.
  8. holiday


    Aug 27, 2009
    Thank you to one and all for your remarks. I will try to address all of the points made; in no particular order.

    1. Yes, I have made several simple slipjoints in the past. One had a damascus blade that I forged from scrap damascus that I picked up along the way. It was about 3 1/4" long (the frame), and had maple handles with a simple damascus shield (pinned through to the frame). It was no big deal really, nothing fancy, but everyone who I showed it to liked it. I have also re-purposed several other older knife frames and springs by reshaping them and then making blades for them. The reason for this was because I had no way carefully cut out the liner materials.

    2. I was really into the hobby about 15 years ago. A lot has changed. I am now slowly getting back into it. When I was last around, there was no widespread use (if at all) of water or lazer cutting, at least not as accessible.

    3. Why no stamping for pocketknives? Has there been some kind of evolution of knowledge on this? I know Loveless didn't believe in stamping due to microfractures, but is this thinking that pervasive?

    4. I will take the advice and gear up to make lets say 10, maybe three of each kind. The general look I am going for are old (1700-early 1800) English style clasp knives with iron or copper liners / bolsters and rosewood or horn handles. It doesn't seem to be that popular of a style and I want to see if I can get a trend started. I want to emulate all the old grind lines, nail nicks and other profiles, but at the same time keep them with a modern touch.

    5. Speaking of China: who could I contact (once I have made a prototype) for a quote on having a bulk series manufactured under contract in China? I'd like to find out who is making the Rough Rider series. I would like to make some semi-primitive knives on a bulk scale to coincide with some other types of lifestyle marketing I am doing on youtube. I cannot go into that much right now, but let's just say that there is some big potential for marketing crossover through video blogging and fusion-mogging out there today. I would like to take apart my old IXL farrier's knife and have the boys at Rough Rider give me a quote for that. The orig farrier's knives are selling for $100-250 in bascially crappy shape - I have a bunch of other ideas as well. Perhaps I am giving some of my ideas away, but I am confident that without knowing my overall scheme, no one will be able to duplicate all the angles I intend to operate on.

    6. Steel types: I was thinking of simple 1095, or 1084. Or maybe O1. What type of steel would you guys suggest? What do you think of the copper liners? Somewhere else I recently read was discouraging this because of some kind of corrosion that copper can create when it is near non-stainless steel, but I haven't heard of that before.

    7. Business Plan: I want to come up with an off-beat line of semi-custom pocketknives knives in the $30-80 price range. Any more than that, and people aren't going to be interested in them until their some "name" is established. Any less than that, and people are going to just buy Rough Riders. Right now, it is more about selling the lifestyle and the mystique, which I am sure you all are familar with.

    OK thanks.
  9. Stacy E. Apelt - Bladesmith

    Stacy E. Apelt - Bladesmith ilmarinen - MODERATOR Moderator Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Aug 20, 2004
    I am not trying to be sarcastic or anything, but - Are Your Serious?

    Just about everything you wrote says, "don't do this". You are no where near ready in understanding about forming a business plan or making production runs.

    Again, not meaning disrespect, just stating the facts.
  10. 12345678910


    Jul 13, 2009
    My thoughts
    That's because they are original.
    The folks that like the traditional patterns like old original stuff.

    Custom, or production, you have to pick one.
    Custom materials and labour mean a high dollar, low volume strategy.
    materials and waterjet costs alone will be greater than your $30 retail price.

    A retail price of $30-80 you HAVE to get them made in China

    If you do get them produced in China, you are in for huge quantities and therefore huge dollars. I expect 10, 50 or $100,000
    Plus communication costs, travel costs, shipping, import and customs costs
    As soon as, or before you receive yours, they will also be retailing those designs themselves at a price you can't compete with
    You can't sue.

    Is this World of Warcraft related ?
  11. holiday


    Aug 27, 2009
    No disrespect taken, but what "facts" are you stating? Based on your opinion of my statements I don't have a business plan.

    Look at it this way: what if I already have $1000 "stake money" as you say, from another project unrelated to knife making. Now, I wan't to invest this $1000 into something (i.e. XX quantity of a certain kind of slipjoint pocketknife) which I will then market and sell through some of the avenues I stated in my second post. All of this is going toward building brand identity.

    Now, suppose I invest this $1000 + some of my time. Let's say in the end I "spend" $1000 of my own time; for now, I won't count that. I have a full time job. Let's say that I make 1000 units and over time I sell them for $55 a piece. Let's say it takes a year. That's $5500 in revenue, minus $1000, plus the $1000 I "paid myself in time".

    I dunno, what could a benchmade folder, crafted out of decent materials sell for? With a little marketing, I am confident I could sell a knife for $55, esp. when guys all around the world are willing to spend $200+ for a Tony Bose Case knife. True, I'm not Case or Tony Bose, but I do see what people are spending.

    What if it takes me 5 years to sell them at a rate of 200 per year. Do pocketknives go out of style? Perhaps. But what if the pattern isn't even "in style" to begin with?

    I don't know who you are, but let's be fair; you don't know who I am either. Neither of us knows what the other is capable of. Now, let's say that you are an experienced knife maker who has sold 1000's of units and is well respected in the industry. Of course, I will take what you have said into consideration. But as of right now, as I write this, I do not know who you are.

    Perhaps before you ask me if I am serious, you should explain to me why you feel qualified to make such remarks.

    And please, I mean no disrespect either.
  12. Sam Salvati

    Sam Salvati

    Aug 6, 2007
    How old are you?
  13. holiday


    Aug 27, 2009
    uh, what difference does that make?
  14. 12345678910


    Jul 13, 2009
    You can build 1,000 good slip joints in a year while working a full time job?
    That's 3 per day
    Show me please.

    55 x 1,000 is $55,000 by the way, sounds good.

    It would give us some context.
    Because right now, you come across as 13 year old who just finished school for the summer and wants to conquer the world, but needs a ride to the corner store.

    Have you considered running a hotdog cart?
    More people buy hotdogs than pocket knives plus you may talk to some nice girls at the same time
  15. Brian Ayres

    Brian Ayres

    Feb 4, 2011
    Double post
  16. Brian Ayres

    Brian Ayres

    Feb 4, 2011
    A couple things. If you make 1000 units for 1000 bucks that's $1.00 apiece. Come on... Really? :(

    And if you sell em for $55 each that's $55,000... The cost of materials minimum would likely be close to $30. Add in the cost of heat treat, electricity etc and you might break even. :eek:

    Bladsmith(Stacy's) advice is being given kindly. He sells knives, is a jeweler and does this for a living. He more than I can offer advice from a knifemakers perspective.

    Ever hear the joke; How does a knifemaker get a million dollars? Start with two million!!! :D

    The fact that you didn't even know what water jetting was, is enough to show that you need more research and time before you venture into this type of undertaking. Add to that your fuzzy math and it makes people question you.

    I'm not trying to be disrespectful, just adding some food for thought.
  17. holiday


    Aug 27, 2009
    OK I meant 100 x $55 (100 being perhaps a more realistic goal) - that would be $5,500. Now, do you think I could come up with enough materials (wood, steel, copper, pins, finishing supplies) to make 100 3 1/2" closed slipjoint folders?

    Multiply that x10 and I think you will only see that the cost of materials goes down. I could probably make 15-16 pairs of liners from the 8 1/2" x 11" sheet of scrap sheet metal under my bench that I can scavenge from any construction site after they do the copper over the bay window. You guys have no idea how much material I have dumpster dove for and have had given to me for free over the years! I am truly blessed. :cool:

    Not to mention the auto springs and other tool steel my uncle gave me. :D

    Uh, so anyway, to the point about water jetting...as I said in the first post, I have been out of the hobby for 15 years (I suppose you who ask how old I am and then describe me as a 13 year old never read my first post carefully) - so it should be no surprise that I didn't know about water jetting. But, I am finding out. :thumbup:

    And to who ever asked me about W.O.W., I don't believe in playing those games and what I said has nothing to do with any type of RPG or online gaming system.

    Now, let's get into some stylistic questions about my folders. What does anyone think about cut gadroon bolsters? I intend to bring it back. Hope you have also been watching the rapid rise in internet cross promoting for Hudson Bay Company and their famous striped blanket. Well, anyone who has been around the knife world is not surprised by this blanket, nor do they find it a cool new sensation for the Kardashiin sisters to promote. No, we knife people know well of the Hudson Bay trade dags and other items such as these. I intend to ride the coat tales of all the "Madison Avenue typewriter jockeys" all the way to the bank. And my quotes are meant to reference the famous knife-related publication of years back...anyone who's been around awhile knows exactly what I am referring to, and let's just say if I was only 13 I wouldn't have been around when that particular publication came out. HINT: there weren't too many email addresses then either, if ya know what I mean...:(

    Can we get down to what's really real instead of tearing a brother-maker down??????????????????????????????????:barf:
  18. Sam Salvati

    Sam Salvati

    Aug 6, 2007
    It's funny, when you been on the knife forums for a while, and are a maker/hobbyist (legit maker/hobbyist), you can recognise how much someone knows and can do by the questions they ask.
  19. holiday


    Aug 27, 2009
    I was wondering what you intended to contribute to my original questions by making this statement. :eek:

    Obviously, I am here asking questions, and have never stated that I am a pro maker. I also wonder why you put "legit" maker in parentheses, are you implying I am not a legit "hobbyist / maker" because I asked some questions??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? :confused:

    I don't really know much, but how much do you "know"? :barf:

    Because that's why we are all here, to share our knowledge and love of the craft, not tear down a fellow in the trade. Peace.
  20. Fellhoelter


    Dec 29, 2005
    WTF is Fusion-Mogging?
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