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Sourcing a large quantity of ELMAX

Discussion in 'Shop Talk - BladeSmith Questions and Answers' started by MikeyIdea, Jan 11, 2017.

  1. MikeyIdea


    Jan 10, 2017
    Hi All,

    Introduction: I have been lurking around here for several years. I have done amateur bladesmithing using a coal forge and an old foot powered hammer on weekends for quite a few years. I have been working for a big multi national for nearly 25 years now and it is soon time for them to replace me with someone younger and cheaper. I'm not sad, I will get a fairly good package when they say bye bye, if I don't die of an heart attack first of course... It won't be enough to retire totally but it will be enough to not have to enter another office again. I can choose to do what I want for once

    I have always been very interested in high end steels. The problem is that my economical calculations don't work out. Material cost will be too high if I source ELMAX or other high end steels from e.g., USAKnifeMaker. I need to get the material cost down a bit

    I contacted a Chinese manufacturer for a quote for a ton of ELMAX but that was a disaster, they quoted approx. USD 60,000 for 15 sheets of 15mm * 205mm * 2000 mm = USD 60 per kilo

    Experienced members: What options are there and what prices can I expect with higher quantities? What's the min quantity and price directly from importer(s)?

    I don't need a ton of ELMAX and I'd be happy if it was much less :) but I can buy a large quantity and just sell what I don't need for self cost if it can help to make the knives I want to do make economic sense

    Advice appreciated

    Mikey and Idea
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2017
  2. gga357

    gga357 Gold Member Gold Member

    Dec 3, 2007
    I would start with Bohler. Ask for their North American distribution and work your way down the supply chain.
  3. kuraki

    kuraki Drinks Pearl in a can. Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Jun 17, 2016
    First, if you get some other mill to make you something like ELMAX, it won't be ELMAX, it will be "like" ELMAX and while it's alloy content may be similar I really doubt the "superclean" powdered metal technology used by Bohler-Uddeholm will be used by your supplier, really defeating your supposed interest in high end steels.

    Second, the only way you're going to get mill pricing is buying mill quantities. My employer purchases tens of thousands of tons of plate and coil steel every year, and even we only get mill run pricing by buying the entire mill run for "special" steel.

    Third, it's not that expensive. It's expensive compared to 1095, sure, but even at $40 for a 2x14 bar or whatever, a fraction of the cost of making a knife accounting for labor and equipment. I've paid more for scales. It's just hard to find. AKS and USAKM are the only sources I'm aware of. But steel is hard to identify. Why would you think other makers would want to buy Chinese "like Elmax" from you if you were to source a large quantity?

    Last, there are other high end steels. I'd suggest working with what is available to you and fills your desire to work with super steels.
  4. MikeyIdea


    Jan 10, 2017
    :) Well, I said that it was a disaster. Price would have had to be half the price of Bohler/Uddeholm for that to be interesting. That idea was quickly dropped

    ELMAX/M390/AEB-L, CPM 35VN are all available,but they push up the price to where it's difficult to even breakeven using them
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2017
  5. kuraki

    kuraki Drinks Pearl in a can. Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Jun 17, 2016
    Your only option for a large quantity would be from Bohler-Uddeholm USA, which is their only distributor in the US from what I can tell.
  6. MikeyIdea


    Jan 10, 2017
    Large quantity discount, not just large quantity :) What's the practice in this specific branch? Can a couple of hundred kilos make AKS or USAKM interested in volume discount?
  7. kuraki

    kuraki Drinks Pearl in a can. Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Jun 17, 2016
    You would have to ask them. I doubt it in this case since the availability of this material is rather sparse to begin with. Have you tried calling one of the BU Steel Stores?
  8. Stacy E. Apelt - Bladesmith

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

    Aug 20, 2004
    A couple hundred kilos sounds like a lot, but to a steel supplier it is a small order. Aldo, Chuck, and Kelly often buys in tons ... as much as 16 tons at a time. The prices they sell it at are just a reasonable markup. If you want to buy it at half the Bohler regular price, order 100,000 pounds. Even at that quantity, I'm not sure it will half the cost.

    Now, on the practical side. Buying steel by the bar in a reasonable quantity will allow buying what you are able to use in a reasonable time span. Having $10,000 in steel on hand is only a reasonable thing if you can use it in a year or less. Otherwise, you would do better to put the extra money in Merrill Lynch, and buy a few bars at a time. Also, 200 kilos will make a lot of knives. Can you possible sell 500-1000 knives in a year? An average knife in Elmax will cost about $20 for the steel. This is probably the loswest cost part of the knife. The HT, sanding/grinding materials,handle wood, tools, etc. will all probably cost more.

    Additionally, you may not decide to stay with elmax for 1000 knives. There is nothing wrong with using only one steel, but I would determine that it is the steel you want first. You don't say how much Elmax you have used to date, but I would suggest you use 50 or more pounds before making it your lifetime steel. You may decide to swiths to another steel, like AEB-L, for some reason.

    Another concern is that people often think they can make an income on knifemaking. Some can, but that is the rarity. Most of us that sell a reasonable quantity of knives just pay for our hobby. The equipment and supplies are far more expensive than the steel. A semi-commercial setup that will crank out several knives a day could easily set you back $10,000 - $20,000. Some of us have many times that much in the shop and tools.

    You jokingly made a reference to having a heart attack. While I know it was a joke, think of all the things at your point in life that could take you away from knifemaking at a full time level ... or completely. I had a minor surgery two years ago and a complication made my right hand partly disabled. An illness , COPD, bad back/knees, arthritis, etc. can make the equipment in and steel in the shop gather rust and dust. A bladesmith shop full of tools and steel is a cool thing to show to a buddy, but not an asset on selling a house or estate.

    Final note:
    As a registered user, you are not allowed to talk about selling knives, but since you are basically just looking into steel purchasing and the idea of knifemaking for profit, this thread is OK. Try to keep any discussion of selling in reference to a business plan, not actual retail sales talk or pricing of finished knives.
  9. Nathan the Machinist

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

    Feb 13, 2007
    You can buy full sheets of Elmax directly from Uddeholm.

    If you've never used it before you should buy smaller amounts from a distributor first. It's a wonderful material but it can be difficult to process.
  10. tmickley


    Apr 4, 2001
    The steel business has been around for a long time and they have a set way to do business and it's not all that knife steel friendly. Knife steel is such a small market for them they'd rather not even mess with it most times unless they can get a large cutlery company to place some big orders consistently.

    Chances are good you can get "them" to sell you a sheet or two at a time. You will likely get quoted a fairly high rate as they all tend to discourage direct sales and push as much as possible to distributors. A distributor can probably flow through a lower price quote on full sheets than you see listed for bars or smaller pieces.

    Like Stacy points out, the steel is often the cheapest part of a knife "production" run. Saving $5 to $10 on cheaper steel per knife is maybe not the way to go? This naturally dovetails with what where your target retail is going to be positioned.

    Bohler is changing their distribution process to get more knife steel available into the USA market. It's getting better but it's still not where we would all like it to be. Niagara (Crucible steels) are usually sold down and have to roll out most orders but you can get what ever you want (that they roll). Lead times on that will be 5 to 8 weeks.

    Good luck with your project.
  11. MikeyIdea


    Jan 10, 2017
    Thanks for your replies

    I have no goal like creating 1,000 or even 100 whatever knives per year. I'll retire soon and there is nothing like a multi-national company career to make you longing to do what you want yourself for once :) I have an engineering background and I look forward to tinker, build HT and LN cryo myself and it doesn't really matter if it takes 6 months. I'll probably spend 30K in the shop. Initial investment is not a big concern

    I know myself, I'll probably deliberately break at least 30 knives in two before I am satisfied that I have a tough enough steel :sulkiness: From that on, I just want to do what I like to do, try to make really high quality knives and feel proud of every one of them, I don't think "profit", more "make a little bit of money because losing money is a bad feeling". Perhaps ELMAX, AEB-L Damascus, that's another 60 pieces of knife :cry:

    Larger volume can give 25% volume discount or so in many other branches but as tmickley and others have confirmed to me: The steel branch is not that knife steel friendly, it can't be because volumes are way too small. I'll check if full sheets make economic sense and leave it at that

    Thanks Stacy: I'll keep registered user rules in mind

    Thanks all for your advice
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2017
  12. mknife

    mknife KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Jul 3, 2006

    but I'm agree with Stacy too.

    MikeyIdea, they give you a lots of good advice.
    I live in Italy and here also purchase steel from authorized Crucible Bohler dealers, only they can guarantee the good composition and the right specific production process.

    I would not a knife made with Chinese Elmax!!! It is not Elmax!!!

    Riccardo Mainolfi
  13. Willie71

    Willie71 Hobbyist Knifemaker Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Feb 23, 2013
    I would look at sourcing good quality belts at discount prices. I easily spend twice as much on belts as I do on steel. Steel is the cheapest part of knifemaking. I rarely have a handle that costs less than steel in a knife.
  14. Stacy E. Apelt - Bladesmith

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

    Aug 20, 2004
    That is a good point. Volume purchases of belts from VMS, Tru-grit, 3M, Klingspor, etc. can cut the price in half. When ordered by the dozen, they get really cheaper. I used to order from Kningspor in $400 lots of mixed belts (in dozen quantities) and got about $700 worth of belts at the single belt price. You need to store them properly and use them in a reasonable time or the splice joints will go bad.
  15. Josh Rider

    Josh Rider KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Sep 2, 2014
    You may be getting into the wrong hobby/investment.:cool:
  16. Willie71

    Willie71 Hobbyist Knifemaker Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Feb 23, 2013
    It's tough in Canada. Duty, exchange, shipping etc. all ramp the price up. I just spent $800.00 on belts this morning from a Canadian supplier. The price of steels like 3v, z-wear, or elmax is irrelevant when they chew through $11.00 belts at 4x the rate of simple steels.
  17. kuraki

    kuraki Drinks Pearl in a can. Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Jun 17, 2016
    And I thought dropping $500 on some Koa was a leap :D

    How are you guys getting volume discounts from suppliers? Call and ask? Now that I'm really done experimenting with what belts work the best for me I'd have no trouble ordering 2 dozen of each, but at say Tru-Grits posted qty discount of 0.35/belt for 10-49 it really doesn't make any sense for me to order any more than I know I'm going to use in a short period.
  18. Willie71

    Willie71 Hobbyist Knifemaker Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Feb 23, 2013
    I'd like to know as well, especially in Canada. I'll e-mail Rob and ask if he will offer a better price with volume purchases.
  19. Aidenag


    Apr 16, 2009
    Not to further the off topic bent this is getting, but where and how can we achieve this half off price on belts in bulk that you speak of stacy? Never seen deals past what others mentioned of the 10-49 tru grit drop of a few nickels and dimes amounting to like 10% off. Show me the way as im about to do another $500+ belt order to hold me over till spring and if i can shave off price or increase quantity that would rock
  20. Stacy E. Apelt - Bladesmith

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

    Aug 20, 2004
    I don't use Tru-grit, but I thought they offered a good volume discount.

    I haven't placed a big order from Klingspor lately, but they had several tiers of discount. Call Klingspor and see what the price is for bulk orders. IIRC, my last $500 order saved me almost $200 over the regular price. That would be 40%.

    Also try VSM and 3M.

    Most any knife supplier will cut 10-15% off for a larger order. If they won't check someone else out.

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