View Full Version : Dilimma, Fill orders or go to show

Jerry Shorter
04-03-2003, 10:09 AM
Wadda ya do?
You have back orders of anywhere from 6 months to a year and you are just dieing to go to a show. Every kinfe that you make has someone anxiously waiting for it. But you are excited about your work and would like to see how your work is recieved by other makers. But if you go , and your knives are well recieved and maybe even sold how do you look your customers in the eye?
How do you guys handle such a situation.

T. Hendrickson
04-03-2003, 10:31 AM
I wish I had that dillema.

04-03-2003, 07:13 PM
Shows are part of the business. if you want to become known. They're a form of advertising.

I try to take about half of my knives, that I take to a show, to customers who've been waiting, who live in the area. That helps on back log and helps with P.R., somewhat, I think.

Robert Sox
04-04-2003, 09:48 AM
I read somewhere that Bill Moran has a 'system' that solves this dilema:
Knife #1 completes a custom order,
Knife #2 is made on speculation and ends up for sale on a show table, and
Knife #3 is made on speculation and ends up in his safe to fund his retirement.

Obviously, this has the potential to really irritate a customer that has to wait, sometimes for years, to take delivery of their knife, when someone else can walk into a show and buy a Moran knife off the table and take immediate delivery.

For this system to work and keep your customers happy, this would have to all be above board and information that was shared with each custom buyer. It does have the potential to torque people off.

It strikes me as a reasonable system though -- If they want a specific knife that was custom made for them, they wait in line. If they just want 'one of your knifes' they can buy it off the table at a show, but they don't get to spec it out.

I'm a rather small, part time maker. I've got enough custom orders to keep me busy (at the rate I want to work) for almost a year. The bad part about that is it does not allow me time to experiement, develop new things, or build up any inventory to show potential customers. I'm moving to a system where I insert a Spec or experiment knife inbetween my custom knifes to address this system. Time will tell how well it works...

04-05-2003, 12:17 AM
There are many ways to go about it. Customers understand, but it has to be frustrating for them to see a knife on the table at a show, while they've already waited months or years for something similar.

Our customers are great! They certainly are patient, loyal and give us lots of understanding. I've found that to be the case, almost without exception, in the past 35+ years. I'd certainly want to thank them all, if that were possible.

Tim Britton
06-17-2003, 10:03 AM
If we assume that shows are necessary for our marketability.....might want to place orders with yourself for show knives. Another possibility is to take knives(that you have orders for) to shows that can be shipped when you return to your shop......that way a slow show is not an issue for the maker. Thank God for understanding customers !!!

SL Knives
06-17-2003, 01:10 PM
When I take custom orders and give an estimated delivery time of _ months or years, I explain to the customer that I go to _ shows a year and allow myself _ months out of each year to work on knives for the show. Good communication helps avoid misunderstandings over the delivery schedule.

Tim Britton
06-17-2003, 02:18 PM
given orders on hand from 100+ customers, many with internet capabilities and constant "just want to know how my knife is coming along"; ideal communications is impossible. Most of us are one man shops and busy. Many of us are seriously considering no orders at all. At this point, I am shifting to a policy of quoting delivery within one year on any knife. Really special pieces are on a "when its ready" basis. My experience has been that as long as the customer knows up front approximately what the lead time will be we can work together. Folks needing constant reassurance or a pen pal might should patronize a maker who specializes in that. Pin pointing a delivery date is baaaaad business and voodoo at best. There are too many intervening variables that we cannot control. You're right about the need for better communications......just don't know how to accomplish this unless I give up sleeping, eating or fishing ! Back to the grinder....darned bandsaw bit me again.....anybody else have a man eating machine ?

Jason Cutter
06-23-2003, 05:01 AM
I don't have the dilemma of 100+ orders. However as a relative newbie, I have the privilege of a 6month wait and I have closed my books to more orders. As others have found, I do have to tell people that I do dedicate some time to ensuring that some knives are destined for the show.

I also let them know I cannot ensure that one particular customer has a specific spot on my waiting list. The sequence with which I get to start an order has to do with how I get to work on BATCHES, rather than when that one knife gets done. Eg.- this month is all forged tanto blades only - 6-9 of them. Next month is all forged Bowie blades only etc, next month is all stock removal D2 steel blades etc. You get what I mean. Some of those knives are going to people waiting just 1 week, some are for those waiting the full 6months.

I may have a rough idea +/- 2months when a project will start / complete but no assurances. People serious about a custom order WILL WAIT, if you maintain avenues of communication and keep people informed. As I have slowly figured out my own way of taking orders etc. , I tell people that the wait time is quite long. Thats honest, as it takes into account any mishaps - eg.- bandsaw being naughty again, illness, holidays and needing to make some "unannounced" knives for the show...

Another thing I did this year was to say that the knife is done, but could I take it to the show... Or your knife is ready, COME TO THE SHOW and pick it up ! Its more than a sales tactic, it is about encouraging someone that extra bit to come and attend a local show.

Bill Moran's system is a good guide, I reckon, it shows some consideration for a long-term plan.

Just a few thoughts. Jason.

Tim Britton
06-23-2003, 06:28 AM
thanks....this is one of the greatest things about this forum....we can exchange views/ideas over the miles and don't have to wait for the guild show like back in the "old days". I still remain in awe of technology. I can finish a knife today and have an instant "show" on my web site. Information is available immediately and we can instantly share good and bad stuff.....bad stuff like the toxicity of carbon fiber. Only safe way to work this stuff is under water ! Watch for posts about this.....more to come !