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  #16  
Old 04-05-2007, 01:16 PM
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Whew! But then, we knew it would be like this, didn't we?

OK, first of all, I know my definitions are over done. It's a habit left over from 25 years as a computer systems analyst and I doubt I'll ever break it. These definitions are just a starting place and I expect each and every one of them to change or be entirely eliminated if we carry this thread to a final conclusion.

So many good points were made, so much to consider. Let's try to discuss a few of them so that we might better define the direction we wish to take with this.

First, several people mentioned that certain definitions such as 'hand made' have already been defined by usage of some of the more notable old timers out there, a valid point. My counter point to that would be that is that it is true to a point but the usage was not consistent even among those guys. So, to me, that looks like a starting point for the definition of 'hand made' but no more than a starting point. No matter what we decide about any of these definitions SOMEBODY is going to be disappointed, somebody will have to change the way they use the words.

POINT: we are trying to agree on what these terms mean or WHAT THEY SHOULD mean by a consensus of opiinion.

POINT: it is not necessary that any of these single terms should completely described every facet of how a particular knife is made. All that is necessary is that we find a widely agreeable definition for each term that we decide to keep.

LET"S START by first re-naming Primitive to Neo-Tribal. That's easy, and more refinement is possible there if you think it is needed.

Then, let's work on CUSTOM. This is one of the most widely used and abused terms in the knife and gun world. Our knife world definition may differ from the rest of the sporting community and that's fine as long as we can agree what it means to us. Please help me identify the important characteristics of a 'custom' knife. After we get a collection of points, I may decide to post a Poll so that some of the points can be chosen by a vote. Here are some points to consider for this definition, these points mainly come from my dictionary:

Identifying Characteristics of a Custom Made Object

1. Made specially for an individual customer

2. doing work to order

The dictionary is pretty clear on this: in order to have a custom made object you need to have a customer to order it made. Many of us already use the term Custom in that senses but some do not.

Your opinions ?


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  #17  
Old 04-05-2007, 01:45 PM
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It might also help to look at how things were viewed before our times and how they got here. It has been brought up about definitions used by such as Loveless. Also think about older than that. Many moons ago and even to this day in the Scandinavian countries a knife maker is not necessarily the man who makes the blade. That was the smith. In many ways they were working on kits knives. Around here kit knives have no bias against them, but else where I here & read on how kits are for people who canít make real knives. Over there it isnít a stigma or a learning tool; itís a tradition.

Iím not trying to confuse or change the subject. If we are trying to set a standard for things to come where do we want it to go? Honest among ourselves we are. Educators to the customers and examples we can be. Police force of the knife world we are not.

I guess Iím getting a little confused. On one hand I like classification, again the proper name for the item. I like to be able to describe my craft and knives with standard terms that will make it better for the customer. On the other over classification and ďpigeon holingĒ an other-wise honest guy who doesnít fit the classification is not something I would want to encourage. The above example of Scandinavian knife makers is an example of how an ancient tradition can change just by giving it a classification.

I donít want to discourage this but how do we do one without opening up the gates to the other?

Jim


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  #18  
Old 04-05-2007, 02:22 PM
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Jim,

I recognize the dilemma. First off, I don't think we are trying to define custom (hand made?) knifemaking for the entire world. But, there are some issues that have been brought up in this forum a number of times in which definitions can help. Some of these issues/questions have been:

When can I put my name on a knife?

When can I say that my knife is forged?

I didn't make the knife, but I put on the handle. Can I call it a custom knife?

I think that, a lot of times, these questions come from either the uninformed, or probably more likely, someone who wants to make and sell knives, but doesn't want to take the time to learn the entire process of knifemaking. They want to slap a handle on a purchased blade, and then call it "custom" so they can flip it for a few bucks profit. Take the forged knife question above. A forged knife has a certain mystique and history to it. If a person makes a stock removal knife, hammers on it a few times to ding it up, then sells it as forged, is that right?

Let's say that I buy an inexpensive Russell Green River blade for $9. I buff out the logo, install tiger maple handles, liner, and mosaic pins. I make a fitted sheath. I then put my name on the knife and sell it as my own for $140. Am I a custom knifemaker?
  #19  
Old 04-05-2007, 06:29 PM
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The way to avoid pigeon holing is simply to make the definitions tight enough to be a meaningful description without trying to be all emcompassing (this is where most of my original definitions fail). For instance, I'm trying to get people to concentrate first on the term 'Custom' (see my post two steps back). More than any of the other terms, that one has a basic, well established meaning in the English language and should be open to less interpretation than most of the terms we want to define. I suggest that we need not think of it as 'Custom Knifemaker' right now, but that we simply consider what the word Custom means by itself with consideration to how it would apply to us AS knife makers.

So, consider the word Custom. The dictionary is very clear that a customer has to order an object made a certain way and the craftsman makes that object to the customer's order. There is no real fudge factor in that common usage of the term. All that is necessary by this definition for a knife to qualify as custom is that a customer ask for a knife with a certain handle material/blade steel/blade length/whatever and you build the knife that way. This could be a model you have made a thousand of or it could be a one of a kind design that the customer provided - it doesn't matter. All that matters is that someone asked you to do it that way and you did.

In the 'old days' I wouldn't be surprised to find that many of those guys started out doing exactly that. Many makers today still do (I do, virtually every knife I make is 'Custom' by that definition).

So, I find that this definition both satisfies English common usage and at least a significant portion of modern knife making history. The question I would like everyone to address now is:

Do you agree with this definition of the word Custom as it applies to knife making? If not, please state how you thinkthe definiton should be modified SPECIFICALLY. At this point in the process, I don't think it matters as much WHY you think it should be modified as much as it matters HOW you think it should be changed ....


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  #20  
Old 04-05-2007, 08:47 PM
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Exclamation

By including "heat treat by other than maker" you just put a lot of makers in the "mid tech" category. Myself (for the past 28 years) and many others have been having heat treat done by Paul Boss and others, and have never considers my stuff high tech.

Last edited by wildbill; 04-05-2007 at 08:48 PM. Reason: spelling
  #21  
Old 04-05-2007, 10:02 PM
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That's true Bill, and that will change as we progress. But, right now, we need to discuss that one term 'Custom' as described in my last post. Currently, that term does not include a heat treat reference.

C'mon folks, to make any progress we have to work on one definition at a time. Currently, I need your comments on 'Custom'. Please read my last post before you reply ....


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  #22  
Old 04-05-2007, 11:59 PM
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Ray,

I disagree with your definition of 'custom', and here's why.

The root word of 'customer' is 'custom', so I see your point. However, if I make a knife just to make it..., for myself..., then I argue that I am the customer. The specifics are defined by me..., unique to my desires. Can't a knifemaker be his own customer?

What if the knife is a gift? There is no 'customer'. It is a one-of-kind, totally unique knife. Is it not custom?

What about all those knives on tables at shows? Are they not customs?

What if I commissioned a custom knife from you and sold or traded it years later? Is it no longer a custom knife when it becomes the property of the new owner?

What if I have a knife in my inventory of work which meets a customer's desires to the last detail. Does that existing knife become custom if I sell it to the customer or do I have to make one exactly like it in order to truly sell them a custom knife?

What about the word customer? (I know you're pulling your hair out right now Ray. ) To be a customer, do you have to pay for the item? If so, then no knife given, raffled, traded, or otherwise aquired could ever be a custom. Correct?

Again..., I'm not sure this effort will yield the desired results, but I commend you for taking it on.

In my mind, there are three reasons people by knives. Performance, Asthetics, and Exclusivity. These can be achieved a number of ways and it is in the discussing of these methods where a true community is forged among those who love knives.
God forbid the day when a knife from one of our shops, with hours of love and creativity poured into it, can be cubby holed with a single phrase.
To me, a hand made knife has character. It has something of the maker within it. While it may be a simple tool, it's a complex process which gives it life. Let that process demand the lengthy discussions and explainations it deserves.


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  #23  
Old 04-06-2007, 07:45 AM
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I tend to agree with you, Andy, on the use of the word "custom."

Merriam-Webster dictionary defines custom as "made or performed according to personal order." It also defines "custom-made" as an adjective desribing an object "made to individual specifications."

While there is a relationship with "customer" the above definitions do not restrict the making of an object to a customer. I feel that a knife made to the "personal order" and "individual specifications" of the maker should also proudly bear the title of "custom."

In providing the etymology of the word, M-W dictionary notes that it's roots are similar to the Latin root "suus" meaning "one's own." A maker who puts his own talents and creative style into a knife truly makes it their own.

I agree with you, Ray, that the word "custom" has been abused, particularly by those wishing to add to their profit margin. I would argue, though, that the knife community connotates a "custom" knife to be one that is made individually and with a level of craftsmanship not attainable with economic feasability by factory production.

I would therefore define the term "custom" as it applies to knives:

CUSTOM KNIFE: A knife produced to the specifications of an individual or to personal order.

Note, that this definition does not specify who--the maker or the recipient--makes the specifications. I think who ultimately posesses the knife is irrelevant, provided it is made to someone's individual specifications. If the specifications of a customer happen to coincide with those of a knife already made, great, he or she can purcase a custom knife that is finished. If not, they can either a) place an order with a particular maker or b) seek a maker that already has constructed a knife meeting those specifications. Considered this way, the knives by the great makers such as William Scagel, Bill Moran, and George Herron are legitimately "custom." Under the more restrictive definition, they may not be. Something that I see mentioned occasionally--and I would consider this a compliment to a knife maker--is when a customer orders a knife, but does not specify how it is to be made. The customer allows the maker full reign to design and complete the knife, knowing that the knife they acquire will be a great representation of that maker's craftsmanship. Under your definition, Ray, I do not think a knife could be called custom.

Note also that this definition does not clarify how the knife is to be made. Thus, a mass-produced knife, if having qualities specified by an individual, can legitimately be called "custom." See the reference to Buck's custom shoppe in my previous post in this thread. This may make some of us uncomfortable, but that is a discussion for another time.
  #24  
Old 04-06-2007, 08:41 AM
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Ray, I don't know if this really fits "custom" or not, but since we're defining terms here, I thought I'd mention it; There seemingly needs to be a differience between someone that purchases Damascus to use as his/her blade, and someone that makes his/her own Damascus. To make this stuff takes hours and hours, and special equipment if you're prepared to do the total HT and Tempering. That should somehow be noted into the deffinition of custom when it applies. I see beautiful knives almost every day on the web, where the make says he purchased his/her damascus from this person or this site. That's great! Nothing wrong with that at all, I'm all for spreading the beauty of Damascus all over the knife making place. Should, however, that person (that buys the damascus) somehow state that it's bought steel, and not made damuscus? I make all of mine, Fritz and Bowie got me started on more complex patterns quite a while back. So should that be considered in the "Custom" deffinition somehow? Just a thought, may not even go here.


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  #25  
Old 04-06-2007, 08:49 AM
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Robert,

Just my 2 cents, but I think we'll get to that discussion when we wrap up the definition of "custom" and start on "sole authorship." Knifemakers typically don't state the source of their steel, in other words they'll state that it's ATS-34 or 1095, and not that it's Admiral 1095, etc. Damascus is a little different in that if it's the maker's own damascus, or say, damascus from a well-known maker, then it may enhance the value/desirability of the knife. Otherwise, it may not be that different than barstock.

Nathan
  #26  
Old 04-06-2007, 09:03 AM
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Nathan,

You have provided what I consider to be a perfect definition of the word 'custom' as it applies to knives. Thank you!

Ray..., you have your answer unless someone can top that one.


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  #27  
Old 04-06-2007, 10:12 AM
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OK, now I think we are making progress. Soon, I think we may have
'Custom' refined enough that the final definition can be put up for a
vote on a Poll.

Andy,

The essential part of the term 'custom' in the English language as
applied to products is that the item has been ordered by a 'customer'.
A 'customer' is defined in my dictionary as a patron, a buyer, or a
shopper. You cannot be your own customer. Please note the inclusion
of the word 'patron'. While the most common intent of a custom order
would be to get paid for the custom work, payment is not absolutely
required. If someone asks you to make a knife a certain way and you
make that knife it is a custom knife. You can give it away or not
but it is a custom knife. I recognize that this part of the definition
has always been part of the way some knife makers use the term
'custom' and that there have also been other makers who simply apply
it to any knife they make. I submit that if we allow that to
continue then the term 'custom' actually has NO meaning for knife
makers since it is virtually the same as 'I made this knife' and we
have many other terms and ways of saying that which we haven't
tackled yet.

So, what does (or should) it mean when we say we are Custom Knife
Makers? It means only that we will make you a knife however you
want it made if you ask us. That's all. It doesn't say anything
about the knives we may make of our own volition, it doesn't say
anything about how we make the knives.

This is only one knife making term that describes one small aspect
of knife making. It is not an attempt at describing everything
their is to know about how a knife was made in one word.

Nathan,

Your definition:

CUSTOM KNIFE: A knife produced to the specifications of an individual
or to personal order.

is very much in line with my argument except that I preclude the
maker from being the individual providing the specifications. We
have other terms that can be used for that - perhaps HandMade, Forged,
or whatever term yet to be discussed. You said it yourself,
"made or performed according to personal order." You cannot 'order'
a knife from yourself. 'Order' is a word which has a meaning too
and we cannot arbitrarily choose to ignore it.

True, that means that some knives made by Scagel, Moran, etc were not
custom knives and that is simply a fact. They weren't. But, some
were. It isn't a reflection on their craftsmanship, not at all. Those
knives were still HandMade, Forged, Designed By, whatever but some
weren't made to a customer's order.

Yes, I know the term 'custom' hasn't always been used precisely like
that, see my comments to Andy above. There is confusion in the
general knife making community as to what is or is not a custom knife.
If we are to relieve that confusion we must supply defintions that
have actual meaning. We can choose to define Custom as simply any
knife made by any knife maker for any reason - the current definition-
or we can try to give it real meaning. Remember, we still have other
terms as yet untouched that can be used to describe other aspects of
how and/or why a knife was made. The whole story doesn't have to be
and probably cannot be in a single word.

If we allow 'custom' to mean any knife made by any knife maker for any
reason then what is the difference bewteen:

"I make custom knives".

and

"I make knives".

?????????


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  #28  
Old 04-06-2007, 11:21 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ray Rogers

If we allow 'custom' to mean any knife made by any knife maker for any
reason then what is the difference bewteen:

"I make custom knives".

and

"I make knives".

?????????
Ray, I don't think there IS a difference between those two, at least not in the sense in which we are discussing them. (I think there is a difference between saying "I am a knifemaker" and "I am a guy who has made knives" but that is another discussion all together.)

While there are makers out there that do not take orders from customers, they are probably few. So, it has become customary (another association with the word, custom) to call a person who makes knives a "custom knifemaker."

Let's say that a knifemaker typically has 3 or 4 models that they make and sell. That person, according to you, would not make custom knives. But if he is out of stock on his model #3, and a customer makes a request for that model, but makes no specifications as to anything different than what is normally done in the knife's production, is it then a custom knife simply because a person has ordered it?

If a customer orders a knife from a maker without providing any specifications at all, then is that NOT a custom knife?

So, if I make a knife without specifications from another person, and sell that knife to a customer, can they no longer be called a customer? Would they simply be the buyer?
  #29  
Old 04-06-2007, 12:03 PM
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Well, if there is no difference in those two sentences then do you not see that renders the term 'custom' to be meaningless? You cannot have it both ways. Either the term means something or it doesn't. If it doesn't have any meaning then the two sentences are exactly the same in their meaning. Otherwise, it has to mean something. If we simply say that it means you make knives then we have failed to arrive at a meaningful definition because I can already say I am a knife maker without using the word 'custom' ....


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  #30  
Old 04-06-2007, 12:17 PM
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Yes, you are a knife maker. So is Gerber, Buck, Mike Stewart, and the guy that runs the factory in Pakistan.

Gerber, Buck, and the Pakistani fellow make mass-produced knives. They are cut, ground, and assembled using computer controlled machinery. All the knives are the same, unless they offer the customer the opportunity to choose the handle scales.

Mike Stewart has his blades plasma or laser cut, grinds them on CNC machinery, and then has a few people hand-fit knife handles and hardware, sometimes to the specifications of a particular customer. He refers to his knives as semi-production.

You make knives one at a time, using your mind and hands to control tools or machinery. Each knife will show some variation, even if you try to make them identical. The knifemaking community recognizes your work as custom.
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