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The Business of Knife Making A forum dedicated to all aspects of running, managing and legal operational issues relating to the custom knife making and custom knife selling industry.

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Old 06-28-2005, 06:28 PM
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sjaqua sjaqua is offline
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How do you make "part-time knife maker" work?

I have to assume, I 'm not the only one in this boat. I mean surely only the the best can make a full time living at knife making. What about the rest of us. How can someone that isn't retired make-it as a part time knife maker? How do you build your name past that of hobbiest knife maker, when you can only turn out a couple of pieces a month?

Here's the set-up. I have what is otherwise a good full time job. But the crappy buisness environment has us all on short pay. And lord knows my expenses haven't gone down. So I'm having to look to what started out as a hobby as a way to make up the budget short fall. But it's hard. When the work day is done, sometimes it's hard to head out to the shop. And on the weekends, I can either be out selleing knives, or in the shop making them.

This last two months have been especialy hard. I had an event every weekend except for two Sundays. And last weekend was the Cal Knives show. So here I am with a custom order in house and also trying to build stock for the show (all the while selling every weekend at other events, including two of my "big" pieces).

I know it's the knife makers lament to complaine he "has no stock!". And then complaine again when he has stock and no one is buying it. And you are also faced with the rule that a couple of pieces on an otherwise empty table won't sell (no one ever want's the last one of anything).

About the only thing I have figured out is that I can only take one custom order at a time. Otherwise I get burried.

But how do you break thru past being part time? Or even how do you get your name out there so when you have to go full time you are ready? How do you stay sane?

Scott B. Jaqua
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Old 06-30-2005, 12:00 PM
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Ed Caffrey Ed Caffrey is offline
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Any way you slice's not an easy task. I've only been "full time" for 18 months. Prior to that I held down one of the most demanding jobs in the world (full time military) for 22 years. All that time I was making knives "part time."
For the last seven years of my military career here's how my days went.....
Up at 5am and to the base by 6:30am. Work all day at the base, and then home by 5pm. Change out of my uniform and into jeans. Then eat a bologna sandwich on the way from the house to the shop. Into the shop by 5:30pm, and there I would be until 10-11pm. This is how it was 5 days a week. Of course there were a lot of TDYs (extended duties in other places) which kept me out of the shop all together. When these came up, I would call every customer who was on the waiting list and let them know that their order(s) would have to be pushed back. Some cancelled, but most just said "I understand."
My weekends/holidays were generally 12-14 hour days in the shop, with the exception of Sunday mornings which were for church and family time.
I would always schedule my military leave for major shows such as the Blade Show, or other shows that required travel.
All this time you have to make the time and spend the money to be submitting photos of your work the the various magazines and knife publications.
Why did I do all this? Because I had a plan. I knew that if I kept things going, and worked hard at Bladesmithing/Knifemaking, I could finish out my military career, and would be able to do what I love for a living. The other parts to the equation are having a wonderful wife, who has always been very supportive of my Bladesmithing/Knifemaking, and who has a full time job. Then there is the fact that because I stuck it out and finished my military career, "Uncle Sam" now sends me a retirement check every month.
In all honestly, if I had to rely on Bladesmithing/Knifemaking for my entire income, I would certainly have another job somewhere.
The bottom line is that I sacrificed a lot for many years to chase a dream, and for me the dream worked out.
The thing that kept me going all those years was looking around me each day, seeing people who hated what they were doing for a living, and feeling like they were trapped. Where does it say that a man can't enjoy what he does for a living?? Make yourself a plan that is compatable, and stick with it. The toughest part of going from part to full time making is that the income can never be predicted. Remember that our income is based on others' disposable income. It's our job to work out a way to keep the income somewhat steady by scheduling orders/deliveries in a manner to keep the dollars flowing.

And finally, you MUST keep your name and your work out there for the public. With the number and quality of Bladesmiths/Knifemakers today, it has become difficult to distinquish yourself from the crowd, so your reputation is everything. It should be built well, and guarded closely.


"Nobody cares what you know.....until they know you care."
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Old 07-02-2005, 07:55 AM
himalayanmart himalayanmart is offline
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Old 07-02-2005, 10:32 AM
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J.Arthur Loose J.Arthur Loose is offline
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You could buy some khukuris and sell them on the side.

Anyway... I've come to the conclusion that knives for money isn't really a grand idea, especially if you're of the historically inspired / artistic inclination. Even Ed, who's got orders lined up, is a Mastersmith & been doing this for a long time needs an outside source of income. I don't have a pension or retirement income, but a lot of my competition does; it affects the market.

It's hard enough to pull yourself up by your bootstraps, which is how one goes from part-time to full-time... but add the current economy to the mix and you're looking at a lot of hard work. I've certainly gone hungry & scrambled to keep the lights on.

Ed is right, though. If it's a dream you'll find a way. I rather suspect each of us who pursues this particular dream has to figure it out on their own...


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