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hey guys ....so maybe from my last couple posts you will know i am trying to get more into forging and forge welding but i have been doing stock removal for a while now  and i have been getting people ( familly, friends, acquaintances, even the repair guys that came to fix the furnace) asking if i would sell any of my knives. so at first the answer was "no" or "not yet" because yeh in the beginning they looked good but i wasnt 100% on the functional quality. and i did not want to take anyone's money (even if it was $5) for a knife that i was not 100% sure would do everything it was supposed to do and perform better and last longer than a commercially made knife....now i have been getting to that point where i have tested enough of them both in regular day to day use and destructive testing. and i know they will cut and cut good and they will not break and they look good too (of coarse i can improve on some things i dont think i will ever make the "perfect knife" i dont think anyone makes a perfect anything things can always be improved) and now that i have the even heat oven i can use more steels besides 1084 and 1095 and also i can control the heat treat much more than in a forge that gives me a lil more confidence too. so i have a couple avenues to try and sell some knives...first all the people that already asked me, then my nephew is a tatoo artist and the owner of the shop also owns a store that sells alot of knives i already know he would be willing to sell my knives (of coarse he will profit from it somehow i imagine) i could also make a web site and maybe advertise a lil on facebook. anyway so my real question is how should a beginner knife maker go about pricing his knives and is there any sort of knife that might be better to start selling obviously just starting out i am not going to be selling a $10,000 knife to a collector (yet  : -)  ). i guess i will figure these things out in time just looking for a direction to go in on one hand i dont want to try and charge to much and loose a sale but i need to learn how to at the very least have this start paying for supplies and a lil more......i was going to post a couple pics of some knives i have done so you guys could see what type of knives i have been doing and the materials i have been using as i am sure that will play into price but i left the camera in the car that my sis has ill post a few pics tomorrow but enough of my rambling. any advice at all on how to start out with this from any of the makers out there would really be appreciated!!! thanks guys!

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This is tough for everyone. I used to sell in a store that charged a 25% commission. I could live with that. He never sold much and has since gone out of business for various reasons. So now, I'm left to my own devices in marketing.

No one sells my knives better than me. I have a shop and gallery of black smithing and blade smithing items. I ALWAYS make it a point to walk people thru the shop so they are aware that all items are hand made and what it takes (machinery, forge etc) to make them. Ultimately, they ask what I am working on now. This is my 'in' and I change the subject to blades which I show and speak of enthusiastically. That may not sell the knife immediately, but it puts the idea in their head that it may make a great present, or for current usage.

What you should charge for your blades...getting back to your question...is probably worth more than you think they're worth. Most folks don't understand what goes into making a blade, so the onus is on you to do the education and express your love of the art. You have to sell your art. Over time and feeling out your market, you will come to a consensus

regarding price and time making your blades.

Give yourself time and aim high. There is nothing worse than selling a blade and thinking afterward that you took in the shorts for all the work you put into it.

Just my 2 cents.

John

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54 minutes ago, gearhartironwerks said:

Give yourself time and aim high. There is nothing worse than selling a blade and thinking afterward that you took in the shorts for all the work you put into it.

second on that. very good info, you can always lower the price.

                                                                                                    Littleblacksmith

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I use a method were I have a rate I want to earn for my time, add the cost of materials, plus supplies. With a clock on each end of my shop I carefully track the time spent on each item I craft.

I multiply time by rate plus materials, and supplies. Add on the percentage for profit.

 

My knives range between $150-$1,500 depending on model and materials used.

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hey guys thanks for the advice sorry its a late response i have been having a few problems with the computer the last week or 2....i am curious as to what you would think about some of the knives i have done if i put pics up ill try and get some up tonight or in the morning...thanks again

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25 years ago I was a beginner and I sold my knives too.....with all the mistakes in it.....I wished I had not done this so fast, but its one of the facts I grew up in this business.

What I did good, I relayed the first couple of years on stock removal. that was the advice more experienced knife making fellows recomended to me and I listened to them.

Today we have superior steels that cannot get better with forging.( Others need to be forged to get that high performance or even cannot be used for knives without forging), but thats something not recomended for the beginner)

07 ground from flat stock, for example is a steel who has all benefits of a superior forged blade, in my opinion outperforms most of them(but thats a different topic)

with forging You open up the gates of steel for everything.... atmosphere, dirt, impurities, affecting grain structure, micro cracks and so on.....every forging process needs an accurate Heat treatment after, and if not, the chance to produce crap is quite high....this is followed by much higher costs to produce your knives, energy, coal, time,tools, space...even recycling a leaf spring is more expensive than buying the steel which is used for leaf springs and stock removal it....You recycle, You never start with the full potential of the alloy...and as a beginner You need longer time, more loss of carbon....(and besides if You have no power hammer You will curse the high Silicium content in leaf springs)

but it seems most of the people think about knives always think about forging, but if You want to produce good tools and sell them for fair money good way to stay with stock removal.

Accurate forging needs a lot of plus knowledge and skills .that slows down the process on developing the skills to make a good knife without forging...because the goal is to price and sell "knives"....so to speak a tool that is worth it.

...it is a lot more behind than just enjoy the romantic aspects bang happily on hot steel.....(nothing wrong with that, of course)

dont get me wrong I love forging too, but it does make a significant difference in making knives with stock removal.

 most of the time I forge I do  enjoy the benefit of free forming, what can be compared with using a file which is another technique of free forming steel....or just doing it because I can stay outside the work shop enjoying the good weather

so pricing comes easy when You come to the point of profitability and even fatigue that every professional maker sometimes has to face...if You do honest and good You always will work on Your skills and concentration  limit...every blade has to perform the same quality, dosent matter the price of the knife is 300 or 1000 $

I will not dare to say my words are an advice,....they are just my thoughts on this topic, ....I know its a forging forum so please dont tar and feather me...

good luck with You

 

 

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As a someone who is still very new to knife making, but has sold a few, maybe my take is a little different than most.  I started blacksmithing so I could learn how to forge weld and make damascus knives.  The aesthetic pattern in them is a fascination of mine, even to this day when I've made quite a few of my own.  As with any hobby I seem to undertake, it took a little money up front to really get to a point where I felt like I was doing things "right", and like any hobby I undertake, I seem to always look ahead to some sort of angle where I can at least get the hobby to pay for itself.  Much like you, I didn't want to sell any of my early knives, as I was still feeling things out, to even know if I could produce a knife that behaved like it was supposed to.  Besides a small handful that were given as gifts to family for wall hangers, all of my earliest attempts were destroyed in testing or given to big burly friends who I knew would take me seriously when I said, "Put this blade through its paces."

Now that I am producing a quality of knife that I am proud of, I have been willing to sell a few, and with that, all of my free time is now gone, as commissions have started to pour in.  My first actual sale was over facebook, and after a lot of haggling, I took a lot less than I had originally wanted.  Two things made me do that.  One: I really just wanted to be able to say I sold my first knife.  Two: I needed supplies... grinder belts and more steel, and I promised my wife I wouldn't spend anymore money out of our usual budget, so I had to get money from a sale to afford to make more knives. 

I look back on that sale, and I am glad I took the guys final offer.  Otherwise, I might still have the knife in my possession and not have the cash.  Since then, I've been able to sell a few more, all of them commissioned pieces, but on those, I know going in how much I'm going to make, so I'm able to judge a little bit better, how much time I can spend on each particular task.

As an example, the last knife I sold went for $300.  My goal, right now as a newer smith, is to aim for about $20 an hour (not including supplies), so that meant I had to get it finished in 15 hours.  The forging of the billet went exceptionally smooth, and the initial grind was pretty easy too.  As with all my knives I've done so far, though, I get lost (or just plum forget) how much time is involved in the hand sanding to truly finish the blade, and it took several more hours than I had originally thought it would.  (Seems the more knives I make, the more hand sanding I want to do on each knife, because that seems to be where the real magic happens for me).  In the end, I made closer to $12 or $13 an hour.  So that means I either have to improve my speed, which is a given, but also, as the my quality continues to improve, I will also need to charge more.

Since I'm not paying my bills with this money, or trying to run a professional or even a semi-professional shop, the money is a lot less important to me than some, but I also don't want to feel like I am giving them away.  Its not only a fine line to walk within your own personal finances, but it also might make some people angry if you're priced to low.

I've had some nasty correspondence with two people regarding my prices.  Both are professionals, one a blakcsmith and one a blade smith.  Both of them said my prices were to low and that I was creating an expectation in people's minds about how low smithing work should be priced.  I understand their points... they are trying to run a business and feed their families from it, so I get it, but my argument is... I wouldn't expect to pay a backyard mechanic the same shop rate as I would at the dealership to fix my vehicle.  I'm the backyard hack smith, and they are the dealership or professional shop.  I think there is reason for both to exist.  But its something to keep in mind, especially if you have visions of supporting yourself/family from this in the future.  As a hobbyist, you can be a little less careful about pricing.  As a professional, you need to listen to everyone's advice on here and really start working out a formula to make it profitable enough to survive/thrive.

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Well, I'll take a stab at this (no pun intended, honestly :D )

First off, I am not a blacksmith. I bang on sheet metal and make artwork and light fixtures, etc. I am however, in the buy and sell business and have been for awhile. I primarily restore and repair welding machinery. I can appreciate up front that making a knife is a little different than fixing a welder, but at the same time the principle behind what to charge is the same. I do work out of my garage, but I've also had a full on industrial shop and know all about overhead and the bills that come with it. Being the OP, as well as several others aren't in such a situation and have a shop at home it can slightly affect the hourly rate, or final cost of a product.

That said however, your time is YOUR time. No matter the overhead or initial investment. While I can't tell anyone what to charge for their work, I can say that as you improve and become more proficient, then the price goes up. I cut my teeth doing buy and sell almost 16 years ago doing garage sales and working part time for an auctioneer. I learned the basics, got some chops and figured out dos and donts. I will say up front that the transition period between being a learning hobbyist and competent professional can be a painful learning experience. Back when I really got into the buy and sell seriously, (which was about ten years ago) I went thru that stage where I let unappreciative customers push me around on stuff and I took my lumps and learned from it. Everyone goes thru this in one way or another. With me it was with machinery, with guys here it's with smithing.

Im new to this board and don't wanna seem like I got all the answers, which I don't. But I do have an extensive amount of experience buying and selling high dollar, complex welding equipment and can tell you right now that once you have reached that threshold where you are turning quality work out of your shop and you feel good about it, THEN YOU CHARGE THE CUSTOMER ACCORDINGLY! One thing I am absolutely dead set on is my pricing. Now that's not to say that there aren't times where I'm flexible on some stuff, or throw in a couple freebies to seal a deal. But when it comes to the terms of business, I CALL THE SHOTS. 

Period.

I never, ever allow a customer to dictate the terms of business to me, nor do I allow them to beat me up on a price. Again, there's some industrial customers I have that I make some minor exceptions with, but mainly because purchase and payment has to be done thru a number of channels and signed off on before any money can be paid out. My terms are generally 100%payment up front on any custom built machinery or special order stuff I have to build from the ground up. If the customer doesn't like my terms of business, I simply wish them well and suggest they look elsewhere for what they are seeking. My terms are primarily to protect ME. My terms also spell everything out in black and white right up front. I'm a what you see is what you get kinda guy. I don't play games and don't jerk customers around. At the same time, I'll be darned if they're gonna do it to me.

I think self respect comes into play in any situations like this. I've had to learn everything I know about that the hard way, but no one, ever will take it from me. Whatever the case, think about what you put into the project you're selling and where you feel you are at as far as skill level goes and try to price accordingly. Take a look at others pricing, find the cross section and try to fall somewhere in the middle and base your price on your relative skill and ability. Go from there. I'm not the most expensive game in town, but I'm nowhere near a hack that peddles junk on Craigslist either. I will often tell a prospective customer that the level of perfection I shoot for is usually relative to the size of their wallet. I'm at a stage where I can give them about whatever they want, but I dictate terms and price.

I know some won't agree with me, but the customer is NOT always right, and if I don't think they are, I have no problem telling them so. Above all things, make sure YOU feel good about the deal you're doing, and that YOU feel you have been fairly compensated for your work. Own your decisions and your terms of business. From there, it's all about gaining experience and continuous improvement. As the skill level improves, adjust your pricing.

Best of luck with it.

IMHO of course

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DPS,

I've been an estimator going on nine years now and I've posted quite a bit on the business side of blacksmithing section.  I've also got a blog you might find helpful.

Lots of folks try to arrive at their price by a process of adding every little nuance they can think of whether it's labor rates, material cost, overhead, or whatever. 

Then, they turn around and look at what the going rate is for similar stuff.  Knives are available in an astounding range of prices, which means it's going to be awfully difficult to come to any kind of consensus on what you should charge.

If you've accurately estimated everything going into your cost, and paid yourself minimum wage for the time spent, it's probable that your knives will be very expensive compared to big firms or established individual makers.  It often takes a huge investment to make something cheap for the consumer. 

For example, cheap cars come from huge factories.

My point is that there's a balancing point between a business profiting, and offering the client good value.  Without good value to the client, things won't sell.

Big firms and established makers may not be able to offer the people you know an opportunity to see their ideal knife realized.  Unless your designs are game-changers, you might be better off focusing on how you can make a knife within your (potential) clients budget.

 

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Well said rockstar. It's truly amazing how much the concept of "value" is lost on ppl today. So many think that a good "value" is just a cheap price, and how wrong indeed that is. To capture a piece of a wide market, such as this would be I assume, you have to be able to offer value added features to your product that allow it to stand out from the rest of the pack. In the business I'm in, I shoot for a comprehensive value package that gives the customer not only a reasonable price, but service and peace of mind post sale. I may not be the cheapest price, but the value I offer the customer, in many cases is a far better deal when looked at from the larger scope of things.

That said, I try to eliminate as much non-value added expenses from the cost of the product I put into it as I can. Labor is always one of the biggest factors. Of course, if you try to manufacture a product and end up working for free, you'll never get anywhere, and any gains made will be in the short term scheme of things. It's difficult when you're first starting out, and with something like making knives, the labor put into the product will eclipse everything else until you gain enough proficiency and skill that you can get it done in a timely fashion, and charge enough to make a profit eventually.

Offering the customer a good value is really where to start. It will be give and take until you get a groove going and can push product out on time and in the black. One thing I've come to understand in the machinery business is that you're never going to always win, and make a clear profit. The real good sales will make up for the ones that aren't so hot. You won't get it right every single time, and the guy telling you he does is likely not telling you the truth. The key is to look at the big picture and don't get too wrapped up into having to make X amount every time. As long as you pay yourself first, and avoid working for cheapskates and jerks who want something for nothing, you'll likely do ok in the long run.

Hopefully anyways :D

IMHO of course

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For me it depends on what I am making.

Straight razors are my main area of expertise where I have a good reputation and my work is respected. In that market, I have spent a lot of time tracking the time of every step involved, and my prices have evolved to x Euro per hour + cost of the materials. Razors are what my business is built upon so there I get paid for time in my shop.

Kitchen knives are more of a hobby at this point. Something I want to become better at and there I just charge cost of materials plus a more or less fixed amount. I only do kitchen knives to get better at certain things and because I can do some of the work (mainly handsanding) in the living room whilst watching tv or being with the family.

What I can't stress enough is that in the end, it is still a business, and the tax department will consider you as a business, meaning that everything you make is subject to VAT and after that you have social security and income tax. Make sure that you understand the implications for the country you live in, and follow the rules. Because if you ignore this and the tax man comes a-knocking 3 years later, they will clean you out and you will lose probably a whole lot more than you ever made. If you want to make 20$ per hour, than means you need to make 40$ per hour because when all is said and done, half the money will go to the state through various taxes.

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I'm a farrier first and a blacksmith second, I have two pricing schemes, first is my  showing rate. This is my bread and butter. $35 to trim (about 15 min) and $35 for each pair of keg shoes. Their are additions to this, such as specialty shoes, draft horses, pads, special appliances, traction AIDS and hand forged (hand forged because I don't have the shoe I need is on me, hand forged because the customer wants it or because the shoe needed is less expensive to forge is on them) all have up charges. The. We have training. 1 will give you 20 min of my time on a trim (some times I will give the horse more, say a baby on its first or an old horse with arthritis, but very rarely dose it take me more even then) and the same on a pair of shoes. That said, if your horse is so ill mannered or has not been trained to exept my work their will be a $60 an hour charge to educate the horse. It's a lot less expensive if you bring it to my house and I can take the next 2 weeks teaching the horse about human expectations. 

I exorb travel time for a certain range from the house, that's just SOP for farriers around here. But I charge an additional $1.50 a mile outside my "range" 

My shop rate is a flat $60 an hour.

in the past I worked as a mechanic, and that has a similar scheme, a shop rate of $60-80 an hour, with each operation having a fixed time you are paid for. If you are slow and inexperienced, it takes longer to do the job right, if your fast and know what your doing you get it done under the given time. So the customer dosnt pay more for for slow work, and the experianced guys make more. 

What dose that have to do with your situation? If you think of each step as a distinct operation, then you can figure out how much each step should cost. If your slow you eat it, if your fast...

this assumes a sertainly level of quality to your work, a man who works on Dodge, Ford and Chevy will not be payed as much as the man working on Ferraris.

As to forging, done right with forgeable aloys you can save time, material and consumables over strictly stock removal you still have to grind some on a forged blade.

as to heat erecting the blade, and decarburization, you have to beat treat the blade, so even stock removal knives face the same issues as to the effect of grain growth, and the few thousands of decarburization will be grount off. 

Yep I'm not a knife maker, so take it with a grain of salt, or ask Steve or any of the other knife makers who forge to save time, materials and consumables. 

 

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One method I recently read was to figure out a pay rate that you want to make per day. Say it is $200. If the knife can be made in a day, it is $200. If it takes 2 days, it is $400. 

There is a pretty good thread from a few years ago on here about pricing your work. It looks at this conundrum from various perspectives.  The perceived value will always be the hardest to figure out because it is not constant. It varies customer to customer, and it is also regional.

A local knife maker here does basic utility knives EG; stock removal, micarta scales, and a leather sheath. They sell fro $150-$300. He moved 27 knives at one local festival 2 years ago. Those averaged around $100 because he had some old stock he was selling for cost $50-$60.

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Ok, time to throw some water on this.  You can price it however you want, the market will dictate what they will pay.  For the newb don't expect to get what an experienced maker gets.  Just as the experienced maker doesn't get what a Master Smith gets.  A knife is a duel purpose item, it is a tool and it is art.  As a tool, people who use them generally has a finite dollar they are willing to spend.  As an art piece the price really hinges on the artist name and the overall quality of the piece.

So, as a newb, if you break even and are able to pay for your supplies your doing pretty good.  I recently saw on one website someone had posted a rather rough (even by my standards) Damascus knife for $750.00.  While I admire his "shooting for the moon" there are much higher quality items by known makers going fore less.  In other words, if he sells it at that price he needs to take the proceeds and buy lottery tickets.

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THANKS GUYS!....i had to take a trip and wasnt around a computer for a few days. I had alot of reading when i came back but i just finished and you all have good ideas and i thank you for that. i had just finished putting a couple of blades through destructive testing, i had done this many times before but new oven and steel figured i should do it again and actually they all met my requirements and most of the testing exceeded them. so now i have come up with a couple prototypes i am in the process of finishing up so maybe ill post some pics once they are done and see what everyone thinks and see if my price ranges on them are too high too low or spot on. after making these prototypes and writing down everything from how long they took to cost of materials i may make a couple more of the same designs maybe change the grind on one or handle material on another and sell them. i have had many friends familly and their friends ask to buy some even when my mother posted some pics on her facebook alot of people asked her "will he make me one" so i plan on selling the ones i make but also at the same time tell people if you dont like that and you have a idea for another lets talk and see what we can come up with. This is all how i see it in my head i am sure it wont go exactly as planed but hey at least i have a plan right? ill throw up another thread when i get these prototypes finished    thanks again guys

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