Custom Knife Orders that NEVER Appear?

Kevin Jones

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I received quite a few communications over the years I managed the CKCA though the 'contact the CKCA' feature on our website and forum PMs regarding all types of subjects.
These subjects included observations, concerns and even complaints from knife collectors. One of the most common complaints received was knifemakers having willingly accepted
knife orders from collectors, often enthusiastically, and given completion dates for knives they never delivered.

In fact, if I were asked, based on my many years’ experience and involvement in the custom knife community, what has been the single thing that has turned more collectors away
from collecting custom knives it would be knife orders being taken yet not delivered or being delivered far past their promised dates.

I expect there’s all kinds of reasons that knifemakers don’t complete knives collectors have ordered, a few may even be good reasons, however the best policy is to be upfront and
honest with your client. If or when you determine you can’t fill the order communicate with them, just don’t leave them hanging month after month – year after year.

There’s many knifemakers out there who keep an order book or spreadsheet up to date and stay current with their orders, however the ones who don’t are hurting all of us in these
times where we are struggling to bring on new collectors and keep existing.

Collectors /knifemakers what are your thoughts on this subject. I have been meaning to create this thread for some time, however Joe’s kind of related thread motivated me to get it done.

As always, thank you in advance for your opinions and comments and let’s keep this discussion productive and positive and not single out any specific knifemakers.
 
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I have had a two+ year waiting list for quite a while now.
I'm not always comfortable with that.
Now - I'm going to add something to this thread that is 180 degrees off:
I probably have about a 50% attrition rate on my order list. Maybe more.
When a person's name is getting close on the list, I email them to see where we stand on the order, and more than 1/2 do not even bother with a reply.
So there are certainly enthusiastic orders TAKEN and there are enthusiastic orders GIVEN that don't come to fruition.
So it's not only knife collectors that get irritable when they never get their knives, but there are also knife makers who get just as irritable when customers don't follow through.
This knife "thing" is most definitely a two-way street.

I am very grateful for those who do follow through and who keep their word when they say, "I don't mind waiting."
 
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Well, I think that when a collector may be waiting for years for his name to come up, you run into a lot of possible issues. Tastes change, financial situations change, etc etc. But I agree, it is a two-way street. The best system I have seen is when a maker is totally transparent and periodically shares his order list so that everyone on it can see exactly where they are and the status of the list.

If a maker contacts me out of the blue after I've been waiting for years, I may not be in a position to move forward with the order. Custom knives are pretty damn expensive these days and I know that I have to plan carefully for those purchases.

On another unrelated note, I find it a little annoying when a maker states that his books are years long and he can't get to my order for a very long time, but yet that same maker manages to pump out plenty of pieces for dealers and buddies. The knife community is pretty small in many ways and it's pretty obvious when that happens.


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this is a great thread Kevin thank you for starting it ,as I am guilty as a maker of this and I do not want to make excuses for myself but life is crazy at times, I do like taking orders it helps me stay motivated. but in the last year I have fell way behind on my orders as moving my hole life came up shop school and house. it took a long time to get things running again. I have filled some orders and it seem that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. as a rule I do not ever take a deposit and I tell collectors i will call to make sure they still want there knife before I start the build. but I do feel bad about being behind on orders to the point I am closing my books for awhile until i get a handle on things. I do not handle stress well and this adds a bit of stress to my life. if and when I do get caught up I may go about things differently like when I have a knife available sending a photo to my collector list and see who wants it first come gets it. there would be less stress for me as I would not be behind on orders because i would not have any. and also I am finding that with the knife shows being 4 months apart for me that leaves very little time for orders as the knives I make take a good bit of time to make. if your reading this and you have a knife on order with me I would ask that you send me a little reminder that you would still like you knife when I can get to it. thanks folks it was good to get that out in the open.
 

JParanee

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Dec 23, 2006
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great topic.

Rough subject

I have a suggestion

If your list is longer than a year out.....close your list

We are living in a world of instant gratification

If I called a maker and they told me I could possible not receive the knife for a few years I would pass

If they asked for a deposit .... I would laugh :)

The reason......people's interest and tastes change very rapidly.... a maker can not possible price an item that far out with out figuring in some kind of consumer price index etc.
 
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bdmicarta

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This is the real world and I can see how many things can get in the way of producing knives. On the other hand this is the real world and people expect results.
I have bought a lot of custom knives as well as some other custom type products. I have also worked as much as possible since age 15 so I will express my opinions from both perspectives. I am willing to place an order for something I want if I can reasonably expect to get it within 12 months. If the expectation is for longer than 12 months, or there is a lot of uncertainty that it will be within 12 months, I will likely make other plans.

I was once involved in a group order for some custom leatherwork. The craftsman had very nice samples, lots of people placed orders with full payment up front, and supposedly work began. In short after years very few people ever received their orders. I never did. The craftsman had a lot of excuses but from all information he was just very lazy and could not bring himself to actually work every day. I don't know the answer for a person like this, maybe they need a different type of job, maybe they need a boss to motivate them to work. There was talk of taking legal action against this craftsman but the money involved was relatively small and nobody could bring themselves to organize it.

If a person is making knives as a hobby or second job, they have to do the best that they can. If the delivery dates get pretty long then they should do things like stop taking orders, try to step up production, whatever. I understand this because I have my own pet projects that I want to spend my time on but every other person in the world is happy to get in my way and I never make as much progress as I would like.

If a person is making knives as a livelihood, IOW as a FULL TIME JOB, then they have to produce them. I have to get up early every day, go to work, and work hard to produce meaningful things or else my boss that signs my paychecks gets cranky. Sometimes I have to work very hard or work lots of extra hours, but the work gets done on time. If a person's job is walking to their shop every day and working on knives then they have to somehow adopt the same type of work ethic. Or they need to go out and get a real job.
 

Kevin Jones

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I have had a two+ year waiting list for quite a while now.
I'm not always comfortable with that.
Now - I'm going to add something to this thread that is 180 degrees off:
I probably have about a 50% attrition rate on my order list. Maybe more.
When a person's name is getting close on the list, I email them to see where we stand on the order, and more than 1/2 do not even bother with a reply.

So there are certainly enthusiastic orders TAKEN and there are enthusiastic orders GIVEN that don't come to fruition.
So it's not only knife collectors that get irritable when they never get their knives, but there are also knife makers who get just as irritable when customers don't follow through.
This knife "thing" is most definitely a two-way street.

I am very grateful for those who do follow through and who keep their word when they say, "I don't mind waiting."

Karl, your knowing your attrition rate and the fact that you contact collectors when their orders are getting close demonstrates that you take your orders seriously and manage them effectively.
 

Kevin Jones

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Oct 28, 2006
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this is a great thread Kevin thank you for starting it ,as I am guilty as a maker of this and I do not want to make excuses for myself but life is crazy at times, I do like taking orders it helps me stay motivated. but in the last year I have fell way behind on my orders as moving my hole life came up shop school and house. it took a long time to get things running again. I have filled some orders and it seem that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. as a rule I do not ever take a deposit and I tell collectors i will call to make sure they still want there knife before I start the build. but I do feel bad about being behind on orders to the point I am closing my books for awhile until i get a handle on things. I do not handle stress well and this adds a bit of stress to my life. if and when I do get caught up I may go about things differently like when I have a knife available sending a photo to my collector list and see who wants it first come gets it. there would be less stress for me as I would not be behind on orders because i would not have any. and also I am finding that with the knife shows being 4 months apart for me that leaves very little time for orders as the knives I make take a good bit of time to make. if your reading this and you have a knife on order with me I would ask that you send me a little reminder that you would still like you knife when I can get to it. thanks folks it was good to get that out in the open.

Dave, having to relocate a shop or (heaven forbid) a fire like a couple frequent contributors here have had happen in the not too distant past are things that are obviously going to negatively impact a knifemaker's ability to keep his/her orders current.
And this IMO, should be expected and understood by his collectors who have knives on order. But even here, good communication is key to maintaining good customer relations.
 

AVigil

Adam Vigil knifemaker working the grind
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I had this happen 2x long ago. Both maker ended up leaving knife making and I did not even know until I contacted them at a year. lol

I was talking to Scott the owner at TruGrit. He won a knife for auction at a hammer in. A famous maker, who is on a TV show, was suppose to install the handle at his shop and send it to him. Scott told me it has been 3 years and still waiting.

These long waits and not delivering really needs to stop.
 

Kevin Jones

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great topic.

Rough subject

I have a suggestion

If your list is longer than a year out.....close your list

We are living in a world of instant gratification

If I called a maker and they told me I could possible not receive the knife for a few years I would pass

If they asked for a deposit .... I would laugh :)

The reason......people's interest and tastes change very rapidly.... a maker can not possible price an item that far out with out figuring in some kind of consumer price index etc.

Good suggestions Joe, I would probably recommend makers closing orders at 2 years out.
A policy that seems to work for some makers, including one very popular and well respected frequenter of this forum, is to not take orders; however still leaving the door open for the occasional
interesting or special project and requests from long time customers. That way they can better manage their commitments.
 

Lorien

Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider
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patience is a virtue, and that's all I have to add
 

JParanee

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Good suggestions Joe, I would probably recommend makers closing orders at 2 years out.
A policy that seems to work for some makers, including one very popular and well respected frequenter of this forum, is to not take orders; however still leaving the door open for the occasional
interesting or special project and requests from long time customers. That way they can better manage their commitments.

I think the not take orders and just put up knives that you complete for sale is a very sound plan

Firstly

We all know those makers that get pigeon holed into a design and end up taking so many orders for the knife that they dread making another

Having the maker excited about what he is doing tends to bring the best out of the maker

Like you mentioned if someone brings an idea to them that they like they can jump on it and everyone is happy

Allowing the maker to make what they want let's them broaden their horizons and grow as a maker vs making the same thing over and over again

Plus Kevin having to estimate jobs like you have done in the past.....can you imagine quoting work 3 to 5 years out

We could not do that with so many changing variables

A maker could loose his shirt on an order hence he never makes it knowing that the person that ordered it is wanting prices from years ago
 

Kevin Jones

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I've ordered/commissioned a lot of knives over the years and have only not received (3), so that's a pretty good record IMO. And I'm still on good terms with these makers,
and would purchase knives from them if the right (already completed) knife came into play.

I am pretty patient though and have had some long waits. I waited 4.5 years for a knife once only to have it stolen the next day after I took delivery of it.
 

Kevin Jones

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I think the not take orders and just put up knives that you complete for sale is a very sound plan

Firstly

We all know those makers that get pigeon holed into a design and end up taking so many orders for the knife that they dread making another

Having the maker excited about what he is doing tends to bring the best out of the maker

Like you mentioned if someone brings an idea to them that they like they can jump on it and everyone is happy

Allowing the maker to make what they want let's them broaden their horizons and grow as a maker vs making the same thing over and over again

Plus Kevin having to estimate jobs like you have done in the past.....can you imagine quoting work 3 to 5 years out

We could not do that with so many changing variables

A maker could loose his shirt on an order hence he never makes it knowing that the person that ordered it is wanting prices from years ago

Yep, good point, materials and an up and coming knifemaker's prices can escalate quote a bit over a few years.

It might sound a little odd and risky, but I typically don't discuss pricing for knives I commission until knives are completed or close to completed unless the maker brings it up.
I will sometimes ask what an upcharge will be for a design element, say this engraving or that, using gold for a design element as opposed to another material etc.

I'm usually pretty familiar with knifemakers I work with and figure that if I have to worry that a knifemaker may overcharge me, then I probably shouldn't be dealing with that knifemaker anyway.
Besides, what I'm expecting to pay is most always within around 10% of the maker's completed price usually to my advantage.
 
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This is a good topic, and I appreciate the participation.
As an aside to the original topic, I have tried to only take orders for those knives that I would make for myself and lay out on my table at a knife show.
Knives that don't reflect the maker's innate creative character tend to never get made - or made poorly - and generate discord.
I've seen guys take orders for outrageous knives and have been asked for some myself.
Just refuse the order.
 

Steven65

Traditional Hog
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Kevin this is an important discussion to have. Thank for posing the question.

My view is that popular makers should not even discuss future orders with their clients but should instead rather run an order list. When the maker is 6 weeks or so from beginning the build, he e-mails the client telling him that he is ready to discuss an order. At that time decisions on what the knife should be are discussed and the clients needs and preferences are taken into account. At this time a price is verified and once that is done the build continues.

This removes many of the concerns of tastes changing ,future pricing etc. And should the client no longer be interested he simply declines and the maker moves on to the next customer on the list.

A very well known slip joint maker here on BF uses this method and it works very well. I have recommended this system to a number of our local makers and I am glad to see that some have adopted it.

Being able to order and work with a maker in creating a unique project is, for me, one of the great joys of custom knife collecting.
 
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Kevin this is an important discussion to have. Thank for posing the question.

My view is that popular makers should not even discuss future orders with their clients but should instead rather run an order list.
This removes many of the concerns of tastes changing ,future pricing etc. And should the client no longer be interested he simply declines and the maker moves on to the next customer on the list.

This is exactly what I have done for quite a while. They can show some initial interest in a particular knife, but I inform them that all we've done is secure a spot on the list.
We'll discuss their wants/needs when their name comes up.
 

JParanee

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Kevin this is an important discussion to have. Thank for posing the question.

My view is that popular makers should not even discuss future orders with their clients but should instead rather run an order list. When the maker is 6 weeks or so from beginning the build, he e-mails the client telling him that he is ready to discuss an order. At that time decisions on what the knife should be are discussed and the clients needs and preferences are taken into account. At this time a price is verified and once that is done the build continues.

This removes many of the concerns of tastes changing ,future pricing etc. And should the client no longer be interested he simply declines and the maker moves on to the next customer on the list.

A very well known slip joint maker here on BF uses this method and it works very well. I have recommended this system to a number of our local makers and I am glad to see that some have adopted it.

Being able to order and work with a maker in creating a unique project is, for me, one of the great joys of custom knife collecting.

Sounds like a very good route

Just no deposits ....at least till the project starts
 

DEllis

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Oct 17, 2007
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Good discussion.

I am guilty of letting my delivery times get too long, and it bothers me a lot. So much so, that I have quit taking orders. I will not take custom orders again. Ever. Being part time, that is an option for me, maybe not if I were full time.

As some have already stated, to be more or less stuck making a knife that someone else has dreamt up, is, for me, difficult. My work quality suffers because of it, and that's not fair to the customer.

The longer the time that elapses between the initial design of a knife and the actual making of that knife, the less interest I have in making it, as a rule. I'm usually excited about something different by then. If that makes me sound fickle, I guess that's me:D

Knife making is a journey, not a destination, and each individual knife is a destination. When I get there, it's a great feeling, but after a while, it's time to go somewhere else. A lot of custom orders are so similar, that it feels like you are stuck in Winnipeg for life after a while.:rolleyes:

No offense Winnipeg.:D

Darcy

PS, I have never taken a deposit, as that opens up a whole new level of stress.
 

Don Hanson III

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Good thread Kevin! I'm guilty, but do work hard to keep everyone happy. :eek:

I stopped taking orders years ago, but somehow manage to still have a list? Like Kevin said good to leave the door open, or just cracked a little.

4-5 years ago my computer died and I lost more than half of the contact info for the orders I had then. I had their names in a book, but contact info was in saved emails. Learned a good lesson there.

These were old orders, but I decided then to call the ones I had numbers for. Only 2 out of a dozen called back and I got right on those. Like Karl said, it goes both ways. The squeaky wheel gets the grease!

All that said, I'd much rather make knives and offer for sale and for shows.
 
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