Not taking orders anymore, and why.

Joined
Dec 3, 1999
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9,437
I totally get what you're saying here Salem, and have felt the same way many times.

But there is a "gray area" in between taking orders and not taking them.... and it's actually the best of both worlds.

The key, is having the right customers. I know, I know... easier said than done. ;) Just for example, a handful of fellow forum guys that have become friends, like Bill Flynn, Roger Pinnock, Jon Klein... will approach an order with a VERY OPEN mind, a rough idea, and give you artistic freedom.

These guys are a huge asset to a knife maker, because not only are they financially supporting you, but they are supporting you to grow with your skill set. Bill just text me the other day and asked me what I haven't built but would like to, and what would be a super cool project. :eek: :cool: :thumbup:

Just to be clear here Salem, I am NOT posting this to disagree with what you posted at all!!! Just want to give a nod of appreciation to these guys that have been so good to me, and let other makers know that "the best of both worlds" is out there. I am just crazy fortunate to have found these guys. :)


On the other hand, to support what you're thinking here, that latest fighter I posted was something I drew up totally on my own, tried some things I had never done before, and thankfully it got a positive response from folks. The scary part is having a very expensive knife on your hands with nobody in line to buy it. Thank God (and Nathan!!! :D) that one worked out extremely well.

I'm sure whatever you do Salem, it will work out very well!!! :)
 
Joined
Jul 17, 2011
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34
It's got to be fun Salem. I haven't been full tilt at it for three years, but I already see the problems you listed. Stagnation of imagination and "laurel resting" are poisonous. Make a knife for YOU for a change, impress yourself. Your knives have inspired and will continue to do so. GOTTA BE FUN!!

R
 

james terrio

Sharpest Knife in the Light Socket
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Apr 15, 2010
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22,618
Nick's right, there are always grey areas. There are more options than just the extremes of doing whatever anyone asks to insure income, and only your own favorites that may or may not sell.

There's certainly no need to limit your exposure on anything you make. Unless it's some sort of top-secret deal between you and the client, a craftsman/knifemaker membership gives you the privilege of posting everything you make here.

Equally important, just because you take some custom orders, doesn't mean you have to take every custom order. I've been forced to severely limit the number of orders I accept, mostly just to keep lead-times and organizational issues under control. (Having 6 or a dozen blades in the works at any given time is a tremendous hassle, and not really fair to the clients.) But also because I want to focus more on my own designs.

In the end it comes down to what you're comfortable with. Whatever works, puts food on the table and keeps the fun and passion alive for you, is what's right. :)
 
Joined
Oct 20, 2008
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5,545
Great stuff, guys! Thanks for the encouragement and perspectives. Nick, the situation you describe sounds pretty good. I'll have that! Maybe one day. I do know the fear of having an expensive knife on hand without a buyer lined up- probably not as well as you, though. Page, I've been there too- "owns my soul" is kind of how that feels, hate it. Much success to you sir.

I feel better already. That, and I'm working on a couple of liner locks right now, which is always refreshing for me.
 

daizee

Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider
Joined
Dec 30, 2009
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10,037
Right on, Salem. I'm not half the knifemaker you are, and I've already started limiting orders. Taking payment only at delivery has been a guiding principle from the start. Gotta keep it fun and the creative juices flowing.
You'll have no problem moving your blades., and can always take the odd order from the right customer.
 
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Aug 13, 2002
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I am just a hobby maker Salem but I understand completely. I am so looking forward to what you come up with with this freedom. :thumbup:
 
Joined
Jan 14, 2012
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233
I agree with you on almost everything you said. Especially lack of exposure, deadlines, & hashing out details. Just last week I was working on an order for two knives for this customer. When the blades were finished I sent him a pic of them. He replied that the blades had choils and he had specifically said he did NOT want choils. When I read it I remembered him saying that but I didn't write that little detail down. It was totally my fault and is just one of the little things that make you wanna pull your hair out. I appreciate orders because they allow me to keep making knives but sometimes I just have to make something I wanna make.
I agree with Stacy, I'm sure you will be able to sell whatever you make. I'm gonna keep taking orders but I'm gonna work in a few more things that I've had in my mind for a while.
Thanks for starting this thread because it made me realize I need to put some of the fun back in knifemaking. And like you, I wanna do a little experimenting with some things I've never tried.
I wish you well, and hope the decision works out and allows you to accomplish your goals.




Gee Darrin I hope you don't stop taking customs.
 
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Joined
Jan 23, 2007
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As long as this means more "show and tell", I'll keep showing up for breakfast so you have something to put towards materials to follow your dreams.
 

Fiddleback

Knifemaker
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Oct 19, 2005
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I had to stop as well. I had 2 to 3 times the overhead in an ordered knife than in one I made without an order. There were guys that just couldn't pay after waiting a year. Layoffs, etc. And the mind changers. Its a lot of management, taking orders. Management is not my favorite part, and I'm not so good at it either. So I usually wound up missing some small detail of the knife. The thing is that a guy orders his 'one knife'. He is very excited about it, and has it envisioned in his head just a certain way. He is a very touchey feeley customer, and he takes a lot of care. Its a lot of overhead time compared to making something that inspires you on a given day.

There are a couple more business related reason's too. You quell that customer's demand immediately upon taking their order. Demand feeds revenue. Don't quell it. That customer also gets next year's skill level at this year's price. A full time knifemaker gets a lot better in a year. The materials will have gone up by next year too.
 
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Jan 10, 2010
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I'm doing the same..for the same reasons. Although my plan is to only take orders on swords.. because that is what I want to do more than anything in the world. And I have more fun making small knives from the left over bits of the sword damascus. Good luck...
 
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Jun 16, 2012
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368
Well, if the knives you make based on what you feel like doing sell I can't think any reason to ever take orders :p
 
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Oct 20, 2008
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oicO, I think that's a pretty complete, simple, working explanation of all of it.

Andy, thanks for your thoughts and the additional points. I definitely try to pay attention when you have knife business advice; I think your knives and approach are a good example in several ways.

Scott, I want to move more into swords as well- another of my side projects is a Tai Chi sword, fully forged and ground, waiting for HT and fittings. Can't get to it. You've been making impressive progress by the way, kind of like another Stuart Branson, way to go!
 
Joined
Jan 24, 2008
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123
I made the same decision and have been doing what I want and reinvigorated my passion for making knives. I was 8 months behind and starting to hate every minute of it. What I loved turned into a job.
I think the problem comes when you start getting orders for the first time and you feel like you have finally made it you have trouble turning anything down or even posponing it. In my case I do not make full time so I have nights and weekends only. I couldn't say no and got myself into a position that only made things worse for me. Before I knew it I was so far behind that I would stay up till 12:00 or 1:00 am on week days and work 16 hours on the week ends (doesn't make momma too happy) trying to catch up. All this did was make me tired and caused me to make stupid mistakes which caused more stress and put me farther behind. I stopped taking orders caught up on the ones that I owed clients and started making what I wanted and offered it to whoever wanted it. I find that by taking my time and trying new things I have become not only a better maker but I enjoy what I'm doing without the burnout. I don't have to split my time between talking with customers and time in the shop. I just have time in the shop.
I think you will enjoy it and have a whole lot less stress.
 
Joined
Jan 15, 2012
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1,207
I am a hobby guy, and I can agree with the fact that custom orders can become frustrating or tedious. The last knife I sold was to a local wildlife club to auction at a fundraiser. I was asked two months before the auction if I could have it done by said date and said I would have it done for sure. The guy in charge gave me a completely open project with no direction other than make something that will make us money. I sold him one hunter for 125 and donated the other. Two knives for 125 bucks. This all sounds fine so far, but the issue was the customer. He phoned me non stop, and would occasionally even randomly show up at my house even my workplace. I am pretty sure the longest span I had where I didn't hear from him was 4 days, 5 tops. This started literally the day after I agreed to make the knives. As frustrated as I was I answered the phone each time, but considered telling him I was no longer interested the day he called me at 6:15 on a Sunday morning "to see if I was done". This was 3 weeks before the finished date. After I finished and gave him the knives, he actually said to me " I dunno I hope we can make some money between these knives, 125 is a lot of money". This was after agreeing that the price was good two months before. For the record the free one sold for 195 and the one I sold them for 125 brought in 285. I think they did ok. Next year I will make one to donate and it will show up at the fundraiser that night. But I don't think I would bother making another one to sell them, unless they have someone different running the show.
 

Fiddleback

Knifemaker
Moderator
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Oct 19, 2005
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19,588
I am 3 months behind on a complicated custom piece and right now that customer owns my soul. I totally understand. I got sick for a couple of months and am in hell trying to dig out. My customers own my waking hours until at least August at this point with nothing left over for my wife, my hotrod or my sailboat and that is not fun. I have stopped taking new orders until I am closer to caught up, but 95% of my income is highly personalized pieces so I can't stop doing custom orders.

-Page

I like the line, "my customers own my waking hours." It pretty much sums up the delima. The customer owning your working time is comforting. It was to me at least. The decision to go full time was very daunting for me. I was aided by a layoff. So, that was super helpful, of course. (...............)

Guys, its going to be a job either way. The important thing to getting away from orders is that you develop your market. This is an ongoing process. I have some tips for this if you are interested.

1. Get a forum. 60% of my sales are on this forum. Until I had created enough of a market that dealers were interested, 90% of the sales were from BF. Having your own forum allows your customers to gather and discuss your work. Its a great way to cater to the market without having to take orders from the market.
2. Get dealers. Not everything is going to sell at your forum. Dealers are an invaluable way to move product. And! They market your work for you constantly!
3. Name everything you do. Even mistakes.
3. Sell your work with a predictable rythm. I do "Fiddleback Fridays". Every Friday, I put a batch up for sale. The customers actually created the name. Boy does that ever work well.
4. Get help with sanding, and mundane chores and concentrate on 'rubber meets the road' knifemaking. Grinding, forging, shaping handles, and marketing. Often times new makers will volunteer to help you. I take on apprentices and trade them hour for hour. They work for me for an hour, then they get to use the shop to make their own work for an hour. Win win.
 
Joined
Aug 28, 2005
Messages
305
I'd also think there's some value to having the work, and maybe a way to politely decline unproductive orders for whatever reason. Probably a good question would be how much needs to be covered. True overhead, emergency cushion, something socked away for the future, and dependents are things that could make a difference in the decision to compromise and take on less satisfying but related work. I'd think transition and reassess, it might have taken significant effort to get to this point. Maybe the special projects might be scheduled like an order instead put on the back burner.
 
Joined
Apr 22, 2011
Messages
460
Anybody else doing "lotteries"? I find my normal run of a design is around 20 knives and I have 300 people who email/PM me asking to be put "on the list".

Only way to make sure I don't have a 4 year wait is to hold a lottery. I put everyone on a contact list and mass email everyone and say first 20 people to contact me/post on the "pre order day" get the knives. Has kept me from turning down hundreds of potential customers. I feel bad sometimes that I can only get knives to 6-7% of inquiring customers but just taking orders as a one man show would bury me in a week.
 
Joined
Sep 15, 2004
Messages
484
Taking orders complicates things, and sucks the fun out of knife making.

Not taking orders also frees me up to experiment more and make whatever I want.

This. So very much.

It also relieved me of many logistics, such as having a dozen emails attached to each knife...

Then there are the folks who, for whatever reason can't pay, or drop off the planet when the knife is complete. Then you eat up more time trying to re-sell it.

The hard part from there has been gauging what will sell. Following the market and knowing your niche helps there.
 
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