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Starting a 100% Made in USA Production Cooking Knife Company - Would Love some Feedback

Discussion in 'Kitchen Cutlery & Tools' started by ArtisanRevere, Apr 2, 2018.

  1. Stabilized Wood

    19 vote(s)
  2. G10

    16 vote(s)
  3. Micarta (linen)

    8 vote(s)
  4. Micarta (paper)

    5 vote(s)
  5. Richlite

    0 vote(s)
  1. readheads


    Jun 29, 2009
    Good luck on your endeavor. To set yourself apart, a few thoughts:
    1. To me the feel in your hand is as important as the steel. It is like a good fitting shoe. Since you are using CNC you should strive for a method to semi-custom machine your handle to fit my hand.
    2. Handle warmth and fit are extremely important - I like non slippery wood
    3. Do not think that you can solve edge retention, consider shipping a ceramic edge tuner with every blade and offer free lifetime sharpening. Everyone loves a freebie and those customers will be repeats and your best marketeers.
    4. Consider non-serrated steak knives - I love them and 2 strokes per side on a ceramic rod cleans them up every time
    5. Do not underestimate the importance of high quality heat treatments incl. nitro - get a pro like Peters to do it, everyone says they can do it but environmental controls are everything
    6. Never send out a knife that has not been inspected under magnification - your best customers are picky yet loyal but its all about transparency, trust and confidence; Especially if I am going to buy a knife which I have never held in my hand
    7. Manage your own expectations on what is possible and how much $$ you are willing to lose upfront while you establish your customer base
    8. Find a mentor who has done this before and is willing to share knowledge, again do not underestimate what it is going to take to truly make a living out of doing this
    9. You are up against major competition, will need to find your nitch, determine who your customers are and make clear the value you bring them
    10. Get someone to handle the phones - custom makers are famous for never answering the phone
    11. Consider offering 2 steels - carbon 52100 and stainless AEB-L (or Nitro-V), call NJ Steel Baron and talk to Aldo about you needs and specs
    12. Read Verhoeven's works on Knife Metallurgy and Sharpening - great stuff on what works
    ShannonSteelLabs and SanBerdoo like this.
  2. JD Spydo

    JD Spydo Gold Member Gold Member

    Nov 20, 2004
    Also the type of polymer that J.A. Henckel uses on their culinary knife handles I also find to be great for kitchen use. Now I don't quite like it as good as I do G-10 but it's one handle material I find that works great in food prep>> and it's easy to clean and maintain as well IMO.

    Also you might want to look into different blade steels as well. Spyderco uses one called MBS-26 in many of their culinary models and frankly I find it easy to keep sharp and it seems like it's got a high level of corrosion resistance too.
  3. jdm61

    jdm61 itinerant metal pounder Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Aug 12, 2005
    I would be interested in knowing which vendors you have found that have the excess capacity that you require and the willingness to work with you.
  4. Rhinoknives1

    Rhinoknives1 KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Jul 1, 2013
    Well? Where did he go???
  5. jdm61

    jdm61 itinerant metal pounder Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Aug 12, 2005
    Guess he missed that whole part about SHARING information/advice on here. ;)
    Rhinoknives1 likes this.
  6. ShannonSteelLabs

    ShannonSteelLabs KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Sep 9, 2015
    I agree with him. Heat treat is #1. I would also recommend Peters HT. A great list to follow.

    If you buy carbon steels from suppliers make sure they are annealed and NOT spherodized annealed. They need additional thermocycling before HT.

    Best of luck and look forward to seeing you succeed in this!
  7. ArtisanRevere


    Mar 26, 2018
    @Greenberg Woods - Hi! Apologies for my delayed response. I've been knee-deep in arranging my supply chain and for some reason my e-mail stopped alerting me to this thread.

    I'm def interested in hearing more about these denser woods you're mentioning, though, I am of course, somewhat familiar.

    My concern is surviveability through a dishwasher cycle. In a decent sized poll I ran, and this may sound shocking, 50.0% of people responded that they washed their knives in the dishwasher "sometimes". My polling has a 95% confidence level +/- 12% confidence interval. I know, it's not thousands of people, but it's enough to tell me at least 38% of the population washes their cooking knives in the dishwasher at least some of the time.
  8. ArtisanRevere


    Mar 26, 2018
    @ShannonSteelLabs and @readheads - Sorry for the delay in getting back to you! I'm not sure what happened, but my e-mail stopped alerting me to the thread updates. Would have saved me some time and headbanging if I'd seen your comments given the prior few HT's I'd been planning to work with either: a) aren't too keen to double and triple temper, b) and/or don't have deep cryo, c) and/or aren't known for getting your blades back to you super straight. That said, I'm glad I got there myself, even if it took me some extra time. There's something satisfying about figuring all of this out, but I do prefer to lean on other's knowledge to speed up the process. PLEASE KEEP IT COMING! So, the good news is, I'm all confi'd up with Peters!! :)

    Doug Peters (owner) and Brad Stallsmith (heat of Blade division at Peters) and I have been chatting for a few weeks now, and I've gotten a fantastic feeling from both of them, as well as feedback from a few custom guys who love their work on PM steels. So, yes - Peter's is my HT, and I'm extremely pumped to be working with them.
    ShannonSteelLabs likes this.
  9. ArtisanRevere


    Mar 26, 2018
    @readheads - I deeply appreciate all of your advice and I'm sorry it took me so long to get back to you! Not sure why, but my e-mail stopped alerting me to anything new in this thread.

    You'll be happy to know, before I even saw this note, I'd actually been striving to do much of what you suggest. I work about 75-85 hrs a week on this thing, and quite a few really talented makers have been kind enough to lend me their decades of experience. I'll address each point you make. Please let me know if you think I'm off on anything.

    1- 100% agree, but unfortunately, at the scale I'm seeking to run INITIALLY (probably about 2500-5000 units total of 5 different knives, so ~500 - 1,000 of each knife type), it will be very challenging to make too many different handle sizes since they obviously need to be flush with the tang. That is a lot of engineering work to achieve even something as simple as a balanced blade if I'm going to be changing up the scale size. Ex: would need to make adjustments to the waterjet, would need to adjust size tang holes, etc. I'm playing with the dimensions in my 3D CAD printouts, but once I start adding SKU's for different handle sizes, it severely blows out production costs unless I'm doing >5-10k units of each, which is quite a bit beyond my expected capacity for the first 3-6 months. The goal, of course, is to make an impeccable knife, and certainly the handle is a huge part of that. Unfortunately, right now, custom handle sizes won't be possible.
    2- Agree re: warmth, but the consumer version is likely to be done in G10 (and possibly another oil based material which lends itself well to creation via a mold). That said, I'll be CNCing handles for at least the first few months of operations. G10 because ~50% of consumers wash their knives in the dish washer. My sample size is 58 people, which gets me 95% confidence level w/ a +/- 12% confidence interval. Additionally, ~34% of people store their knives in a drawer with no in-drawer knife tray or in the sink! Certainly would love to get another 50-100 people to do the poll, but this is enough info for me: likely can't do any stabilized woods as a result.
    3- Agree again! Sensing a pattern ;) I don't think I can solve edge retention indefinitely (though there are some materials out there like Hardide which are pretty insane), but I know I can significantly improve it by using a really high-end PM steel. I've been testing different honing/sharpening systems. Considering a ceramic honing rod. Re: sharpening, I'm partial to Spyderco's V sharpener for anyone who will actually maintain their knives. I've found the low grit stones not to be sufficiently aggressive to fix up a really dull blade though for a novice user.
    4- I'm doing non-serrated :)
    5- I'm using Peters. hahaha. I'm actually laughing as I write this because it's making me feel pretty happy about all my choices.
    6- This is a VERY good point. I've been interacting quite a bit with one gentleman who is extremely well known for his fixed blade fillet knives and hunting knives. You probably know who I'm talking about. To summarize his thoughts on the matter: 1- set criteria, ex. toughness, wear resistance, ductility, hardness, etc. 2- measure said criteria is met (i.e. acceptance testing). 3- repeat thousands of times (quality control). I think I'm pretty happy with what I've done on #1. #2 and #3 still need to be proven out.
    7- Good suggestion.
    8- Do you know anybody? :) In all seriousness though, I've been speaking with quite a few well known knife makers who have been extremely generous with their time.
    9- You're right! It's scary starting anything new. I walked away from a well-paying job to do this. It wasn't even a choice though, because I needed to do something I love, and I absolutely love solving problems.
    10- Again, great point. For me, this is VERY much about good customer service and that is a great suggestion. Before I'm live, I plan to hire my first employee, who will have a heavy focus on ensuring customers are happy.
    11- I'm dealing with mills direct and am only going to be offering one steel to start - a high alloy stainless PM steel. I want to avoid middlemen as much as possible - and the gentleman you mentioned would push my costs meaningfully higher. I expect my chef knife to retail for <$200, but be superior in quality to Kramer's 52100 8", which runs $299 everywhere. I have no retail middle-men and am trying to avoid supply-chain middle-men.
    12- Thank you! I've just printed it from here: <http://www.relentlessknives.com/newsletter_files/KnifeShExps.pdf> I've read quite a few books to date on things like metallurgy, sharpening, heat treat, etc. Re: sharpening, "The Razor Edge Book of Sharpening" from John Juranitch came recommended by Jay Fisher (see his site). I haven't actually spoken with Jay, but I'm told he's a fantastic knife maker. Juranitch controversially suggests hollow edge grinding as the best grind for heavy duty knife use. I'd note he is highly focused on meat packing plants and textiles. The feedback I've gotten from a few custom makers is that they strongly prefer a very thin blade, which obviously makes hollow grinding both unnecessary and impractical. They also tend not to like the hollow grind and usually do a flat grind or a taper grind.

    I'd love to talk more. Feel free to shoot me an e-mail at [email protected]
    Thank you again so so much for all of your thoughtful input!!
  10. ArtisanRevere


    Mar 26, 2018
    Apologies, not sure why, but my e-mail stopped alerting me to anything new in this thread.

    @jdm61 happy to share what I can, however at least one step of this can't be shared in an open forum. I hate to sound cagey and/or vague, but at the moment, I have to.

    Somewhat obviously, but calling folks and just telling them what you're trying to do is a good way to start the convo and gauge willingness. If you want, shoot me a private e-mail to [email protected] and we can set up a time to chat more in depth. Love to share experiences with you!

    I'm happy to go into MOST parts of the supply chain, but I can't talk about some details for a few reasons in an open forum. 1- The full supply chain isn't finalized yet and I don't want to get ahead of my skis, so to speak. 2- I haven't cleared it with the suppliers. I'm comfortable telling you what my experience is with folks (though I won't badmouth anyone), and if someone happens to mention a particular supplier, (ex. a few have mentioned Peter's), I feel it's okay to say they're doing my HT, especially since their site clearly shows pricing and availability to take on new work - that's their business after all. 2a- Some of the manufacturers/suppliers may not want it advertised that they take on outside work. 3- I'm negotiating one particularly tricky manufacturing supply agreement right now, so it's just a bad time for me to talk about that part of the supply chain from both a legal and financial perspective.

    Don't mind discussing most of the chain though - so let me know what you're interested in specifically and if I can tell you if I can say.
  11. ArtisanRevere


    Mar 26, 2018
    @Rhinoknives1 -- Laurence, deep apologies for the delay. Not sure why, but my e-mail stopped picking up the thread so I didn't realize anyone was posting. I'll check once a week going forward. But, I'm here now, not hiding!

    By the way, just checked out your site. Really attractive stuff! I'll be in LA pretty soon with my girlfriend, should I look you up? Send me a line @ [email protected] Would absolutely love to chat and learn more about what you're doing, and learn from someone with your experience!
  12. Greenberg Woods

    Greenberg Woods Wood Fanatic and Rosewood Addict Dealer / Materials Provider

    Dec 27, 2013
    Send me an email, this is a complex subject i have done a lot of research on. My email is listed in my signature line
  13. Rhinoknives1

    Rhinoknives1 KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Jul 1, 2013
    50% of people put them in the dishwasher! LOL think about how dense the avarage person is! ———————-Then realize 50% are below that! At your price point you want to appeal to the top 10%...Whom most of which are hopefully smarter than that! LOL
  14. jdm61

    jdm61 itinerant metal pounder Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Aug 12, 2005
    My niece put my brother’s knife I the dishwasher and warped stabilized wood! I caught my sister in law doing it later. She figured it didn’t matter anymore. The stabilized amboyna scales looked like they had been tumbled using Portland cement.
  15. Rhinoknives1

    Rhinoknives1 KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Jul 1, 2013
    The detergent is Caustic and will frost the edge making it brittle and chippy.. Screws up the handle & the edge!
  16. Greenberg Woods

    Greenberg Woods Wood Fanatic and Rosewood Addict Dealer / Materials Provider

    Dec 27, 2013
    Thats why rosewoods are more resistant than stabilized. Stabilized wood relies on plastic resins, which soften severely at the high temp of a dishwasher. Cocobolo or african Blackwood relies on the incredibly dense cellulose structure for strength which means at high temp they are more stable.

    Also, as for your poll, im doubtful. 58 people, we dont know where he found them "knife makers? The public? A knife making forum?" For expensive knives i would put it far lower than that.
  17. ArtisanRevere


    Mar 26, 2018
    @Rhinoknives1 -- agree. These knives will be fairly pricey - in-line with Shun, but meaningfully less than the Kramer carbon series. They're meant to be aspirational, yet attainable.
    @Greenberg Woods -- happy to tell you more about my method. I shared that info with the hopes of being helpful to makers. To be clear, this was not meant to be a highly scientific poll. Otherwise I would have spent ~$500 to poll 500 random people via survey monkey.

    I requested a group of ~160 people who are on my weekly distribution list take my poll. Of them a certain # took the poll, and of them, a certain # sent it to friends to take the poll. There was one knife expert who took the poll. I also took the poll, and I'm not counting myself as the expert, since I'm not, though I am in my own target demographic. Everyone who took the poll are either my friends, former colleagues/bosses, or friends of those people. I'll give you some stats from the group, but the poll was not a random sampling done via survey monkey, and the sample size is obviously quite small. That said, I've gleaned quite a few interesting insights from it. The people I'm polling, tend to fall into the demo I'm interested in, high income non-knife experts. They are not hunters. They are not folks who carry an EDC. They are not folks who could tell you the difference between 440C and 440A, and that's almost certainly >98% of the public. They aren't people who are buying $600+ custom knives who will be ultra meticulous about the care. They're folks who like good food and good products. Educating them re: knife care and changing their habits is an important part of how I intend to run this biz.

    All of this is 95% C.L. @ +/- 12%

    74% watch at least 30 min of cooking shows or read recipes each month / 26% don't watch any cooking shows or read any recipes
    73% cook >1x/week; 50% cook 3x/week+
    83% have gross household income >$100k
    82% are 40 or younger,
    and yes, 50% of them wash their knives in the dishwasher at least sometimes. 25% of my respondents wash in the dishwasher either EVERY time or most of the time. 50% of them wash by hand every time.
  18. jdm61

    jdm61 itinerant metal pounder Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Aug 12, 2005
    So you aren't targeting the people that put their expensive knives on top of their $15,000 range that is primarily used as a place to sit takeout containers? :D Of course, one solution is to put a big, bold disclaimer on the box that says "WARRANTY VOIDED IF KNIFE PUT IN DISHWASHER"
  19. Greenberg Woods

    Greenberg Woods Wood Fanatic and Rosewood Addict Dealer / Materials Provider

    Dec 27, 2013
    Hey, I sent you an email response with my number. Give me a call.
  20. Spideyjg


    Nov 7, 2017
    Most hard core cooks use a pinch grip. Optimize the ergonomics for that on chefs or santokus.


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