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Kenon Rain.

your thoughts on production work?

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Hey guys.

 

My being a blade smith, and most all of the knowledge and experience I have, has been gained through this forum. It's been my teacher, and I've been its apprentice for quite a few years now. Lately I've branched off In my own directions, working still on commissions but also exploring new makes, and makeups for blades that hold performance highest. And it has brought about some questions both from customers and myself..

 

I've nailed a few designs for working blades that have everything I want in them, Usually when I've made something, I always finish with... man I really wish I had...or hadn't done something else with it.. But these few are about the best I can do. And so, at the suggestion of a client I've considered production work.. making a series of these few blades.

 

I've never intentionally made two of the same anything before.. so It's an odd feeling..

 

Anyway, rambling post summed up, what do you guys think of making several of the same knife purely with the intent to sell a good product that could develop a following and build up a reputation as a quality business?

 

The sad reality is that typically.. at least where I sell, the technical patternwelded ground perfect hand finish to 4k grit and etched with inlay work and stabalized exotic wood furniture don't sell nearly as well as the run of the mill.. "camp work knives" over 10" long

 

 

The link below is The rough draft ;) for one of my machete designs.. It out performs 20" machetes I've made swing for swing.. and the handle doesn't seem to really create any hotspots in hand at all.. Stock removal is definitely the way to go for big thin blades like this.. It's .095" thick with a full convex (albiet ugly) grind..

 

easily slices through 1" thick maple saplings and 2" thick green bamboo..

 

 

 

http://www.bladeforums.com/forums/showthread.php?t=786501

 

Thanks guys

Edited by Kenon Rain

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Making several of the same is always the best to improve quality, it also can bring boredom. It still seems a good idea though if you can sell your production. Buyers do not look for the same thing as makers, and a pattern welded machete is for me a wasting of energy because they are made to be used and sharpened with a file or a bad stone.

I give to you a drawing of a machete used in the french caribbean as a daly tool to cut grass or sugar cane. My father own one that I know an use since I can swing it. The design is different than everything I saw, it can bring a little difference. I made this one short because My father would like a smaller one to cut smaller branches and spare his arm, but some are very long, and the one he already owns is like 25 inch long. If you are interested, I can take a picture for you.

coutelas doudou Converted.jpg

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Nice machete! Where do you buy 15n20 that size? The widest I can find it is 1.5 inches

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Kelly cupples sells it, he's a great guy by the way, really good to do business with. I think if you search his name in google a pricelist and email will pop up somewhere..

 

I won't lie, a machete like mine is pretty easy to make out of the stuff.. bout all you do is harden and grind an edge on a blade profile :P

 

Igrec, I would love to see some pictures! That drawing is great, very cool

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I've found plenty of 8 to 9 inch wide 15N20 from local saw mills. I scored about 100 foot of the material from a local mill some time ago. Still got way more than I can use any time soon. If your ever in southwest Arkansas I'll give you 10 foot or so. Same offer extends to any one else.

 

Better yet, you might try some saw mills in your area. I swaped the manager a couple of skinners for the material he gave me.

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That would be a hell of a long and beautiful drive for the most part :P

 

Good thinking on checking the mills, I'm always a little suspect of used steel, but I can't imagine those would be that worn out typically.. and there are no shortages of mills up here.. They may be a little thin though

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its always a hard one to juggle with.

being true to what you are pursuing set against the dire need to eat.

 

ive found that instant ramen is a good way to try to tip the scales a little.

;)

 

i know makers who have ended up being production makers .. and hated every last minute of the day because of it.

and i have known others who have taken that route and been ecstatic at being able to afford new supplies without having to juggle finances.

 

i think its all comes down to what you would be happy doing and what you want to produce.

i could never be a total production maker .. i like the thrill of the challenge when i make my blades ..

each are unique and therefore poses new issues i need to meet along the way.

doing the same thing over and over again would be hell in the workshop for ME.

 

but then again - instant ramen.

^_^

 

try it all .. see what you like.

you might find that making several of the same is a good way to learn and a good way to sell.

or you might find that can have a mini-production line of 3 or 4 going at the same time as something unique ontop.

 

it all comes back to what you want to produce and why you want to produce it.

thats what me thinks at least.

;)

.....whoop .. ramens done.

ttyl.

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Didn't mean to hijack your thread but thanks so much for the info. I have been looking for some wide enough to be able to make my wife a few kitchen knives.

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On the blade is engraved "Martindall, Birmingham, Made in England"

It's a very good tool. The enlarged tip is very thin, probably drawn out from the same width as the begining of the blade which is 2,5 mm thick.

P1000854.jpg

 

P1000856.jpg

Edited by igrec

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Kenon,

 

'tis a fine debate you have started with yourself.

 

Dee put it very well. I will add what I can.

 

I have made blades of one sort or another off and on for 37 years. At one point it totally consumed me. Luckily at one point I was semi-professional making high end woodworking planes. I found that when I had to make the same thing everyday it became just another job. I made the decision to keep my day job (production machinist) and make what I wanted when I wanted on my own time.

 

Plus, the amount of money you can make as an individual smith out of your own shop is very limited.

 

If you are going to make a commodity product like a machete you need to develop production techniques and paid labor.

 

I am going to say this again. You cannot feed yourself much less a family making common products by hand using a one of system.

 

If it is a supplement to a regular job that is different story. As Igrec said making something over and over again really refines your technique and if that can bring in extra income then by all means go for it. My plane making made me an extra $10,000 a couple of years running. That can buy a lot of equipment if you are not dependent on it for food. (Instant Ramen-Blech!)

 

At this stage in your education making the same thing over and over is not a bad thing. When I was a member of a martial arts school in the 70s I made about 30 low end swords (stock removal) for other members. I learned a lot and made some money

 

Hope this helped.

Dan

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I had a fairly consistent design I did for a while- they were Scandi-inspired blades with fossil oosic handles and silver interlace bolsters. They did sell pretty well, and I didn't get too sick of them at any point. It was nice to have something with all the kinks worked out. The worst thing about custom pieces or artistic pieces can be taking risks. Of course, that can also be the best thing about them...

 

After I realized the profit margin on the blades was $2-3 an hour I decided to focus on jewelry as my bread and butter. ;)

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'Tis a question worthy of pondering. Poverty and an unwillingness to get a "real job", based on the belief that a man can make it on his own caused/enabled me to make more than three thousand finished finished knife blades without mark and without handles in pattern welded steel, all made in house every step of the way by me. I learned many things, and got really good at it. I got called a whore, and accused of "cheapening" the value of damascus by some. I just kept working to keep the bills paid. Did I enjoy it all, no, not all the time. But it beat the crap out of punching a time clock and doing what someone else said I had to do every day, and it didn't last forever. It was for sure worth it, in money, but more in experience, which cannot be gained in any way other than doing the work.

 

I do this because I love making blades and smithing, but I also do this to make a living. And sometimes, production work is better than art for that.

 

You will learn things that you would not otherwise, and gain skill in measure to the number of blades you make. These skills will also better your other (fancier) work, in ways that you may not think of.

 

I was told by a very experience stock removal maker many years ago, that you really didn't understand grinding until you ground a thousand blades. It seemed ridiculous to me at the time. After I had made a thousand blades, it all made perfect sense. :)

 

Art is wonderful. Money in your pocket is sometimes even better.

Edited by Howard Clark

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I hatesss it, I doess. On 'tother hand, the times I have done it I find that my processes get better, which I think is just seat time, pure and simple. When I was making the pieces for my JS stamp I forged 4 to 6 blades a day for 10 days. Then I took that pile and profiled all of them, rough ground all of them (then went back to the first third or so and re-ground them, 'cause they were crap), HT all of them, finish ground all of them to 220 (with more time re-doing the first third of the group). What I found was I got dramatically better (and faster) at the fine parts of the grind, evenness, symmetry, plunge cuts, and ricassos.

 

If it helps keep the lights on, and still allows some time for custom work, I'm for it, even if I don't like it.

 

Geoff

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When I need money I just pound out lots of plane irons (dunno why they sell, but the do), center punches (again, dunno why the sell) and hooks. Its boring work, but when you need money its worth it. Its a job when you do production work (like everybody else said) but it is still a fun job and you do learn (like what other people said) good skills. Whatever pays the bills. I think production is more fun, but that is just me. I like the simple knives that I can make three or four of and make them perfect.

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Well thanks guys!

Very insightful, I think I'm definitely going to do it. I've had some problems before.. (which I'm still paying for :P) for taking on work yet to be done, and piling it up on projects that I've severely underestimated.. I'm going to get all caught up on commissions,(it'll be a while ;) ) and get some good production type items going.. streamlined and simplified to have in stock at all times ready to ship.

 

 

This forum always'll have a place in me heart, as work of any kind can be a killer, and I've got to goof off somewhere!

 

You guy's want to see some drafts of my machete design?

 

Igrec, that's a mean looking tool :) I'll have to draw up something similiar

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Your development of a production piece, by production piece I mean 100s or 1000s, should include developing tooling for every step, so that a monkey could do it. If there is forging to be done there should be stepped dies for open or closed work, if any grinding work can be done in a jig make the jig for it. Refine the tooling until it's practically effortless and write down a sheet of directions to go along with each tool and step. This is how I was exposed to production blacksmithing work, the process was refined so much that with 1 demonstration of each step and tool I was producing the same product that same day. The less custom fitting and precision work you have to do for each piece means less time spent for the same amount of money meaning more of that money goes into your pocket. This is not to say you should get sloppy, it's to say your tooling should be good enough that, piloted by you, it makes a precision quality product.

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'Tis a question worthy of pondering. Poverty and an unwillingness to get a "real job", based on the belief that a man can make it on his own caused/enabled me to make more than three thousand finished finished knife blades without mark and without handles in pattern welded steel, all made in house every step of the way by me. I learned many things, and got really good at it. I got called a whore, and accused of "cheapening" the value of damascus by some. I just kept working to keep the bills paid. Did I enjoy it all, no, not all the time. But it beat the crap out of punching a time clock and doing what someone else said I had to do every day, and it didn't last forever. It was for sure worth it, in money, but more in experience, which cannot be gained in any way other than doing the work.

 

I do this because I love making blades and smithing, but I also do this to make a living. And sometimes, production work is better than art for that.

 

You will learn things that you would not otherwise, and gain skill in measure to the number of blades you make. These skills will also better your other (fancier) work, in ways that you may not think of.

 

I was told by a very experience stock removal maker many years ago, that you really didn't understand grinding until you ground a thousand blades. It seemed ridiculous to me at the time. After I had made a thousand blades, it all made perfect sense. :)

 

Art is wonderful. Money in your pocket is sometimes even better.

 

In spite of what I said earlier, I have to admit Howard really hit the nail on the head.

 

Nothing can take the place of repetition. Whether it is playing the violin or forging metal.

There are no books you can read nor any classes you can take that will give you the "feel". This is an indescribable skill where you have no thought of what comes next but what comes next is right.

 

So I will amend what I said earlier. If making machetes or whatever is a way to gain this type of education and fund it as well-go for it.

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