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Buying Cheap or Too Cheap to buy???


Scott Lintow

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Hello fellow smiths. Today I have come across a question I can not answer.

 

A little back story. I have been looking at different ways to sell my works. I went to look on E bay and what I found puzzles me.

 

So here is the question. Is the knife buying public buying cheap knives because the knives are inexpensive..or are they to cheap to buy quality knives?

 

A side note where do most of your sales come from?

“The mind once enlightened cannot again become dark.” ― Thomas Paine

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I will have to make the disclaimer that I've not sold a knife yet, but the answer to both questions is yes. You will see that type at knife shows. They will come buy your table and give your knives a look over and maybe make a ridiculous offer then go over to the tables with the dealers of used knives and by some $15-$25 knives.

 

Doug

Edited by Doug Lester

HELP...I'm a twenty year old trapped in the body of an old man!!!

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I believe it is a combination of both, with a little bit of innocent ignorance thrown into the mix. We live in a culture that thinks "want it now, get it now" no matter what the quality is. This is fed by the companies that sell low quality products at a very low price, all the while saying that they are high quality. Then, when people see that your products are higher in price they actually belive they are being ripped off. We live in such an automated society that the general public doesn't understand the time and energy put into this or any other hands on craft, when they buy similar products that are made on assembly lines. They think everything that is made is made very easily with little energy and time. This is the problem. I recommend going to shows often, as well as auction and consignment houses. Collector's shows are probably your best bet, though.

“Fire and air, earth and water, were once considered the four elemental substances of our world. Among the ancients only the blacksmith worked with all four.” - From The Art of Blacksmithing by Alex W. Bealer

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I sell a few knives....I have had hardly any luck on the internet...maybe if someday I am a known maker that would change, but my strongest sales are in person, explaining why the knife is so much better....I got lucky and sold a few skinners to the hunter/trapper crowd, and once they realize they can order a knife made exactly to fit their hand that is so hard they don't have to sharpen hardly ever if they take care of it, a sheath that doesn't come apart...most people like that realize they mite pay a lot more , but they are going to only do it once...but I have had people tell me why would I buy one of your "expensive" knives when I can buy one from wally world for 5 bucks....then again the most they do with it is cut cabbage.....good luck in your efforts

 

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It's a process of education. It's hard for most folks to really get that a knife can be better that that POS they bought for a few bucks. My Lady Wife has been the fur trade reenactor world for a long time, and I've been trying to sell to those guys for a decade. It was only this year that I made a breakthrough and sold a couple of my higher end pieces. Once the word starts to spread, though, people can begin to understand what it is they are buying. It is slower than I thought it would be.

 

Geoff

"The worst day smithing is better than the best day working for someone else."

 

I said that.

 

If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.

- - -G. K. Chesterton

 

So, just for the record: the fact that it does work still should not be taken as definitive proof that you are not crazy.

 

Grant Sarver

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Patience is the key, I think. As well as the willingness to undercut yourself a little bit to get the sales and your name out there. Then when they see the quality, they tell their friends and associates. That is what I have done in the past and it seems to work. There is a tactical shop that wants to buy my stuff to resell to the public because I made an associate/ customer of his a machette (my Zombie CRD survival tool). He also wants the CRD Next Gen. and is willing to pay good money for it. But that was all after massive amounts of networking, advertising, and patient foot work. Just keep your head up and work for it. It will happen.

“Fire and air, earth and water, were once considered the four elemental substances of our world. Among the ancients only the blacksmith worked with all four.” - From The Art of Blacksmithing by Alex W. Bealer

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I have made quite a few blades to date and have had some reasonable offers to buy them though I have never sold a knife or axe. I have always gifted my blades to those certain few who strike my fancy as someone I know will appreciate it.

 

I know I can do an overtime shift at work and make more money so for me the payment of the surprised faces when I say "this knife is yours" is great payment for me.

 

I got into knife making and then bladesmithing because I was sick of paying good money for poor blades......anyhow my take on buying and spending on blades (or anything for that matter) is what my Grandfather told me....QUALITY IS REMEMBERED LONG AFTER PRICE IS FORGOTTEN!

"Old dogs care about you even when you make mistakes" - Tom HALL - Old Dogs, Children and Watermelon wine.

 

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This is an interesting, and perennial question, which has plagued custom knifemakers for decades now.

 

On one hand, you have the excellent advice of "price suggests quality." If you put two identical knives on the table, and price one at 20% over the other, the expensive one will get bought, because it's perceived as a better knife, because it's more expensive.

 

On the other hand, we're in a recession, and unless your customers are rich military-industrial buyers with cash to burn, there's a logical limit at which people will or will not open their wallet for you. Finding that line is always tricky.

 

One truth I've discovered, is that undercutting myself may sell a blade, but it cheapens the value of every other blade I want to sell, and it undercuts my peers as well - offering the expectation that work at a certain level of goodness is only worth "X", and not "X+$100". This does everyone a disservice.

 

 

Since I do this as a professional hobby, and not to feed my kids and pay the mortgage, I can get away with setting a higher price and waiting for the right buyer. I'd rather negotiate down with someone who really wants it but has an absolute upper budget that I can live with... they feel like they're getting a deal, and I'm usually still making money vs. losing it, and it perpetuates the idea that my work is still worth what I say it is, if I offer the suggestion that I'm cutting them a "special break" for whatever reason.

 

For those who are full-time, it's a much trickier problem. I think it's either a question of profit through volume, or of undeniable quality of really special work. If I could sell a sword a month for 8-10 grand, that's all I'd need to do... but I'd have to do it every month, living here at least. Few of us, I think, are capable of that.

 

Last lesson, I learned early on that my friends were not my customers. Taking $50 for a knife just because you like someone may be part of what you consider "school" as you're early in your career, but it's not a good habit to get into unless you really don't value your time, or can knock out a knife in an hour from start to finish. Otherwise you might as well move to Oregon or Jersey and pump gas, I think, for the take-home you'll accomplish.

 

The obvious (to us) point of cheap factory knives, is that there is an economy of scale involved with machine-made products, and those products may be "good". I'm not selling "good," I'm selling "unique, hand-crafted, custom" work that occasionally (and hopefully more often) has a lot of research involved because it's a historically inspired piece. You can't expect a Walmart knife customer to be the same person as a custom knife customer. Two completely different groups as far as my experience has shown me.

 

 

Oh, and the rich people are out there. You just have to find them. Some lurk here, too, so I hope nothing I've said offends them. The business of being a knife maker is a tricky one, and has little to do with the craft of being a knife maker.

The Tidewater Forge

Christopher Price, Bladesmith

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I have made quite a few blades to date and have had some reasonable offers to buy them though I have never sold a knife or axe. I have always gifted my blades to those certain few who strike my fancy as someone I know will appreciate it.

 

I know I can do an overtime shift at work and make more money so for me the payment of the surprised faces when I say "this knife is yours" is great payment for me.

 

I got into knife making and then bladesmithing because I was sick of paying good money for poor blades......anyhow my take on buying and spending on blades (or anything for that matter) is what my Grandfather told me....QUALITY IS REMEMBERED LONG AFTER PRICE IS FORGOTTEN!

That sir is a GREAT comment your Grandfather was a very wise man! I am using that one from now on.

 

Geoff

The blacksmith and the artist reflect it in their art.

They forge their creativity,closer to the heart.

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This is an interesting, and perennial question, which has plagued custom knifemakers for decades now.

 

On one hand, you have the excellent advice of "price suggests quality." If you put two identical knives on the table, and price one at 20% over the other, the expensive one will get bought, because it's perceived as a better knife, because it's more expensive.

 

On the other hand, we're in a recession, and unless your customers are rich military-industrial buyers with cash to burn, there's a logical limit at which people will or will not open their wallet for you. Finding that line is always tricky.

 

One truth I've discovered, is that undercutting myself may sell a blade, but it cheapens the value of every other blade I want to sell, and it undercuts my peers as well - offering the expectation that work at a certain level of goodness is only worth "X", and not "X+$100". This does everyone a disservice.

 

 

Since I do this as a professional hobby, and not to feed my kids and pay the mortgage, I can get away with setting a higher price and waiting for the right buyer. I'd rather negotiate down with someone who really wants it but has an absolute upper budget that I can live with... they feel like they're getting a deal, and I'm usually still making money vs. losing it, and it perpetuates the idea that my work is still worth what I say it is, if I offer the suggestion that I'm cutting them a "special break" for whatever reason.

 

For those who are full-time, it's a much trickier problem. I think it's either a question of profit through volume, or of undeniable quality of really special work. If I could sell a sword a month for 8-10 grand, that's all I'd need to do... but I'd have to do it every month, living here at least. Few of us, I think, are capable of that.

 

Last lesson, I learned early on that my friends were not my customers. Taking $50 for a knife just because you like someone may be part of what you consider "school" as you're early in your career, but it's not a good habit to get into unless you really don't value your time, or can knock out a knife in an hour from start to finish. Otherwise you might as well move to Oregon or Jersey and pump gas, I think, for the take-home you'll accomplish.

 

The obvious (to us) point of cheap factory knives, is that there is an economy of scale involved with machine-made products, and those products may be "good". I'm not selling "good," I'm selling "unique, hand-crafted, custom" work that occasionally (and hopefully more often) has a lot of research involved because it's a historically inspired piece. You can't expect a Walmart knife customer to be the same person as a custom knife customer. Two completely different groups as far as my experience has shown me.

 

 

Oh, and the rich people are out there. You just have to find them. Some lurk here, too, so I hope nothing I've said offends them. The business of being a knife maker is a tricky one, and has little to do with the craft of being a knife maker.

Mr. Price, I have to admit, I must concede to your greater wisdom. You are absolutely correct in that undercutting yourself has the potential to screw everyone, including yourself. I am one who is trying to make a living at this, though, and have truly been more worried in the past about getting the sale more than anything else just to get my name out there. However, I am more apt now to set the price at the high end of the scale of probable cost a haggling down from there. This problem has been my bane since I was working for my dad as a gunsmith (I can't legally do that any more, so....shrug). That was nigh on sixteen years ago. (I think... anyway, back when Mtv was still playing music on its programming). All we weaponsmiths can really hope for sometimes is that one right buyer who will sell you after they buy from you.

“Fire and air, earth and water, were once considered the four elemental substances of our world. Among the ancients only the blacksmith worked with all four.” - From The Art of Blacksmithing by Alex W. Bealer

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It's kind of like the advice you give a young man on dating, "Let the women have a chance at turning you down, don't do it for them."

 

Set your price where you think it ought to be, and let the customer be the one to decide if it's for them or not. Be prepared to negotiate, that's part of the deal, but don't start so low that when you do negotiate, you're losing money. Value your time, your consumables, and your talent appropriately. Understand what the market will bear today, what the fluctuation is, and what the seasonality is. Do something unique that sets your work apart.

 

All good tips offered to me by my mentors over the years.

The Tidewater Forge

Christopher Price, Bladesmith

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Thank you all for the great response. The wisdom of those that have been there is the best kind.

 

I do this as a hobby and try to sell some knives to help pay for something I love to do. I have been fortunate to sell four knives since I started 1 1/2 years ago.

I sold 3 of them to people that saw me carrying them and asked to buy them. So I am beginning to understand how building a name works. I was looking for a way to hurry the process

along, but I see the way to go a lot clearer now.

 

I would like to say that this forum rocks. I really enjoy listening to all the info and stories.

Thanks again.

“The mind once enlightened cannot again become dark.” ― Thomas Paine

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