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Jon Stormm

Pricing Questions

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Ok, so I've been wondering how exactly do I reach a good solid price for my work? Is it based on man hours + materiels + tool use or something? Or is it just based on the finished piece?

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It depends somewhat on the client, and it usually isn't typical, but I was paid $180 for my latest blade: http://www.bladesmithsforum.com/index.php?showtopic=26710

 

I try to charge at least 12 dollars per hour spent, provided I make it without many hassles, then add to that the cost of materials. I start a little above that price so if the customer tries to haggle I'll still usually end up with a price we can both agree on.

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So far , Lots of people pick up my knives and oh and ah and compliment my work. But Im not rubbing shoulders with folks who can spare what Im asking ( usually @ the 100.00$ mark , im getting so I just ask for an offer and work from there. Yes Im going in the hole , but I would make knives even if I couldn't sell them. So I at least have something to show the wife for my time! What I don't end up giving away !

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you pretty much have it price wise. I would double materials . but .....hourly rate + double materials is a good honest pricing.

in order to hit a good hourly rate you have to be fast fast fast.

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Double the material price and between $10 and $15 per hour. Above $15 I throw in a Kydex sheath. On the other hand I just like making them so I would be doing it anyway. It's a very subjective question. Best advise leave a little room to haggle and don't expect to get rich.

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I'm sure I've been underselling myself, based on what I've seen, but I've had the benefit of not having to haggle over the price, either. I realize that I'm probably just breaking even on materials as well, but skill development is not quantifiable, Eo I think if I can at least recuperate my cost in materials I'm fine with paying for maintenance. It's about the same price as counseling ;) As my skills develop, I am sure I will feel better about asking a little more for my knives, but my friends and family have been loyal customers. I am also slightly haunted that once that market has been tapped, those who are not biased towards my work may not want to buy what I have to offer. At that point I suppose I will start building my own custom knife collection :D

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i'm just an old farmer. The more tools you have the easier your job is(one should hope). Granted, common sense tells you your 'investment" should make you worth more. NOT TRUE, Bullkachit !

You can have 300 grand in tools but if you can't use them your work is useless. I can think of a couple of BIG RICH "kife makers" who crowd that group.

OTOH. If a dude builds a blade that affects you more than a big dose of Viagra......using a chainsaw file, an old Nicholson bastard and uncle Ferdies Weber/ Kmart grill ????/ What blade is worth more ?

Picasso didn't even have a lint cloth or mineral spirits . Understand ?

Product is worth way more than process.

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So your suggestion is not to make knives that don't appeal to anyone?

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I wonder who made the knife he cut his ear off with... Hmmm...

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So your suggestion is not to make knives that don't appeal to anyone?

I'm not 100% sure who your reply is directed to. Just make da kanife, shave a little hair off your arm, think about the amount YOU would pay for it and put'er up for sale at that price. Was that easier ?

If it works, make a few more !

Parables. Don't they just slap piss ya off ! ?

Edited by Doug Ward

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I wonder who made the knife he cut his ear off with... Hmmm...

BTW Sr Permaculture.

arenal botanical garden.-----dat B me :ph34r::)B)

Edited by Doug Ward

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you pretty much have it price wise. I would double materials . but .....hourly rate + double materials is a good honest pricing.

in order to hit a good hourly rate you have to be fast fast fast.

I charge by the amount of hours it should have taken me, if I wasn't so slow about things. I spend way too much time looking for tools...

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it is so much easier working out price for things you have already made!!!

I spent a day with hector cole an english arrow smith and he uses a stop clock to time his making of arrow heads , so he has an exact time not a positively estimated optimistic one!!

being out by a couple of minutes is fine for a one off job but times that by 50 and you are working for free!!

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I do hourly rate as a minimum, but if I can, I double that. If l can't sell it for that, I don't sell it at all. It's easy for me to say this, as I'm not hunger and I'm making all my bills. I won't say for what ironwork, but on a few jobs, my daily profit was a $1000 plus.

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In the end it all boils down to ,"something is worth what you can get someone to pay" You have to find your market and make it happy with what you create.

 

Not an easy thing to do but it can be done.

Edited by Christopher Makin

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I would have to chime in here I run a business, work another job and squeeze in blade orders whenever possible, and if someone does not want to pay what price I am supremely happy with to sell the blade, and make a good fair amount for the effort involved, then I just shrug and pass .. its no big thing........however I never quit doing all the things that bring in much much more per day than selling knives at ever would unless I was in the absolute upper echelon of blademakers..........so yeah, if 450.00 would make you happy, and after an honest assessment, its worth it, walk away from the deal.........one odd thing I have found about human beings is if you say ........150.00 for this blade, instead of 450.00........many times they will walk because the price is to cheap....I have had people walk from a deal, raised the price on the item ( instead of what human nature mite tell you and lower and lower the price) and it sold fairly quickly to a different person.......people are odd sometimes when it comes to pricing. IF you ask for an offer, the buyer is setting the rules of the engagement, if YOU set the price firmly and quickly, You set the rules of engagement.......if you really want to rock knifes sales or any sales for that matter go sell used cars for a while.. hehe best sales training youll ever get if you make it past the first month. >:D

 

best of luck

 

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I suggest this article (and the whole website):

http://greenwood-carving.blogspot.com/2013/06/how-to-price-craft-work-business-advice.html

 

Pricing a job that is done is far simpler than one you have not done (as Owen says above).

This is why most craftsfolk have a product line...things made (one would think made efficiently over time by studying production) and priced and for sale rather than all custom work which is based on a request and a quote prior to making. Usually the request is outside..or FAR outside..what you have done before. Rarely is it the same thing just bigger or smaller or in a different color.

 

If you do it for a hobby then the rules people follow are far different than it being your only income. An argument can be made that this should not be so, but since it is we all must live with it.

 

Since a business has all the business aspects to pay (insurance, taxes, set shop costs (minimum electrical, gas, building maintenance, mortgage, rent etc) variable shop costs such as fuel, raw materials,consumables, tool maintenance etc) some of which accrues if I am productive or not the simple fact is that there is a minimum price for doing business and then there are the variables for the gig and then there is the personal side of home ...food,gas,lodging...the Maslow Hierarchy of Needs thing. The shop needs to pay for all of itself and then all of the other things.

When you work all this out and place into the equation the actual time you have to produce the costs of doing business are rather high per hour and the client pays for this in buying the work.

 

I learned long ago that the guy at the local tire shop does not really care if you love the Earth or are passionate about your craft..he just wants the cash for the set of tires.

 

That said

IF you are lucky and good and lucky and smart you will find a career that pays the bills and feeds the soul. I am NOT a "chop wood and carry water" guy I am a problem solver, but there are times when you hold a completed piece or even a forged bar that is cooling and gain strength from it. Other times I name the work "oil change" and "family vacation" and take it on for that reason.

 

Just because you are mentally/emotionally moved by your work does not mean you have to put your/family needs on hold nor underprice your time/effort/experience because you are a caretaker of a tradition. If you can do more than survive while pursuing your craft then you and your craft will do better.

 

Not sure who came up with the idea of a "noble starving artist", but they need to grow up a bit and stop forcing their romantic version of a life onto others.

It is possible to have both passion and profit.

 

Ric

Edited by Richard Furrer
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Wow, thanks for all the advice everyone. Ric, I have to say, I like the way you think. That was very well said.

Owen, I've actually set a stop watch in my shop before. Just to see how long it takes me, on average, to knock out some of my regular pieces. I had kind of wondered if anyone else really did that before. I never really considered doing it for anything other than satisfying my own curiosity.

Once again, thanks for all the advice, guys! :)

 

-Jon

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Jon, Thanks for posting the question, it has elicited some very insightful answers!

 

Ric, Thanks for your response, and the link. Both very helpful!

 

I'm still balancing this question myself as I have only been taking commissions or actively selling my work for about a year.

I will toss my penny into the hat, and also mention Wayne Goddard's advice from "The Wonder of Knifemaking 2nd Ed"

 

I offer two general services; new items (duh) and refurbishing items (but not valuable antiques!!!)

For new items I actually use a similar method to what others have mentioned; Materials x 2 + wage x hrs. I include Propane in materials, but don't try to figure in electricity since I have no clue how much of the power bill is the house vs the sub panel in the shop.

For refurbishing, I had been guestimating the hours and quoting up front, but as I am notoriously bad at guestimating, I have come to the conclusion that I need to either quote the hourly rate or quadruple my guestimate.

 

That brings me to Wayne Goddard: Wayne's method presented in the second edition of "The Wonder of Knifemaking" is to ignore the cost for "standard" materials, just set your hourly wage and quadruple to account for materials and shop costs etc. His example being $20 per hour, bill at $80 per hour, so long as your product warrants that price, newer makers may have to adjust down until their speed or quality or both progress far enough. For commissions he advises giving the customer a "minimum" cost and then aim to stay as close as possible, but bill them as above once the work is done (No deposit as they tend to induce more "deadline" stress). He does set an exception to the materials/deposit issue for unique or precious materials like gems, ivory, gold/silver, meteorite etc. For items containing those items he advises price as above + customer supplied materials or a deposit covering your actual cost to acquire those materials.

 

Wayne also talks about situations when a customer's purchase creates some exposure resulting in additional customers you wouldn't have brought in another way. He doesn't really try assigning a $ value to those things, in other words don't reduce the price to make the sale. On the other hand he does advise donating a knife to auctions or raffles advertised in national magazines like Blade. He remarks about a Field and Stream article that mentioned him early in his career that resulted in 2 years worth of back orders.

 

Back to my own opinion now; I have a friend that is a Stage Combat choreographer and instructor at a few community theatres and colleges. This spring he did the fights for a "Neverland" anthology production put on by a Dance Theatre school. The sword he wanted to use for Hook was an old Marine Corps NCO cutlass that had been badly abused by another stage company he had loaned it to previously. He asked me to do some very basic work on it to get it functional again. I saw potential to go a bit further and fully restore it, but he couldn't afford the additional hours. Knowing what it would be used for, I quoted him the price for what he asked me to do, and got his permission to go a bit further. He gave me free reign in restoring the sword and scabbard, so I went with it. I put an additional couple hours each on the scabbard and sword. After showing him the work he asked me to add my touchmark to the Chape and the Pommel and he would tell everyone involved in the production who did the restoration work. That event just ran last month, so I have not yet seen a "return" but I anticipate that I will. Even if I don't realize a $ return, the sword deserved the extra touches. I will ask his permission to post some before and after pictures over in the Show and Tell section.

 

Well that's all I have, there isn't any more.

 

James

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I pinned this topic because the question does keep coming up and it is a devilishly difficult one for new (and some old hobby) makers, but mostly because I think Ric has captured the very soul of what it means to be in this business.

 

I don't have a lot to add, but following in no particular order are some random thoughts.

 

I agree with Goddard's advise above, but ONLY provided you work fast and clean. I have seen almost equal numbers of people who ask too little (because the work is better than that) and those who ask too much (because it isn't). Time is important, but quality is of the utmost importance. If it takes you a month to make a crappy railroad spike knife that does not mean it's worth more than a decent one made in twenty minutes. Getting away from the emotional attachment is the hardest part for many of us.

 

I learned early on to NEVER take deposits. Ever. If the customer wants exotic materials that are expensive, he provides them at his risk. There is one exception, and that is if the piece is going to be an unsellable monstrosity if the customer refuses delivery. In that case it's cash up front and no questions about when it's going to be ready. If neither side can abide by that agreement, the commission is refused. You can only do this if you are completely open and honest about scheduling. In my case, I'm a hobby smith. I make it clear that I can only work on weekends and a few evenings, and that family and the day job come first and in that order no matter what.

 

Finally, persistence pays off. Unknown makers can't charge as much as known ones for the same quality of work, within reason. It's not fair, it sucks, but that's the way it is. However, unknown makers eventually become known makers if they stick with it and never compromise on quality.

 

You have to have a thick skin and a hard head in this business. And a realistic vision of the product. Know your market. Know who else makes similar stuff and how much it sells for. Not how much they ask, how much it sells for, IF it sells.

 

Carry on. B)

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Well said, Alan. For the first five years after I started forging, I really didn't sell my work. I'd usually only ask for about $40 (for materiels, fuel, grindin belts, etc), that's if I didn't give it away. I was all too aware that I had a long road ahead of me, trying to learn as much as I could. Before I left last year, I found that not only was I able to pump out blades faster, but the over all quality had greatly improved. So I've become a lot more comfortable about charging for my work. Now I can guarantee that the work is sound and that I can most likely put together something that's also pleasing to the eye.

Now the hard part is actually figuring out how much my work can sell for. I've already started implementing the advice you guys have posted and so far, so good!

 

-Jon

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i forge knives because i love it.i make them for myself and family.if someone likes one and wants to pay me a fair price, i might sell.i give this example:my barber has no problem spending $450.00 on a good pair of scissors/shears,but wants to pay $100.00 for a good handforged knife(for her deer hunting husband).in this case that's ok.but,considering i pay $20 a haircut that only takes her 20 mins,i might be on the short end of the stick.
i don't like taking on custom jobs,but if i do,they pay half up front,and i base the total cost on: size and length of blade plus labor and material.but as i discuss the time frame i say,"u'r on a year waiting list and it's a year behind,i'm joking but it will take awhile,for my priorites are God,wife,job,then comes knife making."(really i only want to work on knives for me, :D) i started making knives because i was intrigued by blacksmithing and wanted to make and own custom:mountian man/indian/viking/aboriginal/afrcian warrior/japanese, types.mine are ment to be used and abused.some i leave the hammer marks on.times are tough,money is tight.but no amount of $ can buy a knife i made for me that i don't want to sell.other knives i sell at a decent price for a working/hunter survivalist who doesn't want a made in China junk knife.

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i read quite a similar thread to this one on the dutch blacksmiths forums some time ago.

most of the useful things have already been said here.

but i wanted to add that hobby smiths who don't have to live from the craft should NEVER underprice their work, because it could ruin the market for the professional ones.

also if you are a beginner an can't stand behind the quality of your work yet you should never sell knives for top dollar, because people might justget the impression that forged knives are inferior to ground ones, making those people never buy a hand made item again.

 

a little example:

one of my smithing tutors goes to a lot of medieval/viking re-enactment faires, where there are most of the time other smiths selling stuff.

one of these was an hobbyist who was re-enacting a viking smith and sold rahter bad viking knives for cheap, because else he had nothing to do all day. resulting in that few people bought stuff at my tutors booth, because they could't see the difference between his work and that of the other one, because most of the fair goers have no knowledge of smithing.

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Whether it's a hobby or not.. you need to price things so that you are making a profit. With more and more makers coming on to the scene.. there is a huge potential to affect ALL makers whether hobbyists or full timers if you price your work too low. I still fight this.. especially with swords. But as I gain confidence and respect.. I'm getting my prices up where they should be.

 

As a full time maker I have to meet an income goal every month. My wife and I know what our bills are and we know how much she makes. We know how much we need for food, mortgage, other bills and we know how much we want to put into savings. I have to contribute my share to this. Whatever you make.. the pricing HAS to allow you to meet these goals.. there is no choice in the matter. Most of the time I do.... sometimes I don't if things go wrong. My goal is to get to a pricing level that buffers the time lost for major failures and I still have a ways to go.. but I'm getting there. Somebody mentioned above that you have to shrug it off when your pricing is rejected. This is true and if your work is good.. you will gain the confidence that there will always be a buyer eventually at the price you want.

 

One thing that I read on these forums a while back that had big impact on me.. and maybe it was Ric who mentioned it???... To get the prices you want in this field .. you have to establish TRUST. Especially in an internet marketing environment. People have to trust you to pay high dollar for a product. There are multiple ways of doing this... GOOD PHOTOGRAPHY, GOOD WEBSITE, going to shows, interacting with other makers, winning contests, doing WIPs, shooting performance videos of your work, getting your work into the hands of well known collectors, getting published in magazines. On the photography side... it helps financially to get good at it yourself.. but every once in a while send a special piece off to a well known professional. Having the confidence to send your stuff to the pros is a huge trust builder. AND.. the few times I've done it I immediately got published. Getting somebody to pay you hundreds of dollars for a knife who has never met you, and may live on the other side of the world, takes hard work, persistence, skill, creativity and originality.

 

Hopefully Peter Johnsson will contribute to this thread... he has a valuable point of view on this subject.

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I keep a notebook next to my forge and jot down the time from the clock by process accomplished and then do the same thing at the bench. If I am making multiples, I do that as a group. That does two things. It gives me the time required for a costom made piece and it allows me to break out processes that make estimates more accurate. I always subtract mistakes and fumbling and the time for bad days. Sooner or later, I'll make up a chart on times for different proceses based on time and stock size, or finished length size. I also keep track of material waste in the case of knives, both in forging and grinding/ finishing. For instance, if I want a 28"blade that weighs 12 to 14 ounces, I know how much steel, by weight, that I need to start with.

 

As for hourly charges, the hours that you are producing income must pay for the hours that you are working that you can't charge for as well as your income taxes, social security, etc. what work can you not charge for? Well, trips to the post office to mail a piece or time spent on the road going to shows, your bookkeeper wants to be paid. What about the time that you spend ordering and picking up materials? If that's you, then that is time that you aren't making product. I don't charge any one customer for research and design time, so that has to be spread out. And then there is expendable tool replacement, such as grinding belts. Maybe you would like a day off occasionally. Theses are the reasons that you are charged ninety + dollars per hour for a mechanic's time in a garage. If you actually want to make $15.00 dollars per hour that is your own, you should figure on $90.00 per hour. Since wholesale is more efficient, you can get by for half that at $45 per hour.

 

If knifemaking is basically a hobby, then the above constraints are not as important.

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