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Touring bladesmith?a


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hey all, this is my first post.

I'm just geting into bladesmithing, and I've been sorta daydreaming and slowly forming a plan in my head. I figured I'd post it here, see if you guys know of anyone else who's already done this, and maybe let you poke some holes In my plan so I could see the flaws and refine it.

 

So, I was thinking, what if one was to build a mobile workshop that could be packed into a small trailer, get an rv to pull it with, and tour around to different festivals, reenactments, gun shows, flea markets, farmers markets, etc etc.

in addition, you could do business online.

I'm basing this idea on my experience as a professional touring musician for many years.

You'd basically apply the same principles, just try to get out to as many of the venues I just mentioned as possible, and build up a following.

It seems to me you could spread the word about your work a lot faster than if you just stayed in one spot.

It would be a great time too, me and my girlfriend and dog, road tripping around... stop at a different campsite every day or every few days, set up shop and work all day.

You could follow the nice weather around the country, attend as many events and festivals as possible..

 

So, I suppose I'm just asking for your thoughts on this, how feasible it is, etc. what logistical roadblocks have I overlooked?

 

Thanks all, I'm really enjoying learning from everyone here!

Edited by Alex Dorris
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Sounds like a plan :) ha. In my experience, it's hard to sell work at renn faires and the like, simply because we are into building quality, and the people there are usually just looking for a sub 50$ souvenir. I had a full table of work that I would have been proud to sell online for 150-200 a piece that got a few glances but no purchases. Ended up giving half of it away to friends. Knife and gun shows would be your best bet for getting the worth out of your work

 

That being said, if you have a line of work that you can produce quickly and cheaply, and have a healthy interent presence, there is no reason why you guys couldn't support that lifestyle for a while. You can sell online and ship to anywhere from anywhere.

Edited by Kenon Rain.
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There was a thread on here a while back about the liability and accompanying insurance for doing demonstrations. I suggest you find and read that one if you haven't already. I would also think it is quite difficult to make enough product on the road with equipment that can go on the road. A lot of your time will be spent traveling, and it is hard to pack along a power-hammer to make up for the lost time forging. It is also my understanding that it is hard enough to make a living at this if you are stationary. My assumption would be that it would be best to start in a shop then branch into travelling slowly as you get a feel for how to make it work.

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I think it could possibly work. Keep overhead low, and include quick, easy jobs like sharpening and repairs. Honestly, finding a place to just pull up and work might be the most difficult aspect...this work is loud and noisy, and looks quite dangerous to the uninitiated.

 

Another thing, are you prepared to work efficiently with only minimal equipment? Electricity may not always be available on the road, so you'll probably end up using mostly hand tools. Can you produce enough work per day/week by hand to make it worthwhile?

 

Just a few things to think about. I hope it works for you; good luck!

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man, that was so fast. I posted this on my lunch break, and already have 3 lengthy, insightful responses before I'm even off work.

 

I actually prefer hand tools when feasible. I figure if I can plan ahead a bit, I could do all my power tooling at once, in batches when I do have access to electricity.

 

As to the bit about people mosty wanting cheaper, smaller items when they're shopping at renn. Fairs and festivals, it's funny you should say that, because I've been working on some ideas that would work around that fact-

Focus on small and/or simple knives such as neck knives, railroad spike knives, and an interesting little idea I had: sell little boxes filled with 4-5 different types of historical arrowheads, along with a booklet describing each ones purpose, as well as a little historical background on them.

 

You could also do woodcarving, jewelry making, leatherwork, etc.

If you had a wide offering of interesting handmade items, for relatively low prices, I think you could quite possibly pull in a decent amount.

 

Another benefit of those smaller sorts of items is, they're easier to make quickly, and without extensive equipment.

I could make the higher price range stuff at home, and try to sell those online perhaps...

 

I guess when looking for a spot to work, I'd just be on the lookout for mostly abandoned areas- head out to the woods, places like that.

 

 

Alrighty, sorry for the massive ramble, I just wanted to explain my thought process concerning this idea.

Feel free to pick it apart, I posted it in hopes that you would.

Thanks again for responding so quickly guys!

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Arrow heads are great, a coil spring or rebar even(blegh!) And a bick is all you really need and if you can crank out 10 an hour for 5 a piece you are offsetting your costs and making a profit provided you can sell them all. Can even fashion them into necklaces for a little more.

 

Another thing you can do is buy a small generator with 220 output to run a grinder or press.

 

Again the main hiccups are market, noise, and safety.

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I realize you are excited and enthusiastic about bladesmithing, but I suggest you make a few knives before planning any further. Starting and finishing even one knife is a LOT OF WORK. I'm not trying to take the wind out of your sails, I just think you need to slow down and take it one step at a time. It takes a long time to make a knife by hand, especially if you are doing it without power tools like a press or hammer. At the very least it will take you 2 or 3 weeks to make a knife, if you are proficient and work at it every day. Good luck, and have fun.

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I'm currently working on a travel set, except it won't be made to fit in a trailer. The whole set-up will be compact enough to take with me by public travel, allowing me to do forging, casting and maybe even glass working wherever I go. Mind though that when you do demonstrations, you won't get a lot of work done as you will be interrupted a lot, chatting to people etc. (but that is/can be the fun part). It's better to do the bulk of the work at home, or in a workshop. It's great to pull crowds though, so have a table with stuff for sale next to it, and just do a bit of forging next to it for fun. It's also highly recommended not to do it alone, both for safety reasons and it just works a lot better.

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2-3 weeks? I've made one in 20 minutes once, hilted and all. Nice one too.

 

I realize you are excited and enthusiastic about bladesmithing, but I suggest you make a few knives before planning any further. Starting and finishing even one knife is a LOT OF WORK. I'm not trying to take the wind out of your sails, I just think you need to slow down and take it one step at a time. It takes a long time to make a knife by hand, especially if you are doing it without power tools like a press or hammer. At the very least it will take you 2 or 3 weeks to make a knife, if you are proficient and work at it every day. Good luck, and have fun.

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Sounds like a plan :) ha. In my experience, it's hard to sell work at renn faires and the like, simply because we are into building quality, and the people there are usually just looking for a sub 50$ souvenir. I had a full table of work that I would have been proud to sell online for 150-200 a piece that got a few glances but no purchases. Ended up giving half of it away to friends. Knife and gun shows would be your best bet for getting the worth out of your work

 

That being said, if you have a line of work that you can produce quickly and cheaply, and have a healthy interent presence, there is no reason why you guys couldn't support that lifestyle for a while. You can sell online and ship to anywhere from anywhere.

 

This. What Kenon said about the Renn Faire crowd not wanting expensive stuff. I went to a Renn Faire here in Washington state last year, and there happened to be a blacksmith there, so I stopped and talked a little bit with him. I guess he travels a lot with Faires. He had a few small knives, mostly from RR spikes, and a few other small blacksmith knives. I asked about this and he said that expensive knives don't sell. It's not worth his time. He mostly sold small things, hooks, and such.

Josh Weston tried to sell some stuff at a Renn Faire last year I believe and didn't sell anything.

Most of the people there had garbage wall hanging swords or something that was vaguely sword shaped. I think I saw one guy carrying a sheathed sword that might have been nice.

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The arrowhead thing is being done by an excellent English smith named Hector Cole. Arrowheads being deceptively difficult to do, he charges accordingly, which is well over what the average renn faire crowd would be willing to pay.

 

Example: http://www.evado.co.uk/Hector%20Cole/gifts.htm scroll down to the set of medieval heads for £125.

 

Please note I am not trying to discourage you! Just injecting some reality to help you decide how best to proceed.

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2-3 weeks? I've made one in 20 minutes once, hilted and all. Nice one too.

I think Matt was referring to the first knife (or one of the first few). We all get better and quicker with time, but at the beginning it is especially slow going as you try to figure stuff out. Assuming he is trying to make that one really nice, I can see 2-3 weeks being quite reasonable for a first.

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My Girlfriend and I did it for a little over a hear full time...out biggest mistake was to stop and go conventional actually.

Were working on getting back to it noe.

 

Life is short. Do what you love.

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A lot of good advice here, so I'll only add a little to it. Whatever you do, do it a lot so you are comfortable with the process before jumping into the traveling full time. I've bee ndoing some work on arrowheads lately and it takes a lot of practise and experimentation to get it right. Lots of hammer control and technique for even a simple bodkin. Unless you make a few hundred first, don't expect them to be a quick production. That being said, it sounds like a great thing you are thinking about, and in many respects I wish I were able to do the same. Best of luck, and don't let early complications dissuade you.

 

John

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Jeroen, I'm sure you are a super grand master bladesmith. Your ability to forge, heat treat, temper, polish and fit and stunning handle to a beautifully finished blade in 20 minutes is to be admired and commended. That being said, in this thread we are trying to help a beginner or "newbie" with advice to help him on his path to achieving his goal. Which begins with realistic perspective most of us have encountered. And for most of us mortals, it takes time to finish a blade because we have jobs and responsibilities other than bladesmithing.

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Jeroen, I'm sure you are a super grand master bladesmith. Your ability to forge, heat treat, temper, polish and fit and stunning handle to a beautifully finished blade in 20 minutes is to be admired and commended. That being said, in this thread we are trying to help a beginner or "newbie" with advice to help him on his path to achieving his goal. Which begins with realistic perspective most of us have encountered. And for most of us mortals, it takes time to finish a blade because we have jobs and responsibilities other than bladesmithing.

 

Matt, I still am pretty much a newbie when it comes to forging steel knives. I've only made a few dozen so far. I don't have the time to spend weeks full time on just a single knife. I also have a full time job, house to maintain, social life etc. etc. And for me forging is only a second hobby next to bronze casting. So for me to finish a knife that takes 2 to 3 weeks full time work, it would take me at least 1 or 2 years before it gets finished. Generally if I can't finish it the same weekend, it ends up on the pile of stuff that won't be finished until Saint Juttemis. So in my experience it's best to start with simple knives, that don't take that much time, particularly if you want to make them on the spot in demonstrations and having to bring all the tools and materials with you. The knife I mentioned was another one like this one:

 

ijzeren_vrouwenmes.jpg

 

It's a reproduction of an iron age knife. A very basic design, which is good practice and can be made fast and with minimal tools. So a knife type like that is great for demonstrations, and requires little to bring along to be able to make them. Of course you can also start with making patternwelded blades, cast and carved hilt parts etc. But I wouldn't recommend starting that way.

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Yeah, a knife can probably be made in 20 minutes, I wouldn't count on anyone wanting to buy it though. We do waste a lot of time though where some processes could be more efficient. My manufacturing background has heavily influenced my shop layouts and methods

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The one thing I am sure of is that if you want to get into bladesmithing or knife making, it's a tough business if you are trying to make a living at it. There is so much competition out there and a limited buying market. You really have to have a niche or a unique way to sell your work. And more often than not, you will rarely get in return the amount of work you put into a piece. I do it because I love the process, and the end result of something I created from my imagination. If I can make a few bucks that's cool too, but if I was just doing it to make a buck I would go insane.

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