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To call oneself a knifemaker


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Joshua, I want to make sure I understand you correctly. Your position is that even if you do not have the ability to make the most fundamental part of a knife yourself, you cant make the blade, you are still a knifemaker if you can assemble someone else's parts? Does this mean that if I go out and make a stamp and have others make and even assemble it all and I put the final touch on it by putting my stamp on it am I still a knife maker?

 

In my examples, the capability still exists in the person, even if he chooses to pick a different starting point in his build. In the examples of watches and firearms, there probably is a deviation in comparing to knives due to the greater commonality of production and the fact that these are machines. Just because Audi drops a Lambo motor in their R8 doesn't negate them as being the maker. I think it becomes a different tipping point in more complex machines.

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Joshua, I want to make sure I understand you correctly. Your position is that even if you do not have the ability to make the most fundamental part of a knife yourself, you cant make the blade, you are still a knifemaker if you can assemble someone else's parts? Does this mean that if I go out and make a stamp and have others make and even assemble it all and I put the final touch on it by putting my stamp on it am I still a knife maker?

 

In my examples, the capability still exists in the person, even if he chooses to pick a different starting point in his build. In the examples of watches and firearms, there probably is a deviation in comparing to knives due to the greater commonality of production and the fact that these are machines. Just because Audi drops a Lambo motor in their R8 doesn't negate them as being the maker. I think it becomes a different tipping point in more complex machines.

 

Actually, I think his entire argument sums up to "Who cares." And that is exactly how I feel. Let people call themselves what they will; as long as I am satisfied with what I produce, people can call me whatever they want.

I understand that others feel differently though :)

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“In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer."  -Albert Camus

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So I come into your shop. I tell you that I cannot actually make a blade. I commission you to make me a blade. I give you free reign on the design. You create a labor intensive special twist pattern in your signature style. You make 2 just in case something goes wrong because the schedule is a bit short. Both blades come out perfect and identical. I come in and pay you for your service and leave with it. A week later you see there is a knifemaking competition. The winner takes all for $25,000. You take that twin blade and finish it up and submit it. And I take its twin and put a handle on it and submit it. The knives happen to come out very similar. But I happen to imbed a couple pieces of Lapis and the judges dig it and I win over you. This doesn't assault your sensibilities in any way because after all, we are both knife makers?

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... and the judges dig it and I win over you. This doesn't assault your sensibilities in any way because after all, we are both knife makers?

This is exactly what I was pointing at in my very first post.

 

If one wants to be competitive with rules like that (blade doesnt have to be made by you) you are forced to buy blades from people more skilled than yourself, OR be more skilled than the blade-smith the blade is outsourced from AND the handle-and sheath maker who is specialized in that.

 

So to be competitive, you need to specialize in two fields, while the "knifemaker" only needs to specialize in one. Or.... simply outsource the blade.

 

You could argue that with rules like that, they are promoting taking the forging out of "knifemaking" since that is not even a requirement.....

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I think you have blown everything,did you ask why the Norwegian Knife Association has the stated rules? Doesn't the Swedish word for knife maker translate to "cutler"?The ABS has rules for their shows,every member follows their rules for their shows.

 

Did you ask the question on the British Knife forum in the scandi section,you would probably get a different outlook on the cultural outlook than on a Blade smithing forum.

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I think you have blown everything,did you ask why the Norwegian Knife Association has the stated rules? Doesn't the Swedish word for knife maker translate to "cutler"?The ABS has rules for their shows,every member follows their rules for their shows....

 

You are entirely entitled to hold that opinion good Sir. ^_^

 

My initial thought though, was to ask whether or not this seems as unresonable to others as it does to me. An exchange of thoughts on the matter if you will... Often referred to as a discussion - which we've had - and which I've found to be not completely unproductive. :)

 

As for Swedish - according to google translate at least (I am not a Swede you see..) Cutler directly translates to the equivalent of "knife-smith". So I suppose in Sweden a cutler is supposed to actually forge.

And Norwegian - cutler also translates into the profession of knife-smith. So I suppose it is expected the cutler actually forges here as well... Or at least "on paper". :lol: Unless one can be a non-smithing smith that is.

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Actually, I think his entire argument sums up to "Who cares." And that is exactly how I feel. Let people call themselves what they will; as long as I am satisfied with what I produce, people can call me whatever they want.

I understand that others feel differently though :)

Exactly. I just took a lot longer to say it.

 

 

So I come into your shop. I tell you that I cannot actually make a blade. I commission you to make me a blade. I give you free reign on the design. You create a labor intensive special twist pattern in your signature style. You make 2 just in case something goes wrong because the schedule is a bit short. Both blades come out perfect and identical. I come in and pay you for your service and leave with it. A week later you see there is a knifemaking competition. The winner takes all for $25,000. You take that twin blade and finish it up and submit it. And I take its twin and put a handle on it and submit it. The knives happen to come out very similar. But I happen to imbed a couple pieces of Lapis and the judges dig it and I win over you. This doesn't assault your sensibilities in any way because after all, we are both knife makers?

Who cares? I dislike hypothetical "what if" situational questions because they are anecdotal at best and have little or no relevance to 99.9% of the situations that actually happen or you might find yourself in.

If I did find myself in that situation: A.) it's my own fault for getting involved, and B.) If I enter a competition, I have agreed to abide by the rules and the judges' decision. The rules would be very well laid out and I have agreed to abide by them when I entered the competition. To complain about losing would be disgraceful, regardless of the reason. Knowing me, I would probably laugh about it. "another stupid thing I did" :P

 

Make knives by whatever methods please you or you are capable of. Sell them to whomever you like, and enter into sales/competitive venues that suit your particular point of view or support your particular ideology. You only have control over yourself and your actions.

 

So, you still haven't answered my question. Why does it matter to you? What is the basis for your concern?

“So I'm lightin' out for the territory, ahead of the scared and the weak and the mean spirited, because Aunt Sally is fixin’ to adopt me and civilize me, and I can't stand it. I've been there before.”

The only bad experience is the one from which you learn nothing.  

 

Josh

http://www.dosgatosdesignsllc.com/#!

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So I come into your shop. I tell you that I cannot actually make a blade. I commission you to make me a blade. I give you free reign on the design. You create a labor intensive special twist pattern in your signature style. You make 2 just in case something goes wrong because the schedule is a bit short. Both blades come out perfect and identical. I come in and pay you for your service and leave with it. A week later you see there is a knifemaking competition. The winner takes all for $25,000. You take that twin blade and finish it up and submit it. And I take its twin and put a handle on it and submit it. The knives happen to come out very similar. But I happen to imbed a couple pieces of Lapis and the judges dig it and I win over you. This doesn't assault your sensibilities in any way because after all, we are both knife makers?

 

Josh said it way better than I did, but I figured I would make a followup statement about it.

 

The short of it is this: I don't care if you win.

 

The long of it is this: You commissioned me to make the blade, I agreed to it and must live by that decision. I made a blade for you knowing that you would put a handle on it and claim it as your own. I knew what I was getting into. And as Josh said, I entered into the competition knowing full well the rules and I must abide by them. Getting pissed after the fact because I lost to a knife I contributed to smacks of sour grapes. I would shake your hand and congratulate on a job well done and be proud that something that I had a hand in making was the victor.

And as far as "real" knifemakers go, where do we draw the line? You said that the pinnacle knifemakers are ones who smelt the bloom and then make the blade. Does the ultra pinnacle knifemaker need to also mine the ore? Does the ultra mega pinnacle knifemaker need to cut the tree down and cure the wood? Does the ultra mega mega knifemaker also need to kill the horse to make glue? Where does it end? At one point do we stop adding items to the arbitrary checklist of what makes up what a "real" knifemaker is?

 

Instead, I just don't care about attaching labels and subsequently defending them. I will admire great craftsmanship no matter the source, and make no mistake, making a wonderful and beautiful handle is a skill. A knife isn't much of a knife without a good handle.

Edited by Wes Detrick

“In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer."  -Albert Camus

http://www.krakenforge.net/

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We are definitely getting off into the weeds. I was trying to generate a contrast but that just opened up more doors. I think I have made my position clear. But to directly answer the question as to why it matters to me, it matters to me both as a maker of things and a consumer of things. If I am spending a good chunk of money on a custom made knife, I want it from the person that actually made it. Im paying for the craftsman's time he is putting into my knife. Im paying for his talent, experience and reputation. That is my expectation. If I were to find out that he is just the guy putting his label on it or doesn't even have the skill to actually be the maker, in my eyes it entirely guts the value of the knife. I might as well go buy a Gerber off the shelf.

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And as far as "real" knifemakers go, where do we draw the line? You said that the pinnacle knifemakers are ones who smelt the bloom and then make the blade. Does the ultra pinnacle knifemaker need to also mine the ore? Does the ultra mega pinnacle knifemaker need to cut the tree down and cure the wood? Does the ultra mega mega knifemaker also need to kill the horse to make glue? Where does it end?

 

This. Yup. Never ends.

 

People are looking for authenticity when they buy handmade items. Authenticity comes in many forms.

 

In the end, I feel like the US Justice Stewart who ruled on the case that defined art vs. pornography. He said something like: I cannot define what pornography is, but I know it when I see it. This isn't it." Similarly, it's impossible to come up with a precise definition of what is an "authentic" handmade item, and what is not, but you know it when you see it, and so will customers.

 

Dave

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"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly." -- Theodore Roosevelt

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Im not debating the end. I don't think the end leaves any question. Im looking for the beginning. For me, you have to be able to make the blade to be a knife maker. Id venture a guess that to be accepted into any kind of knifemaker guild this is also true.

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I wasn't sure what you meant. I figured it was NOT the Federal Trade Commission. But a quick dance with Google suggests that is what you meant. And one of the very first comments on the topic I ran into was from a Jeweler decrying what has become of making jewelry and how the assemblers have decimated the craft due to the overpopulation of people in the trade that cant actually make anything themselves.... Anecdotal, but it sure seemed relevant to my position.

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What's next? Defining what constitutes a "forged blade" as opposed to a "stock removal blade?" (I know it's already been done by some, that doesn't make it universally true). There are those who would knock a few chamfers along the edge of a piece of precision ground flat stock and say they "forged a blade". I really don't care what anybody else does, I only care about what I do, and I'm not of the mind to belittle anyone for doing what they want and calling it what they want. If I was, I'd be a lot more involved in those knife making guilds.

 

As a "maker of things" do what you do with integrity. As a "consumer of things", do your research, ask the right questions, and buy appropriately. This is all a matter of personal responsibility and you cannot legislate that. Caveat Emptor stills rules in a free market.

 

As knife makers, we all have to choose what guilds, associations, and organizations we will or won't join, support, and defend. Again, do your research, ask the right questions, and join appropriately. If your major concern is one of ethics, well, all I can say is act according to what you believe is ethical and abide by what is legal. Support or join those organizations that support your personal standards. Avoid those that don't.

 

What I really hear in this conversation is a desire to get supportive feedback for, and confirmation of, what has already been decided is true. There are plenty of like-minded people and many who disagree. Way back in the earlier part of this conversation, Dave put it best:

The reality is, in my opinion, that the art and craft of modern bladesmithing has fragmented into dozens of subgroups that specialize in very different things. Each subgroup values certain aspects of both the objects and the making of them. They tend to emphasize them as the "real" qualities of good blades, and look down on those who don't share those values.

 

My goodness! It sounds like politics and religion! Run away! Run away!

 

The FTC has a definition for handmade jewelry and it would work for handmade knives.

The last thing I want is some government bureaucrat that has no idea which end of the hammer you hit the nail with, telling me what standards I need to adhere to when making my knives. :angry: I can see the congressional hearings now.........

That would be all too much like the time back in the late 90's when legislators in various countries were debating whether to mandate that all high-altitude mountaineers had to use supplemental oxygen. What a debacle that was!

“So I'm lightin' out for the territory, ahead of the scared and the weak and the mean spirited, because Aunt Sally is fixin’ to adopt me and civilize me, and I can't stand it. I've been there before.”

The only bad experience is the one from which you learn nothing.  

 

Josh

http://www.dosgatosdesignsllc.com/#!

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdJMFMqnbLYqv965xd64vYg

J.States Bladesmith | Facebook

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The FTC has a definition for handmade jewelry and it would work for handmade knives.

This peaked my interest, and I did a little googling...

To my (perhaps not so big surprise) a similar discussion raged at a time in another artistic forum.

 

One participant in the discussion, a person obviously quite upset - made the following comment:

"Craftsmanship is an art, a rapidly disappeaing art. Ever since the word began being applied to assembling pre-made parts, the respect for Craftsmanship disappeared. Today anyone who can string beads together thinks they are a jeweler."

 

Their discussion is concerning the use of the term "handmade" though. From what I understand - there is a difference between hand crafted and hand made, where as crafted can be assembled, but made must be actually made.

 

Interesting none the less. :)

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Joshua, I suspect we are in agreement on most things. Personally I am not looking for support of my opinion. I am looking for ideas and concepts that may cause me to evolve or abandon it. Having been through similar conversations in the pistolsmithing world it held interest for me. I cant say it has changed any post this conversation. And I accept that my lines in the sand may be different from others. But what I can tell you from experience is that it turns into a giant disappointment for all when someone in a subgroup steps out of their lane, which takes an ethical abandonment to do, and is exposed later. I have seen this enough times to be very wary of it. Hurt customers, devalued product a premium was paid for, lawsuits, closed companies, all bad. Caveat Emptor indeed! On that we agree and thankfully I have personally never been involved in one of these sad events. But I digress, again we are off in the weeds.

 

Regards,

Shane

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  • 1 month later...

Its something I pondered when I first started trying to make knives. After a while I decided I did not care that much. A few ramblings below.....

 

When I was starting out a 'bladesmith'' visited my shop to show me how to forge knives. He mullered a bit of o1 GFS, and trued it up with a grinder when the forging went wrong every now and again.

 

I kept playing around with forging, and my moment when I though 'yes, I can forge knives' was when I made a 'feathered 'w's' blade. The reason for me thinking that was the billet was like a matchbox, stood on end, and ended up blade shaped. I had to understand a bit about it to get it from shims of steel, to one shape, to another shape to blade shape, to heat treated in one piece. Like plasticine, I can move (predictable) metal how I want to. I would never refer to myself as a bladesmith though, I'm an engineer (well actually accounts trained, but nearly an engineer), who can forge a blade.

 

I had another guy visit my forge after I had my 'I can forge a blade' epiphany. My skill level was comparable to the o1, ground flat stock forger who visited me a couple of years before, by comparison, (a chap called 'lemmythesmith' (Graham) who I think has posted on here in the past.). It was quite humbling.

 

Ive since met lots of people (through forge ins mostly) that make blades, who have a depth of understanding so deep I probably could not understand the concept of what they 'get'. I respect these people. I have also met lots of people who are forging blades with passion, and minimum equipment. I respect these people.

 

The fact we all post on 'bladesmithsforum' means the bulk of us will be somewhere on the curve. At some point you will probably stop worrying about badges, and what other people say. I did ! :)

 

edit, I suppose to make sense of the ramble above, what I am trying to say is only you will know when you are, and what you are, and what badge you want to wear.

Edited by John N
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