First Knife Order - need a few opinions please

Sean Jones

Well-Known Member
Or rather a cleaver. I've given away a few decent knives, and made a few others for myself and the wife, but this would be my first sale. So a touch nervous. I just met the guy today. I'll be meeting with him again on Monday to discuss the project further and set a price.

I believe he intends to use the cleaver when he goes Elk hunting as he wants his own Elk stag as handles. I would discourage that on a kitchen cleaver, but I would think for a hunting camp and game dismemberment it would be OK?

I have some 50100 from Boss Dog that is wide enough and thick enough (I think) for a cleaver. So that's my plans for the steel. And the handle material appears to have taken care of itself.

One big drawback is my little coffee can forge is not big enough for a cleaver. So it's either send it out for heat treat, or build a new forge really fast. So I let him know how much it would roughly cost to send out today and he was OK with that.

So, to many probably not a big deal, but I think the first sale is always intimidating. I know when I worked as an IT consultant it was.

Just throwing this out there for any opinions, advise, etc.
Thanks
 
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John Wilson

Well-Known Member
It is a bit nerve wracking when you first start selling your knives but shake it off. Trust yourself and your experiences. I would not go out and build or buy a new forge just for one project, especially if you don’t plan to make a bunch of big cleavers.
 

Gene Kimmi

KNIFE MAKER
Congratulations!! As John said, don’t let the nervousness of a first sale get to you. Just do your best work and give the customer the best product you can. Even if it means going over the time you have allotted in the price. You’ll never regret that.
 

Sean Jones

Well-Known Member
It is a bit nerve wracking when you first start selling your knives but shake it off. Trust yourself and your experiences. I would not go out and build or buy a new forge just for one project, especially if you don’t plan to make a bunch of big cleavers.
I would like a larger forge to make Kukri's in. However cleavers seem to be quite popular right now. But I was looking at doing Kukri's more than a cleaver. I'll see how this goes.
 

Sean Jones

Well-Known Member
Congratulations!! As John said, don’t let the nervousness of a first sale get to you. Just do your best work and give the customer the best product you can. Even if it means going over the time you have allotted in the price. You’ll never regret that.
Thanks Gene.
 

Gene Kimmi

KNIFE MAKER
One other thing, I would get the antler in hand before designing the handle, if this will be a full tang design. I've had a few times where I just couldn't find the right piece to fit my handle shape, so I've started designing the handle shape around the shape of the antler piece.
 

Sean Jones

Well-Known Member
One other thing, I would get the antler in hand before designing the handle, if this will be a full tang design. I've had a few times where I just couldn't find the right piece to fit my handle shape, so I've started designing the handle shape around the shape of the antler piece.
That's a good idea. He's supposed to provide the antler, so I'll ask to look at it on Monday.
 

Drew Riley

Well-Known Member
I'm not sure the nervousness ever goes away completely, and If you're like most of us, you'll one day look (or think) back on this first knife you sold and wonder how you ever accepted money for it... :D

Seriously though, congrats on the first sale. Make sure to post some pics of the finished cleaver when you get there.
 

vlegski

Well-Known Member
CONGRATS. Now break it all down. Since you are face to face with the customer.

1. Get him to detail the cleavers use. A cooking cleaver is way different from camping cleaver.
2. Get a design on paper. Either have him put his design on paper or show you a picture of what he envisions.
3. Find out total cost of having someone else do the heat treat. Shipping to and from and cost. Any guarantee from heat treater. Since I've never used on I couldn't advise. You need that to figure in to your price. You can fudge your time, materials and labor but the heat treaters don't.
4. Whats your guarantee. Put it in writing. I've seen guys in camp grab a stick/club to beat their way through a bone or gristle.
Like the others have said. Trust your skills and to quote a guy.... A man's got to know his limitations. But then again you never know your limitations unless you test them . GO FOR IT and enjoy the experience
 

Sean Jones

Well-Known Member
Thanks guys. Vlegski, I appreciate the input on costing and design. I'll churn as many numbers as I can to come up with a figure. I was going to show him some designs, but I'll see what he has in mind as well.
 

John Wilson

Well-Known Member
My advice- as a newer maker you should not let the customer run wild with his own design. It will quickly go from “I want a basic cleaver” to wanting some overly complex and specific thing that will take three times longer to make at five times the cost. Some customers will call you seven times after you both agree on a design and will want to make little tweaks and requests until you pull your hair out.

The hardest lesson I ever learned is to bill my knives as “handmade” instead of “custom”. Custom gives the customer the idea that everything is a collaboration. You will go broke (and go crazy) making one-off designs. There’s no way to make money doing that unless you charge a thousand dollars up front. You’ll simply never make it worth your time.

I suggest you make the knife you are confident that you can make. A design that other people will also want to buy when they see it. He’s already complicated it enough by wanting an elk antler handle. Gene’s advice to get the antler first and build the knife around it- that is gold. That’s million dollar advice.
 

EdCaffreyMS

"The Montana Bladesmith"
Whether it's your first order, or your 1,000th order, YOU are now the expert. That means it is up to you to direct the client as to the differences between what they want, and what they need. That person is coming to you, because in their mind, you are the expert in knives... regardless if you feel that way about yourself or not. The worst thing you can do is to cave into someone's desires by using materials or designs that you know will not work..... and then they come back to bite you. If you let yourself get caught up in the excitement of getting your first order, and just say yes to everything....it WILL be painful later. Been there....done that! :)

I second what's been said about not sinking money into tools or a new forge for a single project. Right now, build the knives that your equipment allows you to build, and trust me....it's FAR better to have to turn down an order because you lack the tools/tooling, versus dumping a bunch of money you don't have.... or might never get.

Next.....this if for anyone just starting to take orders..... YOU HAVE GOT TO SAY NO SOMETIMES. Just about all first time custom knife buyers have the "pie in the sky" ideas/dreams of the knife they want, but all too often have no idea what they are asking for.

And finally..... DO NOT UNDERCUT YOURSELF ON PRICE! As soon as you do that, the individual will tell everyone they know, and all of a sudden you will be flooded with people wanting to pay the price same....but it won't be fore the same knife..... they will XXX and XXX or XXXXXXX above and beyond. ;) Be fair to both the client AND YOURSELF.
 
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Chris Railey

KNIFE MAKER
Good for you Sean. I have nothing else to add because I have made almost every error the others have listed. An Elk handle cleaver is a cool project for sure.
 

Sean Jones

Well-Known Member
That's very gracious of you Jeremy. I think I already have the heat treat taken care of. But if that falls through for some reason I will take you up on your kind offer.

And thanks for all the replies everyone. Mission 'creep' or 'design creep' as I like to call it, came up time and time again when I did computer programming. Still it's easy, sometimes too easy, to give into what the customer wants. In the IT world there was always a 'sign-off' spec sheet. And I plan on doing something similar here. Most likely just a signature on the design with the price listed and maybe a material list. I'm still working that idea out.

And if anything, I'll quote on the high side. And then watch his mouth drop...maybe. I also learned from IT consulting there's that sweet spot when quoting work. Not too much but not too little. Easier said than done though.
 

billyO

Well-Known Member
I also learned from IT consulting there's that sweet spot when quoting work.
I'm sure this is true, but don't lose sight of the fact that in your IT experience, the customer most likely had a few other companies to choose from, so playing 'the game' was important. I'm not sure how much I'd worry about that here, because if you don't make it, what other options does he have?
 

John Wilson

Well-Known Member
I'm sure this is true, but don't lose sight of the fact that in your IT experience, the customer most likely had a few other companies to choose from, so playing 'the game' was important. I'm not sure how much I'd worry about that here, because if you don't make it, what other options does he have?
Agreed. Great point. There's only one Sean Jones and that's what you're selling. We are handmade knifemakers. We aren't distributors selling raw materials at a markup. We sell value of creation. Your costs have nothing to do with the price. Value determines price. Your costs only determine your profit, which has nothing to do with the value of the finished creation.
 
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