Future of Knifecraft

Alden Cole

Well-Known Member
What are thoughts on the future of knifemaking, handmade, mid-tech, and production? Knives themselves are necessary tools, but whether or not people will deem quality/beauty worth paying for and whether the market will be glutted or open is the question. Recent threads on what is at least perceived as more supply than demand in the current market have caught my attention. I know no one has a crystal ball to see into the future, just interested to hear your educated guesses as to what will happen to the knife market in the future.
 

jmforge

Well-Known Member
The market has been glutted for at least 15 years IMO. Maybe longer. The problem over the last 10 plus years is that the number of buyers has grown even more slowly than the number of new makers.
 

Edwardshandmadeknives

Well-Known Member
From my perspective, I see a lot of new makers, cranking out lots of knives that really could be better. In the meantime, the factories have embraced higher end steels, and increased the quality (and price) to where those lines have become blurred. You can easily spend $300 on a Benchmade, or on a handmade. Many times the factory one will have higher end steel, and often (I hate to say this), quality. I think that there is plenty of demand for a good quality one off knife, but if the price is going to be higher than a similar knife from a factory, we as makers need to be providing an obviously better product. The world of customs filled a niche that the factories didn’t back when the factories were making junk from cheap steel. Now I see an awful lot of makers making knives that are made by hand, but cannot compete with factory stuff price wise or quality wise. There is plenty of demand. We are just not the ones filling it. Look at a Buck from 30 years ago from some 420 steel. Now I see Buck is using S30V, and I see makers offering stuff in 440B. The markets didn’t die on any of us. Most of us stayed complacent, and let someone else run away with our customers. My opinion anyway, don’t take it as anything but that :)
 

LizParkerKnives

New Member
Hi. New member here.
Yes I think we are having to compete with some very good factory knives.
One of the problems is that much of this is sold as 'handmade', when, judging by the quantities and appearance, it likely isn't. I've seen 'hand forged' blade blanks that were clearly stamped out in a press. Having said this there is still a solid market for things deemed 'authentic', and many buyers will want to know they are getting knives from a trusted source. In Europe and UK there is a good market for mid-price 'bushcraft' knives right now.
 

jmforge

Well-Known Member
Hi. New member here.
Yes I think we are having to compete with some very good factory knives.
One of the problems is that much of this is sold as 'handmade', when, judging by the quantities and appearance, it likely isn't. I've seen 'hand forged' blade blanks that were clearly stamped out in a press. Having said this there is still a solid market for things deemed 'authentic', and many buyers will want to know they are getting knives from a trusted source. In Europe and UK there is a good market for mid-price 'bushcraft' knives right now.
The whole "hand forged" thing can be a problem. You see makers calling themselves such and such forge who are making blades that have been "textured" on the flats with a ball peen hammer, dies or, in some cases, merely by leaving the mill scale untouched. They are NOT forged blades and sometimes, the makers never actually say that they are, BUT there is an implication.
You also have people doing the Scandinavian thing of handling bought blades and calling them "custom" "handmade" or, on occasion, "
mid tech." Once again this can be a tad misleading as we in the US do not typically spike out the job of "knifemaker" and the "bladesmith" like they do in say Sweden or Finland. As for blanks, they don't have to be "stamped." The can be waterjet, laser or plasma cut too. But this is not just a problem for the "handmade and custom" knife biz. I love how you still see people o Youtiube telling you how much better these "forged" kitchen knives are than the cheap "stamped" ones. In fact, almost all of those "forged" integral bolster kitchen knives began their lives as a giant roll of strip steel and had the bolsters forged welded or soldered to the STAMPED blank. Some of the "intrgral" bolsters in Japanese knives, even some fairly good ones, are soldered and may actually be hollow. I have one like that. Good knife but not "forged" in the manner some might think. Last time that I checked, there one like maybe one of the German makers still drop forging SOME of their knives. IIRC, a number of the REAL Sabatier knives are still drop forged.
 
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TimGinMN

Well-Known Member
You also have people doing the Scandinavian thing of handling bought blades and calling them "custom" "handmade"
Not sure what you mean by "the Scandinavian thing"... Those of us (OK me anyway) who buy blade blanks and put handles on them are at a loss for what to call ourselves without implying that we are doing it all from scratch. Knife-builders? Knife-handlers? (too awkward) I'm proud of what I do and always represent it as what it is. I just do this for fun, have no aspirations to delve into forging, metallurgy, etc. I'm a woodworker at the core. There must be a lot of us or the sponsor of this forum wouldn't maintain such a big inventory of parts...
 
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tkroenlein

Well-Known Member
I don't really worry about anything but making what I like. I spend most of my fretting time fretting about how good my knife will perform and hold up to its intended task.

There is every maker out there from adding a lanyard bead to a factory knife to full custom whatever you can imagine and all priced accordingly.

In my not at all humble opinion, the best comes from those who are passionate about what they're doing and focus on emulating the essence of their chosen "knife discipline" and people will practically beat you up to take their money.
 

Edwardshandmadeknives

Well-Known Member
Not sure what you mean by "the Scandinavian thing"... Those of us (OK me anyway) who buy blade blanks and put handles on them are at a loss for what to call ourselves without implying that we are doing it all from scratch. Knife-builders? Knife-handlers? (too awkward) I'm proud of what I do and always represent it as what it is. I just do this for fun, have no aspirations to delve into forging, metallurgy, etc. I'm a woodworker at the core. There must be a lot of us or the sponsor of this forum wouldn't maintain such a big inventory of parts...
I think it stems from the Scandinavian tendency to have separate “blade makers”, and “knife makers”. Some of the people over there do both, but it’s pretty common to handle a different persons blade. If someone wants to nitpick, then I suppose we should call out the ones who make blades but farm out heat treat, or ones who don’t make sheaths too. Where does one draw that line? Are the only real ones the ones that mine their own ore, cut their own wood, and tan their own leather? There’s no issue with it, as long as you say what parts you did and didn’t do. Even with Damascus. Lots of people not making their own.
 

aelgin

Well-Known Member
Not sure what you mean by "the Scandinavian thing"... Those of us (OK me anyway) who buy blade blanks and put handles on them are at a loss for what to call ourselves without implying that we are doing it all from scratch. Knife-builders? Knife-handlers? (too awkward) I'm proud of what I do and always represent it as what it is. I just do this for fun, have no aspirations to delve into forging, metallurgy, etc. I'm a woodworker at the core. There must be a lot of us or the sponsor of this forum wouldn't maintain such a big inventory of parts
I got started with knife making by putting handles on knives and making sheaths for them. I told people I was a Knife Assembler at the time. Didn't know how else to explain it simply. I was honest and people still seemed to understand and respect that as well.
 

TimGinMN

Well-Known Member
I got started with knife making by putting handles on knives and making sheaths for them. I told people I was a Knife Assembler at the time. Didn't know how else to explain it simply. I was honest and people still seemed to understand and respect that as well.
I guess that works... it is true and honest. But still seems like you're getting shortchanged or not giving yourself enough credit if you are creatively combining and shaping handle materials and making creatively decorated sheaths from scratch. Knife Assembler sounds kinda like you work at the Buck factory.
 

aelgin

Well-Known Member
I guess that works... it is true and honest. But still seems like you're getting shortchanged or not giving yourself enough credit if you are creatively combining and shaping handle materials and making creatively decorated sheaths from scratch. Knife Assembler sounds kinda like you work at the Buck factory.
That's a fair assessment. Definitely not the same as a factory assembly situation.
 

jmforge

Well-Known Member
This discussion typically either start with or devolves into a discussion about "custom", "hand made" or "sole authorship"
 

jmforge

Well-Known Member
I think it stems from the Scandinavian tendency to have separate “blade makers”, and “knife makers”. Some of the people over there do both, but it’s pretty common to handle a different persons blade. If someone wants to nitpick, then I suppose we should call out the ones who make blades but farm out heat treat, or ones who don’t make sheaths too. Where does one draw that line? Are the only real ones the ones that mine their own ore, cut their own wood, and tan their own leather? There’s no issue with it, as long as you say what parts you did and didn’t do. Even with Damascus. Lots of people not making their own.
I knew a guy from Sweden who did both. He forged very nice traditional blades, finished some knives himself and sold others. The ones he completed tended to be fancier including some fairly elaborate damascus. It paid the bills. ;) Over here in the US, there are some among us who still might consider buying damascus from someone else to kinda sorta be "cheating" even if you just buying "raw" bar stock and do all of the other steps yourself.
 

Alden Cole

Well-Known Member
Thanks for all the responses. Personally, I don't get why people like the high price production knives, especially when you can get an equal or greater quality handmade for a similar price. Then again, people aren't always interested in spending their money wisely.
 
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