So you're about to set up your first table at a local arts festival...

Goot

KNIFE MAKER
First and foremost, a big thank you goes out to everyone who has helped me get to where I am -- I've had a ton of questions answered by those in this forum, both directly and indirectly, since I've started this hobby. By far, this website has been the most welcoming place around for new knifemakers. I may not have posted a lot, but that's because I have constantly been lurking behind the scenes eavesdropping on you all like a creeper, and taking notes. You all are a bunch of wonderful, down-to-earth, passionate folks that I've been honored to encounter.

I believe that I'm at the point now where I'm comfortable enough selling my work. I've made a lot of knives that I have given to friends and family as gifts and test pieces, asking for solid criticism and tough use. I've found that, while I am a hunter and an outdoorsman myself, the market demand around my home leans towards culinary knives. Which is great! I really enjoy making specialty chef knives and when an "actual chef" friend told me that a knife of mine was one of the nicest he's ever owned (you believe that?!), I got the hint that I might be able to get away with asking for money to start covering some of my costs. I've had some people come out of the woodwork via Instagram asking me for commissions, but I'm going to start slowly by building up my inventory to about 30 knives by this Autumn in order to attend a local community arts fair with my first table setup. I might hit up Etsy as well. I have a well-paying primary job, and I intend to keep my knifemaking work as a side-hustle. I don't intend to take custom orders or early deposits and I am fully prepared to continue my bookkeeping to record income and expenses. I'm not incorporated or insured. My knives are 1084 that are heat-treated off-premises since I don't have an oven or a Rockwell tester yet.

This is a big step for me. I've thought through a lot of things that I am going to need to prepare myself, but I wanted to reach out to you all first -- from soup to nuts: What did you need, or wish you had, when setting up your first table?

I've got the table setup with the tablecloth, awning, sandbags for awning, knife display cases and display stands (I'm sticking to around 10 knives to display on an eight foot table), cardboard edge guards/plastic tips, small/large knife boxes, small/large bags, paper weights, pre-filled food grade mineral oil sampler bottles, receipt book, calculator, business cards, price menu, knife rolls for transport, "sharp knives be careful" warning sign, email signup for newsletter, inexpensive $10 handmade items, along with $40 smaller oyster knives. I intend to take payments via Venmo or cash. I'll be partnering with a local cutting board maker that will have his table nearby for a 10% discount sale on the higher-priced chef knives.

Hopefully my incomplete list can get the thought process started...there are a LOT of implied tasks with an endeavor like this. I want to put together and share a printable checklist to help out others who are starting out too.

Thank you for your responses, and your advice.
 

Edwardshandmadeknives

Well-Known Member
Well, since nobody else is going first……one thing I wish I had when I went to my first show was MORE KNIVES! I sold out in the first day. I hope you do too.
 

MTBob

Well-Known Member
I just checked out your website, a first rate production! As a big supporter of our troops, thank you for your service.
Your knives are beautiful, a reflection of your care and diligence in workmanship. My only advice is to be careful to not under price your knives. Depending on the art fair clientele, you may find they are bargain hunters looking for a deal. They may be looking for a lesser price knife than what you offer. However, some art fairs have "high end" buyers and they are looking for unique product and will pay top dollar. My wife sells oil paintings and is constantly challenged by setting a price. Keep this in mind - the price you put on your work shows what you think of it.
As we knife makers know, there are a bunch of technical things that go unseen in a knife. So, when selling your knives across a table focus on Features and Benefits (2 different things), The technical aspects of a knife are the Features - steel type, HT, grinds, edge angle, handle material etc.. Features tie directly to Benefits, which are - how well the knife holds and edge, blade shape, balance, etc.. High end buyers will want to know all about the Features and Benefits and some will want to be educated about the details of how you make your knives. Have handouts that show Features and Benefits - answer the question "Why would I buy this knife?". And, have photos on the table of you working on knives in your shop.
Good luck on your sales, it will be a rewarding experience and be ready to take commission orders.
And, if you have time check out this military support organization that I work with - https://warriorsandquietwaters.org/
 

Goot

KNIFE MAKER
Well, since nobody else is going first……one thing I wish I had when I went to my first show was MORE KNIVES! I sold out in the first day. I hope you do too.
That would be a nice problem, wouldn't it? I don't think I'll sell out. The price point for my chef knives will be a bit higher than the typical average prices at this fair, I think. And there is spotty internet there, it's at a beach, so Venmo might be a hassle. That's why I'm planning on having some $10 stuff (laser etched wine bottle stoppers) and small $40 oyster knives -- hopefully they'll look at my business card and online store later on.

Where was your first show and how many knives did you have? Selling out is pretty impressive!
 

Goot

KNIFE MAKER
I just checked out your website, a first rate production! As a big supporter of our troops, thank you for your service.
Your knives are beautiful, a reflection of your care and diligence in workmanship. My only advice is to be careful to not under price your knives. Depending on the art fair clientele, you may find they are bargain hunters looking for a deal. They may be looking for a lesser price knife than what you offer. However, some art fairs have "high end" buyers and they are looking for unique product and will pay top dollar. My wife sells oil paintings and is constantly challenged by setting a price. Keep this in mind - the price you put on your work shows what you think of it.
As we knife makers know, there are a bunch of technical things that go unseen in a knife. So, when selling your knives across a table focus on Features and Benefits (2 different things), The technical aspects of a knife are the Features - steel type, HT, grinds, edge angle, handle material etc.. Features tie directly to Benefits, which are - how well the knife holds and edge, blade shape, balance, etc.. High end buyers will want to know all about the Features and Benefits and some will want to be educated about the details of how you make your knives. Have handouts that show Features and Benefits - answer the question "Why would I buy this knife?". And, have photos on the table of you working on knives in your shop.
Good luck on your sales, it will be a rewarding experience and be ready to take commission orders.
And, if you have time check out this military support organization that I work with - https://warriorsandquietwaters.org/
Thank you! I still have a long way to go and I'm not nearly up to par with you guys. Squarespace made it really easy to start a decent looking website, and after some conversation with their ecommerce partner Stripe, they say selling cutlery is considered kosher. I'm still trying to figure out the whole taxes thing if I sell online, which I probably need to talk to my accountant about.

Thanks for the tip about Features and Benefits. That's an interesting idea that I'll explore. Part of my value is that I'm portraying a sole craftsman, and customers might resonate with seeing pics of me stumbling around the shop!

My price point is probably going to be on the higher end in my mind. We'll see how it goes. There's a buddy of mine who makes fancy cutting boards for $80 a pop and he sells....but if my main products are three times that...I don't know. I'm going to have some inexpensive small oyster knives out there too, so that may keep interest.

That organization is a wonderful thing. Prior to my new job, I worked as a director in a mental health clinic for veterans in NYC and I had a lot of connections with orgs like that on the East Coast. I really liked the horseback riding ones that had vets bond with the animals. It was really, really tough when I got off active duty in 2008, during the recession, and I could have used a group like that at the time. I was lost for a bit -- and I considered myself one of the more "resilient" ones of my unit. Some soldiers of mine went through hell and we tried to keep in touch after we scattered, but it was difficult. I think a lot of veterans who deal with listlessness and PTS after they get out tend to act like injured animals. They go underground and isolate themselves, and it's hard for them to get the energy to seek help outside of their immediate surroundings. At least I did. My main issue wasn't PTS, though, and a lot of orgs tended to only focus on that. I planned to go career military, and when that didn't end up being in the cards...well, I didn't have much of a purpose anymore. I felt as though these orgs weren't prepared to help me with career guidance at all, so I didn't give them a chance. Dumb mistake. Good work supporting an organization like that, and thank you again!
 

bladegrinder

Well-Known Member
It sounds like you have everything lined up pretty good. I don't know anything about venmo but I use Square and never had any problem accepting credit cards. if this is your first time displaying in public I'll give you one bit of advice you wouldn't think of...
keep your blades wiped down. with people talking to you over your table you'll be getting spittle on your knives. it sounds funny but if you set up at 8:00 and look closely at your knives in a few hours you'll see spots, spittle. and if their all carbon steel it can actually stain the blade.
pick them up every once in a while and wipe them down with a micro fiber towel.
 
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Edwardshandmadeknives

Well-Known Member
That would be a nice problem, wouldn't it? I don't think I'll sell out. The price point for my chef knives will be a bit higher than the typical average prices at this fair, I think. And there is spotty internet there, it's at a beach, so Venmo might be a hassle. That's why I'm planning on having some $10 stuff (laser etched wine bottle stoppers) and small $40 oyster knives -- hopefully they'll look at my business card and online store later on.

Where was your first show and how many knives did you have? Selling out is pretty impressive!
My first knife show was in Wolf Lake MN, I think in ‘93. I don’t remember how many knives I had. Maybe about 15. It was quite a while ago, can’t recall finer details from that far back. I don’t know how you’ll do at a general craft show though, I’ve heard that craft shows are not great for selling knives, and gun and knife shows are just a little better. Real knife shows are where you want to be, but I guess anything helps to get visibility. Put your knives on the table with the handles facing the customer to make them easy to pick up. If someone picks one up, chances are they are interested enough to buy one. Put prices on stuff. They might be in someone’s price range, but if they don’t know that, they will walk right by. Don’t read books or mess with your phone no matter how bored you might be. You got some nice looking knives, I wish you the best. Oh, and throw a couple bottles of water, a roll of paper towels, a jug of alcohol, (not the tequila kind) and a box of Band Aids in a backpack and bring it with. Good luck!
 

Jesse Latham

Well-Known Member
Stand when conversing with someone at your table. It shows you have interest in them. Some sellers bring chairs that are bar height.
 
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