When am I a “knife maker”?

Mark Barone

Well-Known Member
Has this question been asked before on this forum? I always like to slip into conversation that I make knives and hopefully they ask to see one. And of course many could care less. I usually say. “I like to make knives” It will be a while if ever before I feel comfortable saying knife maker? For example, I cannot get a good sharpened edge yet. A knife maker can? What do others think?
 

Chris Railey

KNIFE MAKER
This issue has been debated here before and there are many differing opinions. I actually have thought about this issue and debated it internally. First, there is no governing body (like in medicine for example) that you have to satisfy in order to call yourself a knife maker. So really the only one you need be concerned with is yourself. When you are comfortable calling yourself a knife maker, roll with it.

Then again, I have an internal differing opinion. Making knives is one of those professions that attract a lot of hobby makers and part timers (such as myself). I can see the full time 20 year guys being justified in having strong opinions about this topic and absent a certain level of knowledge, training and experience they may think it wrong to refer to oneself as a knife maker.

My personal experience has been most (not all) of those true professional knife makers are more than willing to assist the budding makers in any way they can and because they are confident in their skills and products they do not care what someone calls themselves.

All of this being said, it is just a word. Actions (products) speak louder than any words. Just my opinion.
 

opaul

Well-Known Member
I like to make knives. Am I a knife maker, I like to think so, others may not. Like Chris said it's a word description. I like to think that knife making (maker) has different levels such as beginner, intermediate, advanced and master. I'm sure this forum boasts all of those.
 

Randy Lucius

KNIFE MAKER
I hesitated to call myself a knifemaker for a long time. I felt that was a title that shouldn't be thrown around carelessly. When you look at some of the amazing work done by true "knifemakers" it can be intimidating to bestow the title on yourself. As I gained experience and the quality of my knives improved I became more comfortable telling people that "I'm a knifemaker" not just someone who enjoys making knives, although I do. As Chris said there are no governing bodies or requirements that you have to make X amount of knives at a certain quality before you can label yourself as a knifemaker. It's a personal call for each individual.
 
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EdCaffreyMS

"The Montana Bladesmith"
I realize that we all have to start somewhere, and I usually try to put myself in the individual's shoes, who is asking the question before I reply/answer. But, there are also some things is this area that I feel strongly about..... so this answer is a mix of looking at it from a "newbie's"
position.....and my own, as someone who's been doing it, and selling knives for more than 3 decades.

My opinion is very similar to Chris's, but I would put it this way..... When you are confident enough in your entire skill set to... 1. Mark each knife with your NAME...not some obscure logo or initials, and... 2. Take someone's money for your knives, AND along with taking money, offer a full warranty/guarantee, then I feel like a person can call themselves a "Knifemaker".

These days the lines have been blurred beyond recognition. There are people out there who make beautiful KSOs (Knife Shaped Objects)..... but they know NOTHING about steel, heat treating, or anything else that is the actual "heart and soul" of a knife. They are selling these KSOs for big bucks, and buyers are being ripped off left and right.

I try to keep an ear to the ground on issues like this, and based on what I'm hearing, and have been for some time, there are far more people that are suspicious of people who call themselves "Knifemaker", or "Bladesmith" then ever before. I actually have more people then ever who will ask about my MS rating, what it means, and what was required to achieve it, then ever before.

Most are those who contact me to ask advice on a KSO they've purchased, and are unhappy with, saying that although it's a "beautiful" piece, it's a terrible cutting tool...and my advice is that they need to be contacting the seller, and insisting that they, in one way or another, make it right, and just as often they don't know where to start because the knife has that "obscure logo or initials" on it.
Not only do those putting out KSOs impact the custom knife market, but they also cast real/true "Custom Knifemakers" in a bad light, and that is the part that I take personal..... some might say it's none of my business, but I choose to make it my business..... to protect and defend the industry that I have been a part of, for longer then most of the KSO makers have been on this earth.

Let me clarify..... First, I know that what I said about marking a knife might raise the hackles of those who use a logo or something other then their names, but, I personally believe, and have seen it more then enough times, to believe that many who use a logo or just initials do so, at least in part, to "hide" behind it, fulling knowing that their product isn't up to snuff, and that they will be far more difficult to locate should a buyer have an issue. Initials are generally something you see from very inexperienced makers, who often don't know any better, but again, if I see someone putting initials on a knife that is "for sale", that usually reflects that their skill set and/or knowledge is NOT where it should be, to be selling their knives. When you apply YOUR NAME to a knife, it if far more personal, and it is taking far more responsibility then could ever be with a logo or initials.

The part about taking someone's money for your work is pretty self evident, but when you add/place a warranty/guarantee on it, and in conjunction with an actual NAME being on the knife...... that means you take full responsibility for that knife, and for any and all issues/failures that may occur.

So when do I think you should call yourself a knifemaker? When you feel confident enough to place your NAME on a knife, and you are fully willing to warranty said knife/knives, for repair, or refund for any problems that related to the build/function of that knife for it's intended purpose(s).
 

tkroenlein

Well-Known Member
This is not about the title at all. It's an internal struggle deciding whether or not your stuff is good enough and you are comfortable with hanging a price tag (or placing a value of sorts if you don't sell) on what you make.
 

EdCaffreyMS

"The Montana Bladesmith"
It's an internal struggle deciding whether or not your stuff is good enough and you are comfortable with hanging a price tag (or placing a value of sorts if you don't sell) on what you make.

I think if you're having that struggle, then it's a good thing! To be honest, there are still times that I have that same struggle when I quote a price for for a truly "custom" piece to a client. Thankfully those times are few, because most of clients are "returning" customers, who know custom knives well enough to state a budget before I can ever quote them a price. As in "I'd like a XXXXXX, and keep it under XXXXX." That's the kind of clients I dearly love. :)
 

chrisstaniar

Well-Known Member
I think most of us struggle with when we can call ourselves a knifemaker. Can't say I'm comfortable with it, yet...

I'd like to think it's when you make a quality product that people recognize and compliment you on. But you are still critical of your own work, etc. You should also have a good understanding of steels, heat treat basics, grind types, edges, etc. Without those things, you really can't say you make a good knife.

I know I am definitely not comfortable when someone calls me a "bladesmith". I correct them on that one every time and explain (as best I can) what that actually is.
 

tkroenlein

Well-Known Member
I think if you're having that struggle, then it's a good thing! To be honest, there are still times that I have that same struggle when I quote a price for for a truly "custom" piece to a client. Thankfully those times are few, because most of clients are "returning" customers, who know custom knives well enough to state a budget before I can ever quote them a price. As in "I'd like a XXXXXX, and keep it under XXXXX." That's the kind of clients I dearly love. :)
I have that struggle with almost every knife.

To your point about logos (my hackles aren't up :) )- you give sound advice, advice I've considered again and again.

My own logo, admittedly obscure, is not otherwise recognized. It is a Dawning Son, named after my wife, Dawn, and my resurrected Savior Jesus Christ. It is a simple representation of the unions of my flesh and Spirit that comprise the better parts of me. It means more to me than my own name ever could. Not easily recognized, but if I sink or swim because of that, I'm ok with it.
 

billyO

Well-Known Member
I think that's for everyone to decide this for themselves as there are no rules. Even if there were rules, how does one interpret them? As an example, I've been a physical therapist for 25 years, but due to medical issues not allowing me to work, my license was inactive for 2 of those years. The law said I should not have called myself a physical therapist because I didn't have an active license. But when the subject of profession came up in conversation during those 2 years, I still called myself a physical therapist. Was I wrong?

But I think Ed has a great point when he says to offer a full warranty/guarantee.

1. Mark each knife with your NAME...
Not trying to be argumentative either, but what if one has a name that is quite long and hard to pronounce?
 
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EdCaffreyMS

"The Montana Bladesmith"
My own logo, admittedly obscure, is not otherwise recognized. It is a Dawning Son, named after my wife, Dawn, and my resurrected Savior Jesus Christ. It is a simple representation of the unions of my flesh and Spirit that comprise the better parts of me. It means more to me than my own name ever could. Not easily recognized, but if I sink or swim because of that, I'm ok with it.

Perfect example of what I refer to..... while that logo is very personal to you, and I applaud you including our Savior in it ;), unless specifically explained, it likely makes no sense/has no meaning, to anyone else. That's not directed specifically at you, but at nearly all who use what I call "an obscure logo"..... not obscure to the individual maker, but more likely something that has very personal/deep meaning to the individual knifemaker, but unless fully explained, has no meaning to anyone else, and worse, leaves someone searching for that maker, confused and frustrated.

Marking a knife is not about something that has a deep personal meaning to us, as the knifemaker, but is something that identifies the maker of the knife, and should be something that allows someone, who knows nothing more about you, other then they like the knife they are looking at, to find you with as little effort as possible. No doubt you've read things I've written on marking knives in the past..... if you are a maker who sells your work, unless you can do a google search, on a knife's mark, and find it on one of the first two pages that come up, you need to reconsider how you mark your knives. On the other hand, if the mark means more to you personally, then selling and/or customer service.....that's a choice for the individual maker. (there's no easy way to put that, other than that way) While I fully understand where you're coming from with the logo you use, I would have had no idea what so ever, until you explained it. In the end, it's a choice that each maker must face..... making a personal statement, or making it easier for people to find you/your knives.

Some folks might have a name that is long or difficult to pronounce, and those individuals face a more difficult decision than say someone like me, who's name is fairly short/easy to say/pronounce. My recommendation to those types is to figure out something unique.....such as using a part of the name that when typed in a google search, has a very high chance of being the ONLY thing that pops up. Let's say my last name was Jaczynski..... that would have to be a very small size letter to get on a stamp/stencil..... I might choose to do with Ed Jacz, or E. Jaczy, or something similar.....the idea being to make it something UNIQUE, that identifies with ONLY YOU. (wrote that before I saw the previous post!... I take that as God in action!) :)
 

BrandantR

Well-Known Member
I think there is a natural progression of what we call ourselves as we move forward into knifemaking. We might start out saying that, "I am learning to make knives." It might go from there to, "I'm a new knifemaker," and move on to, "I'm a novice or intermediate knife maker." We often add other qualifiers like "newbie", "part-time", "hobbyist" or "learning". Perhaps these words help to soften the blow of our title and maybe it's our way of excusing the imperfections of our work.

I think that the simple fact is that if you make knives, and understand the process of what you are doing, you are a knife maker. We are all still learning about this craft with every knife we make. The more knives we make, and the more experience we acquire, the better we get at it and the more comfortable titles become. Although quantity does not always assure quality, those who honestly critique their own work and aspire to do better with each knife earn the right to call themselves knifemakers.

There are those who have been at this trade for a long time and have made a living doing what they love. Many of these become the ones that the budding knifemakers turn to for advise and mentorship. They are well-respected by their peers and held in high regard by the knife community. Those few who reach this type of status I believe may also add to the title of knifemaker the qualifier "master" or "expert."

Personally, I respect all individuals who do their very best to produce the finest quality knives that their skills will allow, regardless of how many knives they have made or how many finished blades they have produced. Unfortunately, there are those who are not looking to improve their skills and are satisfied with repeatedly, and even purposefully, producing poor-quality knives which leaves a stain on the craft and a sour taste in all of our mouths. I suppose that there is not much to be done about these types of folks, but we can all take heart in knowing that they will burn down their own bridges soon enough.

I'll step down from my soap box now and say, in parting, I'm a knifemaker and I love to make knives!
 

J. Doyle

Dealer - Purveyor
If you can make a knife, specifically the blade (as that is the part that defines it as a knife) and it cuts reasonably well and does more or less what that knife is meant to do.....and you can do that on a fairly consistent basis, then you are a knifemaker. I believe its that simple.

But there can be bad knifemakers (possibly defined by other aspects of the craft) and really great knifemakers.....and everything in between.
 

Chris Railey

KNIFE MAKER
If you can make a knife, specifically the blade (as that is the part that defines it as a knife) and it cuts reasonably well and does more or less what that knife is meant to do.....and you can do that on a fairly consistent basis, then you are a knifemaker. I believe its that simple.
Well said John. That is the most simple definition I have seen.
 

Sean Jones

Well-Known Member
I would agree with John's comment. I recently created an Instagram account and listed myself as a "part time knife maker" Whether I'm a good or bad (or somewhere in-between) I will let those who see my work judge. So I don't hesitate to call myself a knife maker.
 

tkroenlein

Well-Known Member
I would agree with John's comment. I recently created an Instagram account and listed myself as a "part time knife maker" Whether I'm a good or bad (or somewhere in-between) I will let those who see my work judge. So I don't hesitate to call myself a knife maker.
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