Why Make Knives?

Every bladesmith or knifemaker is asked similar questions, not necessary in this order,
and not limited to these, these are the most common questions asked of me to date,
and normally by people interested in knives.

  1. How long does it take to make a knife?
  2. What steel do you use?
  3. Is it difficult to make a knife?
  4. How do you learn how to do this?
  5. How long have you been making knives?
  6. How many knives have you made?
  7. How big is your workshop?
  8. Is it very expensive to set up?
  9. How are your sheaths made? - This leads to the next question.
  10. Will you make a sheath for my knife?
  11. What kind of equipment i.e. grinder, buffing machine, etc, do you have?

The answers are:

  1. About 10-60 Man Hours, depending on the complexity of the knife,
    materials used and method used, Stock Removal takes about 10 to 14 Man Hours to
    complete a knife. Whereas a knife that is forged can take from 16 to 48 Man Hours.
    This is if the knife is to be made from Damascus. Damascus is very labour intensive,
    and to forge a billet of Damascus takes about 6 Man Hours, at this point,
    you only have the steel to start with, and the whole process of forging still needs to be completed.
  2. (b) The steel used on the specific knife is one of the following,
    5160 or 12c27 or Damascus (O1 and 1070)
  3. Depends on the knife, stock removal is the easer method; I prefer to forge my knives.
    It does take a certain amount of skill with your hands, you do not have to be strong to make a knife,
    but it is not difficult to learn how to make a knife, and once you have this knowledge,
    it gets easier with each knife, mainly because your confidence grows as you become more proficient.
  4. Started by making knives as a hobby and was mostly self-taught,
    then went on a Bladesmith training course with Kevin & Heather Harvey.
    There are courses run by members of the Knifemakers Guild and the best way to learn is to attend one of these.
  5. Forged knives from 2002, the first knife was made in 1966 in metalwork shop at school,
    after which it was mostly the odd knife or short sword,
    but did not do very many until 2002 when the bug really bit.
  6. In the region of 168. I now average 12 knives a year, which equates to one a month.
  7. Not very big, it is situated in my double garage (Takes all of the double garage)
  8. Depending on individual tastes, the set up costs are entirely at your own discretion,
    and can run from as little as 2000.00 to 20000.00 or more,
    if you use all power tools and demand only the best and most expensive,
    it can be very expensive to set up.
  9. The sheaths are made from leather, using mostly common types of hide from Cow,
    Buffalo, Crocodile, Snake or a specifically requested material.
    The preferred material is a natural material.
  10. My usual answer is “Yes, when you buy one of my knives,
    I make the sheath for your knife”.
  11. The grinders that are currently being used are one from Billy K, and one that is home made,
    buffing machine is a modified bench grinder, band saw is 230mm Ryobi, and a small lathe,
    other equipment consisting of a gas forge and 300 Lb anvil, with assorted hammers, tongs, vices and hand tools.
    The strangest thing is the question that has only been asked,
    twice, in all these years, is the one question that makes
    all the above questions seem to of little or no importance,
    that is “Why do you make knives?”
    The first time this question was asked, by my wife,
    it got me thinking about the reasons that all the time and effort is
    expended to produce an article that will never make me rich and famous.

Some of the reasons why I make a knife:

  1. The joy of taking a simple design from paper to a working knife,
    this never fails to amaze me, the process of taking a piece of steel
    and turning it into a beautiful handcrafted item.
  2. Be it as it may, a knife, sword, axe, tongs, or just something decorative
    there is a feeling of achievement that comes from the use of Forge, Anvil and Hammer,
    and knowing that it was through your own endeavours that a thing of beauty was made.
  3. Being able to put your name on a knife, this is my way of saying, look world “Eric was here”.
  4. The look on a customers face when they fall in love with the knife
    and are almost unable to restrain the urge to own THAT knife.

So these are some reasons to make a knife, think about all the things you use in your daily life,
the use of that “pocket knife”, do you know who made it or is it just a factory made item,
does it have the name of the person who assembled it?

So many times when unpacking a newly acquired item, in the box is a little slip of paper,
and printed on it is “Checked by John”, “QA tested by Peter” etc.
Do you keep this little piece of paper?
Not likely.
The item was assembled, checked, and tested, by these people but none has their name on the actual item.

This is “a fact of life”, we live in a world of mass production,
the process of making consumer goods is big business,
and automation is the key to greater volumes and profits.

In by gone ages men actually made the items that bear their name.
The Watchmaker made a watch, the Goldsmith/Silversmith jewellery and ornaments,
the potter’s pottery, the Gunsmith made a gun and the Blacksmith made a blade and they put their name on it, and the list can go on and on.

Like most Bladesmiths, I have a regular job that pays the regular bills,
but all those little extras that are in my shop have to be paid for by the return on investment
from the jobs done in my shop. (Forging Damascus, making knives,
Repairs to knives and sharpening service – knives/scissors etc)
These things have to make enough to buy more steel, handle material, grinding belts, gas for forging, glue,
band saw blades, hack saw blades, cutting discs, sand paper, etc, etc, etc. this list is something that
will require time and will be done one day, but as with all lists of this kind,
will vary from Bladesmith to Bladesmith.

So I do not do it for the money, maybe I have been one of the lucky ones.
All my costs have been covered in this way, and if I work carefully for the next 14 – 15 months,

I might be able to buy that extra bit of equipment that just makes life a bit easier,
(This could be a new Grinder, A bigger forge, this will be decided once the money is saved).

If this information has been of any assistance to the novice Blademaker, please feel free to pass it on.
All that I will state is that this has been my own inspiration and specifically disclaim any responsibility or
liability for any damages or injuries incurred by the use or result of any information contained and listed and published, etc, etc, etc, herein.