March 2014 update: standard catalog changes and insight into why I do what I do

The price lists for kitchen and utility knives is what I refer to as “standard Catalog” knives.  I have decided to simplify the  options.  Effectively immediately I am discontinuing the “Zompoc” finish.   I still have a few pieces in this finish with sheaths (IIRC a couple 5inch camp knives and two or three utilities).  I will also no longer be offering Bolsters on kitchen knives on the standard price sheet, and will be standardizing on 3 handle pins.

Ok let’s take a minute to talk about why.  First off I like offering knives at the price point they currently are, however they aren’t really that profitable.  So in order to stave off a price increase I have taken many steps to streamline the process.   This includes  heat treating as large of a batch as possible each time I do a batch.  There is still a physical limit to how many I can deal with at once and maintain the quality (which I won’t compromise on).  So this means I have profiled and hardened blades around and can theoretically process some orders faster, but it also means I need to have put the proper holes in the tang.  Since none of the holes will line up between a bolster knife and a non bolstered knife and I really don’t like the idea of 3-5 extra holes in a blade I needed to standardize on one.  A number of months back in order to get consistency and speed things up I took about a week and built custom drilling jigs for 3 pin no bolster knives as that was most of what I was selling.   These jigs drill both tangs and handle slabs and have helped speed up production.   Since I had these jigs already built it was pretty easy to decide what to standardize on.

Now let me take a minute and talk about the zompoc finish.  I really like the finish, however it has a couple things going against it.  The knives are kind of finicky to make.  The process is really organic and not always predictable.   I’m also not sure the average person at a knife show was quite aware of the subtlety and nuance of what is going on in that finish.  Knife makers on the other hand really like the finish.  I’ve had shows where a knife maker will spend considerable time trying to get me to tell them how I do it.  So in the process of streamlining it gets dropped from the “Standard Catalog”.

I will still do bolsters and Zompoc finish on request, but the lead times will be longer and the prices will be higher.   The zompoc orders may also sit around until I have enough to justify running that Heat treat cycle.

Naturally this brings up the question of “Why have a standard catalog in the first place?”  From what I have seen most folks that make handmade knives don’t publish a price list, and I understand why they don’t.  I’d like to get more handmade knives into the hands of folks who otherwise might not buy them.  In order to do this I need to have an affordable line that is easily accessible to folks who otherwise might not buy a handmade knife.  In the end it comes down to what my motivation is for making knives.  There is in fact two separate motivations.  One motivation is that I enjoy providing elegant functional tools to folks.  I like it when people enjoy using my knives.  So I believe in having an affordable line of using knives with elegant design.

All of the above mentioned streamlining and simplification has one simple purpose.  That is to allow me more time to meet my other reason for making knives, which is “Artistic Expression”.  You see I have all of these designs for beautiful knives floating around my head and the production knives were crowding them out and consuming all the time.   I needed to adjust things so I can meet the needs I have as a creator of tools AND art.  Yes it would be simpler if I could just do one or the other… unfortunately I’m not a simple person, and Dietrich’s first rule of existence states “Know what you are and be it.”  These changes will make room for me to work on the other half of the story, so to speak.

The result of this shift is already starting to show up.  It means I feel I am able to take the time to accomplish the artistic visions I have.  The last blog post has pictures of the OKCA display award bowie I created for the 2014 show in Eugene, if you haven’t looked at it, take a moment.  The handle on that knife is the start.  Over the next year I’m going to be leveling up my skills and starting to bring more of my artistic visions into reality.   Future posts will detail some aspects of the”leveling up” process, so stay tuned.


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