No idea whether I am good, average or below average.

Discussion in 'Shop Talk - BladeSmith Questions and Answers' started by NBblades, Apr 25, 2020.

  1. NBblades


    Apr 25, 2020
    This was supposed to be some kind of a replica of the Gough mkIII knife, which doesn't have a curved spine, but this stupid quarantine stopped me from buying proper steel, and the leaf spring I had limited me to a hidden tang. Then I did some stupid mistakes and that reduced the width, and I ended up with that. The walnut piece I had made me do a straight handle. As I said, the knife is made from scraps. I don't pull the shapes out of my ass usually. This one was the exception. I normally get a shape that was created by people who know their stuff much better than me.
    I will make another knife this week, and I will show it to you. I think that I can dig up a decent piece of steel, not a recycled one like this. I think I have some 1095 left. I will do a better job I promise. Full tang this time. Tell me what thickness would be good for this kind of knife. I am thinking of a copper bolster.
    Thanks for your time.
  2. Willie71

    Willie71 Warren J. Krywko. Part Time Knifemaker Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Feb 23, 2013
    Zirconia works fine on annealed steel, and even hardened steel, but wears out faster than ceramic belts.
  3. Drew Riley

    Drew Riley Riley Knife and Tool Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Oct 17, 2007
    Do you "need" ceramic belts? Need is a strong word, but I can tell you that the "cheaper" zirc or AO belts are a bit of a false economy. Yes, a belt may be half the price of a ceramic, but they don't last nearly as long, or cut as well for as long. Can you still use them? Sure, but I wouldn't say you're saving money.
    Some of the best advice I've ever gotten regarding belts is this: Use them like they're free. I've ruined a lot of grinds trying to stretch a dull belt one knife further than I should.
    One other note: Ceramic belts like speed. The faster you run them, the better the grit shears off to reveal fresh grit. Otherwise they glaze over and stop cutting. That's not to say that you shouldn't still incorporate non-ceramic belts into your rotation. You should. Just don't think you're saving money vs ceramics, because you're still gonna be about the same price per "pile of belts" regardless of what they're made out of. One pile of belts will just be larger than the other for the same amount of knives.

    Personally, I like VSM ceramics from They have really good prices, and they're much cheaper than Norton Blaze or the other more expensive ceramics.

    For sheet abrasives (hand sanding, or making your own 9" discs), I like Rhynowet, or Matador by Starcke (silicon carbide) 9x11 sheets.
    Mr.Wizard and NBblades like this.
  4. 3fifty7

    3fifty7 Gold Member Gold Member

    Dec 24, 2016
    I think about this from time to time as well. I’ve forged about 25 knives over a 4-5 year period. I do not consider myself a knife maker, perhaps an amateur level hobbiest at best. I am proud of what I’ve made, I have seen improvements along the way, the knives I’ve gifted have been appreciated. I don’t have visions of grandeur trying to become the next Instagram maker sensation, just trying to enjoy it for what it is and continue learning along the way.
    Sharp & Fiery, NBblades and Scaniaman like this.
  5. Hengelo_77

    Hengelo_77 Basic Member Basic Member

    Mar 2, 2006
    Go to a knife show and compare your work to what you see offered.
    It gave me a big confidence boost
    (Plus other positive vibes)
    NBblades likes this.
  6. Mr.Wizard


    Feb 28, 2015
    lol :thumbsup:
    NBblades likes this.
  7. john april

    john april KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Feb 27, 2006
    i used to wonder the same thing. i would go to knife shows and look at expensive knives, and compare them to mine. i could see where mine fell short. inconsistent blade finishes, crappy guard joints, non matching plunges, non matching bevels on each side, too thick behind the secondary edge, inconsistent finish on the handle material, poorly shaped guard lugs. and i worked on each one for years until i was satisfied with the results.
    Hengelo_77, DevinT, Storm W and 2 others like this.
  8. jeepseahawk

    jeepseahawk Basic Member Basic Member

    Feb 12, 2020
    I am in same boat, just started out and this virus has stopped some classes about to join with local knife club. Yours looks nice but for me, would be anal on the sanding part, spent hrs per knife just sanding after heat treat. My biggest issue is at the grinder right now, cannot get bevels perfectly aligned for both sides, plunge lines are looking good though. After hand sanding, my bevels look good, not sale worthy though. Thanks for the post, many responded, I learned much more by you taking chance that I will not do yet, with my beginner knives. One thing I did was build all my tools from researching knife sites, built a grinder, mini forge and quench tank, these were more fun and easier than first knife..
    I think your handle is average or above, your blade is below average, it needs many hrs of sanding by hand. I am a novice as well. Overall, it is better than mine but compared to these pros on here, I say average but it is a nice knife compared to my beginners.
    Last edited: Apr 26, 2020
    NBblades likes this.
  9. scott kozub

    scott kozub Basic Member Basic Member

    Jan 1, 2018
    Back to you original question. If you have used and abused your knives and they held up then you can feel comfortable selling them. If you question the durability, heat treat, or handle material in any way then you should not sell and keep practicing. Do some torture testing and break some blades so you know what the grain looks like.

    Aesthetics come secondary. If you sell a knife with a bad heat treat or a handle that falls apart you'll get a bad rep.

    As for aesthetics, in my opinion it comes secondary to function. However, aesthetics sell knives so much of your pricing will be based on asthetics. Remember that some people like a rustic hand made look and some like a highly refined polished look. Most people I show knives to love my hybrid handles because their flashy and unique and you can't find that in stores.

    The main reason I bought a hardness tester is so that I could ensure I got the heat treat correct and not sell a blade that was too hard or too soft. I also offer an unconditional warranty. I feel more comfortable telling a customer that I will fix replace or refund for any reason.

    I personally would not be comfortable selling a knife made from leaf spring because I wouldnt have 100% confidence in the steel.

    What was said above is correct. Everyone looks back on their first sale or first give away and wishes they could take it back. Everyone starts somewhere.

    I'm a hobbyist that's only been at it for a couple years. I drool over the work on this site and am in awe of what the experienced guys can do.

    When you do start selling I found it beneficial to have a website. It's an easy place where people can see my work and warranty. I also made a spreadsheet that helps me to price my knives. People can download it and choose the options they want and see what it'll cost.
    NBblades likes this.
  10. NBblades


    Apr 25, 2020
    I have made some mirror finished knives, I know how much sanding it needs... That isn't a big problem for me, the problem is that my plunge lines are not perfect, the handle is not perfect at the bolster, there is a gap between the wood and the bolster where epoxy is visible. But this is only my second hidden tang ever. I actually think that the blade is much nicer than the handle, because everything on it can and will be corrected, and the bolster and handle are never going to be good. The nice wood pattern hides the mistakes..
  11. NBblades


    Apr 25, 2020
    Those are the same problems I have, but I hope I will be able to eliminate some of them on my next knife. I am still trying to learn to use my belt grinder, I've only had it for two weeks. I built it from scratch, but I have experience in those types of builds.
  12. NBblades


    Apr 25, 2020
    I would never even think of selling a knife made from scrap... I like experimenting a lot, the most important thing to me is the quality control. I have blades made from all kinds of steel, and every blade that I've made has gone on fishing trips and camping. They are tested and I am confident in that aspect. The craftsmanship is what is lagging behind. I am currently building a bigger heat treating oven than the one I bought, and this one will have a ceramic tube inside so the knives aren't directly exposed to the heater wire. It helps to keep the temperature consistent.
    I am still very far from selling the knives, but thanks for the tips.
  13. Angus McGunnigle

    Angus McGunnigle

    Jan 1, 2013
    Have goals and aspirations for where you want go as a craftsman. Do not judge yourself too harshly or you can start to defeat yourself in your own head. Each knife will become better, if you stay conscientious about your work. I have pictures of knives that are incredibly made around my small shop for inspiration, not comparison. I am not a skilled knife maker whatsoever, just a guy in his garage practicing a hobby, but learned these “rules“ as a musician.
    Drew Riley and NBblades like this.
  14. Spalted

    Spalted My name is Britt Askew I like making knives Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Dec 9, 2010
    Saw you mentioned getting a bandsaw a couple times and you may already know but I will throw it out anyway... there is a big difference in a bandsaw to cut metal (slow moving blade) and one that cuts wood (fast moving blade)
    Mr.Wizard likes this.
  15. milkbaby


    Aug 1, 2016
    I don't care whether I'm below, above, or average compared to other makers. I only care about always learning and always improving so I can be the best at my own thing. If I take care of myself, then I don't give a rat's ass what other people think.
    Stang Bladeworks and Hengelo_77 like this.
  16. NBblades


    Apr 25, 2020
    I think that it's a two speed bandsaw, my father needs it for his business, so I get to use it since we share the same workshop.
  17. NBblades


    Apr 25, 2020
    I want to be good, and to be good you have to measure against the top standards. Competition is a healthy thing and I want to become the best I can be, and I can't know what is that limit until I get some criticism.
    Flycaster1977 likes this.
  18. Flycaster1977

    Flycaster1977 Gold Member Gold Member

    Nov 27, 2018
    I can certainly understand your perspective. I started by intentionally making a knife as a gift. I bought a piece of high carbon round stock, went to the woods and cut down an dead oak tree. Dug a hole and made my own charcoal from it, then dug a horizontal hole in a bank behind the house, loaded in the charcoal and i had my first “forge”. I used files and sandpaper, a lowes sledgehammer, and a piece of railroad track for an anvil. Needless to say, it was crap, at least, i thought it was crap. The guy i made it for loves it. That was 15 years ago and i’ve offered to re-make it for him multiple times and he wont give it up. I look at it now, and know i can do better, but it was my first and maybe thats why he still carries it. Its hard to say.
    What im getting at, is we all start somewhere and the first ones look like crap. Do not give up. That knife is pretty nice. There is some detail work that needs to be worked on, but overall its pretty nice. Look at it honestly and ask if thats the best you can do. Id be willing to bet you can do better. If each knife gets better, than u are making progress. I am far from a professional, but i enjoy it. In the end, thats all that really matters.
    Furthermore, if u give a few away, or sell them for material cost, then someone will carry and use it. That someone will show it to others and maybe they will want one too.
    Mr.Wizard and NBblades like this.
  19. NBblades


    Apr 25, 2020
    Since everyone here is so polite and encouraging, I decided that I am going to try to fix some of the problems and I will give it away as a gift to one of my friends who keeps asking for a knife. My dumb ass decided that it's okay to finish the handle with raw linseed oil which will take half a century to dry... I didn't have any boiled linseed oil, and I like the look on walnut with it.
  20. milkbaby


    Aug 1, 2016
    If you aren't your own hardest critic, then you'll never be as good as you could be! My standards are what I need to live up to, everyone else is noise.

    If you really are curious, try to handle and see as many other makers' knives as you can. Test your own knives as much as possible to understand what you are doing right, what you are doing wrong, and learn from that every single knife that you make. Give them away to people with the proviso that they have to give you honest feedback: both what is good and what is bad about the knife.

    Everybody here can offer some criticism by looking at some pictures about fit and finish, but performance is just guessing without the knife in hand. Maybe participate in one of the KITHs here. KITH stands for Knife In The Hat, basically everybody makes a knife, everybody throws them in a "hat", and everybody draws a random knife from another maker that tossed their knife in the hat. You can get feedback on your knife and see what other makers are doing.
    NBblades likes this.

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