Steve Shackleford Blog

What To Ask/Not Ask a Knifemaker

Don't ask a maker how long it took him to make a knife.

Knowing what not to ask a knifemaker is almost as important as knowing what to ask him. (Point Seven photo)

When you buy a knife from a knifemaker, it’s your money and you have the right to ask him or her any question—within reason—about the knife. However, there are certain questions we recommend you ask and others we recommend you don’t ask. For instance:

•Don’t ask how long it took to make the knife. Why? For one, depending on the maker’s expertise and equipment, some knifemaking operations may take some makers longer than others. Some makers may have equipment that performs a knifemaking operation faster, or some makers may simply be faster than others. Besides, how long it takes to make something doesn’t always translate into it being better or worse. It’s the quality of the end product that matters, not how long it took to make it. Besides, the question is usually one asked by people new to knives—and you don’t want to look like a knife newbie, right? Professional makers who have been around many years have heard the question umpteen times, and while some makers are patient and will answer it, it’s a good way to get off on the wrong foot with others. And it’s almost always good to get off on the right foot with anyone, including knifemakers.

•If a price for a knife seems high, don’t ask incredulously, “That knife cost HOW much?” Most knifemakers take their work seriously. They know how much talent and work goes into a knife or how much the knife brings on the market—and some knives bring four figures and higher. If the price seems too high, simply acknowledge it or nod your head, thank the maker for his time and move on.

•Things to ask the maker include how long he’s been making knives; how he tests his knives for cutting ability; why he outfits a knife with a certain feature or how he achieved it/made it that way, such as a flat grind vs. a hollow grind, blade temper line, etc.; whether he’s a full or part time maker; does he accept custom orders and how long his waiting list is; and what knifemaking training he’s had or knifemaking schools he’s attended. There are others but this is a start.

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