How to choose a custom knife maker
So you want to get a custom knife made, but you've never done this before. It can be a daunting task trying to find someone to bring your ideas to reality. So where do you start?
Well its a really good idea to start with yourself. Make sure you have a good idea of what you want. Make yourself a list of things you like in custom knives and you will set yourself on the right path. You may also want to make a sketch of your knife that you can give to your chosen maker. Make sure to set yourself a budget at this point too.
This photo shows a deer stalking knife I made, sat next to a drawing made by the customer.
Now you need to find yourself a maker who makes the style of knife you are after. It will be no good contacting a maker of frame lock folding knives when you want a kitchen knife made.
This photo shows a custom kitchen knife made to the customer specification, including a stabilised birch handle.
Instagram is a great place to get inspiration and find makers. Using the search function look for hashtags that relate to the style of knife you are after and scroll through the pictures. You may have to comment on peoples posts to ask who the makers are, but people will point you in the right direction. Also simple Google image searches will provide you with a wealth of inspiration, but with both of these be prepared to go down the rabbit hole. Refer back to that list you made earlier. Have you gone off on a tangent from what you actually want, or has what you want changed? This is also the time to remember your budget. There is no point looking at £5000 custom knives when your budget is £350.
So you have now found a few makers that you like what you have seen. It is time to get in contact with them. Be polite, and ask a few direct questions that will help set the tone of how you would like to work together. You don't need to ask every question you have at this stage, as you need to establish if you are actually going to be able to get on the makers books first. I would suggest something like this.
Hi Matt. I really like your Goliath Friction Folder, and was wondering if your books were open for custom orders at the moment? If so, can you let me know long the wait is, and a rough idea of cost? Many thanks, Bob.
From this the maker knows what model you are after, and that you are looking at getting a slot in his book. From this you could get a number of different replies.
Hi Bob, thanks for contacting me. Yes my books are open at the moment, and you are looking at delivery of a knife in 2 months time if you secure a slot now. The Goliath starts at £150 including insured delivery in the UK, but will depend on handle materials used. Speak soon Matt
Reply2 Hi Bob. Unfortunately my books are closed at the moment. I hope to open up some new slots in about 6 months time. I would be happy to talk about a custom order then if you are still interested. Take care Matt
Yup, what are you after?
So we have three very different replies here. In reply 1 you know exactly where you stand. With reply 1 you may decide that you don't want to wait 2 months and thank the maker but move on to another on your list. Or you may decide that you are more than happy with the wait. This is where you can start asking more details questions. What handle materials do you offer, can you make a sheath for it, can you do different grinds etc.. This is where a relationship is built between the customer and maker.
With reply 2, again you know exactly where you stand. Thank the maker for getting back to you and decide if you want to try again in 6 months time, or move on to contacting another maker.
Reply 3 is a little different. This short reply may put you off, as it hasn't completely answered your question. It has however let you know that they are open to take on orders. If you pursue this it totally up to you.
It is worth remembering that the time a maker spends replying to messages is time they are not making knives. So don't get grumpy if you don't receive a reply 10 minutes after you have sent a message. It may be in the evening, or first thing in the morning that the maker replies. It may be that they set aside time once per week to respond to messages. If you haven't heard it a week it is fair to give a polite chase, and ask if your earlier message got missed.
So good luck with commissioning your first knife. Why not check out my work whilst you are here?
You can always contact me to see about having a commission made.