"Not all those who wander are lost."

J R R Tolkien

HOME...................................................EMAIL: joel.delorme@btopenworld.com............................................. MY WEBSITE

3 January 2011

Back to reality

Well, the Xmas and new year period is over, and it's back to reality. I gave myself a few days off over the holiday, and have done little work. I needed that.

Now, I have been trying to make a living over the past year, out of making knives and leather work and turning that into a proper small business. I don't think it's going to go anywhere much. Just as well I have a part time job that I like doing. I was selling quite a few knives when I started last year. It didn't last long! Now? I have a couple of fixed blade knives to make and a folder. That's it. The recession is obviously bitting, or, what I make people don't want, or I am not good enough at promoting my work. Probably a combination of all these. Besides, it costs to promote your work. It won't help to have the VAT increase, the fuel price increase we had in the last few days, and of course the VAT increase will make the price of fuel increase yet again. Can't have those big businesses and bank make a loss now, can we? Never mind the little people. Who care about them? Certainly not the government, despite their "Big Society" and "we're all in this together"  meaningless crap.

Maybe I don't make enough stuff. But then I am not a factory in China, churning out millions of cheap tat, which it seems is what people want, not an "expensive" hand made knife.

How is a craftsman supposed to make even a modest  living? and does anybody really care, except other crafsmen & women and their family? "I don't know" and "I don't think so".

Any one with any ideas? I'd love to hear.

Funnily enough, I am not feeling terribly down about it all. It wouldn't help anyway. More pissed off with, and detached from, it...wondering what's going to come next!


  1. I appreciate what you do a lot. You are a great craftsman and an artisan I have learned a lot from.

    I experience that people are reluctant to pay for my work, too, but that does not mean that there would not be a few around. What is more important is, that people

    1. yearn for something to bring sense to their lives
    2. want to get their sould back
    3. want to get it cheap or else want something really special for the price. Some Japanese afficionado can sell a knife with a blade with the same carbon content as a junk file or even car spring for 1.495,00€. It is quite the best money can buy, for sure, but then a knife made from file steel can do pretty much the same things as one from Tamahagane. It is the "ritual" that counts, the soul of a samurai blade in it.

    I would suggest you try either:

    1. going for marketing lengths you have not done before. Supplement your own knives and gear with quality, yet economically priced big-term manufacturer´s gear so that people can have a look and buy the cheap goodies and come back when they really, really want one of yours;-).
    2. Give courses in bladesmithing, canoeing, bushcraft, and talk about it in the press until you cannot hear it any more, and then wax on about it some more;-). Test your blades in a spectacular way and make sure the press gets wind of that, too. Lynn Thompson might be not exactly my personal friend, but his marketing is quite aggressive, even if it might not work as well in Europe as abroad.
    3.If you slept well, let a press info follow;-). Visit expos and fairs and talk about that, too, extensively.
    4. Follow a corporate identity, and a corporate philosophy. Why are your knives and gear superior? Why should I buy one? Answer: They are handmade in Suffolk, they are all natural, they are made from premium quality steel, they are the real thing in a landscape that follows a tradition, you work in the tradition of all the great cutlers of Sheffield, etc, etc.
    5. Think about selling knives that can be made with less effort, e.g. Viking styles, Celtic ring knives, Bush knives, or rationalize the production process so that there is an effort / gain balance for knives and gear that are economically priced. I have to date sold some 15 knives to friends, my dentist, my boss, etc. They all (except the one I made for my dentist) were all-steel-designs without a sheath or handle, just a wrapping or plain steel I could make within half an hour to an hour all in all. I tested them severely before their very eyes, and they gladly paid the price. I offered them full replacement plus a bonus should they fail and made that replacement along with the one I sold, and offered a sharpening service with it.
    You might consider making contact with the Belgian Knife Society, the British Knife Collector´s Guild, the German "Messermachergilde" and / or the ABA or any such organization. The Belgian Knife Society might be interesting, because their style very much coincides with yours.

    Joel, there is always some doubt in all of us. You have inspired my work. This you did by simply doing a great job. I, for one, believe you can make it. And you deserve it. I think about it some and will contact you per mail, if I come across something that might be of assistance.

    My very best wishes to you!

  2. I don't think one could ask for more than to earn a living at doing something one really enjoys doing, and for me, making things with my hands gives a lot of satisfaction. If I had an answere Joel, I would go back to being a hornsmith, but I found that I simply could not compete with those using power tools and charging less for the product.

  3. Cheer up, sir! Your work is beautiful and very inspirational. Hand made beauty from natural materials is such a tonic when you consider all the (very expensive) brightly coloured G10, tufnol, thermorun and carbon fibre knives out there with their super fancy steels and horrid shapes. Half of them are so totally over the top and many are of little practical use - its when you buy tools from a guy that knows how to use them and puts that knowledge into making them that the difference is seen. Stuff with soul.

    Looking forward to the folder immensely! I'll hopefully be in a position to buy other stuff from you later in the year as that Tarn woodcarver and a crook knife are very tempting indeed!

    Keep at it,

  4. I understand your feelings, Joel. It's a mass market, made-in-china, fast-food world we live in. Many of the people who would most appreciate handcrafted work like yours either make it themselves or can't afford it (and never could even if the economy was better). I'm in that category. Part-time work and a lower standard of living are what I would shoot for, and it sounds like that's exactly where you are. You are in a good situation just to have the time to make things. I can't even do that! Best wishes for the new year!

  5. Thank you gentlemen, for the ideas, plenty to think about, and the virtual kick up the backside..:-)

    That's the way it is,and feeling fed up with it will make no difference whatever. So I better pick myself up...:-)

    I have had a heavy cold and lost my voice for the past 3 days, it did not help my morale it seems! The voice is still missing this morning.The positive side of this though: it must be restful for my family :-)

    I found recently that there is now a big movement in the USA, for people to downsize, re evaluate what it is they need to live, as opposed to what they want: tiny houses,living in micro flats, in RVs and the like. I think it is all a part of the uneasy-ness many of uf feel with the way we live, particularly in the so called West. When enough of us do it, the politicians will have to take notice.

  6. I sincerely hope they do not notice until it is too late to do anything against it.