How to Price Your Custom Knife

How to Price Your Custom Knife

Experienced Bladesmiths who have an established reputation and a good customer base have learned how to price their knives.  But what about the Bladesmiths who are just getting into the market or those who what to sell more knives. What price is the right price? What is fair to the customer and how can you can make a living making custom knives?  We realize that many Bladesmiths struggle to price their knives. Therefore, we did some research to find out the best way to price custom knives.

First, we started with a Google search and found many articles and videos on this subject. Second, we tried ChatGPT to see what information the latest technology would provide. Third, we drew on what we have learned talking to Bladesmiths over the past couple of years. Pulling all of this material together here is what we have found out.

The short answer is: that there is no straightforward or standard way to price custom knives. Several articles recommended checking out prices other Bladsmiths charge and pricing your knife accordingly.  Some articles suggested using a value formula. Others recommended using both methods.

Value formula pricing is a combination of overhead, material and equipment costs, time to make the knife, your reputation,  rent, marketing costs, and what customers will pay. Let’s delve deeper into these subjects about the pricing formula some bladesmiths recommend.

Several articles recommend using this type of value formula.

Shop time & overhead rate + material costs + Bladesmith’s pay (labour) + profit margin (how much you want to make) = price of the knife[i]

Shop Time and Overhead Rate: include machinery (grinders, kilns, etc), sanding belts, drill bits, saw blades, hammers, tongs, rent, marketing, utilities, propane, equipment maintenance, and anything else you use to create the finished product.  

An overhead allocation rate is the overhead expenses incurred per labor hour. You can calculate your overhead allocation rate by dividing your total overhead costs by your total labor hours. This will give you the cost of your overhead per working hour. When you multiply your labor hours for a knife by your overhead allocation rate, you get the total overhead cost associated with one knife. [ii]

Material Costs: These costs can vary affecting the price.  High-end steels like Damascus or MagnaCut are more expensive and will result in a higher quality blade and a higher price.  The same goes for handle material. Exotic or stabilized woods, mammoth, and carbon fiber will all increase the cost to make and the price. For each knife consider steel, handle material, pins, and bolster material.

Bladesmith's Pay (Labour):  Custom knives are very labor-intensive so your time and expertise need to be reflected in the price. Complex or intricate designs  or engravings require more time and skill to create, which will increase the price. For example, the more time and effort required to forge and shape the blade, handle, and other components, the more expensive the knife will be.

One Bladesmith broke his time down this way:

  • Making the billet: 1 hr
  • Forging to shape: 0.5 hr
  • Profiling and rough grind: 1 hr
  • Heat treating: 5.5 hrs
  • Initial sanding: 2 hrs
  • Final polish and etching: 2 hrs
  • Buffing and sharpening: 0.5 hr
  • Assembly: 2 hrs
  • Leather work: 1 hr

Total hours = 15.5[iii]

Profit Margin: This is how much you want to make on the knife.  There’s no right or wrong way to calculate your profit margin. However, you’ll want to make sure that the final price is competitive with similar knives on the market while still reflecting the value and quality of your work. It’s common for Bladesmiths to build a 30%-50% profit margin into their knife prices.  

 There are several items to take into account when determining a profit margin amount.  Several articles stated skill and reputation have a significant impact on price. A Bladesmith with a well-established reputation for producing high-quality knives is likely to charge a higher price than a less established Bladesmith. Your reputation can be influenced by factors such as:

  • The quality and caliber of your work;
  • Your level of experience and expertise; and
  • Your track record for delivering knives on time and to the satisfaction of your clients.

A Bladesmith with a strong reputation may also have a waiting list for their blades, which can further increase the perceived value of their work and justify a higher price. [iv]

Some Bladesmiths determine their price per inch by calculating their overhead and labor costs, and profit margin.  They then add the material costs for each knife.

To conclude, here is some advice from a 2018 Blade Magazine Article by Les Robertson.

“If you are a knifemaker, remember that, early on, people are paying for you to learn your knifemaking skills—a sort of scholarship program if you will. The object of the exercise is to get as many of your knives into the hands of buyers as possible. You can do this by utilizing value pricing. Your market position will indicate to you what the price should be.

As your knifemaking skills and following develop, your pricing, because of your rising position in the market, will continue to increase. At this point your pricing will be determined not by a friend or another maker’s similar work, but through your understanding of your position in the market and how you got there.” [v]

[i] HOW TO PRICE CUSTOM KNIVES Les Robertson APRIL 5, 2018





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Other Resources   - video    Walter Sorrells - video




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  • Danny Gallant - February 06, 2024

    Great information!
    Totally agree that when learning the craft that you price your knives accordingly. It is important to remember that people are paying you to learn your craft.

  • gary greer - February 06, 2024

    Nice article Curtis — everything you state is true and we all struggle to arrive at a fair price for both the customer and the maker. Its like any handycraft – you cant just charge say minimum wage for your product or your knife would cost 500.00 or more. Like we say – dont quit your day job to make knives. You have to really like what you do and in most cases you make sure your costs are covered, but as far as putting money in the bank goes – very little cash gets there. Soon as I sell a few knives, I just buy more tools and materials. For me its a self sustaining hobby. All my tools are paid for and I have enough raw material to make another 20 knives. The rising cost of everything these days is astounding. Everytime you order anything , the prices is up from your last order. Epoxy for example.. A few years ago a small bottle was 7.98 now its 27.00 its crazy. I have been using ATS 34 for the last 10 years – and was buying it at 7.00 per foot. I cant buy that anymore and in the last five years I have changed over too CM 154 at 40.00 per foot. The price of grinders and heat treating ovens is out of site. You have to go get a loan to start up a basic shop these days. Its not for the weak of heart for sure. You really got to want to be a knifemaker to invest all this money just to make a few knives. Its a real commitment these days for sure. There are lots of hobbies one can get into for FAR LESS money. Even after you spend all this money to get started – you dont have the knowledge to make it all work. Its a real challenge these days to keep your head above water. Ive been making knives for over 40 years and am still buying more equipment. There is also a steep learning curve that never ends… you just keep on learning in the search for being a better knifemaker though better tools and newer materials. All in all – you have too really enjoy what you do in order to make it all worthwhile.

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