Are there too many custom knife makers?

Are there too many custom knife makers? I have heard this question for several years and some months ago it was the subject of a thread on an internet knife related forum. While following the thread I vacillated between agreeing with one side of the discussion and then the other. I was easily swayed and seemed to have no real opinion of my own. Annoyed at my shillyshallying I stopped reading the thread.

Recently the “Are there too many makers” question came to mind and I decided to actually try to make a decision as to my opinion of that topic. So here goes….

Are there too many custom knifemakers? Well I suppose that depends on your point of view. I would imagine that established makers who feel that they have lost sales to newer makers and the poor economy would say quickly that there are too many makers for the number of customers today. Others may disagree.

Let’s not ignore that these established makers might also have lost sales for reasons related to price, quality of work, business practices, ethics, personal habits, priorities, personalities, etc. The economy certainly has had a hand in many makers loss of sales, and so has the large number of makers, many of whom interestingly enough some of the more established makers helped train. In a way established makers trained the thing that bit the hand that fed it. If you are one of the makers that chose to train it, please don’t complain about getting bit.

I have heard it said that if there is a “thinning of the herd” it will help the makers that survived the lean times and be a good thing for the business in general. One part of me thinks it might be a good thing, another part of me thinks, “not necessarily so”.

The entry of new makers into the market does some good things in my opinion. It gives the buyer more options. Some new makers acquire skills very rapidly and push upward the level of design and craftsmanship that buyers want. This of course forces other makers to move forward and not remain static if they don’t want to be left behind. These are good things for the enthusiast, collector, and the business in general.

I imagine that just like always, makers will come and go and some will stay. Of the makers that want to sell knives, the ones that probably will survive the skinny times are those that offer the knives that the buyers want at a price that the buyers are willing to pay. And of course in the long run, the best business person has the best chance.

As usual the foregoing reflects my opinions and thoughts based on what little knowledge of the facts that I possess.

copyright Bill North 2013