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Vermont woman making a living with hand made knives


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Knowing that I like and am interested in various bladed tools as well as an interest in cooking, my co-worker (who is originally from New York and has a subscription to the New York TImes) brought this article in for me to see the other day.  This lady is hand-making culinary knives and making a living selling them.  She apparently sells a 10 inch chef's knife (made largely from recycled materials that she gets for free or nearly free) for $800.  Man, I am in the wrong line of work!  I think it is interesting how she makes some knives out of old farrier's rasps and actually leaves the rasp teeth on part of the blade.  I like the look of file knives, etc. that people make and leave the file marks on part of the blade.  In this case, though, the rasp teeth aren't just cool looking or intended to show the 'history' of the blade.  Instead, she intends the rasp teeth on the side of the blade to be used to perform chores like grating cheese, garlic and so on.  Pretty clever.  Here is a link to the article:

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/22/dining/chelsea-miller-most-treasured-cooking-tool-knife.html?_r=0

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Nice knife and all, but if i'm gonna drop $800 on something its gonna go bang lol...

You got that right!

800 dollars for a knife to cut food :down:

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A lot of folks make a living making knives. If only I started making them 30 years ago. laugh.gif But $800 for a chef's knife? I don't think so.

It's New York. That's like dropping $80 bucks here...

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She has some $200 cheese knives for you cheapskates. biggrin.gif

I’ve seen some people pay way more than that for a knife because of the knife maker’s name; and the named knife maker never laid his hands on it. She’s made a name for herself; so she gets the bucks.

I think are ugly. But I also know the time involved in doing the way she does it. Apply an hourly rate to it and it runs the price up quick.

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She has some $200 cheese knives for you cheapskates. biggrin.gif

I’ve seen some people pay way more than that for a knife because of the knife maker’s name; and the named knife maker never laid his hands on it. She’s made a name for herself; so she gets the bucks.

I think are ugly. But I also know the time involved in doing the way she does it. Apply an hourly rate to it and it runs the price up quick.

Believe me I'm well aware of the time involved and you're right....it's all in the name.

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Yep its a name game. She is selling to new York hipsters. I can hammer those out in about 5-6 hours including clean up grinding, handle shaping, and heat treat. So figuring $40 for a nice piece of burl for a handle, and $8-$10 for a worn out rasp if she's buying on the high end. $750 for 6 hours worth of work ain't to shaby. There are hundreds, if not thousands of very talented knife makers who do much nicer work for less than half the cost due to the name. She has found a botique, which is good for her. Maybe I just need to pack up the Forge and move my ass to New York.
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I've been in the restaurant biz for 17yrs. Was a chef the last 7. I've noticed in the last several years with the number of kids growing wanting to get in the business, the number of high dollar custom knife makers coming around. I agree with you guys these knives are not worth the price. They are really not that nice either. There are some very nice hand made Japanese knives out there called Honyaki, that if you use a knife for a living, are worth it. But for $800 you can get a knife that is hand forged, shaped and sharpened by a master knife maker. I don't think I would want to use the knife it showed in that article more than a minute, much less 3,4,5 hours of cutting.
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To each his/her own. If I owned some of the knives I've seen here on TGO made by our own members, I really would not trade 1 for 2 of the ones I've seen on her website if I had to keep them. There is no beauty there to me.
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It's New York. That's like dropping $80 bucks here...



You got that right. I stayed in NYC for a couple weeks around July 4th and my wallet was much much lighter by the end of it.
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Nice knife and all, but if i'm gonna drop $800 on something its gonna go bang lol...

 

 

A lot of folks make a living making knives. If only I started making them 30 years ago. laugh.gif But $800 for a chef's knife? I don't think so.

 

Oh, yeah, I can easily see you making a living as a knife maker, GT.  Some of the pics you have posted of knives you have made actually look better, to me, than a lot of things I have seen from people who are making a living doing it. 

 

I actually like the look of her knives (except I don't think I'd want to pay that kind of price for a knife on which the wood handle looks like it is about to crack in two and fall off) but I wouldn't pay $800 for one.  In some circles, I imagine paying $800 for your chef's knife is all about being able to say, "Yeah, I paid $800 for this knife."

 

I think what caught my eye most was that:

 

1. She is using recycled rasps and files, much like many 'do-it-yourself' type knife makers do.  In fact, it seems to me like a lot of 'beginners' go that route (I would like to make a file knife some day) and folks are dropping some serious (ridiculous?) amounts of green for her knives.

 

2.  She is a female knife maker who has had enough success that she is making her living doing it.  Not being that knowledgeable about the custom knife world I don't know how common that is but I don't have the feeling it is all that common.

Edited by JAB
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If she can get $800 a pop out of people then I have no problem, but I'm not going to be one of them. Some look at it like an unreasonable labor charge, but I see it as a product of her creativity and I wonder if she can/will copyright the design.

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If she can get $800 a pop out of people then I have no problem, but I'm not going to be one of them. Some look at it like an unreasonable labor charge, but I see it as a product of her creativity and I wonder if she can/will copyright the design.

 

 

Oh, I've got no problem with it.  If some folks have 800 bucks lying around and have nothing else they need to spend it on then they had might as well give it to her for one of those knives.  As folks have been making knives from files for years and leaving the file intact along part of the blade and as her knives are pretty standard kitchen knife shapes (with maybe some minor, personal variations), I doubt she could copyright the design.  Of course, as some have already said, she has made a name for herself and certainly "Chelsea Miller Knives" is something she can (and maybe already has) copyright or trademark or whatever the proper term is.

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I think it is pretty cool that someone is making a living doing something they really enjoy.  As far as $800 for a knife, that is nothing in the custom knife world where prices can easily exceed $2k and be in incredibly high demand for certain makers.

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If any of you want a great kitchen knife, this is one of the best I have found. It is a Dexter made between probably 1950 to 1980. It is carbon steel, easy to sharpen and feels great in the hand. 10" long. I picked this up for free when I bought a used table. You should be able to get one at a flee market or such cheep. I had to clean it up a bit but it is as good as my old Japanese blade I used at work. I absolutely love this knife and use it a lot.
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Edited by Monkeyman2500
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If any of you want a great kitchen knife, this is one of the best I have found. It is a Dexter made between probably 1950 to 1980. It is carbon steel, easy to sharpen and feels great in the hand. 10" long. I picked this up for free when I bought a used table. You should be able to get one at a flee market or such cheep. I had to clean it up a bit but it is as good as my old Japanese blade I used at work. I absolutely love this knife and use it a lot.
41D4675E-7B7E-400A-964A-9673EA23437A_zps

I use a couple different Old Hickory for 99% of my kitchen stuff. Sharp, properly heart treated carbon steel is wonderful, and those old k Ives were designed back when the majority of people still used a knife several times a day.
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If any of you want a great kitchen knife, this is one of the best I have found. It is a Dexter made between probably 1950 to 1980. It is carbon steel, easy to sharpen and feels great in the hand. 10" long. I picked this up for free when I bought a used table. You should be able to get one at a flee market or such cheep. I had to clean it up a bit but it is as good as my old Japanese blade I used at work. I absolutely love this knife and use it a lot.
 

 

I don't know about picking one up cheap.  Last year at the Highway 127 'flea market' I was specifically looking to pick up some old, high carbon kitchen knives cheap either to use as they were or to mod into other knives.  Well, I guess there must be a market for collecting such things, now, as I saw a few people selling such knives in different locations for prices in the $30 to $50 range.  These weren't 'like new' knives, either and some of them had been sharpened so many times that the blades had developed that tell-tale sway in the middle or were simply ground down to about half of what was obviously their original width.  My thought was, "I'll pass.  I can buy two or three brand new Old Hickory knives for $30."

 

I use a couple different Old Hickory for 99% of my kitchen stuff. Sharp, properly heart treated carbon steel is wonderful, and those old k Ives were designed back when the majority of people still used a knife several times a day.

 

I like Old Hickory knives, too.  Lately, though, I have been using some Paula Deen knives I picked up on clearance at Walmart.  The set came with a 10 inch chef's knife, a carving/utility knife and a paring knife.  They are stainless but actually work pretty well, came sharp and are easy to resharpen on a ceramic pull-through sharpener.  Not bad for twenty-some-odd bucks.  Probably not up to use by someone who cooks for a living but for just home food prep they are fairly nice.  In fact, I ended up buying another Paula Deen set on clearance at a different Wally that came with a large and small santoku style knife which I also like.  Like I said, I like my Old Hickory knives but they don't really make a true chef's knife, as far as I know, and sometimes the ease of caring for stainless is nice when I am feeling lazy.

Edited by JAB
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I think it is pretty cool that someone is making a living doing something they really enjoy.  As far as $800 for a knife, that is nothing in the custom knife world where prices can easily exceed $2k and be in incredibly high demand for certain makers.

 

Heh, here is a Ken Onion chef's knife at Williams-Sonoma that can be yours for the low, low price of $999.95!

 

http://www.williams-sonoma.com/products/ken-onion-chefworks-limited-edition-chefs-knife/?pkey=ccutlery-chef-knives||&cm_src=cutlery-chef-knives||NoFacet-_-NoFacet-_- -_-

 

It is a nice looking knife but it ain't $1,000 nice.  Not to me, anyhow.

 

And if you need to spend two grand on a knife to chop shallots and dice carrots, they have you covered:

 

http://www.williams-sonoma.com/products/wusthof-ikon-damascus-chefs-knife-in-collectors-box/?pkey=ccutlery-chef-knives||&cm_src=cutlery-chef-knives||NoFacet-_-NoFacet-_- -_-

 

Of course, notice that the 'suggested retail price' on that one is $2,500.  Yeah, I think this po' country boy will be sticking to his Old Hickory knives and his Walmart specials - although this knife (the 8 inch version) at this price point would tempt me if I had that kind of cash to splurge on a kitchen knife:

 

http://www.williams-sonoma.com/products/shun-classic-western-chefs-knife/?pkey=ccutlery-chef-knives||&cm_src=cutlery-chef-knives||NoFacet-_-NoFacet-_- -_-

Edited by JAB
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I had to look up those Old Hickory knives, they look like a great deal if buying new. I have to agree if buying for regular home use, most any will do, especially if on sale. After looking at the OH knives I don't think you could find a much better deal on a good kitchen knife. I wouldn't hesitate to use one of those to butcher meat in restaurant.
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Also when it comes to knives in a professional kitchen the time you really want a nice one is when cutting vegetables. That's when you really tell a difference. I remember one of my head chefs used to have a gazpacho recipe that called for about three gallons of very finely diced veg. Chopping all that up took forever. I used to hate making that one.
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Maybe I just need to pack up the Forge and move my ass to New York.

 

Nope. You just need to find a way to market your stuff to them without moving up there. Those Brooklyn hipsters pay top dollar for "goods with a soul". Items coming out of your place would sell like ice cream in July up there if you find a way to market to them. Your farm is the real deal based on the pics you've posted on here. Big draft horses, an old fashioned forge, and work boots that have seen more mud than pavement paint a picture of something they're desperate to show their fellow hipsters they've "discovered" and they're glad to pay top dollar for it.

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Nope. You just need to find a way to market your stuff to them without moving up there. Those Brooklyn hipsters pay top dollar for "goods with a soul". Items coming out of your place would sell like ice cream in July up there if you find a way to market to them. Your farm is the real deal based on the pics you've posted on here. Big draft horses, an old fashioned forge, and work boots that have seen more mud than pavement paint a picture of something they're desperate to show their fellow hipsters they've "discovered" and they're glad to pay top dollar for it.

I agree. Just get you a fancy web site, undercut their pricing a little, and you'll never have to leave the house! :)
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Nope. You just need to find a way to market your stuff to them without moving up there. Those Brooklyn hipsters pay top dollar for "goods with a soul". Items coming out of your place would sell like ice cream in July up there if you find a way to market to them. Your farm is the real deal based on the pics you've posted on here. Big draft horses, an old fashioned forge, and work boots that have seen more mud than pavement paint a picture of something they're desperate to show their fellow hipsters they've "discovered" and they're glad to pay top dollar for it.

This.
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