The Last Strop: Sharpening at St. Louis Knife Show
The Gateway Area Knife Club hosts an annual knife show in St. Louis. I met a few of their members at an earlier knife show and they asked me to sharpen knives at this one. I was the only knife sharpener there. It was a nice crowd. Not too big not too small. There were about 150 tables. The vendors were very polite and people were cordial. It was a cold January weekend but dry. So transport from my truck to the hall and back wasn’t problematic.
Check out the other articles from “The Last Strop” series here
In keeping with lessons learned from the last show, I added some things to my repertoire besides sharpening. I did not add Altoid tin survival kits, neck lanyards, or paracord knife lanyards. However, I did make several strops to sell. I decided to make them 14 inches long with a 12 inch long stropping surface to be used as travel strops. I preloaded them with aluminum oxide. I also used the same hardware on them that I use on my own strops. I only made five so I could test if it would be worth my time and effort to repeat. Each one cost me $4.00 to make (leather, time, and hardware) and I was able to sell them for $10.00 each making a good profit. Like proverbial hotcakes, I sold out of them on Saturday and had to quickly make five more that night. I only had one left on Sunday. So they were a good investment.
I sold off some of my personal collection of folding knives. A few Kershaws mostly. I wasn’t using them anymore and since I am moving away from liner lock and frame lock knives I didn’t see a point in keeping them. They served me well but it was time they went onto new owners. And yes, before you ask, they were hair shaving sharp.
I also sold off a couple challenge coins from my military days. Not too many of those sold so I don’t think I’ll repeat that. I sold off some other fixed blades I had lying around that weren’t being used and was glad to see them go to new owners.
Additionally I streamlined my price structure. I realized my pricing was wacky. Two levels of sharpness and varying prices based upon length was complicated. It was also easy to forget. It probably drove customers away at my previous show. This time I set my price at a fixed $10 per knife. I still don’t sharpen more traditional tools(axes, draw knives, chisels, etc.) or anything with a super complicated micro serration (Ginsu). However, I opened the field to straight razors and scissors. The changes worked in my favor. There were a few times I had a wait queue of knives on my table.
I sharpened quite a few knives. I sharpened a large Sebenza, a traditional hook bill folder (which someone had taken to a grinder…Uggghh!!), a set of kitchen knives, an Old Timer folder, a Case folder, and few others.
That hook bill knife was in great shape when I finished it. There were a few small spots that were too deep from that grinder to fix but everything else came out perfectly well. My customer was happy too.
The bag of kitchen knives were a nice surprise. I’m just sitting there and this guy brings up a zip-loc bag full of about eight kitchen knives. He says they are very dull and he doesn’t know anyone who can sharpen them for his wife. It’s his family’s set of kitchen knives. None were too expensive but they were their kitchen tools. Needless to say I was happy to sharpen them.
Over all I made triple the amount of money at this show than the last one. I’m pretty happy with the results. Selling off my own collection so I can buy more knives seems to work. (I only purchased one knife, a Cold Steel Prolite in Tanto. So far I’m really loving that knife.)
I also learned that strops sell. I need to make more…lots more. I need to leave challenge coins at home. They don’t sell. Other odd ball fixed blades sell but are not essential. Fixed pricing worked well. I’ll keep it that way. I still want to try selling knife lanyards and beads though. Stay tuned and thanks for reading.