American knife companies are growing their USA manufacturing capacities in a big way. Two of the most recognizable names in Oregon knife making, Gerber and Benchmade, are expanding their USA operations with around-the-clock production, bigger facilities, and new machinery.
Gerber has implemented a 24/7 manufacturing schedule at its Portland, Oregon facility. “We have been working for years to increase the strength of our domestic manufacturing,” says Kalon Pilmanis, General Manager of Tools and Gear for Gerber. This increase in work hours will produce a greater volume of built-in-the-USA products. These changes follow on the heels of Gerber’s two biggest announcements of the year, the Center-Drive multitool and the US-Assist pocket knife. Both of these products touted their United States assembly.
The new products might be getting a lot of the attention, but they aren’t Gerber’s only USA-made knives. Taking all variations into account, Gerber produces 249 different products in the United States, including old favorites like the Gerber Gator and the MP600 multitool series. Both new and old designs will benefit from the additional operations, Pilmanis says. “This move confirms our organization’s direction as well as the quality and innovation of our products, both new and mature.”
Just 17 miles southeast of Gerber, Oregon City-based Benchmade is gearing up its production as well. “Benchmade is a growing company,” says Benchmade Knife Company’s Derrick Lau. “We’ve added over 60 new employees in the last three years and currently have 11 openings.” The company, which persists in making all of its products in the United States, is keeping up with the growth by expanding its campus.
The new second building will house cutting edge machinery capable of advanced manufacturing processes. “With these new machines we can increase output and do certain processes we couldn’t before,” Lau says. In addition, a new graveyard shift will keep production constant through most of the week in order to keep up with demand. The added manufacturing muscle is a key focus for 2017 – a big year for Benchmade. “2017 is our 30th anniversary and we want to come out of the gate swinging,” Lau tells us.
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Gerber and Benchmade are only two examples of growth in USA manufacturing. American OEMs like Millit Knives are seeing an uptick as well. They enable small-batch production of custom designs, providing knife makers with an alternative to overseas-made production collaborations. SOG recently announced it will be introducing a new line of American made blades in 2017. In the last couple of years, Spyderco and Ontario Knife Company both upgraded their domestic facilities.
Knife featured in image: Benchmade Griptilian G-10, Partly Serrated Sheepsfoot