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Why we make knives in China

Many of my friends and customers are wondering, some out loud and some to themselves, why A. G. Russell has given up the fight and is producing knives in China.

The simplest and most basic answer to that question is "to stay in business". With the bankruptcy of Schrade and Camillus, and the loss of Arrowhead, any hope I had of continuing to make any substantial volume of my designs in the United States is gone.

I took a new trapper design to Germany and they returned a quote of $50,000 for tooling (setting up the factory) plus a huge cost per knife. We would end up having to sell them for $250 each. These costs make it simply impossible to produce my designs in Germany. We simply could not sell enough for it to be sustainable.

We have created two very special, traditional slip joint knives in Japan during the past couple of years. The quality of those knives is unbelievable for a "production" knife, well worth the $150-$175 that we must charge. But at this price level I find it hard to sell enough to cover the cost of the space in the catalog.

After I lost Hen & Rooster in Germany in the 1980s, I moved production of my designs to Japan. I got hundreds of letters, some of them really nasty, even threatening. We continued, and the resistance faded as people began to recognize the quality and value of those knives. Once again I am getting that resistance from people who do not like the way their world has changed. All I can say is that no matter how much I resisted, the world has changed. I cannot change it back. Some people cannot bear to own a knife made in China, and some cannot bear to own a knife made outside of the U. S. I understand this.

Like so many of my customers, I have railed against the movement of the Cutlery Industry to China, BUT it became obvious that if I wanted to stay in business I would have to produce more and more of my own designs and find a way to offer those knives at prices my customers would pay. The only answer was to find one or more makers in Taiwan and China that I could teach to make the quality I require.

I was fortunate - I had a customer in Taiwan who loves American handmade knives. He also owns a small knife factory in Taiwan and another in China with access to others. He chose a factory to produce our first Chinese-made knife, the Beak. After three or four samples and a lot of work back and forth, we had a fantastic knife at a reasonable price. China is a big country. You can buy as much quality as you pay for. You can get just as good of a production knife in China as you can anywhere else in the world nowadays, and at prices honest folks can afford.

Every single knife stamped with my name, or one of my brands, is checked when it comes in. I only sell my customers quality knives. Any knife that doesn't meet my standards I send back. That's my guarantee to you.

All the best,

A. G. Russell III