This is a little update on our Journey to launch Fremont Knives www.fremontknives.com . I thought I would give you a bit of my background and the path taken to arrive at this point:
My first knife experience with knives was my dad showing me, at age 8, how to sharpen a knife on a stone, which I did for hours. I then began whittling on a stick. Somehow, I forgot to keep my eye on the project and carved a notch in my thumb. I still have the mark. It was just a simple object lesson that took no real effort from my dad to bandage, (although mom was not impressed with either of us, and questioned the intelligence of the males in the family). But, it was worth it.
In my late 30’s I did a little side job drafting work for Benchmade when I met Les DeAsis. The first day I walked into the facility, they led me to a room upstairs above production. At the top of the stairs was a room to the left and on the wall directly across from the door was a dart board with half a dozen knives sticking out of it, and chips gouged out of the sheet rock all around it. I learned to peek around the corner before walking into the flight path. Les needed a little help learning Autocad and I was glad to help. I think I surprised him when I asked for a Butterfly knife as payment. I still have it . . .along with the love of knives and admiration for the colorful talented characters I have met along the way.
Les invited me down to the Eugene Knife show where I was introduced to not only great product, but a culture where I completely felt at home. I have never had the skills to make these beautiful knives, but it hasn’t stopped me from immersing myself in the industry. Over the years, I have continued to meet these unique individuals who are unpretentious, self made and self reliant. There is this undercurrent that although we all compete, there is a lot of sharing going on. A lot of it comes from the Master Blade-Smith culture where information and training are shared willingly with eager students.
A couple of years after I met Les, I had the opportunity to join Gerber as a manufacturing manager. When I joined in 1996, Gerber was a big player in the knife world along with Buck, Schrade and Leatherman, and Benchmade, but it was not the largest knife company, like it is now. With guys like Doug Hutchens and Ron Robley in sales and marketing, the old school knife making values were still in place along with an affection of the old culture. Today, Gerber is really an outdoor marketing company that still leads the pack with things like the Bear Grylls line, but they are far from the history and culture of the custom and craftsmanship shared from generation to generation by this open craft oriented business. This is not a criticism. Gerber has influenced and grown the industry by their marketing, sales and business savvy. It was great to play a small part in that world. But that is not the knife world I fell in love with.
After leaving the Gerber world in 2009, I stayed away from knives for a couple of years due to contractual agreements. This summer, while writing my first blog about small business, I searched out and found Mike and Audra Draper, who I knew about but did not know personally. I spent some time in their shop and got to know them and reacquaint myself with the roots of knife making in America. Audra is a Master Blade Smith and Mike can make just about anything he puts a mind to. Over coffee, several plates of homemade cake and just plain home hospitality, I felt like I had gone home again.
Audra and Mike approach things together as a great couple but also have completely different approaches to knives. Audra approach things from an artisan point of view and adds a lot of art to her creations, although they can be used robustly. Mike has an “every-day carry” point of view and builds solid, handsome knives for , hunting , fishing etc. . I started to think that these knives fit so many of the new friends we have met after moving to Wyoming in 2006, and that they too approached life from a practical, self sufficient point of view where survival is not a buzzword or a TV show, it is a practiced set of experiences and knowledge that keeps you healthy and living in a rough environment that is much closer to our food sources and a wild form of life.
Thus began the thought that we should make some knives for folks who live and think like us. We have no illusions of grandeur about building a new Gerber or Benchmade, we just like the folks we interact with, want to make them a high quality product designed for them and have some fun while making a modest living. We are currently fussing over all the manufacturing, building the websites, and stumbling over our own feet every day. But it is all home. We look forward to telling you more as our journey continues.