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  • Ken Perrotte

Buck Knives Factory Tour Shows How Iconic Knife Manufacturer Gets an Edge on the Competition

Updated: Apr 22

blades before and after getting an edge put on them

Sparks flew in the Idaho panhandle as three greenhorn bladesmiths, including me, attempted to create a razor edge to a Buck Knives Model 119 Special, a six-inch, fixed-blade hunting knife. Ordinarily, it takes years of training to get to sharpen knives at the Buck factory in Post Falls, but there we were, three outdoor writers suited up with protective gear and attempting the task under the friendly, watchful eye of Danny Perretti, a master craftsman and “edger,” who’s been with Buck for 47 years.

None of us created anything that was remotely “Danny sharp,” as it’s known around the factory, but our blades did pass the paper slice test. That summoned proud smiles.

Most Buck Knives are made right at the Post Falls, Idaho, factory. Buck Knives offers free factory tours twice a day from Monday to Thursday. It’s an opportunity for visitors and knife enthusiasts, craftsmen and collectors to see the process, everything from how rolled steel is cut into the basic blade and tang shapes, to how various handles, finishes and opening mechanisms come together. It is also a chance to venture into the corner of the plant where Buck applies its proprietary heat treatment process to the steel, the secret sauce that facilitates the company’s “forever warranty.”

An Heirloom Knife

To outdoors lovers, quality knives are faithful friends, whether they’re “everyday carry” pocket knives or specialized tools for hunting, fishing or camping. I’ve used some knives for well over 30 years. One knife, once briefly used in the field, is retired and accorded heirloom status. The late Charles T. "Chuck" Buck, longtime leader of Buck Knives and the grandson of company founder Hoyt Buck, gave me that knife almost 30 years ago.

The occasion was my first time attending a national outdoor writers association conference. Chuck was there as a corporate member and welcomed me to the group. As we concluded our discussion, he wrote down my name and address. A couple of weeks later, a Buck 110 Folding Hunter with my name engraved on the blade arrived at my door. The 110 is iconic, achieving such popularity and fame that the Buck name was often synonymous with every folding hunting knife of that style. C.J. Buck, Chuck’s son and the current CEO of the business started by his great-grandfather in 1902, said such brand association was double-edged (my pun), since innocently - and mistakenly - calling any folding hunting knife a “buck knife” didn’t make it something of Buck Knives quality.

Ken's 110 Folding Hunter knife

That particular 110 knife is a true American classic. I treasure the knife that Chuck sent me; but that didn’t mean I was always the most careful with it. Once when traveling across the Midwest, I accidentally left it on a gas pump. I can’t recall exactly why I’d have had it out at a gas pump but I did. I drove off; not realizing I’d left it until I was almost an hour down the road. I rapidly made a U-turn and raced back, praying it was still there. Amazingly, it was!

I recall seeing Chuck some 10 years ago at the Shooting, Hunting & Outdoors Trade (SHOT) Show in Las Vegas. He was fighting health issues, but looked well. We both seemed to get a little sentimental, at least - I know I did, as I shared that story of almost losing the knife he had given me and all that the knife still meant to me after all those years. "I'd have sent you another one," he told me with a warm smile.

Buck Knives Factory Tour
an old Buck Knife with Lucite handle

Our visit included an opportunity to hear about how Buck now approaches the hunting knife and general cutlery market. An overview of the company’s history related how Buck created military knives for the World War II era with Lucite handles repurposed from aircraft. From there, handles evolved to wood, lignum vitae, which tended to crack. Ebony and antler bone also saw use. Today’s materials, such as composites like Micarta, offer exceptional durability. And elk antlers are still in the custom knife mix.

Buck Knives began expanding significantly from the 1950 through the 70s, with new fishing knives and a line informally referred to as “gentleman’s knives.” Still, hunting rules the Buck roost. Kenneth Vitale, Buck Knives product manager, says the company’s knives will always be synonymous with hunting. “There is a lot of brand loyalty. The knives last,” he said. Vitale began working for Buck in 2022. He brought a wealth of industry experience to the job and specialized skills related to his years of work with the Air Force’s Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape programs taught at nearby Fairchild AFB, Washington.

Buck segments the marketplace
everyday carry option

While the company’s iconic models endure, they are also rolling out new lines of both fixed blade and folding models, knives with enhanced quality steel and lightweight, easily packed or carried designs. Buck, like many companies, practices market segmentation, looking at the various parts of society that might carry or need a knife. American A popular term today, borrowed from the concealed firearms carry world, is "Everyday Carry." Buck has an extensive lineup of knives that fit into this niche. Back in the "old days," just about every man carried a pocketknife. Today, everyday carry knives can be pocketknives with multiple blade options or they can be straightforward small folders, something lightweight, reliable and sharp. Just don't forget it's in your pocket when you go to the airport or it'll quickly transfer from your possession to the TSA - if you want to fly, that is.

New Paclite hunter series

How Old is My Buck Knife?

People who've inherited Buck Knives or bought one from a private sale often wonder how old that knife might be. There's an easy way to determine the answer. You simply visit their web page that lists the 39 symbols that reveal a knife's age. Click here to visit that page.

You can find one of the symbols on the pivot point where the knife blade opens

from the handle. On the company's website there are also details about the dots that could

be discovered on a knife's blade. Those many dots, and on which side of the blade the

dots are placed, could help determine when the iconic 110 Folding Hunter and 112

Ranger knives were manufactured. There are also numerous details about the knives with

the company's trademarked anvil stamped into a blade to detail more manufacturing

information. These symbols have been applied to blades since 1986.

Still have questions? Customers can inquire via email at to

obtain more details about a knife. When contacting the company historian via e-mail,

please provide a few photos of the knife (and photos of the box if it is available) to aid in

the determination of a knife's age. Some models had little to no material changes for

several years so a date range of production can possibly be provided. 

Should you have questions about the iconic 110 Folding Hunter, there is a website that is

loaded with precise information about all of the different versions and variations--and the

age ranges. Visit

Fakes and Knockoffs

Tony Wagner heads up Buck’s “Brand Protection” office and he outlined how counterfeit knives are a huge problem, not only for Buck but the entire industry. Many fakes are sold via online retailers, like Amazon, he said, with the knockoffs often originating in Pakistan and several other countries.

Some knives appear to be reasonable clones, resembling the real deal. Others are cheap, obvious fakes. Spotting counterfeits can take close inspection. They are often betrayed by substandard quality, improper or faulty stamping on the knife’s steel (2013 is the date code most often stamped on fakes) or improper sheath materials and packaging.

Buck also employs MAP (minimum advertised pricing), which is a pre-set minimum price for a product that resellers agree to not advertise or sell below. “Something that seems to be too good a deal is likely a fake,” Wagner said. The only two ways to ensure you’re getting an authentic, warranted product is to buy directly from Buck or through authorized resellers, which are listed on Bucks Knives website.

Buck Knives factory exterior
American Made – Great Gifts

A sign in the Buck Knives reception area proudly notes that the Post Falls operation employs 320 people in Idaho. The total economic impact nationally is much greater. C.J. Buck told me that sales never let up during the COVID epidemic. And since the knives are made in America, supply chain issues related to components coming from overseas didn’t have the crippling effects seen with many other companies and industries.

Customers can order directly from the Buck Knives store. Another option is the Custom Knife Shop, where a master craftsman builds each knife from start to finish. These are popular for commemorating special events, people or occasions. Plan, though, when ordering engraved or specially created gifts.

A Buck Knives factory tour is free and takes approximately 45 minutes. The tour takes you among various machines and departments with each completing a key component in the manufacturing. The factory also has a museum that details numerous Buck Knives milestones spanning the more than 120 years the company has been hand-crafting quality cutlery. Factory tours are offered Monday through Thursday at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. daily. Space is limited. Visitors should call 208-262-0500 (ext. 802) to reserve a spot and learn more details. The factory and company headquarters are located at 660 South Lochsa Street in Post Falls, Idaho, near the banks of the Spokane River.

That 110 Folding Hunter Chuck Buck gave me is safely stored. I imagine a grandchild will want it when I’m gone. One thing I did before leaving the Buck factory, though, was buy a new 110 folder for my youngest grandson for his birthday. I considered a newer model but decided that some knives simply merit legacy stature. His name is engraved, like mine, on the blade. His mom says he’s a bit young yet to appreciate the gift. She wants me to hold on to it. I hope there will come a day when he’ll understand. A man needs a good knife.

laser engraving at onsite store


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