When researching the topic of knives, I began to notice categories of information available. The preferred category of Historical Chinese Knives was not well represented. So, I widened my sites and began to make use of what was actually within my reach. Patterns began to form, giving me a rough idea of the categories which the world-wide-net was catching for me. With every new search, new items to be investigated sorted themselves into the already forming patterns within the existing categories. I began recognizing knife-names in different contexts: historical-knives, knife-types, and the companies who sell knives. Of the latter, my attention was drawn to certain companies in particular; those who specifically wanted to tell the story of their company. This struck me as interesting because I had been so focused on the telling of Chinese knife-maker’s stories, that I had not given non-Chinese knife-makers any real thought or consideration. It had not occurred to me that these companies would have stories which they wished to tell. This aroused my curiosity, so, I spent some time browsing through these sites and was rewarded by what I found.
What I found was that each story is very different and that I had automatically begun making comparisons between them: of individual story, product, business plan, and motivation. Each company’s story felt somewhat compelling; as the stories of people in chance meetings often are. As such, their personalities presented themselves for analysis. And, in the analyses, each company and their knives unfolded before me. This essay gives the the stories of four different companies: Forge de Laguiole, Opinel, Morakniv, and Benchmade.
THE STORY OF FORGE DE LAGUIOLE
Laguiole is the name of a village of the Aubrac plateau on the Massief Central of France. The early blacksmiths of the region made a knife of small blade with a simple wooden handle. This knife was the ancestor of the Laguiole knife. Since the 1820s, knife-makers of Laguiole have forged their blades and springs by hand; using steel from the Pyrenees and the Tara region. “In the past, the forge was located in the back shop. The blades were sharpened on a small grindstone pulled by a dog. The blades were tempered in the volcanic cold waters of “La Violette” (a local spring) to harden them. The knives were assembled in the light of the day at the front of the workshop. Each workshop employed at that time between 5 to 7 workers in extremely cramped premises. The knives made in Laguiole during that period were full handle models made from Aubrac cow horns or bone, plentiful materials in the area, or from ivory for more precious knives.” [Christiaan Lemasson, The History of the Laguiole Knife]. By the end of the decade, a new knife was born; a folding knife which would become a symbol of “belonging” to the culture of the region. The knife would develop two additional tools, the awl and the corkscrew, which could be added for the needs of their farmers and café owners.
The people of the Aubrac plateau felt a deep kinship with these knives. They were given as gifts of love and friendship. “The Laguiole knife has traditionally been given as a gift, preciously held on to or handed down. From generation to generation, and from friend to friend – in exchange for a coin so as not to break the friendship. In the process a whole series of memories are passed from pocket to pocket, and from imagination to imagination.” – [Forge de Laguiole]. With the giving of a coin when receiving the knife, it is the lowest value coin which the person has on him which is offered. This gesture is an acknowledgement from both parties that money is not important in friendship. The knives were not only sentimental expressions of relationships; they also symbolized where the heart was born, raised, and forever longing to reside. As such, during difficult times when people migrated in search of income or safety, their knives went with them as ever present reminders of their homeland. “When they [others] leave from home to go far away, some people take a little soil with them in their handkerchief. The people of the Aveyron are much cleverer than that. Around 1850, when they left for Paris or for the Americas, they placed in their handkerchiefs the most fabulous talisman, their infallible lucky charm – their Laguiole knife.” – [Forge de Laguiole].
In 1900 the springs of the simply designed regional knife became adorned quite unusually; giving the knife its unique character and beginning the endless discussion of “bees” and “flies”. The word, “mouche”, means “fly”. However, the “fly” on the Laguiole knife is known as the “bee”. “The bee was the small piece of triangular or oval shaped metal, sometimes with a ring, which you need to push up to allow the blade to close. Today, on the forced notch of the Laguiole, the bee no longer has a functional role. But it is still there as a decoration, as a testament to the technical features of its origin.” At first the bee was sculpted with a flower motif and the back of the spring was decorated with alternating triangular patterns. In 1909, the first bee without a flower was designed, and ivory handles were carved and sculpted. A great variety of form designs for the handles were used, including; horse’s hoofs, rattlesnake tails, butterflies, ram’s head, and clovers. During the Edwardian and Art Nouveau eras, it was vogue to make the handles shaped after the heads of famous people: Napoleon, Joan of Arc, Venus de Milo… These carvings required very fine workmanship. At the region’s zenith of Laguiole knife making, forges would employ up to 30 people and within a 10 year period over 20 medals were awarded different knife makers in recognition of their high quality Laguiole knives.
This brings me to an interesting point about France, regions, and regional products. I have been telling the story of the Laguiole knife. It is important to understand that the name Laguiole refers to this specific knife, from this specific region, and it is not a trademark in and of itself. A quote from Wikipedia brings a bit of clarity on the subject. “ “Laguiole” is neither a trademark nor a company name. Rather, the name “laguiole” became associated with a specific shape of a traditional knife common to this area. Quality laguiole knives are handcrafted in France by skilled workers. French production is shared between the cutlery hub town of Thiers, and the village of Laguiole: these places have worked together for more than 150 years. Quality French manufacturers stamp a trademark or signature into the steel of their knives. A description of the type of steel used and “Made in France”, will often be stamped as well. This is a guarantee of origin.” France has a long tradition of using a common name for regional products; easily recognized by French wines, different vineyards from one region will use the name of the region to identify and guarantee the quality of their wines. But, the trademark is the name of their vineyard. No one can lay individual claim to the name of a region’s traditional product, in France. Outside of France is a different matter. In the case of the Laguiole knife, it is made all over the world and marketed by that name. Just as Champagne made in California has Champagne on their labels, Laguiole knives made outside of the Aubrac have Laguiole on their labels; and as such, have no guarantee of quality accompanying the name.
It is by great and loving effort that there are any Laguiole knifes at all being made anywhere around the world today; either from original forges or foreign factories. The knife industry in Laguiole and Thiers was devastated by the events of WW1; with only a few knife makers producing the Laguiole knives in Thiers. By the 1960s production of these handmade knives was minimal and saw to the simple needs of the local agricultural workers. By the 1980s production of even these had come to a near stop. Luckily, the tides would turn just in time. “In 1985, a group of Laguiole enthusiasts from the Aubrac plateau create conditions for the return of Laguiole knife manufacture to its birthplace. The renaissance of the Forge de Laguiole becomes reality in 1987.” – [Forge de Laguiole].
The current shape of these traditional knives are the same as those from the period of 1850-1860. The knives measure in closed-length to about 12 cm. The blade is narrow and tapers; of a semi-yataghan form. Both blade and back-spring are made from high quality steel (either stainless steel or high carbon steel). The materials used for the handles vary: horn, common wood varieties, exotic wood varieties, fossilized mammoth ivory from Alaska or Siberia. The knives are made with either one or two of the accompanying tools to the blade. For a single blade knife (a one-piece laguiole), about 109 production steps are used. To make the two-piece knife (blade and one tool), there are 166 steps needed. In the three-piece knife (blade and two tools) production, with the incorporation of both the awl and the corkscrew, 216 steps are required.
The particular company of Forge de Laguiole makes and sells a large selection of wares; including the famous Laguiole knives which are the heritage and heroes of their story being told. The knife categories used to group their knives for marketing are: Pocket Knife, Tableware, Designer Collection, Sommeliers, Complementary, and Series. The knives are truly beautiful. I have a strong personal preference for their collection of the traditional Laguiole knives. I also have a strong personal preference for the communal-private structure of the forges of the Laguiole knives. It sounds like an extension of the traditional forge relationship which existed in the earlier years of blacksmithing on the Aubrac plateau. The relationship has always been both competitive and collaborative; incorporating the best qualities from both. Individuals feel supported and encouraged in their endeavors, while at the same time motivated toward sustaining the high standards of the group.
For the next Company knife story, we leave the Massif Central and travel east to Savoie in the French Alps. From the humble beginnings in a small village called Gevoudaz, the Opinel family would rise to great heights with the creation and development of the Opinel knife. “A tower of nine stories starts with a pile of dirt”, would make an appropriate title for this family’s saga of success. The Opinel’s tell the story of their tower proudly, on their OPINEL Savoie France website.
THE STORY OF THE OPINEL KNIFE
“Here is the fantastic story of a small knife from Savoie, invented by Joseph Opinel in 1890 which became an everyday object and which is now considered as a design icon throughout the world. A family saga at the heart of the Alps, in Savoie…”. The introduction to the story which unfolds brings us to an earlier moment than the creation of Joseph’s icon knife. We begin with the pile of dirt in 1800. Victor-Amédée Opinel had been a humble peddler. In his travels he had learned to forge nails. When he returned from his journeys, he set up a blacksmith workshop in Gevoudaz. Victor-Amédée had a son named Daniel. Together they worked hard at crafting edge-tools and became quite well known in the area for their smithing skills; specializing in billhooks and sickles. Daniel’s oldest son, Joseph, went to work in the family workshop at the age of 18. However, Joseph did not share his father’s passion for hand-made tools and traditional craftsmanship. Instead, he was “Led by his passion for machinery and manufacturing processes, he decided to invent an object which he could manufacture using modern techniques.” – [Opinel company]. Joseph spent all of his free time refining his design and manufacturing scheme for his small pocket knife.
Joseph had made not only a good design and method of manufacturing; in 1897, he also had the idea to make a series of the same knife in twelve sizes. Each size was best suited for its own task. The smallest of the series was simple called “Nr.1”. It was the only knife in the set to have a small ring which could be attached to the chain of a pocket watch. Since 1935, Nr. 1 and No. 11 were dropped from production; leaving the smallest to be Nr. 2 (3.5 cm blade) and the largest Nr. 12 (12 cm blade). There was a small volume of Nr.13 (22 cm blade) made in the 1970s, used only for promotional purposes.
As the 19th century turned into the 20th, the Opinel knife company seemed to have done nothing but prosper from Joseph’s engineering efforts. In 1909, Joseph would begin to add the Crowned Hand stamp onto the blades of the Opinel knives. “In 1565, King Charles IX of France ordered each master cutler to add his emblem to his products to guarantee their origin and quality. To follow this tradition, Joseph chose the Crowned Hand emblem in 1909. The blessing hand is that of Saint Jean-Baptiste appearing on the arms of Saint Jean-de-Maurienne, the town closest to Albiez-le-Vieux, home of the Opinel family. Joseph Opinel added the crown as a reminder that the Savoie was a duchy. Since, every single Opinel blade and tool is stamped with the Crowned Hand.” – [Opinel company]
During the first half of the 1900s, the Opinel manufacturing processes continued to be improved and modernized. This was a successful business strategy for the company; leading to the necessity for larger factories. The first new factory acquisition was close to the family workshop. The second involved a move to Chambery. With the second factory move, Joseph and his sons, Marcel and Léon, began to seriously develop the Opinel industry and commercialize the Opinel brand. A fire destroyed the factory about a decade later; with a new factory rising from the ground a year after that. The story which continues is one of lineage; the names of the sons who followed their fathers in both the areas of workshops and production, as well as marketing and administration. The knife seemed to have remained the same, only being produced more and more efficiently; until 1955, when Marcel invented the Virobloc system. “At first, the Opinel knife had four components: the blade, the handle, the shell ring and the rivet. The shell ring was needed to firmly rivet the blade to the handle. He [Marcel] added a rotating lock which slides on the shell ring, closing the groove and therefore locking the blade in its open position.” -[Opinel company]. Marcel invented this system for safety reasons. Later he modified his original system to allow the blade to be locked in its closed position.
Further into the second half of the 20th century and up until the present, the Opinel company continued to grow and expand its factories. There was a new site built in Chambery after WWII, outside of town. “At first, it was dedicated to wood working, assembly and conditioning activities, it became the main site and headquarters of the business in 2003.” In the meantime of 1985, the Opinel knife had already become a design icon. It was valued for both its aesthetic appeal and its functionality. The company claims an unchanged design for one hundred years. I don’t quite see the logic of that statement, myself. The lock system was implemented into the knife in 1955. I count that as a change. In addition to their traditional knives, the company also makes and sells knives which they categorize as: specialist, slim, gardening, and kids. All in all, not only is the traditional Opinel knife a great design success, the entire business management strategy has played an important role in the success of the company throughout its history. The growth and development choices made by management have been fortuitous. Knowing when to expand and when to reorganize is as important for success as knowing when and how to change a design. Even knowing when and how to tell the Opinel “story” seems to be part of the well-oiled Opinel company mechanics. Down to the last words of the company’s story, the theme of “family” appears to take precedence, even above the Opinel knife itself.
The third company which caught my mind’s eye is a Swedish company bearing the name of Mora. When reading the history of the Morakniv company, I understood Mora to be a place. But, I had to look it up to inform myself as to where and what exactly Mora is and why it is particularly relevant to the story of this knife company. I found out that Mora is a municipality of Dalarna County in central Sweden. In 2010, the list of inhabitants amounted to only 10,896; yet Dalarna is considered to be the “essence” of Sweden and Mora is said to be a prime contributor to that consideration. It is the home of the beautiful wooden Dala Horse, a winning Ice-Hockey team, and their famous Vasaloppet cross-country skiing race. That race takes place on the first Sunday of March every year. It sounds rather like the Swedish version of the Dutch Elfstedentocht. Instead of a marathon ice-skating race through eleven cities, it is a marathon cross country skiing race from Sälen to Mora which covers 90 km and has become a traditional event in Sweden since 1922. However noteworthy these “Mora” things may be, their own tourist site brings attention to something else which Mora contributes to Swedish culture. “A more useful memory of Mora would be a Mora knife, the weapon of choice for Swedes whatever tasks needs to be fulfilled. You will for instance never see a Swedish soldier or construction worker without a Mora knife in his belt. Old style Mora knives have handles made of wood, but cheaper versions with plastic handles are available as well. The knives are made by two Mora companies: Frosts and Mora of Sweden.”
THE STORY OF MORAKNIV
As mentioned above, Mora is a small community in 2010. Times considering, it might well have been even smaller in 1891 when the manufacturing of the knife which would later become the Morakniv began. Mora, itself, has a 400 year history of knife-making and had long been known around the world for the sharp knives made there. Evidently, Swedes had a history of stepping across their borders; traveling to far away lands to bring their wares to new potential markets. The first player in this story is the founder of the company called Frosts. Frost-Erik Erson, had spent 4 years in North America traveling and working. When he returned to Mora, he had enough funds to open a timber sled factory. The knives used to make the sleds were forged in the same factory. By 1900, Frosts knives from Mora were well-known, because traveling salesmen took the knives and sold or bartered them around the world. The name Frost-Erik took on the more familiar western form of Erik Frost as the export of his knives increased. “It was the woodcarving and sheath knives that spread through Sweden and the world. The buyers were primarily wholesalers, gunpowder traders and ironmongers.” – [Morakniv]
Frost had a successful business; with workers and supervisors to oversee them. One of the workers at the Frosts factory was a young man who could not get along with his supervisors; so, they fired him. Krång-Johan is the second player in our story. Finding himself suddenly out of work, he considered emigrating to the United States. At the last minute, he decided to try his hand at creating his own company instead. In 1912, he and a partner opened a knife-making business in Östnor; which, a hundred years later would become part of Morakniv. Needless to say, Eriksson stayed in Sweden and never emigrated. The name of his knife-making company was simply KJ Erikssons.
The year now jumps ahead to 1955, in order to introduce the third player; Bud-Carl Andersson. He had a company, Mora-Borren, which made ice drills. Their auger blades were extremely sharp, making them excellent ice drills. KJ Anderssons incorporated Bud-Carl Andersson’ knife and drill making business in 1961. This became the first of three acquisitions. The second acquisition was in 1962; the FM Mattsson knife-making company. The owner of the company had decided to close it down. “With this, an entire machine workshop, tools and components would be sold off, and KJ Erikssons was dedicated to buy the closed down knife-making business. As far as KJ was concerned, there wasn’t a chance that any of the competing companies in the area would benefit from the remains of FM Mattsson.” – [Morakniv]. The third acquisition was Frosts. This was accomplished in three stages. Stage one: In 1988, Frosts became a subsidary of KJ Erikssons. Stage two: In 2002, KJ Erikssons acquires shares of Frosts. Stage three: In 2005, KJ Erikssons acquires the remaining shares Frosts. With the full acquistion of Frosts, KJ Erikssons becomes “Mora of Sweden”.
Yet, the transformation was not complete. There were trademarks to be decided upon and protected. In 2009, the trademark became “Morakniv”, and the brandnames “Frosts Mora” and “Mora Ice” were also legally registered. In an effort to create a unified company, Morakniv brought all aspects of the company to one location. In 2013, Morakniv sold off Mora Ice but, retained production of the ice blades. The company now stands officially as “Morakniv AB”, “Being named [for] what we actually make – knives from Mora – is a natural step in our development, shows how proud we are of our local roots.” – [Morakniv]
When I first began to read the Morakniv story, I had expected a story of one man’s family. When I read further, I adjusted my expectations to include the possibility of a second man’s family story. My mind assumed that the families of the founders of Frosts and KJ Erikssons had continued to own and manage these companies. However, nowhere in the story is this information offered. Somewhere along the line of the story, the characters changed from being people to being companies. This turns out not to be a story about families. And, even though the municipality of Mora has played an important role in the success of Morakniv, this is not a story about the region and its people. The story being told is one of retracing history in order to follow the line of a business plan which brings Frosts and KJ Erikssons together to form Morakniv. The motivation for telling this story in this fashion must have something to do with the modern corporate image of itself which the company wants to portray. The company is the main character and purpose of the story. The knives made by the company are products; props, rather than characters in this play. The company does, of course, have information about their knives. These are found on rather sterile looking pages of their website; giving the feel of cataloging. This catalog seems to provide a knife category for all interests: Morakniv, Frosts, Bushcraft, Companion, Tactical, Classic 1891, Historical Classic, Pro, and Scout. The knives themselves are attractive and functional. Even though they have a history, it is not very palpable on the site. I had to go elsewhere to find fotos of their knives which I find appealing. This tells me that it is the company which does not appeal to me, rather than knives.
So far we have three very different stories from very different companies. All three companies share a past with the reader. All three companies have an extensive product line; wherein their original knife is still included. All three companies have used very different business strategies to ensure their survival. And, all three companies have their own motivating forces which influence their stories, their products, and their business plans. Story, product, business plan, and motivation combine uniquely for each to create who these companies are. I say “who” because, I no longer experience them as a “what”. These developed personalities, these characters, these personages are embodied by the impression given of their knives. It is difficult to say to what degree this has occurred naturally or artificially. We live in a world of modern marketing. How one presents oneself becomes the reality for the consumer. Of these three companies, I prefer the presentation of the Forge de Laguiole. It speaks to who I am more than the presentations of Opinel and Morakniv. I would buy a Laguiole knife, in a heartbeat. While I admire the other knives for their beauty and design, I am not drawn to them personally. This reveals something about who I am. People are unconsciously drawn to the things, people and places which support the image of themselves which they want to present to the world; and then they internalize their own propaganda. As such, I am curious what I will learn about myself as I present the fourth company’s story.
When I came across this company’s name in my resource search, I knew I had heard it a million times before. I just couldn’t place a story with it; I couldn’t give it a face. I noticed that, like many other knife-companies, Benchmade seemed to want to tell its story. I read the story to the end and I was speechless. I have no reason to know this company. I had assumed that the million times of my hearing the name Benchmade had occurred in America; the country of both of our origins. However, that is highly unlikely considering the company began its history only one year before I migrated to The Netherlands. As I read the story of Benchmade, I would come across a number of unexpected shared points of interest connecting me emotionally to this company.
THE STORY OF BENCHMADE
The story begins, “With a rich history dating back over 30 years, Benchmade is the product of many dedicated employees, a never-quit demand for excellence and the de Asis family’s vision and total commitment to culture, service and innovation”. This introduction is an unusual beginning. I actually stopped reading for a moment to fully contemplate what I had just read. Along with these words the screen gave a prominent portrait of the founder of this company. Yet, the introduction begins with an acknowledgement of its dedicated employees. This is followed by stating that the motivating drive of the company is its striving for excellence. Still, no mention of the man in the picture, instead an accrediting of the value of a family’s vision. The closing is pressed upon the heart, convincingly sincere, and experienced as a solemn pledge of commitment to culture, service and innovation. By the time I had reached the end of the story to be told, I would look back on this one sentence introduction and realize that it is a perfect description of “who” the man in the portrait is and the company he shares with the world. Quite an accomplishment , even for one very well-written sentence. Let the story begin…
Les de Asis used to play with Bali-Song knives as a kid. The Bali-Song he knew and used are what is often termed as “Butterfly” knives. Les had developed metal-working skills during his shop classes in high school. He was interested in new materials and manufacturing technologies. In 1979, these factors all combined, resulting in his creation of a blueprint for his “dream knife”. Victor Anselmo helped the young Les to grind the first pre-Benchmade Bali-Song prototype. He outsourced the making of the handle to a small local workshop in California. Then he put the two together, constructing his first Bali-Song knife. With the completed knife he went to a gun store. The owner was impressed and asked if he could buy 100 of the knives. The knife was an immediate success. The company became incorporated as “Bali-Song, Inc.”. A small workshop was set up and filled with second-hand manufacturing equipment. With rudimentary technology, Les and Jody Sampson ground all their own blades for their custom-made Bali-Song: Model 68. This company, they developed and expanded for seven years. They added fixed blades and conventional folding knives to their productions. The name was changed from Bali-Song, Inc. to the more suitable “Pacific Cutlery Corp.” The company had developed too quickly and became too large for Les to maintain control over quality, price and delivery. The company went bankrupt.
From this financial failure, Les learned many lessons. When he started a new company in 1988, he took measures to implement the knowledge and wisdom gained from his earlier experiences. The company would focus on US production, stronger product availability, and quality and customer relations. The new company also had a new name. “While there was “handmade” and “factory-made”, it was “Benchmade” that described the quality of Les’ product. He was building an operation that made precision parts, but with hand assembly on the finished products. This was a “bench” operation and Les wanted the name to reflect the marriage of manufactured and custom. In short, it describes Benchmade’s position in the market – even to this day.” – [Benchmade].
Two years later, the company was moved from California to Oregon; producing knives under the trademark of Benchmade, Inc. This was a major turning point for the company. The location placed Benchmade in the “epicenter” for knife-making in the US. “Many technological advancements were now possible and Benchmade became the first company to own and employ a high-power laser cutter, allowing for work with steels too hard to stamp. The company also became the world leader in automatic knife manufacturing (still true to this day) and began to supply military units.” – [Benchmade]. The company was moved to Oregon City in 1996-1997; to accommodate the need for a larger factory. “With the first ten years of manufacturing experience behind it, and by working with world-class custom knife makers like Mel Pardue and Warren Osbourne, Benchmade perfected a business model that involved lending manufacturing processes to custom knife designs; affording a level of innovation and quality to the larger market that was previously unavailable. This eventually led to Bill McHenry and Jason Williams approaching Benchmade with its AXIS lock… and the future of cutlery was born.” – [Benchmade]
On the Benchmade website there is an interesting page with the title of “Industry Partners” and the statement “Proud supporters of the following organizations”. The page shows the logos of: AKTI American Knife & Tool Institute, USO Northwest, American Snipers Org, OPS Concerns of Police Survivors, Intrepid Fallen Heros Fund, Knife Rights, Navy Seal Foundation, National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, and Oregon Fallen Badge Foundation. For the first organization, a highlighted explanation is given. “American Knife & Tool Institute (AKTI) is a non-profit organization (501(c)6) representing all segments of the knife industry and all knife users. Formed by concerned industry leaders after considerable discussion with individual knife-makers, knife magazine publishers, AKTI has been the reasonable and responsible voice of the knife community since 1998.” – [Benchmade]. Another page is titled “Our People” and presents “The Team”. The introduction begins with, “From Design Engineers to Finishers, Benchmade’s team is filled with hard-working, passionate individuals committed to producing some of the highest quality products in the world.” The Team being highlighted is composed of: Karen ( CNC Mill Operator), Glenn (Laser Operator), Hayden (Bevel Grinding Process Tech Lead), Mike (Design Engineer), Ly (Assembler), and Eladio (Sharpener). Each highlighting consists of a portrait of the person at their workstation, as well as personal information: Name, Position, Years at Benchmade, Best Thing About Their Job, Favorite Thing To Do Outside Of Work, and All Time Favorite Knife. Further on the website, the knives themselves are presented by categories of use: Tactical, Rescue, Everyday, Outdoor, Hunting, and Survival. Within each category are many knife models and the custom-made options offered for them.
What I discovered during my on-line Benchmade experience is that I like this company. They reflect my own personal values. I had not expected that from a modern American knife-making company. This is a company which expresses a genuine appreciation for the people who work there and is humble as it walks on its path toward achieving excellence. This is a great business plan, one which more companies might do well to consider investigating; one which is built upon hard-work which is inspired by respect and acknowledgement of each person’s idividual worth. “Of all things, none does not revere the Way and honor virtue. Reverence of the Way and honoring virtue were not demanded of them, but it is in their nature.” [Tao Te Ching, Chapter 51]. However, having bonded with the company Benchmade does not mean that I have bonded with their knives. I find that I have no affinity with the knives of Benchmade. I do not contest the high quality of their products, their presentation, or their commitment to culture, community and service. I just feel no affinity with their knives.
I have enjoyed all four of the company stories. I had never really thought about companies in general before this essay, and certainly I had not given knife-making companies any particular consideration either. I had not known that they have stories to tell. I am glad to have taken the time necessary to afford myself of the opportunity to listen and learn from each and every one of these four companies. Along the way, I have learned something about my own true nature, as well. My greatest surprise is that I can now say, with a fair amount of certainty, that a Laguiole knife awaits a meeting with me somewhere in the future.