Knife maker marks its 80th year in business

FREMONT, Ohio (AP) — Every so often, Randy Christy will be with someone who needs a small cutting tool for one reason or another.

“They’ll say, ‘Hey, have you got a knife?’ And I say, ‘Boy, have I got a knife!'” said Christy.

Knives and cutting tools are what the Christy family of Fremont have been all about for four generations. They started out making bread knives, then shaving razors, then surgical blades. In the early 1900s, the company employed over 400 workers in a Fremont factory that was torn down long ago.

But for 80 years under the name Christy Knife Co., Christy family members have built a special sliding-blade pocket knife — first by his great-grandfather, R.J. Christy, and then by his grandfather, D.L. Christy; his father, Earl B. Christy, who died in 2006, and ever since then, Randy Christy.

To commemorate the Christy Knife’s history, which began in 1936 when his great-grandfather saw the device in a dream and sketched it out after he awoke, Christy, a retired machinist, decided to do something special. So this year he created a special anniversary edition knife with rose gold coloring and “80th Anniversary” engraved on the blade. It is priced at $34.95.

Christy initially made just 60 of the anniversary knives, thinking only collectors would be interested. But after word spread about the special knife, orders surged. He now has only a few left and is making about 80 more. “That should get me through the year,” Christy said.

If it sounds as though he should be pleased by the rising demand, it should be noted that Christy, 65, “doesn’t really make any money” on the sale of his knives, and sometimes the hours he puts in making them makes him wish he was back working as a machinist when he could call it a day at a set time.

He estimates making each knife takes an hour of his time, but the way they are produced can sometimes lead to 12 or 14-hour days, and regularly he will put in 6 hour days producing parts or fixing old production machinery.

Regularly priced at $19.95, Christy sells between 250 and 325 of the little pocket knives — which were immensely popular with G.I.s during WWII — to buyers worldwide. Lately, sales have been rising for reasons unknown.

“We don’t sell hundreds and hundreds of these. I wish we did,” Christy said. “But the last year was a good year and this year could be even better.”

And buyers should know that when they purchase a Christy knife — which according to a slogan is “the handiest pocket knife ever designed” — they can be sure Christy will have machined it, polished it, assembled it, and packaged it himself, just the way his dad, grandfather, and great-grandfather did.

“I am in the process of putting together a video on how I make them and my wife (Donna) said, ‘Don’t! You’ll be giving away trade secrets,'” Christy said. “I said, ‘Well, I can guarantee you that if anybody wants to make them, they’re sure not going to use 1936 technology like I do.'”


Information from: The Blade,