No Black Steel? No Problem
Family-Owned White River Knives Serves Up A Welcome Slice Of Tradition.
Just when you thought the entire cutlery industry had gone tactical crazy, along comes White River Knives. We’re as guilty as anyone when it comes to covering tactical steel — but when a superb manufacturer of hunting and sporting knives comes along with a taste for tradition, we want to give them their due.
We came across White River Knives last June at the 2012 Blade Show in Atlanta, Ga. After a day dominated by black steel, the knives at the White River Knives booth shone like a constellation on a clear night. While at the booth, I met Matt Cammenga, the company’s PR guy and an integral part of the 2-year-old cutlery manufacturer.
White River Knives truly embraces the American dream and, as Matt informs us, “We are in every sense of the term a family business.” Matt’s parents, John and Susan Cammenga, along with his two brothers, make up the core of the custom knife shop located in Coopersville, Mich.
And after talking with Matt, the knife shop sounds like a fun place to call home. “We’re named after Michigan’s White River, which runs right through the family property. Family and friends often enjoy camping, shooting, kayaking and fishing on the property, which also houses living quarters for a bear. The bear is gone, but good stories remain and its legacy lives on as the inspiration for our company logo.”
Interestingly, the company’s roots aren’t in knives. Matt recounts, “The family made tritium luminous lensatic compasses beginning in the early 1990s and was the exclusive supplier to the US military. After selling the company in 2005, John Cammenga Sr. formed a new entity which would later become White River Knife & Tool.” This versatile company also produces other knife brands, grinds blades for knifemakers, and manufactures products for Cammo Brothers Tactical and Reid Auto Glass Tools.
Left: Scout, Right: Knucklehead
Good Ol’ American-Made
White River takes pride in the fact every knife they produce measures up to any task and is crafted right here in the United States. “Our customers seek higher-quality and fairly priced knives,” Matt explains. “They appreciate the design, materials and quality craftsmanship of our knives. In addition, they often express appreciation for the brand image: small, family-operated and exclusively USA-made.”
The company doesn’t scrimp on materials or craftsmanship, offering customers a choice of blade steels and handle materials to suit their wallet. Steel options include affordable 52100 high carbon and 440C stainless. Those wanting higher-grade steel can choose from Crucible Industries CPM S30V and, available later in 2013, CPM 3V. For handle materials, base models come in high quality G10 synthetic or you can upgrade to carbon fiber. Customers with a penchant for tradition can choose organic handles made from walnut, bone, stag antler and cork. Other custom handles are available depending on the model.
Left: Clip Point Hunter, Right: Caper
Before you decide on steel and handle options, you must first slather over White River’s sweet model lineup. According to Matt, the Backpacker and the Knucklehead are the company’s two most popular models, thanks in part to their all-around effectiveness. “Our customers tell us they enjoy the versatile and lightweight Backpacker for camping, survival and field dressing game. It even has found its way to the battlefield as a general-purpose field knife.
“The Knucklehead is used mostly as a self-defense neck knife or boot knife, though it also comes with a belt clip attachment. The concept behind both the Backpacker and Knucklehead was to offer a useful, everyday USA-made knife with S30V super steel and a sheath, for under $100.”
Two other knives — the Scout and the Caper — caught my eye and I reviewed the pair in the February issue of our sister pub, GUNS. Either knife would make for a small skinner or caper, but they can easily double as light carry-neck knives for self-defense. With 3.5″ drop-point blades and measuring 6.75″ in overall length, these two knives gave me a firsthand look at White River’s quality — and I wasn’t left disappointed.
If you love traditional styling, White River’s full-size hunting knives are a joy to behold. Brass guards, stacked leather and brass spacers, along with hidden tang construction make for an attractive bunch. Two hardwoods, Walnut and Tiger Stripe Maple, make up the base models, with Natural Antler an optional upgrade. A Drop Point, Small Clip Point and Large Clip Point are available, including a handmade custom leather sheath. The Drop Point and Small Clip Point check in at 8.5″ overall, while the Large Clip Point comes in 1″ longer. The handles of these knives are sumptuously sculpted and the blades are finished in a subtle stonewashed surface.
Left: Drop Point Hunter, Right: Large Clip Point Hunter
Not a company to rest on its laurels, White River launched a new line of filet knives at the 2013 SHOT Show. Commenga tells us, “Our new fillet knives feature premium stabilized wood or cork handles and a step-up handle option, providing more knuckle clearance while filleting fish. White River Fillet knives are offered with 6″, 8″, or 11″ blade options. We plan to release some new fixed blades later in 2013, as well as some collaboration models with well-known designers.”
The company’s pricing is very affordable, ranging from $65 for the Knucklehead to $210 for the Large Clip Point Hunter in wood handles. For an additional $40, stag handles can be added. And once you hold a White River knife in your hand you’ll know those prices are well worth it!
For more info: www.americanhandgunner.com/white-river, (800) 353-7343
By Pat Covert
Photos By Chuck Pittman