Perfection Personified

Chris Reeve: Lifetime Knives.

We all have our own definition of the word “perfection” and Chris Reeve’s is just higher than most of us can imagine. Chris Reeve Knives of Boise, Idaho has been the recipient of the Blade Manufacturers Quality Award — the highest kudos you can get in the cutlery industry — 10 times. That’s a feat difficult for any competitor to top. He accomplishes this by paying attention to the tiniest details in the manufacturing process and using state-of-the-art equipment that can hold the tightest of tolerances.

Born in South Africa, Reeve’s first interest in knives came in 1975 when he was a second year tool and die maker apprentice. He was scheduled to go into military service on the Mozambique border, a particularly arduous environment. According to Chris, “I needed a knife to take with me but could not afford a good one, so I decided to make my own. It was an interesting thing to do and I started reading about knifemaking. But I had other things on my mind. I went motorcycle racing until 1981. After this I was at a loose end the weekends and turned back to knives. It was then I started to work on the hollow handle concept I had come up with for a survival knife, machined from one solid piece of steel I did in 1978, but had not had the chance to do anything about it. I went full-time on those in 1983 and they continued until 2010. Those have now been and gone.”

Moving from motorcycle racing to knifemaking would turn out to be a stroke of fortune on Chris’ part. He is one of those rare people who set out to be the absolute best he can be, and though these hyper-driven types don’t always achieve their loftiest goals, they often hit pay dirt somewhere along the line. “When I set out to make knives I wanted to be the best — take the company to the top. I wanted to be world champion on my motorcycle. I did not achieve that, but we gave our utmost to get the other. You have to set expectations high for your employees and not accept anything else but.”

Knowing he had a much better chance of selling knives in the US, the knifemaker packed up his family and crossed the big pond. “We moved to Boise, Idaho in 1989, March 7th,” explained Chris. “I have always been a manufacturer and used whatever technology was available to me. The 1-piece knives were always made on CNC machines and then hand ground. I had help in my shop and never hid the fact. Our shop has always been open to my customers and fellow competitors. It never did affect the way I did business. The only trouble was when there was the silly nonsense in the [Custom] Knifemaker’s Guild about handmade or not and that caused me to withdraw from the organization as a company.” Shortly after his move to Boise Reeve took the leap from being a custom knifemaker to a manufacturer, and never looked back.

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