April 12, 2021 is a special day in Ohio. The bill allowing the manufacturing of automatic knives, originally sponsored by Senator Joe Uecker and carried on by others, went into effect that day.
One driving force behind this was Rick Hinderer. Rick makes high quality knives with what he describes as “medical precision.” And it is a long story from the first knife he made to a building filled with state-of-the-art automated mills.
Rick started as a farrier and limited resources caused him to forge his first knife as a retirement gift to a friend. Rick discovered that not only was it fun, but he had a knack for it. He turned the profits back into the business like many entrepreneurs and gained a following. And this following grew partly because of his feelings about warranties.
“What good does a warranty do if you’re hanging from a cliff and your life-saving tool breaks?” he asked. “It doesn’t do you any good. So, I offer a lifetime warranty because everyone does, but I make my knives so the warranty never needs to be used.”
This insistence on quality and performance has led him to a point, where despite the price, every knife he makes is already sold before he can finish it. All of his knives are assembled by hand, carefully fitted until each knife is perfect. That is what creates demand! It also has found him favor with the military. He has sent sample knives to the Joint Chiefs of Staff and they like them!
So where do automatic knives come in?
Previously, in Ohio, you could own and you could carry an automatic knife, but you couldn’t manufacture. Our neighbors in Indiana and West Virginia have that ability.
So, what happens if he gets a call from the military for an order of 20 thousand automatics? “I can’t do it here,” Rick explained. “But I’m not saying no to an order that size or from our government either.” It’s a dilemma, and it has a simple but unwanted decision.
Located in Wayne County, Hinderer knives is a major source of revenue and tax dollars. He’s created jobs and opportunities in an area that needs a little help. Equally important he likes living in the area.
The law allows the manufacturing of automatic knives in Ohio. And Rick isn’t the only manufacturer who will benefit from this change. Other current and future knife entrepreneurs will also benefit. So will the communities from where men and women will be drawn, polished and turned into masters of their art. The impact of creating jobs, improving the tax base and giving people the opportunity to become skilled tradesman cannot be under estimated.
The bill also moves the legal focus off the object and onto the user’s action. This is huge! The law takes the rational view that an object isn’t responsible for breaking the law. The responsibility is shifted to the doer causing harm by breaking the law. Many police officers have long felt this was a more enlightened stance. Now the pen in your pocket is just a pen until you assault someone with it.
|The House of Hinderer|
This benefits the knife collector. I’ve been to shows and heard horror stories of displays of expensive, classic fishtail automatics seized by overzealous enforcement agents. Or the customer who now feels relieved because the tool she carries isn’t a reason to be arrested.
If you never have been in a modern factory, forget your old stereotypes. The air is clean and the floor sparkling. Men and women work in well illuminated environments, hand-fitting each component together. Anyone who tells you modern knife makers don’t have the quality of the cutlers of the past, is in my opinion, talking out their hats. Hinderer knives are masterpieces of quality and manufacturing.
Part of the morning was spent showing us the modern tools of knife manufacturing. Water jets using a simple abrasive cut out titanium blanks. Pods of automatic milling machines do 26 different operation with different tools producing 4 blanks each in just 80 minutes. Finished blades are custom laser engraved. But despite modern automated machinery, Rick has his knives sharpened by hand. Machines just can’t seem to do the job right, he insists.
Every component of a Hinderer knife is made on premises. Rick designs everything from the clips on the back to the smallest screw to the beefiest blade.
Automated machines can improve production and quality but first you have to learn how to use them. To make the screws he wanted, Rick told us about buying a lathe. How do you learn to use a lathe? Mostly by doing and he realized he needed to teach himself. He decided that a pen was a simple enough shape to practice on. And out of perseverance came opportunity.
At one of the shows in Las Vegas he met a homicide detective who had a need and he hoped Rick could solve it for him. You can’t take weapons into holding cells when you interview people under arrest. That’s common sense, but you’re still in a small room with a man who has nothing to lose. This LV detective was attacked by a suspect and saved by his partner. The detective wanted to know if Rick could make something that would give him an edge. The tactical pen was borne from that request. Rick claims that was the first tactical pen sold and it was his idea.
Perhaps. Still, it is a great story.
But the highlight of the day was Rick assembling the first legally manufactured automatic knife in Ohio. It was an unsharpened prototype and I’m sure it will see some changes, but I was there to watch history be made.
|Parts and tools needed to assemble the Hinderer prototype auto (Rick didn’t do the photographers any favors using a black background with silver parts!)|
Now, perhaps it is small h history being made. But in ten years it could be big H history spawning a homegrown statewide industry and creating opportunities for many people.
Who knows where it will go?
The Knife Edge: One Man, So Many Knives©: The Freedom to Manufacture is written by knife for knifesearch.blogspot.com