Part Two of a series on the birth of Buck Knives

After Hoyt Buck joined his son in San Diego following World War II, Al was skeptical that they could support themselves just making knives. As a precaution, he kept his day job as a bus driver. As their efforts gained traction, though, he started to see the potential in their business and agreed to devote himself full-time to creating knives. In 1947, four decades after Hoyt had crafted his first knives as a teenager, he and Al formed their company as H.H. Buck & Son.

In a cruel twist of fate, one year later Hoyt developed cancer. He spent his last days making sure he taught Al all his skills. Shortly after that, he moved back to the Northwest where he died at the age of 59.

The business was barely able to stay afloat in those early years. With an output of just a few dozen knives per week, Al took work sharpening lawnmower blades and saws to supplement his income.

During the 1950’s he began producing in larger volumes, with his wife Ida doing the bookkeeping. Son Chuck also helped, joining the business with his wife Lori in 1961. The company was struggling but incorporated as Buck Knives on April 7 that year and hired three knife-makers. For several months Al and Ida traveled the country in a camper signing up dealers.

The big break for Buck Knives came in April of 1963 when plans were made for a folding hunting and utility knife. Destined to become a favorite of elk, deer, and bear hunters, the 110 Folding Hunter was introduced in 1964 and solidified Buck Knives as a leader in the field of outdoor cutlery.

Competitors were selling their own folding hunting knives, but the 110 proved superior and met with instant success. The 110 had a reliable locking mechanism, sharp but strong clip point blade and was welcomed by hunters throughout the country for its ease of carrying and ability to field dress, skin and butcher game. The blade measured 3 ¾-inches, with an easy release, but strong locking mechanism. It was one of the earliest folding lock-blade knives considered rugged enough to do all the work of a fixed blade and revolutionized the knife industry.

The 110 Folding Hunter remains in the catalog today and has sold over 16 million. Later, the Buck 112 Ranger, a smaller model with a 3-inch blade, was released. It, too, quickly became a legend. In following years newer, lighter versions of both the 110 and 112 were created using more modern materials.

One person who was crucial to Buck Knives’ success was Paul Bos, who developed an innovative heat-treating system even more efficient than Hoyt’s early techniques. That method is patented and still used in Buck Knives today, giving blades greater durability and an edge that stays sharp longer.

Chuck’s son, CJ Buck, became the fourth generation to join Buck Knives, starting at the bottom in 1978 when he labored on the production line building the 110 Folding Hunter. Chuck gave the reins of the company to CJ in 1999, but remained active on the board with his wife Lori, until he died in 2015. Lori Buck continues to serve on the board.

CJ is president and CEO of Buck Knives today, as well as president of the American Knife and Tool Institute, and a member of the Cutlery Hall of Fame, following both his father and grandfather’s earlier inductions.

Buck Knives moved to Post Falls, Idaho, in 2005 and remains there today, where it employs 200 people and has annual revenues over $80 million.

Nearly 120 years after he crafted his first knife, Hoyt Buck would be proud.

Award-winning outdoors writer Gerald Almy is a Maurertown resident