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End of an era, History and Fate of Ontario Knife Company

Posted by Knifethoughts on 18th Jan 2024

We live in strange times for knife enthusiasts. There are more quality knives being made of every type, price point, and origin than ever. Unfortunately, at the same time some of the industry mainstays are closing entirely or changing beyond recognition. It looks as though the latter will be the fate of the venerable Ontario Knife Company.

History of Ontario Knife Company

Ontario Knife Company was started in 1889 in Naples New York. Its name was derived from the county in which Naples sat, Ontario County. In 1902, due to the business’s growth, operations were moved to Franklinville and incorporated as Ontario Knife Company. Operations have continued in Franklinville to this day, over 120 years later, and in the same facility since 1914. In 1904 the owners of Empire State Cutlery Company bought out the founders of Ontario Knife Company and combined operations at the Franklinville factory. In 1923 the Old Hickory line of kitchen cutlery was created, which has been a mainstay in affordable American made cutlery ever since. More recently, the overseas made but Ontario branded Rat 1 and Rat 2 folding knives have become some of the most highly recommended EDC (every day carry) pocket knives on the market. Ontario Knife Company USA made fixed blades are also regarded as great budget friendly options for hunting, camping, and general outdoors use. OKC recently added an American made slipjoint folding pocket knife to the Old Hickory line in 2021 and you can watch my review below (although with this current news I feel I might have been too harsh). Ontario Knife Company has an extremely long history of making knives here in the USA, and more recently have become known for quality imported knives as well as expanding their in house product lines.

Sale of Ontario Knife Company

Last week the news broke that Ontario Knife Company had been sold. As you can see from the company’s history, and really every knife company’s history, changing ownership is not unusual for a company… unfortunately, the report also indicated that the Franklinville factory will be closed. Over 50 employees are expected to lose their jobs. Ontario Knife Company’s parent company Servotronics (which also owned Queen Cutlery for a time) announced plans to sell the company in March of this year, and has found a buyer in Blue Ridge Knives. The local Cattaraugus County Industrial Development Agency tried to pull together an offer to purchase the brand and assets, but was unable to rival the offer from Blue Ridge Knives. The agency still hopes to come to some kind of agreement with the buyer and parent company to allow the Franklinville facility to continue as a knife manufacturing space in some capacity. The loss of such great tradition of knife making, not to mention the genuine human suffering the loss of jobs will likely cause, is a tragedy not just for the knife community but for the entire region.

Future of Ontario Knife Company

The following is my conjectures on what will happen with Ontario Knife Company into the future. I suspect that the RAT and Old Hickory brands will continue to be used on knives. I wouldn’t be surprised if the overseas made knives even continued to be made by the same OEMs. I can’t really make any conjectures on what will happen with the models that up to now have been made in the USA at the Franklinville facility. I would be happy if all of the currently USA made knives continued to be genuinely made in America, but with the Franklinville factory set to close I can’t imagine that is the plan. Even if they do keep some knives made in the USA, the loss of 56 people’s (and likely their family’s) livelihoods is a real shame. While I can’t hide my disappointment that the Franklinville factory is closing and its employees losing their jobs, I hope Blue Ridge Knives shepherds Ontario Knife Company faithfully into a successful future that includes USA manufacturing.