Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Ruana Knife Works

Having left the decimated family farm in North Dakota and looking for greener pastures, 1938 found Rudy Ruana in the small community of Bonner, Montana working as a mechanic and welder at a small garage. In order to help his family survive during the post depression era, Ruana began to make a few knives on the side.
A skill that originated in the 1920’s when he was a farrier in the cavalry, making his first knives for a couple of Native Americans in need of a better tool for skinning horses. As time passed and the reputation of Ruana’s knives grew, demand became so great that Rudy began making knives full time in 1952, calling his business Ruana Knife Works. In 1964 Ruana’s son-in-law, Vic Hangas left a job with the phone company and put his artistic talents to work, joining Ruana in the business. Hangas’ son Mark began working at the company in 1976. At the end of 1983 Ruana retired at the age of 80 and sold the business to the Hangas family. In 1984 Mike Hangas joined his brother and Dad and the business was incorporated. Rudy Ruana passed away in April of 1986. 
He received the honor of being posthumously inducted into the American Blade Smith Society Hall of Fame in 1997 and BLADE Magazine’s Cutlery Hall of Fame in 2002. As of 2011, Vic, Mark and Mike Hangas have combined Ruana Knife making experience in excess of 100 years.

In an era of outsourcing and diminishing Made in America products, Ruana Knives are still handcrafted in the small shop where Rudy Ruana began forging out blades over 70 years ago. While a few things have changed over the years, they are still using the same methods and much of the same equipment Rudy used. Their goal is to give our best effort on a daily basis while maintaining Rudy Ruana’s work ethic and emphasis on uncompromising quality over quantity, proudly crafting knives that are American Made as much as a product possibly could be. We will continue our commitment to creating knives that are first and foremost usable and durable, and as evidenced by customer demand, increasingly collectible. When we’re not at the shop working, they can often be found field-testing knives in Montana’s great outdoors. 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Jess Horn, The Quiet Man

In 1968, while he was working for the American government as an engineer of public works responsible for highway maintenance, Jess Horn made himself a knife that he always kept on his pocket, considering those that he found on the market to be too fragile and of unsatisfactory design.

Living in a region near Oregon locally called “the other California”, Horn is of course a great devotee of fishing and hunting. For these activities he designed, but for a strictly personal use, very specific knives that suited him perfectly. But who out of his numerous hunting and fishing buddies could resist asking him to show them his knives, trying them out themselves and asking him to make identical ones for them? That is how Jess Horn started a small production for his close friends, but even in this huge country word gets around, and a number of retailers came along to place orders.

In Switzerland, Germany, Japan and now in France, people tend to consider a Jess Horn to be the Rolls Royce of knives. In the United States, he contradicts the saying that one is never a prophet in one’s own land, for his name ranks among the handful of top knifemakers specializing in folding knives. His knives are difficult to get hold of and delivery times are long, since this man is most meticulous in his work.

Jess Horn is a discreet man who will never admit having entered American cutlery legend and who continues to do his best work with the same models that are still as fascinating today as they were thirty years ago.