Great Eastern Cutlery 2014-16 Update
By Gary Zinn
It has been well over a year since I wrote an introductory article on Great Eastern Cutlery. I traced the basic history of the firm from its origins in 2006 through its status as of 2014. Now, information is available on the variety and volume of knives that GEC produced in 2014 and 2015, so I can summarize that, along with preliminary information for 2016.
GEC is unusually transparent about its production activities. Lists of the patterns, models and numbers of knives produced each year since 2006 can be found on the main GEC website www.greateasterncutlery.net. In summary, the production records show that in 2007, its first full year of operation, GEC produced about 7300 knives. Total production grew to 18,500 pieces in 2014 and was 18,700 pieces in 2015. The similarity of the 2014 and 2015 production totals indicates that the firm is either producing at capacity or at a level that the market will absorb, or both.
Breaking down the production totals in any useful way must start with understanding the relationship between factory patterns and specific knife models. GEC has produced knives based on over 50 factory patterns in a decade of operation. Not all patterns are used each year, of course, and at any given time several specific knife models may be produced using the same factory pattern.
Starting with a given factory pattern, i.e., the size and shape of the knife frame, changing the blade steel, pattern of blades, or number of blades will result in different specific knife models. In addition, differences in handle materials used or a change in the size or shape of bolsters changes the knife model. Understanding that multiple knife models can be made using the same factory pattern helps make sense of the highlights of recent production.
Here is an example. GEC factory pattern #15 is a traditional sleeveboard jack knife frame that has a 3-1/2 inch length. Just two of many specific knife models that were built on the #15 pattern in 2014 were:
#151214STL, a Tidioute #15 Huckleberry Boys Knife with short bolsters, clip and pen blades and antique, yellow jigged bone handle scales.
#152114, a Tidioute #15 Sawyer Barlow with long bolsters, a single spear point blade and American walnut handle scales.
GEC is first and foremost a folding knife maker. They released some fixed blade knives between 2010 and 2014, but in small production runs of only six blade patterns during the entire period. In 2015, the only GEC activity in fixed blades was production of less that a thousand blanks for another knife maker.
Summary and highlights of recent production
Recent production of GEC knives may be summarized thusly:
2014: 15 factory patterns used to make 236 knife models; 18,500 pieces total.
Based on the number of patterns used and knife models made through 9/30/16, a simple projection would be that GEC will use perhaps 16 patterns to make about 187 specific models of knives in 2016. I expect total production to be about the same number of pieces as were made in 2014 and 2015.
It would be overkill to do a total rundown of the knife patterns produced by GEC in 2014 and 2015. I will briefly mention the leading patterns that were produced in the two years. Pattern #, closed length, number of blades, model, brand name and number of knife models produced are listed.
#47 - 3-3/4 inch 1 blade slip joint "Viper," Tidioute brand, 24 models.
#42 - 4-1/4 inch 1 blade lockback "Missouri Trader," Tidioute brand, 21 models.
#99 - 3-3/4 inch 1 blade lockback "Farmer Lock," Farm & Field Tool brand, 5 models.
Knife models built on these three patterns were 28 percent of all the models GEC made in 2014. The #47 Viper pattern was new for 2014, as was the Wall Street model built from the #99 pattern.
#77 - 3-3/4 inch 2 blade slip joint "Yankee Jack," Northfield brand, 17 models.
#38 - 3-7/8 inch 2 blade slip joint "Yankee Jack," Northfield brand, 17 models.
#83 - 3-3/8 inch 1 blade lock back "Tascola Lockback." Northfield brand, 9 models; Tidioute brand, 10 models.
The #38 pattern, from which the Yankee Jack and Grinling Whittler models were made, was new for 2015, along with the #83 Tascola Lockback. In total, models made on the #77, #38 and #83 patterns accounted for 52 percent of all knife models GEC made in 2015.
One interesting insight into GEC production patterns is that in 2015 the total number of knives produced was almost evenly split between regular production, 9300 pieces, and special factory orders (SFOs), 9400 pieces. SFOs are runs of knife models that GEC makes specifically for a particular dealer or wholesaler.
For instance, they made a SFO of model 83115LB, a Tidioute Tascola Lockback in blood orange camel bone, for Derrick Bohn (KnivesShipFree). I have one of these that I reviewed in Compared: Buck Model 503 Prince and GEC Tidioute #83 Tascola Lock Back Knives. All together, GEC made SFOs for fifteen different dealers or wholesalers in 2015. I am not aware of another maker that does so much special order work.
Brand names, dealer network and Company websites
GEC uses four brand names to differentiate among its product lines. These are Northfield UN-X-LD, Tidioute, Great Eastern and Farm & Field Tool.
Northfield UN-X-LD #82 Dixie Stockman Knife. Image courtesy of knivesshipfree.com
Northfield is the premium line of GEC knives, with 1095 carbon steel blades, stamp marked and mirror polished. Bolsters are coined and typically decorated with dimples, lines and angled cuts. Handle covers (scales) are upscale materials including India Stag antler, Mammoth ivory, Cocobolo, Snakewood and North American cattle shin bone. These are limited production knives, with a portion of each run serialized.
Tidioute knives also feature blades of 1095 carbon steel, but handle scale materials are less exotic and bolsters less detailed than on the Northfield knives. The bulk of GEC production is the Tidioute brand. See Great Eastern Cutlery Tidioute #15 Huckleberry Boys Knife for a full Tidioute knife review.
Great Eastern Cutlery Tidioute #15 Huckleberry Boys Knife. Image courtesy of knivesshipfree.com
Great Eastern brand knives are made with 440C stainless steel blades. These knives are, "As all American as possible." American cattle bone, elk antler and American hardwoods are used for handle materials.
Farm & Field Tool is a no-nonsense line of sturdy utility knives. They feature steel frames, 1095 carbon steel blades, solid Delrin handle scales and reinforced pins.
GEC markets their knives mainly through a network of some two dozen dealers, most of whom have direct marketing websites. A list of these dealers is provided on the GEC websites. Remember that about half of GEC production is SFOs for specific dealers, so a particular knife model may be available exclusively on one dealer site only.
GEC itself has two websites. The more general one is www.greateasterncutlery.com, where basic information is provided about the Company, its products and the dealer network. The second site, www.greateasterncutlery.net, has many sub-sites that provide a wealth of detailed information about current and past production, among other things.
The knife business is neither easy nor forgiving. Consider the rise and fall of Canal Street Cutlery in the span of a single decade.
Great Eastern Cutlery, which has now been in business for the same length of time, shows no sign of decline. In fact, the firm seems to have developed to a point of stability in annual production. Moreover, they have apparently nurtured close working relationships with a number of their major dealers, which bodes well for vigorous marketing of their products. It looks like GEC will be a significant player in the made in USA pocket knife business for the foreseeable future.
Copyright 2016 by Gary Zinn and/or chuckhawks.com. All rights reserved.