The online community of knife collectors, A Knife Family Forged in Steel
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Topic: Buck Cutlery Company
April 18, 2012
The first knives made be a member of the family, owning Buck Knives were
made about 1900 by Hoyt Heath Buck, a blacksmiths apprentice. Young Buck
had developed an effective method of tempering and had used it in his work of
rebuilding worn out grub hoes used by local farmers and gardeners. Those for
whom he had worked recognized that the rebuilt hoes were superior to new ones.
Because of this, one of his customers asked Buck to forge a knife.
Using the same type of worn farriers files that he used to rebuild the cutting edge
of hoes, Buck made his first knife, and personal recommendations led to his
making others. As the reputation of his knife spread, he began to custom make
knives on a regular but part time basis, During the years from 1908 until 1930,
Hoyt Buck earned the familys livelihood by working in the logging industry, but
supplemented his income by making knives in his spare time.
A son, Alfred Charles Buck, was born to Hoyt and Daisy Buck in 1910. After his
discharge from the U.S. Coast Guard in 1940, Al Buck settled in San Diego,
California. Meanwhile, Hoyt Buck had been ordained a minister and had moved
to Mountain Home, Idaho, to pastor a small church. His forge was set up in the
church basement and he continued to make knives for local customers. With our
nations involvement in World War II, a growing number of the areas young men
would leave for military service with their own knife made by Buck. For the first
time, knives made at the Buck forge would gain more than a local reputation for
quality as the few fortunate servicemen proudly showed their knives to their
In 1943, Hoyt and Daisy Buck moved to San Diego to join their son. Hoyt began
to make knives full-time and Al made knives part-time, whenever he was not as
his regular job as a bus driver. The Bucks has reasoned that their knives could
be sold by mail order via advertisements in outdoor magazines, since some of
their readers could well have been former servicemen who had already learned
of the knives made by H. H. Buck. Continuing in the four-decade tradition, most
of the early Buck knives were made from old files or power hacksaw blades.
They were usually handled in Lucite plastic of various colors, South American lignum vitae, or local desert ironwood. Their reasoning had been sound and
business during the 1945-1949 period was good.
Hoyt Buck died in 1949, but his son, Al continued to make knives in the San
Diego shop at 1272 San Morena Avenue, San Diego. In 1959, his own son,
Charles T. Buck, joined him in the business. In 1961, incorporation of the
business and sale of stock allowed for expansion of the knife business by moving
to a large workshop at 3220 Congress Street, San Diego and employing three
knife makers. (I was able to visit this shop in 1969 and stupid me, I did not take
Bucks line was still limited to fixed blade hunting and filet knives made from files
and saw blade steel. Soon, however, a nearby commercial forging company
made the blades, which were finished into knives and stamped “Buck” at he
company shop. Models produced at this time (1964) included #102 Woodman,
#103 Skinner, #105 Pathfinder, #116 Caper, #118 Personal, #119 Special, #120
General and #121 Fisherman.
Noting tang style may make some general determination of a fixed blade Buck
knifes age. The earliest production knives followed the system of their hand
made predecessors in that their tangs were threaded and a barrel nut was used
to hold on the handle and butt cap. Knives produced after 1962 had a flat tang
with the butt pressed on and held with a pin.
The knife that would bring fame and fortune to Buck knives was the Model 110.
Although is has become synonymous with the term “folding hunter” and is
undoubtedly the most copied knife made today, the basic locking design was not
new when Al Buck designed it in 1963. But the phenomenal demand for knives of
this type was created through the qualities of the Buck 110 and it remains today
as the market leader. Introduced in 1964, the companys success with the 110
led to production, in 1971, of the slightly smaller version Model 112.
In 1966, the company expanded its line of folding knives by introducing the 300
series pocketknives, first produced by Schrade but switched to Camillus in 1968.
In 1975, the 500 series models were introduced and were also made for Buck by
Camillus. Production of Buck pocketknives was moved to the companys own
factory in 1979.
Buck moved to El Cajon, California in 1980, and more recently to a new facility in
Post Falls, Idaho in 2005. The company still manufactures many of its products
as the Idaho plant, though portions of its line are manufactured overseas as well.
(I visit the Buck factory in El Cajon, California with several of my knife friends in
the mid 1980s. I tried to put together another trip in 2004 and in 2005, but several
had medical excuses and other issues and I never made it).
Buck Knife Stampings The evolution of Buck Knives from church basement enterprise to high-tech cutlery manufactures is reflected in the markings found on the companys products. The earliest marked knives are called “four strikes” by collectors, because each of the letters in BUCK were struck with individual letter stamps of the type found at any hardware store back in the days when real hardware stores still existed. One a related note, the general availability of such stamps and the current value of early Buck knives means that the inexperienced collector should use caution before taking a chance on one.
There are many variations among the early, pre-factory Buck markings, with or
without dots on either side of the name, four or one strike stamps, stamps
location, etc. In 1961, the marking was standardized as a one-strike BUCK stamp
on the left side of the blade. Buck began marketing knives in Canada in 1967,
and the stamping became BUCK U.S.A. or BUCK MADE IN U.S.A. The company
mark was again changed in about 1971, adding the knifes model number to
create a three-line stamp.
* BUCK * 1946-1961
BUCK U.S.A 1967-1971
BUCK 119 U.S.A 1971-1986
Acknowledging collectors interest in the companys line, Buck decided to add an
additional symbol to their mark in 1986. This symbol allows collectors to
determine when any Buck knife after 1986 was produced. Alternative symbols
were used in 2002 (an anvil) and 2005 (the outline of Idaho, signaling that years
move to that state).
Older Buck fixed blade knives and Model 100 folding hunters have become very
popular with collectors, as have several recently marketed limited editions, such
as the David Yellowhorse line. In recent years the Buck Collectors Club has done
much to promote collector interest in the brand, with a good company interface
and a very active membership. Those with an interest in the companys products
would do well to join, if only to receive the clubs fact filled newsletter.