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Gerber Legendary Blades

iKnife Collector
Hosted by Gus Marsh
Topic: Gerber Legendary Blades
March 27, 2013
Gerber Legendary Blades
In 1910, the Gerber family started an advertising firm in Portland, Oregon. While
working for the family business, Joseph Gerber mailed 24 sets of kitchen knives
to clients during the holidays. The local craftsman who made the knives was
David Z. Murphy, a knifemaker who would soon be supplying a large number of
Murphy Combat knives for use by servicemen fighting in World War II.
When an executive of Abercrombie & Fitch offered to buy as many knives as
could be produced, Murphy knives became the top seller in their catalog in 1939,
and a business was started.
A slogan was chosen that would point the way: “Legendary Blades.“ It was a
daring claim, but one it lived up to. The brand has reached all five continents with
its reputation fully intact.
Established in Oregon, the brand was naturally responding to local demand when
it launched its first range. The earliest knives featured a cast aluminum handle
and the design gained early recognition, especially as household cutlery. With
American troops engaged in World War II, a “combat” series was quickly
developed.
When Gerber branched out into sportsmanʼs knives in 1950, a variation of the
cast handle would be following through in their Magnum series. But it was not
until advent of the Vietnam War that the most effective models were created,
notably the famous “Mark II” dagger.
During the long Vietnam War, there was a considerable demand for equipment of
all kinds. Gerber, whose hunting and outdoor knives were greatly appreciated,
set out to design a combat model calling on the services of Bud Holzman, a
retired captain.
Holzman developed a dagger prototype that was greatly modified after tests on
the ground. The first models were manufactured in 1967. Strongly influenced by
the famous duo of Fairbairn & Sykes, this dagger has a flatter blade through, with
a willow-leaf shape, a gray metal handle and a solid guard with two quillons. The
sheath is in leather. The blade became more rounded later on, and was
produced in black, with saw-teeth cut into the blade halfway up on both sides.
With these new “survival” features the knife was renamed the Mark II Survival
Knife in 1979. More than a hundred thousand were made and immediately sold. The Special Forces could not ignore the effectiveness of such a weapon and
different variants were made according to specific requests from various units.
The handle was produced in different colors including yellow and orange and in
other lighter materials. In addition, to meet hand-to-hand combat requirements,
certain blades were produced with the blade extending from the guard at an
angle so that the point would be turned away off-center. Along with the Fairbairn
& Sykes dagger, the Gerber Mark II is certainly the most copied model in the
world, which attests to its renown.
Gerber has been consistently innovative in all areas, thus standing out from all
the other manufactures, even ones that are much older, firstly through an
extremely wide range for every use, with both straight and folding models. Just
as the earlier knives, these would earn recognition as well as respect for their
high quality.
Gerber added folding knives to its line and became an innovator of new knife
designs, some of which were produced in Japan as a supplement to those
produced in the companyʼs own Portland, Oregon, factory. In addition to its own
designs, knives designed by Paul Poehlmann, Bob Loveless, William Harsey Jr.,
Fred Carter, Rick Hinderer, Brad Parish, Ernest Emerson, Matt Larsen and
Blackie Collins were produced bearing the stamp GERBER PORTLAND, OR
97223/USA. A large number of the companyʼs products were stamped with its
trademark, the Excalibur sword embedded in a large rock.
In 1977 and again in 1996, Gerber offered knives designed by Paul Poehlmann.
Over the nine-year run of the first knife and the two-year run of the second, they
sold between 7,000 and 10,000 of these fine knives. Each time Gerber stopped
producing the knife because of great difficulty in making the locking mechanism
work. Then in the spring of 2003, Lone Wolf Knives, anew company owned by
the former president of Gerber Legendary Blades, Jim Wehrs, introduced the
small version. It was called the Paul Pocket Folder and was designed by Paul
Poehlmann using the same axial locking mechanism, which he patented in the
early 1970s.
Gerber employees who started their own successful knife companies include Al
Mar and Pete Kershaw. Gerber built a line of folding knives based on the designs
of Rex Applegate who left his indelible mark on the combat models. Bear Grylls
has helped design a line of survival knives and tools.
In 1966, the company relocated to a new headquarters next to Interstate 5 in
what is now Tigard, Oregon, within the Portland metropolitan area. Ownership of
Gerber Legendary Blades remained with the Gerber family until 1987, when the
company was sold to Fiskars of Finland. Chad Vincent was hired a chief
executive officer in July 2001. By 2003 the company employed 300 people and had revenues near 100 million
and was the second leading seller of knives and multi tools in the United States.
Gerber certainly merits its slogan of “Legendary Blades.”
Sources
Price Guide to Collector Knives, 2008, 15th Edition by Price and Zalesky
Web sites like Wikipedia and others
http://www.gerberknives.com/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerber_Legendary_Blades

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