- Additional Info
How KA-BAR Got Its Name
Soon after its introduction in the mid-1920's, the KA-BAR trademark became widely known and respected. There have been many versions of how the KA-BAR name came to be, but all evidence points to a letter received from a fur trapper. This particular fur trapper's testimonial turned out to be the most significant ever received by the company.
He wrote, in very rough English, that his gun had jammed and that he had therefore relied on his knife to kill a wounded bear that was attacking him. In thanking the company for their quality product the trapper described using his knife to kill the bear. All that was legible of his scrawled writing was "k a bar". The company was so honored by this testimonial that they adopted this phrase and used it as their trademark, KA-BAR.
KA-BAR, The Legend
On December 9, 1942, after the start of World War II, KA-BAR submitted a fighting knife to the United States Marine Corps in hopes that it would become general issue to that branch of the military. Working in conjunction with the Marine Quartermaster Department a design was devised and soon production was under way on a new and improved fighting / utility knife for the Marines. As the war escalated, the demand for these knives was so great that the KA-BAR factory alone could not keep up. The government assigned several knife companies to create similar knives as supplemental pieces for those serving the War. KA-BAR’s wartime production totaled more than 1 million. The KA-BAR knives became so well recognized for their quality and so abundant in number that “Kabar” became the name by which many referred to this knife pattern, regardless of whether the knife was manufactured at the KA-BAR facility.
These knives were depended upon to perform daily tasks such as pounding tent stakes, driving nails, opening ration cans and digging foxholes, not to mention defending lives.
Growing so in popularity and earning only the greatest respect, the KA-BAR was adopted by not only the Marines, but also the Army, Navy, Coast Guard and Underwater Demolition Teams. Years after World War II, many KA-BARS were unofficially reactivated in the Korean, Vietnam, Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom conflicts.
The dependability and consistent quality of wartime KA-BARs was the result of constant strict quality control procedures by KA-BAR workers and supervisors as well as the US Marine Corps and Navy Supply inspectors who were assigned to the KA-BAR factory to work along with company personnel to accomplish this goal.
These high quality standards were maintained in 1976 when production was reintroduced to commemorate the Marine Corps 200th Anniversary of service to the United States. It was then that the original factory in Olean, New York, along with some of its original craftsmen, undertook the job of creating a “full dress model” of the original – a Limited Edition Commemorative that would prove to be most meaningful to the Marines. Using the original blueprints which had been stored in the company archive files, the recreated knife was a true work of art that retained the look, feel and performance of the original battle ready combat knife. The first one of its kind, serialized with the number “1”, was presented to the Commandant of the Corps and was later put on display at the USMC Museum at Quantico.
The USMC Commemorative was so enthusiastically received that it became obvious that the original KA-BAR Fighting / Utility knife had retained its popularity through the years. The limited production Commemorative was so quickly taken up by the Marines, knife enthusiasts and collectors that KA-BAR decided to return it to regular production in its standard form. With only a few changes made possible by modern technology, the KA-BAR Fighting / Utility Knife was reintroduced.
Today, the original USMC Fighting / Utility Knife remains the first choice for many Marines who choose to carry it as their personal option knife during service. It is also a favorite of adventurers, survivalists, outdoor sportsmen and, of course, knife collectors who know that this knife – this “American Legend” – deserves a place in their collection.
The U.S. cutlery industry begins in New England when a group of cutlers from England's famous Sheffield Cutlery Industry ban together in small factories.
A group of cutlers settles in the Western New York and Northern Pennsylvania area.
April 29, 1897
As an association to the Secretary of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania a group of 38 men apply to form a Limited Partnership whose purpose is to manufacture and sell cutlery. The formation of this Limited Partnership, known as Tidioute Cutlery Company, is now widely considered to be the beginnings of Ka-Bar's history.
The first cutlery items are produced and sold by Tidioute Cutlery Company.
Experiencing financial difficulties, the Tidioute Cutlery Company was dissolved.
Mr. Wallace R. Brown purchases the assets of the Tidioute Cutlery Company.
A new association headed by Mr. Brown applies to the Governor of Pennsylvania to form a corporation, to be known as the Union Razor Company, for the purpose of manufacturing and selling cutlery.
The new Pennsylvania company is in full operation with Brown serving as Chairman and CEO.
January 25, 1909
The company name is changed from Union Razor Company to Union Cutlery Company in order to more accurately reflect the products manufactured.
The City of Olean, New York, approaches Wallace Brown and the company's Directors and proposes the relocation of the company to their city.
A new, State of New York, corporation is registered as the Union Cutlery Company, Olean, New York, creating two Union Cutlery Company incorporations: the original in Tidioute, Pennsylvania and the one set up by Wallace Brown in Olean, New York. With the Olean facility operating successfully, the Tidioute, Pennsylvania plant is closed down.
Operations are in full swing at Union Cutlery Company's new location at 434 North Ninth Street, Olean, New York.
Transition period of mixed markings which embellished the blades and handles of the older Union Razor knives and newer model Union Cutlery knives. During this period trademarks like OLCUT, KEENWELL, and the now famous, KABAR are adopted.
Wallace Brown falls ill and dies. His brother, Emerson Brown, is quick to assume the role of authority at the company.
Emerson Brown, President until his death, is superseded by his nephew, Danforth Brown, son of the original Chairman and CEO, Wallace R. Brown.
Soon after the start of World War II, the Union Cutlery Company submits a Ka-Bar branded knife to the U.S. Marine Corps for issue to fighting personnel.
Although the original design presented was not up to par, the Marine Corps accepts a reworked design of the knife and begins issuing it as their standard fighting/utility knife.
Due to its role in the War, the Ka-Bar name had achieved such a high level of fame that Danforth Brown and the directors of the company decide to change the corporate name to Ka-Bar Cutlery, Inc., dropping the Union Cutlery name entirely.
An unsuccessful attempt is made to transfer the manufacturing operations of KA-BAR Cutlery, Inc., from New York to Dawsonville, Georgia.
The company is regrouped back in Olean at its original factory site.
Danforth Brown dies. Subsequently, the company changes hands several times.
The Brown family sells Ka-Bar to two Olean businessmen who in turn sell it to a group of business entrepreneurs that lead the company into Chapter 11. Attempts to reorganize fail and the company is forced into liquidation. With intentions of reestablishing the business, Robinson Knife Company purchases the assets of the company.
Robinson Knife Company sells the Ka-Bar operations to Cole National Corporation in Cleveland, Ohio.
As a part of its efforts to revive the company, Ka-Bar establishes a special Collectors' Division. Its purpose is to produce significant and commemorative knives, to recreate famous antique Ka-Bar knives and actively support the development and enjoyment of knife collecting in general.
The first knife is produced by the newly formed Collectors Club: a full dress version of the USMC Fighting/Utility knife, produced in limited number.
The USMC Commemorative was so enthusiastically received that the company returns the knife, in its standard issue form, to regular production.
Cole National Corporation falls into a period of business difficulty that puts the company into bankruptcy. During liquidation the Ka-Bar product line is purchased by American Consumer Products and moved to Solon, Ohio.
The Ka-Bar product line and assets are sold to Alcas Corporation of Olean, New York.
June 6, 1996
The acquired assets of Ka-Bar are relocated to Alcas Corporation's Olean headquarters.
KA-BAR Knives, Inc. dramatically enhances its national product distribution with the addition of five manufacturing representative firms whose territory spans the entire United States.
KA-BAR celebrates its 100th year of business.
KA-BAR moves to its current location, 200 Homer Street, Olean, NY.
Caring for your Knife
In order to keep your KA-BAR knives in the best condition possible, there are a few recommended tips for care and sharpening.
- Wipe blades after use with a dry, soft cloth.
- If knives are exposed to salt water, wash with mild dish detergent, rinse with tap water, then wipe with a dry, soft cloth.
- Treat blades with a light coating of oil before storing. Neets foot, honing, or boot oil is recommended.
- Store knives in a dry area.
- Keep knives sharp by touching up edges as needed.
- Most KA-BAR knives can be sharpened using an Arkansas stone or commonly available sharpening system.
- Most knives can easily be touched up using a coarse or hard stone.
- When bringing back a very dull edge a coarse or hard stone should be used first, followed by a finer, softer stone.
- Knives made with D2 steel require diamond or ceramic sharpeners.
- Knives should at no time be sharpened on a belt sander or bench grinder. These machines ruin a factory-sharpened edge.
- Related Products
- Product Question
Ask about this product
- Add/View Reviews