United Cutlery is one of the most popular producers of knives in the market, established decades ago and continued to be active in the market as far back as 2005-06. Their declaration of bankruptcy has rattled many blade collectors – especially since there is a strong following for the company’s Hibben series. With their seemingly stronghold on the blade market, the fall of United Cutlery forces a lot of people to ask – why?
What Went Wrong
The reason behind United Cutlery’s bankruptcy may be connected to several factors. Obviously, their main problem had something to do with the financial side as top management voluntarily entered bankruptcy.
Although there have been lots of signs that internal problems are happening, there have been glaring signals that United Cutlery might be closing soon. For one thing, the company decided to suddenly stop their Hibben Series and to not release the blade for the year 2006. Gil Hibben is known for throwing knives. Considering how this is one of their biggest sellers, this seemed like such a wrong operating move for the company.
The explanation was that they would enter a one-year hiatus for the Hibben Knives before continuing the collection in 2007. They noted that this hiatus will pave the way for the Series 2 of the collection. However, the creator of the knives, Gil Hibben, had already released the next designs and submitted them to the company. Furthermore, he had no idea about the “Series 1” and “Series 2” the company was proposing.
This story led others to believe that United Cutlery is really just facing financial problems. By stalling the production of Hibben Knives, they’d be in a position to decrease expenses and perhaps keep the operation going.
It’s also important to note that 2005 was hardly a good year, business-wise. The industry for collectible knives during that time may not be as strong as it was was during the 90’s. This may just be the final straw on the back of an already suffering camel – therefore forcing the company to declare financial difficulties.
United Cutlery Products
United Cutlery is well known for producing some of the finest blades in the market in recent years. Most of their knives are for collectors, although they can also be used for practical reasons. Following are some of the company’s many successes before going bankrupt.
- Movie Knives – the Movie Knives are comprised of various blades from different movies, starting with those carried by Rambo in the three Rambo movies. Designed by Gil Hibben, these knives have continued to sell even after two decades of being released in the market. It’s safe to say that these blades have actually started a host of collectors.
- Lord of the Rings Knives – although this falls within Movie Knives, there’s no question that the LOTR merchandise deserves a highlight of their own. With an incredibly large fan base, their production of LOTR –based blades is always anticipated by a solid community. If they were still in operation, there’s no question that many would clamor for the recent blades shown in The Hobbit movies.
- Collectors Series – also dubbed as the Hibben Knives, these are the blades designed by Gil Hibben including knives released year after year. They’ve been largely successful as many collectors patiently wait for new designs to add to their growing number of blades. Aside from Hibben, some of the knives were also the product of various designers with United Cutlery expanding it further with different variations of the same knives.
The United Cutlery Company was purchased by Bud-K Knives. The name, as well as all the remaining assets, were transferred to the new owners, effectively putting a halt to one of the most popular producers of knives in the market.
United Cutlery is back however, under new ownership. There is now no shortage of fantasy knives flowing from this “company that wouldn’t die”. Here’s their website if you don’t believe me!
5 thoughts on “United Cutlery Bankruptcy”
United Cutlery is known among knife nuts as a company that produces mostly decorative fantasy blades meant for hanging on the wall or displayed on a stand. “Finest blades” is not something I’ve ever seen or heard in the same sentence with United Cutlery; neither is “practical”.
Gil Hibben’s reputation as a legitimate knife designer/maker has actually taken a bit of a hit from his association with United Cutlery. There are very few people who are familiar with his work outside of his collabs with UC and they find themselves defending his reputation as a real knifemaker to those who only know his UC & movie fantasy blades.
Pop on any of the knife boards–bladeforums.com, knifeforums.com, jerzeedevils.com, etc.–and ask what the general opinion of United Cutlery is. It likely won’t be pretty.
I’ve been a knife collector ever since I was a kid in the 60s. I’ve got quite a few high quality custom knives, but I also have a fair number of United Cutlery blades. I’ll admit, the early Taiwan produced blades were more for show than anything, with soft steel that wouldn’t hold an edge very well at all. But I’ve notice a definite turn around as to the quality of the more recent offerings. The fit and finish has improved substantially, and they’re using higher quality stainless steel than the 420 that’s common in the earlier blades.
Finest Blades????? That’s hilarious….I purchased 2 gil hibbons knives produced under licence By United cutlery. Both are bad craftmanship which is typical of chinese production values. The first one is the expendable toothpick. The emblem doesnt sit flush on one end, its on the wrong side of the handle, theres a small pit in the blade and scratch marks on the top of the pommel from poor sanding and buffing. Second was the non expendable version toothpick. The block of wood used on the handle (hidden tang) has a twist so when looking down the blade you see the handle and pommel are twisted. Plus the pommel has identical sctraches on the top as the first one. Theres obviously no quality control either at the chinese production facility or at united cutlery. So purchasing anymore knives produced/sold by united cutlery is out of the question! NEVER AGAIN!
Can you direct me to a website about United Cultery’s Wildlife Series, especially the “Duck Decoys” with the enclosed knife. Thanks. Larry
United Cutlery knives from the 1980s-1990s were very good quality. Many were contracted to Boker and made at their factory in Solingen, Germany. They were built to same specs as their Boker equivalent. After Boker stopped working with United, they contracted knives out to Japan (I believe this was around mid 1990s). These are what I would consider middle tier knives. Not as great quality as the ones made in Germany, but still good. Later then they started to make knives in Taiwan. These were okay… but not the best quality. Still better than the China made stuff that was coming out at the time. I would say this was the last generation of them producing traditional knives. The company is still around today (2019) but what I am seeing looks like stuff you’d find at flea markets. It definitely looks like it’s made in China and I cannot speak for the quality, but would not spend money on it.