History of the Schrade Knife Company

At first glance, Schrade may not seem like a household name. It’s a name that, although it has a deep history in knife lore, is not well-known. However, you have probably not only seen their knives at the store, but possibly used them as well.

Schrade has been making knives for hundreds of years and they produce some of the most widely sold knives in the American market. This company used to be a brand that defined quality but that time has passed.

Additional Information About The Company:

Parent Company: Taylor Brands LLC
Headquarters: Kingsport, TN, USA
Product Manufacturing Location: China

History of Schrade Knives

The Schrade Knife Company was started in 1904 in Walden, New York under the name ‘Schrade Cutlery Company’. The Schrade Cutlery Company produced knives and other cutlery at a quality which, at the time, was relatively unheard of.

Their products were popular and sold quite well.

In 1941, a man named Albert M. Baer purchased the ‘Ulster Knife Company’ and merged it with his original company, the ‘Imperial Knife Company’.

In 1946, Schrade Cutlery was sold to ‘Imperial Knife Associated Companies’ and the merged company was renamed ‘Schrade-Walden Cutlery Co. Inc.’ In 1983 the owner took the company private in order to maintain control of the company. In 1985 it was renamed again, to the Imperial Schrade Company.

Today the company is owned by ‘Taylor Brands LLC’. It was purchased in 2016 from the iconic firearms company Smith & Wesson.

Taylor Brands LLC

Stewart Taylor grew up in Kingsport, TN. The same place where the headquarters of Taylor Brands LLC still is today. He was known as a collector of old knives and swords. He actually begun selling knives early on, when he was still a student at Emory & Henry College. One of his original hustles was when he published an advertisement in ‘Coin Magazine’ for a Coca-Cola bottle-shaped knife. This knife supposedly cost him $10 and he sold it for $25. According to lore, this was the start of his business. After he graduated in 1974, he begun working with Asian manufacturers and begun his now well-known knife company.

Unfortunately, in 2004, when Taylor Brands originally acquired the rights to produce Schrade Knives, such as their iconic ‘Uncle Henry’ and ‘Old Timer’ model lines, the quality really begun to go downhill and many knife enthusiasts no longer recommend Schrade knives, despite their history.

This is a classic tale of a legendary company, who originally produced quality products, changing to many hands and investors and eventually selling out their name for profit.

The Knife Analyst

The Knife Analyst

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1 Comment
  1. Taylor Brands, LLC Imperial Schrade Lines of knives had a much higher quality than the current owner. Battenfeld, a member of the American Outdoor Brands Corporation. I have had to return every single knife I have purchased under their trademark due to quality issues. Mostly being the pocket line of knives from Imperial, Old Timer and Uncle Henry. The largest problems I have encountered is the excess sharpening that leaves the new blade that looks like it has been sharpened for years, and consistently shorter blades than their stated length due to poor sharpening methods at the factory.
    Other consistent problems I have seen is blade wobble right out of the box, and wobble when in the open locked position. Some other problems I have encountered are miss aligned scales and bolster, cracks at pin locations, dented and miss aligned bolsters, and the saw cut scales have marks on them like they were dragged over a rock.
    It is no doubt that while Taylor moved production to China, he may have given up some qualities, but nothing like Battenfeld under American Outdoor Brands has done. I continue to purchase a pocket knife about every month to see if quality is improving with time, but I have not found one yet that I would consider up to a level of quality acceptable for every day use.
    I have carried an Old Timer since my Father gave me one on my tenth Birthday. I still have it and is in my collection, an 18OT. I currently carry an Old Timer 294OT Liner Lock manufactured under the Taylor Brands, LLC Trademark. There is nothing wrong with the knife, and it is comparable to the USA made Old Timers in my collections.
    If American Outdoor Brands don’t crack down on quality and drastically improve it, I think they are going to be shutting down the Imperial Schrade Line of Pocket Knives as the sales will continue to drop until the sales are almost non existent. Or end up selling the rights to someone else.
    I have written American Outdoors several times, and the response I have gotten from them has been less than hopeful for a dramatic upturn in quality any time soon. I have even referred them to their mission statement about supplying top quality products at affordable price. And why they have raised prices while dropping quality so low they can’t be compared to some of the cheapest knives coming out of China. The best answer I have received from them is, “Thank you for the information and feedback. We value your opinion and will pass this information along to the marketing department for review”.
    In other words, it will be filed away…in the trash can. Before posting this I looked for the link to their mission statement. It seams they have removed the link, perhaps they are changing the wording in the mission statement to better reflect the quality they are having turned out from China to be sold to the public that still thinks Imperial, Schrade and Uncle Henry is a top quality line of pocket knives.
    This is only my personal opinion from my person experience with the quality under the Battenfeld (BTI Tools) and American Outdoor Brands Trademark. If others have experienced the same issues, please share your opinions here and Social Media. It seems Social Media is a great place to leave complaints about products. Especially if they have their own page. Social Media hits way more people these days than the TV News, and companies sit up and take notice. Perhaps it will ignite a fire and quality will improve, or they will sell the rights to a company that truly cares about quality they produce and sell under the Imperial Schrade Lines.
    Wouldn’t that be nice? If they could match the quality that Rough Ryder turns out of China, they wouldn’t have a problem. And Rough Ryder Brands are not any more expensive than Imperial Schrade Lines of pocket Knives. And in most cases, less expensive. They have a wide variety of frame patterns, a constant line of knives including a pure Carbon Steel Line, and have limited runs on all kinds of different scale materials, and they even have a custom line, Stoneworx. They have been going now for over 25 years and have been gaining popularity every year. I have even started a small collection of a couple of limited run scale materials. I can see these actually becoming quite collectable in the very near future.

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