Koenig Knives is a fast-growing, Idaho-based knife manufacturer, recognized by many as one of the premier knife-making companies in the market today. Bill Koenig started the company back in 2013, using his off-days in between his long shifts working the oil fields in North Dakota to build the business. After 3 years of exploring the craft, building a presence in the market, and saving money, Koenig was able to lease a work space, buy his first Haas machine, and start manufacturing his knives right here in America. The Koenig Knives team has now expanded to include four more employees: Krista, the Director of Operations, Cameron, the Lead Machinist, Doug in Assembly, and Todd, who works on finishing. Koenig Knives is quickly becoming known for their focus on quality, innovation, and consistency, backing all of their knives with a lifetime warranty.
We talked with both Bill and Cameron for this latest Featured Customer profile, exploring the world of CNC knifemaking, how they use High Efficiency Milling (HEM) to improve their machining efficiency, and the effect that the machining community on social media has had on their business.
Tell us about your business and how you got started.
Bill: Koenig Knives was started in 2013. I have always been passionate about knives, starting when I was in the Boy Scouts as a young boy. This passion turned to obsession and I went from a collector/enthusiast to a knife manufacturer in December of 2013 when we released our first batch of knives.
Originally we used an off-site manufacturer, who we worked closely with from 2013 until mid-2016. We continued to grow rapidly, and that is when I made the decision to start handling all manufacturing ourselves. We took delivery of our first machine, a Haas VF2SS, at the end of 2016. The rest is history.
What made you get into machining?
Cameron: I started as a CNC operator at an assault rifle manufacturer. After seeing raw material being machined into a beautiful, functioning gun, I decided to make machining my career and I have never looked back.
What sort of machines do you use in your shop?
Cameron: We currently have two Haas VF2SS machines and an Okamoto.
Which materials do you work with in your shop?
What sets Koenig Knives apart from the competition?
Bill: We are often asked what category we would place ourselves in, whether it be production, custom etc. I always hesitate when answering because I can’t think of a way to categorize Koenig Knives besides “high end production with custom offerings.” We have a high end production line, but we also offer the ability to order your own customized version of one of our knives. This is something that is not too common in the industry. Quality, customer service and innovation are our main goals as a company, and we feel we have done a great job hitting on all three.
What is the most challenging part of the knife-making machining process?
Cameron: I think what makes the machining process unique with our product is the fact that we use some of the most cutting edge steel alloys for our blades. It becomes more challenging because these steel alloys are constantly advancing. Finding the perfect harmony of machining parameters for some of the relatively newer steels can be a challenge at times.
Why is high quality tool performance important to you?
Cameron: When part finishes are extremely crucial and there’s a high quantity of parts needed, having high quality tooling like Helical is essential. Helical tools help us maintain a much higher machining efficiency because of the outstanding tool life, while also achieving more aggressive run times. In addition, we are able to consistently keep high tolerances, resulting in a better final product.
What is your favorite process to work on as a machinist?
Cameron: I love everything about this career, except cleaning the coolant tank. I could do without that…
Koenig Knives has a great Instagram following. Tell us more about how the machinist social media community has helped grow your business.
Cameron: The machinist social media community has helped us connect with various knife makers all over the world. We learn from each other by sharing techniques and helpful tips, and we inspire each other by sharing our creations online. The machinist community on Instagram has been great – we would recommend any business, even the smallest job shops, to take a look at starting their own accounts.
Why is manufacturing your products in America important to you?
Bill: Buying American has always been very important to me for many reasons. The sense of supporting fellow American workers was instilled in me at a young age. When I started Koenig Knives, I wanted to make sure everything from the screws to the boxes was made in the US.
Tell us about your favorite project that Helical helped to create.
Cameron: Machining the Arius blades (pictured above) has been my favorite on-going project. Once we switched to all Helical tools, it drastically improved our run times and blade finish, and created an incredible final product.
Have you used High Efficiency Milling techniques in your shop?
Cameron: Absolutely! We couldn’t do without HEM!
What advice do you have for other machinists who want to try High Efficiency Milling?
Cameron: Machining Advisor Pro is an absolute game changer when it comes to HEM, as well as for general machining solutions. The technical milling strategies and information that Helical makes available give machinists everything they need to be successful. When a machinist has a full understanding of what is taking place and what is needed to efficiently and correctly cut material, the sky is the limit.
If you could give one piece of advice to a new machinist ready to take the #PlungeIntoMachining, what would it be?
Cameron: With machining technology advancing at the amazing rate that it is, there is no better time to become a machinist. It is a trade that is constantly improving, and offers so many opportunities for young people.
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Photos courtesy of Koenig Knives.