If there’s such a thing as the First Family of Knives, the Buck family is it.
Buck Knives has been run by a member of the Buck family—Hoyt, Al, Chuck or CJ—since “H.H. Buck and Son” set up shop in 1945. Since that time, the name Buck has become synonymous with fine hunting, sporting and other knives, and Al, Chuck and CJ help comprise the only family with three members to be inducted into the BLADE Magazine Cutlery Hall Of Fame*.
According to The Story of Buck Knives … A Family Business by Tom Ables, in 1946 “Buck’s knives were all created from used metal files that had been discarded by Consolidated Vultee, the huge aircraft manufacturing plant that later became Convair. These worn-out files, with their heavy carbon content, were perfect for the toughness and edge-holding qualities that Hoyt Buck required in his knives.”
Al joined his father full time in 1947. “[Al] learned how to laminate the thin strips of Lucite plastic used on the handles,” The Story of Buck Knives noted. “He learned how to separate and drill the handles themselves. Later, he learned how to temper the blades so painstakingly sharpened by his dad.”
Sadly, Hoyt learned he had cancer in 1948 and the dreaded disease claimed his life a short year later. He was only 59. Al assumed the company reins and guided it successfully through the 1950s and into the “modern age” of the 1960s. Buck incorporated in 1961, with a young Chuck Buck on the board of directors. The company began making the iconic Buck 110 Folding Hunter on a full production basis in September 1964. The knife’s sales jumped in 1965, increased 63 percent in 1966 and vaulted another 60 percent in 1967.
The knife industry would never be the same again.
Buck flourished under the direction of Al in the 1970s and ’80s, offering the latest in knife designs, materials and more. Along with the legendary Jimmy Lile, Howard Cole and William R. Williamson, Al was inducted into the Cutlery Hall Of Fame at the 1984 BLADE Show.
As the September/October 1984 issue of BLADE® noted in reference to Al and the 110. “Buck didn’t invent the lockback, but he certainly popularized it, and despite a flood of other lockbacks, the Buck knife still leads the way. If you are carrying a lockback today, you can thank Al Buck for his enduring promotional efforts. You have a safer knife for it.”
Chuck was next in line to be inducted into the Cutlery Hall Of Fame, being inducted along with Blackie Collins in 1996. Chuck was a part of the Buck family business from childhood. By 1970 he was corporate vice president for manufacturing, involved in all aspects of the process, from purchasing to personnel to packaging. In 1979 he became company president. Through Chuck’s leadership, the company completed a modern new plant and corporate headquarters in 1980 with 4.5 acres under one roof.
Under his direction the company grew and prospered, winning several BLADE Magazine Knife-Of-The-Year® Awards. By 2004 he was Buck Knives chairman and helped oversee the company’s historic move to Post Falls, Idaho, from El Cajon, California, in 2005.
CJ was inducted into the Hall in 2016 following a career that saw him begin by working on the Buck production line in 1978. For 21 years he handled numerous company promotions and responsibilities. In 1999 he was named president of Buck Knives and, in 2001, CEO. In 2015 he was named Buck chairman of the board. He is a co-founder of the American Knife & Tool Institute (AKTI), serving multiple terms as AKTI president, and is the AKTI’s current CEO. He played a pivotal role in the AKTI’s historic defeat of an attempt by U.S. Customs to classify all one-hand-opening knives as switchblades in 2009. Ironically, today, thanks to the efforts of such organizations as AKTI and Knife Rights, switchblades—better known now as automatics—are being legalized in more and more states, and there’s even an effort under way to repeal the archaic Federal Switchblade Act of 1958. In addition, under CJ’s leadership, Buck has an entire line of automatics, including one of its latest—a version of the iconic 110 in full auto mode, no less.
The only family with three members in the Cutlery Hall Of Fame, the Bucks can legitimately lay claim to being the First Family of Knives. Their contributions speak for themselves.