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MEDP Spark - Cutting Through Tradition: A New American Knife Company

Dec 8, 2016

MEDP Spark, Volume 1, Issue 12 -- December 2016

A kitchen without a knife is not a kitchen.”
- Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto

Ferrum Technology Corp's general manager and brainchild, Marc Wade, with
some of the material used in the metal injection molding process.

McMinnville has it all: ample property in the heart of wine country; access to an experienced workforce; and the support you need to start, grow, and expand your business. In a nutshell: beauty and brains. The McMinnville Economic Development Partnership (MEDP) is here to serve as your connection to funding, employees, and training. One such success story where everything came together in perfect harmony is Ferrum Technology Corp (Ferrum).  

Walking through the office door of their temporary manufacturing space, you would likely never guess that what lies just beyond the office is a well-oiled machine, Ferrum Technology Corp. With just twelve weeks of operation, Ferrum is changing the way knives are made, and for their innovation and desire to grow in McMinnville, they received a $100,000 grant, the biggest ever given out by the Grow Yamhill County program. MEDP connected Ferrum with the Grow Yamhill County small business grant program and WorkSource Oregon’s On-the-Job (OTJ) training program.

Ferrum receiving their $100,000 grant from Grow Yamhill County.

General manager and brainchild Marc Wade has been making knives for 36 years, starting at just 10 years old when he made his first hobby knife. Growing up the son of a knifemaker, knife-making is in his blood. With such an extensive history with knives, Wade knows a thing or two about what makes a good knife. “We wanted to make a sharper knife that stays that way. We set upon this mission to define a high quality, American-made product that can compete on the world stage, and we did so by figuring out how to leverage new technologies. We’re competing with the “establishment”, companies that have been doing this for years, and I knew that we had better bring something big to the game.”

Wade demonstrating their knife’s sharpness.

Wade continued, “The good news is that incumbent businesses are working with 400 year old manufacturing technology, and a couple things have changed since then. We’re making something cool that works really well, and we’re not worrying too much about convention.” 

Knife-making is usually a handmade labor of love. It is tedious, difficult to perfect, and even harder to replicate consistently. Moreover, there is often a trade-off in quality; you either have a comfortable handle and mediocre blade, or a broom handle on the end of a samurai sword. To create the best possible knife, the blade and handle need to work in harmony, creating a balance where the weight is evenly distributed. There has never been an effective, efficient way to create a knife that had both comfort and functionality.

A knife handle created with injection molding.

New to McMinnville, Ferrum chose Yamhill County for one particular reason: they needed a specific, specialized technology to transform their dreams of a knife that was comfortable to use and consistently sharp into a manufacturable product. The solution came in the form of metal injection molding (MIM), a newer process of forming metal.

To create his dream knife, Wade said to himself, “I’m going to search the entire country for experts in metal injection molding!”, and the best use of the technology happened to be in McMinnville. Wade was interested in the MIM process in McMinnville due to its ability to be accurate within .001-.002 inches. This accuracy allows a mold to create a 3D metal product that will maintain its integrity. Not only can the product be shaped and molded to exact specifications, it also holds up better to corrosion and is stronger. The MIM process actually improves the physical properties of the metal. 

Knives in the production process.

With the MIM process, Ferrum is creating knives to exacting standards. “It’s not an exaggeration to say that we are taking dust in the front door, turning that into “goo”, and kicking out knives through the back door. Nobody does what we do in this industry.” Ferrum provides a process of fusing metal that is clean and extremely efficient. They can reshore this type of manufacturing, no longer making it necessary to produce household goods like knives internationally, and the possibilities and implications of this technology are still being discovered.  

There is still so much more to come for Ferrum. In Q1 of 2017, they plan to triple the size of their team from their current workforce of a dozen people. They have already purchased a new location in McMinnville and have broken ground. Construction is underway and they plan to have their new facilities ready in June of 2017. We are excited to see what the future has in store for Ferrum. Keep your eyes out, because the next kitchen knife you buy might be made with cutting-edge technology, right here in McMinnville, Oregon.


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MEDP's monthly newsletter, The MEDP Spark, received a Silver Award from the International Economic Development Council in 2017.

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