IG 280 SD at Spyderco

A2Z Manufacturing

September/October Issue

Spyderco employees receive their on site DCM Technology training upon install.
Spyderco employees receive their on site DCM Technology training upon install.

Spyderco proudly designs and manufactures some of the finest knives in the United States. Its knives, shipped in the hundreds of thousands per year, with more than 100 distinct product SKUs, are used by nearly every segment of the population: Knife aficionados, ‘The Save and Serve’ organizations (e.g. police forces, fire squads, emergency personnel), and they even manufacture cutting knives used in kitchens. Their products range from budget friendly to the ‘Ferrari’ of knives, and the company introduces nearly a dozen new product designs each year. Spyderco knives are shipped to customers in 63 countries today, and range in price from $30 to $750. The company, founded by Sal and Gail Glesser, clearly has a unique history. Nearly 5 decades ago, Sal patented a triangular ceramic sharpening stone.

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He and Gail bought a ‘Wonder bread’ truck, fitted it for sharpening, and for several years drove around to fairs. Business was good, but life was hectic, traveling from city to city. Then in 1976, Sal came up with an idea for a pocketknife; one with a pocket clip, one that folded, and one that you could open and close with one hand. And thus Spyderco was formed. Since its inception, Spyderco has been told, “Your knives are different, peculiar, even out there.” Long term employee and Public Relations Coordinator Joyce Laituri, says, “All true. Thinking beyond established knife industry barriers allowed us to introduce new and radical innovations to the knife culture including: One-hand opening, serrations on a folder and a clip to attach a knife to a pocket. At Spyderco, we are definitely out of the norm in the knife industry in our dedication to researching and developing fresh, improved and better performing materials all with function and reliability being key.” Someone once said to Sal, “You must design in the dark because your knives look so strange.” True again. With numerous patents, their recognizable appearance is a result of designing ergonomic functional tools rather than applying lipstick and nylons to a pocketknife. Spyderco knives may look curious, homely, whatever, but they will never be called unusable or undependable. Not only is innovation a key differentiator for Spyderco, but also the team is diligent in its quest for superior quality. Making knives that consistently deliver reliable high-performance requires an ongoing commitment to testing. In the company’s million-dollar testing facility, a team of experts routinely examines edge retention with a CATRA machine, looks for rust development with Q-FOG, and checks the force needed to open and close a knife. They also repeatedly test for stress, wear, optimal heat-treating and actively search for higher quality, performance enhancing steels and materials.

Spyderco knives just continue to grow in popularity and thus increase in market presence, so much so that the company was outgrowing its facility. Bursting at the seams in their 30,000 square foot building located in Golden, Colorado, the company just last year completed its expansion into their 2nd building on the campus, a new 17,000 square foot building that houses their manufacturing. Tom Koenig, Plant Manager for the company, says, “I visited plants before we began our new facility construction. What struck me with one of the plants I toured was the superior natural lighting. It wasn’t something I had seen before, and I knew that so much sun light coming into our plant would have such a positive impact on our team.” He continued, “I brought this recommendation back to our owners, Sal, Gail, and Eric (Sal and Gail’s son, key executive for the company, running day to day operations), and they embraced the idea of building a light filled manufacturing plant.” ager, Tom recognizes the importance of retaining key employees. The sun-filled plant expansion at Spyderco not only offers a more employee-enjoyable environment, but it also facilitates the most efficient workflow through optimized machine tool placement. Tom says, “With the manufacturing facility expansion at Spyderco, we had the opportunity to purchase high quality new machine tools that would allow us to continue our quest for continuous productivity improvements.” Tom says, “At Spyderco, our owners embrace new technology. And with our expansion, we have the room to add it.” As you can imagine, Spyderco embraces ‘Made in America’. So when demand in their knives warranted it (and the new expanded machine shop offered the floor capacity), Tom and his team began investigating grinding machines. Tom says, “I met Skip Green from DCM at IMTS a couple of years ago, and he believed he had a solution for our company.” Tom continued, “We aren’t just doing run of the mill grinding. Our knives are made from exotic metals, including a variety of high-hardness carbon and stainless steel alloys. These blade steels are very difficult to grind and to work with in every step of the manufacturing process.” Tom says, “We had a traditional reciprocating grinder and we were so busy we were outsourcing some of our grinding.

Here are two Spyderco blades that are also pictured below.
Here are two Spyderco blades that are also pictured below.

We were looking for a DCM style rotary surface grinder with a large table.” He continued, “There were used Blanchard grinders on the market, since Blanchard wasn’t making them anymore, but we needed the reliability you can only get from a new machine.” Skip and the DCM team didn’t try to sell Spyderco on their rotary surface grinder. In fact, Tom says that they wanted to be very sure they were selling Spyderco the grinder that would not only work for the company, but would also facilitate a significant increase in productivity. Skip asked Tom to ship some parts that would need grinding on the rotary surface grinder to DCM’s headquarters in Winona, Minnesota. DCM did a run off of the parts for Tom when Tom visited DCM’s headquarters, and Tom made the purchase of the DCM IG 280SD Rotary Surface Grinder. He says, “The DCM purchase was such a pleasant surprise. So often when you purchase a new machine it takes awhile to get it up and running efficiently. Skip came to our plant in Golden, Colorado for 3 days when the machine arrived, set it up and trained us, and we were up and running right away. ” The Spyderco grinding team is very pleased with the DCM Rotary Surface Grinder, which they use to grind their knife blades to size, saying it is extremely easy to use, it is very reliable (it runs 24×5 with very little downtime), and it literally reduced grinding time to 1/5 the time it previously took the company. Tom says, “DCM makes an exceptional line of rotary surface grinders. Our DCM IG 280SD is well suited for grinding in mid and high volume applications. The programmable control saves grind parameters by part name for repeatable process automation. The servo driven z-axis delivers true feed rates and repeatable positioning. We were excited to purchase from DCM because their machines are all American made, completely in the USA.” As happens in life, Skip Green recently retired from DCM. Prior to his departure, Skip and the DCM team handpicked Brian Ebbinger to join the DCM team as Western Region Technical Specialist. Contact Brian to learn more about DCM’s fine line of grinding machines, at 800-533-5339, email brianebbinger@dcm-tech.com or visit www.dcm-tech.com To learn more about the superior Spyderco line of knives, contact them at their world headquarters in Golden, Colorado. The company is always looking for experienced, motivated machinists who want to join a company manufacturing knives. Send info to: Resumes@spyderco.com, 303 279 8383 ext 202, or visit www.spyderco.com

pink knife
Blue Knife

A PDF version of the article is available here

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