Knifemaking is as much of an art as it is a science, and New West Knifeworks is the perfect embodiment of that intersection. We discovered this wonderful American knife manufacturer several years ago, and their knives immediately stood out to us – they are unique and, of course, perform well on any cutting board. We knew we wanted to learn more about their story.
So, we finally secured an interview with the Founder of New West KnifeWorks, Corey Milligan. We chatted with Corey about the history of New West KnifeWorks, why he chooses to manufacture in the US, his passion for knifemaking, and a whole lot more.
The story is below. Our questions are marked with “AAO” and Corey’s answers have a “CM” beside them. We hope you enjoy this behind-the-scenes look at New West KnifeWorks as much as we did!
Behind the Scenes of New West KnifeWorks
AAO: Give us a look inside the history of New West KnifeWorks. How did y’all grow up into the company you are today?
CM: For the first 15 years, I sold my knives on the fine arts and crafts circuit – Smithsonian Craft Show, Crafts Park Avenue, Sausalito Art Show, Cherry Creek Arts Festival, and many, many more. The knives were a hit; people really responded to the idea that your everyday tools can be beautiful.
After a while, I got more interested in the business end of the blade. My passion for making the best knife possible led to experiments with different kinds of steel, designs, and techniques. I even went to Japan and collaborated with traditional knifemakers there. Our knives were made in Seki City for several years before I realized advances in high-tech steel meant that I could make a better knife in the USA.
Today, I’m proud that our knives are 100% American made using American steel. We’ve come a long way since those early days on the art show circuit – we now have retail stores in Aspen, Big Sky, Denver, Jackson, Park City, and Napa Valley, in addition to our website.
People really respond to the beauty and performance of the knives. And I think they also like to see a small company proving that American made can mean “best in the world” like it used to.
AAO: What made you want to get started?
CM: Well, it all started about 25 years ago. I was working in Jackson Hole, and it was such a hustle—I was working as a raft guide during the summer and cooking in restaurants during the winter so I could ski during the day. I’ve always been a fun hog, and making knives started as a hobby, something I could do when the skiing wasn’t any good.
But it quickly grew from there, and I became obsessed with the idea of making knives that were not only artful but the highest-performing knives we could possibly make. Back then, as a line cook, you had a choice between the cheap, white-handled commercial knife or the black-handled German knife—that was it.
From my experience as a cook, I knew what kind of qualities people were looking for in a knife, but I also felt strongly that a knife should be beautiful – a pleasure to have and use. I think one of the secrets to cooking at home is to have tools that turn the process into a pleasure, otherwise it can feel like drudgery.
AAO: How many U.S. based employees do you have and in what locations?
CM: We employ around sixty people, at our factory in Victor, Idaho, and our retail stores in Aspen, Big Sky, Denver, Jackson Hole, Park City and Napa Valley.
AAO: Why do you choose to manufacture in the U.S.?
CM: Well, my mission is to make the finest knives in the world – and America is the best place for me to do that. The best high-tech steel is made in America. There have been incredible breakthroughs in metallurgy based on the needs of the aerospace, medical, and defense industries.
We think of steel as something that has been outsourced to other countries – but that’s really only true for the mass production of steel for mass use. America has never ceased being the leader in niche, high-tech steels – and all of those advances mean we can make a better chef knife using American steel.
Also, in terms of the design of the knives, having our own factory means we can experiment more – and that’s what you need to do to stay on the cutting edge.
Finally, because it’s a fine tool, the actual way it feels in the hand is extremely important. The only way to make something feel like an extension of your hand – is to have it hand-finished by a skilled craftsman who knows what they are doing. That kind of expertise is something that can’t be outsourced. It’s a culture that we have nurtured over time with our incredible makers.
Our Favorite New West KnifeWorks Products
Here are some of the really cool knives from New West KnifeWorks along with Corey’s comments on each one.
Chris Kidder Special
CM: Designed for my brother-in-law, who is a really accomplished restaurant chef, this is the one for the cook who has it all. Who doesn’t want to have the biggest knife in the room? And at 12 inches, it’s a chopper and slicer in one rad package. Check it out here.
CM: This knife is for everyone on your list, no matter their experience level. It’s the perfect level-up for someone just getting into cooking and a welcome addition to the pro chef’s knife roll.
CM: A great fit for the active home cook looking for a chef knife but doesn’t have professional-level training. It’s super sleek and manageable for folks intimidated by a larger blade, and the etching provides a bit of flair while also allowing food to release more easily. Check it out here.
G-Fusion Steak Knives
CM: Eating with loved ones is more sacred than ever. These beauties are a ceremony to the meal as everyone chooses their colors from the set. More importantly, the blade slides through a strip like butter.
The Intersection of Passion and Performance
AAO: What do your customers love most about New West KnifeWorks and your products?
CM: I think the equal combination of performance and aesthetics. Our customers are passionate about cooking, so they like a knife that not only performs masterfully, but also reminds them of their love of cooking.
The more they love their knife, the more they want to pull it out of the drawer to play with it on the cutting board. We’re really about transforming people’s relationship to cooking from a loathed chore into a creative expression they look forward to. And a knife that they love to use is the catalyst for the changing of chores into a joy.
AAO: What makes your products unique vs. the competition?
CM: Three things:
The combination of beauty and performance.
Our lifetime service guarantee.
And third is our passion.
My two biggest passions in life are cooking and making knives. That’s very different from other companies. They might have an engineer who consults with a chef on the making of the knife – but there’s inevitably a gap between those two fields of expertise. The engineer doesn’t really know what it should feel like, and the chef doesn’t really understand all of the options for design. So that gives us an advantage.
When I design a knife, every detail is focused on the end use – because I know what I want on the cutting board and what I can do in the factory.
AAO: What gets you excited about the future of New West KnifeWorks? Where are you headed?
CM: Last year, we launched a collection of Limited Edition knives. Every couple of months, we introduce something really unique. We are always experimenting with new materials and design ideas, which gives the factory team a way to “sharpen” their skills and creativity. Those knives have been among the most beautiful we have ever made, and our fans have really responded well to them.
If you’re interested in being the first to know about new and limited edition products from New West KnifeWorks, sign up here.
Also, we are going to be doing some really awesome cobranded knives in the coming year. These will be collaborations with very well-known tastemakers in the culinary, outdoor, and design spaces. So keep a look out!
Thanks so much to Corey and the team for sharing the New West KnifeWorks story! We’re excited to see where your journey continues to take you in American manufacturing.