For me it started very simply as a hobby.
In the summer of 1937 I was taking a stroll near Walloon Lake in Michigan when I saw a fellow scraping paint from a boat with a distinctive looking knife.I wasn't much impressed with the man who was using such a fine tool recklessly, but I sure liked his knife, which was standing up to some really tough use. So I bought it. As it turned out, the knife was hand crafted - the first hand-made knife I'd ever seen - by W. W. Scagel. Bill Scagel is justly recognized as a pioneer in hand-made knives.
Back then, his name wasn't widely known, but I was truly impressed with what he'd created at a time when virtually all knives were being mass produced.
A PERSONAL CHALLENGE
I challenged myself to make a knife that was just as good, or at least make the best knife I could make.
My first knife was a simple blade ground from a file. But, before long I had a shop with a small forge and I put a lot of time into crafting knives that I could be proud to make and use myself. And before long, I began selling them at my father-in-law's clothing store in Orlando. As an outdoorsman, I took a lot of personal satisfaction in creating knives that were simple in design, but very functional. And a growing business evolved among friends, fellow sportsmen and sales to a few large sporting goods stores.
Through it all, I managed our family's citrus groves and I continued to think of my hand-made knives as an avocation.
Then, World War II began. A young sailor asked me to make him a knife for use in man-to-man combat. When his friends saw it, they placed orders, and their friends placed orders, and my knives were used in combat, and a reporter wrote a story and...
All hell broke loose.
Suddenly unexpectedly we were in the knife business as envelopes addressed simply to "Knife Man, Orlando, Florida" arrived on the doorstep.
I built a full-scale shop and for the first time began using apprentices. With demand so strong, it was tempting to develop mass production methods.
Now, more than ever, I wanted Randall Made™ to stand for quality and dependability, because servicemen were telling me how much they relied on my knives.
One wrote, "It was a terrible thing at close range. (Your knife) would cut a man's head nearly off with a quick swing... I also used that knife to open cans, cut wood, dress water buffalo... and it stayed sharp. I was offered all kinds of trades, but I wouldn't part with it." Since that time, Randall Made™ knives have been used extensively by soldiers and Marines, flyers and sailors, generals and infantrymen.
Our customers have also included astronauts, government agents, celebrities, statesmen and royalty. Most importantly to me, there are thousands upon thousands of individuals who choose Randall Knives because they need a superbly crafted knife they can count on in the home and in the field. Or, as is often the case today, they've wanted to have a Randall Made™ knife in their collection.
For some years now, my son, Gary, has been instrumental in the business. He is honored, as I am, that Randall Made™ knives are on display in museums, as well as in many private collections of fine weapons and armor.
That's one of the reasons we decided to issue a limited edition Collector's Knife to commemorate our 50th anniversary. And we were most gratified when all 300 knives were ordered so quickly.
But frankly, our favorite models are those specifically designed to be carried and used day in and day out, year after year. The reason is because, like many of you, Gary and I are both sportsmen, so we make knives we want to use.
Over the years, I've had the good fortune to talk to many of our customers personally. Many, many more have written to compliment the design, craftsmanship and durability of their Randall Made™ knife, and I cherish every one of those letters.
But, I'm most grateful to those who have made suggestions on ways to improve our knives. Even though some have said "they're perfect," we know there is always room for refinement.
In short, for me and every man who crafts a Randall Made™ knife, the challenge today is exactly the same as it was 50 plus years ago: To fashion the best knife we can make.
The Tradition Continues
W. D. "Bo" Randall passed away December 25, 1989 at his home after visiting with all his family earlier in the day. Bo and his son Gary managed the business side by side for over twenty-five years. Gary continues the tradition of hand crafting knives that bear the Randall Made trademark along with his sons, Jason and Michael, of the next Randall generation.
1936Bo encounters a William Scagel Knife in Walloon Lake, Michigan, igniting his interest in handmade knives.
1938Bo founded Randall Made Knives.
- 1939 - September 13Randall Made - Orlando, Fla stamp is trademarked.
1940 - NovemberFirst Randall Made Knives catalog is published.
1941 - 1944The US enters WWII and Randall Knives gets into the combat knife business in grand fashion. The Model 1 "All Purpose Fighter", Model 2 "Fighting Stiletto", and a modified Model 3 "Hunter" are developed and adopted by many proud troops.
1944 - JanuaryBill Platts is hired full-time to Randall Knives and serves the business for 35 years largely as shop manager.
1944 - 1945Bo exchanges letters with his "personal representative" from California, a young Air Force captain named Ronald Reagan.
1945 - 1948Postwar business picks up as do new knife designs. Models 4 through 10 are introduced with a streamlining of product offerings giving us the "Big Game Skinner", "Camper", "Carver", "Fisherman", "Trout and Bird Knife", "Pro Thrower", and the "Salt Fisherman".
1950 - 1955Randall posts record sales year over year peaking at a 78% increase for 1953 beginning the backlog of Randall orders. A major factor in the increase of orders was a feature in True magazine, a men's magazine.
1952 - FebruaryAlaskan bush pilot Tommy Thompson and Bo co-develop the Model 11 "Alaskan Skinner" for a burgeoning market in Alaska.
1953Randall begins making Bowie knives and the infamous "Arkansas Toothpick" in response to the popularity of the movie The Iron Mistress.
1954-1959More models added to the catalog including the 14 & 15 "Attack" and "Airmen" military styles. The "Raymond Thorp" and "Sportsman" Bowies are added along with the "Diver", "Small Arkansas Toothpick", and "Yukon Skinner".
1960 - 1963NASA approaches Bo to commission a survival knife for astronauts. Randall co-develops the Model 17 "Astro" with the space program and sends its creation on the first manned space flight.
1962 - 1967The Vietnam War increases orders, Gary Randall joins the shop full time, and the Model 18 "Survival" is developed.
1960s"Bushmaster", "Bear Bowie", "Little Game", and Randall miniatures are introduced along with a redesign of many Randall models.
1970sThe "Outdoorsman", "Gamemaster", and "Guardian" models are added to the catalog. Gary gradually takes over many of the day to day responsibilities and Bill Platts retires after 35 years in the shop.
1980sThe shop streamlines and updates its catalog adding even more models including the "Trapper".
1988Randall celebrates its 50th year in business with a commemorative knife in a limited quantity.
- 1989Bo Randall passes away as the third generation of Randall knifemakers join the operation.
1990 - 2012Randall continues to be the biggest name in handmade knives with a considerable backorder and even more models available. In 2012 they celebrate their 75th year in business with their first catalog miniature and a catalog and website redesign.
2015The Randall Collection has been moved from the Knife Shop to the renovated old estate home on the property. Hours are: Monday through Thursday 10:00 am to 4:00 pm.