Have you ever been trying to find the perfect item and nothing is quite right? That frustration is how SURVIVE! began. After another disappointing experience, Guy Seiferd found himself at Edgeworks Knife & Supply in Frederick, MD yet again. While lamenting the failures and poor quality of his past purchases and not finding anything in store that might do better, Guy said to the owner, “I could design a better knife.” The response received of, “everyone thinks that” became an immediate creative challenge for Guy, who went straight home to start drawing concepts and then carving prototypes. Guy spent nearly a year intensely researching what would make a better knife and refining his ideas before finally approaching manufacturers.
Driven by the single minded goal of creating a better cutting tool, Guy started working with one manufacturer after another but they either wouldn’t or couldn’t produce the knives the way he wanted. Although those first relationships were short lived, Guy persevered. He used the very last of his savings to buy a KMG grinder and began hand grinding knives while researching his next steps. The initial struggles aside, people loved the knives and he was encouraged to keep going.
By 2013, Guy had found several manufacturing subcontractors who specialized in the various production steps. With an initial production plan finally figured out it was time to build a proper business! A partner was brought on who promised to head up the marketing and administration of SURVIVE! while Guy managed the in-house production steps. The future seemed bright and the first SURVIVE! Preorders opened for the GSO-10, GSO-4.1, and GSO-5.1.
Before long though, red flags began cropping up. After some deeper investigation, the partner was asked to leave and Guy was back in control of SURVIVE!. Looking at the existing debts after the partnership was dissolved, this is likely the first time bankruptcy would have been the easier option. We knew we were putting out great knives though and wanted to keep sharing them with the world. It took some time and the kindness of others but those preorders were all fulfilled.
Looking for a fresh start, we moved to a place that we thought would be better for SURVIVE! and us. A quaint mountain community of North Idaho is where we began to build our new future.
With the help of our manufacturing partners we made some big changes to improve the production processes. To achieve greater grinding accuracy, it was decided that blades would be ground in their softer annealed state. Additionally, after learning more about the processes, Guy began considering manufacturability in his designs. We also knew we needed to bring more of the finishing in-house to have the ability to fine tune work that wasn’t quite up to our standards. With a new plan to increase production while reducing factory 2nds and scrap, the future was looking bright again!
To help get things moving again we introduced the SURVIVE! Starter campaign, a crowdfunding initiative to help us invest in production, finishing equipment, and enough steel to finally meet demand. In order to gauge what models were most popular and how popular each of them were, we had 7 different knives available: GSO-5.1, GSO-4.7, GSO-2.7, GSO-4.1, GSO-3.5, GSO-7/7, and GSO-12. Inevitably, folks asked about the models that had not been included, so later in 2015 the GSO-6, GSO-4.5, GSO-10, and GSO-8 preorders were opened.
If you’ve looked up SURVIVE! at all you already know that things did not go according to plan. With parts being made at different times and by various companies in different locations, producing a high quality knife from the parts provided became a very labor intensive and slow process. We once again began having delays due to fitment issues and resorted back to hand grinding parts.
In light of these problems, we completely stopped selling knives for a year to give us time to figure out a solution and work on fulfilling those original Starter Campaign preorders.
Ultimately, we made the scary decision to cut ties with our previous manufacturers and start working with a new OEM company in Meridian, ID. They had all of the machining capabilities and promised to meet not only our demand but also our high quality standards. Feeling some peace of mind from finally meeting a complete manufacturing company, we moved our lives and our equipment to Meridian. To help facilitate our goals, we began sharing our resources with them to have all production under one roof. Around 6 months later, once we were settled in and production started moving forward, we opened up sales again.
Things were seemingly headed in a positive direction when the other company had several OEM projects all go wrong more or less at once. They were struggling but we had tied ourselves to them and feared what might happen if their business failed. In addition to needing their machining capabilities, we were sharing the same building. As a win-win solution we purchased some of their equipment and took over the lease and utilities at our shared space. The idea at the time was to allow them to catch up on their other obligations, in the hopes that we would begin getting more priority on the production schedule. Unfortunately, we were never really able to settle into the terms we had agreed to and the relationship began to devolve into something less and less productive. When very little production progress had been made and their older equipment began having larger issues, we decided it was time to invest in our own equipment and start developing plans that would better ensure we could meet our obligations. The arrival of the new equipment and expansion of our operation meant there was no longer room for both businesses to coexist in the same location. With that, SURVIVE! Manufacturing was born.
In January of 2021, Millit moved out of the workshop and our new equipment started to move in. Though it took several months to get both the waterjet and 5-axis mill running smoothly, it was the best decision we ever made. Not wanting to suffer the same shortcomings as the other company, we developed entirely new processes for future production and solid strategies to complete the work that was left partially done by the other company. It has been a hard road back but we are happy to report that we have worked through most of the older production backlog, while simultaneously ramping up for a productive next chapter for SURVIVE!.
Production is finally where we always wanted it to be. We are exceeding our production goals and creating the highest quality knives we have ever made. We would say it is exciting but we’re honestly pretty done with excitement after these last few years. From now on we’ll be happy just making the highest quality knives we possibly can, finally without the long wait.