When someone first puts a Williams Knife in their hand, you know they are holding something special. It can be seen in their face and heard in their voice. It’s something so unique and beautiful that very few luxury products can replicate. It’s not just the unique blade designs or the special wooden handles on the Legacy knives. It’s knowing that these knives are something worthy of being cherished and handed down for generations.
As a young boy, Chris Williams did not expect to be a knife-maker. But he did grow up hanging out in his Grandfather’s work shop watching him turn old band saw blades into knives. Fascinated with the idea of blending steel, wood and other natural materials together into something useful, Chris slowly began to develop his own style of knife making using everything he had learned from his Grandfather and adding his own special style. For Chris, it was a passionate hobby that he would and is still trying to perfect.
Chris graduated from college and pursued a career in finance and achieved early success. In his limited free time, he would make knives in his own work shop that he built to look just like his grandfather’s. An avid outdoorsman and foodie, Chris loves to hunt, fish and cook. And, as you might expect, he often crafted knives that he could use in pursuit of his hobbies. He would pull out his knives in the kitchen when friends were over or carry his knives with him into the field. His knives caused quite a stir. People would beg him to make something special for them. Those were the first Williams knives; only there was no Williams Knife Company - not just yet. So, Chris began to make a few very special knives for a select few. It’s here that Chris honed his craft, making one knife at a time, choosing steel and experimenting with new styles, woods and other materials. Soon, he was staying up late at night and getting up early to get into the shop and slowly the fire of financing began to fade and the fire to create beautiful one-of-a-kind heirlooms grew intensely brighter.
Of course, one thing led to another and complete strangers began to call Chris and ask him to make knives for them. Many of these were custom requests using special wood or with special engraving on the blade. One day, Chris walked out to his shop and saw 15 knives in various stages of completion and realized that every time he walked into the shop the stress of the day left his shoulders and was replaced by joy and passion. That’s when the idea of turning his love into a career first began. So in 2009, the Greenville native traded in his suit for his small workshop on John’s Island, just outside Charleston, South Carolina with a grinding wheel and a fresh new outlook on life. And so the dream began.
Chris’s first big break came when he was out gathering oysters one afternoon near the mouth of the Edisto River. Chris had a little knife with him that he had made and he stopped to enjoy a few of the clean clusters he had just picked from the marsh. As he dug into the back of one of the oysters, it dawned on him that there was really not a knife that was made just for tackling the unique cluster oysters he gathered along the South Carolina coast. So, when he got home, he began to draw some blades on a piece of graph paper. Those first drawings were the seed to what would become the knife that made Williams Knife Company famous, the aptly named, Edisto Oyster Knife. The tip of the Edisto is more pointed than a standard oyster knife, and the blade much thicker and robust than ordinary oyster knives, perfect for prying into the backs of the clumps and digging into the small hinges. The blade flares out at the middle making it easier to spread the oyster wide as you open it. It’s both ingenious and beautiful at the same time.
As orders began to flow in, Chris entered The Edisto on a whim into Garden & Gun Magazine’s Second Annual “Made In The South” awards. The Edisto was up against some stiff competition including beer makers and furniture craftsmen and single barrel bourbon distillers. As if by fate, the judges saw something truly special and unique not only in the Edisto, but in Chris. The Edisto was Garden & Gun’s Overall Winner in 2011 and the award catapulted Chris into the national spotlight.
While the Edisto is still clearly the most requested knife that Chris sells, he offers twenty plus styles to choose from including gourmet kitchen knives, choppers, clevers and a limited selection of hunting, skinning and fillet knives. Some customers send their own wood or trim. Success has been swift and Chris ultimately had to relocate his facility to Greenville, South Carolina in order to be able to hire additional help and handle all of the business. Every knife that leaves the shop is hand-crafted from blade to sheath and Chris continues to hone his craft, experiment with new materials and think about new styles.
The hand-crafted knives have been enormously successful. However, because they are made one at a time, there are only so many that can be made each year, no matter how many folks work in the shop. Much of the reason is because Chris is still involved with every knife. In early 2016, Chris began to play with the idea of creating a line of production knives that would be of extremely high value but also be durable, tough and could be produced in numbers that would allow for a retail distribution presence. By doing this Chris could grow the brand and not be limited strictly to custom knives.
So, in December of 2016, Chris launched his first set of production knives called the Williams Knife Expedition Series. While still beautiful in design, the new Expedition knives are built to be indestructible and everyday carry tools for the avid outdoors person pushing their passions afield. These knives are rugged and come with a lifetime guarantee. A full assortment of folders, everyday carry, fixed blade skinners and fillet knives round out the current Expedition Series with more ideas on the drawing board. There is also a cool line of apparel to accompany the knives in the Expedition Series.
So, the days are different for Chris now. No more catching 5am flights and missing T-Ball games with his kids. Instead, as he opens the door to his shop every morning, he can hear his Grandfather in his head saying “If you do what you love, you’ll never work another day in your life”. And all those knives his grandfather made in his shop when Chris was a kid? They are mounted in a beautiful shadow box and hung on Chris's office wall.