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Northwoods Knives: Everybody Should Have A Local Knife Store Like This

Image courtesy Northwoods Knives

When it comes to knife shopping, most of us don’t have many practical alternatives to Ye Olde Internet. If we don’t want low-grade imports in blister packs from Wal-Mart, we have to brave the teenaged wilds of the local shopping mall, only to find useless replica swords and massively overpriced Wusthof cutlery sets. Some big sporting goods stores have respectable knife counters, but you’ll rarely find a deep selection and good prices at the same time. If you’re very lucky, though, you’ll live within striking distance of a shop like Northwoods Knives in Hillsboro, Oregon. TTAK reader Aharon joined me for the 45-minute journey to this far-west Portland suburb this weekend, and it was totally worth the trip . . .

Northwoods Knives occupies a tiny and unassuming storefront on Main Street, in what used to be an outlying farm town near Portland, Oregon. These days Hillsboro is home to giant chipmaker Intel and the heart of Oregon’s ‘Silicon Forest’ but old Main Street still has a small-town feel to it.

Inventory: Overwhelming

Image: Chris Dumm

This is about one-third of the knives on display.

When you venture inside you’ll find a well-lit and neatly-organized store. You’ll also start to salivate at the overwhelming glorious multitude of knives on display. I took a quick count of the knives in the display cases, and I gave up when I hit 500.

And these aren’t 500 blister-pack Gerbers: these are 500-plus Zero Tolerance, CRKT, Emerson, Benchmade, Spyderco, Chris Reeve, Kershaw, SOG and Buck knives, as well as dozens of handmade customs and small-run collectible blades of all descriptions.

In a tacit recognition that knife collecting is totally addictive, Northwoods’ knives are arranged like the booze at a liquor store. They may be grouped by manufacturer (instead of by bourbon, gin, vodka, etc) but the less-expensive knives with more common steels occupy the lower display racks, while higher-grade knives with exotic steels like S30V and 154CM shine forth from the coveted ‘top shelf.’

The grip and blade material of every knife are listed along with the price, so it’s easier to compare apples to apples across different manufacturers. The blade length isn’t always listed, which is frustrating if you’ve got silly local carry laws to comply with. Salesman and knife expert Eric was happy to take out and measure any blade we wanted to play with, however, and our numerous requests kept him pretty busy while he did the same for every other customer who came through the door.

Prices: Excellent

Northwoods Knives is the only brick-and-mortar knife store I’ve visited which can compete on prices with the big Internet stores like Blade HQ or Knife Center. Most of Northwoods’ prices are right on the bubble with the best internet prices I could find on my smartphone, and this probably isn’t a coincidence because Northwoods also runs its own big-inventory knife website, www.knivesshipfree.com.

Image: Chris Dumm

I couldn’t resist treating myself to a Spyderco Native, which was a full 10% cheaper than Knife Center’s best price. It’s the first Spyderco I’ve owned, and my first foray into S30V steel. (Full review to follow. Obviously.)

Everybody should have a local knife store like this. If you live in NW Oregon or SW Washington, drop in sometime and prepare to be amazed.

 

Discussion

15 responses to ‘Northwoods Knives: Everybody Should Have A Local Knife Store Like This

  1. I have 2 Spyderco Natives that I always find myself coming back to… In a box of Kershaws, Benchmades, Spydercos, and some custom knives, the Native is just the perfect combo of awesome blade, manageable size and good looks (which is saying A LOT since it’s a Spyderco). Easily one of the best knives I own. You will not be disappointed with it.

    It’s probably a good thing for my budget that I don’t have any brick and mortar knife stores nearby.

  2. It was a very good retail shopping experience: good selection, pricing, and service. They packed a lot of quality knives into a relatively small retail space. Myself, being a fixed blade man, I had a great time examining their Bark River selection and Buck Knife models Hoodlum and Punk (terrible name for a great knife). I’d like to go back there someday.

    On Saturday, there was the additional benefit of the Hillsboro Farmers Market right outside and along the street.

    • Tell your boss you’ve got a dentist appointment and go buy some knives. Then drive back to work, park the car, brush your teeth, eat a whole tube of Ora-Gel and gargle some Listerine before walking back in to say ‘hhhhhaa’ to your boss as you wipe the drool off your chin. He’ll never know, unless he’s reading this.

  3. I went to their website and I don’t find the pricing to be that great. And no Kershaw? Seriously?

    I think I’ll stick with Knifeworks and Blade HQ.

    • I compared a couple of their knife prices to Amazon and found Amazon to only be one and two dollars less. I would prefer to pay a few dollars more for a knife if I could handle it prior to purchasing which is always then a gamble with online purchases even if I can later mail it back for a refund.

      I’m writing this before my coffee has kicked in: I recall the store having Kershaws (and the prices in the store were not good for Kershaw) though you’re right it doesn’t seem they are offered online.

    • There were plenty of Kershaws in the store, and more Zero Tolerance knives than I’ve ever seen outside the Kershaw booth at the SHOT Show. The prices for regular Kershaws weren’t that great, compared to their other prices.

      I hadn’t spent much time at their website, and I hadn’t noticed the lack of Kershaws there. Strange…

    • A couple notes on price.

      We don’t carry Kershaw on line because they are available everywhere online for about $2 more than I pay for them. In the store, we have them marked 10% below retail. I don’t like them anyway.

      Everything else, we are competitive online. We are not the best price. We don’t try to be. We have stellar customer service. We inventory every single item you see on the website. If you order from us, we will ship the knife. Period.

      Our customers find that to be enough reason not to beat us up over a couple bucks.

      Blade HQ is a great place to buy knives. So is http://www.KnivesShipFree.com.

      • Hi Derrick,

        The reason you don’t offer Kershaw online makes good business sense. The rep in your store who took care of us on Saturday (don’t recall his name) did provide stellar customer service. Thanks.

        Why don’t you like Kershaw?

  4. I’ve bought two Bark River knives and accessories from knivesshipfree. I am very happy with the quality, price, and customer service. I expect I will buy from them in the future.

    If one doesn’t have time to visit their store in PDX, one can enjoy browsing their excellent webstore.

  5. After reading about this store I went out to visit it as I live in Portland. Exceptional variety, layout and prices. I could not make up my mind which of three knives I wanted and the salesperson was very patient. I purchased the Chris Reeve Pacific. I then turned around and bought a Bark River Aurora which I had not heard of before and who make some great knives. Great customer service and store well worth checking out.

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