New West KnifeWorks
25 Years on the Cutting Edge
Story by Fran Miller /Hero Photo by Bob McClenahan
Visitors to St. Helena’s Main Street have no doubt stopped mid-stride to admire the colorful cutlery displays visible through New West KnifeWorks’ storefront window. The retail store resembles an art gallery; walls are adorned with frames for custom Damascus knives. Pedestals hold handmade stone, steel, and wood knife blocks.
Clearly not your typical kitchen utensils, the vibrant and arresting handcrafted wood handles and the vessels in which they are displayed make these indispensable culinary tools more than functional. They are mini artworks meant to be proudly showcased, just as one might hang a beloved painting or a framed photo.
Celebrating 25 years of making kitchen and adventure knives that are “as beautiful as they are useful” (New York Times), New West KnifeWorks was founded by Corey Milligan in his spare bedroom. Today, his company employs over 50; the home base is a 10,000-square-foot factory in Victor, Idaho, and, in addition to its St. Helena store, New West operates three additional retail locations: Jackson Hole, WY, Park City, UT, and Victor, ID. Continued success has dictated expansion plans, and a Denver, CO store will open later this year.
New West continues to be self-funded and privately owned and has survived floods, fire, recessions, pandemics, power outages, poverty, and volatile steel prices. Corey founded New West with a few simple goals; as an outdoorsman and environmental advocate, he sought to create a sustainably made tool that reflected his love of cooking and was as durable as it was stunning. Fans of the brand confirm that he succeeded. Napa local Nanette Humer was seeking a Christmas present for her husband Valentin, a European-trained chef, when she read about New West’s 6” Petty Knife in the New York Times holiday gift section. Serendipitously, a photographer friend at that same time was seeking a chef model for a New West magazine shoot. “Our friend thought Valentin, as a chef, would do the knives justice in handling them,” said Nanette, proprietor with Valentin of Napa-based Salute Santé!, makers of fine grapeseed oils. (www.grapeseedoil.com) “Valentin loved the way it cradled in his hand and the amazing sharpness of the thin blade. It was then that we sought more information about the brand and started a collection. We cut, chop, slice, and dice with them! We have many of their knives at this point – we especially love the original 6” Petty (my go-to ) and the bread knife. In addition, we love the color range of the G-Fusion collection. Each is a true piece of art with great technology!”
New West Knives are proudly made with the finest American steel and assembled by a talented team of metal- smiths, forgers, and artisans, each of whom is responsible for the knives they make from start to finish. While the factory is outfitted with high-tech manufacturing, metalsmithing, and forging equipment, many parts of the creation process require incredible dexterity and skill from the individual artisans. “We have hired the best in the business,” said Corey, who also stressed that New West operates a rigorous training and quality control program for those who want to learn. “All of our operations in-house allow us to experiment and innovate with what we create. Each of our artisans feels complete personal ownership over their work. With the physical nature of what it takes to make a knife, it’s better not to risk injury with repetitive motions of an assembly line-style process, which would definitely be more efficient. There are no shortcuts to making the world’s finest kitchen knives and doing it the right way.”
New West knives have received recognition in noted publications. The Wall Street Journal called them “The Cadillac of their kind.” Bon Appetit lauded them as “the perfect balance of power and grace.” They are the preferred knives of many professional chefs, the new 8” Western Chef being a particular favorite. A nod to the company’s Jackson Hole roots, this beauty combines a hefty, Western design with elite steel. Japanese blade- making favors lightweight, super sharp blades for agile slicing. The cleaver width blade is perfect for hacking, chopping, and dicing.
“We really see ourselves as selling ‘functional art’ not just ‘knives’ or ‘tools,”’ said Mike Milligan, Corey’s brother and vice president of the company. “We want to foster a sense of everyday art, which is the art of living every day to the fullest. We aim to bring more joy to everyday chores by making tools that are as beautiful as they are useful.” And that includes items that hold and display their knives. New West also makes stunning, one-of-a-kind knife blocks that transform kitchens into aesthetically uplifting spaces. Each pushes the envelope on what one considers ‘kitchenware.’ “A knife block is not just for storing your knives,” said New West’s founder, Corey Milligan, at the knife factory as it undergoes expansion.
The mixed-media Rock Bock series, for instance, utilizes river stones, wood, and resin to produce stunning yet practical vessels that keep knives conveniently at hand. The new versatile Arete Block (parlance amongst mountain climbers for a narrow, sharp ridge separating two valleys) utilizes magnetic nooks designed to display a variety of knife shapes and sizes. And if customers don’t find the perfect size, shape, or color, they can work with New West designers to craft a particular vision. Each retail store also provides personalized laser engraving services and free knife sharpening.
Everyone at New West KnifeWorks prides themselves on keeping 100% of the company’s steel sourcing and manufacturing in the USA. Their knives come with a lifetime guarantee, not only due to the outstanding craftsmanship but also as a meaningful contribution to carbon footprint reduction. The New West team also passionately supports the Slow Food movement and Slow Food International. They work with local organizations in all retail locations to help those facing food insecurity gain access to high-quality, healthy alternatives to the standard American diet.
“In the next 25 years, I want to raise the bar on what it means to make the finest knives in the world in every category and at every price point,” said Corey. “And I want to continue to support our great company culture. We’re all better when life balance is present, and employees are encouraged to ski on powder days.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION: www.newwestknifeworks.com