While officially launched in 2005, Havalon Knives has a history that runs longer and deeper.
Since the 1980s, taxidermists had been buying surgical blades from Havel's Inc., Havalon's parent company. The taxidermists liked Havel's products for skinning and caping because the blade edges lasted longer than other surgical blades. When Patrick Carrothers, Havel's current president & CEO, was first hired as a Havel's marketing manager back in 1996, he observed that taxidermists carried their scalpel blades in a toolbox because there was no safe alternative. He also noted that the taxidermists liked Havel's post mortem style blades because they were stronger and didn't break as easily as regular surgical blades.
After several years of this brewing in Patrick's mind, it occurred to him—and he remembers the epiphany clearly: "I said to myself: 'Why doesn't somebody make a scalpel that folds into itself and locks like a pocket knife? Hey, why don't we make this pocket scalpel?'" And thus, Havel’s pocket scalpels were born.
The Havel’s team soon realized hunters would like this kind of knife for skinning big game. "I had a sense this product could appeal to a very large non-medical audience, so we created a new brand that would not confuse our medical customers. This new brand, Havalon, would offer surgical-edging technology to sporting and industrial markets only," Patrick says.
The Havalon team knew it was onto something after it attended its first hunting and fishing trade show with the Havalon knives. Many hunters stopped at the Havalon booth, took one look at the Piranta knives, and said, "That's not a knife. Let me show you a real knife." Then, they'd reach into their pockets and pull out their favorite "big" folding pocket knife.
But at that same show, a lot of hunting guides came up to the booth, saw the knives, and got the concept immediately because they had seen taxidermists using surgical blades for skinning big game before. Patrick remembers what happened next: "These hunting guides got pretty excited. They said, 'Oh man that is the coolest idea I've seen in a long time. I'll buy 20 of them to take back with me for our guides.' Now, these guides might process 200 – 300 animals a year. That's when I knew we were going to make it in the hunting market."
Let's face it: do-it-yourself hunting is hard work. It takes a lot of physical stamina to walk up and down ridges carrying a weapon, while tracking or stalking any size wild game. For still hunting, it takes a lot of patience to sit for hours trying not to be detected by your quarry. Both methods can be very tiring. So when you've had a successful hunt, you tend to be tired, cold, and worried about predators as the sun is going down. Add to that, an animal you must field dress and haul back a long way from where you are now. Havalon knives help hunters finish their work faster and easier.
DIY hunters like Havalon because one knife and 12 extra blades weigh only three ounces, while giving the hunter enough skinning power for at least four elk or eight deer—with no sharpening needed. That's the Havalon revolution. Before Havalon, hunters lugged a set of pre-sharpened knives into the field along with sharpening tools, and had to frequently stop and re-sharpen their knives over and over again. The lightweight knives reduce weight in the pack and free the hunter from re-sharpening. Havalon knives also help hunters get home faster with less work, not to mention they are the sharpest knives in the woods.
Patrick adds, "That said, we also want to be clear that our knives are skinning and game processing tools. We're not the only knife you need in the outdoors. But if you have field dressing, skinning, and caping work to do, Havalon is your best choice."
Havalon is in the enviable position of being stressed by explosive growth. This, of course, is good stress. The company has added new capacity on the blade manufacturing side to meet customer demand, and the Havalon team has been busy improving the strength of the blades without giving up sharpness. Patrick says, "Most customers don't realize that is part of the trade-off. Everybody likes our sharpness, but nobody wants a blade to break. But a huge factor in the sharpness of a surgical blade is the thinness of the steel to begin with."
Doctors know not to twist or bend or pry with their surgical blades because that will cause them to break. Hunters, however, are accustomed to prying and twisting in all manner of ways when they're processing an animal. "So our customers have to learn to let the blades do the work with slitting and slicing motions only. At the same time, we're trying to learn new ways to make the blades stronger, less likely to break under torque, but without giving up sharpness. That's the future for us—new steel blends and new tempering methods, so we keep Havalon on the leading edge of quality," explains Patrick.
Havalon is also approaching national distribution as more of the chain sporting good stores start selling its knives. The chains that currently carry Havalon knives, like Cabela's, Sportsman's Warehouse, Scheels Sporting Goods, Wholesale Sports, and others, are happy with their sales. The Havalon team hopes its fans go into those other chains that aren't selling its knives and ask, "Why the heck don't you have Havalon?" Patrick says, "We're talking chains like Gander Mountain, Big 5, Bass Pro, Dunham, Dick's Sporting Goods, and Academy, among others. That's a big goal for us: to improve access to our knives."
Patrick explains that at the heart of every Havalon product innovation and customer transaction
are these four cornerstones:
1. Exceptional quality you can trust
2. Great value for the price paid
3. Exciting innovation that meets customer needs
4. Outstanding customer service - always
Patrick adds, "Our goal is to ensure that our customers never regret bringing their business to Havalon."