The window display at Beckel Canvas, located just steps away from the pulse of Clinton Street in Portland, Oregon, can be as curiously chaotic as the workshop sitting just inside. The business, whether by accident or design is run entirely by women with Kathy Beckel in the drivers seat. 48 years earlier, this family owned business opened its doors making the interior curtains and detachable side tents that came with Volkswagen camper vans. From there, Kathy’s father moved on to making tents for his friends when VW took the production of the curtains in house.
Today, canvas remains their focus, crafting a variety of products from their notorious wall tents to saddle bags, backpacks and firewood carriers. When asked if they have advanced their process and products since inception in 1964, Kathy ponders this question for no more than a few seconds before answering: “not really, we are still making the same tough bags and tents that my fathers friends were asking for back then. The designs and fabrics have all held up throughout the years.”
Fire hasn’t changed, so why should our frying pan? In 1819, Jacob Bromwell began forging the highest quality cooking, baking and campfire products that America’s frontiersmen could rely on for generations to come. Today, the company is recognized as the America’s oldest cookwear manufacturer, still hand crafting their goods in the United States with authentic materials, such as tin, stainless steel and copper, ensuring that their products are built to last.
Noise is the first thing that you notice when you enter the factory floor of Pendleton Woolen Mills. It is the only thing to notice. It halts all conversation and turns all eyes to the grand piano sized machines that are ratcheting out the famous Pendleton blankets right there in front of you.
An American icon, Pendleton Woolen Mills opened its doors in 1863 after Thomas Key, a young English weaver, traveled down the Atlantic seaboard, crossing the Isthmus of Panama on a burro, and sailing up the Pacific
coast on his grueling journey to the Pacific Northwest. Looking for a location with ideal conditions for raising sheep and producing wool, a place with moderate weather and plentiful water, he landed upon America’s newest state, Oregon.
“Weaving is an art” said Linda Parker, our Pendleton Woolen mills host, as she ushered us around the corner and into the dying room. An art that Pendleton has perfected over the last 149 years.
On a warm August day in 1930, a horse-drawn wagon raced across a dusty Maine road and delivered Roy K. Dennison’s log building sets to the train station across town. The first shipment of the original Roy Toy left Machias, Maine and a family heritage began. Today, Roy Toy still hand cuts their sets from pine logs and stains them with a non-toxic dye, creating the same bright red wooden gables and traditional green wooden roof planks as originally designed.
For a Christmas gift in 1999, Gene Jameson made two wooden pocket knives to give to his two young cousins. They, of course, loved them. No more were made until the Christmas of 2008, when Gene made one for his own son, JJ. This time, however he wanted to create something more interactive than a finished wooden knife. So instead, he made a kit that he and JJ could assemble together. This was the launch of Jameson Woodworks toy kits. Still made by Gene in his workshop in South Carolina, they interest the young craftsman at heart.
Peer through the low windows and you will see what looks to be a small buzzing workshop in the subterranean level of the cement building across from the Rose Garden in Portland, Oregon. Tanner Goods, the premiere small leather manufacturer this side of the Mississippi has grown in just a few short years from a few employees in the back of a retail space to a swanky, fully functioning factory.
Tanner Goods have rapidly expanded their wares from the few simple but functional wallets and belts that gave them their start to include a whole new range of products including leather portfolio cases, bags and notebook covers. And with the growing demand for high quality leather products, their continued growth should age as naturally and as beautifully as the fine leather goods that they produce.
In 1886, John Pickett Council started Council Tools, an American manufacturer of high quality tools. “He was tired of the tools he was working with so he started making them himself,” says Cameron Council, the great, great grandson to John Pickett Council. Located about 30 miles west of Wilmington in the small town of Lake Waccamaw, North Carolina, Council Crest tools and their team of craftsmen still hand make each tool to the highest quality out of American Hickory and American-made steel.
It wasn’t based on a desire to start a USA manufacturing company that started Hardcore Hammers, it was due to two brothers' frustration with the waffle on a framing hammer wearing out. With a bit of ingenuity, some blood, some sweat and a lot of trial and error, the brothers created Hardcore Hammers – a manufacturer of high quality tools that outperform and outlast all others.
As the bustling ceramics studio moved around him Brett Binford, cofounder of Mudshark Studios, lights up like he has been waiting for this question all night. “Well, we call it a sort of ‘ceramic Nalgene,’ the thickness of the walls keep liquids cool longer and not only that, it doesn’t let through ultraviolet rays.” Brett is describing the creation of their ceramic growler, the very first piece created for their in-house brand, the Portland Growler Company.
There is a whole section of Mudshark Studios that is solely dedicated to the production of these growlers. Their forms sit tightly wrapped, like a pod waiting to hatch another batch of their ceramic creations. Yet, even with the ability to produce 60 of these portable liquid containers per day, Mudshark has had to work overtime to keep up with the demand… A demand, however, that doesn’t come with any complaints.
As raindrops pelt the roof above our heads, Becky Groves, a 30-year Rite in the Rain employee, explains how Jerry Darling developed the first version of Rite in the Rain paper for the Pacific Northwest logging industry. “The first design was built for loggers, but today we manufacture them for a variety of professional and recreational uses.” With their workshop in Tacoma Washington, the company stays dedicated to two primary directions; creating a high quality product and making sure that all of it is made in the United States.
Setting up shop in Oregon in 1990, Benchmade has quickly expanded their capabilities by investing in new equipment, exploring the use of non-traditional materials and implementing modern manufacturing methods that not only make knives better, but make better knives. Their commitment to growth and excellence is what put them on the path to becoming one of the best precision knife makers in the world and their acquisition of Lone Wolf Knives is just another step along the way.
With heavy input from serious back-country hunters, Lone Wolf specializes in knives focused on pure functionality for the outdoorsman. The collection is built from materials and design profiles that maximize hunting performance and drive real functionality.
Located in Sonoma County, California, the Occidental Leather workshop feels more like you are working in your garage than a USA manufacturing facility that creates the highest quality tool belts in the world. Outfitted with their own shop dog, Bob, Occidental Leather has been hand crafting tool belts since 1980, using the highest grade leathers, custom dies and intricate stitching worked by some of the most talented and dedicated craftsmen.