One of my more memorable experiences during my first trip to Euskal Herria was a visit to the Aitor knife factory. My dad’s brother-in-law worked there and took me to see the multitude of machines they used to make these storied blades. I got to meet the designers and the people on the floor actually making the knives. And he sent me home with a selection of knives as gifts for me and my brothers. Little did I appreciate the history of this small company in the heart of the Basque Country…
- Aitor was founded in 1939 by three Izaguirre brothers, Máximo, Eugenio and Alejandro – the original name of the company was IHER for Izaguirre HERmanos. Aitor is one of the oldest knife manufacturers in Spain. In the beginning, they also produced pistols and shotguns, contributing to the famed arms manufacturing of the Basque Country. Their very first knife, a survival knife, was released in 1939.
- The factory is located in the small town of Ermua, on the border between Bizkaia and Gipuzkoa and next to the Gipuzkoan city of Eibar. Ermua, having about 16,000 inhabitants, was founded about 1279, though the original founding charter has been lost.
- Aitor creates and sells a wide range of blades, from military and hunting knives to pocket knives and multitools. They supply knives to a wide-range of organizations around the world, including armies and rescue forces in Germany, Estonia, Indonesia, and Spain. They also supply knives to the police forces in Spain, France, and various South American countries as well as the UN and UNESCO. 50% of their products are shipped externally to more than 50 different countries.
- Aitor is actually a brand that has been owned by a few companies over the years. A troubling period for the company started when then-president, Jose Maria Izaguirre, died in a car accident. In 2002, the company actually closed its doors, but reopened again in 2007 as part of the Pielcu Group. It has since reverted to the Basque company Rehabe and continues making knives in Ermua.