Angelo Campolin Sr. was born in 1923 in Maniago, Italy. He worked on perfecting his knife making skills before WWII and at this time made his first switchblades. After the war, in 1947 he started his company and made 30 stilettos with the marking “Angelo Campolin”. Though quite a long ride, he rode his bicycle to Venice to sell them. After a few years he started his relationship with Mauro Mario who fabricated knives for many American importers such as Rosco, C.G. Cutlery, B. Svoboda, C.C.C Cutlery and others for the American market. Also, tourists in Venice and Trieste were crazy for this nasty toy! Angelo made the tools for the large size stilettos in 38cm and 45cm. At first these were the picklock stilettos and then later converted to the swivel bolster style. The Campolins were the only factory to produce this size in the post WWII era. Other sizes were and are produced by other makers. In the 1960’s he started introducing other mechanisms including the lock back style. At first these were used on the switchblade hunting knives and then also with some stilettos. It became the most popular release mechanism for folding hunting knives.
Patent of lockback system - 1961
In the 1970’s Angelo’s son Gianni started to work in the company and they were specializing in folding hunting knives and also manual folding stilettos for the Robert Klaas company in Solingen Germany with their Kissing Cranes mark. This was the beginning of Falcon Knives, and it is still in business today. In 1999 Angelo Jr. started to work in the company at the age of 21. He made his first trip to the United States to a knife show in Oregon with many of the fine quality Falcon folding knives. He also had a love of switchblades and from this show and through the internet established relationships and friendships with many American collectors. He opened his own company specializing in automatic knives. Some were made by Angelo Sr. and some by other Maniago artisans with exclusive agreements. This was the beginnings of his company called AKC (Automatic Knives Creations, or Angelo Knives Campolin).
Angelo Sr., Angelo Jr. and Gianni Campolin - 2004
In 2002 American switchblade collectors Dan Fuller, Brad West, and Tim Zinser were visiting Maniago and enjoying a few glasses of wine in a bar with Angelo Jr. and Gianni. The discussion was about a new name for some knife projects they wanted to pursue. It was Brad West that suggested the tang stamp should be AGA, for Angelo, Gianni, Angelo, thus representing three generations in the knife making business. The Campolins liked it and it stuck. In the beginning it was just a few items, but grew to the point where now there are 12 models and different scale options. The goal has been to offer quality switchblades using the old methods and traditions. Being a collector himself, Angelo Jr. knows what others like. The company headquarters has moved to Austria with production still in the original Maniago shop, as well as the others in Maniago that produce the knives for A.G.A. Campolin.
An interesting side note is that several years ago Brad West (a well known collector and dealer of antique switchblades) was closing up at a knife show and a man came up to him and offered an Italian stiletto for sale. The knife was in good condition and was marked Angelo Campolin. A few months later Angelo Jr. was in Atlanta for the Blade Show and Brad showed him the knife. He was extremely excited and told Brad that he must sell the knife to him, that it was made by his grandfather (a fact that Brad knew very well). Brad told him the knife was not for sale. Angelo looked very dejected. Brad smiled and handed him the knife and said “it is yours” and gave it to him. It was one of the original 30 knives that Angelo Sr. took to Venice in 1947. What a great coincidence, that one of those knives would come full circle back to the grandson of the maker over 50 years later.
The old Angelo Campolin stiletto is now exhibited in our showroom in Lederergasse 12, Villach (Austria).