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Good Morning/Afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen,
I’m Peter Huebner and today I am going to give you a presentation on the
most important tool in your kitchens - KNIVES.
In particular this presentation will focus on “The History of
Cutlery” from the Stone Age to present as it was in Europe.
Please do not worry about taking notes, as I will send you a copy of my presentation
if you want it.
I have broken my presentation down into several key areas.
In addition, I have an 8½ minute video to
show you on the manufacturing of
Please feel free to stop me at any time with any questions you may have.
The History of Cutlery
Our earliest ancestors fashioned knives and spearheads from stone so that they
and and their families could feed and defend themselves.
The sharp edges on Splinters of very hard flint stone made a cutting implement
that could be used by early man to cut and skin the animals used for food and
Edges were usually straight, however,
some exceptional curved blades and triangular and rounded handled knives have
also been found.
Archaeological diggings provide us with examples of the main shapes
of tools that early man used.
Ancient Knives the size of a modern day
pocket knife have been found, so have knives as long as a modern day scythe.
Making a Flintstone knife took considerable skill; starting with choosing the
right rock to fracturing and hammering it into a blade.
Flintstone was generally easy to find, hence it was the stone of
Bronze was the first metal
widely adapted by early man.
It required the melting of metal with bellows, so it represented quite a different
manufacturing method than knives made of stone, hence it took 1,000’s of
years to replace stone blades.
Once the capabilities of bronze knives became more widely known, bronze knives
replaced stone knives.
Take a look at the foot bellows being
used in the picture at the bottom of the slide on the left hand side.
On the right hand side, the molten metal is being cast.
Not only was Iron considered a precious
metal, the working of metal was deemed holy.
Small objects Iron was used for include: rings and buckles.
Historical records document that iron was
first used for weapons, knives and tools after 1432 BC.
Iron blades were far superior to any of their forerunners.
Moving forward another 832 years to 600
BC primarily Iron had replaced Bronze.
Iron is obtained from iron-ore through
Unwanted side elements
(sulphur, phosphorus) must be burnt off at temperatures up to 2000º
Simple smelting was done in a pit filled with iron-ore and charcoal.
Natural draught was supplemented with a
system that blasted air through the pit.
Iron ran out of the ore in a doughy mass.
Although very different than working with bronze, weapons, knives and tools
made of iron were vastly superior to their bronze counter parts.
The Romans appear to have been the earliest mass users of Iron in everything
from cutting and shaving knives to sickles, scythes and ultimately scissors
Steel is a hard tough metal composed of
iron alloyed with various small percentages of carbon and other metals (ex:
nickel, chromium etc.), to produce specific properties, such as hardness,
resistance to rusting etc.
Man’s ability to experiment with the processing of Iron
lead to Steel production
To make steel blades, the carbon content in the iron had to be reduced to less
than 2.0% (acceptable range is .3% -1.7%).
A blade had to be heated to 800º C and then quickly cooled in water or oil.
Over the centuries, the processing of iron and steel was significantly improved,
as newer and better furnaces and combinations of alloys were developed.
It took centuries for things to change,
hence, although improvements were made to furnaces, bellows, etc. these
improvements resulted in baby steps of progress by today’s standards.
The Continental Blockade was imposed by
Napoleon and effectively cut off trade to and from Europe.
As a result,
Europe had no clue about the advances
being made in Sheffield.
The Industrial Revolution, with the discovery of Steam Power, began in England.
Because, weapon and knife production was so important to survival and the
defense of a country (and remember England was the Naval Superior Power of the
World at the time), the cutlery industry would have been one of the first
benefactors of any new technologies (i.e.. Steam Power).
An artist’s drawing that depicts
Cutler's working assembling knives.
An artist’s drawing depicting
cutlers hard at work in a grinding room in Sheffield.
The Second World war was devastating to
After the War, production
methods and technology began to change, Germany and Japan were rebuilt, and
everything that was rebuilt was modern.
In Sheffield, this rebuilding did not happen to any large extent; as a result,
Sheffield has lost its reputation as a cutlery capital of the world.
The Wupper River and 7 streams = an excellent source of water power.
French, Swiss, Italian, etc.
Cutlery Masters came to Solingen to set up shops.
Solingen’s natural geographic composition made it an ideal place for cutlery
masters to set up their shops.
The traveling salesman.
• Dog used to provide power for turning
Heat-treatable stainless steel was
developed in 1921.
at the time did not realize that a high carbon content was required to enable
a knife blade to be correctly hardened.
Blades manufactured from this new steel were too soft, because they
could not be tempered to achieve the ideal Rockwell Hardness.
This problem was finally overcome by the 1950’s.
So for the last 50 years we’ve
had excellent stainless knife blades.