Multi-Blade Exhibition Knife, English, circa 1895
A Magnificent Multi-Blade Exhibition Knife, English, circa 1895.
Replacement Value: $17,000
Exhibition knives of the nineteenth century are arguably the finest knives that have ever been made. In all likelihood, their equal will never be seen again. This spectacular knife would has been made with antiquated hand tools, without any modern power tools, working by the dim light of a grey sky that filtered through a small window covered with the grime of fifty years of coal smoke. The traditional method of making pocket knives was a miraculous, wizard-like process when considered in the light of the tools used to achieve such masterpieces of workmanship -hammer, file, fiddle-bow drill, and finishing wheels.
The Sheffield cutlers of the nineteenth century were the finest craftsmen who ever existed; from circa 1830 through the year 1900 or so, they manufactured cutlery items that have no equal. Sheffielders created cutlery of every description, and all of it of mind-boggling quality.
Competition was always fierce. The masters wielded enormous power over their lowly paid workers. Each person labored at one single task for virtually a lifetime. For example, in the making of a pocket knife, hand forgers would fashion, perhaps, three-inch spear-point blades for ten hours each day, six days a week, for an entire lifespan. Naturally enough, such a forger would become exceptionally proficient at this one task. Perhaps now it is easier to understand how every item required for a pocketknife, or other cutlery item was of the highest quality. Everything was made by the hand and eye of world authorities on the subject.