Saturday, November 14, 2015

Famous cutlery from Sweden: The Mora knife

If you ask someone to describe a Swedish Mora knife, chances are the description will be of a belt-worn, fixed-blade knife with a red handle and a black sheath.  This is a description of the 'classical' Mora knife used by fishermen, hunters, and generations of craftsmen all over the world.  However, in the past century, Mora cutlers have produced a wide variety of utility, sporting, kitchen, and hunting knives besides the 'classical' model.  Some of these vintage knives are quite rare and therefore not very well known.  One reason is that Mora knives were tools or user knives, and as the blade wore out the knives were discarded or used for parts.  Another reason for not being well known is the limited documentation available on various models that were produced during the past century.  With the exception of an excellent article by Larsson (1992), there are surprisingly few articles about Mora knives.  This shortcoming is acknowledged by Scandinavian knife collectors who call for cutlery historians to document the complete history of the Mora cutlers and their knives (Halldén, 2009).  I have a more modest goal with the present article of providing an overview of the Mora knife history and illustrating knives that were popular during the 1920s to 1980s era.  I hope this article will stimulate interest in the most famous Swedish knife of the century: The Mora knife.

Humble beginnings

Sweden is a Nordic country on the Scandinavian peninsula with Norway to the west, Finland to the east, and Denmark to the south.  Besides hosting internationally renowned cutlers, Sweden has also produced famous actors like Greta Garbo; international music bands like ABBA; and tennis champions like Björn Borg.  (Not to mention the Swedish bikini team!)

The story of the Mora knife began in the late 1800s in the small village of Östnor, Mora municipality, Dalarna county.  According to Larsson (1992), there were many skilled cutlers in Östnor during this time.  However, many of these cutlers were only making knives as a side business as their main production often consisted of casted brass products or sewing machines.  One of the first well known cutlers was Finn-Anders Andersson (FA Andersson) who stopped making sewing machines and started full-time knife production in 1877.  Although Finn-Anders was an early and well-known cutler, his work did not generate the concept of a Mora knife as we know it today.  Rather, it was another cutler, Frost-Erik Ersson, that initiated a more than century long success in the production of Mora knives.  In 1891, Frost-Erik arrived back on Swedish soil after 4 years of logging work in the United States.  At this time, Frost-Erik established a company and produced a variety of products under the name Erik Frost.  Initially, Erik Frost only made knives that were used by workers in the factory, but in a short time the Erik Frost factory became Erik Frost Knivfabrik AB (in English, 'Frost’s Knife factory') and the first company to engage in knife-making on an industrial scale. 

Cooperation instead of competition

Although Frost-Erik had a crucial role in the production of Mora knives, he was followed by other cutlers that opened their own factories.  Some of the more famous Mora cutlers include the Jönsson brothers (i.e., Erik, Anders, John, and Manne), Jöns Persson and sons, Krång-Johan Eriksson (K. J. Eriksson), Frost-Mats Mattsson (F. M. Mattsson), and Bud-Carl Andersson (C. Andersson) to name a few.  Today, most of these knife factories are long gone.  While Erik Jönsson still makes knives with his uncle Holger, the C. Andersson factory stopped making knives in the late 1950s followed by F. M. Mattsson in the early 1960s.  In 2005, a new company called Mora of Sweden emerged from the classical cutlers K. J. Eriksson and Frost’s Knife factories.  Today, Mora of Sweden is the only factory in the world that makes Mora knives.  If your knife isn't made by Mora of Sweden in Mora, it's not a Mora knife!   

Mora of Sweden's national and international markets today are governed by a business climate where competition, cutting edge development, user ergonomics, and cost effective operations are all vital ingredients.  However, things were very different in the village of Östnor in the early 1900s.  Back then, the Mora cutlers operated under an agreement that was more like a cooperative movement.  Although everyone wanted to sell as may knives as possible, the cutlers all helped each other with knife components and even shared machines.  All the cutlers used the same sheath manufacturer, a local shoemaker by the name Ström.  At one time or another, many of these cutlers worked for Frost-Erik in his factory.  During these early years, it was a common practice among cutlers to buy parts from Erik Frost and to assemble knives outside the factory.  These knives were later sold using the cutler's own name, not Erik Frost's brand name.  As Larsson (1992) explains; it was better to cooperate than to compete, there were plenty of customers for everyone!

Laminated steel

Laminated steel is an old technique that was used for knives, axes, and scythes.  This technique uses a core of high carbon steel, surrounded by layers of tough lower carbon steel like a sandwich.  Originally, steel lamination was used to reduce the cost of expensive edge steel.  Although Frost-Erik did not invent laminated steel, his production helped industrialize the laminated carbon steel blade.  Using this technique, Frost-Erik created blades that became famous for holding a superior edge while at the same time being easy to sharpen.  During the early years of production, all blades were hand-forged, leaving an unmistakable 'wavy' edge in the transition between the hard core and outer layers.  Frost-Erik soon discovered ways to improve the production by using machines.  According to Larsson (1992), the Erik Frost factory had 8 industrial forging hammers and more than 30 workers during the 1920s and 1930s.  Not only was Frost-Erik able to produce the same quality of the early hand-forged blades using machines, he was also able to improve the production of standardized parts.

The early 'classical' Mora knife

The early Mora knives of the 'classical' style all had hand-forged blades, a lacquered curly birch handle, and a leather sheath.  Over time, some of these early components were replaced by materials that were easier to acquire and that were more cost-effective.  Due to Frost-Erik's innovations, the old hand-forged blades were soon replaced by machine-forged blades.  The fine curly birch was a scarce commodity and was later replaced by regular birch, initially stained and lacquered, and in later years painted in various hues of red.  As fine leather for sheath-making became harder to find, it was replaced by a vulcanized paper fiber, Unica, that looks very much like leather and shares some of the same characteristics.  We know from Brask (2009) that the shoemaker Ström was experimenting with a Unica prototype sheath around 1910.  During one of his first experiments, Ström used a piece of his son Carl's Unica box.  We don't know if poor Carl ever got a new Unica box, but we do know that Ström was successful in his experimentation since he produced Unica sheaths for all Östnor cutlers until 1956.  While some modern-day Mora sheaths and handles are made of synthetic polymers, 'plastic' sheaths have been available for Mora knives since the 1950s.  Although more cost-effective to produce, 'plastic' sheaths never completely replaced the older Unica sheaths since these are still being produced today.

Two 'classical' Mora knives from the 1950s  by C. Andersson (top) and F. M. Mattsson (bottom).

New production of the 'classical' model by Erik Jönsson.  This knife was produced during the last decade.

Two 1970s Mora knives produced for the Swedish armed forces by K. J. Eriksson   (top) and Frost (bottom).  The K. J. Eriksson knife was specifically made for medics.  The Frost knife came with a half-guard for finger protection.

Frost produced survival knives for the Swedish Air Force pilots from the 1960s to the late 1980s.  The knife in the picture is from the late 1980s.

Böhlmark & Co. advertisements

While sales catalogs and advertisements from the early 1900 Mora cutlers are scarce, this article illustrates some advertisements Böhlmark & Co. used during the 1920s to 1950s.  Böhlmark & Co. was the sole distributor for Erik Frost knives from the early 1900s to the 1960s.  In this capacity, Böhlmark & Co. advertised and sold Frost Knives and parts to retailers, institutions, and qualified dealers.  It seems that no stone was left unturned by Böhlmark & Co.  I've even found an advertisement for Frost knives in the No. 50 issue of the 1929 'Swedish Teachers Journal'!

A 1920s advertisement from Böhlmark & Co. for Frost's No. 9-11 models.  Böhlmark & Co. was the sole distributor of Erik Frost knives from circa 1910 until the 1960s.

Among the 1920s Böhlmark & Co. advertisements we find the Frost No. 5 'classical' Mora knife with yellow-brown lacquered birch handles and Unica sheaths.  This 'classical' model with a single bottom bolster and patterned Unica sheath was very popular.  The knife was sold with a sheath (sheath knife) and without a sheath (cutting knife) in ten different sizes, from 12.7 cm (No. 4) to 34 cm (No. 5).  Examples of two similar but more upscale versions of the 'classical' No. 5 knife from the 1920s and 1930s are Frost's model No. 23 (23-28) and No. 33 (33-38).  These models had, in addition to the bottom bolster, a nickel-plated top bolster with a rounded pommel.  While the No. 23 had a plain lacquered birch handle, the No. 33 was sold with an exquisite curly birch handle.  Both the No. 23 and the No. 33 models were sold in six different sizes; from 13.2 cm (No. 23 and 33) to 23.4 cm (No. 28 and 38).  These 'classical' models were also popular in other Scandinavian countries.  In 1938, we find Mora knives and sheaths advertised in the Norwegian company Bergan's catalog.  The advertised models were 'classical' Mora knives similar to Frost's No. 5 and No. 33 models (Thoresen, 2010).  Although the knives and sheaths have  Bergan's own stamp, they were all made by K. J. Eriksson.

A 1920-30s advertisement for Frost's 'classical' Mora knives, models No. 23-28 and No. 33-38.  The No. 23-25 knives had a lacquered birch handle and Unica sheaths and were sold in sizes from 13.2 cm (No. 23) to 23.4 cm (No. 28).  The No. 33-38 knives had a curly birch handle, but were otherwise identical to the No. 23-28 models.

A 1920s advertisement for Frost's 'classical' No. 5 Mora knife.  This early knife was produced in ten different sizes (with or without a sheath); from 12.7 cm (No. 4/0) to 34 cm (No. 5).  

An even more upscale version of the No. 23 and the No. 33 models was the Frost No. 9 model as advertised by Böhlmark & Co. in the 1920s and 1930s.  This knife was sold in three different sizes; from 16.8 cm (No. 9) to 21.2 cm (No. 11).  While the No. 9 knife itself is reminiscent of the No. 33 knife, the No. 9 model had an exquisite Unica sheath with nickel-plated trim.  According to Brask (2009), there is an even older version of the No. 9 model that was produced in the beginning of 1900.  This version had a sheath of real leather and bolsters and trim made of solid nickel silver.  This model also had an older straight-line stamp with 'E. FROST' over 'MORA' unlike the 1920s and later models with the circular 'ERIK FROST' over 'MORA' over 'SWEDEN' stamp.  Although not labeled so by Frost or other Mora cutlers, the No. 9 model style is very popular among collectors and have acquired a fitting nickname; the 'luxury model'.

A 1930s advertisement for Frost's No. 9 - 11 sheath knives.  This model was made in three different sizes; 16.8 cm (No. 9) to 21.2 cm (No. 11).

A 1950s Erik Frost model No. 11.  This 22.1 cm knife has an an exquisite curly birch handle and a Unica sheath with nickel-plated trim.  This popular model is  called the 'luxury' knife by collectors.

Apart from the 'classical' models, the Mora cutlers introduced many other models in the 1930s and 1940s.  Some of these models were explicitly advertised for hunters.  In advertisements from the 1930s and 1940s, Böhlmark & Co. advertised the Frost Special No. 210 Hunting Dagger and the Frost Stainless Hunter Knife No. 1154.  Both of these were larger knives with curly birch handles and had sheaths of leather with nickel-plated trim.  We also find an interesting Böhlmark & Co. advertisement that was specifically geared towards cross-country skiers.  In a 1938 yearbook of the Swedish Skiing and Outdoor Recreation organization ('På skidor: Skid- och friluftsfrämjandets årsbok / 1938'), we find Frost's patented skiing knife No. 1102 and No. 1114 (Swedish patent No. 84013, Norwegian patent No. 55835) that was specifically designed for scraping off ice and grip wax from the skis.  Superbly crafted with stainless steel blade, curly birch handle, and a leather sheath with nickel-plated trim, this knife was a must for any serious cross-country skier!

An advertisement from the 1930-40s for Frost's Special No. 210 Hunting Dagger.  This hunting knife had a blade of high-quality steel, a lacquered curly birch handle, a sheath of leather, and nickel-plated brass bolsters and sheath trims.

A 1940s advertisement for the Frost Stainless Hunter Knife No. 1154.  The Hunter Knife was made with a new Frost stainless steel blade of a superior quality.  The No. 1154 had a blood groove, lacquered curly birch handle, and a leather sheath with nickel-plated trims.

This 1940-50s Böhlmark & Co. advertisement for popular Frost knives encouraged sellers to “Meet the demand during the vacation period” and to “Sell Frost knives.” 

Other popular hunting knives from the 1940s and 1950s was the Frost Moose Hunter Knife No. 127/237, sporting a high-carbon steel blade, moose antler handles, and a leather sheath that was partly covered with sealskin.  This superbly crafted knife must have been every hunter's dream!  Among the larger knives we also find 1940s and 1950s Böhlmark & Co. advertisements for Frost Bayonet Daggers, models No. 6150 and No. 6215.  Both of these bayonet daggers had stainless steel blades, finger guards, and moose antler handles.  Both knives were advertised as being perfect gifts for military personnel and hunters!  In addition to these larger hunting knives, Böhlmark & Co. also advertised various smaller Frost knives specifically geared towards scouts, fishermen, and sailors.

Frost's Moose Hunter Knife No. 127/237 as shown here in a 1940-50s Böhlmark & Co. advertisement.  This knife had a high-polished carbon steel blade with a superb edge and sharpness.  The handle was made of real Moose antlers.  The knife came with a sturdy leather sheath, covered at the bottom with real sealskin. 

This 1940-50s advertisement shows two popular Frost Bayonet Daggers with stainless steel blades; No. 6150 (top) and No. 6215 (bottom).  Both models have Moose antler handles, finger guards (double guards on No. 6150 and single guards on No. 6215), and chrome-plated top bolsters.  The sheaths were made of  frost-lacquered metal in assorted colors with double leather straps.

Frosts Knivfabrik AB. catalogs

In the 1960s when Frost’s Knife factory ended its business relation with Böhlmark & Co., we see several new catalogs aimed for international sales.  One interesting catalog in English (also printed in German) is the 'Mora knives for Vikings' where 19 different models are advertised.  Also included is a brief history of the town of Mora, and a historic view on how sharp-edged weapons relate to knives used by 'modernized Vikings'.  In the catalog, we see hoof knives, 'classical' Mora knives, butcher knives, fishing knives, and fillet knives, as well as various hunting knives (including the No. 210 Hunting Dagger and the Frost Moose Hunter No. 127/237).  Although some 'classical' Mora knives are advertised, the Frost models No. 23 (23-28), No. 33 (33-38), and the No. 9 (9-11) 'luxury model' are are no longer advertised.  This catalog is clearly a smorgasbord of Frost models designed to entice a wide variety of international buyers.  An added bonus in the catalog is a picture and a description of a Frost knife patterned after a knife designed by Anders Zorn (1860 - 1920), a world-famous Swedish artist who was born in the town of Mora.  We are told this knife was given to King Gustav VI Adolf (1882 - 1973) as he was visiting Mora on one of his traditional Kingdom tours. 
Domestically, we see larger two-color catalogs during the 1960s that illustrate the complete assortment of knives made by Frost’s Knife factory (Swedish and English text).  One catalog groups over 100 knives into four categories: Hobby, tool, and craftsmen knives; Hunting, sporting, and fishing knives; Sport fishing, fish cleaning, filleting- and chopping knives; and Butcher, boning, and restaurant knives.  Quite an assortment!  In addition to the variety of butcher and restaurant knives, we find some of the familiar models of the 'classical' Mora knives as well as the scout and hunting knives.  The 'classical' knife, we are told, is the most used all-round knife all over the world.  'This knife should be found in every home, hobby-room and tool-box!'
In the 1970s, we see larger full-color catalogs with text in both Swedish and English.  Four knife categories are advertised: Craftsmen's knives, sporting knives, hunting knives, and fishing knives.  Although many of the traditional knives in this catalog are the same ones as advertised in the 1960s, in this catalog all the 'classical' Mora knives have plastic sheaths instead of Unica sheaths.  We also find a variety of new up-scale hunting and sporting knives, all having exquisite Rosewood or Jacaranda handles and fine leather sheaths.  New items not found in previous catalogs are fishing knives with dishwasher proof polypropylene handles and two axe-knife combinations (No. 80 and No. 82). 

A Frost’s knife factory catalog from the 1980s illustrating two fishing and sporting knives (top) and two filleting knives (bottom).  

In a similar Frost’s Knife factory catalog from the 1980s, we find the same four knife categories and essentially the same assortment of knives as in the 1970s catalogs, although some items are new and there is a slightly larger inventory with 59 knives and 4 sharpening-steels.  To broaden the international appeal, this catalog has text in Swedish, English, and French!  Among the new knives we find an elegant series of hunting knives called the 'Lapplander.'  This hunting knife was sold with blades in four sizes; from 75 mm (No. LL-75H) to 115 mm (No. LL-115).  The handles were made of Jacaranda with polished brass mountings, and sheaths were made of sturdy natural leather.  The perfect knife for the hunting connoisseur!

Mora of Sweden - a newcomer with a century of experience!

Today, Mora of Sweden has an impressive assortment of the 'classical' Mora knife as well as the craftman's knife, construction worker and electrician's knife, wood carving knife, and hoof knives in their production line (Mora of Sweden, 2001).  Despite being a newcomer at only 5 years old, the company is founded on the accumulated cutlery experience from the K. J. Eriksson and the Frost Knife factories dating back to 1891.  This has definite advantages in the design and production of modern knives.  Take the Mora® Craftline knives as an example.  Here we have a tool knife developed along state-of-the-art ergonomics and human factors guidelines.  A high-friction handle grip that fits the hand like a glove; a specific color coding for each application (i.e., red-allround, blue-flex, orange-rope etc.); and the best quality stainless steel available - providing an ergonomic knife that is both efficient and safe to use.  Form, color, function, the three important factors in any applied ergonomics project!
But everything isn't brand new and ergonomically tailored in Mora of Sweden's product line.  Some things work just they way they are and have done so for a very long time.  And for some reason human affection has very little to do with ergonomics and human factors, as is evident from our fondness of 'classical' things.  Although the 'classical' knife is still produced by Mora of Sweden with a red handle and a black plastic sheath, a remake of the old 'classical' style with an unpainted handle and a Unica sheath is now available as the 'Mora®Knife Classic Original.'  Not surprisingly, this model has become a collector's item and an exclusive souvenir besides being a strong and functional utility knife. 

As we enter the 21st Century, we naturally wonder what the future will bring.  For sure, Mora of Sweden will continue to provide world leading cutlery for craftsmen, the outdoors, the food industry, as well as the hobby enthusiast.  And as a company it can look forward to celebrating its 5th anniversary.  What should we expect to mark the 5 year anniversary, maybe it has something to do with curly birch, nickel silver, and leather?  After all, this is the lock, stock, and barrel of their trade!  I can clearly imagine the advertisement on their web page:  'Mora of Sweden announces their 5th anniversary model of Frost's vintage No. 9 luxury knife!'  I can hardly wait to get hold of one!  Until then, I'm off trying to find a vintage Frost No. 299 filleting knife with a stainless gurry-spoon for my collection.  Happy collecting everyone! 


I would like to express my sincere gratitude to Pär Brask, Mora of Sweden, for providing support while I wrote this article.  Pär provided me with advertisements and catalogs, helped me date knives, and patiently answered all my questions regarding the early Mora knives.  Pär Brask is a great-grandchild of Frost-Erik Ersson.  Thank you Pär - you are a true gentleman!


Brask, P. (2009). Personal communication.

Halldén, A. (2009). Mer om antika knivar ['More about antique knives']. Downloaded on 12-29-2009 from

Larsson, B. (1992, May). Morakniven: Vass veteran ['The Mora knife: A sharp veteran']. Antik & Auktion, No. 5, 54-58.

Mora of Sweden. (2010).

Thoresen, P. (2010). Bergans morakniver ['Bergan's Mora knives']. Downloaded on 01-10-2010 from

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Display cards for pocket knives

What is it that makes us so interested and excited about these various display cards? 

For one thing, it certainly has a lot to do with that 'retro' look.  Original cards of the 1930-1950 vintage are scarce and difficult to acquire, but collectors often want authentic cards to maintain the historical context of their knives.  One option is to acquire off-print copies of original cards.  Alternatively, collectors can design and produce their own cards that will enhance the look of their knives.  Here, I will review a few cards originally produced by two large US knife companies, the Imperial Knife Company and the Colonial Knife Company, that collectors have reproduced or made off-print copies of .

The Imperial Knife Company (1916-2004) advertised approximately 20 to 30 cards per year in their catalogs from the mid-30s to the late 50s (not counting display boxes).  A well-known example is the 12-count Jack-master "Crossbar" card with knives in two difference sizes. Another is the 6-count Jack-o-matic toothpick card as advertised in the 1952 Imperial catalog.  This card was sold with three candystripe and three cracked ice Toothpicks (No. JM-90PB).  The Jack-o-matic card was also advertised and sold with Toothpicks that had “stag” handles (No. JM-99PB) and Toothpick fixed-guards in assorted colors besides cracked ice (No. JM-101PB).  Other examples of Imperial cards are the Jack-o-matic “Junior” card and the Utility Jack card.  In 1952, the “Jack-o-matic” card is advertised with 12 cracked ice “Juniors” (assortment No. JM-96PB) that each came with a separate Vinylite purse.  The Utility Jack card was also advertised and sold with 12 knives on the card.

Imperial 1952 catalog with the Jack-master "Junior" Crossbar card with knives

Reproduction of the Imperial 1952 Jack-master "Junior" Crossbar card with knives (The colors on the reproduction card are not identical to the card colors used by Imperial.)

Imperial 1952 catalog with the Jack-master Crossbar card with knives

 Reproduction of the Imperial 1952 Jack-master Crossbar card with knives (The colors on the reproduction card are not identical to the card colors used by Imperial.)


Imperial 1952 catalog with the Jack-o-matic (JM-90PB) card and knives 

Off-print copy of the JM-90PB card with knives


Imperial 1952 catalog with the Jack-master "Sportsmaster" card (JM-941) with knives

 Off-print copy of the Jack-master "Sportsmaster" card (JM-941) with an assortment of Imperial knives (These particular knives were not sold on the JM-941 card by Imperial.)


Imperial 1952 catalog with the Jack-o-matic "Junior" card (JM-96PB) with knives

 Reproduction of the Jack-o-matic "Junior" card with and assortment of Imperial "Junior" knives (The colors on the JM-96PB reproduction card are not the same as the colors used by Imperial. Likewise, Imperial never sold this particular assortment of "Junior" knives on the JM-96PB cards.)


 Imperial 1952 catalog with the Jack-master "Sportsmaster" card with knives

Reproduction of the Jack-master "Sportsmaster" card with an assortment of Imperial knives (The colors on the reproduction card are not the same as the colors used by Imperial - and this particular assortment of Imperial knives were never sold on this card.)

The Colonial Knife Company (1926-2002) advertised and sold many display cards during their production years.  A common example is the well-known blue, orange, and white colored Shur-Snap card that was advertised and sold with Fishtail, Bowtie, Stubby, and Snappy knives in various scale color combinations.  An older version of the blue, orange, and white Shur-Snap card in orange, black, and yellow colors was also used for Fishtails, Bowties, Jacks, Fat Jacks, and Jumbo Jack knives.  There are also original Colonial advertisements from 1951 that inform us that this orange, black, and yellow card was available with either 12 Bowtie (Cross Bar, No. 1800 CB) or 12 Fishtail (No. 1800 B) knives.  The advertisement states: Packed one dozen to a beautiful three color counter display card and lists available scale options as Colors only (C), White only (W), Stag only (S), or Assorted (C-W-S) 

Colonial advertisement (undated) with two models (1800 B and 1800 CB) of the "Shur-Snap" knives and card

Colonial advertisement (undated) with two models (1800 and 1900) of the "Shur-Snap" knives and the orange, black, and yellow cards

 Off-print copy of the orange, black, and yellow 'Shur-Snap" card with an assortment of Colonial knives (This particular assortment of Colonial knives were never sold on this card.)

 Reproduction of the blue, orange, and white 'Shur-Snap" card with an assortment of Colonial 1800 B knives (These particular knives are later models than the 1800 B knives illustrated in the Colonial advertisement above.)

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

German Leverlocks

A large variety of folding knives were produced in Germany during the post-WWII period.  Many of these knives were tailored for use by hunters and campers.  Commonly, these hunting knives were advertised under various German names like Springer, Springmesser, Jagdspringmesser, or Federmesser.  These knives were manufactured in the millions and exported to other parts of Europe as well as to South and North America.  Among U.S. outdoorsmen and collectors, this knife became known as the Leverlock.  It was a very popular knife that sold in great numbers; every cutlery shop, distributor, hardware store, and retailer sold these popular Leverlocks.  They were available in different scale materials, bolsters, sizes, and with various cutlery markings on the tang or blade. Many of the vintage Leverlocks also have 'SPRINGER' stamped on the bottom bolster, with some variation in the letter size and style.

The Leverlock model has a long history, with applicable German patents (DRP, Deutsches Reichspatent) and patent registrations (DRGM, Deutsches Reichs-Gebrauchsmuster) by Wilhelm Weltersbach (1882, #20316; 1897, #73661), Otto Schallbruch (1934, #35274), Anton Wingen Jr. (1956, #1715228), and Günter O. Melcher (1959, #1790344), to mention a few.  With roughly a hundred known tang stamps, a few different sizes, varieties of blade, lever shapes, liners, bolster shapes, bolster stamps, bails, and groove markings; there is a lot of variation in the Leverlock models.

Below are a few examples of Leverlock knives with different tang stamps along with some company information.  Although tang stamps are interesting from a cutlery history perspective, the tang stamps rarely tell us who the maker is.  The majority of Leverlocks have tang stamps that are names or symbols of import companies or distributors rather than manufacturers.  A minority of Leverlocks have stamps from known cutlery companies.  But even a stamp from a well-known and large cutlery company does not guarantee that the cutler in question actually made the knife, or even made any parts of the knife.  The German cutlery industry has always operated under a subcontracting model: via production in the cottage industry (off-site facilities and workshops) and via production in the regular cutlery factories.  The Solingen cottage industry was enormous, with an estimated 75% of the total production by workers producing services and goods in their own homes.  One home shop ground blades, another hardened and tempered the blades, a third made bolsters and liners.  The Leverlock has always been a contract knife.  This is clear from the large number of identical knives with different tang stamps. 

Anton Wingen Stahlwarenfabrik, Solingen.
The Wingen firm was formed in 1888 to produce table flatware, knives, scissors and hunting knives.  During 1901-1904 new factories were built in Solingen, Gas Street.  Anton Wingen Junior & Company shared its premises with W. Clauberg on Gasstr. No. 54 in Solingen.  In 1997, the Wingen Company was dissolved.  Remaining stocks of finished goods and semi-finished goods were taken over by a small Solingen cutlery manufacturer together with the brand OTHELLO.  Wingen Leverlocks are mostly found with stamps like: ‘Anton Wingen Jr.’, ‘A. Wingen Jr.’, and ‘Othello’, although Wingen produced Leverlocks with importer and distributor names as well.

Anton Wingen 1965 catalog

Böker, Solingen.
According to the Böker U.S. web page ( on the history of Heinr. Böker Baumwerk GmbH: ‘A giant chestnut tree, shading the small Boeker tool factory in Remscheid in the 17th century, is the oldest traceable symbol connected with the Boeker name’.  Needless to say, Böker has a long and intricate history that will not be summarized here – but the interested reader can find all the information in an excellent 2009 Knife World article by Mark D. Zalesky (  Böker Leverlocks can be found with tang stamps like: ‘Böker Solingen’, ‘Boker Solingen Alemania’, and ‘M. * R. Boker’ to mention a few.  Böker Leverlocks are also found with a variety of blade stamps and blade etches, some of which contains the model numbers ‘712’, ‘712R’, ‘715’, and ‘715R’.

Böntgen & Sabin AG, Stahlwarenfabrik, Solingen.
The Böntgen & Sabin AG Stahlwarenfabrik was originally founded by August Böntgen and Louis Sabin around 1870 and registered in 1876 (Carter, 2001; Goins & Goins, 1998).  In 1922 the Böntgen & Sabin AG Stahlwarenfabrik was advertising their trade name BONSA.  Very little information is available on August Böntgen.  Information on Louis Sabin, on the other hand, is plentiful.  Among the most interesting things is that Louis was a member of the German Reichstag and also represented the Union of Solingen Manufacturers’ Association.  The BONSA (Böntgen & Sabin) Company was behind the production of many Leverlocks.  BONSA Leverlocks can be found with stamps like: ‘BONSA’, ‘B. Svoboda’, ‘Helmut Hartenau’, ‘F. A. Bower Imp. Co.’, ‘G. C. Co.’, ‘IMCO’, ‘ROMO’, ‘Puma’, ‘RAMON’, ‘Solingen Cutlery’, ‘Stainless Import’, and ‘Schoepfer N.Y.-City’ to mention a few.

Gebrüder Gräfrath, Solingen-Widdert.
The company was founded in 1869 and acquired by Hubertus in 1961 (Carter, 2001).  Gräfrath Leverlocks can be found with stamps like: ‘G. Gräfrath Solingen’, ‘G. Gräfrath Solingen Rostfrei’, and ‘Gräfrath W Solingen’ (W is for Widdert) to mention a few.

Gräfrath 1930s catalog

H. Eicker & Söhne, Solingen.
The company was founded in 1908 and has since produced and sold tools for hairdressers, barbers, and beauty salons. Today H. Eicker & Söhne manufacture and sell scissors and manicure tools.  The H. Eicker & Söhne company also sold Leverlocks stamped with their trademark name ‘PAX’, but these were contract knives from the Willhelm Weltersbach firm.

Hubertus, Solingen.
The company, Kuno Ritter Knife Company, was originally founded by Kuno Ritter in 1932 and changed name to Hubertus in the 1950s.  The company is still in business today with several Leverlock models in their production ( 1950s Hubertus Leverlocks are generally tang-stamped with ‘Hubertus Solingen’, and older knives with ‘Kuno Ritter Solingen Germany’.

Hubertus 1950s catalog

PUMA, Solingen.
The Puma Company has a long history.  According to the PUMA web site: ‘The PUMA Werk Lauterjung und Sohn was founded in 1769. Today, just like 240 years ago, we manufacture knives and cutlery in top handmade quality under the brand name PUMA’ (  1950s PUMA-stamped Leverlocks were contract knives and not made by PUMA.  There are several different models most of which were made by BONSA and others by Wilh. Weltersbach.

Richard Abr. Herder AG, Stahlwarenfabrik, Solingen.
The Herder Company was founded in 1884 and the family owned the company until it was sold in 1972.  The company was one of the most well-known cutlery companies and over the years they produced a variety of knives, razors, scissors, tools, and hammers.  They also produced Leverlocks most of which are stamped: ‘Rich. A. Herder Solingen’, ‘Rich. A. Herder Solingen Rostenit’, and ‘Rich. A. Herder Solingen Rostfrei’.

Wilhelm Weltersbach Stahlwarenfabrik, Solingen.
We know from older catalogs that Wilhelm Weltersbach started his Stahlwarenfabrik in Solingen in 1882, as many Weltersbach catalogs have 'GEGR. 1882' printed on the cover.  Weltersbach’s innovative designs, prolific production, and cost-effective thinking made his mark on the world-wide Leverlock scene.  Few Leverlock cutlers are his equal.  Besides the Weidmannsheil-stamped knives, Welterbach knives can be found with stamps like: ‘B. Svoboda’, ‘Carl & Robert Linder’ (C. & R. L), ‘CCC’ and ‘Cleveland Cutlery Co.’, ‘F. A. Bower’, and ‘Kaufmann K55K’ to name a few.  The Weltersbach Company has ceased its operations and the last remains were sold off in the early 1990s.

Weltersbach early 1930s catalog

Ahlstrom, U. (2014, July). The Type III Leverlock. The SharperDeal Newsletter, 5(3), 14-16.

Ahlstrom, U. (2011, January). The Type I Leverlock. The SharperDeal Newsletter, 2(1), 2, 8-11.

Ahlstrom, U. (2011, October). The Type II Leverlock. The SharperDeal Newsletter, 2(4), 7, 10-13, 16.

Carter, A. (2001). The sword and knife makers of Germany 1850-2000. Tharston Press: Norwich, Norfolk NR9 5JS (ISBN 0-946696-31-4).

Goins, J. E., & Goins, C. S. (1998). Goin’s encyclopedia of cutlery markings. Horizon Printing Company: Indianapolis, Indiana. Published by Goin’s Antique Knives.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Wanted - Antique Leverlock and Lever-release Folding Knives from Germany


Folding Knives from Germany - Antique - Vintage - Old - German Knives

I'm looking to buy antique German folding knives with a leverlock or a lever release.  I'm also looking for multi-blade camping and hunting knives (see pictures of examples below).
These come with a variety of tang stamps:  Waidmannsheil - Weidmannsheil - Kappler - Feist & Co. Lunawerk - Christians - Gräfrath - Lauterjung & Co. - Linder - Hammesfahr - Hoppe & Dienst - Herder - vom Cleff & Co. - Lion Cutlery - D. R. G. M. - Wingen - Othello - Alfa - G. Felix Gloriawerk (to mention a few stamps....). 

If you have any of these and plan to let them go, please send me an email.

I'm also looking for antique Jack knives.  

These are available with a variety of tang stamps:  Böntgen & Sabin's Patent - Bontgen & Sabin - B&S - Bleckmann Superior Cutlery - Criterion Quality - Korn's Patent - Edward Zinn (to mention a few stamps....).

If you have any of these and plan to let them go, please send me an email.