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
According to the Böker U.S. web page (http://www.boker.de/us/history.html) 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 (http://www.boker.de/pdf/knifeworld.pdf). 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.
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 (http://www.hubertus-solingen.com/). 1950s Hubertus Leverlocks are generally tang-stamped with ‘Hubertus Solingen’, and older knives with ‘Kuno Ritter Solingen Germany’.
Hubertus 1950s catalog
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.