The HCA Red List of Endangered Crafts

 

Cutlery and tableware making

 

The making or knives, forks, spoons and other table utensils (see also knife making).

 

Status Endangered
Craft category Metal
Historic area of significance Sheffield
Area currently practised Sheffield
Origin in the UK 17th Century
Current no. of professionals (main income) 51-100
Current no. of professionals (sideline to main income)
Included in the above figures
Current no. of trainees 1-5
Current total no. serious amateur makers
Current total no. of leisure makers
Minimum no. of craftspeople required

 

History

Sheffield was the British birthplace of commercial cutlery due its geographical location and natural resources of iron ore and coal. The town was built on hills, well connected by rivers which enabled flowing water to power the waterwheels. The craft began with the production of knives using traditional blade making techniques, before developing into the craft of making The production of knives morphed from blade making, leading to its introduction as kitchen cutlery. By 1640 cutlery production was a major British industry.

During the seventeenth century, cutlery evolved from being a rudimentary functional implement to a decorative item. Cutlery became patterned and shaped, and was sold as sets, with matching hollowware soon following. Sheffield’s cutlery industry peaked in the Victorian ear, but Sheffield remained dominant throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Sheffield was home to both mass-scale production companies and small workshops, and goods were sold nationally and internationally. In 1869 one company alone produced 36,000 table knives and 7,000 scissors a week, and by the turn of the century held 15 tons of ivory for handles.

Stainless steel was developed by Harry Bearley in 1913 and was used in commercial production by 1914. Today, cutlery is commonly ’18/10 stainless steel’ the first figure refers to the percentage of chromium and the second to the nickel content.

 

Techniques

  • Forging
  • Forming
  • Pressing
  • Linishing
  • Polishing
  • Plating

 

Local forms

 

 

Sub-crafts

  • Silver plating – over recent years many platers have closed and in Sheffield and there is only one known silver plater left.

 

Issues affecting the viability of the craft

  • Training and recruitment and overseas cutlery makers are the biggest issues facing the craft.

 

Support organisations

  • Cutlery and Allied Trades Association (CATRA)

 

Craftspeople currently known

 

Other information

In the 1950s there were over 300 cutlery workshops in Sheffield and now there fewer than half a dozen.

 

References