The History of George Wostenholm

The History of George Wostenholm

Along with Joseph Rodgers, George Wostenholm is possibly the most famous name in cutlery. These two, once great rival companies have sat alongside each other in The Egginton Group since 1986. Perhaps more than any other cutlery company, the history of Wostenholm is steeped in folklore.

Although Wostenholm was reputably formed in 1785, it took three generations and one name change for the company to really make a mark in Sheffield’s cutlery history. Originally the family name was spelt ‘Wolstenholme’ but, story has it that George Wostenholm the second found this name too long for smaller knives so he omitted the letters ‘l’ and ‘e’. The name has been spelt Wostenholm ever since. The second George Wostenholm also built the Rockingham Works (known locally as the Rockingham Wheel) in around 1810. Knives made in this factory and marked “Rockingham Works” are highly prized by knife collectors to this day.

In 1831, the famous I*XL trademark, which had first been registered in 1787, was assigned to Wostenholm.

It was the third George Wostenholm who ensured that this trademark became arguably the world’s most illustrious and best loved knife brand.

An ambitious industrialist and fiercely determined salesman, he came to the company’s helm in 1833. The company had already taken its first steps into the American export market as early as 1830; however, it was the third George who made numerous gruelling sales trips to America. This was at a time when the trans-Atlantic passage would take many weeks. Demand from America for superior quality cutlery was growing and George Wostenholm’s efforts had made certain that the finest cutlery of the time, his I*XL knives, were the knife of choice for Americans.

Trade flourished and in 1848 a new factory, the fabled Washington Works on Sheffield’s Wellington Street, was opened.

As the popularity of Wostenholm’s knives grew, so too did Washington Works and it soon became nearly four times its original size, employing over 800 workers.

Wostenholm was now making knives in a volume never witnessed before. It is important to note though that George ensured that quality was never sacrificed and knives continued to be made by the finest cutlers using only the best materials. For the Great Exhibition of 1851, to demonstrate the height of their craft, Wostenholm made three exquisite hunting knives from designs by noted English artist Alfred Stevens.

George Wostenholm, after having reportedly declined the position on a number of previous occasions, finally became Master Cutler 1856. He also held the office of Justice of the Peace for Sheffield. His influence on the city of Sheffield was considerable. He purchased an entire suburb of 150 acres and designing the streets to be laid out to reflect the leafy residential roads of the villages he had visited in New York State. The Sheffield road names of Wostenholm Road and Washington Road as well as Wostenholm’s huge house Kenwood Hall (now a hotel) are lasting reminders of his impact on the city.

Wostenholm’s influence on history was also felt across the Atlantic. Wostenholm had begun making hunting knives in the 1830’s.

Many of these were exported to America to keep up with demand for highly crafted knives in this incredibly turbulent time in American history.

There are two claims made about Wostenholm and the relationship with one of America’s most famous sons, legendary frontiersman Colonel James Bowie. The first claim is that Bowie ordered knives for himself and his close friends directly from Wostenholm.

The second, more famous claim is that, on March 6th 1836 when Bowie died at The Alamo while General Santa Anna’s Mexican Army attacked, a knife found on his body was one made by Wostenholms. Whether or not these stories are true is impossible to say for certain as company records from that period no longer exist, but it is nice to imagine that the paths of these two great men once crossed.

What can be said for certain is that Wostenholm’s dedication to his company and its products meant that the I*XL trademark has come to be regarded as the absolute pinnacle in knife manufacture.

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Vintage Fixed Blade Article

A very nice article on the history of fixed blades I found at CW (collectors weekly)


If folding knives and pocket knives were developed as tools, fixed-blade knives began their history squarely as weapons. Crude stone blades were carried by Neolithic hunters who, we might guess, were anxious to subdue their prey before being preyed upon themselves. The earliest examples of these original survival weapons were made of minerals such as flint, which could be sharpened on both edges, as well as to a deadly point. Of course, human beings used knives as protection from other human beings, too, which is one reason why primitive materials such as stone eventually gave way to copper, bronze, iron, and finally steel.

By the Middle Ages, the term dagger had been coined to describe one of the most common types of fixed-blade knives. It was meant to be thrust at an enemy rather than slashed. Some variations like the rondel dagger were strong enough to puncture armour and had no edges at all, essentially an ice pick on steroids. Another branch in the dagger’s evolutionary tree was the stiletto, whose slender, pointed, double-edged blade made it a stealthy, lethal weapon.

In the 19th century, one of the most popular fixed-blade knives, the Bowie, appeared. Designed by Jim Bowie and fabricated first by Jesse Clifft, the almost 10-inch-long blade had a flat spine and no guard between its blade and handle.

That might have been the end of the story, but the knife and its namesake gained popular acclaim in 1827 when Bowie used it to kill a sword-cane-wielding attacker in a fight near Natchez, Mississippi. Subsequent Bowie knives were produced by New Orleans knife maker Daniel Searles, Arkansas blacksmith James Black, and cutlers in Sheffield England, who copied the Black version, marketed it as an “Arkansas toothpick,” and exported it back to the United States.

Several characteristics distinguished the Bowie. First and foremost was the design of the blade. Although the weapon used by Bowie in 1827 had a flat back, subsequent knives featured a clip point, or clip blade, which looked as if a concave slice had been taken out of the blade’s spine about two-thirds of the way toward the point from the handle. The handle was also a focal point of the knife. Many Bowies had what are known as coffin handles, which is perhaps fitting for a knife that put so many people in them.

Another 19th-century cutler was John Russell of Massachusetts, whose Green River Knife was carried by tens of thousands of westward immigrants in the 1840s, ’50s, and ’60s. Hunters and trappers liked them because the were long and had a rounded tip, making them good tools for skinning animals from buffalo to beaver, while their rugged handles were made of ebony and cocobolo, two of the hardest woods around.

Production of hunting knives continued into the 20th century by Buck, Case, and other cutlers. Rudy Ruana, whose knives are among the most collected today, got his start in the 1920s making skinning knives. But in the first half of the century, with two world wars, the need for fighting knives kept a number of new manufacturers busy producing knives for soldiers who found themselves in close-combat situations. Indeed, a soldier’s knife is a true survival weapon, the last resort when one’s ammunition and good fortune has failed.

During World War II, Ka-Bar knives were carried into battle by members of the Marine Corps, while those in Air Force favored knives made by an Orlando, Florida, cutler named Bo Randall. Beginning in 1966, Gerber Mark IIs were popular with troops in Vietnam. As for 19th-century knife manufacturer Camillus, that storied firm made knives for soldiers from World War I though Vietnam. Some of these knives, regardless of the manufacturer, were customized by soldiers in the field. Tweaking a knife’s handle was one of the most common alterations, and while these theater knives are somewhat similar to trench art, for obvious reasons they remained fully functional.

Published in: on February 7, 2014 at 7:28 am  Leave a Comment  

Why You Need to Spend a Hundred Dollars on a Knife

A hundred dollars? For a knife?


Let’s start out by saying this isn’t 1980 any more, it’s twenty five years later. You can’t get the knife your pops bought you back then for twenty dollars. Because back then a twenty dollar knife was a well crafted, well made, but an expensive knife. One that was expected to last. I’ve seen many of them, old, worn, some partially broken. Because they were used. People carried them in their pockets and pulled them out to use when ever they needed them which most often was daily. They cut, poked, prodded, stabbed, pried, re-sharpened them, all the time. Well twenty years later those blades are worn out. They held up and your pops got his monies worth out of his knife. Unless he lost it, there was never any need to buy another one.

That brings us to today. That same knife your pops bought and probably still carries with him at the bottom of his pocket would cost him a hundred dollars today. Now there are knives out there today that you can still pick up for around twenty dollars. Ninety nine percent of them are produced over seas in China, and yes many of them actually have 440 stainless steel blades.

440c steel was invented in the early 1900’s and was quickly adopted by the cutlery industry which helped revolutionize the industry by moving many knives away from high carbon to “SS, rust free, Rostfrie, Inox” stainless steel. 440c though, still a good inexpensive steel, belongs back in the last century. Metallurgy has grown by leaps and bounds since then. There are modern steels such as 154CM, S30V, ATS34, ASU8 and many others. All modern steels that are well adapted to knife blades. The reality is there is a higher cost in the manufacturing of these steels.

Knife scales or handles also have improved. Wood, Stag and composite plastics were the norm. Wood is still found on many knives today, though much of it is of the more exotic woods imported from around the world. Stag is still around, but the price is gone up and is continuing to rise as it gets scarcer mainly due to less and less hunting that is going on. Plastics are prevalent and have improved in durability. But there are other materials which are now preferred by knife owners.

G-10; simply a specification for a grade of fiberglass laminate composite made as commercial sheets, rods and tubes which makes an extremely durable knife handle.

Micarta; is a brand name for composites of linen, canvas, paper, fiberglass, carbon fiber or other fabric in a thermo setting plastic.

Dymondwood is a product of Rutland Plywood Corp of Rutland, VT. Select hardwood veneers are impregnated with advanced dyes and resins through state-of-the-art processes. The result: rich colors and optimum strength and durability that allows precise and efficient crafting. This beautiful, highly engineered material provides endless possibilities for fine, high quality products. DymondWood is ideal for creating high quality knife handles, pens, plaques, awards, trophies, billiard tables, pool cues, drumsticks, desk accessories, etc.

Exotics such as Mother of Pearl, Ivory, Abalone, Mammoth Tooth, etc.. all used as knife scales were expensive then and still are today.

Last, wages have gone up since then. Knife making in the highest quality takes a certain skill set. Skills that take time to learn. The skilled knife makers need to be paid a wage equivalent to their skill set.

You add up all the above and you will find a quality knife at a hundred dollars is a bargain. With that you should expect to get a well working knife you would be proud to carry, use, abuse, re-sharpen and expect to last you as long as your pops lasted him. Yes there are knives out there that can still be had for twenty dollars, but I’m a firm believer in “You get what you pay for.”

When you’re ready to spend you’re hard earned money on a quality knife, the best advice I could give you today is; Do your research!”

Published in: on January 27, 2014 at 8:21 am  Comments (1)  
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Knife Rights – The Making of Freedom’s Steel™

Knife Rights – The Making of Freedom’s Steel™.

Published in: on September 7, 2012 at 10:09 pm  Leave a Comment  

Knife Collection Insurance

So I got my Sept issue of Knife World Magazine this week but had no time to read it until this morning. One of the featured articles was on acquiring insurance on your knife collection. A pretty good idea if you have a fairly valuable collection. One of the companies mentioned was Collectibles Insurance Services, which I found out it is one of the companies my wife represents. So if you’re an Arizona, California, New Jersey or Illinois knife collector and are considering insuring your collection, Contact my wife Joyce at Aimpro Insurance:

They’re newly on Facebook too:!/pages/Aimpro-Insurance/121704197913923

Md. Gun Law Found Unconstitutional

BALTIMORE (AP) — Maryland’s requirement that residents show a “good and substantial reason” to get a handgun permit is unconstitutional, according to a federal judge’s opinion filed Monday.

States can channel the way their residents exercise their Second Amendment right to bear arms, but because Maryland’s goal was to minimize the number of firearms carried outside homes by limiting the privilege to those who could demonstrate “good reason,” it had turned into a rationing system, infringing upon residents’ rights, U.S. District Judge Benson Everett Legg wrote.

“A citizen may not be required to offer a `good and substantial reason’ why he should be permitted to exercise his rights,” he wrote. “The right’s existence is all the reason he needs.”

Plaintiff Raymond Woollard obtained a handgun permit after fighting with an intruder in his Hampstead home in 2002, but was denied a renewal in 2009 because he could not show he had been subject to “threats occurring beyond his residence.” Woollard appealed, but was rejected by the review board, which found he hadn’t demonstrated a “good and substantial reason” to carry a handgun as a reasonable precaution. The suit filed in 2010 claimed that Maryland didn’t have a reason to deny the renewal and wrongly put the burden on Woollard to show why he still needed to carry a gun.

“People have the right to carry a gun for self-defense and don’t have to prove that there’s a special reason for them to seek the permit,” said his attorney Alan Gura, who has challenged handgun bans in the District of Columbia and Chicago. “We’re not against the idea of a permit process, but the licensing system has to acknowledge that there’s a right to bear arms.”

The lawsuit, which names the state police superintendent and members of the Handgun Permit Review Board, was also filed on behalf of the Bellevue, Wash.-based Second Amendment Foundation.

Maryland’s Attorney General’s office was still reviewing the opinion and declined to comment immediately.

Many states require gun permits, but Illinois has a ban and six states, including Maryland, issue permits on a discretionary basis, Gura said. In most of those states, these challenges have not succeeded in U.S. District Courts, but they are being appealed, he said.

“Most states that choose to regulate the right to bear arms have licensing systems that are objective and straightforward,” Gura said. “That’s all that we want for Maryland.”

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

New Article Published at

One of the most well know Sheffield trade marks I*XL.
Most collectors are familiar with the cutlery made by George Wostenholm. The company was originally listed as “George Wolstenholme and Son”, the name was shorted before about 1820.

They acquired the I*XL trade mark in 1826.

Any knife bearing the I*XL trade mark must be assumed to have been made after 1826

Two early markings found on fixed blade/folding bowie knives are

Read the entire article here

Knife QUALITY; what is it?

Chris Stookey wrote a nice article titled “Knife QUALITY; what is it?”

You can read it on by clicking on the link.

Published in: on January 5, 2012 at 4:42 am  Leave a Comment  
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Twas the knife before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a Blade-Tech Mouse.
The scabbards were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that knives of nickel silver soon would be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.
And mamma with her Kershaw, and I looking for a buttcap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s knap.

When out near the forge there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the workbench to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a SOG Flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to blades below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny sambar deer.

With a little old bit driver, so lively and like Chuck,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Buck.
More rapid than Al Mar Eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

“Now Trapper! now, Whittler! now, Lobster and Slim Jack!
On, Muskrat! On, Canoe! on Tickler and Swayback!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now cut away! cut away! cut away all!”

As wood chunks before the bowie fly,
When they meet with a sharp edge, pieces multiply.
So up to the knife shop the cutlers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St Nicholas too.

And then, in a stropping, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I turned on the grinder and listened for the sound,
It was obvious ol’ St. Nick had touched ground.

He was dressed in overalls, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of knives he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a bladesmith, just opening his pack.

The bolsters how they twinkled! The quillons how merry!
The scrimshaw like roses, the pommel like a cherry!
The knife exhibited just the right amount of “flow,”
And the belly of the blade was as full as the BLADE Show.

The body of the knife held tight in the sheath,
And the guard encircled the tang like a wreath.
It had a sharp edge and was a perfect cutter,
That whisked when it cut like a hot knife through butter!
It was keen and useful, a right sprightly tool,
And I laughed when I saw it, me being an ol’ fool!
A honing of its edge and a twist of my wrist,

Soon gave me to know it was on St. Nick’s list.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the scabbards, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his Sharpfinger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose!

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whittle,
And away they all flew, not one blade brittle.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-knife!”


The recent tragic death of the 11-month-old infant who onlookers were unable to free from a burning car because no one had a knife to cut the baby free from a jammed seat belt is heartbreaking. First and foremost, a young life was snuffed out in a most painful, terrifying way. My thoughts and prayers go out to the child’s parents and family, as well as those on the scene who were unable to save the infant. The incident will continue to haunt all concerned for many lifetimes.

The lack of a knife carried by any of the bystanders to cut the seat belt and free the baby was a contributing factor in the infant’s death. The fact it happened in Los Angeles with its strict anti-knife ordinances is even more detestable, where anti-knifers continue to succeed in their crusade against knives. Anti-knife laws indirectly—some might say directly—kept the child from being rescued, and no doubt will prevent others from being saved in future catastrophes as well.

Read the rest of the article here:

Published in: on December 14, 2011 at 9:15 am  Leave a Comment  
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