Friday, May 4, 2018

Bill DeShivs Mr. Auto

Bill was born many, many years ago and was given his first knife, a 2-7/8 Schrade double-ender, by his father when he was about 7 years old. The spring on the large blade was broken, but the pen blade worked well.

A few days later, on a family outing to a relative's farm, he lost this wondrous piece of cutlery. This is what started his lifelong love affair with cutlery. When he was in elementary school, he would cold-forge miniature sabers from nails, wrapping the handles with wire.
Being a pretty good musician, he got to hang out with guys that were quite a bit older than himself. 

One of them told him about a classmate and fellow musician who had 2 switchblades. Bill called him and he purchased one of them. He was a little disappointed. This thing was bright orange and it had this weird hook blade on the other end. Nevertheless it was a switchblade and he had to have it. Later, he purchased the other one. Both were Schrade MC1 paratrooper knives. To this day he has a fondness for this model. Bill still has the 2 knives.

The Schrade’s started a quest that would last a lifetime. Asking everyone he knew, Bill was able to find a knife every once in a while. The next was a Hammer Brand toothpick with striped scales. Then a fine lever lock from Mexico came by. There were many others over the next few years.

As he got older, Bill became interested in firearms of all types. There were two gun shows a year in his town, and he started going to them, asking about switchblades. Out from under the tables would come all sorts of wondrous old knives. He stayed broke, between the guns and knives. Occasionally, in the "Shotgun News" there would be advertisements from individuals selling switches. He bought them all!

Now, how does one go from collector to repairperson? Well, let's back up a few years. After getting that first MC1 Schrade, he carried it and played with it incessantly. One day, as he closed the knife "CRACK" the spring broke.

Bill was heartbroken. Then he remembered a gentleman named Ed Hagstrom.
Mr. Hagstrom was a gunsmith in his neighborhood. He had repaired a rifle for my dad. Bill got on a bike and rode to his house with the pitiful Schrade in my pocket. If anyone could fix it, this wizard could. Seeing the look of desperation in his eyes, he said he would see what he could do. A heavy burden had been lifted off my young shoulders. A couple of years later Bill was in high school shop class. 
There were lathes, grinders, presses, all kind of machinery from the liberty ships of WW2, donated to the public school. He became proficient in the use of the tools, and when another spring would break he just took the knife to school and repaired it. Those were the days! Make no mistake he screwed up a bunch of knives in the process. He got a reputation among the kids for fixing knives; so many broken ones came my way. Mr. Hagstrom was always there to answer my questions.

Fast forward to age 21. Bill began making pistol grips out of plastic for friends and was looking for someone to machine-engrave some initials on them. Bill was bounced from jeweler to jeweler until he got to Virgil Hays. Virgil was impressed with my ability and offered me a part-time job. Bill was working nearby for the local government on midnight shift, so when he got off, he went to Virgil's shop. Talk about alchemy! This guy knew how to do EVERYTHING! And he was a master at all of it! He had old books, lots of machinery, tiny torches. The man was a master jeweler and took me under his wing. He gave me full use of his shop. 

Along with learning the jewelry/hand-engraving trade, Bill was able to work on knives and guns. This is where he honed his skills at repairing, engraving, and making knives. Sadly, Virgil passed away many years ago, miss him dearly. At the gun shows and at my job he met knife people. Jimmy Lile praised the first knife I made, though it was very crude. Pat Crawford, A. G. Russell, Joe Dennard, Bill Adams became his friends. Bill got drafted to write the first modern magazine article on switchblades "American Blade" magazine, Vol. 2, number 6. 

After a bitter divorce at an early age, my interests turned to things other than knives. Music had always been a staple, but it became his main interest. Bill was fortunate enough to work with most of the fine musicians that were responsible for the "Memphis Sound". Bill did custom work-plating and such for Strings-n-Things music, sold and made fine jewelry, got a Federal Firearms license and engraved guns, built custom guns, all the while working for the local government as a steam and refrigeration engineer. Quit the job once and became a "bond daddy." That didn't work out, so he wen back to his government job.

Bill went broke a couple of times, and sold almost all the knives and guns. He sure wishes he had all of them now! Fast forward to the not-so-distant past: Discovered the knife scene on the Internet. Met Ms. Debbie, fell in love, got married. Ms. Debbie showed an interest in the guns and knives, which were always something he bought when he had the chance. When we got married, he built “DeShop” 480 square feet packed with years of accumulated equipment. Bill figured this was a good way for us to do something together. It has worked out well!

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Custom Knife Show in Brea, CA June 23, 2018

The California Knifemakers Association cordially invites the general public to join them on June 23, 2018 from 10:00 AM to 5;00 PM at the Brea Community Center, 695 East Madison Way, Brea, CA. This one day show will be unique opportunity to observe and purchase some of the finest custom knives made in the USA. Admission and parking are FREE. For information see

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Queen Cutlery Closes

Kenneth Daniels, CEO and President of Queen Cutlery, has announced effective January 10,  2018, that due to issues with cash flow, Queen Cutlery company has been forced to cease all production and close its Titusville, Pennsylvania facility, and furlough its employees while it goes through a period of reorganization.

Originally formed in 1922 by five supervisors that were let go from the Schatt & Morgan Cutlery Company, Queen City cutlery and Schatt & Morgan (1902-1933) were direct competitors until Queen City successfully purchased its rival, establishing the foundation of the cutlery we are all familiar with today.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Plaza Cutlery Closing after 44 years in Business

Dan and his brother Russ announced today that they are closing Plaza Cutlery at South Cost Plaza after 44 years in business. Mrs Delavan, Dan and his wife Pam in better days.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Robeson Cutlery Company

Millard F. Robeson founded the company, which bore his name in 1879 as a cutlery-jobbing firm, operating from his home in Elmira, New York. Selling knives was, at first, a sideline but business grew. Robeson’s first storage area was his dresser drawer but, as additional space was needed, it overflowed into the closet and underneath the bed. Upon returning from a business trip and finding his cutlery inventory moved to the porch he agreed with Mrs. Robeson that larger facilities were needed. They first came in the form of a new room added to the house, next a new building adjacent to the house, and finally a move to the New York town of Camillus.

After leasing the cutlery works in Camillus, Robeson employed about three-dozen workers making knives. Their tenure at this factory lasted about four years, until 1898. Robeson had purchased an interest in Rochester Stamping Works and it became Robeson Rochester Corporation. A move of the Robeson Cutlery Company’s headquarters and manufacturing was made in Rochester and, about two years later, in an additional location in Perry, New York.

In 1901, the trade name SHUREDGE was adopted for Robeson’s quality line of cutlery. After Robeson’s death in 1903, his company remained although business declined. In 1940, Saul Frankel, a Rochester businessman, purchased the then bankrupt company. Frankel was not like Robeson, who had the knowledge and expertise for manufacturing high-quality knives. But, he was an excellent businessman and recognized his shortcomings. In order to seek success for his company, Frankel sought out and hired Emerson Case to serve as Robeson’s vice president and general manager. Case reorganized the company and became its president in 1948.

In 1958, Robeson purchased Kinfolks Inc of Little Valley, New York, which just happened to be Emerson Case’s former employer. From then until 1965, Robeson produced Kinfolks brand knives in addition to its regular line, using many of the same features and handle material.

Robeson continued to make knives until 1965, the year that Emerson Case retired. Cutler Federal Inc. at purchased the company about that time, and for the next six years Robeson knives were made by Camillus Cutlery Co, but were shipped from the Perry headquarters.

In 1971, the Ontario Knife Company bought Robeson and continued to offer Robeson brand knives until 1977. In 1995, Ontario’s sister company Queen Cutlery briefly returned the Robeson brand to production with a line of SHUREDGE knives, followed by a line of POCKETEZE Robeson in 1999. Their blade etching and other markings can readily identify these knives.

Many Robeson knives were stamped with a variation of ROBESON CUTLERY CO or R.C. CO from 1891 to 1940. From 1911 to 1940, the well-known stampings of ROBESON SHUREDGE ROCHESTER and ROBESON SHUREDGE USA were used, with “Shuredge” in script. From 1940 to 1965 the mark was ROBESON SHUREDGE USA in all block letters. The last production years up to 1977 were marked ROBESON (pattern number) USA. A few very early and rather late Robeson knives will be found marked GERMANY, indicating their country of manufacture.

Robeson was a very progressive company, introducing many innovative knives to the market, particularly during the Emerson Case years. One line of knives popular with collectors is those named POCKETEZE and identified by the shield bearing the name. Registered in 1914, the trademark meant that the blade backs were recessed below the knife handles, reducing their wear on pant pockets. MASTERCRAFT, another Robeson trademark, was used on knives with bronze tang inserts, and PERMALUBE knives had the bronze inserts placed in the back springs instead. Etched on the blade of some Robeson knives are the words FROZEN HEAT, indicating a cryogenic tempering process developed in 1950 by Emerson Case. Finally, some later knives were produced with a tungsten carbide coated edge, which Robeson called FLAME EDGE.

Older Robeson knives were handled in green bone, brown bone and starting in the 1950s, a unique red bone referred to as strawberry bone. It was dropped from the line in the 1960s in favor of plastic or composition handles of a similar color. The last Robeson knives made until recent years had a darker Delrin handle.

Although Robeson bone was and is quite popular, Robeson also handled knives in mother of pearl, genuine stag, and the various composite handle materials. The shortage of bone during World War II forced the company to use rough black composition handle material.