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Knives and Cutting Utensils

Cutting ......The Beginning

A look into the face of the history of knives and cutlery leads inevitably back to “Adam and Eve”. Humanities material and cultural development is in equal parts a process of making the world its own: clothing, housing, food. Without a tool for cutting and separating, for killing the hunted prey, and for combating the enemy, the successful accomplishment of these colossal tasks would not have been possible.

Initially stone tools (scrapers, hand axe) were used. With every technological advancement the cutting tool was improved: blades out of copper and bronze (that were fairly soft and not very sharp) were replaced; around the time period of 1000 B.C.,with blades of forged iron. With that the “ultimate” blade (up until today) was devised – a relatively thin piece of metal, sharpened on one or both edges, with a pointed end since hundreds of years, the other end furnished with a forged hilt or a tang, and a grip made of wood or bone or other materials.

Blades and Steel....Earlier

Due to the growing experience of the blacksmith the quality of the steel blades improved over the past hundreds of years. The smithy experimented with different metal alloys, and the treatment of the blade with heat, sanding, and polishing became more and more refined. All of this took place with the goal to optimize the attributes of the blade. It needed to be sharp and keep its sharp edge, it needed to be robust enough to withstand massive blows and pressure but elastic and flexible enough to protect it from breaking. This applied to the long blades of weapons as well as the short all-around knives used for crafts, in the household or at the dining table. Even today these are still the essential attributes looked for in a quality blade.

Blades and Steel....Today

Modern industrially produced knives usually have a blade made out of rust free  chrome-nickel steel (however, rust free steel can rust when treated improperly). But also special and in part less low maintenance materials such as carbon steel (that rusts), the myth-enshrouded Damascus steel, or the newly developed powder metallurgical steel (a hot isostatic press welds the different steel components, homogeneously together), are used in the production of valuable knives.

Trade and Craft Knives

The cutting tool “knife” was a tool for handwork (also) from the beginning on. It developed into an enormous variety of special knives with a strange appearance. These special forms are self explanatory as soon as their function is known. Many trade and craft knives have a long tradition and their use has been virtually unchanged up until today.

Modern industrial blades and even more so the new “cutting techniques” (for example the “laser cut”) have opened up unthought of possibilities, without the displacement of the traditional specialty knives.

Hand Crafted Knives

Over many decades, hand crafted knives (the English Custom Knives, the French Couteaux d´Art) have been manufactured along side of the large amount of industrial produced knives. Since around 20 years ago the “Art Knife” scene (especially in the U.S.A. and Europe) has grown in size and importance and has brought forth exceptional pieces.

The “German Blade Museum”  has accompanied the development of the “Art Knife” scene over the last 10 years with the annual “Knife Makers Exhibition”(Messer Macher Messe). Parallel to that a small uncompleted collection of hand crafted knives is on display in the museum.