A Wright and Son Knives
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- Last updated: 19/11/2018
An article close to my heart now, as a Yorkshire lad and a knife collector, Sheffield made knives have always been in my life, the first fixed blade knife I ever got was a Sheffield made hunter, way back in the day. Sheffield knife making has had a torrid time, but it is alive and well, partly thanks to a wonderful man named John Maleham. Arthur Wright & Son Ltd. started in 1947 on Sydney Street in Sheffield as a cutler, a manufacturer of tableware and also some pocket knives. John is a descendant of the famous Victorian cutler and silversmiths Maleham and Yeomans. So, his knife making heritage credentials are well up to par. John ran M & G Tools, making precision instruments and then bought the premises in Charles Street; the building, from 1790s, was even a pub at one time. He bought it from John Howarth, he was a ‘Little Mester’ in the true sense of the word. He loved hand producing knives more than he liked dealing with customers. John Maleham then had the chance to buy Arthur Wright and Son Ltd. in 1998, as M & G Tools were already making some parts for Arthur Wright & Son Ltd. He moved the relevant machinery, tools, blanks and stock to his current Charles Street building.
I only truly discovered Arthur Wright & Son Ltd. on visiting The Famous Sheffield Shop in 2017 for my birthday. I had seen the knives on their website. before deciding to go to the shop. I was amazed to see in person the full range of knives, pewter and silverware they had. I came away with four pocket knives from that first visit. Needless to say, a spear point, non-locking knife from that first encounter then became one of my favourite everyday carry knives.
They use C70 high carbon steel, it holds an edge well, but, being high carbon, needs to be maintained. I love that about the Sheffield steel knives, you feel a connection to them as you clean and oil them. Ten a penny, made in China stay bright stainless bladed knives have none of that character, or quality. My birthday 2018 arrived and I went to The Famous Sheffield Shop again; talking with Jane, the shop manager, I found out that I could have my favoured spear point U.K. legal folder made with Jigged bone dyed scales, a knife they do not sell as standard. I also asked her to talk to Arthur Wright & Son Ltd. to see if I could visit the factory and write an article for this magazine.
The Famous Sheffield shop manages the web sales for AW&S Ltd, as John is far too busy making knives. With the visit arranged, I met John and was given the full, behind the scenes tour. John is passionate about the business and it shows. As managing director, he has a general manager to help him with the day to day running of the business, namely Michael Harrison. He is a skilled metal worker in his own right, as well as being a third-generation cutler, Mike has also designed some knives for AW&S Ltd. His son, Ashley, also works at the business now, making it four generations in the business. John believes in giving AW&S Ltd. a future and half of the workforce is under 30. As an ex apprentice Blacksmith myself, I found this very heartening indeed. John showed me their premier pocket knife, the Lambfoot Senator, built with Snake wood scales. It was beautiful; breath-taking, actually. The spine is hand worked or ‘chased’ with a vine like pattern, the brass liners are also hand filed to a pattern on each side. The result is a beautifully decorated spine and a whole lot of hand-crafted knife goodness.
They do not only make pocket knives at AW&S Ltd, they make regular kitchen knives, carving sets, pruning knives, military and maritime knives; also, knives for other companies and brands, not under the AW&S Ltd name, I cannot mention any of them here of course. Their own brand of Sheffield made Bowie knife, when you see them in person are breath-taking. Also, a very, very popular knife is their take on the classic Bushcraft blade. They use 01 carbon tool steel, hardened to 56/58 Rockwell. Crafting them with Stag antler, Buffalo horn, Rosewood and of course the fabulous Snake wood handle scales. John showed me the steel blanks used to make the 01 carbon steel Bushcraft knives. The stag handles are cut from natural stag gathered from a sustainable source in the UK. The blade is 4.5mm thick, providing excellent strength, weight and balance.
They are supplied with high quality leather sheath and a Swedish Fire Steel is an option. They are a best seller for John and I can see why. All of AW&S Ltd knives are available from The Famous Sheffield Shop. The shop itself was started in 1983 by Don Alexander, a former British Steel employee; Paul Iseard took over in 2001 and it’s well worth a trip to see their full range of Sheffield-made quality items. For fans of knives, and Sheffield ones in particular, it is a trip you have to make.
Thanks to Jane and John for making this article possible.