Metalwork in Sheffield

Stan Shaw - Spring Knife Cutler

In addition to reading this interview, you can also watch video interviews with Stan Shaw  and other local metalwork artists in the video gallery of this resource.

Q. What is your title/ job role?

A Spring Knife Cutler Ė a Table Knife Cutler is a lot different to a Spring Cutler. My knives involve springs.

I make everything by hand, all the springs and blades and linings. You do everything all the grinding and forging. You do everything yourself other than the engraving.

Q. How long have you been a Spring Knife Cutler and how did you start?

Well I was 80 last week so Iíve been doing it for 65 years; I started at 14 so itís going back a bit.

Q. What opportunities are there for newcomers to the trade?

Well there aren't any really. I mean obviously I havenít the time to show anybody plus when youíre older you donít want the hassle of that do you. I should think that when Iíve finished, this sort of work as you see it will come to an end.

Iím no trying to belittle the companies around but they donít work in the same way that I do. They are limited to so many patterns at a price so they are tooled up to do all this sort of work by using presses, stop stampers and machine grinding and all that sort of business which I do by hand, because I make such a lot of different patterns. I mean to tool up to make what I do, all the different shapes and sizes and whatever it would cost a small fortune. You couldnít do it, it would be impossible.

Q. What are your views on the metalwork industry in Sheffield now?

Well itís just going, isnít it, and itís a shame and thereís not much manufacturing going on is there. Youíve got to make things havenít you really? I mean in this city years ago it was full of people like me, thousands of them and factories everywhere. This street here was full of them but there isnít now, itís a real shame isnít it.

Q. Have you got any words of wisdom for someone starting out in the metalwork industry now?

Well I just feel sorry for them because I donít think theyíve got a chance. Not to learn it without any skilled bloke to teach them because there are such a lot of jobs involved in making this quality of work. Like me I was taught the proper way with a skilled man. Youíve got to have somebody teach the proper way and there are a lot of people trying to learn themselves but they canít. They try and make as good a job as they can but theyíre limited so there is only one way to learn and that is with skilled people whoíve learnt it from his father and his father before him.

Itís gone back a generation more or less, it grows up with you. There is nothing written down, itís all in the head you see and you canít buy experience. Youíve got to do it for years and years on end until you get good enough and youíve got to have the inclination to do it because some people canít. 

And of course when you are dealing with precious materials now and the price of them you canít afford to teach a younger person because they would smash the pearl and the ivory. Youíd lose a lot of money. It wasnít like that when I started. Stuff cost nothing you see so it didnít matter if you spoilt a bit but it does now.

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