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Tributes Paid to Sheffield’s Great Knife Designer and Maker

Published: 17th March 2021

It was with great sadness that the Sheffield Assay Office heard of the recent passing of Stan Shaw, one of Sheffield’s best and most experienced knife makers. Ashley Carson, Assay Master said “Stan was one of the last true Little Mesters who will be greatly missed by his friends and colleagues in the trade”.

Stan for many years worked near the top of Gardener Street, a famous old cutlery road winding its way out from the City Centre. Stan was described by Geoffrey Tweedale as an affable and talkative man, laying aside his riveting hammer and parser to chat about his life as a knife maker. In more recent years he did much talking and sharing his passion for his craft from his workshop at Kelham Island Museum.

Stan started work for George Ibberson, Rockingham Street in the early 1940s, it was pen and pocket knives on a market stall that had given him the idea of becoming a cutler. And it was Ted Osborne that introduced Stan to the crafts. Soon Stan was making the types of knives that Ibberson’s were particularly noted for, multi- blade pocket knives, such as lobster and smokers’ knives. Stan recalls “The whole Business of making pocket knives fascinated me, it wasn’t long before I was pestering older hands at Ibberson’s to show me how they did their jobs, too. I learned all about forging, grinding and preparing the hafting materials simply by watching the old craftsmen and asking them how things were done. I was a real pest! I was a little bit different from many Sheffield Cutlers’ who generally were happy making one kind of knife all day long. There was a lot of conservatism. I couldn’t be like that. I needed to know how everything was done’’ – (Geoffrey Tweedale, 1996 p 271).

This training left Stan in a good position as when the trade began to decline in the early 1980s, he was forced to go it alone. But with a variety of experience working for Ibberson’s, John Watts, George Wolstenholm and John Clarke he had developed excellent skills from the very best of the trade. Fortunately for Stan, going it alone in business turned out well, the work never stopped coming in, and his order books were full. It was during the 1980s that Sheffield Assay Office commissioned three pieces for the collection.

1986, Pen knife, Platinum and Stainless steel, a replica of the knife presented to H.M. the Queen during her visit to Sheffield Assay Office on the 12th December 1986

(Stan said “said ‘it doesn't have his sponsor's mark on it and that was thanks to thanks to Billy Ibberson!”).

Another of Stan's pieces here at Sheffield Assay Office was created in 1987 - a 14 carat gold display knife, stainless steel and pearl, with 14-bladed knife with pearl scales, gold inlaid sections engraved with Sheffield rose & florid arabesques brass webs, steel blades backs & springs decoratively filed & polished. This is a stunning piece and described by Stan as one of his exhibition knives, and a real treasure of the Sheffield Assay Office Collection. This particular piece has been loaned on numerous occasions to Sheffield Museums, The Cutlers Company and the The Town Hall. Stan has made several showpiece knives, most of them designed by himself. The largest being the Hallamshire Knife, which weighs several pounds and has 15 blades. A real skill to put together all the component parts and nerve racking as Stan said. All Stan’s knives are stamped with the name S. Shaw on the tang and he also registered the sponsors marks SS with Sheffield Assay Office. Of course, most of the knives he has made over the years do not carry his name at all, but the firms he worked for during his long career.

 

The final knife in the Sheffield Assay Office collection dates from 1989, a simpler yet of excellent quality pen knife made of Sterling silver and Steel, 2 blades marked S. Shaw.

Many follow in Stan’s footsteps such as Steven Cocker. Steven recently said “having had the opportunity to visit Stan regularly in the early days of my career, Stan’s knives were a reminder of traditional patterns, knives he was taught to make by some of the best knife makers of the time’. Stan’s skills live on in those he taught and shared his passion with others and we are thankful for that and as a consequence Little Mesters live on in the City of Sheffield due to his generosity”.

Reference:

Geoffrey Tweedale, 1996, The Sheffield Knife Book, A History and Collectors Guide, The Hallamshire Press.


The Sheffield Assay Office was established in 1773, under an Act of Parliament and today the company assays and hallmarks the precious metals - silver, gold, platinum and palladium. Sheffield Assay Office is one of only four UK assay offices who all work to uphold the Hallmarking Act of 1973 and continue to ensure consumer protection for customers purchasing precious metals.

To find out more about the whole range of services offered by Sheffield Assay Office, such as our hallmarking and analytical services, please email us at info@assayoffice.co.uk or complete the contact form on our website at http://www.assayoffice.co.uk/contact-us,

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