Sunday 20 December 2009

Trevor Ablett Sheffield pen and pocket knife maker

On Friday I visited Trevor Ablett one of the last of Sheffield's pen and pocketknife makers. Trevor is on the left with Reg Cooper bowie knife maker on the right.

I have visited Trevor a few times now and bought quite a few of his knives. I tend to give them as gifts when we visit folk on behalf of the Heritage Crafts Association. He rarely pauses in his work and clearly very much enjoys what he does. His knives are not fancy collectors pieces but simple working pocketknives.

The key to his production speed as with most traditional craftspeople is small batch production. This is a batch he was working on when we visited, he will work on maybe 20 knives at a time fist making the parts, cutting and soldering the brass bolsters onto the liners, then roughly assembling the knives as a trial fit. Adjustments are made so that the blade sits properly at this stage.

Note the temporary steel pin holding the parts together.

Grinding a touch of the base of the blade here lets the blade sink a little further into the handle when closed.

When the blade sits correctly he removes the temporary steel pins and replaces them with brass ones which are cut to length and riveted over holding the whole knife, blade, spring and scales together.

Trevor has lots of different hammers for different parts of the job and this sweet little one is perfect for riveting. He has put a spare spring into the gap in the open knife to stop it closing up whilst he is riveting.

This one ended slightly too tight so a tap on either side of the blade loosens it up.

Now the knife is basically finished but still has very square rough scales and bolsters, all this is rounded off and polished, 

I visited with Nigel Townshend who is going to be doing some voluntary work for the Heritage Crafts Association and we were both able to do a bit of our Christmas shopping. From Trevor's finished knives table.


  1. Really enjoyed the post, Robin. I love the convenience of a pocket knife, and I use mine all the time for daily tasks. However, I haven't found one ideal for spoon carving yet. I wonder if you have? It seems to me the ideal thing would be something with a bulky wooden handle as is found on the Opinel folders, but with a Scandinavian grind slender blade like on a Frosts 106. The blade lock on the Opinels is nice too.

    Dave Fisher

  2. Yes I would love a knife like that and no I have not found it. There are a few scandi grind folders but they tend to be deep blades. Eka do some that look nice and are reasonably priced but I have not tried them.

    Is that by any chance Dave Fisher the spoon and bowlcarver of Greenville USA? or a different Dave fisher?

  3. Yes, that's me. (My wife is Kristin, which explains the tag on the Google account). I haven't tried the Eka knives either, but I agree that the blades appear to be too deep.

    I finally had a bit of time a week or two ago to drop in for a visit here and catch up with all of your posts. Wonderful how you continue to do so much to celebrate handcrafts.

  4. Hi Dave,

    Good to be in touch again. I was looking for pictures of your wonderful carved bowls on the web the other day but couldn't find any. I have been doing quite a bit of bowlcarving recently and was looking for inspiration. I remember yours as being some of the nicest carved bowls I have seen.

  5. Thank you, Robin. That means a lot coming from you. I am better at carving than keeping up with the web and my email. By the time I had heeded the renewal/cancelation notices from my web host, they had already removed my website and had deleted all of my stuff. Since then, I have been debating the best approach for me. I am leaning more toward the blog idea rather than the website, but still thinking.