Stan Shaw (1926-2021): A Tribute
By Geoffrey Tweedale
Stan Shaw – Sheffield’s pre-eminent knife maker – died on the 26th of February at his home at Deepcar, near Sheffield. He was 94.
I first met him in 1986, shortly after he had become a self-employed cutler. I walked unannounced into his workshop in one of Sheffield’s backstreets. The workshop was cramped; it had bare brick walls and a stone floor; a makeshift forge (with an old vacuum cleaner rigged up to supply the draft); and windows that let in light but not sunshine. Stan greeted me, almost as though he had been expecting me, and began showing me the intricacies of pocket-knife manufacture. I went away intrigued. I was fascinated by the skills I had seen, which I had been led to believe no longer survived in Sheffield. I was also puzzled why such a fine craftsman was plying his trade in such humble surroundings.
On subsequent visits I learned about Stan’s remarkable life. He began with few advantages. He was born on 2 December 1926 at Worrall, a small village near Sheffield, the son of Walter Shaw and his wife, Amelia née Coldwell. Stan’s father was a ganister miner [rocks used as refractory in Sheffield’s steel furnaces], who died aged 45 from silicosis, when Stan was about five years old. His mother was left to raise a family of nine. Stan’s childhood and education were further blighted by illness, which kept him in hospital for several years. In 1941, aged 14, he went into Sheffield and knocked on the door of cutlery manufacturer Ibberson’s and asked for a job. It was a good choice. The firm’s owner, Billy Ibberson, was one of the last cutlery makers to support the old skills. Stan was taken on and apprenticed to the Osborne brothers – Fred and Ted – who Stan would describe as ‘two of the best cutlers in Sheffield.’ Stan learned how to assemble and finish a wide range of cutlery: pen knives, pocket knives, sportsman’s knives, lock knives, and bowies. He was tutored in the arts of forging, grinding, hafting, buffing, workbacking (fancy decoration with a file), and using a parser (to inlay shields). Almost all the processes at Ibberson’s for its finest pocket knives involved handwork.
This article appears in the April 2021 issue of KNIFE Magazine. Premium Online Members can view the whole thing by clicking on the blue button below.