iKnife Collector
Hosted by Gus Marsh
Topic: Robeson Cutlery Company
November 7, 2012
Millard F. Robeson founded the company, which bore his name in 1879 as a
cutlery-jobbing firm, operating from his home in Elmira, New York. Selling knives
was, at first, a sideline but business grew. Robesons first storage area was his
dresser drawers but, as additional space was needed, it overflowed into the
closet and underneath the bed. Upon returning from a business trip and finding
his cutlery inventory moved to the porch he agreed with Mrs. Robeson that larger
facilities were needed. They first came in the form of a new room added to the
house, next a new building adjacent to the house, and finally a move to the New
York town of Camillus.
After leasing the cutlery works in Camillus, Robeson employed about threedozen workers making knives. Their tenure at this factory lasted about four years,
until 1898. Robeson had purchased an interest in Rochester Stamping Works
and it became Robeson Rochester Corporation. A move of the Robeson Cutlery
Companys headquarters and manufacturing was made in Rochester and, about
two years later, in an additional location in Perry, New York.
In 1901, the trade name SHUREDGE was adopted for Robesons quality line of
cutlery. After Robesons death in 1903, his company remained although business
declined. In 1940, Saul Frankel, a Rochester businessman, purchased the then
bankrupt company. Frankel was not like Robeson, who had the knowledge and
expertise for manufacturing high-quality knives. But, he was an excellent
businessman and recognized his shortcomings. In order to seek success for his
company, Frankel sought out and hired Emerson Case to serve as Robesons
vice president and general manager. Case reorganized the company and
became its president in 1948.
In 1958, Robeson purchased Kinfolks Inc of Little Valley, New York, which just
happened to be Emerson Cases former employer. From then until 1965,
Robeson produced Kinfolks brand knives in addition to its regular line, using
many of the same features and handle material.
Robeson continued to make knives until 1965, the year that Emerson Case
retired. The company was purchased by Cutler Federal Inc at about that time,
and for the next six years Robeson knives were made by Camillus Cutlery Co,
but were shipped from the Perry headquarters. In 1971, the Ontario Knife Company bought Robeson and continued to offer
Robeson brand knives until 1977. In 1995, Ontarios sister company Queen
Cutlery briefly returned the Robeson brand to production with a line of
SHUREDGE knives, followed by a line of POCKETEZE Robeson in 1999. Their
blade etching and other markings can readily identify these knives.
Many Robeson knives were stamped with a variation of ROBESON CUTLERY
CO or R.C. CO from 1891 to 1940. From 1911 to 1940, the well-known
SHUREDGE USA were used, with “Shuredge” in script. From 1940 to 1965 the
mark was ROBESON SHUREDGE USA in all block letters. The last production
years up to 1977 were marked ROBESON (pattern number) USA. A few very
early and rather late Robeson knives will be found marked GERMANY, indicating
their country of manufacture.
Robeson was a very progressive company, introducing many innovative knives to
the market, particularly during the Emerson Case years. One line of knives
popular with collectors are those named POCKETEZE and identified by the
shield bearing the name. Registered in 1914, the trademark meant that the blade
backs were recessed below the knife handles, reducing their wear on pant
pockets. MASTERCRAFT, another Robeson trademark, was used on knives with
bronze tang inserts, and PERMALUBE knives had the bronze inserts placed in
the back springs instead. Etched on the blade of some Robeson knives are the
words FROZEN HEAT, indicating a cryogenic tempering process developed in
1950 by Emerson Case. Finally, some later knives were produced with a
tungsten carbide coated edge, which Robeson called FLAME EDGE.
Older Robeson knives were handled in green bone, brown bone and starting in
the 1950s, a unique red bone referred to as strawberry bone. It was dropped
from the line in the 1960s in favor of plastic or composition handles of a similar
color. The last Robeson knives made until recent years had a darker Delrin
Although Robeson bone was and is quite popular, Robeson also handled knives
in mother of pearl, genuine stag, and the various composite handle materials.
The shortage of bone during World War II forced the company to use rough black
composition handle material.
While most knives will be encountered with six-digit pattern numbers, Robeson
numbers were stamped somewhat erratically. In fact, knives can be found
bearing two, three, and five digit numbers. A two or three digit number indicates
only the factory pattern number (add a zero before a two digit number). With a
five-digit number, add a zero between the third and fourth digits to arrive at he
proper six digit number. To add to the confusion, Robeson knives (and especially those marked with the
companys Terrier brand) are occasionally found with the first digits transposed
with the factory pattern number. So, if the numbers dont seem to match up, try
switching them around.
While Robesons pattern numbers were marked somewhat erratically, the
numbering system itself is consistent and somewhat similar to Cases system.
The first number signifies handle material as follows:
0 – Metal, Aluminum or Stainless Steel
1 – Black Composite, Ebony, Cocobolo Wood
2 – Rosewood or Walnut
3 – Black Pyraline (Slick Black)
4 – White Composite or Ivory Celluloid
5 – Genuine Stag, Saw cut bone, Saw cut Delrin
6 – Jigged Bone, Delrin, or Black Plastic
7 – Pearl or Abalone
8 – Swirl or Single Color Celluloid
9 – Gunmetal, “Shur-Wood” stabilized wood
C – Celluloid, Cracked Ice, or Christmas Tree Celluloid
G – Gold
The second number signifies the number of blades, while the third number
indicates the liner and bolster materials as follows:
0 – Combination handle liner bolster
1 – Steel liners and bolsters
2 – Brass liners, nickel silver bolsters
3 – Nickel silver liners and bolsters
5 – Special
6 – Iron liners and bolsters
8 – Steel liners and bolsters
9 – Stainless steel or chrome plated The remaining two or three numbers are the factory pattern numbers.
Official Price Guide to Collector Knives, 15
Edition, by Houston Price & Mark

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