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Crockett & Jones

Secrets of the Shoe Trade - A Clicker's Knife

In this series of articles, we discover the hidden ‘tricks of the trade’ used by our highly skilled craftsmen and women behind our factory walls.

Secrets of the Shoe Trade - A Clicker's Knife

In this article we will explore the secrets behind creating a Clicker’s weapon of choice, an operation that takes just as short time to craft but has the upmost importance. Completely unique to each Clicker and created to their own personal taste and working preferences, Zack, who has been at Crockett & Jones for just under 4 years, shows us the process of how he perfects his own.

A Clicker’s knife starts its life as a standard hacksaw blade (High Speed Steel), which is bought in long strips and trimmed down to a preferred size to begin its knife shaping process. “I’m unsure exactly when it was decided a hacksaw would create a perfect blade for Clicking, these techniques are passed down throughout generations of Clickers and we all adapt the skills in our own way. I learnt from my predecessor and he, his.” explains Zack.

Zack then takes his desired size of blade over to a grinding wheel, which is tucked away in a small corner of the Clicking room. He puts on a pair of protective glasses, safety first of course, and begins to grind the top of his hacksaw blade bit by bit until the traditional curvature of a Clicker’s knife begins to form. “Some Clickers prefer to keep their knives quite straight whilst others have an over-exaggerated hook, I have mine somewhere in the middle, creating a crescent moon curve.” The grinding wheel also allows Zack to chamfer an edge to his blade, an important element that will make sure his knife cuts through a skin with ease, creating a clean cut.

Back at his work station the finishing touches to his knife is applied. Zack attaches his now perfectly shaped hacksaw blade to his own wooden handle and instantly an impressive Clicker's tool comes to life. With a piece of black emery paper, or scratch paper as it is referred to in our Clicking room, he sharpens his blade by rubbing it at an the perfect angle. “This allows me to create a finer edge on my blade, which will again help to make a cleaner cut whilst clicking.”

After a period of sharpening on the ‘scratch paper’, Zack’s knife is ready for its final stage. He takes a short block of wood with a section of leather attached on either side by elastic bands from the edge of his workstation, “we call this a rifle or strop” explains Zack, “it has Cordovan leather on either side as this is the hardest wearing leather we have that has a high level of fat liquors to polish the blades edge”. Scratching his knife in a downwards motion across the Cordovan for a few minutes allows Zack to remove any excess fibres that are left on the blade.

A final inspection of his knife and a quick test on some off-cuts, Zack deems his knife to be worthy of use. Even when made correctly, with the time and patience put in, a Clicker's knife will only last for a few weeks – a short life span for one of the most used and important tools in our factory.