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Thread: Kingston Cutlery Company Research

  1. #1
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    Kingston Cutlery Company Research


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    In 1943, Albert Baer (owner of Ulster Knife Company which he purchased in 1941) organized Kingston Cutlery Company (an old Ulster trademark), a joint venture with Imperial to make government contract knives. Chief among the knives made under the Kingston brand were the TL-29 (K-29, K-29-W) Electrician knife, and the MIL-K-818-D (K-4611) utility knife. Both Ulster and Imperial received “E” awards for excellence as suppliers of these knives.

    In 1946, Albert Baer, under Kingston Cutlery Company, bought Schrade Cutlery Company and renamed it the Schrade Walden Cutlery Corporation. It became a division of Imperial Knife Associated Companies Group which includes Imperial Knife Company, Inc. of Providence, R.I., Ulster Knife Company Inc. of Ellenville, N.Y.,Schrade Walden Cutlery Corp., of Walden N.Y., and Kingston Cutlery Co., addressed New York, N.Y.

    With the newly formed association of the four major cutlerys, IKAC was able to “...provide the cutlery trade with an all-embracing selection of merchandise and values, with a price structure that will meet every possible retailing need. The IMPERIAL-ULSTER-KINGSTON-SCHRADE amalgamation now makes possible a combined line which will include every conceivable type and variety of pocket knife, at prices ingeniously devised to meet competition in all price brackets, from lowest to highest.”

    This pricing spread was generally Imperial as the lowest with the shell handled knives, Midgets, Jackmasters and Hammerbrands., Kingston as better constructed low end working knives, Ulsters as mid range knives, and Schrade Waldens as the upper price point knives.

    Kingston sales was good through the late 1940's through mid 1950's, but began to slip in the late 1950's, and for many reasons, the Kingston line was basically reabsorbed into the Ulster line which itself saw fading sales. IKAC announced to it’s salesmen in 1960 that the Kingston line was to be discontinued as stocks were sold down. The Kingston lineup went from the fifteen patterns initially listed in the ‘40s to nine in 1959, then four by 1964, then from 1968 through 1972, only the K-29 electrician’s knife was left. By then, even the Ulster brand was losing popularity. One reason seldom mentioned, but historically significant, was the period of Irish history known as “The Troubles”. Salesmen reported back to the headquarters that in certain areas of the U.S., knives with the Ulster stamp were nearly impossible to sell. Thus, eventually the Ulster mark was phased out as well, used sporadically on special limited editions, like the Boy Scout Anniversary knife.

    I find it ironic that both Kingston, which bought Schrade, and Ulster, which spawned Kingston, were both reduced to divisions of Schrade Walden, and Imperial, which facilitated the Schrade Walden / Schrade Cutlery’s meteoric rise eventually was reduced to a branding used by Schrade. Yes, there were many “shuffling of the cards” over the years, but these four combined companies once ruled the cutlery market in a way that few companies have done in other industries. When you add in Camillus cutlery, also a Baer family enterprise, the percentage of the U.S. cutlery market controlled for many years is astounding.


    The Kingston catalog brochure sheets, 1947-59 which I have, listed and illustrated the following knives:

    K-230 - 3 3/8" two blade equal end Jack knife, clip and pen
    K-240 - 3 ½" two blade medium size serpentine Jack knife, clip and pen
    K-250 - 3 1/4" two blade slim serpentine Jack knife, clip and pen
    K-253 - 3 1/4" two blade serpentine pen knife, spear and pen,
    K-260 - 3 3/8" two blade Jack knife, clip and pen
    K-320 - 3 3/4” three blade equal end cattle knife, clip, spey, and punch
    K-321 - 3 3/4” three blade equal end cattle knife, spear, spey, and pen
    K-330 - 3 3/8" three blade small equal end knife, clip, spey, and punch
    K-331 - 3 3/8" three blade small equal end knife, clip, spey, and pen
    K-340 - 3 ½" three blade medium size premium stock knife, clip, spey, and punch
    K-341 - 3 ½" three blade medium size premium stock knife, clip, spey, and pen
    K-351 - 3 1/4" three blade slim premium stock knife, clip, spey, and pen
    421 - four blade Automobilist knife, stagged plastic handles (camp knife), spear, canopener, bottleopener/screwdriver, pen
    K-4611 - 3 3/4" four blade Military Mil-K-811-D knife
    K-3611 - 3 3/4" three blade Cattle knife civillian version of the Military knife, spear, spey, and punch





    A total of 102,492 Kingston knives were shipped in 1959.
    The 1959 Schrade/Ulster/Kingston records listed the following Kingston knives:

    K-17S
    K-17Y
    K-180P
    K-180S
    K-180Y
    K-29 - 3 3/4" Two blade Electrician's knife, Mahogany grained plastic handle w/bail, brass center Safety-lock
    K-29 (Sears)
    K-275BL - 3 1/4" rope knife, smooth black plastic handle w/bail
    K-50S
    K-50D (Sears)

    A total of 137,917 Kingston knives were shipped in 1960.
    The 1960 Schrade/Ulster/Kingston records listed the following Kingston knives:

    K-17S
    K-17Y
    K-180P
    K-180S
    K-180Y
    K-29
    K-29 (Sears)
    K-275BL
    K-50S
    K-50D (Sears)

    A total of 73,930 Kingston knives were shipped in 1961.

    This is my one and only Kingston at the moment, a K-340 premium stockman with punch.


    Codger
    Last edited by Codger_64; 10-21-2006 at 10:20 AM.

  2. #2
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    Codger,

    Great post, thanks for taking the time to do it.
    I had no idea about Kingston cutlery, so found this very informative.

    Dave

  3. #3
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    Thanks Codger! Good stuff!

    I have one Kingston in my collection (that I haven't been able to find) and I am bidding on a couple more. This is great info to have.

    Thanks,
    Dale

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    I've one, a stockman with a normal complement of blades. Nice knife, though lots of rub from use.

  5. #5
    Great history and a great read once again. Thanks, Codger!

  6. #6
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    I found the one Kingston I own. It is a nice rock solid knife. I think I need more of these.

    Dale


  7. #7
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    A K-240? What is the closed length? Nice knife! I'm hoping to find one with the blade etch intact. No joy yet, and someone is stomping me on buying Kingstons just now!

    Codger

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    Codger,
    3-1/2" closed.

    I didn't stomp on your Kingston........that was an Imperial..... ...sorry.

    Dale

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    Here is a Kingston I got in the mail today.

    I think it is a K-250s according to Codger's picture. I have to say these are really nice knives. Solidly built and good quality. I guess that stands to reason since they are 45+ years old. Both of mine have good walk and talk and nice snap. These are good quality knives!
    The scales have shrunk a bit, but I guess that is to be expected after 45 years, I think they are celluloid, but am not sure. Someone has reshaped the pen blade.

    Codger, do you know if the "black stagged handles" (or brown in the case of this knife) are made of celluloid? If they aren't celluloid then what are they made of that would shrink so much?

    Thanks,
    Dale

  11. #11
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    K-340 premium stockman with punch



    This K-340 arrived today and my first thought when opening it was "Oh no! A dog!". But when I oiled the joints and wiped it down, the action was sweet. It will take a bit more oiling and wiping to get all of the funk out, and to get the most from the walk and talk, but as it is I am satisfied that it is a well made knife. The master clip needs to be re-crinked, but it is not something I will be able to do with my fingers. The blades are incredibly flex resistant for such a small knife. The scales have shrunken a bit away from the bolsters, and the pins are not finely spun, but they are tight, and there is no gap between the covers and brass liners. COmparing the blades with one of my Ulsters (A Craftsman 9470), there is an unmistakable family resemblence to the clips with the length of the marks and the style of grinds. I am not certain of the cover composition used on the Kingston. Since it is an early one, I seriously doubt it is Delrin. Not only because of the shrinkage, but because DuPont didn;t market their acetal polymer "Delrin" until 1956 or later (the factory in Parkersburg W.V. was not completed until 1960), and Delrin is more dimensionally stable than this plastic. It may well be a predecessor of Delrin also made by DuPont, Nylon. More research on this is in order for sure. I know that George Schrade used styrene for knife handles.

    The Kingston knives, if this example is any indication, were on par with SCC knives and Ulsters, if maybe a bit less well finished, and were a step up from Imperial's Jackmasters.

    Codger

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    Since I am researching Kingston knives, I bought another interesting one. I noticed an interesting anomoly on this knife which I have shown. The master blade is clearly Kingston U.S.A. marked, but the second blade has three patents stamped on it.

    #2170537 issued Aug. 22nd, 1939 to Felix Mirando Knife Handle and Components
    #2284833 issued June 2nd, 1942 to Felix Mirando Method and apparatus for making knife handles
    #2689400 issued Sept. 21st, 1954 to Felix Mirando likewise method and apparatus

    This knife was not made before the patent issued, so we can assume that it was made after September of 1954. The handles are not shell construction, but slabs of jigged plastic, and pinned through with brass pins in Jackmaster fashion.

    Baer formed association with Felix Mirando just before WWII, approximately 1940-1941 as he began sourcing other companies to fulfill war production contracts for the OQG. Ulster Knife and Imperial Knife joined to become Imperial Knife Associated Companies in 1942, a move beneficial to both companies. Kingston, as mentioned, was a brand used by Ulster long before Baer took it over, and became an actual company during WWII, 1943, and according to Goins, dissolved circa 1947 (he dates the company 1945-47). Obviously, Ulster continued to make knives with the Kingston tangstamp, but how/ where does this Kingston knife fit in? It is obviously a very inexpensive knife (appx. 1/4" thick including steel linings, scales, backspring and blades), the type that Imperial would sell for less than fifty cents at the time. That makes the patent-bearing blade unlikely to be a replacement in my view. It also sits perfectly in the knife, and the three pins all match, no evidence of replacement work at any time. So.. Not only did Schrade Walden continue to produce Ulsters long after the company ceased to be an independent operation (at least through the early seventies by my records), but also used the Kingston tangstamp for many years. I was unaware that the Kingston tangstamp was also used on cheaper carbon steel Imperial Jackmaster knives well into the mid 1950's. Any insights?

    Here is another new Kingston arrival. 3 7/16" long serpentine jack, two Mirando patents on the pen blade.


    Codger
    Last edited by Codger_64; 11-06-2006 at 03:32 PM.

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    Here are a couple TL-29's, (I believe that is the proper military nomenclature). The brown handled one has the brown plastic handles Codger listed as the K-29 Kingston. The black one on top is an Ulster. The Kingston is badly pitted and I had to work to clean it up. I have been thinking about putting ebony scales on it. The plastic has shrunk and is a bit warped, possibly from setting in the sun (maybe on the dash board of a work truck)?
    Still it is nice to find an old bit of history.

    Dale


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    Those warped old scales fit perfectly with the pitted blades. You can't fake that aging. Tough decision to replace handles.

  15. #15
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    I just ordered another Kingston, and they brought this one special delivery, no charge. What is the truck, 1940 GMC?



    I told them to keep the knives, I'd take the truck.

    Michael

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    I was invited to see a fellow collectors displays yesterday and one of them was an original wall mounted store display from Kingston Cutlery. It had a glass front and contained a dozen knives arranged around an approx 4" square emblem that had a red W with a blue T over it. Under this was the word Trustworthy. ther were even price stickers next to the knives but they were so faded you couldn't read them. Quite the mint set and a really nice looking bunch of knives. if only I'd had my camera!
    He also had a very rare Schrade Statue of Liberty knife that was only presented to important officials involved in the project. It had the same bone scales as the regular production knife, but had a gold etched statue, sterling silver etched bolsters, and a gold medallion that said "presented to" instead of the "Museum of New York".
    Quite the impressive collection, and what a stroke of luck some people experience to find these mint displays!!
    Eric
    Last edited by ea42; 12-31-2006 at 10:21 AM. Reason: spelling, no gold star for me :(

  17. #17
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    I got a sweet wood handled Kingston TL-29 from my wife for Christmas. Also a wood handles Cut Co which is awesome!

    Dale

  18. #18
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    Great info guys!! Thanks for sharing the pics??

    Codger, thanks for the efforts on the research. Honestly, Kingston hadn't caught my eye before....

    I do have a question to pose, and as always, I will once again expose my ignorance in/of/on knives in general..

    Did Kingston make a whittler??? I quick-scanned Codgers research input and didn't see one, but I've been known to overlook things before...

    Whittler's (any make reasonably priced!!), particularly styles with two turkish clip blades, are the ones that I have been watching for lately..

    Happy New Year all !!

    dannyb

  19. #19
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    Eric, be sure to take a camera next time! Maybe he'll send you a picture of the display if you ask. I'd like to see it myself.

    Dale, congratulations on not only getting some great knives as Christmas gifts, but on having a thoughtful wife who would give you such!

    Danny, I don't have the answer to that question. Obviously, no definitive book on Kingston exists. Since they are not high dollar collectables, they have been given very little attention over the years. What I know and have seen about Kingston knives, I have shared here. I would not doubt that there were knives of the "whittler" pattern made under the Kingston stamp, either by IKAC or by D. Devine who first used the stamp years before his company was sold to the Baers. Keep looking and let us know what you find.

    Michael

  20. #20
    Great information. I have been searching for information about an old kingston knife that I have in my collection. What do you know about it? The pic won't load so here is a link to the pic sorry.http://goo.gl/photos/41TaNX8J9iyt3kNo7
    Last edited by Snipergollum; 02-27-2017 at 11:22 AM.

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