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153UH Golden Spike Research

Discussion in 'Schrade Knives Collectors Forum' started by Codger_64, Jun 14, 2006.

  1. Codger_64

    Codger_64 Moderator Moderator

    Oct 8, 2004
    It has been a while since I posted new info on the 153UH, but I recently came across some research material that helps date the steel change on these knives. While we previously thought it was done sometime in the 1980's, it has now come to light that a running change was made in mid 1995 from carbon to stainless steel, and a survey of the catalogs bears this out. The 153UH is first listed as having SCHRADE+ steel blades in the 1996 catalog.




    The Schrade Uncle Henry 153UH Golden Spike has been a favorite classic pattern for many years. The 153UH was one of the first fixed blade Uncle Henry patterns when it was introduced in mid 1973, and was produced continuously for thirty-one years, nearly a third of a century. It was manufactured under the Schrade Cutlery tang stamp (mid 1973-04), and I have not seen one yet with the Schrade-Walden tang stamp. If one is located, it would be, I believe, considered a true rarity. In the mid 1973 catalog it was referred to by the name "Golden Spike", and listed for $30.00. This name was used without change throughout the production. By the 1980 catalog, the listed price had increased to $36.95. It listed for $56.95 in 1991. The final 2004 listed price was $69.95. It was also used for limited editions and private issues right up to the end of Schrade in 2004.

    The Golden Spike has a finger grooved shaped imitation stag "Staglon" Delrin handle held to the hidden tang by a tang mounting screw much like the earlier 171UH Pro Hunter. I have disassembled a 153UH and the screw threads into a cylindrical bushing fitted crossways in the tang. It has no shield, the "Uncle Henry" signature being stamped into the right face of the guard, also much the same as on the 171UH, and the serial number likewise stamped on the left guard face. On occasion over the span of production, several different handle materials have been used on special and private issues. The bottom of the choil on the ricasso in front of the handle is relieved in an upward arc to the lower guard and allows for the use of the full length of the sharpened blade.

    The 4 1/2" hidden tang blade is sabre ground .165 1095HC carbon steel before mid 1995, then afterward .135 440A stainless Schrade+ steel hollow ground, and is best described as a Turkish clip blade. Often described as a "bowie hunter" or modified skinner, the blade has a slight skinner belly with a slightly upswept tip, and just a hint of a false edge on the clipped upper spine. Overall length was listed as 9 1/4" and blade length 4 1/2".

    Only a couple of sheath designs have been observed so far. The most common is the flat sewn sheath with a stone pocket, a direct adaptation of the 171UH sheath. Like the predecessors sheath, it had a third ply of leather added between the cover piece and the backing piece protecting the stitches from the insertion and removal of the blade. This style continued pretty much through the remainder of production, with an occasional flat stitched sheath appearing without the stone pocket on limited and private editions. Sheath finish color varied over the years from light tan, light russet, dark russet, to true brown. Occasionally an undyed replacement sheath shows up on the market. A few special and private issue sheaths are dyed black.

    As with many other Schrade fixed blades relatively minor engineering changes can help to distinguish the chronology of production.

    Earliest production was marked with a serial number on a left guard front. It has not yet been determined exactly when the serializing of this pattern started and ended, but maybe this led to some complications with production and stocking. Or if the intent was to track knives for warranty purposes, perhaps that proved to be more trouble than it was worth. The highest serial number I have noted so far is #233421, though this most likely is not the highest serial number made.

    Some tang stamps, applied to the right side of the tang perpendicular to the blade, are "SCHRADE" over "U.S.A. 153UH" on the right ricasso. Note that it did not use the "SCHRADE+" stainless identifier until the later (post 1995 ½) production editions which did have the "SCHRADE+" stamp, and some the "SCHRADE SUPER SHARP" right hand blade etch. Late limited editions had a tang stamp of "SCHRADE" over U.S.A. LTD.", again with no "+" identifier. Most of the “SCHRADE” marked knives have carbon blades, as it is now known with some certainty they were made from 1967-1995, and the stainless “SCHRADE+” blades during the last nine years of production (1995-2004). Most of the carbon knives I have seen so far have the signature on the guard, but no serial number.

    The 153UH is a sort of an enigma in that the normal routine was for a blade pattern to be introduced in the basic 1095HC Old Timer line and, if successful, to be introduced as an upscale Uncle Henry Signature Series version of it in stainless. In this case, the UH version came first in 1973, and the OT version, 160OT Mountain Lion was introduced in 1990. In order to fit it with the serpentine brown sawcut Delrin handle used on the successful 165OT, the blade was blanked with full exposed tang from that pattern. For some reason, while the Golden Spike blade profile was kept intact, the grind was changed to a flat grind on the 160OT. An unintended consequence was that the thinned narrow blade tended to break in front of the ricasso. This 160OT version was discontinued after 1995.

    Limited editions and most private issue Schrade Cutlery knives also had a right side tang stamp of "SCHRADE+ over USA LTD.", and used a 440C stainless blade. These editions will occasionally be found with custom shop wood or genuine stag handles, brass flat rivets, special etches, and A mention must be made of the imported "New Generation" knives from Taylor Brands LLC., purchaser of the Schrade trademarks and patents. These knives of the 153UH pattern appeared on the market in the spring of 2005, less than a year after the bankruptcy liquidation sale of Imperial Schrade assets at the factory in Ellenville. I will attempt here to point out the obvious differences to the collector, so that one will not be confused with the Imperial Schrade production.

    Taylor Brands LLC. (formerly Taylor Cutlery) is an importer and wholesaler of knives, and now a licenser of the Schrade trademarks to some American cutlery manufacturers, and not a manufacturer themselves. The Taylor 153UH knives are contracted to a cutlery factory in China and the knives so far are all stainless (no "+" mark). The Taylor 15OT tang stamps are "SCHRADE" on the right aligned with the front of the handle and angled to the blade, and "153UH" on the reverse with the same alignment. Neither the importer's name, nor the country of origin appears stamped on the knives themselves. The Taylor version has, so far, the "SCHRADE" over "SUPER SHARP" etch on the right blade, the originals sometimes do have, and sometimes not. The imported knives I have seen so far have the Taylor-Schrade emblem on etched on blade left with "SCHRADE" over "CHINA '05" inside a circle with the cutler at the anvil emblem in the center. So far, there has also been a "First Production Run" etch on blade left as well. The imported knife had red/white/red spacers on the handle next to the guard and butt plate, while on the U.S. produced knives the spacers are black/white/black.

    The Taylor sheath is made from the pattern of the standard Schrade Cutlery tan leather stone pocket sheath with the keeper strap slipped through slots in the belt hanger. The only distinguishing feature I have found so far seems to be a slicker finish on the surface of what appears to be a lesser quality leather.

    An examination of the photographs seems to show that the grind lines are slightly different.
    While the last MSRP on the Schrade Cutlery 153UH was $69.95 in 2004, the MSRP for the Taylor 15OT in 2005 is $42.00. With a bit of searching, a prospective buyer can purchase one for 2/3 to 1/2 of that price.
    So why was this knife so popular for such a long time? The 153UH was one of the thinner, visually smaller knives of it's day, and as smaller blades became the rule of the day with new generations of outdoorsmen, it inherited the position of the sole large hunting knife pattern in standard production for both the OT and UH lines. And sales, i.e., profits That the153UH survived as a production knife as long as it did is a testament to the purity of utility in Henry's original design. Quite a few patterns were tried and discarded during the long running Golden Spike's production of thirty-one years.

    The Golden Spike found a loyal following among a generation of maturing sportsmen, the "Baby Boomers" that came to the knife buying market at about the time of the 153UH's introduction. And Imperial Schrade prospered in this marketing period. But as the older generations of buyers began being replaced by younger buyers, large knives preferred by their fathers and grandfathers for hunting and camping the old way fell out of fashion.

    While shorter bladed knives of newer design, such as the Pro Hunter PH1 and PH2 attracted a sizable portion of the market from the Golden spike, and the Safe-T-Grip series of Old Timers, then the X-Timer series came out, neither series supplanted the sales of the Staglon handled Golden Spike. In 1995, the forcast production need was 1,000 knives per week, 50,000 a year. One secret to this success was the low cost of materials and assembly on the 153. It is comprised of only twelve parts and required very little final fitting during assembly.

    Research on this pattern is still in the preliminary stages at this time. I hope to better pin down the dates of the serial numbers, and the "Super Sharp" etch, as well as document the special limited and private editions.

    1977 Advertisement

  2. rev_jch


    Jul 29, 2002
    very well written and formative! Thanks for writing it!! Ive always been a big fan of the golden spike. It was the 1st "decent" fixed blade I ever owned back in 1970-something :)

    I bought a couple in 2004 when I heard that Schrade was goint out.
  3. Codger_64

    Codger_64 Moderator Moderator

    Oct 8, 2004

    I hope readers notice that when the bladestock changed from carbon steel to stainless, it went from .165 (and sometimes thicker) to .135 thickness as well (and finished down to .128/.130). This difference is substantial enough that the parts from my earlier carbon Golden Spike do not fit the later stainless blades ( they will assemble, but not tighten or properly allign). In fact, they had to retool the guard's slots, molded handles, butt pieces, and spacers for the smaller stock. Likewise, the later parts will not assemble on the earlier blades.

    Also notice the grind change. The stainless knives went to a hollow ground blade, vs. the earlier plain sabre grind. A close examination of blades from both the earlier specs and the newer production may reveal some other dimensional tolerance changes such as finished blade length, or choil height. But I have not had sufficient samples to make this comparison.

    Since this was designated a "running production change", it is possible that a loose stainless knife will show up where someone "oops'd" the parts during assembly. That is one of the bugaboos of making running changes, and a chore for engineering to police. Moving old parts stock to a quarentine area before new stock is released, and doing so in a seamless fashion is an operation that takes some skill. WOrkers are known to "discover" a few loose old stock parts around their workstation, and unthinkingly toss them into their assembly parts bins. Naturally, it is up to engineering to see this does not happen.

  4. JP Kelly

    JP Kelly

    Dec 28, 2006

    Thank you for that informantion. I recently traded an Buck knife with a custom made sheath I had made for and older model 153UH, and believe I came out the winner in that trade. I also purchased an later model 153UH from a pawn shop for aprox $20. It bears the same stamp or etching you mentioned earlier " Super Sharp " although on the left side it has and etching that says "First Production Run". In front of the "First Production Run" it has a circle that has Schrade on the top, an icon of a blacksmith in the middle, and "China-05" on the bottom. At the base of the blade, Left side it has the 153UH code alone, and the right side has Uncle Henry above Schrade. This model does not have the + after the schrade. Blade thickness is .135 and the handle is now where as tight as the older models. The only other difference i cand see is the rings are red and white insted of black and white.

    I hope this helps. I look forward to hearing what else you find on this model.

  5. Codger_64

    Codger_64 Moderator Moderator

    Oct 8, 2004
    JPK, you just described one of the new Golden Spikes made by the Chinese for Taylor Brands LLC who bought the ISC trademarks during the factory liquidation sale. I have been aware of these for quite some time. While I've not held and reviewed this particular knife, the other patterns now made in China that I have reviewed were quite poorly made copies of the original American made Imperial Schrades. And the sheaths were reconstituted leather fiber composition, not leather. Your older knife is no doubt the better of the two.

  6. stockdog


    Jun 25, 2006
    Codger As always great job on your informative posts, thank you. I bought my Golden Spike in the late 70’s if I remember correctly from Coast to Coast. I had always assumed it was Schrade + due to the fact I never oiled it as often as my carbon Old Timers and never noticed it to turn dark. I guess I will have to dig it out for a look.
  7. GMan351


    Dec 5, 2006
    I've got one that I got in the late 70's. It has "SCHRADE", "153UH", Uncle Henry in script and a serial #228752. I wish I could put a better date on it for you. I'm 43 and I got it when I was a teenager and I think I was about 14 or 15. So about 1977 would be it, give or take. With that, I guess they put serial numbers on them earlier. It has the etching on the blade also.
  8. Guyon

    Guyon Biscuit Whisperer Staff Member Super Mod Gold Member

    Mar 15, 2000
    Nice post. The 153UH was one of the Schrades I sought out after the plant closed. I bought a "Duck's Unlimited" version with a DU logo on the sheath.
  9. Codger_64

    Codger_64 Moderator Moderator

    Oct 8, 2004
    The earlier versions were still 153UH Uncle Henry Golden Spikes, but with 1095HC steel. The Old Timer version was the 160OT Mountain Lion, albeit with a flat grind instead of sabre, and a full exposed tang with the familiar OT sawcut Delrin handle, and OT shield, brass two piece guard of the 165OT.

  10. Larry303


    Jul 28, 2005
    ...as an aside Codger,have you seen Taylor Chinese 160Ot Mountain Lions are now being offered on Ebay as well? Is nothing sacred?? Hoo Roo

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