7OT Cave Bear Research

Codger_64

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Imperial Knife Associated companies, under the direction of Albert Baer, expanded their manufacturing capabilities during a boom year of 1977. They bought the Richards Holdings of and Rogers Wolstenholm also of Sheffield, England. In Listowel, Ireland, they purchased what would become the Imperial Stag facility. In the United States, they built a lockback manufacturing facility at Ellenville, and began one also at the Imperial factory in Providence, Rhode Island.

Schrade first began manufacturing the LB7 Bear Paw lockback in late 1977, with 17,693 shipped by year’s end. Full production began in 1978, and it was advertised in the July, 1978 American Rifleman Magazine, and it was touted as having a Schrade+ stainless steel blade. 1979 was the first catalog listing.

An Old Timer variant of the Uncle Henry LB-7, the 7OT appeared in the June 1979 Alaska Magazine, and it was touted as having a Schrade high carbon tool steel blade and the “heart of a beast”. 1979 was the first catalog listing.

The 5" 7OT Cave Bear Lockback was introduced in 1979 with sample production of sixty pieces begun in 1978. Listed and illustrated in the 1978 Schrade Cutlery Corporation short line catalog with the “NEW” banner, it had an introductory MSRP of $29.50. Specifications printed in a 1980 flyer gave the size as 5", 8 3/4" open, with a 3 ½" blade of high carbon cutlery steel, a Schrade+ steel pivot pin, solid brass bolsters and linings. It was essentially a carbon bladed, Delrin handled version of the stainless bladed, wood handled LB-7. Pin placement and number (four) closely coincided, the 7OT having the Old Timer shield added to the scale.

MSRP in the 1980 shortline catalog was $31.95 and remained so in the 1981 Shortline. The 7OT was dropped from the catalogs and production after the 1981 year when sales, initially promising at an annual average of 50,000 pieces for the first two years, proved dismal for the third at only 8,000 pieces. The tang stamp on this first production was “SCHRADE” over “U.S.A. 7- OT”.

Production was resumed with an introductory flyer in 1990 which finally gave the 7OT pattern a name, “Cavebear”.





This illustration showed three pins in the cover, a change which had previously been made on the LB-7 pattern. It did not appear in the 1990 Shortline catalog, yet 46,500 pieces sold that year. It did reappear in the 1991 catalog with a MSRP of $42.95 (just $7 less than the UH companion LB-7), and the name “Cave Bear” was added. Sales were evidently better with the second production with 81,000 pieces shipped in 1991, and a peak of 127,000 pieces in 1994. Production tapered down to 85,000 in 1995, 44,500 in 1996 and down to 22,000 by 2001 the last year production records are available. Production did continue through 2004 when Imperial Schrade closed.

An example from circa 2001-2002 shows that the spring pin moved rearward below the front of the shield by then, though the exact year this happened is unknown. Circa 1997-98, blading became Schrade+ stainless as fine blanking came into the lockback production. Recently acquired evidence suggests that 420HC SS was introduced, at least partially, in 1998 when they began using fine blanking on the LB7 production. If it was like most other changes in production, it was not like turning off one faucet and turning on another, the change was most likely gradual, what is called a "running change". And of course there is almost always a lag between when production began and shipping began. These later stainless 7OT knives were tang stamped “SCHRADE+” over “U.S.A. 7OT”.

http://www.collectors-of-schrades-r.us/corners/LarryH/pages/Part Collection Larry 303 024.htm

http://www.collectors-of-schrades-r.us/corners/LarryH/pages/Part Collection Larry 303 025.htm

There also appears to be some variation in the size and placement of the nail nicks, and the blade grind changes from plain bevel on the secondary grind to a hollow grind. Exact dating is near impossible, other than broadly grouping them as NIB examples come to light. One example easily dated is a very early commemorative, the Schrade 75th anniversary edition with etch. Obviously from 1979.



Here is another which dates, by the logos and slogans to the 1988-90 period as first appearing:



The blue stripe box circa 2001-2002:



And finally, the last production circa 2003 (the insert is copyrighted 2002, box intro circa 2003)



Production from the first run in 1978-1981 totaled 111,535 pieces making it the least common variant of the pattern excluding comemoratives and SFOs

I will update this research as more information comes my way from other collectors or primary sources.

Codger
 

rprocter

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Codger, thank you for the giving us the history of the 7OT. the pic. in your post for the '88 - '90 shows the spring pin in the rearward postion, whereas flyers show it more forward. did you mean '88 -'98 (or whenever those boxes ended) ? important as a 3 pin 7-OT (with hyphen) and no "+" and forward spring pin should add up to app. early '90s. (what !, me telling Codger something about Schrade ?, shakey ground). roland
 

Codger_64

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Those slogans were first used during 1988-90. The knife and box could be later, but not likely earlier. This means it was second production, but pre-2001 (box change there). While we don't get exact dates of changes, we get an outline from the pictures. The old style (with reduced number of pins) may well have been used as a photosample in the flyer for second production, or the first of them may well have looked exactly like the knife in that 1990 dated flyer. But the blue box shows that before 2001, the changes were made in the stamp ("+" added, "-" dropped) and spring pin location moved rearward. If I had the example of the Sharp Idea box before me and could positivly I.D. the insert via copyright date, and several other NIB examples complete spanning the second production, I could give more accurate info. Donations are welcome! :D

Michael
 
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