Editorial Feature

William Henry: Forging a Golden Age

Words By: Sam Kessler

Unless you’re a wilderness trailblazer, a pocket knife doesn’t seem like the practical necessity it once was. It’s rare in this day and age that we need something other than perhaps a pair of scissors on a daily basis. But there’s still something intrinsically intriguing about the archetypal tool, something which appeals to a kind of innate masculinity.

William Henry take that ethos even further. Their knives are not just knives, though they work better than most at their job. Their exquisite blades are works of art, expressions of artisan skills and creativity coming together to elevate the humble pocket knife into something altogether more refined. In no collection is this more apparent than the Lancet.

The Lancet is quite possibly the most famous pocket knife in the world. It was the first design from William Henry and remains arguably their definitive creation, its sleek elegance granting it an unassailable position as the ultimate gentleman’s folder – as it’s plethora of awards can attest to.

A blade the width of the handle gives the entire silhouette a smooth shape, one which feels good in the hand, particularly with the satisfying heft of the steel. But like any William Henry piece, the overall design is just a starting point. Indeed, with editions kept exclusively limited, each Lancet knife has to be considered its own unique entity.

The amount of variation that can be found within the Lancet collection itself is sublime. The Voton’s gold inlays by gun engraver G.S. Pedretti for example are a world away from the exquisite natural woods of Orchid and Penza. Indeed, that dichotomy of natural materials and hand-forged steel is part of what makes William Henry unique. However, possibly the most eloquent expression of what sets the Lancet apart from any and all other knives is the Golden Age.

First of all is the blade; the most important thing a blade needs to be is sharp. Like all William Henry knives, the secret to that edge is Damascus steel. The material is essentially layer upon layer of steel folded together into one, immensely strong metal. For William Henry, that means no less than 300 individual layers forged into one, the very number needed for a blacksmith to become a Master Smith.

Aside from strength and the ability to hold an edge like no other metal – the main reason for the technique’s historical use in sword making – it’s utterly breath-taking. The pattern which emerges from the steel is entirely up to the Damascus artist and has an incredible range of versions.

Here metal artisan Mike Norris has used ‘hornet’s nest’, a mesmerising swirl of different layers like a meandering river. That said, ancient as the centuries old technique of Damascus steel is, it still pales in comparison to the handle of the Golden Age knife. In fact, it’s younger by more than nine millennia.

Though the striped, layered look could be mistaken for some kind of sedimentary rock or petrified wood, the Golden Age handle is in fact inlaid with mammoth tooth, a fossil William Henry have a particular fondness for. At roughly 10,000 years old, the material’s use alone turns a humble – if expertly forged – knife into a collector’s item and historical relic both.

The mammoth tooth is carefully inlaid into a sterling silver frame, one which has been beautifully worked at the blade end with a curling golden plant over textured metal. If there’s one single piece which illustrates William Henry’s signature combination of the natural and the man-made, it’s this. As a final touch, the innovative one-hand button lock and thumb stud are both set with black diamonds.

Exquisite materials both modern and ancient, artistry and engineering in equal measure and a wonderfully masculine aesthetic, the Lancet is the definitive William Henry knife for good reason. It elevates the archetypal tool to new levels, transforming it into a work of art that marries creativity with practicality like nothing else. The Golden Age shows that a William Henry knife is not just a knife; it’s so very much more.

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