Inlaid Cutlery Pattern Display

Inlaid Cutlery collection

Cutlery In The Valley

This tableware is part of the collection donated in 2022 by
Mark Hopkins of Concord Massachusetts

The collection represents a 40 year effort to document the many Pewter inlay designs and their manufacture methods.
High quality Carbon steel with Exotic Hardwood Handles made of Ebony, Cocobolo, or Rosewood and inlaid with Pewter designs. Referred to as “Civil War Cutlery” or “Granny Forks” these were “The Peoples Cutlery” produced between 1866 and 1920. Lower on the price scale were simple steel implements with plain wood handles, wealthy households enjoyed Sterling Silver.

Early example of American Metalwork Mass production: In 1870 the J. Russell Co. turned out a daily average of 2500-3000 dozen of these tableware pieces a day in its water powered factory.
Currently this collection contains over 450 distinctly different inlay patterns produced by 38 identified American manufacturers. Many located in the Connecticut Valley. Prior to the civil war era (1861-1865) the guilds of Sheffield England had a worldwide monopoly on the manufacture and distribution of table cutlery. The “American Manufacturing System” that evolved out of the Springfield Armory and introduced to cutlery manufacture in 1834 by the J. Russell Co. in Greenfield spelled the end of this monopoly.
Of the 450 plus pieces in this collection only one has been identified as Sheffield produced.

The production techniques required to Stamp, Forge, Grind, Temper, and Polish the steel parts are well understood, but the processes for creating the Pewter inlay on a mass production scale remain to be explained. The inlay slots were clearly cut with precision to insure design consistency throughout a set.
How was molten Pewter at 350-450 F poured and encased into the carved inlay slots ?