J.A. Henckels table knives and forks

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Jul 22, 2017
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SW Floriduh
This lot came in the mail today. I've no idea how old but best guess is not remotely recent. ;)
The plan is to restore these to a usable state. Most, if not all, will have to be re-handled.
So here's the lot:

And a closer-up of each type:

They seem to be of the 'nogent' style with a through tang. Upon closer inspection there's a small, rectangular piece in the middle of a round, grey area:

I think that small rectangle is the tang and the outer material is lead(!) I can scratch that material with a hobby knife tip and it scrapes away like lead would. Can you see the scratches on the end and on the inside?


I'm now gonna fully remove one handle and see what we have on the inside.
To be continued...
That tang is amazing; it's so thin, and you can see the hammer blows on it.
And the fact that what looks like a measured amount of what is probably lead is used on all of these must certainly date this to before a certain time.
Waiting to hear back from the rep at Henx to help with the dating of these.
In the meantime I think I'm gonna buy a small table saw. I've got enough hardwood to make a hundred handles but I need a quick way to cut them to size.
I'm currently on vacation so I've got a buncha time on my hands.
So today I wrote out a plan of attack; a step by step from start to finish. That seemed like a great idea. Then I did a test run one one of the ten utensils to see how it worked. Came out pretty well IMO. Below is the basic fit of the tang in a new blank handle.

Then I went to work. I cut off about 1 inch from the butt of the handle (but not through the through-tang) and twisted off that 1 inch piece. The tang popped out pretty easily but left the lead inside that cutoff piece of handle.

Then I snipped the tang on all of them right where I had sawed off the handle butt. Curiously, the tangs on the 5 forks seemed to snip easier then the tangs on the 5 knives.
Then I took a wire wheel to the tang and the bolster to clean everything all up:

I'm not sure if you can see it but those tiny rat-tail tangs are not even close to straight and true.
Tomorrow I start with rough shaping the new handles, cleaning and fitting the ferrules, and then drilling for the tangs.
BTW, I had to buy an extended length 1/8 inch drill bit to make the tang hole. Is there a term for "tang hole"?
I had to shorten that bit by about an inch to get it to fit in my drill press. Thankfully the bit's hardened steel broke easily where I wanted when whacked with a hammer and held in a vice. Not so the tangs. They bent when whacked. I had to use wire cutters to cut them down.
The lot I bought had six knives and six forks. I picked the best condition one of each knife and fork and set them aside to keep as original. The rest I'm gonna rehandle.
Right now I have some purpleheart, which I've come to dislike, cherry, and walnut for the handles. I think/hope I also have some mahogany and teak in my storage room to use as well.
My idea is to have five sets of knifes and forks in distinct wood for each pair.
I'm still waiting to see how old these actually are.
The metal material at the butt may be tin and not lead. I dunno, I'm no metallurgist.
And I completely burned out the motor in my drill press at about halfway through this project. Not a happy camper.
Just heard back from the Henckels company archivist; these models are seen in 1902 and 1914 catalogs. Nice.
I'll upload those images to the Henckels info thread at some point in the near future.
I've made some headway with the handle blanks finished before the drill press failure.
Fitting the ferules tightly and aligned correctly is not an easy job, especially for someone with my skills.
I did however have some luck polishing a couple of these. I used "Zona" polishing paper, which is more like a cloth than sand paper. The Zona came in a sample pack that claims it has 600, 1200, 1800, 8000, 10,600 and 22,000 grit ("micron": 30, 15, 9, 3, 2 and 1)
L to R: Uncleaned, 0000 steel wool, Zona:

Three handles fitted and glued:
First finished (almost) example. I used cherry for the handle material in this particular example. I sanded it to 400 grit and then rounded the edges with 1000 grit sand paper. Mineral oil soak overnight. I still plan on polishing the steel, at least on some of them. I had a slight setback with over-sanding the ferule on my walnut handled pair last night but I'm pretty happy with this first finished product. And, I think the rest will be even better than this one.
I'm starting to think the lead/tin material at the the back of the handle is for balance.
I noticed in the old Henckels catalogs they offer this type of tableware with and without "balance". See the image I made from these catalogs:
balance underline2.jpg

I notice the re-handled forks seem to balance pretty well right at the bolster/ferule area but the knives are very blade heavy. And wood species also factors in with regards to "balance".
Here's a small update:

From L to R: Walnut test pieces; Over sanded the ferrule on one. Cocobolo test piece; looking forward to a pair of these. (single Cherry) Ebony! Man, so nice; polished to 600g but not quite finished. Purpleheart; these came out much better than expected. Cherry; early pieces that came out much better than expected.
I still have to go above ~1k grit for polishing the steel.
Kudos on all your progress! This is a great thread to watch. I'd love to hold one of those and just feel how they sit in the hand.
Update: Pretty much finished with the Ebony pair. Quite happy withe the results. Ebony's a fun wood to work with; very satisfying. Some finished shots and the last one is a before and after:

It's a bit hard to see from these crappy photos but the polish level is off the charts.