One of the things about being a geek is wanting to know how things are made, how they work and why they are designed in a particular way. When I was in school I always loved field trips and learning how and why people did things. With this blog, I feel that I have the opportunity to take “geek trips” when the opportunity presents itself. A few weeks ago when I was on vacation I decided to see if this was a possibility.
To digress a moment. I love eggs for breakfast! When I am home I make eggs every day. Making eggs in a pan has always been a battle for me as I like to make over easy in a small pan. The hardest part about this was using a spatula to flip the eggs over, I would always mess something up, or the spatula would be too big, etc… It was never my fault, always the tool!
For my birthday this year, I received 2 spatulas from my mother. (I am still accepting gifts) She told me that she found them and was impressed with the quality and how well they worked. “Yeah, I’ll really like a spatula for my birthday…this is the adult equivalent of a sweater.” I will just say that these are used nearly every day now! I have been so impressed with these spatulas that I had to see the company behind it. Luckily this company is only an hour drive away from my house, so I figured I would use my big time blogging clout to get a VIP tour. Here is how it went down.
L&G: Hello, Lamson Goodnow, this is (redacted) how may I help you?
Me: Hi…um….I’m a blogger, and I like your spatulas…
L&G: Okay, how can I help?
Me: I’d like to take a tour of your factory and write about your company and products.
L&G: Hmmm….Let me see if I can help. Please hold.
Really good hold music!
L&G: Hi, I’m going to connect you to Jeff in sales.
Jeff: Hi, this is Jeff.
Me: Hi…um….I’m a blogger, and I like your spatulas…and I’d like to take a tour of your factory and write about your company and products.
Jeff: Well normally we don’t allow people here, but if you want to come on by sometime!
Me: Ok, I’ll be there Monday at 2pm!
(Thinking in my head, “how the heck did this just happen”
Seriously, they were that easy to work with. I got a feeling right away that this was going to be a great adventure!
The History of Lamson & Goodnow
This is taken directly from their website (http://www.lamsonsharp.com/store/pg/10-Our-History.html)
- Silas Lamson invented the curved scythe snath
- In 1834, he started Lamson & Goodnow in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts to produce his curved scythe snath.
- In 1837, his two sons, together with partner Abel Goodnow became interested in making knives and started the business that has retained the names of Lamson & Goodnow from that time to the present.
- During the Civil War, the company became one of the largest United States cutlery manufacturers
- In 1869, the workmen of Lamson & Goodnow produced a dinner set of 62 pieces for President Ulysses S. Grant. (Part of this set is at their factory)
- Today, Lamson & Goodnow cutlery is still handcrafted in Shelburne Falls by American workers.
- Silverware presented to Ulysses S. Grant in 1869
That last bullet point sets the tone of what I found Lamson to stand for. They want to make the best products and they will not fall short of their high standards. I started the tour with Jeff on that rainy afternoon. We had just left his office when he gave me a quick quiz to see how much I knew about cutlery. Lets just say I was a novice.
After the quick quiz we toured the entire facility. The land and buildings are all more or less the original structures that were built many years ago. This gave the entire town a quaint feel of how the old factory days must have been like.
- Classic buildings making cutting edge cutlery
Inside one of the buildings was a cutting edge laser cutter. I’m not allowed to talk much about it, or take any pictures. BUT IT WAS REALLY COOL! Seriously, lasers and knives…yah, think about it. This is where they made a lot of their stamped cutlery.
Stamped VS Forged – What is right for you?
There is a big difference between the two. I’m not going to get into that here. It would take an entire blog post to go over them. Lets just say that both can be high quality, if they are made right. It all depends on your need and budget. Jeff talked about the differences and told me that both can be made very well.
- A forged blade handle. The tang goes through all the way.
Let’s just say that when I buy some knives they are going to be Forged, and most likely from Lamson. (I’d even be willing to review a set or two
From what I learned Lamson keeps the traditions of an old American company alive. They make all of their work in house, employing local union people who all have a skill in what they do. Like all companies Lamson has been hit hard by the recent times, however they are not compromising quality for profits. One of the things Jeff told me was that they would never be a company that you would find in Walmart. They cannot make a product that meets their standards for the price that they had to meet. This made me feel good about traveling to visit them. A company that operates to this level will have my support!
The tour was a great experience. Jeff brought me around through the entire factory, and I met with a lot of great workers. All of them were busy working, and taking pictures was difficult as they moved so fast. Please pardon blurry shots in the gallery as it was hard to get action shots.
- Yes, he was moving that fast!
One of the first stops was in the oldest building that was on the Lamson property. An interesting fact, the entire factory receives power pre grid through water turbines. When the factory was built they built it through a river and harnessed the water power. As the years went on the turbines were upgraded and now power an area of Shelburne Falls. This is using natural resources to create green power!
- This is where the old turbines were. They are now much more modern.
- This river powers Lamson Goodnow and the surrounding area.
Walking through the buildings I saw a lot of craftsmanship. Every worker there was skilled in at least one part of the process. Most workers had decades of experience making knives. During one of the stops we saw a man cutting serrated grooves into bread knives! It was explained that all of the spacing was done by hand and if he slipped he would ruin the blade…
- Grinding serrated grooves into a knife
- A lot of concentration goes into this process
From what I learned there is a lot of hard work that goes into making one of these high end pieces of cutlery. From form to finish takes a lot of steps. From the polishing, to grinding, to putting the handles on is a labor intensive process that takes skill. One of their knives has over two dozen steps for putting the handle on! I take less steps in building some things (kidding) but it is that attention to detail that impressed me.
- Just one of the polishing tanks, see the knife form?
Everything there was very organized and everything had its place. I could see that in full production mode that there would be people running around everywhere working in place. This was classic American workers in action. Everyone was efficient, working and knowledgeable of what needed to be done. This made me think of those old times when factory work was done in every town in the country.
- Wooden handles ready to be grooved
Not surprisingly Jeff told me that a lot of their machinery was custom built by locals. The workers would finish the day and talk about what they needed. Usually in a few weeks they would have a “new” machine that was made/fabricated for their tasks.
- Handles going through a custom made perpetual router
As a person with simple taste I like classic looks. When I was looking in their factory store I was happy to see that their designs are simple. Wood handles with metal. They stay with this look and have only recently introduced their new Fire Line. For me, I like the classic look.
- Nice classic look for a knife
- “Fire” does look pretty cool too!
To summarize, the people at Lamson know knives. There is no questioning it. Their commitment to quality is great to hear in a company that is based in the USA. I own some of their spatulas and I will be buying some knives from Lamson in the future. If you want to buy some knives and support this blog you can Buy Lamson Sharp Knives here.
As a note I was not sponsored in any way by Lamson. This project was my own initiative and I just wanted to learn about the company more. I was pulled in by my morning eggs and found a great American company in my backyard!
- Stag horn handle