by David Thomas September 17, 2022
A father and son team revive a 300-year connection to Solingen’s past
Benno and Stephan Burghaus are sitting on almost three centuries of history – and maybe starting a new family dynasty of their own on top of it.
The father-and-son team merged their own steelware firm with the storied Friedrich Herder brand (est. 1727) in 2015 after the death of the previous owner. Benno was very familiar with the Solingen, Germany company, having been a supplier to Friedrich Herder for 15 years.
With the better part of five decades in the knife and scissor business, Benno obviously has the blade business in his blood. Getting his son Stephan, an engineer, to heed the calling took a while but you can see the passion for scissors runs in the family.
Ciselier made the trip to Solingen in May this year to see how things were coming together on Obere Dammstrasse, in a complex of several industrial buildings that includes a very cool old drop forge with a falling hammer that you can feel pounding the floor even when you’re outside the building.
As a nice complement to the master production skills of his father, Stephan is particularly eager to put his engineering know-how to get all the machines running so they can improve production techniques. He intends to start producing a broader range of knives and scissors. With his dad in his 60s and he himself in his early 30s, this will soon be his show to run.
They have a lot of catching up to do to bring the company back to its former glory. (The brand reputation is still very strong.) A lot of the focus with scissors today is doing the final assembly and finishing on scissors. That is the difficult part but Stephan says he is eager to build up full production on site of both scissors and knives. “There is a real connection with history here.”
“It was a big step” to purchase the oldest surviving scissor making company in Europe, offers Benno, who is a master grinder and “nagler”, the name given to the painstaking fitting and finishing steps of scissor-making. “My grandfather and great grandfather were also knife-makers,” he says.
Stephan sees a lot of opportunity in building the firm’s reach not just in Europe but markets in Asia, the Middle East and South American as well. And he has been combing through the company’s old books and stockpiles of design dies for inspiration.
We are five years away from the firm’s 300th birthday and the Herder family ancestors were at the craft for another 100 years or so. The Herder family is no longer involved with the firm, which traces its craft heritage lineage back at least to the Thirty Years War (1618-48), when Jürgen Herder was said to be making swords for battle.
The formal founding of the company was February 27, 1727, when Peter Herder zu Pilghausen registered the trademark "Schoppenass" (ace of spades) in the register of the Solingen courts.
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