Queen Cutlery just launched the Express series, a line of handcrafted, traditional American automatic knives that will be the company’s major focus in 2017. Beginning with the #71 John Henry Express, released under their Schatt & Morgan label, Queen says the Express line will be expanded in the years to come.
Ryan Daniels, VP of Queen Cutlery, says that the company wanted to start out the Express series with a knife that was visually impressive. “That’s the backbone of our company,” he tells us. The original John Henry slipjoint was a perfect candidate with its full-sized, Texas Toothpick-style handle and sweeping 3.8” clip point blade. It’s a far cry from the pocket-friendly knives most people think of when they hear the words “traditional knife,” and was a natural first choice among Queen’s patterns to receive the automatic conversion.
The John Henry is a single action automatic that deploys via a trigger on the side of the handle. It’s the first one-handed opening knife that Queen has produced since the Jet, which was last circulated in the 1960s. “The Express Series takes us in a whole new direction of complex, handmade stuff,” Daniels says.
Buyers can expect to see a second model at Blade Show in June, with more to follow. The John Henry’s action is based off of sought-after switch blades from the 1920s, and Daniels says other historical mechanisms are also possibilities in the Express series. Queen is well-known for using current steels on their traditional knives and an Express knife with something more modern than 1095 is likely to happen. “This first run is really just scratching the surface of what we have planned with it,” he says.
With its larger-than-life style and size and its hefty price tag, the John Henry will be a collector’s piece for most buyers, and Daniels embraces that. He says the vast majority of Queen knives are treasured on shelves and in safes. “80% of Queen knives are collected,” he explains. “We’re proud that a large portion of our customers collect our knives.”
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Queen Cutlery builds their knives in Titusville, Pennsylvania, out of the oldest continually-operating knife factory in the US. “We’re one of the last original turn-of-the-century factories left,” Daniels says. The recent traditional knife resurgence has been centered in Pennsylvania, with W.R. Case and Sons working out of Bradford and Great Eastern Cutlery, which Daniels helped to found, working in Titusville as well.
Daniels says the GEC and Queen do fundamentally different things, and he doesn’t view the neighboring company as a rival. “We’re not in competition with them in my opinion.” He says Queen will continue its focus on the collector market, but insists everything the company produces will excel as a tool. “I don’t give you a piece of junk with a certificate. All of our knives are excellent users.”
Knife featured in image: Queen Cutlery Schatt & Morgan John Henry Express in Red Shock Wood