About Students and teacherslinks and references Australia Innovates
A century of innovationThe Innovation cycleThe innovation game
The best of the century What is innovation? Overview Timeline Test your AIQ
blank
Household and clothing
 
Staysharp knife
1970
self-sharpening kitchen knife

In 1964 a US market survey showed that 80% of Americans didn't know how to sharpen a knife. 'Aha!' thought Dennis Jackson, a design engineer for Wiltshire Cutlery in Melbourne, 'a knife that sharpens itself is the answer!' In an instant he had identified a whole new range of products with an advantage over any blade ever sold before.

He invented a spring loaded sharpening block inside a sheath or scabbard, which sharpened the knife every time it was taken out or replaced. A number of versions were tested in domestic kitchens in 1966. Two years later, Stuart Devlin (who had designed Australia's decimal coins) was hired to create a streamlined plastic scabbard and handle for the knife.

It was test marketed in Perth in time for Christmas 1969. The Staysharp was launched in the rest of Australia in August 1970. Creative minds were let loose and came up with a TV ad featuring a crazy surgeon and lots of knives! This wasn't the image that Wiltshire wanted.

In 1971 they started a series of ads featuring well known fashion model and mum, Maggie Tabberer. Wiltshire instantly created the perception that their product was fashionable, practical and desirable. Since then more than 8 million Staysharp knives have been sold, with patents and design registrations in 37 countries.

Who Did It?
Key Organisations
Wiltshire International Pty Ltd : design, manufacture
Key People
Dennis Jackson : inventor
Stuart Devlin AO, CMG, Silversmith and Goldsmith to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II : designer

Further Reading
The dictionary of Australian inventions and discoveries
Margaret McPhee
Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 1993, p 122.

Links
McPherson's Housewares, owner of Wiltshire
Stuart Devlin: silversmith, goldsmith, jeweller, sculptor, designer of coins, commemorative medallions, trophies, furniture, and interiors
Brief history of knives
European Knife Directory. History of traditional knives by country of origin


The knife is sharpened every time it slides in or out of the holder. Courtesy McPherson?s Housewares.
Maggie Tabberer advertising the Wiltshire staysharp knife. Courtesy McPherson?s Housewares.
copyright
ATSE Powerhouse Museum