By James Proffitt
Posted On: Jan 7, 2018
If you cook, are a train buff, a vintage button collector, an arrowhead aficionado or simply a fan of Made in the USA (or more specifically, Made in Ohio) then Warther Cutlery and The Warther Museum in Dover is a most-worthy destination. The cutlery gift shop is jam-packed with beautiful knives. As an ardent cook, fine cutlery tickles my fancy and Warther knives are not only fine, but beautiful.
"Our products usually out-live their owners," explains Jim Nixon, senior tour manager at the museum, "and all our knives come with a lifetime guarantee and free sharpening." The works of art are all hand-crafted of domestic steel in Dover. Though they're not inexpensive, they command a loyal following. From a small paring knife to the full-sized veggie cleaver, every blade comes with a distinctive pattern of concentric circles that Ernest “Mooney” Warther developed to hide wear. It has since been registered and trademarked. The knives all feature beech or birch handles and the blade tangs run the full length making them feel especially nice in your hand.
I asked Warther employees Sue Engeldinger and Judy Wilson which knife is the best seller. "The paring knife, absolutely," Wilson says. "It's the original Mooney design." Engeldinger agrees. "Oh, absolutely, everyone loves it and we actually call it Old Faithful." As far as the most-sold item in general? “The cutting boards,” assures Engeldinger. “They’re all made right here in Ohio, on-site.” The shop is indeed full of cutting boards of every shape, size and variety. The Dover-made knife blocks and cutting boards including cherry, walnut and maple woods.
I purchased a 7-inch serrated slicer for my mother as a Christmas gift and for a moment thought I may have mis-spoken as Sue and Judy were placing multiple boxes on the counter. I just wanted one, but soon realized they were offering a choice since each handle has a slightly different grain. “Pick out one you like,” Engeldinger says. “They’re all a little different.” Wilson slid a couple boxes towards me, “These all look nice.”
Dan Savage, son Paul and family visited recently and spent time in the shop before heading to the museum. “We’re here to show the little guy the trains,” Dan says. “We saw an article in Cleveland Magazine a couple years ago, that’s why we’re here.”
Folks interested in viewing the Warther knife-making process can do so during weekdays, when a workshop viewing area is open. If an employee is available, they can speak to visitors about the manufactruing process and Warther craftsmanship.
But there's more to kitchen cutlery than knives, right? The gift shop has a full complement of other kitchen goodies, too. In addition to kitchen cutlery, Warther also sells a line of carving knives designed and used by Mooney Warther to create his priceless treasures of ebony, ivory and abalone. All the ivory used by Warther is vintage. and documented by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Those amazing pieces are all located in the Warther Museum, in the same building.
The museum includes dozens of amazing carvings by Warther, founder of the company and its long-treasured knives. Mooney was already an accomplished wood-carver in 1902, at age 17. Today, third and fourth generation Warthers are still in the business. More than 30,000 people visit the museum each year, and some include dinner and lunch tours and wedding receptions.
Mooney never sold any of his exquisite creations, though over his lifetime, gave 16 away, according to Nixon. All but a handful have been tracked down and now reside at the museum. The steam engines include thousands of intricately place pieces, either pinned or press-fit. Warther never used glue. His original workshop features more than 5,000 Native American arrowheads and points, plus his wife Frieda’s 73,000-piece button collection.
Visitors in warmer months can enjoy beautiful flower beds and picnic areas, as well as a resident population of black squirrels, a sub-group of the eastern gray and fox squirrels. And just a few miles down the road in Sugarcreek, another Warther enterprise: David Warther Carvings. A fifth-generation carver, David Warther's collections include dozens of ivory works documenting the history of the sailing ship, including many with rigging that is hand-worked to seven one-thousandths of an inch.
For more Ohio-made products, Find It Here at Ohio.org.