12 July 2017

What Are Clicking Knives?

If you have visited one of the manufacturers workshops such as Van der Spek, you will have seen 'Clicking Knives' in use.... but what are they?

Clicking Knives are used to cut out the leather components very precisely and repeatedly to the same dimensions and shapes, time and time again.

Whilst visiting Van der Spek we were shown the process they go through to make the individual components of a planner.

They use a cardboard frame to select the precise part of the hide for the outside cover and then use a template to hand-cut the leather, they then hand cut the interior parts in a similar way.

Then they gather together the 'clicking knives' for that particular model they are making and using a electrically powered press they cut out the parts using the Clicking Knives.

Once cut the parts are all gathered together to be assembled and sewn in to the finished article.

So let us look in to the Clicking Knives in more detail.

They are made from tool steel and the cutting side is sharpened like a knife.

Some of the Clicking Knives have a foam insert, this presses down the leather evenly so that it is flat when the knife cuts through the leather.

This is the cutting side. Note the foam insert on the right hand one.

This is the upper side. 

Here are a sequence of photos showing the cutting of a part of an organiser.

The clicking knife is placed on the leather. 

Once cut the wanted part is separated from the waste around it

These two parts are the upper and lower leather for the inside rear of the interior.
The vertical slot is for the pen loop
Here is a short video showing the press operation.

With 12 or more parts of leather in each organiser, the staff at Van der Spek are of course very experienced and although they could hand cut every single part of an organiser, by using the 'Clicking Knives' they can keep all the parts within very close measurement tolerances.

If they got one part wrong, the whole organiser might have to be reworked, which adds to costs and time etc.

Some custom designs will of course use all hand cut leather, or a mixture of hand cut and machine cut leather parts using the Clicking Knives.

Every item Van der Spek produce is finished to a very high standard and is backed by a life time warranty.

Thank you to Petra Van der Spek for responding to my questions and requests for this rather odd post!

If you have any additional questions please post them in the comments below.

Additional information: Van der Spek On-line shop
Facebook Group:  Van der Spek Organiser Fans


  1. This is a valuable insight into the high quality process of creating Van der Spek organisers. Thank you Steve :-)

  2. I enjoyed this post very much. It never occurred to me that there was such a thing as clicking knives. I had assumed a machine did the cutting. Thank you!

  3. In the boot and shoe industry, clicking knives were actual knives before they were replaced by these power presses. Clickers were highly paid specialists who would cut a hide in order to get the maximum amount of usable leather from a hide - a poor clicker could significantly depress the profits of the shoe manufacturer. They got their name from the noise the knife made when it was in use.