The first documented implementation of the term "cutler" in Sheffield appeared in a 1297 tax return. A Sheffield knife was listed in the King's possession in the Tower of London fifty years after. Several knives dating from the 14th century are on show at the Cutlers' Hall in Sheffield.
Cutlery has been constructed in many places. In Britain the industry became condensed by the late 16th century in and around Birmingham and Sheffield. However, the Birmingham industry increasingly focused on swords, made by "long cutlers", and on other edged tools, whereas the Sheffield industry concentrated on knives.
At Sheffield the trade of cutler became divided, with allied trades such as razormaker, awlbladesmith, shearsmith and forkmaker emerging and turning into distinct trades by the 18th century.
Before the mid 19th century when cheap mild steel became available due to new methods of steelmaking, knives (and other edged tools) were constructed by welding a strip of steel on to the piece of iron that was to be formed into a knife, or sandwiching a strip of steel between two pieces of iron. This was done because steel was then a much more expensive raw material than iron. Modern blades are sometimes laminated, but for an alternate reason. Since the hardest steel is brittle, a layer of hard steel may be laid between two layers of a milder, less brittle steel, for a blade that keeps a sharp edge well, and is less likely to break while being used.
After fabrication, the knife had to be sharpened, first on a grindstone, but from the late medieval period in a blade mill or (as they were known in the Sheffield region) a cutlers wheel.