In 1964 a US market survey showed that 80% of Americans didn't know how to sharpen a knife. This inspired Dennis Jackson, a design engineer for Wiltshire Cutlery in Melbourne, who saw an opportunity to create a knife that sharpens itself. 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 and 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 Mk I' was launched in the rest of Australia in August 1970.
But the one piece scabbard trapped shavings from the blade sharpeners and Wiltshire engaged Peter Bayley to redesign the scabbard for two new knives while Jackson devised new blade lengths and shapes for different uses. Bayley developed this two piece scabbard with a removable sharpening cassette and Staysharp 752 and 753 were released for sale in 1972 in the even groovier colours of burnt orange, tibetan gold, avocado and white. This 'Staysharp Mk II' received a Prince Philip Prize Certificate of Merit for Australian Design in 1972 and was listed in the Australian Design Index, obtaining the Good Design Label in 1972.
In 1971 Wiltshire used a series of ads featuring well known fashion model and mum, Maggie Tabberer and 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.