1560 The history of the company Weyersberg, Kirschbaum & Cie (W.K.C.) in Solingen began in the early middle-ages, when the trademark „Kingshead“ was registered by the bladesmith Johannes Wundes in 1560.
This trademark is one of the oldest registered and is still in use today.
1573 In the 16th century, the forging technique in Solingen was already quite advanced in its development and Wilhelm Weyersberg, the ancestor of one of the WKC founders, became mayor of the city of Solingen. During this period, the so called „Solingen method“ was invented, which in effect was a division of labour between the „gilds“ (organized groups) in town. Each gild specialized in one part of the sword making production process, e.g. the forging of blades, grinding or hardening. Each process was strictly separated and executed by different persons- no person performed more than one job.
These persons specialized in their fields and became experts which then led to an extraordinary high level of blade and sword quality.Their knowledge was passed down from generation to generation and not shared with anyone outside of their particular gild. The only way to join one of these gilds was to be recommended by one of the current members and these positions were mainly filled by family members who were deemed to be trustworthy.
The quality of the blades became so famous worldwide, that the name „Solingen“ was soon a trademark and stood for quality.
1850 The era of industrialization in Solingen was an important time for the Weyersberg familiy. They became the most important factor of production and marketing of blades in town.
EOne reason for the success was the invention of a roll-forge for blades which Mr. Fritz Weyersberg saw in England. He then purchased the patent and the forge was introduced to and implemented in Solingen. With this machine, which still exists today at WKC, he was able to forge multiple blades in a short space in time.
1854 During this era, another family was also acquired growing influence in Solingen - the Kirschbaum´s. They had dedicated themselves to the marketing of Solingen products, focusing on blades for swords and knives. They registered the second trademark of WKC - the knights-helmet.
1883 The two companies Weyersberg and Kirschbaum joined forces in 1883 and founded Weyersberg, Kirschbaum und Cie. (W.K.C.). Both trademarks were joined and formed the trademark that is still in use today.
WKC developed quickly to be the strongest company in Solingen, with more than 1200 workers and an excellent reputation for various quality products made of steel – from cutlery to bicycles to swords. Even parts for the automobile industry were later produced at the company. Even this early, WKC exported worldwide, from Argentina in South America to Japan. It is not a coincidence, that the first 2 telephone numbers in Solingen, No. 1 and No. 2 were the connections to WKC. So when the German Ministry of Defense called – they would say to the operator: „Solingen 1“ and reach WKC´s office.
Using the strengths of the company, WKC developed into the world market leader for ceremonial swords, edged weapons and military bajonetts. In the late 19th century they produced more than 100000 blades annually and also delivered to other sword producers, e.g. Wilkinson Sword in England, which was formed with the help of Mr. Kirschbaum, the then proprietor of WKC. Many edged weapons of this era are currently found in museums worldwide. Look out for the helmet and the knights head on the blade ricasso when you visit a museum. Possibly, your grand-father´s sword is a WKC.
1922 In the year 1922 WKC was sold to one of their suppliers, the Siegen-Solingen Gußstahlverein, a public company. With the great depression in 1929 though, this company went out of business, leaving the brand WKC abandoned for some time. Before 1933, the company WKC was re-established on a smaller scale and continued with the production of military swords. With a rising demand at this time, WKC became the main supplier of edged weapons to the German Army, and also exported worldwide.
1944 On November 4th and 5th of 1944, Solingen was target of the allied bombers, some time after the neighboring towns Wuppertal and Remscheid had already been destroyed. 800 tons of bombs were dropped on Solingen, mainly in the downtown area where the WKC´s headquarter was located. The company was hit heavily, but due to the fact that many of the tools and machines were hidden in another part of town, Solingen Wald, where WKC produced tubes for bicycles these were saved. Still, production had to be ceased.
1955 The later history of WKC began in 1995. Hans Kolping who was successful entrepreneur in Solingen, producing pocket knives for the American market, e.g. fisherman knives and household cutlery, bought the premises of WKC along with the name and trademarks. The company he purchased it from was a steel supplier of Düsseldorf and had been producing guns and pistons at WKC since the end of the war.
Hans Kolping ceased the production of guns and started manufacturing ceremonial swords again – which was since 1883 the usual core business of WKC. He installed a blade etching department (Damasziererei) and ordered the refurbished the blade forge. In March 1955, the first swords were delivered to Korschenbroich, a small town close to Solingen.
Big orders arrived when Mr. Kolping started traveling by sea to the USA. The US Navy and the Marine Corps liked the WKC´s quality products so much that they awarded the company with such huge orders, that Mr. Kolping could hardly fulfill the requirements. More workers had to be employed and quickly the workforce rose to 50.
Apart from swords, the product portfolio was expanded to include uniform accessories.
1989 In 1989 Mr. Kolping died and left his wife Ms. Margard Willms to succeed him at the company. When she took over WKC she was already 70 years old. This transition was quite an easy one as Ms. Willms had been working with Mr. Kolping from day no. 1 and during her lifetime probably cleaned and packed 400000 swords herself. She along with her step-son Mr. Joachim Willms invested in the refurbishment of the old 19th century factory building and introduced a new state-of-the-art plating department. A few years after this, Ms. Willms retired and left and the management of the company to Mr. Joachim Willms.
1995–2015 At the age of 24, Mr. André Willms, son of Joachim Willms took the company over in 1995. Having not had a functioning sales team since Mr. Kolping deceased, WKC lacked big international customers and orders.
He made it his first point of action to re-activate the customer base and make visits worldwide in order to reintroduce WKC to it’s previous customers as well as to win new ones. After more than 20 years of hard work with growing Asian competition, WKC is now the leading manufacturer of quality edged weapons worldwide with customers in more than 80 countries. More than 600 different types of ceremonial swords are manufactured mainly manually by skilled craftsmen like Schwertfeger, Damaszierer, Handschleifer and others. Apart of ceremonial military swords, WKC supplies a wide range of uniform accesories as well as collectibles, miniature swords and Japanese swords. WKC was the first company in the industry to be certified according to DIN ISO 9002. What needs to be mentioned is the closure of the Wilkinson Sword factory in England in the year 2005 and Mr. Willms bought most of the machines, tools and parts that were for sale.
Today WKC produces more than 25000 edged weapons to ministries, academies, schools as well as to private persons, collectors and historical clubs. We are proud to have produced various swords for Royals and their Palaces.
Our mission is to keep WKC and the sword industry alive. This includes the very traditional way of manufacturing. We strive for excellent products and satisfied customers in order to maintain jobs for generations. In a quickly changing world of Internet and Clouds, it seems to be more and more important to produce something that lasts for centuries. In doing so, we are dependand on you, our customers to whom we have been devoted since the middle ages.