The Story of W.A.Van Berkel

Willhelmus Adrianus Van Berkel

This is the name of the inventor of the best slicers in the world (in the foreground in the picture below) born on 02.05.1869 in Enschot (Netherlands) and died on 12.11.1952 in Montreux (Switzerland). W.A. van Berkel was a butcher who for years sought to combine his job as a butcher and his passion for mechanics. One day Berkel had the idea to build a machine that would facilitate the task of cutting the cured meat into thin slices.

He experimented for months and often the attempt was about to fail, but in the end his patience was rewarded. Finally, after painstaking efforts, he put together two ideas, simple but ingenious: a concave blade, which precisely reproduces the hand / knife movement and a moving plate that slides towards the blade. The first slicer was born, called Berkel Model A. Van Berkel, however, did not have the means necessary to bring his machine into production.

He thus found out a print shop which was on the verge of bankruptcy. Boldly, he introduced himself to the owner and proposed him to turn the printing shop into a laboratory for the production of his machines. His idea was accepted and so, on 12 October 1898, the company “Van Berkel’s Patent” was born. With W.A. van Berkel as General Manager, J.C. Nijgh, P.J. van Ommeren and P.A. Dijixhoorn as directors. Jhr O. Reuchlin as founder, but not as director. Already in the first year, 76 Berkel Model A machines were produced, three of the Berkel model B and five special Berkel model C machines. Since then it was but a continuous rise.

Willhelmus Adrianus Van Berkel

Production was not limited only to slicers for meat and cured meat but it was extended to bread-slicers and scales as from 1918, with the first model, and then Model A followed in 1919. During the 1914-1918 war the need for airplanes arose, therefore in 1917 the first patented airplane was produced in the Keileweg factory where monoplanes and biplanes were produced.

The Van Berkel’s Patent history continued with a succession of new factories being opened around the world, from SA des Brevets van Berkel in Brussels – the Auto Scale and Slicing Machine in Milan – Berkel and Parnalls Slicing Machine Mfg. Co. Ltd in Ponders End, Middlesex in 1918

The Berkel Auto Scale Co. Ltd in London in 1933 – SA Francaise des brevets van Berkel in Paris in 1911, then later also in Lyon- Van Berkels Patent A/S in Copenhagen in 1909 – A/S Van Berkels patent in Oslo – A/B Van Berkels Patent in Stockholm in 1911 – Commercial Berkel SA in Barcelona in 1919

Willhelmus Adrianus Van Berkel

S.A. Sud Americana Van Berkel in Buenos Aires in 1905 – Berkel A.G. in Zurich in 1909 – in 1904 at the headquarters of the U.S. Slicing Machine, initially in Chicago, Illinois, then in 1916 in La Porte, Indiana – In the headquarters of the Hobart Manufacturing Co. of Toronto known as Berkel Products Company LTD in 1929, Canada – and throughout the years factories were opened in Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Egypt, etc.etc.

The slicers production varied in size and mode of operation: in a continuous evolution, it went from the primitive lever slicers (mod. A) to the next most recent model (Mod.H) to the flywheel models (Mod.C – Mod D – Mod.L) and thrust-operated models (Mod.B – to the most recent Models B1-B2-BB1-BB2) from the semi-electric to the electric ones, to those equipped with a slice-separator device, but in any case they always turned out to be the best slicers in the world despite the many attempts to imitate the product made by all the other factories.

W.A. Berkel was able to produce something immortal, which is sought out all over the world in order to be restored to its original state; the van Berkel slicers are indeed a beautiful and exclusive piece of furniture coveted by many, they have made history for over a hundred years and they increase in value over time, not to mention the fact that the best-quality cured meat is always the one that is sliced with a Berkel.