Laguiole knives were a multi-tool for the farmers of Aubrac Plateau. Today, you can find them everywhere from the small-town steakhouses to the world’s best restaurants. There is still an ongoing quarrel regarding the Laguiole brand. Officially, the Laguiole brand knife does not exist because anyone can use the name.
History of Laguiole knife
- In 1829, a village blacksmith named Pierre Jean Calmels crafted the ‘Straight Laguiole’. The handle was carved from the black-tipped horn of the Aubrac cow. The blade reached the central point. Sometime later, a fold-out trocar [slim surgical awl] got added.
- During the Industrial Revolution, the local farmers migrated to the cities of Paris, Marseilles, Lyon, and Toulouse. They even carried their Laguiole.
- The design became popular and distinctive embellishments were forged in the handle bolsters.
- Shepherd’s cross got hammered in the handle and a Bee got engraved over the springhead.
- For sommeliers & picnickers, a corkscrew got added.
All these are the hallmarks of iconic Laguiole French knives, that you can get from online stores such as laguiole-french-knives.com. However, Laguiole is just a folding knife style because the construction and design are not protected by any government or union entities. Many countries are churning out cheap versions misusing the Laguiole brand name.
Laguiole knife blade making process
In the pit, Laguiole blades get cut from the T12 steel sheets. They get blasted in an induction oven at 1,800°F. as soon as the crude blades start glowing red, a team drops a huge mechanical hammer of 600,000 pounds onto the metal. This process breaks apart the impurities and seals the cracks.
The blades are dipped in a tub of hot oil for hardening the steel. The blades get cooled in different appeasing oil. Now, with hands, the blades get sharpened and polished. The blades are ready for the handle-makers, smithies, and engraving artists to work on.
In France, Laguiole French Knives has a workshop where there are best craftsmen creating artwork with their hands. Let’s understand the Laguiole knife’s assembling process in the workshop.
The knife has four main parts
- The blade
- Two plates of natural horn
- Two stainless steel plates for handle
- A spring, liners, rivets [made from stainless steel material]
The knife handles shaping and assembling process
In a room, some workers cut the wood, horn, or bone and shape them on the leather wheel. Every handle gets punched with small pinholes for the rivets that will hold the knife.
- The two horn plates are the handle’s body and get fitted to the two stainless steel plates.
- The handle’s raw material is fitted and then drilled.
- A tiny drill bit is used to make the Shepherds Cross.
- Stainless Steel plates get milled.
- Using Brass rivet and stainless-steel screws the spare parts are fitted together.
- Spring is adjusted and the remaining rivets get flattened. Handles, rivets, screws, and brass parts are polished with an abrasive strip.
- Blade gets sharpened to create a ‘Fil de Lame’. It is the blade’s cutting edge.
- Ultimately, the knife gets its luster with polish paste and canvas brush.
As the Laguiole knives produced in France have no GI [Geographic Indication] protection the manufacturers located in the cutlery capital are concerned. Currently, 60% of the Laguiole knives are produced in Thiers. It is a city situated in the Auvergne area and has 80 knife manufacturing companies.
Thiers is a popular name across the world for its high-quality knife production and excellent craftsmanship. As this popular brand resides in the public domain there is no real or fake Laguiole.
What is the future of French cutlery?
There is a huge challenge experienced by the French cutlers. If they merge to provide their customers the genuinely high-quality French-made knives it will be awesome. People who are keen on artistic knives and cooking will certainly identify the quality. Joining forces will help the France artisans and the cutlery companies to preserve the traditional craft of their ancestors as the originator of high-end cutlery.
How to distinguish between high-end knives from poor quality cutlery?
Just engraved Laguiole or packed in an expensive style does not mean high quality! You need to do some research before you purchase it. Ask the retailer and if he is well-aware of the stuff then you will get a satisfying answer. A genuine Laguiole is handcrafted and takes time. It is worth the price!!
If you see it sold at a cheap rate means the knife is mass-produced in some other countries or France. There are more fake products than genuine handmade French cutlery from Laguiole town.
It is challenging to judge the knife’s technical quality. It needs you to use it, but there are some things you can consider.
- Is its appearance pleasing and aesthetic?
- Does it feel nice, when you grip [especially its weight]?
- Check for metal components thickness and solidity. The bolster has to be dense and not hollow.
- The blade needs to open with ease.
- The blade has to be perpendicular to the spring.
- Hold the knife with the open blade in front of your eyes and squint along its length. You need to see a straight line.
- While closing the blade, it must not catch or knock against the spring base but easily slide into place.
- Check the plates that cover the knife sleeve. They need to be well-fitted.
- The bolster corners must not have a tiny gap as it is a sign of a bad fit.
- The springs decorated portion has to be well embedded in the blade’s crux to avoid your finger catching on it while opening the knife.
- Each knife you see must have a different decoration because such small irregularities indicate that the knife is handcrafted.
If all the above aspects don’t checkout means the knife is of low quality.
Use a wet soft cloth or a kitchen towel to wipe the sharp blade. Never wash the blade under running water. Avoid hot water or detergent or dishwasher. These can deteriorate the knife’s handle.
Equipped with good knowledge about Laguiole knives, you can enjoy using them all life!