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HISTORY, LEGENDS AND TRADITIONS

Histoire, légendes & traditions du couteau Laguiole

La Coutellerie de Laguiole Honoré Durand has chosen a logo with the company motto saying "Laguiole de l'Artisan" (the craftsman's knife) inserted inside a bull's silhouette. It proves the knive's authenticity, and we believe, added to a quality handcrafted knife increases the value of the knife.

In Laguiole, our company is the only Craft factory which masters the manufacturing of the composite or spare parts.
Do not confuse a manufacturer of knives (we make our own spare part to arrive at the finished knife) with the fitter of knives (one who only assembles spare parts made somewhere else other than Laguiole).

We write LAGUIOLE and we pronounce it "LAY-OLE". We kept the old pronunciation, in the Occitan dialect, which is the reason why we speak about Layole. 
Clarification: recent research allowed us to tidy up the history of our famous knife (researche published in the leaflet of the Tourist office of canton inspired by Mr Lemasson's works).

Summary :

A two centuries history
1 - [1829] - The folding Laguiole knife with forced notch is born
2 - [1829 - 1880] - The local production is assured by some craftsmen
3 - [1880 - 1920/30] - The era of the cutlers of Laguiole
4 - [1930 - 1987] - The demand increases. Thiers gradually monopolizes the total manufacturing of the Laguiole knife
5 - [1987 - 2004] - The local production of cutlery starts again, initiated by local representatives

A few legends, rumours and traditions 
6 - What means the cross on the Laguiole knife handle ?
7 - What insect is represented on the spring ?
8 - Why a Laguiole knife has to be sold and cannot be given ?
9 - A few popular rumours about the Laguiole knives

A two centuries history... and of narratives by always corresponding in the reality!

Le couteau Laguiole Capujadou

At the beginning of the 19th century, the local knife was named ' Capujadou '. It was a pointed fixed blade mounted on a wooden handle ; it is the original knife of Laguiole.

In 1828, the first Cutler in service in Laguiole is Mr Moulin.

 

[1828]

The folding Laguiole knife with forced notch is born. It was known as the Straight Laguiole.
This model is very close to the current version which we all know. 
Aubrac is a vast plateau with isolated farms where several families live. The elder ones left to Catalonia for the winter season and worked as sawyers. Some of them returned with a Spanish knife in their pocket: the navaja. The Laguiole knife's slender handle and the yatagan shaped blade are inspired from this knife.

Couteau Laguiole droit ancien

Example of a Straight Laguiole taken from " The Origins of the Cutlery industry of our days Mr Camille Pagé 1896 - Works Volumes 1&2 page 300 "

 

Couteau Laguiole droit Honoré Durand

Above is our current model of the straight Laguiole: “Laguiole Antique”

 

Couteau Laguiole de poche pliant Honoré Durand

The folding style Laguiole knife that we know and love today appeared for the first time in the years 1850-1860.

Opposite, the 2nd generation Laguiole knife of appeared between 1850 and 1860, example above is the folding Laguiole Prestige 1-piece model with a deer-horn handle.

 

[1829 - 1880]

The local production is assured by local craftsmen (often blacksmiths)which makes it possible to supply the needs of the peasants of l'Aubrac.

The knife has a simple shapee. Most of all it is a practical and useful tool. It evolves according to the need of its users.
- the punch (or awl) appears around 1840. This tool is intended for the breeders.The cows having the paunch which inflates resulting from the fermentation of wet grass. The punch or awl is used to perforate the paunch. The punch was also used like an awl to pierce leather.
- the corkscrew was added in 1880. This accessory was added when the "Rouergats" (locals from Rouergue) moved to Paris to be coal merchants or bar keepers.

[1880 - 1920/30]

This period corresponds to the height of the fame of the cutlers of Laguiole (workshops with twenty and more workers) who produced quality crafted knives. Calmels and Pagès receive many rewards at the national contests. Towards the end of the century in Thiers, industrial processes appear, but Laguiole shuns industrial modernization and maintains the traditional craftmanship methods.

[1930 - 1987]

With the fame of the knife surpasses Aubrac, the demand increases.As the cutlers of the village cannot fullfil the orders (they are not willing to invest in machines), Thiers gradually assums the total manufacturing of the Laguiole knife.
Handcrafted manufacturing of prestige is maintained in Laguiole, but on a very weak scale compared with the massive industrial production of Thiers.

[1987 - 2004]

Local cutlery production starts again, initiated by local representatives(mainly by Mr Pierre Malet). 
From 1985, assembly workshops appear again. 
In 1988, in the Laguiole production zone (northern of Aveyron), two forging mills begin manufacturing the separate parts of the knife. The success is incredible (in 1981, in the village only 2 points of sale remained which resold manufactured knives from Thiers).
From 1997, in the Laguiole production zone, approximately 400 000 Laguiole knifes are manufactured annually.

A few legends, rumours and traditions

What is the symbol of the cross on the Laguiole knife handle?

It is called the "shepherd's cross" 
It appeared quite recently: end of the XIXth century. Twice a year a great migration of cattle (the bovine transhumance) occurs on the vast basaltic Aubrac plateau where the Laguiole village is located, in May, the Sunday closest to the 20 and in October on Saint Géraud’s Day). In the old days, the distance was covered by foot on paths called drailles and thus the transhumance or migration was an expedition of several days.
In our region where the catholic religion had great importance, the migratory or transhumant shepherds used to stick their knife's blade into the bread. The cross was standing for a call to prayer (one says it is the shepherd's rosary). That is why this decoration appears on one side of the handle only.
The ancient Laguiole knives bear this decoration most of the time but other patterns adorned the knives on the customers demand.

What insect is represented on the spring?

It is the bee, symbol of the Laguiole knife.
Our local legend says it is Napoleon Bonaparte's imperial seal that was offered to the town of Laguiole as a token of his gratitude for the men's courage during battles.
The bee is a technical term used by manufacturers to designate the springhead. On our famous knife the springhead is a bee. 

Beware, a bee on a knife does not guarantee the quality or origin of the knife!
Click here to get informations on counterfeits

Is the bee the only pattern on the spring ?

Still a reference to the ancient Laguiole knives of 100 or 150 years old, the bee is not the only pattern you can have on your Laguiole knife spring. We offer a variety of choices: a human face, a four-leaf clover (a lucky charm), a scallop shell (a reference to the path of Santiago de Compostela which goes across the Aubrac region), a smooth bee, without a pattern, very stylized,...
We resumed the traditional manufacturing which was based on the clients' demands. We offer to customize entirely your Laguiole knife with whatever pattern you wish.
See the Collection range >

Why does a Laguiole knife has to be sold and cannot be given ?

Superstition is the reason.
Custom says that a cutting tool cannot be given, in order to avoid the risk of cutting the love or friendship existing between the person who gives the present and the one who receives it.
To ward off misfortune or to maintain tradition, the person who receives a knife as a gift has to give a coin to the the one who offers the knife, the present then becomes a trade.

A few popular rumours about the Laguiole knives

To ward off misfortune or to maintain tradition, the person who receives a knife as a gift has to give a coin to the the one who offers the knife, the present then becomes a trade.
- On a laguiole knife, the blade symbolises water, the handle earth and the brass bolsters stands for fire.
- The blunt edge of the knife blade represents the days of the week.
- A 2-piece laguiole knife handle composed of a blade and corkscrew the handle is called a "woman’s leg" because if the bottom bolster is concave, then it looks like stiletto heels with the female calf above it...


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