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Forge de Laguiole

Photographer: Guillaume Horcajuelo

 

Laguiole, a small village in the Aveyron region of France, built a worldwide reputation on its famous traditional style of knife. Created in 1829, the Laguiole knife is now considered as an institution. Despite that it almost disappeared for about thirty years, the production of Laguiole knives rose again under the impulse of local politicians and entrepreneurs and in 1987, the Laguiole knife manufacturing company named ‘La Forge de Laguiole,’ based in the village, was created. Overlooked by an 18-meter-high blade soaring into the sky, between tradition and modernity, designed by French architect Philippe Starck, the manufacture has become a symbol for the 1,300 inhabitants of the village. A symbol of resistance to preserve the heritage and to develop its manufacturing skills with respect for traditional savoir-faire.

 

Since a few years, the villagers of Laguiole are involved in a legal battle over who owns the rights to the name ‘Laguiole’. Until now, under the terms of the brand's registration, anyone can use this name for knives and the ‘Laguiole’ knife born on the Aubrac plateau is now massively produced elsewhere. Director of the Laguiole Forge since 2006, Thierry Moysset keeps repeating that the ‘Made in France" is first a philosophy. Each knife is unique and requires several hours, several days sometimes, of work, following unchanged techniques, to be achieved. More than 40 successive steps are necessary to create a single knife. The employees of the Laguiole Forge produce about 400 knives per day, 140,000 pieces per year.

 

The creation of a Laguiole knife starts with the metallic piece. Several types of forged and tempered steels are used, from the traditional steel with carbon, the Damas steel, the Inox to the new T12 steel. The steel is produced at the Acieries de Bonpertuis plant, created in 1434 in the department of Isere (France), a worldwide leading manufacturer of refiner fillings that provides stainless steel for cutlery factories. Laguiole knife handles are made of raw materials such as cow horn from the Aubrac region, carbon, mineral acrylic, bone or wood among others. French woodcutter Pascal Champetier provides a large variety of wood, sawn in the guarrigue around the Pic Saint Loup mountain. Juniper, 'loupe de cade' (cade wood), oak or olive are among the different types of wood used in the making of the Laguiole knives handles. Carving, polishing, stamping are other steps in the production process of the Laguiole knife until the final touch. Nearly two centuries after the first Laguiole knife was created, the employees of the ‘Forge de Laguiole’ and the villagers fight for the respect of their heritage, their tradition and their cutlery art.