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The best Laguiole?

Discussion in 'General Knife Discussion' started by wuyeah, Dec 14, 2006.

  1. pinnah


    Jul 28, 2011
    New people + personal interests + forum search engine = lazarus threads

    IMO, lazarus threads are preferable. Ties current discussions to older ones.
    sgt1372 likes this.
  2. microbe


    Apr 6, 2016
    The forum software supports "Old tread" warning messages. It probably isn't configured to do so...
  3. schwep


    Jan 4, 2017
    OK, a Lazarus thread then. I have not been around thsi forum very long, I live in France in the Auvergne and I have a Laguiole, the real deal, so let's chip in here with some info shot from my left hip, where my favorite knife has been living for almost 30 years now. Only two weeks ago, a friend, a born Auvergnat, had brought along his picknick (or as they say here ' casse croute') when we went out to launch my balloon very early in the morning. He was cutting his bread and sausage with a very classic Laguiole knife, horn handle, brass bolsters and all that, a knife that had seen a lot of use, and I asked if I could take a look at it. He proudly told me it was a knife made by a small knife shop, a family business, that he had had quite a while already. Not some mass-produced tourist trap. I told him it felt a lot like my own, in the spring action - and I got out my own knife. He looked at it, his eyes widened and he said: 'You are a Dutchman, and you have a David Extra?'
    You see, there are Laguioles that are beautiful, luxury products, like the Fontenille Pataud. Almost too nice to be used in the field. And too expensive for the people the Laguiole knives were originally made for: farmers and farmhands from the Massif Central, the Auvergne. They needed a good knife tha could do almost anything: repair a fence, open a wine bottle, cut bread, open a wine bottle, whittle a stick, open a wine bottle, slice cheese, open a wine bottle, fight over a girls after one had opened a wine bottle too much... you get the idea. Laguioles were made by farmers living on the high, windy plateaus of the Cantal and the Aubrac during the long, dark winters - a bit analogous to how the Swiss watch industry came to be. Many young farmhands who went looking for work in Spain carried them, and used them during differences of opinion with Spaniards concerning Spanish women. Along the way they would stick them in a log or a fencepole and prey to the cross formed by the small pins in the handle.
    The heart of the Laguiole knife-making industry, consisting of many small shops, was in the town of Laguiole, on the plateau of the Aubrac. Hence the name. That knife industry died at some point, after WW2, and for a long time no knives were actually produced in Laguiole. Meanwhile, in the city of Thiers, a bit more north in the Auvergne, knife makers continued to make these knives. And for a long time in between, knife makers in Laguiole did not make the blades or other metal parts themselves, they used knife blanks, frames and backsprings made as OEM parts in Thiers. Mostly by... G. David. The full name is Arbalete Genes David. Arbalete is 'crossbow' in French, and real David knives are adorned with the crossbow logo engraved in the blade. The brand dates from 1810. A century older than Fontenille Pataud. Generations of farmers in the Auvergne recognized the 'crossbow' Laguioles as the real thing, and if it was an 'extra' model, equipped with a corkscrew and, even rarer, also a punch, the owner got immediate respect. He had the ultimate Laguiole and was someone to be reckoned with. It happened to me when we were moving into our present village, preparing our terrain to build our home: in the café, the mayor, also owner of the company that had just cleared our land, told us how as a young man he had visited his future in-laws, in the Aubrac (yep), and how his future father in law handed him the bread to cut. And how he had taken his Laguiole knife to do the honours. As he told that, he put his knife on the bar. A good, classic Laguiole. My wife said: show them yours. So I got out the knife my mother-in-law had gifted to me during my first visit to the family, now 30 years ago. The men started to laugh - a Dutchman with a Laguiole, it had to be some cheapo tourist knife. They gulped when they saw the crossbow logo on the blade, the corkscrew, the punch. Visibly much used and cared for. "Ça, c'est un vrai !" And although at the time I did not speak French fluently, I suddenly was an adopted Auvergnat. Accepted.
    The Arbalete David of old is not refined like the FP. It has no added lock - a real Laguiole never has. It has no blade stop to avoid hitting the carbon steel backspring - you either know not to snap the knife closed or you are not worthy. But after 30 years and more than a hundred thousand openings, the mechanism has no play. None.
    Even David does not make this 3-piece version anymore, and even they have gone over to the dark side and use Sandvik 12C27 stainless for almost all their models now. The international clientele demands it. Mine is still honest carbon steel, with a patina. Its inner plates are brass, not stainless steel. If made and sold today it would be horribly expensive.
    Aside from that rave on my personal knife, the fact is that for a very long time, the 'real' Laguioles did not come from Laguiole but from Thiers, and for a long time the metal parts for the knives 'made in Laguiole' came from Thiers anyway. Nowadays, there is a real knife manufacturer in Laguiole again, Forge Laguiole, and the battle has been going on for years on who has the right to call their knives 'Laguioles'. Laguiole and the knife makers in Thiers, like David and Fontenille Pataud, have come to an understanding. They both can. Don't ask.
    Meanwhile, courts in France have created jurisprudence that has lead to the acceptance of Laguiole knives as 'traditional culinary tools'. Police are not to confiscate them in normal situations (during riots it's another matter). The are not weapons, according to judges who probably have their own and use them every afternoon for lunch. The farmhands of old fighting over Spanish young ladies might have been of a different opinion. And another anecdote is that when Napoleon mounted an army and introduced conscription, soldiers from the Auvergne were given special permission to carry their Laguiole knives into battle as sidearms, as they were too poor to get swords. Some whisper that there must still be some obscure old law allowing people from the Auvergne to carry Laguioles even where others would not be allowed to carry a blade - for services rendered to the old emperor (one of his most famous generals was from the region).
    Voilá a bit more on these knives.
    Unfortunately there are many cheap copies around, many from China, some even from France. If you are looking for one, only get it from the town of Laguiole or from Thiers - or through a reputable seller who can guarantee you that it comes from there. Forge de Laguiole, FP, G.David and Actiforge are reliable sources.
    Oh, the real deal looks like this, after 30 years of 24/7 use:
  4. FullMetalJackass

    FullMetalJackass Gold Member Gold Member

    Apr 10, 2016
    I don't think it's possible to answer to this question, there is so much diversity in Laguiole nowadays.
    Spotted one in France with handles made out of Eiffel Tower steel... Was somethin like 5 000 EUROS!
    Was pretty slick looking.
    I took the ebony model and I'm very happy of it.
    The good fit and finish ones are a bit expensive, but what would you expect from French Haute Coutellerie :)

    Prester John likes this.
  5. JPD1998

    JPD1998 Gold Member Gold Member

    Oct 18, 2004
    Great post, Schwep. Thanks for taking the time to write it and show a picture of a beautiful Laguiole knife.
    Prester John likes this.
  6. schwep


    Jan 4, 2017
    It's a very useful knife, in fact. I use the punch almost as often as the blade, for drilling holes (pre-drilling for wood screws), scraping and prying. Quite effective for scraping mud from my bootsoles. It helps to avoid abusing the blade. The corkscrew, although very good, gets little use, but that is because we have a Laguiole sommelier's knife at home, arguably one of the best corkscrews in the world... For anything food-related, the knife is a great slicer - basically a folding steak knife. Makes good feathersticks as well, if that's your thing. I used it a lot to trim wooden siding when we were finishing walls in our home. The only thing you really cannot do with it is batoning to split logs (I tried it once, the knife survived that one time, but it would destroy the mechanism in the long run). With the blade closed, the spine is fine for scraping, too.
  7. JPD1998

    JPD1998 Gold Member Gold Member

    Oct 18, 2004
    Yes, they are quite useful (and beautiful). I have two single blade Laquiole knives, but I carry them mostly for light office work.
    Good Laguiole knives are hard to find in the US, so I try not to over work mine. And I read what you said about stainless steel, I'm guilty of that too.:)

    Robert David Laguiole knives are available in the US. When I first posted in this thread years ago I had inquired about the brand and I did eventually buy one.
    They're not too bad, they're available in different price ranges depending on the materials used for handles and frames.

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