The origins and evolution of a symbol of French-made cutlery
From the outskirts of the Aubrac plateau…
Jean-Pierre Calmels invented the first lockback pocketknife named Laguiole, a modest countryman’s knife, in 1829. This knife combined elegance and functionality and eventually replaced the Capuchadou knife from Rouergue. Several artisanal blacksmiths produced the Laguiole knives until 1880. These knives were practical and useful tools, evolving according to each client’s needs. Today the Laguiole knife is considered to be one of the most ancient French-made pocketknives.
At that time, Laguiole was a rural town known for its livestock commodities. The knife manufacturers worked to fulfil the demand created by the farmers living on the Aubrac plateau.
Cutlery production increased until the 1930s and the Laguiole knives spread in popularity, reaching neighbouring regions.
On the banks of the Durolle River
Despite the fact that quality artisanal-made knives were being produced in Laguiole, an industry producing Laguiole knives was established in Thiers and its environs. Manufacturing knives has been the city of Thiers’ principal activity for over 500 years. This industry was facilitated by the fact that all of the individual trades necessary for creating cutlery were present in Thiers.
Ever since the 17th century, the knife manufacturing industry in Thiers was divided into professions by specific tasks:
- Metal cutters
- Handle manufacturers
- Knife assemblers
Today, Laguiole knives are manufactured in Laguiole as well as Thiers. In Thiers the Laguiole knife manufacturing industry employs 430 individuals (240 of which are direct) and generates an annual turnover of more than 15 million Euros (17.5 million Euros in 2009). In Laguiole approximately ten companies and artisans create 170,000 knives per year (figures from 2007).
Laguiole and Thiers: two cutlery-oriented cities
The historical ties between Laguiole and Thiers
The Laguiole knife manufacturing industry has been a significant market ever since the 19th century. The collaboration between Laguiole and Thiers is very ancient. By the second half of the 19th century the rapprochement between these two cities had been clearly established. This industry brought many benefits to the following individuals:
- Cutlers from Aveyron who found subcontractors in Thiers capable of manufacturing numerous and varied articles in their totality
- Cutlers from Thiers who were charged with and capable of fulfilling rather large orders due to the quality of the tools used
These manufacturers created a wide variety of knives (table, kitchen and pocket knives) that were customized and adapted to their clients’ needs. Over time, the relationship between the clients in Aveyron and the suppliers located in the Puy-de-Dôme solidified.
French-made cutlery benefited from a mutually enriching partnership
The acclaimed Laguiole knives
The Laguiole Knives’ future is connected to the city of Thiers. In the context of our highly competitive 21st century, it would be wrong to dissociate these two cities from one another and the great strides they took to design and create world-renowned French-made cutlery.
Laguiole can be proud of the fact that it created an acclaimed, standard-setting knife manufactured using local craftsmen’s traditional knowledge.
Thiers’ historical knowledge and French-made cutlery
The history of cutlery manufacturing dates back many centuries in the city of Thiers and the cutlery sector’s accumulated knowledge is extremely rich. The city was capable of adapting this industry to changes that took place; for example, the passage into the industrial era and the transition into the 21st century where innovative technologies and modern communication methods need to be mastered.
Thiers has been able to maintain its standing as the capitol of French-made cutlery (with 80 companies that supply 70% of the national production) despite foreign competition.