JEAN-PIERRE CALMELS

THE FATHER OF THE LAGUIOLE KNIFE

This new birth as a symbiosis of two existing types of knives, which in turn were and still are deeply rooted in their respective cultural roots, is owed to Jean-Pierre Calmels. This extremely inventive blacksmith from Laguiole, a village of around 1,200 souls in the Aveyron département, Midi-Pyrénées, in the south of France, set himself the goal of inventing a folding knife that would set new functional and aesthetic standards as a kind of mélange between Navajas and Capuchadou in the sense of a new era of “customized” all-purpose knives.

Jean-Pierre Calmels succeeded in the late 1820s in making the first Laguiole knives with a locking blade. What is also special is that this blade did not need to be fixed even when unfolded in order to remain stable.

In combination with the shapely and uniquely decorated handles made of horn, wood or even ivory, metal and stone, the Laguiole conquered France from then on and with the French migration, then the rest of the world – with only one blade made of Damascus steel, Sandvik steel (12C27) or carbon steel, satin or polished and also with additional “features” such as tangs or corkscrew spirals and with reinforced hilt jaws for even more stability.

In the next decades and inspired by this success story, more and more blacksmiths go to make Laguiole instead of Capuchadou. Even the “capitale de la coutellerie”, Thiers, located slightly north of Laguiole, is now increasingly dedicated to the production of these artful folding knives. The Musée de la coutellerie, for example, which opened in 1982, also bears witness to this tradition.