The history of the Laguiole knife - Origin of the traditional French pocket knife

Laguiole knife - what is it?

Learn more about the history and origin of the traditional French Laguiole knives. A “Laguiole knife” is the term used to describe a pocket knife made in the French tradition. It usually consists of a steel blade and different wood applications.

Today it is produced by some companies in France in Laguiole and Thiers according to the traditional forging art. The mixture of this classic production and the filigree designs award these high-quality knives as extremely popular collector’s items as well as products for people who appreciate pleasure and quality to the fullest.

Laguiole knives

Laguiole knife and its history

The exact origin of the Laguiole knife is uncertain. The smiths themselves tell partly different variants and few of them are provable. However, it is relatively certain that the Laguiole knife has been produced in France since the 19th century.

The blacksmith Pierre-Jean Calmels designed it for the first time in 1829. He later developed the initially fixed knife into a beautifully curved folding knife. Today, Laguiole pocket knives are still made with this folding mechanism.

Some assume that the Laguiole knife was modeled after the Arab-Spanish Navajas, a traditional pocket knife from the 17th century. However, this assumption is to be doubted, because there are too big differences in manufacturing and basic design. Presumably, however, the folding technique of the French pocket knife originates from these very Navajas.

Laguiole knife and its path to becoming a precious collector's item.

The story behind the “shepherd’s cross“, which is often inserted into the knife bowl, is also well known. According to tradition, such Laguiole knives were carried by shepherds on their long walks. When they wanted to pray to God in the evening, the shepherds would stick the knife vertically into the ground and could thus say their prayers in front of a cross.

From a simple tool of the trade to a precious collector’s item: It is difficult to say exactly how this valuable knife came to be. Instead, there are plenty of legends and isolated anecdotes about the history of Laguiole knives. But it is this mystique surrounding the knife that gives it its individual and unmistakable character.

Laguiole knives
Laguiole knives - Arbalete Genes David
Laguiole knives - Arbalete Genes David
Laguiole knives - Forge de Laguiole Messer

Traditional characteristics of the Laguiole knife

The Laguiole knife stands out because of its special design and high-quality materials: curved lines and ergonomic handles as well as sharp blades distinguish these knives to products of the extra class. Depending on the forge, for example, the shape, design and blade materials can vary.

Typical for a Laguiole knife, however, is a traditional motif that is engraved on the back of the knife. Usually a bee or fly is used for this purpose. However, there are also knife variants with a bull’s head or scallops as engraving. Such or similar decoration of the back of the spring or even the blade is considered a concrete distinguishing feature.

Sandvik steel is mostly used for the blades. However, there are also blades made of Damascus steel or carbon steel. For the knife handles, different raw materials are used from precious woods to horn. In addition to Laguiole pocket knives, there are also table knives, steak knives and other products for everyday use.

Who makes Laguiole knives?

Laguiole knives are still made by about 130 traditional blacksmiths in France today. Not all manufactures manage to maintain the qualitative standards of Laguiole knives. There are currently four renowned forges that stand out for their experience and long-standing tradition in the manufacture of this type of knife.

Among them is our partner Forge de Laguiole, whose forge is still traditionally located in the French village of Laguiole. With special attention to a special design and time-honored manufacturing, the Laguiole knives are forged into real collector’s jewelry.

Not every knife with the Laguiole name lives up to the reputation of these beautiful knives. The problem is that the name cannot be protected. For this reason, you can find on the market some products that merely imitate the Laguiole knife. So, in any case, you should deal with the supplier of the product and check if it is a real Laguiole.

Laguiole knives - Forge de Laguiole