Only a hand full of manufacturers produce handmade Laguiole steak & pocket knives as well as corkscrews for exports in the village of Laguiole, France. The most noticeable are "Forge de Laguiole" ( the forges of Laguiole) and "La Coutellerie de Laguiole" aka "Laguiole de L’Artisan." One needs to beware that a large number of "Laguiole" manufacturers in France and sadly in other countries are producing "cookie-cutter" Laguiole cutlery that is mass produced and cheaply made. Other small shops make knives in the village, but most of their business is from tourists and they do not export.
First of all, it is important to be aware that "Laguiole" is not a company or cutlery manufacturer, it is the name of a small village in the department of Aveyron in France. Laguiole is where the famous style of cutlery we know today first appear - more about Laguiole history here. The Laguiole knife first appeared in the small village of Laguiole; this is a fact, not a legend, a myth, or a coincidence as many manufacturers (who cannot brag about their locations) and resellers alike would like you to believe. To this day anyone can use the name "Laguiole" and place it on cutlery regardless if the objects are made in France or have a non 'Laguiole" design/style.
Fact: There are not regulations associated with Laguiole cutlery. The name "Laguiole" is free to use on cutlery items by anyone - including you - anywhere in the world.
Any of the 2 versions must be inscribed on a LAGUIOLE knife if it is purchased from a retailer in the United-States or Canada. This is a custom requirement that was implemented years ago to help prevent miss representation of the country of origin on pocket knives. If you just purchased a Laguiole pocket knife from a U.S retailer and it does not have "France or Made in France" inscribed on it and you care for its origin contact the retailer for an explanation or just send it back for a refund. Additionally, although it is not a custom requirement one should expect any other cutlery items such as corkscrews, spoon, forks, etc.. to be inscribed with the country of origin "France." All Forge de Laguiole cutlery items sold by U.S. retailers will be discreetly engraved with "France" and are made in the village of Laguiole. However, if the same item was purchased from a retailer or website that is located outside of the U.S or Canada it may not be inscribed with the country of origin. Please contact us if you have any doubts regarding a "Laguiole" product, we will gladly provide you with a fair opinion.
Find out if this Laguiole manufacturer is situated in the village of Laguiole, another city in France or even in a different country.
A retailer that does not know the answers to your questions or is not willing to find out the answers from the manufacturer does not deserve your business. Please use email or call us at 860-245-2211 with any "Laguiole" questions.
Note: Some manufacturers use hard-sell terms like "the genuine Laguiole," but do not give any details about the real background and quality of the product they are trying to sell, or indeed whether or not they have even made it themselves! Saying " we’re making/selling genuine Laguiole knives because they print on the blade i.e.: a bull, a bird or any word is a lie.
A forged blade is by far much more durable and, as a result, more desirable than a stamped one. How can you tell if the blade is forged? The answer simple, if the blade says "12c27 or 440, etc..." the blade was most likely stamped, not forged because those metals are stainless steel and true stainless blade a rarely forged. Additionally, you may see knives that have a sticker that says "forged in xxx" or that are simply claimed to be forged but have a stainless steel blade: How can this be possible? Simple, it is a misleading trick that some manufacturers use to give consumers the impression that the blade is forged. In fact, the bolsters or some other smaller components are forged but not the blade and of course, they won't make the distinction.
Forge de Laguiole's blades are not made of stainless steel, they are made of a unique blend of metal alloy that is French made and called "T12". This forged alloy was developed exclusively by Forge de Laguiole, it will not rust. The result is a blade that has the qualities of stainless steel (will not rust or stain) and the near sharpening qualities of a carbon blade. More details about forged blades here.
Horn tip comes from the massive noblest part of the horn: the tip. Small bars are cut from the horn and then fixed and worked directly on the handle. Horn tip does not undergo heating constraint like pressed horn does (cheap Laguiole knives). Horn tip is the tougher, densest part of the horn. Note: Only two knives can be made from one horn tip .
Thickness and curves of the handles: Hand-made handle. Thicker, larger curves and thus, more materials for a better grip.
Bolsters: Massive cold forged brass or T12 steel bolsters.
Spring and bee: Massive bee forged in one piece with the spring AND hand-chiseled spring for are found in all collector's series 9, 11cm and 12cm 1, 2 & 3 piece knives.
Careful finishing: Precise and made-to-measure fitting of the handle with the plates and bolster. The high-performance mechanism (interaction of the spring with the blade). Blade stop (the blade top does not contact with the spring).
A particular brand-name engraved into the knife is no guarantee of quality, nor is an expensive-looking style of packaging! Examine your purchase carefully and ask the vendor about its qualities. If your vendor knows his/her stuff, you'll find out all you need to know.
Genuine Laguiole knives are handcrafted in the small village of Laguiole and it takes a long time to handcraft each article. That is why the price of each Laguiole is high. If you see a Laguiole sold for a low price, that means that it is industrially made in France or some other countries. Fact: There are more knockoffs on the market then truly French handmade Laguiole knives.
A good cutlery maker signs the knife with his/her name or company logo.
This marking is on the blade of the knife: it may also come with a certificate, or will at least clearly show the name of the cutler and the place where it was made. An anonymous piece is not a good sign of quality.
Remember! - Labels like "genuine," "best quality" etc. are not necessarily a sign of quality!
More technical tips...
Judging the technical quality of the knife is harder if you're not used to it, but checking it over carefully is a good idea anyway:
If the knife has a pleasing aesthetic appearance (without any plastic embellishments!), "weighs" in hand and has a nice feel to the grip, you're on the way to buying a decent product. Look for the thickness and solidity of all metal components including massive, and not hollow, bolsters at the tips of the handle. Next, check that the blade opens easily and that it is perpendicular to the spring (hold it up in front of you and squint upwards along the length - you should see a straight line).
When you close the blade again, it should not knock or catch against the base of the spring and should slide easily back into place.
The plates covering the sleeve of the knife should be well-fitted. Check that there aren't any little spaces between the plates and the bolsters corners (the metal edges at the top and tail of the knife), which are a sign of a bad fit. The decorated part of the spring should be well embedded in the crux of the blade so that your finger doesn't catch on it when the knife is open. The decoration of the spring should be slightly different on each knife, even if they are of the same design - these small irregularities are a good sign that the knife is hand-made. It doesn't necessarily mean that the knife you want to buy is not a good one if it doesn't check out against any of the above: but it does mean that the knife isn't of the highest quality.
The knife should open and close with a nice "click" - this shows that the calibration of the mechanism has been fine-tuned.
There should not be any sign of a sideways "shift" in the plane of the blade. The "fly" or "bee" motif should form an integral part of a spring which has been "fly forged" and should be hand-chased, without any welding process.
Note that the "fly forged" knife is no longer a sign of the highest quality manufacture because this method has been appropriated by foreign mass manufacturers as a marketing technique. Look carefully for the other signs we've mentioned here.
The logo of the manufacturer will be engraved on the blade of traditional Laguiole folding knives and straight-bladed table crafts.
The Shepherd's Cross-, a legend in itself, must appear on the handle of the knife on most materials. The Cross is composed of six small brass rivets inserted into the handle and laid out in the shape of a cross. This applies to all Forge de Laguiole standard and collector series Laguiole knives and corkscrews. Creating the cross is time-consuming and is done by hand only, most mass-produce Laguiole knives do not have it.
Note: Some handle materials such as stag, mammoth ivory, barrel wood and a few others cannot support the shepherd's cross due to the uneven nature of such materials.
Forge de Laguiole knives workmanship respects the ancestral tradition of the original Laguiole knives. It takes over 100 operations for a "1 piece" Laguiole knife to be complete. Note that when a manufacturer makes the claim that each knife is "hand made" by the same craftsperson it should be understood as " assembled, shaped and finished". The individual does not forge his or her own blade or bolsters nor does he or she stamp the liners. In fact, the craftsperson gathers all "raw" parts needed for the knife project and carefully assemble them and shape the handle material. For the "collector" series the spring and bee will be entirely hand chiseled (around one hour for those two tasks).
When a knife is finished, the foreman controls its quality and erases any imperfections. The knife is then polished and labeled. In mass production, men's role is reduced to the lowest degree. Factory tasks are fragmented, the knife goes from one unskilled worker to the other, each of whom does one operation before he or she passes the knife onto the next worker resulting in the nonexistence of ownership and pride for the finished product. Mass-production goes along with outputs and thus the cutler's skill is replaced by numerically controlled machines. Some "bargain" Laguiole knives are mass-produced in Asia or Pakistan in sweatshop conditions and, yes sometimes by children. Note that such knives - usually steak knives with very colorful plastic handle - are easily found in very reputable department stores; most of the time the buyer of such store know less than you do (after reading this article) about the Laguiole cutlery business. Ignorance is to blame here not the retailers as we are convinced that if "Mr. or Mrs. department store owner" know the fact they would immediately stop retailing the items in questions.
As long as 45% of the added value from the making of the product comes from French territory, it can be considered made in France.
Without going deep into this messy legislation we would like to had that the packaging of such item is included in the "added value". In other words, if the wooden box that comes with the item is made in France then it counts towards the "45%" of the added value.
Many French manufacturers are taking full advantage of the law by simply having 55% of the parts needed for the final product made in Asia or Pakistan and still (legally) stamp or and label the final product "Made in France".
Except for some exotic wood handles types (i.e. ebony, rosewood, etc.) Forge de Laguiole do not outsource any supplier outside of France. Yes, even the little plastic bag or gift box that protects your knife was made in France!
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