Almost everywhere in the world you can find Opinel folding knives, with their pale wood handles and simple steel locking collar. Among connoisseurs of fancier toys, you’ll also find the slim-handled Laguiole knives – but this name was not patented, so it covers a wide range of equipment from mass-produced table knives that don’t fold right through to top-of-the-range handmade hunters’ knives.
What interests me more is the regional knives produced by craftsmen in small family businesses, some of which are several generations old. Corsica has a distinctive traditional knife design, stubby and solid, but our own Corrèze departement of the Limousin has small manufacturers making a variety of styles – all with decent-sized handles rather than the strange, thin Laguiole type.
My favourite knife shop, Coutellerie Nicolas in Brive, has a vast stock of knives, including Japanese sushi knives and some beautiful cleavers. It is a family firm dating back to 1840, and current owner Pierre Lamy is adventurous. Last year, he decided to team up with a wood carving friend Pierre Marc to produce a Brive knife to his own design. Like almost all good knives in France, the blade is first forged to his specification in Thiers. He then finishes the blade and builds the knife. Gilles Charrière, a carver of bird models, will take commissions to carve anything you fancy in the handle.
When you see it against the mainstream Laguiole knife and its imitators, two things strike you: the broad, comfortable handle and the colour of the blade. It is stainless, but doesn’t have the high-chrome mirror finish of the pretty knives – this is clearly a knife designed to do a job, although the wood is silky and all components fit with great precision.
Take a look at this video, filmed soon after the knife was launched.
It’s too late to do anything now, but my man told me that he could make me an own-brand knife to my own design for a price that would allow me to sell them competitibely if I ordered an initial batch of 100. I’m curious to know how many people would buy a quality knife that didn’t carry a well-known brand name.
If enough people show interest, maybe I can have something ready for next year. e-mail me with your opinions.