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THE HISTORY OF NONTRON KNIVES
Nontron knives are recognized as one of the oldest and most traditional French knives.
Nontron is the name of a town in the France's Perigord region. This namesake town is where the knives have been produced for 500 years!
The Nontron factory is a small building housing a small number of craftsmen using antique tools. It is the oldest continuously operating cutlery forge in France!
Each Nontron knife is a work of art created by one of only six knifemakers. The blade is forged and then carefully tempered in the iron rich water of the Perigord.
The boxwood used for the handles of Nontron knives is cut only in the immediate region (locally produced) and allowed to air dry for at least five years before being cut, shaped and finished as a handle.
Each Nontron knife is hand decorated with a circle of pyrograved figures of ancient and unknown significance. Pyrograving is a means of burnishing decorative designs onto wood.
This from the Nontron:
In the Perigord region of Southwestern France on the banks of the mineral-rich Bandiat river and from ancient steel works surrounding the tiny village of Nontron, these knives have been hand-made for more than 600 years.
The ancient Gauls developed the first forges here, in the hills of Azat-en Nontronnais. Tradition relates that the sword of Charles VII was forged and finished in the village of Nontron.
During the middle ages, Parisian cutlery makers visited Nontron to improve their art. Members of the trade guild of knifemakers came from all over France to study technique in Nontron.
On October 13th 1653, Guillaume le Grand, Saint-Eustache cutlery master of Paris, was married in Nontron and made the village his home. Following this example, many master cutlers from other regions of France settled in this small Perigord town.
By 1788, thirty-nine artisan knifemakers populated the Perigord region. Five of the best worked in Nontron. In addition to their conventional knife fabrication, these five cutlers were known for fashioning mini-knives, which were presented in walnut or hazelnut shells. Early on the Twentieth Century, following their example, a woman knife maker from Nontron fashioned 154 minuscule folding knives which fit in a hollow cherry pit.
Always appreciated in the Perigord region, the reputation of the Nontron knives began to spread throughout France. In Normandy, the novelist La Varende wrote of steak knives from Nontron and luxury models were made for Aristocrats and middle-class people.
-In 1905, there were only two artisan knifemakers in Nontron: Mr. Bernard and Mr. Petit.
-In 1928, Mr Jean Petit and Mr. Louis Barry created S.a.r.l. Coutellerie Nontronnaise.
-In 1931, Mr. Alphonse Chaperon bought Coutellerie Nontronnaise, then left it to his son.
-In 1986, Coutellerie Nontonnaise became S.a.r.l. Francois Devige-Bernard Faye.
-And finally, in 1992, FORGE DE LAGUIOLE bought Coutellerie Nontronnaise.
In 2001, Coutellerie Nontronnaise moved into a contemporary factory designed by Luc Arsene-Henry, a friend of Philippe STARCK. The new building has an earth sheltered roof, mixed wood and stainless steel facades (the materials of the handle and the blade of Nontron Knives) and a superb view of the Bandiat Valley.
As always, methods and techniques in use today remain virtually identical to those employed since the Fifteenth Century. The blade of each knife is forged. Each handle is hand-shaped from 40 to 50 year old boxwood which has been air dried for at least 4 years. And each handle is hand decorated with ancient woodburned figures. Over time, a boxwood handle develops a pleasing amber patina distinguishing it from all other knives.
As an enduring bridge spanning more than six centuries of craftmanship, Nontron knives are a living example of man's original tool. The Oldest knife. NONTRON.
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