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The Laguiole knife is a high-quality traditional Occitan pocket-knife, originally produced in the town of Laguiole in the Aveyron region of southern France.

The word "Laguiole", pronounced "la-yoll", is a generic term. Thanks to their elegant and distinctive lines, as well as fine craftsmanship and expensive materials, they have achieved the status of a design classic and are sold for high prices, sometimes running into hundreds of dollars.

Design

Classically there is a single blade, but sometimes a corkscrew or some other implement is added. This necessitates an even slimmer cutaway handle, the shape of which is fancifully known as the "lady's leg", the bolster at the base resembling a foot.

 

There is much mythology about the insect depicted on the catch. Some say it represents a fly or a horse-fly, something familiar to peasants in the rural Laguiole area, which is known for cattle breeding. The Laguiole catch is often designated "la mouche" ("the fly") in French, but this could be linked to a lock designation in old French from earlier knives (most modern designs are slip joint knives that do not feature any locking system).

 

Others say the insect is a bee. One story states the use of the bee, an imperial symbol, was granted by Napoleon in recognition of the courage of local soldiers. This story is popular but there is little evidence for it.

There are about 109 production steps for a one-piece knife, about 166 for a two-piece one, and about 216 for a three-piece model.

The prestigious Laguiole iconography has been taken up as a visual theme for various other implements, so that one can now buy, for example, a "Laguiole" corkscrew, spoon, or steak-knife set.

 
 
     
 

 

 
     
 
 

History

The ancestors of Laguiole knives may have been inspired by the Arabo-Hispanic knife, the Navaja. Migrations of men between Spain and France in summer and winter introduced the Navaja in Aveyron. The Arabo-Hispanic design was merged with the local one, represented by the older Capouchadou knives, and became the Laguiole knife. The design dates from the early 19th century with a farmer's knife from the Laguiole village. The knife was first designed in 1829 and became the pattern for this style, its forged bee being its distinctive mark. In 1840 the first awls appeared to help shepherds pierce the skin of sheep that had bloated from eating too much green grass. In 1880 they added a corkscrew in response of demands from waiters of northern Aveyron. The shepherd's cross is set in the middle of the handle and was used as a rosary. The knife was planted on the bread upright and thus shepherds who did not have the opportunity attend church were able to say their prayers.

Today some Laguiole knives have a spring-stop that protects the blade when the knife is closed, and some also have a locking blade. Tradition says that a laguiole knife should be closed softly: "Silent springs makes better lives". Traditionally only the head of the household was allowed to snap his blade shut, meaning the family could clear the table

 
 
     
     
     
     
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