Laguiole Knives: Traditional French Pocket Knives (and Corkscrew)

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If you don’t already own a quality make of traditional folding pocketknife then a) Shame on you, and b) Your apology is accepted and we’re here to help.

I purchased two of these knives in Paris 14 years ago in a little shop behind Notre Dame. Then I walked through Charles de Galle airport with them in my purse and boarded the plane without security so much as raising an eyebrow. That same day George Bush first bombed Iraq in misguided retaliation for 9/11.

Airport security has changed since then.

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Security, however, was quite correct to ignore my purse full of Laguoile pocket knives––I use them for picnics mostly, and very little terrorism. The third Laguoile you see is wine bottle opener which contains a corkscrew and a foil cutter, which I purchased in Toronto.

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These Laguioles––but not all Laguioles––are made in France, handcrafted, and come with a lifetime guarantee. Laguiole is the name of a French town and the name cannot be copyrighted so buyer beware, cheap knockoffs of these knives abound. A close examination of the knife should make evident it’s quality or lack thereof.

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The blade should have the type of steel from which it’s made stamped on the blade––12C27 or 440C stainless being a commonly used and decent steels. The blade should be perfectly straight and aligned with the handle when opened, and you should not be able to wobble the blade with your fingers. The blade should have jibbing on the back of the base of the blade you give your thumb a non-slip purchase when carving.

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The handles are usually made from various precious types of wood: Desert ironwood,redwood, burl, amboina, maple, birch, oak and numerous others.

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According to the Laguiole website:

•A good knife shouldn’t have any plastic parts
•The plates forming the handle should be a perfect fit between the bolsters
•The blade must slide easily back into place and not catch against the base of the spring
•A handcrafted knife will bear the name or imprint of the cutler maker
•Knives without any personal touches are not usually a good sign
•A certificate bearing the address, phone number and name of the cutler maker must be delivered with the knife
•Bargain basement prices are likely to reflect bargain basement products, not quality handcrafted artisan products from France

That last point cannot be stressed enough: Only buy a Laguiole that has been made in France. If you buy a cheap version made in China, you will get what you pay for.

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An authentic French Laguiole is hardly an extravagant purchase––I paid $120 for two knives and they have served admirably for 15 years. I love the look and feel of these and they sharpen easily. The only drawback in owning one is that they are so pretty you might not want to get them dirty.

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