Nontron, the oldest handmade cutlery from France
he oldest continuously operating cutlery forge in France is in Nontron (Dordogne), a 40 min drive to the north-east, from where we are in Lusignac. It's here where the Nontron knife is made, the oldest pocket-knife of France. It is possible that in the Périgord, knives were produced before the Middle Ages, as in the 13th Century, people already talked about the 'Pierregord knife'. This also explains why Charles VII of France's sword was forged by the Nontron ironsmiths.
In 1788, there were 35 cutleries in the Périgord area. Nontron had 2800 inhabitants and only 8 knife makers working in 5 renowned cutleries.
All the raw materials used to make the knife, and swords, were local materials, like the mineral iron (nontronite) for the blades and the numerous box trees for the handles.
Today, the steel comes from the Acieries de Bonpertuis (Isère) and the blades are forged in the Forge de Laguiole workshop. Stainless steel is used for the steak knives. The wood now comes from species of tree from the French countryside (juniper, boxwood, walnut, amaranth wood and olive wood). Boxwood on the handle has a symbolical value, because it stays green all year and is therefore eternal. Today, also more modern materials are used which are compatible with dishwashers, like Corian®. This is a nonporous material, so stains can't penetrate the surface and neither can mold, mildew or bacteria and it also resists burns and scratches.
The wooden handles of all Nontron knives are pyrographied, wood burned, with the characteristic, distinctive logo. This reversed V is an old mysterious symbol but the origin is unknown.
Every year in August, usually during the first weekend, there is a knife festival In Nontron, when exhibitors from around the world come to display their knives here.
The Nontron knife factory is open to the public and introduces visitors to the various stages of production.
Pimm + Marcel