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NON T R ON A

BEST

MADE

CASE

STUDY


Th e No n t r o n K n i f e

From as early as the 13th century the Périgord region of southwestern France has been known for its exquisite knives. That same attention to craft and detail is alive today in the village of Nontron, home to Nontron Cutlery. Each Nontron knife is assembled in the hands of a single knife maker. In the modern world of specialized tasks and assembly line production, this level of care is rarely seen. Nontron Cutlery currently employs 13 knife makers in their village workshop. The meaning of the arched symbol, called a ‘fly,’ burned into the handle of each knife is a mystery. Perhaps it’s an ancient symbol of the prehistoric peoples who inhabited the Périgord region of France thousands of years ago. Or, perhaps it’s meant to represent a chevron, which in French means the peaked rafters of a roof, and was used symbolically to represent the completion of a noble task. Though the significance of the arched symbol remains a mystery, the significance of the knife is still well respected in Nontron, France. Pocket knives, like those made by Nontron, are given to young French boys as a rite of passage into adulthood. And while they were historically used by the shepherds in the region, Nontron knives can now be found in the pockets of individuals across the globe helping with tasks both noble and humble. Their craftsmanship and mystique are as alive today as they were 700 years ago. In fact, the town of Nontron has hosted a regional knife festival every year since 1996.

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D é p a r t e m e n t s of F r a n c e

No n t r o n C u t l e r y Ti m e l i n e 13th Century Greek records mention excellent metal workers in the Périgord region of France.

King of France Charles VII is crowned. Later orders sword from ironsmiths in the village of Nontron.

1653 PARIS

1429

Guillarme Legrand, master cutler, leaves Paris to make knives in the village of Nontron, the native village of his wife Marie.

1700 8 knife makers work at 5 cutleries in the village of Nontron. 39 cutleries are found in the larger Périgord region.

1789–1799 The French Revolution

1903

NONTRON

1914 laguiole

Cutleries Bernard and Petit (both in the village of Nontron) make knives for the French Ministry of War, to be used by French soldiers in World War I.

1939 The village of Nontron is situated in what was formerly called the Périgord region of France. Périgord is now better known as the Dordogne département, but the Loire

Chaperone Nontron Cutlery makes knives from the discarded bodywork of Citroen C4 automobiles due to steel shortages during World War II.

valley to the north and the Pyrennes mountains to the south are still as beautiful as ever. In fact, the word “Nontron” comes from the combination of the ancient Tyrian words for ‘valley’ (Nata) and ‘mountain’ (Dun). Additionally, the iron rich mineral known as Nontronite is named for its occurrence in the Nontron arrondissement.

1987 Bernard Faye takes control of Nontron Cutlery.

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1943

Forge de Laguiole purchases Nontron Cutlery and begins supplying blades from their forge in Laguiole, France.

2000 one of the best representations of Paleolithic cave art.

Alphonse Chaperone, a garage mechanic in the village of Nontron) buys Petit Cultery, which will eventually become Chaperone Nontron Cutlery.

1992

same material.

found only 100km east of the village of Nontron and are considered to be home to

1931

Alphonse’s son, Gérard, takes control of Nontron Cutlery.

It’s not unlikely that the ancient ironsmiths of the 13th century were mining the

This area is also steeped with another kind of history. The caves of Lascaux are

Marcelle Varnoux makes 154 knives, each small enough to fit inside a cherry stone. These knives are no longer made by Nontron Cutlery.

A new workshop, designed by Luc-Arsène Henri, opens in the village of Nontron. Bernard Faye and his wife Claudine continue their work at Nontron Cutlery.

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M ater i a ls a nd M a in tena nce The T12 stainless steel blade and boxwood handles found on Nontron knives are some of the absolute best materials available in the region of southern France where these knives are produced. The use of local materials is not only an important part of the Nontron company and its history, it’s just one more thing that makes this the quintessential French pocket knife.

T12 STEEL // The exact elemental

BOXWOOD // Also known as

composition of this stainless steel

Buxus, boxwood is found throughout

is a closely guarded secret at Forge

western Europe and northern Africa.

de Laguiole. Similar in its physical

It’s a particularly fine grained wood

properties to other premium stainless

and highly resistant to chipping and

steels, T12 uses a high percentage of

splitting. It is one of the few woods that

carbon for increased edge retention.*

is denser than water and is possibly the hardest wood native to Europe. It’s

Each Nontron blade is forged

been used to make knife handles for

by hand at Forge de Laguiole in

centuries, as well as cabinets, chess

southern France. It is then sent to the Nontron workshop for assembly and completion.

pieces, and clarinets. Boxwood is also symbolic of eternal life since it stays green year round.

*12c27 is also used for some blades.

Due to high levels of chromium, T12 steel is very resistant to corrosion and is very easy to maintain.

The density of boxwood makes maintenance quite easy. Keep your knife handle dry and oil periodically.

— Clean steel periodically — Does not require oiling — Well suited for wet conditions

— Wipe handle clean — Oil periodically — Do not soak in water — Store in a dry place

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Nontron PP Pocket knife

Nontron #25 Locking knife

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Nontron NA #38 camp knife


© BEST M A D E C O M PA N Y, N E W Y O R K 8 / BEST MADE CO.

Nontron - A Best Made Case Study  

From as early as the 13th century the Périgord region of southwestern France has been known for its exquisite knives. That same attention t...