The Nontron knife is named after the town where it was born. His history is so long and full of legends that it is difficult to date it. However, experts agree that the Nontron knife is the oldest French knife. Guillaume de la Villeneuve already referred to "Pierregord knives" in his "Nomenclature des crieries de Paris" at the beginning of the 13th century. It is possible that this region of southern France produced knives and other sharp tools before the Middle Ages. In fact, all the raw materials were collected in the area, the iron ore, exploited for a long time by the Gauls called Petrocorii (Azat-in-Nontronnais forges, among others) and the numerous traditional boxwood in their models. The leaves hardened near the town in the very cold and pure waters of the Bandiat River. Strabo of Amasea, a contemporary Greek geographer and historian of Julius Caesar and a world traveler, described the Petrocorii as excellent ironworkers. In the 14th century, the St-Palaye glossary reported the writings of poets who paid homage to these cutting tools. At that time, the Parisian "Compagnons du devoir" (good day laborer) used to visit Nontron during their tour of France. It is certainly this reputation for excellence in metalworking that explains why the King of France Charles VII, also called "the Victorious" (crowned by Joan of Arc) would have commissioned the sword from him from the smiths of Nontron. On October 13, 1653, Guillaume Legrand, a master knife maker from Saint Eustache (Paris), married Marie Belleterie and settled in Nontron, the town of his wife, to make Nontron knives. It is in this period that we can find the first writings on the locking system of the blade using the rotating ferrule. Two families appeared in the history of Nontron and will be present for more than a century: the Bernards and the Petits. During the First World War, the knife makers who worked in the Bernard and Petit cutlery factories dedicated themselves to the manufacture of locked knives commissioned by the Ministry of War. 10 years after the end of the First World War, only the Coutellerie Petit survived. It will become the Coutellerie Nontronnaise in 1928. Alphonse Chaperon, a garage mechanic located in Nontron, bought it in 1931. Gérard, his son, was in charge of the firm between 1943 and 1986, the date of the firm's inauguration by the “SARL Bernard Faye”. This company was then bought by Forge de Laguiole in 1992. Since then, Forge de Laguiole's leitmotif has been to preserve know-how in its territory, according to tradition, while looking to the future. On June 21, 2000, the new workshop designed by Luc-Arsène Henry opened its doors. Since then, various designers have lent their talents to the reinterpretation of the oldest French knife. 20 knife makers are still working at the Coutellerie Nontronnaise which was awarded the Living Heritage Company.
Legends about Nontron razors and knives:
Pyrography: these patterns, whose origin and meaning are still unknown, are made of "flies", a kind of inverted V surrounded by 3 points and rows of small points. Are they religious symbols? Is it a reference to the compass of the Compagnons du Devoir (good journeymen)? Today, they decorate all models of boxwood.