Nontron knives have been fashioned in the tiny village of Nontron in the Perigord
(Dordogne) region of France for the past 500 years. The methods and techniques in use
today have remained virtually the same since the Fifteenth Century – individual
craftsmen using their own rasps anvils and finishing tools to create a work of folk
artistry – the Nontron knife. The factory, if in fact a tiny building housing a
handful of men and a collection of antique hand tools can be called a factory, is the
oldest continuously operating cutlery forge in France.
Nontron: France’s oldest knife
Each knife is an original work by one of only six artisan knifemakers. The blade is
forged, not stamped, then tempered in the iron rich water of the Perigord. The boxwood
used in every Nontron handle is cut only in the region and patiently allowed to air-dry
for at least five years before being cut, shaped and finished as a handle.
Each knife is hand decorated with a circle of pyrograved figures of ancient and unknown
significance. A small knot in the boxwood, a slight difference in the figures, which
encircle the handle, these unique characteristics ensure that every Nontron is a unique,
Deep in France, a long time ago…
Knifemaking began in the Perigord in the 1400’s because of the iron, the water and
a plentiful supply of boxwood, a light colored but dense and stable handle material. Knife
making has persisted and succeeded here because of the tradition of craftsmanship and
unusual beauty of the knives.
Most Nontron blades are 440A stainless steel, although carbon steel blades are also
available. Unlike most knives, the handle of most Nontrons thickens toward the blade,
preventing the hand from slipping forward.
The evolution of an artifact
Throughout Nontron’s 500 years of history and craftsmanship, a variety of handle
forms have been tried. Many are lost forever; others have withstood the test of time and
Clog or "Sabot" – The most common Nontron handle with its single
slit pocket for the blade tip.
Carp’s tail – with a double finned handle end, which first appeared in
the late 1800’s.
Ball End – A smoothly rounded handle end also dating from the last century.
Violin – The only Nontron with a spring closure and a contoured handle
shaped like a violin.
French tradition advises that when you receive a knife as a gift, you must offer a coin
in return to assure that the knife doesn’t cut your friendship with the giver.