Fred Perret is the proprietor of Laguiole French Knives. A manufacturing business that caters to the art and tradition of maintaining old-school traditional values in the crafting and personalizing of Laguiole Knives. The ancient traditional tool is still popular today due to its incredible tensile strength and design and Fred is one of the proprietors keeping the genuine tradition alive.
We had a chance to sit down with Fred and discuss how Laguiole has impacted his life, the art of creation and the vital differences between the genuine article and the litany of fakes on the market.
Hello Fred, thank you for taking the time to sit with us today, let’s start from the beginning, what drew you to the art of Laguiole Knives?
Hello and thank you for this interview!
I grew up in Auvergne, a region in central France. I lived quite close to my grandfather and he used to take me out in the fields while he did his daily work. I remember he always carried a Laguiole knife with him. It’s very practical in his trade where it is constantly necessary to cut ropes and sharpen branches.
When I was a little older, I accompanied him Thiers village market, and he bought me my first Laguiole knife. I felt so proud and still have it. Thanks to my grandfather, the Laguiole knife has always been part of my history.
Was there a specific moment that inspired you to create the business of traditional knives and custom metalwork?
During the 90s, I noticed that fake Laguiole knives were arriving in France. This is due to the fact that the name Laguiole is not a registered trademark because it is too old.
The name “Laguiole” is in the public domain and is therefore freely manufactured, which is why the brand suffers from many “fakes” from Asia. With the advent of the Internet, I decided to create a website dedicated to the real Laguiole knife made in France, the one I remember from my youth. I then joined forces with reputable and accredited manufacturer Le Fidèle.
We make Laguiole knives with the greatest respect for tradition. Each knife is unique, handcrafted by our expert craftsmen with 170 manual operations.
Is there a particular style of knife that appeals to you the most? In terms of style, bolster or handle?
The Laguiole knife is historic because it has been manufactured since 1828. Its shape is unique and easily recognizable thanks to the bee located on the spring of the handle.
I am very proud of our prestige collection because the bee is forged on the spring, and the spring itself is forged and hand-guilloched. The blade is also hand-guilloched so the unique and beautiful patterns are present throughout. This range is also made with 2 ebony plates between the spring and the handle, which gives it a more elegant look.
I prefer it with a blond horn handle and brushed stainless steel bolsters, the contrast between the shine of the horn and the forged spring is spectacular.
How important is it for you and your craftsmen to incorporate the traditional techniques in handcrafting the knives?
Tradition is in the DNA of the Laguiole knife. The manufacturing process is long and precise – it takes 170 manual operations on each knife. A Laguiole knife is assembled by hand, like a puzzle.
Counterfeits are made by machines, the result is not the same at all.
A true craftsman is very proud to work by hand, he can model the material, refine the knife, personalize every detail, which makes each knife unique. We also make our own brand of knives which are not classified as Laguiole knives, the Laguiole method is ancestral and shouldn’t be adjusted.
Would you ever consider branching further into the custom metalwork industry or are you more determined on your current range?
We already have a lot of work with our current range; however, we are also creating new knives, sometimes in collaboration with reputable chefs.
The core of our business is cutlery, so we have complete freedom to create and sculpt our own vision and we do not deprive ourselves of it. Being tailor-made is an undeniable asset in our profession, we can create and personalize at will.
An example of this is with the “rounded” range, these knives were born from the imagination of our craftsmen, who wanted a knife with better handling and decided to chase it.
How long does the average custom knife take from idea to conception?
The entire process is dependent entirely on the complexity of the request. The springs and the blades are forged and then worked by hand for decoration. If a new project requires forging a new spring or blade, the process is extensive as we have to create a new mold for the forge and then create from there.
On the other hand, if the new model uses an existing spring or mold, the work is faster. The detail and time spent on the material of the handle is also very important. The handle materials are all sustainably sourced. The use of a new material is a delicate step because the materials do not all react in the same way to heat or polish, it’s a slow but deliberate process.
I think you can understand, there is no average time, the quality comes first, the time taken is secondary.
In a world where fakes are rife in many industries and the fakes are quite similar in terms of look, what do you think separates the fake from the genuine when it comes to Laguiole Knives?
You are right, the look of fakes Laguiole is very close to the look of genuine Laguiole. This is a big problem on the websites as a customer can not get a feel for the knives in their hand and determine the quality.
Let me try to explain. Handles of genuine Laguiole are made with high quality raw material such as real horn or wood. Fakes are usually made with plastic.
The assembly for Laguiole knives are completed by hand, everything is mounted as a puzzle with intent and precision. Fake knives are glued haphazardly.
The blade of a true Laguiole is a high-grade stainless steel, highly resistant to time. A perfectly smooth blade, a sharp and exceptionally brilliant cut. Fake knives have a blade with poor quality steel and are not resistance over time.
The bolsters are made with brass or brushed steel. Fake knives are made with aluminum bolsters.
The bee is forged with stainless steel and then welded to the knife. The bee is flat on fake knives and it is glued on it, that is why it breaks so often.
The weight of the genuine article is also different, much heavier than fake one. Finally, our knives are lifetime guarantee against defects in workmanship which is not the case of fakes.
Where do you see the industry and your business going post-pandemic?
The COVID-19 crisis has been very hard around the world, France in particular. We are still fighting this scourge. We will get through this difficult time and continue our work. Handcrafted production has been shown as an example of quality production that respects the environment. Our model is not to produce more, but to produce quality. Our customers expect quality, care, and personalization, this is what we offer and what we will continue to offer. We have just modernized our website and added the configurators, which allows our customers to choose each part of the knife and personalize it.
Thank you Fred for your time!
You can follow up with Fred Perret at www.laguiole-french-knives.com