Do you own any traditional French knives? If so, there’s a good chance those knives were made in the charming French village of Thiers.
How can I make that assertion?
Because around 70% of French knives are made in Thiers, a village you’ll find nestled into the hills of central France’s Auvergne region.
Scotty has always loved the craftsmanship of French knives. And he’s amassed quite a collection of them. He often picks up a knife or two as travel souvenirs. Over the years we’ve noticed that many of these knives were labelled ‘Made in Thiers’. And as a result, the town had long been on our ‘We’re curious. We should go there.’ list.
Once we realised how easy it was to access Thiers by train from Clermont-Ferrand (where we were staying for a few nights) we didn’t hesitate to lock in a visit. And I can’t tell you how pleased I am that we made our way there.
Knife making has been the main industry in Thiers for centuries. This has been driven by proximity to the River Durolle, which powered the millstones. And it turns out that Thiers is not only a picturesque village, but it’s also the perfect place to learn how to make your own knife!
Make Your Own French Knife In Thiers
We always check out things to do when we’re visiting new parts of France. And it didn’t take much research for us to discover a knife making workshop in Thiers.
Given how happy Scotty was to participate in the fragrance making workshop in Grasse, I was quick to agree to making our own knives. I ended up making the booking in French over email (a definite first for me) because our initial choice of date and time were already booked out. If you’re keen to attend the workshop, I recommend booking as early as you can.
We have a friend who has forged his own knives. That experience took him a whole weekend, so I wasn’t really expecting too much from our one and half hour workshop. But I was surprised how ‘hands-on’ the experience actually was. And later, when I learned that our knives had been assembled in the traditional method I was even more pleased with the process we were stepped through.
After putting on safety gear, you work one-on-one with an expert to create a knife. (In our case, this was actually two-on-one, so we could both work with the best English speaking expert.) The workshop sees you using a combination of hand and machine tools to assemble, hone and polish your knife.
Humans experienced in using these sort of tools (like Scott) can do just about every part of the process with very little intervention. If you are less experienced (like me), your coach will help you. Your expert will either show you how to do-it-yourself, finish a step for you or complete the step entirely. While it feels easy to let them ‘show you how it’s done’, I recommend you at least try to complete each part of the process yourself. There were steps that I managed quite well, once I allowed myself to have a go.
At the end of the session, you’ll have a knife – made (mostly) by you – to take home. And, as an extra bonus, it will be engraved with your initials.
Other Reasons To Visit Thiers
If you’re visiting this part of France when L’Atelier Le Thiers® is closed, Thiers is still worth taking the time to visit. Wander the town and you’ll encounter artisans in workshops (and even stores) assembling knives by hand, creating pieces that are not only highly practical but truly beautiful. In the Coutellerie Chambriard we were lucky enough to encounter three generations of knife makers. This family team patiently helped Scotty and I understand more about traditional knife making in Thiers. And they gave us tips on choosing some cheese knives to take home.
There’s also a very interesting and interactive museum dedicated to knife making in Thiers. The Musée de la Coutellerie gives you insight into the history of knife making in the area, and it includes a workshop visit, which allows you to see how knives were made over the years. If you have a car, you can also visit the factories down on the Durolle River outside Thiers.
And like most French towns, you’ll find fabulous food, interesting streets, and gorgeous views.
Have you ever visited Thiers or had the opportunity to make your own knife? Are you fan of French knives in general? I’d love for you to share your thoughts in the comments section below.
And until next time – au revoir.