Monday, September 8, 2014

A Recreation of a Classic French Utility

I am So Very excited about this project!
This being the first knife in a series of recreations of classic French Cutlery.

This whole idea started when I was lucky enough to purchase an older Sabatier utility knife dating from the early 1940's.
I got it from a good friend who knows more about classic chef knives than anyone I have ever known.
He has been collecting & buying out old department store inventory-stock etc... for over 60-years.
I have learned so much from him about French, German, Spanish and American Cutlery.

Here in the USA there is little to no documentation about chef knife and butcher knife industry & history. Sure there are bits and pieces, but no one has ever created a solid historical-record to speak of.... (if anyone knows of such a thing, please message me the links and info) Ralph G. is my go-to-guy for historical information at this time, and I will pick his brain for as long as I can!

Ralph told me that, "in over 60-years of collecting, this was the first Sabatier he had seen with a pointy blade in this size and handle configuration!" So I feel honored to own such a fine knife.
These knives with this old Alsastian-style handle were produced in the early part of last century.
Mostly distributed in region and rarely made it into the USA, as a result, not that many people have ever even seen one in person, however this style handle, if you look in old French Cook Books, is what you will see!

Hoping to be the first of Many......
......I was inspired to forge a recreation of this knife.... my version so to speak.

My thoughts are that,
.....these knives are so iconic, almost no-body even remembers them.
Our modern day take on Culinary-Arts in the USA is almost silly,..... and I feel is sorely-misguided by programs such as Hell's-Kitchen and Top-Chef, Beat Bobby Flay etc...
Modern Fine Cutlery for the kitchen has also taken a turn for towards the mundane and Mediocre.
And the majority of these knives not being made in the USA, and certainly not by hand.
ALL, and I mean ALL of the classic culinary knives of the past were hand-made! Most of them forged. Once-upon-a-time in the USA, we had hundreds of cutlery companies that mostly made chef and butcher knives! People have been asking for "hand-made-American steel" again......

So I figured what the heck,
I'll take a chance and make some of the old style knives,
the styles and patterns that have been used for a long, long time, and used hard, have proven themselves, and deserve to come to light again.
AND I hope to make my versions interesting! A tribute to the "glory-days" of Culinary Arts, When no-one really had TV ...because there was no such thing!

Over the next year or so.
Using modern materials and embellishing these knives with engraving and non-ferrous-inlay,
My plan is to do just that, re-create some beautifully embellished versions of some old French, Spanish and German Classics.

This is the first of them, and if this is any indication of how things will progress.....I am very excited!

I included some process images, because I was pretty stoked on how lucky I was to get a very accurate Hamon on this one, pretty-much about 95% of how the clay layed-up, which....
....for any who HT this way, you know all too well, it's a bit of a change/gamble to get "exactly what you want" and certainly not a precise thing much of the time.

I had this sweet piece of Old Westinghouse Micarta I chose to use.
Forged the blade out of some nice W2.
Spent a silly amount of time thinking........
The Handle-Fit to the tang was the best I had ever done on just about any knife! I was proud of that part on this one.
You can see it is registered into the front just a bit in the shot of the spine.
AND finally!
I had my good Friend Bill Rice do a beautiful Engraved Flower Motif on both sides with fine silver inlay in the center.
to accent the little-bit of my own simple carving around the pins.

Originally I had thought of doing the whole washer & peened-pin deal like the original, but decided that not only was it needed since this was not a slotted-tang like the original knife, but a stick-tang,
and since it was in Micarta, there really was almost no need for pins at all, but I wanted to remain faithful to the concept and did the little detail carvings to balance the pins aesthetically & I think it worked!

The overall Length of the knife I created is 11" with a 6 & 1/8" blade

I hope you enjoy seeing these process and final images of this beautiful knife!


Starting with a quick shot of the Original knife next to it's inspirational-Great-Grandpa, and a shot of the Rare Sabatier,
...that actually was unused for all these years and came with it's original protective retail blade covering!.... then a few WIP shots to follow!

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