Thiers, France the "Center of Cutlery"
Here is a nice article written about the city of Thiers, France and it's contributions to the world in the category of cutlery. The article was written by Straight Razor Place member; Martin103.
Enjoy the read,,,,
Thiers, France, was the "Center of Cutlery" for over 6 centuries. In the 15th-century evidence of around 30 cutlers from this region are listed; therefore many claims that the cutlery business from that region of France is much older then the paperwork found for this type of business.
Why Thiers? Certainly not because of its rich sources of metal or grindstone, there is none of that. What they have is power, in the form of a river, called "La Durolle". A fierce running river that can power the forge and waterwheels used in the manufacturing of cutlery, long before electrical power made its debut.
Going forward in the 16th century the numbers of cutlers is up to 200; in the 17th century cutlery from Thiers is found in Spain,and Italy. In 1855 the cutlery business in Thiers employed 25000 workers. They worked in departments forging, grinding, buffing, assembling, packaging and shipping all over the world. The Grinders of Thiers, worked laying on their stomachs grinding knives etc, a tradition going back a few centuries. In winter time most grinders had a woolly warming dog, trained to lay on their legs for warmth.
Women were also a big part of the work force mostly as polishing, finishing, packaging. It was said that a pregnant women would work until her 8th month of pregnancy. Children were also part of the working force, learning the trade. It is without saying that working conditions were horrendous; very long hours in a dust filled environment plagued with diseases.
The industrial revolution came a little later in Thiers. It wasn't until 1850-60 that machinery started replacing what craftsman have been doing; teaching by hand and homemade tools for years. The transition was very slow but necessary to compete with Solingen, Germany and Sheffield , England.
The steel used for razors in this time period came from Sheffield and Sweden. Horn came from Argentina, Brazil and Ebony came from Gabon.
The arrival of Celluloid, had the handle makers of Thiers doing good imitation of different exotics woods and horn on lower priced items. Production increased with machinery, new raw materials, better distribution and a good work environment.
In 1903 Thiers was about to see its biggest innovation yet, in the form of electric power. A project for a water dam off the river Dore, about 9 miles from the center of cutlery. Electricity brings to Thiers better lighting, electric powered machinery, and its most sizable improvement, year round work. Thiers became non dependent on the water power, that actually started it all.
Even after 2 World Wars Thiers, France is still very involved in the cutlery business. The name Thiers is stamped on different items of cutlery, hopefully for a few more centuries.
This article was contributed to Straight Razor Place by member; Martin103