My Knife Alex Dubois

My Knife
Where does a knife maker get his ideas? How does he come up with his design? What problems does he encounter? Our series on custom knives looks behind the screens.
In this issue: A 'Chatellerault' by the French knifemaker Alex Dubois; a special knife is reborn thanks to an almost one-hundred-year-old mould.

Text and pictures: Bas Martens

Bernadette and Emile Drouhin from the French town of Nogent are probably the oldest active couple in cutlery. Both are well into their eighties but can still be found in their studio (almost) daily. Emile Drouhin is part of the fourth consecutive generation of knife makers who also carries the prestigious title of ‘Meilleur Ouvrier de France’ (Best French Craftsman). The legacy of his father, grandfather and great-grandfather is not only seen in his skill, but also in his studio where hundreds of moulds and templates are kept.
During a visit to their workshop the French knifemaker Alex Dubois looks at some of the templates that they have inherited from the grandfather Emile Margaux (Best French craftsman in 1924). At the bottom of a chest, between the moulds for 'Nogentais' knives with multiple blades, Alex finds the templates necessary for the knife presented in this article. It is a knife along the lines of a 'Chatellerault', but holds a unique configuration: a blade in the style of a Yatagan, instead of the traditional double-edged blade.
Alex Dubois specializes in historic French knives and had never seen a configuration quite like it before. He asked –  and received permission –  to borrow the mould in order to revive the knife, with the accompanying result presented here. The handle has four massive filed end pieces and grips of mammoth ivory. The blade is 90MCV8 steel. It has a small stud on the spine ‘à la Nogentaise’. The back of the blade has a protruding pin, which falls into the locking plate. Technically, it was not a very difficult knife to make according to Alex. The problem was finding the proper materials which would do justice to its historically entrenched origin, and would give it a personal ‘twist’. The result is an extremely graceful knife, relatively simple in form, but beautifully made.

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