Maritime knives are a world apart, as is seafaring on the whole. What you need in this rough environment is a “companion fidèle”, a true companion, with no frills yet reliable (also cf. MONPELLIER).
Its characteristics are the broad blade with a pulled down point and a handle with a perfect grip. With this knife, all the works on board can be dealt with effortlessly. It can be used for cutting ropes, repairing wood, it is used like a cutting knife to tailor sailcloth, and it is even used during meal times. Sometimes, there’s a hole at the end of the handle or a ring in order to be able to attach it to a piece of twine.
Other names for the LONDON are ARMOR (the Celtic name of Brittany), TERRE NUEVAS or GABIER. Despite its age, one can talk of a nearly “modern”, functional design, thanks its harmonious lines and shape.
When and how the LONDON reached the Northern coast of France has not been clearly establishedIts roots are surmised to be in England – possibly it came to France in the course of quarrels between the English, French and Dutch around 1780/1790. In Brittany, its qualities were quickly discovered and it became the steady companion in the pockets of fishermen, whalers and sailors on their long voyages. But also the land-locked farmers understood its use and versatility so that it soon spread along the entire Northern coast of France.
There are hardly any old knives left, because the carbon steel they used to be made from and seawater don’t agree with each other. Without continuous maintenance, knives will turn to a mere lump of rust within only a few weeks. Another thing that’s important are resilient handle shells. Especially appropriate are tropical woods, first and foremost the hardly known pockwood, which is of green- brown color and is especially tough and oleiferous.
Decorations on the LONDON are rare. If anything, the sailors decorated the knives themselves for example by scratching a calendar into the handle, showing the days spent on sea, their initials, or an anchor. Despite the little free time they had on board, they still had the opportunity to do this, because whaling expeditions are said to have taken up to three years. So when there were not on duty, they spent their time building ships-in-a-bottle and ... tinkering with their knives.
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